31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable 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 30 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 30 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 Paricular 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 Fisher, Mr Jarman, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Macphee and Mr Ian Robinson.
The Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizen Forces of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 Citizen Air Force. by Mr Aldred, Mr Fisher, Mr Simon and Mr Wilson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Houe of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Pastor Peter Mullen and members of the Full Gospel Church of 5 Lefroy Street, North Hoban, electors of the Divisions of Denison and Franklin respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), has purchased episodes of the American television 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, delinquency, 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.
Aboriginal Reserve and Settlements in Queensland
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled; The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That we, the Executive members of the Aboriginal Education Foundation of South Australia Inc., strongly protest against the proposed takeover of the Mornington Island and Aurukun settlements by the Queensland State Government, which is in direct contravention of the expressed wishes of the Aboriginal residents of these settlements.
Your petitioners accordingly request that the Federal Government do all in its power to ensure that the rights of these people are protected and further, that the Government immediately proceed with legislation to give Selfdetermination to all Aboriginal Reserves and settlements in Queensland.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Viner.
-I desire to give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That the Prime Minister and the former Treasurer, the present Minister for Industry and Commerce, no longer possess the confidence of this House for their failure to preserve the integrity of ministerial office following the private dealings of the former Treasurer and the failure of the Prime Minister to require full disclosure of these matters to the House.
– I ask the Treasurer: Is it a fact that while the present Minister for Industry and Commerce was Treasurer a proposed transaction between QBE Insurance Ltd and an overseas group was required to go before the Foreign Investment Review Board? Will the Treasurer make available to the House details of the Foreign Investment Review Board’s recommendation and the decision taken by the then Treasurer on that recommendation?
– As the honourable gentleman is aware, it is not customary to make available confidential advices to Ministers. I shall examine his request and inform him further if there are any reasons why that practice which has been invariably followed, to my understanding, should be departed from in this instance.
– Is the Treasurer aware that many military officers believe that their entitlement to receive four years’ pension in a lump sum taxed at the 5 per cent rate will be removed at the next Budget, leaving them the alternatives of accepting the lump sum taxed as one year’s income or reverting to the annual pension payments without lump sum payment? Can the Treasurer remove the danger of a rash of preBudget retirements from the armed Services by assuring the House that the Government has no intention of changing the present arrangement?
– I have seen some Press reports regarding this matter and I can inform the honourable gentleman on two counts: Firstly, I have not the faintest idea where these Press reports originated and there is no substance in fact for reports to that effect; secondly, I can assure him that the matter is not currently under consideration.
Mr Fitzpatrick proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s question does not relate to any matters for which the Minister is officially responsible in this House.
- Mr Speaker, the purpose of the question, however, is to relate the facts which are involved in the question to the conduct of the Minister in his public office. You will recall that the Prime Minister has said on more than one occasion that justice and propriety should not only appear to be done but also be seen to be done. It is incumbent upon members of the Ministry to ensure that there is no conflict of interest between what they are doing privately and their public office. Accordingly, this question has been presented by the honourable member and I suggest that it ought to be allowed.
-The question as asked does not disclose any possible conflict of interest because all it relates to is the selling price of apartments or units somewhere. That does not disclose any basis on which there could be a conflict of interest.
– If the question were heard through it would become quite apparent that the sale represented a phenomenonally profitable undertaking in circumstances where -
-Order! I cannot anticipate what may be in a question.
– Could it be heard?
-I am afraid that the Leader of the Opposition cannot rescue a question which is out of order by explaining to me what would be asked. The question is out of order.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has seen the gold medallion and gold plated spoon that are currently on sale in Kalgoorlie for $49? Can he confirm that the medallion is produced by the Royal Mint in Perth and is certified to contain 1/4 oz of pure gold? Is the Minister aware that a company called Australian Bullion Co. Pty Ltd is currently advertising for sale 1/4 oz gold ingots on a small gold chain at a price of $195 each or $780 per oz? Is the price fair and reasonable considering that gold is selling at approximately $ 1 59?
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to ask the Minister for an opinion.
-Is any tax paid on this huge profit? In order to bring perspective into gold sales, and further to a question asked by the honourable member for Higgins on 8 September 1977 regarding the minting of an official gold coin, can the Minister give a firm date for the minting of that gold coin?
-I have had the benefit of a closer examination of that piece of attractive produce from the honourable member’s electorate. It is very attractive. I cannot give the House or the honourable member an assurance as to whether it was minted in Perth. If he informs me that it was, I have no reason to doubt the honourable gentleman’s word. As to whether the company that the honourable gentleman named is obliged to pay tax on the profit from the sale of gold ingots, as the honourable gentleman would know the secrecy provisions of taxation legislation preclude me from having any knowledge of the particular affairs of individual taxpayers. But I can inform him that it is normal, when things in Australia are sold by people who engage in business to make money and profit, for that profit to be taxable. The other part of the honourable gentleman’s question asked whether at this stage I can give a date for the minting of a gold coin. I inform the honourable gentleman that I have been in correspondence recently with the honourable member for Higgins who has displayed a keen interest in this matter. I hope that within the next few weeks I shall be able to give a more accurate indication than I have been able to give so far of when it may be possible to do what both those honourable gentlemen would like to be done.
– I refer the Minister for Industry and Commerce to a statement he made last year as Deputy Leader of the Federal Liberal Party about a three stage land development project at Balnarring, Victoria, involving his family companies. Is it a fact that the land in the project was connected to the mains water supply some five or six years earlier than the planning authorities had intended? Is it also a fact that the provision of the mains water supply enabled early and profitable sale of the land in 1976.
– These questions are becoming quite tedious and, I might venture to suggest, ridiculous. I have said to members of the Opposition that a statement has been made and I have nothing further to add to that statement.
-Has the Prime Minister taken action to ensure that Government departments and agencies meet their obligations to report to this Parliament as expeditiously as possible?
-There have been a wide variety of instances over the years in which departments, statutory authorities and agencies have not provided their annual report to Parliament in proper time. Despite the successive efforts of, I think, a variety of governments to improve the situation there has not been any great improvement. In recent times I have written to all Ministers specifically drawing to their attention the delay in the presentation of reports by their departments, or authorities for which they and their departments are responsible. In some cases the delay is beyond that which is reasonable. I have asked Ministers to give particular attention to seeing that reports in future are presented to this Parliament in proper time so that they can be available for consideration of honourable members.
– I refer the Minister for Industry and Commerce to a statement of 15 December last year in which it was said:
All land purchases were made by the joint venture prior to Mr Lynch becoming a Minister in November 197S.
Is it a fact that payments for this land were not completed until March 1976? Further, were profits amounting to about $120,000 on stage 2 and stage 3 of the project realised only after sales transactions were completed in July 1976? Was the Minister appointed Treasurer in November 1 975- before these transactions took place?
– I refer the honourable gentleman to my response to the earlier question.
-The honourable member for Melbourne will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Productivity been drawn to a report in the Australian of this morning which is critical of the lack of Australian industry participation in the procurement program for the Leopard tank and which states that there has been an under-estimate in the number of spares required, which could have helped to overcome some of this difficulty? Is that the situation? If so, what is being done about it?
-There is a long-standing principle underlying the offsets program, that is, that Australian industry must be competitive in price, delivery and quality. To the extent that Australian industry does not benefit from programs such as that to which the honourable member referred, the answer is found in its lack of competitiveness. The article this morning carried the implication that there was some reneging on the part of Australia on the obligation which -
– I take a point of order. There is a question on this subject on notice. It is No. 7 1 5 . It has been on notice for three weeks.
– I wish to speak to the point of order, Mr Speaker. Question No. 715 on the Notice Paper is directed to the Minister for Defence. The question I have asked is directed to an entirely different Minister and concerns an entirely different problem.
-The destination of the question is not relevant to whether it is already on the
Notice Paper. However, I think the question asked today is different from the one on the Notice Paper. I call the Minister for Productivity.
-Suffice it to say that under the offsets program there is an obligation for a total of seven years from the time of the contract in respect of Leopard tanks. This obligation for offsets continues provided Australian industry can be competitive in the ways in which I have mentioned. I understand that there are some applications for offset work which are currently being analysed under that program.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. I remind him that towards the end of last week the Queensland Government degazetted two Aboriginal reserves- Mornington Island and Aurukun. He will also recall that the Opposition pointed out in the course of debate last week that exactly this course of action would be adopted by the Queensland Government because of defects in the legislation proposed by the Federal Government. What steps does the Prime Minister now have in mind to respond to this action by the Queensland Government? How quickly can we anticipate his initiating action in this Parliament to protect the rights of the Aboriginal people of Mornington Island, Aurukun and elsewhere in Queensland?
-There is one thing I should like to make plain from the outsetthe Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has also made it plain from the outset- that the obligation of this Government and this Parliament to the Aboriginal people is and will remain inviolate. Nothing will be allowed to challenge that. An obligation is accepted; an obligation will be pursued. The legislation was passed. It gained royal assent this morning. The honourable gentleman has drawn attention to the actions of the Queensland Government in relation to it. It is worth noting that the legislation remains actively in force over other reserves. That ought to be drawn to attention. The Government has had discussions this morning about various options of differing kinds open to it. I do not want to go into those options at the moment. There is another matter that we need to pursue. The Premier of Queensland rang me yesterday and earnestly expressed a desire for talks between his Government and this Government. The Premier will be in Canberra tomorrow morning with a number of other Ministers. He sought to come to Canberra for discussions. It must be remembered that every State government has obligations to supply a wide variety of services to all people in the State. Clearly it is expected that those obligations will be fulfilled. So it would have been foolish indeed not to accept the invitation of the Premier and to see what is in his mind. This Government will approach the discussions against the background of the prime obligation of which I spoke first.
– I have been informed that the Minister for Housing in the New Zealand Government, Mr Eric Holland, is in the chamber. I welcome him and I am sure that all honourable members will join in that welcome.
Honourable members Hear, hear!
– I ask the Minister for Health: Has the Government given consideration to establishing a firm basis for determining the minimum patient contribution for nursing home patients when future increases in pensions are granted?
– The honourable member will recall that in 1972 the then Liberal-Country Party Government introduced legislation to provide a statutory minimum patient contribution which left pensioner patients with $6 a week for their personal spending. This gave them some degree of dignity and independence, particularly in purchasing personal needs. The concept of the patient contribution being a percentage of the pension entitlement was abandoned by the Labor Government when it was in office. In 1 974 the amount retained by pensioner patients was reduced to $4 a week. Since this Government came to office this amount has been progressively increased to the present level of $7, which flowed to pensioner patients in nursing homes in November last year. The Government has decided to revert to the original concept of setting the patient contribution at a percentage of the pension entitlement. The patient contribution is to be set at87? per cent of the pension at the time of future pension increases. This will enable a pensioner to receive an indexed entitlement from his pension when it is increased according to the index formula twice a year. The adoption of this formula will remove a degree of confusion that has existed in the minds of pensioners who, in the last few years, have not known their entitlement whenever there has been a pension increase. In future pensioners in nursing homes will be entitled to retain all but87? per cent of their pensions for their personal spending.
-They will be able to keep 12? per cent of their pensions. The honourable member for Prospect laughs but he has very little to laugh about because he knows full well that the former Labor Government reduced the personal entitlement from $6 to $4 a week. Members of the Labor Party should be ashamed of themselves.
– I ask a question of the Foreign Minister; I refer to the question asked last week by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Minister’s unsatisfactory reply to my request -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is not entitled to make a comment of that kind. He will proceed to ask his question.
– The question is related to the tabling of the model nuclear safeguard agreement. If the model nuclear safeguard agreement is in the hands of at least15 countries, on what basis does the Minister believe that the Australian Parliament is not entitled to peruse it? Is it that the bilateral safeguard agreement that Australia is entering into with some countries will fall far short of the model in terms of safeguard quality and that the Government is interested in concealing that fact?
-The honourable member knows that there is nothing contained in that allegation which amounts to the truth at all. I have said time and again that our policy requires the conclusion of bilateral safeguards agreements with uranium importing countries. The details of the model agreement, which has been forwarded to other countries, reflect the policy as laid down, firstly, by the statement of the Prime Minister of 24 May last year and, secondly, by other statements made by Ministers. That is what those draft arrangements encompass. It would be contrary to all government practice to bring matters into the Parliament while we are in the midst of negotiations on a government to government level. I have informed the honourable member of that fact in answer to questions. I have written to him on it. I note in answering the question asked by the honourable member that he is un able to engage in any form of dialogue other than to ask me another question. I replied to him,
I believe, a couple of weeks ago. I have heard nothing further from him than the tagging of another question on the end of one posed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition last week, which was answered.
-My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, refers to Press reports to the effect that the Prime Minister yesterday stated that he would take whatever actions are necessary to protect the export trade in live sheep. If section 45D of the Trade Practices Act is not wide enough to cover the conduct and circumstances of the union bans on live sheep exports at present occurring, will the Prime Minister consider changing that section by widening its provisions to cover that sort of conduct which at present is affecting Australia’s export trade?
-This morning we did have some discussion about the powers available to the Commonwealth to maintain and to protect Australia’s export trade. At the outset I emphasised that the standard of living of all Australian’s is dependent upon the maintenance of that trade; it is not just a question of protecting the incomes of primary producers who might be directly involved in the dispute. The very substantial export income which is involved is important to Australia as a great trading nation and is important to our capacity to employ people in many different industries. It is not a matter which is related only to the livestock export industry.
It is against that background that the actions of the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union need to be examined, because the union is looking, as it says, at employment in its industry, but it is not looking at the consequences for employment of its actions in many other industries, which might be much more severe than the implications for the union. I think it is known that the cold store facilities in the Middle East are fully utilised at the present time. If the live sheep trade did not proceed it would not be possible to get greater carcase trade into the Middle East at this moment. The cold store facilities are being expanded and, as they expand, no doubt the carcass trade will expand. But tradition and customs also need to change, so there is a limit to the pace at which that can take place.
Those in charge of the AMIEU are well aware of those circumstances and are well aware that the carcass trade has built up. At the same time they have been seeking to frustrate completely the export trade for an industry which has been through grievous difficulties and problems because of drought and low prices. Indeed, it is not too much to say that many producers have been saved from bankruptcy because of the access to this trade. So it is important from the national point of view, and great principles are involved in that. But it is also of importance from the industry’s point of view, and there are important issues in that. It is for those reasons that the Government is completely determined that Australian industries will be able to export and not have bans and bars put upon that export.
We have looked at this matter against the background of the present provisions of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. It has already been determined that an examination should take place to see whether or not the ambit of that section should be widened. We have also determined to put in train an examination to see whether there ought to be some greater power than the trade and commerce powers and export powers, which would operate, either through the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and its various agencies and related bodies or through some other device, to help in the proper resolution and management of disputes of this kind. As this is not an industrial dispute in Australia’s traditional terms, which would normally come within the arbitration power, it is in a sense out in limbo without the proper processes of arbitration and conciliation being available, as would normally be the case. This is in many senses why the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has, because of this void, had to be filling this role in recent times.
The Minister concerned will be pursuing this course as a matter of urgency, to see what actions the Government should take in relation to it. I can only urge again, as I did yesterday, that those involved in placing bans on this trade should lift those bans. I have little doubt at all that if they did lift the bans and the trade were to proceed normally, any legal actions would subsequently be stopped. I think that would be a proper response to the lifting of the bans. It is important to Australia, and the continuation of the bans is only going to mean, quite inevitably and without anyone wishing it to happen, that members of the AMIEU will be financially hurt, farmers and graziers will be financially hurt, Australia will lose export income, and Australia as a nation will be worse off. The fact that the matter has gone as far as this certainly does no credit to the sense of responsiblity of the particular trade union, or of the trade union movement generally which, as I understand it, does not give widespread support to this issue but has not been able to encompass the circumstances in which the bans would be lifted.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that at the weekend in Brisbane a number of people, including clergymen, were arrested for the simple reason of walking peacefully down the streets of Brisbane. Does the Prime Minister now acknowledge that the Queensland situation clearly demonstrates that human rights are -
-The honourable member’s question is out of order. The Prime Minister has no responsibility whatever for Queensland.
-If I could rephase the question on that basis?
-I will permit that.
-Is the Prime Minister concerned about human rights in Australia? Is he aware of the situation last weekend, when a number of clergymen were arrested for the simple exercise of walking down the streets of Brisbane? Is it not a fact that, under Commonwealth legislation and the Constitution, the Commonwealth has rights to protect human and civil rights in Australia? Is it further a fact that the proposed Human Rights Commission will not provide protection against Queensland’s laws? In view of those circumstances, will the Prime Minister undertake to introduce urgently in this House legislation to guarantee that the rights of the people of Queensland are the same as should apply to all Australians, that is, to march peacefully, in accordance with Article 2 1 of the International Covenant?
-The support of this Government for basic human rights is second to none, whatever field of activity one might like to examine, but especially in relation to our own areas of responsibility. Legislation in relation to the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and the commitment to establish a Human Rights Commission as it relates to Commonwealth laws, are all matters which this Government has advanced. In addition, the actions that we have taken over Aurukun and Mornington Island also indicate a very basic commitment to the equality of man with man and woman with woman in Australia, which I was not aware of noticing from the Opposition when it had an opportunity to do something in this area. This matter will be pursued by the Government but, at the same time, if the honourable gentleman wishes to establish the circumstance in which he would have this Government responsible for matters that are properly the responsibility of other governments, he is advocating a course that this Government would not want to pursue.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer and relates to the statement by his predecessor in the latter months of last year on the needs of small businesses. Is it a fact that that statement said, amongst other things, that the Reserve Bank would direct the trading banks to ensure that no small business was adversely affected simply because of a shortage of bank finance? Was this directive issued by the Reserve Bank and, if so, are the trading banks abiding by its terms?
– I do recall the statement made on, I think, 13 October.
– At what time of day?
– I do not remember that; I was in Europe. But I do recall the statement made by the former Treasurer on 13 October as part of a joint statement by him and the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton. I can also inform the honourable gentleman that, as a result of that statement, the Reserve Bank of Australia did bring to the attention of the private trading banks the terms of that statement as being an explicit statement of the Government’s approach to the provision of finance for small business.
I am aware, not only from the remarks of the honourable member for Ballarat but also from the remarks of a number of other honourable members in this House, that in some cases, some branches of some banks may not be fully aware of the terms of the Reserve Bank’s communication to the private trading banks. I think the honourable gentleman will appreciate that the responsibility of the Government and indeed the responsibility of the Reserve Bank has largely been acquitted, the Reserve Bank having communicatedI am informed it has done so- the terms of my predecessor’s statement to the individual private trading banks.
I can inform the honourable gentleman that what was said in that statement on 13 October still stands very much as an indication of the Government’s policy towards small business finance, as is evidenced by the fact that a Bill to expand the activities of the Commonwealth Development Bank, which was foreshadowed in that statement, was introduced into this House last Friday. So I repeat, for the benefit of the honourable member for Ballarat and other honourable members who have shown a keen interest in small business, that the terms of that statement still stand. It is, of course, the hope of the Government that all branches of all private trading banks throughout Australia will be aware of the terms of the communication sent by the Reserve Bank to the head offices of the private trading banks.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Did the Prime Minister write to the South Australian Premier in August last year saying that there would be full consultation with the States in developing uniform legislation for the mining and export of uranium? Is it a fact that there were no discussions with the States prior to the announcement last week that Bills concerning uranium would be introduced into the House today? Is it also a fact that there has only been a last minute agreement to have discussions today with the States in regard to this matter? Is this an example of the Fraser Government ‘s policy of co-operative federalism?
– It is the policy of the Government to have discussions with the States in relation to the development of codes in this particular matter. I believe that the arrangements that are being made will give the States full opportunity to express their views.
-The Minister for Primary Industry will be aware of the so-called bluetongue line which prevents the free movement of cattle south of that line, with disastrous effects on the many cattle producers north of that line and in my electorate. I understand that the Queensland Government has made a submission to the Federal Government concerning compensation measures for the producers who are facing ruin as a result of the bluetongue problem. Can the Minister give any information on the progress of the Government’s consideration of this very important matter?
-I thank the honourable gentleman for the question. It is true that this is a very important matter. In terms of the traditional movement of stock in Northern Australia, the major export seasons begins as we move into the dry season. Right throughout the endemic and control zone where bluetongue has been identified as a virus, but not as a disease, barriers are now imposed on the movement of stock. Without doubt this seriously prejudices the future or immediate income expectation of people in that part of Australia.
I have met a series of delegations from this Parliament, including the honourable gentleman, and from interested cattle producers and others putting forward various points of view as to means by which we might be able to alleviate the position. I know that my colleague the honourable member for the Northern Territory similarly has had before him a number of submissions. The difficulty is to try to ensure, insofar as the identification of bluetongue is concerned, that we minimise the impact on overseas markets. The Bureau of Animal Health has organised a succession of visits overseas by senior officers and veterinarians to try to remove the present bans. To a reasonable degree the visits have been successful. To a very significant degree the bans have been removed from the movement of cattle from below the 18th parallel, but some significant restraints apply north of the 18th parallel.
The financial measures put forward by the Queensland Government are currently under examination by the Federal Government. I assure the honourable gentleman that we understand the urgency of the predicament and realise the desire of all people associated with the cattle industry in the north to see their trade outlets reopened. The added quota given to the Katherine and northern meat works, apart from that given to the Alice Springs works, must give some opportunity of providing a better price for meat that has been sold for slaughter in that part of the north. The high prices now prevailing in the United States mean that some benefits should be gained by them. That would compensate, in a measure, for the loss of the competition for the live export trade to Hong Kong. The problem is acute. I assure the honourable gentleman that the Government is giving it urgent and sympathetic consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health and follows his answer earlier in Question Time to the question of the honourable member for Wide Bay. He pointed out that from now pensioners in nursing homes no longer will be able to keep $7 a week from their pensions but will have the great benefit of being able to keep W/i per cent of their pension. Is it not a fact that pensioners with a pension rate of $49.30 will now keep $6. 1 5 a week instead of $7- so the Government in fact is decreasing the retention allowance- and that when the pension increases the amount retained will increase by only 20c a week?
– The honourable member for Prospect need have no concern whatsoever. Pensioners in nursing homes will not receive less than the $7.20 they are now receiving. As soon as the figure of, I think, $7.20 is reached they will get 87% per cent constantly each time the amount is indexed.
– Twelve and a half per cent.
-I mean I2¥i per cent. The honourable member need have no fear about that. We have made provision to ensure that pensioners will not be receiving less than that which they are receiving at present. In fact, the amount will be indexed so that they will receive more as their pensions increase.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. What was the outcome of the recent special Antarctic consultative meeting that was held in Canberra? What is the position concerning the proposed commission on Antarctic marine living resources? Is there any prospect of that commission being established in Australia- indeed, in Tasmania?
– Before answering the question I would like to give some credit- I do not do this glibly- to two other honourable members as well as the honourable member for Denison for the active interest they have taken in the Antarctic. They are the honourable member for Hawker and the honourable member for Bradfield. I say this by way of introduction because the honourable member for Hawker and the honourable member for Bradfield -
– And Senator Wheeldon.
-Senator Wheeldon also attended the convention. I was referring only to members of this House. I do not say this lightly. The contribution of those honourable members at this important treaty consultative meeting of a few weeks ago was favourably commented upon by everybody I spoke to at the meeting. I must add that that is not always the case, but on this occasion it is worthy of special mention. I am most grateful. Australia’s national interest requires that there be a detailed examination of this matter before partisan positions are taken. I leave it to the respective parties to work up their own cases in due course. But that is said as a consequence of many comments.
The meeting set out, of course, to elaborate a draft definitive regime for the conservation of Antarctic marine living resources and to prepare for a decisive meeting later in the year which would hopefully establish the regime. The text which emerged from the meeting reflected, I believe, a very carefully balanced package designed to bridge the gaps between the different positions and to meet some of the concerns of each country. The draft convention establishes clear conservation principles which are to be binding on the parties. It sets up a commission with broad powers, envisages the establishment of a scientific committee, calls for accession to the convention by States engaged in research and harvesting and so on.
Most of Australia’s basic interests and policy objectives are well accommodated in the text. One major issue of vital concern to Australia which has not yet been resolved is how to deal with the fact that parts of the areas covered by the convention come within the national jurisdiction of the claimant states, a jurisdiction which is disputed by the non-claimant states. Several formulations which might protect the positions of both groups were attempted and are being considered by governments at present. As to the latter part of the honourable member’s question, the draft convention for the conservation of the marine living resources which is being negotiated by the Antarctic Treaty consultative parties provides for the establishment of a commission with broad powers to adopt and implement conservation measures with regard to those resources. I expect a final conference to take place later this year, hopefully in Canberra following a mid year meeting in South America at which the convention will be adopted.
It will be necessary for the parties to the Convention to decide on a suitable site at which the commission will be located. The Government, of course, has expressed an interest in having the commission established in Australia. That is all we can do at this juncture. The Premier of Tasmania has consulted with me about Tasmania ‘s merits. I have had a very lengthy submission from the honourable member for Denison and, of course, I will weigh these matters up. It is just not possible at this stage to give any indication of the eventual decision on the location of the Commission.
– I refer the Prime Minister to his recent statements that the pre-conditions for a long term reduction in the level of unemployment have now been established. I ask: In view of the 400,000 persons who are currently unemployed, which is 100,000 more than two years ago, and in view of the continuing decline in corporate profitability under worsening trade conditions and the deepening recession reflected in most forward economic indicators, will the Prime Minister indicate to this House what he considers are reasonable objectives for the reduced unemployment levels that could be achieved by the end of this year and by the end of 1979?
-The honourable gentleman knows quite well that it is not possible to put figures on that kind of forecast. He also knows quite well that the reduction in the level of unemployment of those seeking full-time employment in the last Australian Bureau of Statistics survey was 50,000 in the month. I think one of his own front bench people has indicated perfectly plainly that the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures are the better ones to judge the actual level of full-time unemployment.
During the election and since we have said that from February onwards there would be a consistent fall in the level of unemployment and we have seen that occur. I think it also needs to be noted that during the years in which the honourable gentleman was Treasurer wages paid by the manufacturing sector went up by over 50 per cent on an hourly basis over one 2-year period, government expenditure and inflation got completely out of control and tariffs were cut even though the Prime Minister of the day and the honourable gentleman both had a Tariff Board report in their hands which indicated there was going to be significant additional unemployment in many industries throughout Australia. Nevertheless they went ahead with that.
Since then we have seen time and time again the honourable member indicate that he believes that Australia’s tariff and protection level is too high and that it ought to be further reduced. So how he can come forward and claim to be the champion of employment in this country I fail utterly to understand, because it was the free trade policies of the honourable gentleman and his Party that did damage to people working on the shop floor in factories right around Australia. That needs to be well understood. His Party let in a substantial number of imports as a result of the measures which it took and of its policies which tended to make Australian industries uncompetitive either in Australia or on world standards. Plainly, it will take some time to redress that situation.
This Government has worked steadfastly to reduce the level of inflation and it is coming down further. I believe that shortly we will have a level of inflation under that of a number of our major trading partners. That being so, Australia will be in a much more competitive position and in a better position.
– That is what you call a nonsense reply.
-The honourable gentleman talks nonsense. He is good at interjecting but he knows that his own economic reputation is the greatest piece of nonsense that this country has seen. He was the person who presided over economic disaster. He was the person who alleged that he was responsible when, in fact, he had a complete lack of control over his Budget and Budget expenditure. He introduced a tax reform designed to penalise the aged and the pensioners through the imposition of additional taxes on them. Now, through major tax reforms introduced by this Government, we have at last a more equitable situation. In addition, it needs to be understood that it was this Government, through a variety of training schemes introduced by my colleague the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, that assisted already upwards of 200,000 people, many of them young Australians. We introduced schemes such as the revised Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training scheme, the Special Youth Employment Training scheme and the Experimental Program for Unemployed Youth. If honourable gentlemen opposite were interested in the problems of the unemployed they would visit places where these programs are in operation and see the great work being done to help get people into real jobs.
Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-No. I claim to have misrepresented someone.
-Then the honourable gentleman is asking for my indulgence to make an explanation?
-I agree to that.
– I have received a communication which draws my attention to a statement I made in this Parliament on the first day of the sitting. Mr Speaker, it could be that you will recall at least part of it. I said:
I might mention that if the right honourable member for Bruce is to protect the rights of individual members of this House he should cease making the very heavy imposition that he has made on the research services of the Parliamentary Library, especially the legal research service.
Mr Speaker, you will recall that you were responsible for initiating the Bills digest program to which I was largely referring. I have a copy of the letter which the Parliamentary Librarian sent to you on 28 February 1978 and in which he made a number of points. It stated in part:
It is true that some officers of the Research Service have felt that their responsibility for producing digests leaves them with insufficient time to deal with individual requests from Senators and Members . . . The heaviest burden falls on the Law and the Government Group whose staff check the legal aspect of each digest. That Group has recently been provided with an extra member of staff, partly because of its special Bills digest responsibilities.
He had earlier stated:
There are many other clients who make very much greater use of the Research Service as a whole or of the Law and Government Group in particular. Moreover, I am satisfied that it is quite wrong to say that your requests for help from the Research Service are a heavy imposition on it, or any part of it.
Mr Speaker, I thank you for drawing my attention to these facts. 1 acknowledge them and apologise.
-I appreciate the action of the Leader of the Opposition.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
-I have no personal knowledge of whether it has received royal assent although I did hear the right honourable the Prime Minister say in answer to a question today that it received royal assent this morning. Certainly I sent it by letter, in the fashion which the honourable member for Corio would know, to the Governor-General on Friday.
-The Treasurer indicated to me earlier that he hoped to be in a position to ask for my indulgence to add to an answer. I shall therefore grant him that indulgence.
Mr HOWARD (BennelongTreasurer)Thank you Mr Speaker. Earlier in Question Time the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart), who does not appear to be with us in the chamber at the moment, asked me a question relating to QBE Insurance Ltd and specifically inquired whether I would be prepared to table the report of the Foreign Investment Review Board. I indicated at that time that I thought the normal and proper practice was not to table such reports but I would see whether there was any reason why that practice should not be followed on this occasion. I can inform the House that the then Foreign Takeovers Committee on 30 September 1975 submitted a report on the proposal in question to the then Minister assisting the Treasurer who, I think, may in fact have been the honourable member for Grayndler, then being the honourable member for Lang. The Committee recommended that the proposal be referred back for detailed examination and report to the Government, which recommendation the Minister Assisting the Treasurer accepted. On 22 December 1975 the Foreign Investment Advisory Committee reported to the former Treasurer, that is, the right honourable member for Flinders, Mr Lynch, that the proposal was not inconsistent with foreign takeovers policy. Its recommendation was supported unanimously by all members of the Committee, comprising representatives of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Overseas Trade, the Department of Minerals and Energy, the Department of Manufacturing Industry, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of the Treasury and the Reserve Bank. In the light of that recommendation Mr Lynch, the former Treasurer, approved the Committee’s recommendation. I have been informed also that there had been no prior contact in respect of this proposal between the former Treasurer and the Committee or participating departments prior to the Committee’s report being submitted. In those circumstances I think the raising of that issue in the context of other questions was quite deplorable.
-I have received a letter from the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Minister for Finance to satisfactorily explain the Government’s Budgetary policy.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
-The Opposition raises this matter today because we have had from the Government in general and its economic spokesman in particular, the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), a rather confusing array of statements about budgetary policy, both in respect of particular aspects of budgetary policy and the overall intention of budgetary policy. If there is one aspect of policy with which the Government has been completely identified until recent times it has been that Budget deficits are undesirable and should be eradicated. The House will recall that when in Opposition the Liberal and National Country Parties never let up criticising the then Government for the level of the Budget deficit. We were constantly told that such deficits measured the extent to which the country was living beyond its means. Comparisons were made to major business which would be bankrupted by such supposedly profligate financial dealings. The need to reduce the deficit was said to be imperative. Now, the situation seems to be changing. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) has already admitted that the deficit this year will be several hundred million dollars above the Budget estimate of $2.2 billion, whereas the Minister for Finance seems confused about the issue.
On 17 January the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance released a Press statement in which they admitted that the deficit was likely to be greater than that budgeted for. They set out some reasons as to why this was so. The Minister for Finance, however, appeared to contradict that statement in his reply to the question from the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) on 6 April. On page 1 1 14 of Hansard he said:
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 . . .
The Minister for Finance said that the Budget estimates are likely to be pretty much on target this financial year. By the same token, there were Press statements by the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance on 17 January and 28 March which both stated that the Budget deficit would be substantially overshot this year. What is the real situation? One of the key economic spokesmen for the Government said in the House that the Budget estimates will be pretty much on target and the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance said in Press statements that the Budget estimates will be substantially over target. We want to know what is the situation. Does the Government not know what is the situation in respect of the deficit? If it does know, why does it say different things at different times? Does the Minister for Finance believe that the Budget deficit is on target? We want to know. I see that he is not even in the House to reply in this debate. I presume that the Treasurer will do so. I think it is shameful that the Minister for Finance, who is specifically named in relation to this matter of public importance, has not thought fit to come into this chamber and reply to the statements we have to make in this debate. We want to know to which statement the Government adheres.
As we see it, the deficit will substantially overshoot the budgeted level. The Budget deficit, as pronounced last year, was $2.2 billion. That figure of $2.2 billion is looking rather sick at the moment. The Budget deficit for the first nine months of this financial year is $5.3 billion. That figure is a substantial increase on the figure of $2.2 billion. Of course, there will be a substantial run-down in that higher figure in the next three months. The receipt of two quarterly payments of company tax and other factors will mean that that figure will be substantially reduced. Nevertheless, it is running well above the level for this time last year. For the first nine months of the 1976-77 financial year the Budget deficit was exactly $5 billion. It is now $5.3 billion.
In making those comparisons, we have to pay regard to the fact that quarterly payments of company tax were suspended in 1976-77, whereas this year there have been two payments of company tax. The situation for the next three months of this financial year will be different to that of last year. At this time last year, that is, after nine months of the year had gone by, most of the company tax payments had still to come. In the present situation half the company tax payments have been made and the Budget deficit is still $300m above the figure for the same period last year. In our opinion, the deficit will be very much higher than that which has been budgeted for.
Apart from the fact that there is this substantial excess which understates the actual situation, we also need to have regard to the reasons which have been given by the Treasurer and the Minister for Finance for the deficit increase. We have been told by them that the main reasons are the shortfall in customs duties paid and the shortfall in income tax receipts on a pay-as-you-earn basis because of the different refund system. In our opinion, those two statements do not explain the real reason for the blowing out of the deficit to the degree to which it is likely to occur. There are other factors which the Ministers have not mentioned and which are very relevant. They arise principally from the fact that the economy is in substantial recession, despite the fact that the Treasurer continually states that we do not have a recession, much to the astonishment, I should think, of 99.99 per cent of the population. Nevertheless, that is his continual claim. The fact is that the economy is in a very depressed situation. We have high levels of unemployment, low levels of capacity utilisation and low levels of economic activity. They all mean reduced levels of income tax revenue. They also mean higher levels of expenditure.
In addition, company tax payments will be very much lower than the estimate. The company tax which has been paid for two quarters is only 42 per cent of the Budget estimate of $2.9 billion for company tax receipts. It looks as though company tax payments will be nowhere near the Budget estimate. That stems from the fact that the level of activity is so low that company profits are likely to be less than was estimated. Similarly, the fall that has actually occurred in employment opportunities during this financial year must result in a fall in income tax. As fewer people are in work they will be paying less income tax and, therefore, income tax receipts will be substantially lower. But payments this year are $ 1,245m higher than they were at the same time last year. This is an interesting point. The Government has stated that it is cutting income tax. In fact, income tax payments are 20 per cent higher than they were last year but they are still well below what is necessary to maintain the Budget estimate. Clearly, a substantial increase in personal income tax revenue was estimated. It will not be obtained in this Budget
Expenditure on unemployment benefit will be substantially higher as a result of increased unemployment. The Budget estimates on employment simply will not be borne out. The
Government estimated that there would be some reduction in the level of unemployment during this financial year. In the first nine months of this year unemployment benefit payments have cost $5 79m against the Budget estimate for the whole year of $640m. On our estimates this means that the total expenditure on unemployment benefits will be approximately $160m more than was estimated in the Budget. As I have said, this stems from the fact that there is a much higher level of unemployment. It is absurd for the Minister for Finance to say, as he said in this House the other day, that employment had increased. It has not increased. The figures in the labour force survey for the total employed work force show that between May and February there was a reduction in the work force of 100,000 people. The total number of persons employed as wage and salary earners between the end of June 1977 and the end of February 1978 was reduced by 22,000 people. Whatever figure one uses, there has been an actual decline in the level of employment. That has a very substantial impact on the Budget deficit through reduced income tax receipts and higher unemployment benefit payments. There is no way that the Government can get out of that.
The Minister for Finance now says that the deficit does not matter so much. The Treasurer says the same thing. They say that the funding is in hand and that they can finance the deficit. They say that higher Budget deficits do not matter much. They say that because they have the funding in hand everything will be all right. That is not a situation with which we disagree. We have said all along that a high Budget deficit is not necessarily bad as long as the funding arrangements are right. But we do say that it is extraordinarily hypocritical of the Government to claim now that high Budget deficits are not too bad so long as they can be funded. The Government said time after time when it was in opposition that a high Budget deficit was ipso facto a bad thing. It gave no concession whatever for the fact that the reason for the blowing out of the deficit in the latter part of 1975 was that the Government at that time had reduced the rate of increase in wages through the wage indexation process, which reduced income tax receipts. It paid no regard to that. It simply played on the fears of the Australian people. It said, ‘Look at the spiralling deficit. Is it not a terrible thing?’ It made people feel that the country was heading for financial ruin. Now that it is in power, with the Budget deficit blowing out- it will be several hundred million dollars higher than the $2.2 billion estimated; higher than in the previous year- the Government says that it does not matter; everything is OK; it has the funding in hand. We say that the Government is being thoroughly hypocritical.
Having looked at the total area of the Budget I want to mention a few aspects which relate specifically to statements made by the Minister for Finance on specific matters of Government budgetary policy. The House will recall that it was the Minister for Finance who said on 26 February 1977:
The unemployment figures are largely a myth.
I suppose it is not surprising that a man who can make that sort of statement when there were such high levels of unemployment should make various other mistakes in respect of employment. Only the other day in this House he said, as I have already mentioned, that employment had increased during this financial year. I have already shown that it has very substantially decreased, whichever figures one uses.
Similarly, in respect of the building industry, the Minister for Finance said on 7 April, in answer to a question from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), that the building industry had been over-expanded in 1976. We find this a quite remarkable statement. Here we have one of the key economic spokesmen for this Government saying in this House only a few days ago that the building industry in 1976 was overexpanded. I think that is absolutely incredible because at that time we find that the building industry was in fact severely recessed. I am sure that all members of this House must realise that the building industry has been very sick for quite a number of years. It is not likely to get any better while the policies of this Government are pursued. The fact is that in 1976 the building industry was severely depressed. In February of this year the number of private building approvals was at a level below that for the previous two years. In 1976 the level was higher than the level for 1975 but below the levels of 1974 and 1973 and only slightly above the level of 1972. In other words, the level of activity in the building industry in 1976 was well below the levels of 1973 and 1974. In fact, since mid 1975 there has been a substantial decline in employment in the building industry. It has gone down by 60,000 in that time- a decline of 1 5 per cent. If one looks at the report of the Indicative Planning Council for the housing industry it is clear that although the market was depressed there was an underlying need for a much greater level of activity than was able to be achieved in 1976. 1 can only refer very quickly to that report.
Similarly, capital outlays by this Government have declined very substantially in the last two years. They are down 1 7. 1 per cent in the July to December period of the 1977-78 financial year compared with the previous year. In that year they were down 7.7 per cent compared with the year before. Yet this Government, through the Minister for Finance, says that that does not have any impact on the level of economic activity. We in the Opposition have made it quite clear that cuts in capital expenditure of this kind affect the building industry.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable members time has expired.
– This matter of public importance raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) refers to the Government’s budgetary policy and I assume that it refers to the Budget policy that was outlined by my predecessor in the Budget Speech last year. If the honourable member for Gellibrand is in doubt as to what that policy is and what the strategy behind that policy is, I will be only too happy to occupy the quarter of an hour allotted to me in this debate to remind the honourable member for Gellibrand precisely what is the economic strategy of the Government. I think the honourable member would be in the minority as far as an understanding of that strategy is concerned because I think most people in this House, certainly on the Government side, and a very significant majority of people in the Australian community understand very clearly what is the Government’s economic strategy. Members of the Australian community demonstrated very dramatically last December that they thought the economic strategy of this Government which was outlined very clearly by my predecessor in the Budget Speech last year, was an immensely preferable economic strategy to that offered by the alternative government at that time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The terms of the matter raised by the honourable member for Gellibrand are quite specific. They refer to ‘the failure of the Minister for Finance to satisfactorily explain . . .’ If the Minister for Finance cannot come into the House and adequately explain, certainly the Treasurer cannot explain either. This matter arises from the inadequate performance of the Minister for Finance in his responses to questions which have been asked in the last two sitting days. What about the Minister for Finance coming in and answering the charges against him?
-There is no substance in the point of order.
-Of course there is no substance in the point of order.
– Tell us why the Minister for Finance is not here?
-The honourable member for Melbourne is very good on volume but very poor on logic. It is entirely a matter for the Government to determine the manner in which and the means by which it responds to matters of public importance presented by the Opposition. I thought it would have been self evident by the nature of the responsibilities assigned to the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and me in the Administrative Arrangements Orders that responsibility within the Government for budgetary policy rests with the Treasurer and, at a departmental level, with the Treasury.
I was explaining before the time wasting point of order raised by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), that the economic strategy and the budgetary policy of the Government were endorsed only a few months ago in a most remarkable fashion by the Australian people. If the honourable member for Gellibrand is in any doubt about that and wants some more information about the Government’s economic strategy I am more than happy to take this opportunity afforded by him to say something about it.
I turn now to the speech of the honourable member in which he tried to suggest that because both the Minister for Finance and I have made some remarks about the deficit in the past few months, this represents some absolutely amazing and hypocritical reversal of Government policies. I do not think the honourable member has carefully read what both my colleague and I have said. I invite him to take his mind back to the joint statement that was issued on 1 7 January by the Minister for Finance and me. It followed a Cabinet meeting which considered for the first occasion by the new Government general economic conditions and the Government’s economic strategy.
If the honourable member reads that Press statement he will find in it a reaffirmation of the principal elements of the Government’s economic strategy which are well known to him and other members of the Opposition and which are well known and well accepted throughout the Austraiian community. They are the policies which this Government followed for two years from December 1975. They are the policies on which we were re-elected and they are the policies which we continue to follow. They are the policies which have not, contrary to what the honourable member and his leader repeatedly assert, put Australia into recession. They are the policies which have brought about a significant reduction in the level of inflation in Australia over the past two years. They are the policies which have started to restore, so far as wages in Australia are concerned, some- I emphasise the word ‘some’- link between productivity and the level of real wages. However, we still have a long way to go in that area. They are the policies which have reduced the absolutely permissive expansion of the money supply which occurred while the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) was Treasurer and while his predecessors were Treasurer and which, of course, contributed very greatly to the inflationary impact of the Budget deficits that were running during the period that the Labor Party occupied the treasury bench. So the policies which were reaffirmed in that statement of January of this year are the policies which have been followed during the past two years. They are the policies which have led to an identifiable fall in inflation and an identifiable improvement in economic conditions in Australia.
– What about unemployment?
-The honourable member for Melbourne quite rightly points out, as occasionally does his leader, that some economic indicators in Australia are less than satisfactory. I have never denied that. I have persistently acknowledged that, as far as the Government is concerned, not all is well with the Australian economy and that we still need to go a distance. We still regard the level of unemployment as being unsatisfactorily high. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that as recently as yesterday in his weekly electoral broadcast. One thing which I think does need to be said again, because it bears repetition and because it is obviously taking a long time to sink into the minds of honourable members opposite, is that the Opposition has no monopoly on concern for the plight of the genuinely unemployed in this country. Opposition members parade around the country talking repeatedly about unemployment, without offering any alternative whatever to the policies they tried when they were in government to solve the problem of unemployment.
The honourable member for Melbourne and every other Opposition member in this House knows quite well that when the level of unemployment went through the roof in 1974-75 and when we saw unemployment rise by almost 200 per cent in 1974, of course, the Government of the day got very concerned about the situation.
What policy did it try? On that occasion it tried to solve the unemployment problem by spending more and more money in a willy-nilly fashion. Honourable members opposite know quite well that that policy did not work. They know quite well that even some of the anti-unemployment policies that were followed in the early days of the Labor Government were partially disowned by Senator James McClelland, when Minister for Labour and Immigration in the final months of the Whitlam Government.
So what I am saying- it is very much relevant to this debate- is that the Opposition offers no alternative policy to those which the Government is presently following in relation to unemployment. Nothing that the Opposition presents now, nothing it demonstrated on earlier occasions, can alter the fact that a lasting reduction in unemployment in Australia cannot be effected while we still have a high rate of inflation. Whilst this Government yields to nobody in its concern about the level of unemployment, it does not believe in misleading the Australian people into imagining that the problems of the unemployed can be solved by some short cut, by some fancy solution, that ignores the relevance of inflation and other economic indicators to the level of unemployment.
I have indicated, as has my colleague, that the Budget deficit for the current financial year will be higher than that estimated in the Budget documents of last August. I think that the honourable member for Gellibrand, who undoubtedly has read the statements that I have made on this subject, knows the reasons the Government has given for that increase in the size of the Budget deficit. We have said that the Budget deficit will be higher. We have given reasons for that, both on the expenditure side and on the revenue side. I am quite sure that the honourable member for Gellibrand knows exactly what are those reasons. It is true that on a number of occasions I have claimed that the financing of the Budget deficit, because of the very comfortable- I think this is the term I usednonbank take up is very much in hand. Because we say we will have a higher deficit, because we say it is being financed comfortably, and because we do not make expressions of extreme concern and panic about that situation does not mean in any sense that the Government regards a Budget deficit as being irrelevant to economic responsibility.
One thing which I think is important in looking at the current economic debate in Australia at the present time and for the immediate future is the avoidance of the use of over simplistic labels to describe economic policies. From time to time we are told that we ought to adopt an expansionary policy or that we ought to adopt a policy by some other name which will lead to additional government spending. What I think some of the people who urge us to do that forget is that the policy we have followed during the past two years has been a mix of a number of different elements. Some of them have been what one might call restrictionary; others have been expansionary. I do not think anybody could call restrictionary the personal income tax cuts which came into effect on 1 February and which during the current calendar year will put about $ 1,000m into the pockets of consumers. I think they would be regarded as having a direct stimulus on consumer spending in Australia. So on that score we cannot be regarded as being restrictionary
I do not think the attitude that the Government has adopted in relation to the bringing down of interest rates in Australia could be regarded as restrictionary, because the cheaper the cost of money is made to business in Australia, the greater must be the incentive of business in Australia to invest. So on that score I do not think we could be accused of adopting a more restrictionist policy. We have adopted what some people call a hard policy, a hard line policy, a tough stance, or whatever description one likes to use, in a number of areas. One of those areas has been the total level of Federal Government spending. We have done that because fundamentally we believe that what went wrong during the three years before we came into government was that the public sector in Australia took too much of the nation’s resources and that as a matter of direct policy we had to bring about a transfer of the nation’s resources from the public sector to the private sector.
We have done that deliberately by reducing taxation and by curbing the rate of growth of Federal Government spending. We make no apology for that. Of course, we have followed what one might call a disciplined policy in the wages area. Since we have been in government we have argued before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on every occasion that this country simply cannot afford full wage indexation. One thing that the Opposition cannot gainsay is that the wages policy which it has supported since it was returned to the Opposition benches in December 1975 and which it is still supporting is a policy which, if it had been acceded to by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission at every wage case held since we have been in government, would have led to higher inflation and higher unemployment. The Opposition, in concert with the peak councils of the trade union movement of Australia and, on a number of occasions, a number of State governmentson most of those occasions they were Labor State governments- has constantly advocated full wage indexation. If that policy had been adopted during the past two years- in other words, the policy that the honourable member for Gellibrand would like the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to adopt- we would have had higher unemployment and higher inflation than we presently enjoy.
I do not think there is any confusion in the minds of the Australian community or in the minds of honourable members on this side of the House about the Government’s economic strategy. It has been well understood during the past two and a bit years. It was very clearly understood on 10 December last year and very strongly endorsed by the Australian people. That policy contains a mix of economic policies which in some areas are designed to give stimulus to consumer and business activity and in other areas to place restraints on the growth of Commonwealth Government spending. In the wages area we have followed a policy which from the very word go has recognised that this country cannot afford full wage indexation and which has recognised that until real wages in the Australian community more adequately reflect levels of profitability business confidence will not permanently revive.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The Minister’s time has expired.
-This matter of public importance brought forward today by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) is in effect a motion of censure of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). But where is the Minister? I understand that he is in the precincts of the Parliament, but he is not in the chamber to answer the criticism levelled against him. He is not even on the list of speakers, as I understand it, to answer that criticism. Instead of doing that, he sends in his boss, the Treasurer (Mr Howard), to do it for him. The reason for doing that is so obvious. Neither the Treasurer nor the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has confidence in the ability of the Minister for Finance to answer the criticism levelled against him.
It is a complete disgrace that the Minister is not here this afternoon to answer this matter of public importance which is, in effect, a censure against him. His absence is a disgrace to the Parliament, because he is completely ignoring the Parliament itself. In fact, it is being said around the lobbies today that the appointment of the Minister for Finance to that office is most refreshing, because he brings to it a complete lack of knowledge of government finance and budgetary policy, not to mention economic policy; that never in the history of this Parliament have we had a Minister so lacking in knowledge of his portfolio. His statements on the deficit and on employment statistics show his confusion and inability to appreciate just what is happening to the economy as a result of his, and his Government’s policies. An example is provided by his answer to a question in this Parliament on 6 April in reply to the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), one of his own colleagues in the Government ranks. Firstly, instead of answering the question, he started off with a tirade against intellectuals until, finally, the Speaker himself had to pull him up and tell him to get on and answer the question. Admittedly, I can understand that he would have an inferiority complex on that subject; he is not renowned for his own intellectual capacity. He went on to answer the question, and when he had been hauled in by his own advisers, who pointed out that he had not answered it properly, I understand that he then altered the ‘greens’. I quote from a report of the incident in the Age, which apparently got information on the matter:
He said it was ‘perfectly clear’ that there had been employment growth this financial year.
But apparently he later found it was not so clear.
His office struck out of the Hansard record of his answer this reference to ‘perfectly clear’; it also changed his statement that a growth in employment ‘has occurred’ to ‘is occurring’.
That is the action of the Minister for Finance. He answers incorrectly a question in this Parliament and then changes the Hansard ‘greens’. That is quite a serious allegation against the Minister. While I am about it, I quote from the figures of the Bureau of Statistics because the Minister, as we can see, stated quite unequivocally that there had been a growth in employment. In normal terms, the work force grows by 1 !6 per cent per annum. That is the norm, in normal times. Needless to say, that is not happening today. For example, from July to December 1977- and I am quoting the Government’s own statistics- the number of people in private employment, seasonally adjusted, fell from 3,255,600 to 3,250,000. Of course, this has been directly brought about, by the policies of this Government, policies supported by the Treasurer and strongly advocated by the Minister for Finance, who stated here that employment was increasing. Government employment is increasing, but that is because of the activity of the State governments, especially the Government of New South Wales which, realising the lack of direction of the economic policy of this Government, and the impact that that is having upon employment, has deliberately put into effect employment creation policies. The employment figure in that sector has gone up from 1,458,400 to 1,486,300.
But in the manufacturing sector, a most important sector of the economy, the seasonally adjusted figures show that the employment figure fell from 1,148,600 in July 1977 to 1 , 1 4 1 ,800 in December 1 977-thanks to the policies of the present Federal Government. That is an adequate answer to the statement of the Minister for Finance that employment is increasing. That is the statement by this Minister who obviously does not even know what he is talking about and certainly does not understand his portfolio. As I have said, it is quite refreshing to have a man come to that high office with such a complete lack of knowledge of that subject, or the Department that he is administering.
– It is a good criterion for advancement.
– As the honourable member for Parramatta says, it is apparently a good criteria for advancement in the Liberal Party, but perhaps I should not be too hard on the Minister for Finance. There is, after all, less to him than meets the eye, but I do think that this matter is very important. We go on to the question of the deficit where, once again, the Minister shows his lack of knowledge of the situation. The Treasurer today admitted that the deficit would be higher than had been forecast in the Budget.
– We both said that three months ago. What a big discovery by the honourable member.
– Why did the Minister for Finance say, in answer to a question the other day, that it would be on target? Where are we going? Is it any wonder the people are confused, that Parliament is confused, when we have the Treasurer saying one thing and the Minister for Finance saying another? Yes, in that joint statement the Minister made with the Treasurer he said that, but then he came into Parliament and said something different. That is the reason why in effect we have this censure motion before us today; that is its whole basis. It is generally predicted that the deficit will be some $600 million over the original target. The Australian Financial Review reports on the other hand, that the Government is looking forward in the next financial year to a deficit of in the region of $6 billion. One could hardly call that publication a young, radical organ. It is generally accepted as one that is very responsible in its attitudes. That statement appeared in an article in the Australian Financial Review of 3 April.
These are the reasons that we, as an Opposition, are deeply concerned that we should have a Minister for Finance who is so obviously confused, who has obviously so very little understanding of budget finance, who is in such a responsible position yet, because of his lack of knowledge and understanding, has to accept the policies and advice given to him by either the Treasurer or his other advisers in the Department. As I have said, his attitude is typified by the fact that although we have before us today a matter of public importance, which is in effect a motion of censure against the Minister, he is stopped from coming here to answer it.
– The Prime Minister obviously, and the Treasurer stopped him. The Prime Minister sent the Treasurer in to do the job instead.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Opposition has shown very clearly this afternoon that despite the fact that it has brought forward this matter of public importance for serious debate it is determined not to carry out serious debate. For a start, it talked about the failure of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). Clearly because of the ministerial arrangements, this matter is outside the area of the Minister for Finance and is within the area of the Treasurer (Mr Howard). That is the reason why the Treasurer is debating this matter instead of the Minister for Finance.
Also, the Opposition put up the honourable member for Chifley (Mr Armitage) as some sort of an economics expert. During the 10 minutes he spoke he did not talk about economics at all. We know that he has great qualities and we know that he is a numbers man, or at least that is what he tells us. I suppose that, like most members of the Labor Party, he is a big numbers man. He talks about big deficits, big inflation rates, big interest rates and big unemployment. They are the numbers of the Labor Party. They are the numbers we are trying to reduce. They are the numbers we have been trying very hard to reduce in the past two and a bit years.
– Put some pep into it.
– You have done well with unemployment!
– Honourable members opposite are interjecting. A few of them have come into the chamber, and that is good. Talk about the failure of our budgetary policy; at least we have a policy- and that is refreshing. At least the Government knows that it is trying to do. At least the Government is achieving what it set out to do, and the people of Australia know that; they demonstrated this in the last general election. Our policy is a sound one; it is based on our belief in the individual working people of Australia and the individual disadvantaged people of Australia.
In a broader context, our budgetary policyand this has been stated over and over again- is a return to full employment and economic growth in the context of greater social justice. It is not always easy to get all the settings right at the same time. It is also particularly difficult to get the settings together at the right time when we have an Opposition which, as the Treasurer has just said, fights for the full indexation of wages at this time when that would put more ordinary working men out of work. We consider the number of people already out of work at this time to be disastrously high. We are looking for full employment and for greater social justice, and that is what we are achieving. We are not working towards a return to the chasm into which this country was plunged in those dark Labor years. From time to time we talk about inflation, about deficits and about interest rates, but they are only subsidiary tools. They are the things we are trying to correct in order to get full employment, sound and real economic growth and greater social justice. I ask honourable members to remember those times when the Whitlam Government was spending more and more ostensibly to help people like pensioners while those people’s savings were being whittled away by that terrible thing- inflation.
But speaking in a less broad context about economic policy, the 1977-78 Budget specifically introduced tax cuts and upheld the health, education, defence and social security budgets in very difficult times. The Budget also upheld States’ rights so that the States could get record rake-offs from the Commonwealth this year in real terms. That is something about which we do not hear often from New South Wales, the State to which the honourable member for Chifley has just referred. New South Wales says that we are always the ones cutting programs, but in fact we are always the ones trying to help the States. That is why New South Wales has been able to expand its programs. It has received substantially more from the Federal Government this year. That is our budgetary policy; that is what we are upholding; that is what the people voted for and that is what the people are so pleased about in general terms at present.
It is true that the deficit is running very close to its target. It is also true that perhaps it will run over its target. But anybody with a simple knowledge of arithmetic could look at the Niemeyer statements for the past couple of months and see that the Budget deficit will run to within one per cent or 2 per cent of total outlays- not a large percentage over the Budget when one considers what we have been able to offer in recent months. We have been able to offer substantial tax cuts and we are continuing to offer greater social justice through the programs introduced in the Budget last year. It is not easy to cover the outlays with the income to the Government at present. The Australian people have got used to greatly expanded programs in recent years. In the context that we do not want to charge too much tax, it is obvious that the deficit will be a very difficult hurdle to get over. But it is only one of the settings. It, along with inflation and interest rates, is the tool, as I said, that we need to use to return to full employment and real economic growth.
What has the Opposition had to say during this debate that would offer some real alternatives to what it considers as failure- and I query the use of the word ‘failure’. I venture to suggest that under a Labor Government things would be much worse. Just before the general election last year and after last year’s Budget, the Opposition offered a whole range of government expenditure programs. Some of these were reiterated during the lead-up to the elections. Opposition members were talking about greater expenditure, amounting to $250m, on hospitals, sewerage programs, growth centres, area improvement programs, tourist development programs and leisure facility programs. They were talking about a national compensation scheme that would cost $500m-odd. They were talking about changing Medibank so that the public purse would be up for another $700m. They were talking about greater water resources and funds for hostels and accommodation which would cost over $200m. They were talking about dramatic increases in education spending. We do not know what they mean by ‘dramatic increases ‘, but I suppose they would try to accede to some of the requests from people like the
Teachers Federation. The teachers seem to want more and more time to prepare lessons. They should be talking about greater efficiency in education and a better standard in our schools. We do not know what the cost of all of these things would be. All we do know is that the cost would be something like $2,000m or $3,000m.
If Labor were in power now, what would it do? Would it increase taxes to cover the amount needed or would its deficit not be one per cent or 2 per cent over target but in fact 100 per cent over target? That was the way Labor was heading in 1975. That was one of the reasons why it was so difficult to cut back programs and to keep the Budget at the originally planned deficit of some $2.7 billion. We knew what they were talking about in 1 975 when they were planning great excesses in government expenditure. Labor was not looking at slight increases in the Budget deficit: It was looking at something absolutely incredibly high.
During this debate we waited for signs of advice from honourable members opposite. We waited for them to come up with something constructive. All they could do was drag up dirt about various Ministers. That is about the limit of their intellect at present. They are good at advocating things like the picketing of ships loading sheep at the cost of the welfare of thousands of unionists and non-unionists. That is the type of thing in which the Labor Opposition is engaged at present. It is not interested in the welfare of the working people of Australia or in sound Budget planning or in the interests of the aged, the young, the business people, the people who make the money so that we as a government can afford the programs we are trying to implement as regards greater social justice. Members of the Opposition are not interested in the ordinary Australian. They are only interested in coming into this chamber and putting forward a proposition about the failure of the Government’s budgetary policy, without putting forward any alternatives. They know what the Australian people voted for. They know that the Australian people recognised this Government as a government that can make sound budgetary policies. The Australian people recognised this Government as a government which, when it ran into problems, could solve those problems. That is what we are doing. That is what we will show we can do in the future.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MartinOrder! The debate is now concluded. I call the Minister.
– Do you want us to call a quorum, John?
-Is a quorum called for?
Opposition members- No!
-Has a quorum been called for or not?
-The honourable member for Franklin was going to call for a quorum.
– I take a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. Will the. Government explain to me and to other members on this side of the House what are its priorities of business in the Parliament today? Is it that the Government does not know what its priorities are and that it cannot run the business of the Parliament?
– I wish to speak to the point of order. The honourable member for Blaxland seeks to take advantage of the fact that a Minister who is due to make a statement is not in the chamber at present. He has been requested to come into the chamber.
Debate resumed from 6 April, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-I call the honourable member for Frankin.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I draw your attention to the fact that the last speaker in this debate was a Government supporter and that the Opposition has the call.
-I understand that the honourable member for Franklin still has 14 minutes in which to speak.
-I am very pleased to resume the debate. I wish firstly to indicate what the Bill is all about. The purpose of the Bill is to extend the borrowing power of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation to enable it to borrow, with a provision for the Commonwealth to guarantee repayment, moneys for the purpose of promoting the sale and consumption of apples and pears and apple and pear products. I will briefly outline the reason why I believe apples should be promoted in the interest of Australians. Before doing so I want to make a couple of explanations. The honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns) said last Thursday that that evening I had eaten a Victorian apple. That is not true. He is a Scotsman, too, I believe.
– I take a point of order. I ask that the honourable member be requested to withdraw that remark.
-Does the honourable member find the remark that he is a Scotsman to be offensive?
– Yes, I do.
-As the honourable member for Isaacs claims that the remark is offensive, I ask the honourable member for Franklin to withdraw it.
-I withdraw the remark. I believe that the honourable member is from the south of Ireland.
– I take a further point of order. I regard that as an offensive remark.
-Does the honourable member for Isaacs regard the remark that he comes from the south of Ireland as being offensive?
- Mr Deputy Speaker, will you stop members opposite making a mockery of this Parliament? It is not a place for joking. We have had enough of this interchange. Parliament is an important place. It should be taken seriously.
-I think the point is well made.
-I will take due note of the remarks of the honourable member for Robertson. I hope that he practises what he says for the entire duration of this Parliament. The point I was making was that the honourable member for Isaacs said that I had eaten a Victorian apple. This is not true. I was told that the apple was a Tasmanian apple. I believe that Tasmanian apples are worth promoting. The other night the members of the National Country Party, some of whom are good friends of mine, were a little worried about the quality of Tasmanian apples. The introduction of the fruit equalisation plan has enabled us, for the first time, to put our apples on the Australian market at a price comparable with that of other producers of apples and which has forced them to compete with us in regard to quality. The honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) mentioned that apples were a stimulant in certain respects.
– They are good for you.
-Yes, they are. Tasmanian apple producers have been producing apples for 90 years. The early producers hit upon certain names for their apples. I think they are very appropriate and should be promoted.
– Are there any doctors in Tasmania?
-Quite a few. Some of the names of apples are very appropriate. I refer to such names as Ladies in the Snow, Delicious, Granny Smith, Geeveston Fanny and Crofton. These apples should be promoted in this Parliament. The Australian people should realise that the apples produced in Tasmania are worth promoting. With the introduction of this Bill it has suddenly been realised that if apples are to be sold in Australia and the United Kingdom they have to be promoted and promoted by the right people at every given opportunity. Some people criticise me continually for mentioning the word apple’. If Tasmanians believe that the apple industry is important to the Tasmanian economy and that the Apple Isle is synonymous with apples they have to promote apples continually. For that reason I say that the money will be well spent.
– What about Victorian apples?
-They are only a minor consideration. Some 40 per cent of the total number of trees in Tasmania in 1972 have been pulled out since then because some people said that there was not a market for them, that certain things had gone wrong with them, and the industry needed restructuring and so on. Today the apple market in the United Kingdom is so great that Australian apples are required but Australian growers are not able to produce enough apples for that market. To me, that is unfortunate. I hope that Tasmania will start to grow more apples to cope with the present demand. Mr Leckie, who was promoted Chairman of the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation, had some strong things to say about the industry. I think his remarks are very pertinent to this debate. He said:
In my short time in the industry, I have been impressed by evidence that the industry is gearing itself to overcome difficulties facing it, particularly in Tasmania. The introduction of the Tasmanian Apple and Pear Marketing Authority is evidence of the desire of growers in that State endeavouring to rationalise operations to achieve maximum results. In Tasmania the introduction of new regulations covering background colour and cool storage, whilst posing some introductory problems has caused an improvement in fruit conditions and coupled with a smoother flow of fruit to ships and improved loading rates, has improved the overall quality and condition of export fruit.
The people involved in the industry in Tasmania have realised for many years that there have been problems in exporting fruit to the United Kingdom. Of course, freight rates have increased dramatically, which has created a problem. But the pure and simple fact is that apples have not been marketed correctly. The right varieties have not been sent to the United Kingdom. The growers have not had the people at the other end to make certain that when the apples are landed in the United Kingdom they are sold at the best possible price for the growers. A single marketing authority now has been set up. This authority, although it has handled only about half the quantity of fruit produced since 1971, has been able to place the fruit at the best possible price. I extend my congratulations to the Authority as I am sure other Tasmanians would like to do.
There is evidence that the industry is on the improve. There is evidence that the work that the growers have put in for so many years and the application that they have shown in difficult times, despite their inability to make even a respectable living, has now come to fruition because of the fact that the Authority is now able to place the fruit to the advantage of the growers of Tasmania. I believe that is a significant and most important point. I hope that the industry in Tasmania will be restructured and that more fruit trees will be planted. That would be to the advantage not only of Tasmania but also the world. Fresh fruit is in demand. There will always be a demand for decent, respectable apples. This is shown by the number of members of this Parliament who eat apples. I hope that some of the things that have been said in the last couple of days will promote further demand.
The fact is that apples grown in Tasmania are of good quality and acceptable to everybody in Australia. For that reason they should be promoted. Everybody in Tasmania should be proud to say that Tasmania is the Apple Isle. It is sometimes called the Tourist Isle following the introduction of a casino. I do not knock that aspect. But to me and to many other Tasmanians, Tasmania will always be known as the Apple Isle. During my stay in Parliament I hope that I will be able at every opportunity to promote apples and apple products.
That leads me to another point of interest. I do not think that apple cider produced in Tasmania can be bought in Parliament House. Many members have asked me: ‘Bruce, is there any way in which the apple cider produced in Tasmania can be made available in Federal Parliament?’ If it were it would enable those of us who bring friends to Parliament House to introduce them to apple cider produced in Tasmania. This would be another way by which to promote this very important Tasmanian industry.
I know that some honourable members get very bored with the apple industry and talk of the Apple Isle. But we believe that the apple industry is part of Tasmania, that it is at the very heart of Tasmania. I know that every Tasmanian will continue to promote the industry. Hopefully in the long term the industry and people who work in it will be rewarded as a result of money advanced to the Corporation for restructuring and for the purpose of promoting the sale and consumption of apples. Many people picking apples under difficulties are finding it very difficult to survive under the economic conditions that prevail in Australia today. They need to be given heart. They need the enthusiastic support of every member of this place. They need to know that in the long term they will be rewarded and that their hard work will be appreciated by all Tasmanians and other Australians.
-As the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) pointed out last week, this is a straightforward and simple Bill. In addition, it is noncontroversial. I believe we ought to talk about the Australian Apple and Pear Corporation and the fundamental problems affecting the apple and pear industry. I deplore the fact that a debate of this kind is exploited by parish pump politics to evince some kind of miserable political advantage. It is not a question of Victoria versus Tasmania, or Tasmania versus South Australia. Surely the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) who preceded me in this debate ought to start to think as an Australian. The honourable member for Blaxland made the point in his speech that the apple and pear industry is another primary industry that is under threat. Without making any bones about it, he pointed out in a very unambiguous way that the Opposition unequivocally supports the amendment to this legislation. That is how the situation stands. We do not want to be fiddling around with issues such as the great Apple Isle versus something in South Australia. The simple purpose of this Bill–
– That is why you lost five seats there.
-The honourable member for Denison is trying to get into the act as well. If the people of Tasmania only realised how these people incessantly use the problems of Tasmania for their own miserable political survival they would turn them off when they exploit issues of this kind.
The simple purpose of this Bill is to extend the borrowing power of the Australian Apple and
Pear Corporation so that money can be borrowed for the purpose of promoting the consumption of apples and pears and apple and pear products. The extent to which such borrowing will be engaged in by the Corporation will require, of course, ministerial approval. The Corporation requires this power in the event that its funds, which are derived from a levy on exports of fresh apples and pears and a levy on apples and pears used for both processing and for sale on fresh fruit markets, are not sufficient to meet promotional expenditure costs of the seasonal nature of the receipts.
The Apple and Pear Corporation was, of course, established by the Labor Government. I think that point was conceded by the honourable member for Franklin earlier in his speech. Everybody acknowledges that the Corporation has worked very well in its attempts to sell Australian apples and pears on overseas markets and to improve the return to producers. The Corporation has been successful in improving the coordination and regulation of apple and pear exports thereby promoting a national effort for the limited overseas markets available and removing the unnecessary competition between Australian producers which has been so detrimental in the past. I would like again to emphasise the point that we should not think in terms of interstate competition because the problems have been big enough in terms of competition within the industry itself, even in respect to Tasmania.
The industry has been going through very hard times. The cutback or loss of the European markets, particularly Great Britain, has had a very distressing effect. Now we need to look for new markets. We have to get out of the zone A and B contemplation. I think the honourable member for Denison contended to this effect when he said we should be looking at the Middle East and Asia. Of course, we go along with those ideas. The fact of the matter is that there has been a very adverse effect on the level of income of producers of products destined for export. That is the essence of the situation. As is often the case, it is the efficient producer who is hardest hit when there is a collapse of an export market; that is to say, the bigger the investment or the larger the effort, the bigger the fall and the harder the fall when an export market goes from under an industry. That has happened in regard to the apple and pear industry.
The Labor Government’s initiatives have been continued by this Government. However, at the present time the stabilisation scheme provides for the payment of 80c a box for pears and $2 a box for apples destined for what is called ‘at risk’ markets. Of course, these are the markets in Europe and the United Kingdom. For many producers this support is not sufficient given the present rate of inflation. The stabilisation scheme seems to be working quite well for pears but for very complex reasons it is not working so well for apples, which reflects that there has been less difficulty in obtaining overseas markets for pears than for apples.
– That is right.
-I believe I heard someone acquiesce. The Tasmanian yearly apple crop has been reduced by approximately 50 per cent since the beginning of the operation of the tree-pull scheme which finished last year. I understand that about 40 per cent of Tasmania’s apple trees have been pulled out over the last four or five years. This program has assisted in improving the viability of the producers remaining. Producers who have been forced out or who have opted out of the industry have been heartbroken and little can be done at this stage about the situation in which they find themselves. The problems of the Huon Valley have been continually raised in this Parliament. Those who have remained are now on larger holdings. Regrettably the small farmer was forced out and this has its implications for the original economy of the district. Many apple growing districts are still suffering from the consequences. It will take a great deal of time before some compensating arrangements can be made to restore the equilibrium of a number of apple growing communities in several States.
The Corporation as yet has not exercised its power of trade. Even though there are limits to this power imposed by the Apple and Pear Corporation it is to be hoped that in the future the Corporation will bite the bullet and seek new markets where private enterprise has made little or no effort. The Corporation is particularly suited to trade with those overseas companies which prefer to conduct trade on a company to company basis. It is in the areas of trade activity that the performance has not been as successful as it could be. Obviously there is a great deal of scope for the Corporation to get out and to sell and promote whether that activity be in respect of apple cider, which was mentioned by the previous speaker, or apples and pears in their raw state. This activity can be carried out on a much larger scale than has been the case hitherto.
The Australian Labor Party platform commits a future Labor government to the encouragement and development of markets for Australian primary products by:
Generally speaking, more can be done to look at the limits that are imposed on the Apple and Pear Corporation. It has to be released from its limitations so that it can get into the business of showing real initiative so that this industry can gain a greater degree of prosperity than it has enjoyed in recent years.
-It was originally my intention to restrict myself to the narrow limits of the Bill and to talk about pears and their market prospects but after the intervention by the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) a few points have to be made. The honourable member for Hughes made certain points about the Labor Government in relation to the apple and pear industry. I remind him of three things. The first is that one of the most significant factors in the downturn in the economic viability of both the fresh apple and fresh pear industries was the removal of the sales tax concession by the Labor Government as a result of the infamous Coombs report. This significantly reduced the uptake of fruit juice in carbonated beverages in this country. If the Australian Labor Party wants to talk about what it has done for the apple and pear industries it should start at that point.
Secondly, I turn to the stabilisation scheme which was the subject of an Industries Assistance Commission report. The IAC recommended the phasing out of the stabilisation scheme. The Government to its credit has continued it. However, it took a long time for Labor to show any enthusiasm for the continuation of the apple and pear stabilisation scheme. Thirdly, the tree pull scheme, or the fruit growing reconstruction scheme as it was called, was introduced by the McMahon Government in 1971-72. This was correctly pointed out by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). In my area the 1972 election was called the ‘rotten fruit election’. The then honourable member for Riverina, Mr Grassby, campaigned throughout my electorate and other fruit growing electorates throughout Australia saying what wonderful things Labor, when it came to power, would do for the fruit industry, such as significantly increasing the means test concessions so that it would be far easier for growers to obtain money under the tree pull scheme. But what happened? Labor made no alteration to the means test arrangement under the tree pull scheme. In fact, it remained until we were returned to office for us to once again increase the concessional arrangements and give some degree of justice to those people in difficult circumstances in the industry.
I refer now to the other half of this legislation, the half concerning pears, because as is usual in debates of this nature, particularly with Tasmanian members of Parliament and to a certain extent my friends the honourable member for Hume (Mr Lusher) and the honourable member for Calare (Mr MacKenzie), the subject has been apples. That is about all we have heard mentioned so far in this debate although I make no criticism of that. I remind people that the pear sector of the industry in this country is overwhelmingly in the Goulburn Valley, probably to a greater degree than the apple sector is dominated by Tasmania. The outlook for pears, particularly for export, is healthier on a long term basis, or it appears more commercially viable, than is the outlook for apples.
I refer now to the August 1977 edition, the most recent, of the Rural Industry Information Papers which gives figures to support this claim. It is evident when looking at the pay-in and payout arrangements under the stabilisation scheme that payments out of the fund by the Government have been far greater to apple growers than to pear growers and that pay-ins from growers relative to the size of the industries have been greater from pear growers than from apple growers. For example, payments to apple growers for the six years from 1971 to 1976 inclusive amount to more than $20m, which includes the supplementary CommonwealthState assistance. The Commonwealth’s share of that supplementary assistance was $3m, leaving a fund payment of $ 1 7m. Payments into the fund by apple growers amounted to $51,000. That indicates the degree of support which the Government has given to this most important industry through the stabilisation scheme. However, payments out to pear growers during the same period amounted to $ 1.3 m while payments into the fund by pear growers amounted to $121,000.
The honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) referred to some of the rosy prospects for the export market this year. My understanding of the projection for the current export season is that it is one of the most optimistic for a number of years. With regard to apple exports, Europe is still of great significance and I understand that prices perhaps will be not as good as they were last year but, nevertheless, satisfactory and commercial. I refer now briefly to an article dealing with apples and pears in the 23 March edition of Agra Europe, the most recent edition available in the Parliamentary Library. Agra Europe probably is the most reliable, quick source of international agricultural information. An article entitled ‘EEC expects increased deliveries of southern hemisphere apples’ states:
There were fewer apples in store in the EEC on March 1 this year than on the same date in any year since 1973. The quantity was 953,000 tonnes which was 16 per cent below 1 977 ‘s level and 28 per cent below the level in 1 976.
Further on it states:
Stocks and imports together are likely to give total EEC supplies of around 1.34m tonnes, which would be 4 per cent less than sales in 1977. On this basis March-July prices can be forecast at 5- 10 per cent above year earlier level. A comparison can be made with the early summer of 1975 when 1.34m tonnes had been sold; this year’s prices should be roughly equal to prices then plus 13 percent for inflation.
The pear industry is now selling about half its exports to the South East Asian region, and good sales to the United States of America have been reported. So once again returns are expected to be satisfactory for the fresh export pear sector. The Bill, although it is a minor administrative Bill, is a good example of useful and constructive legislation which, according to a grower member of the Apple and Pear Corporation with whom I discussed it, will be of considerable value to the Corporation. Presently, the Corporation has the power to borrow only ibr the promotion of fruit traded by itself, but the promotion activities of the Corporation are on behalf of others who actually market the fruit. The promotion period for the domestic market is from March to July, and for the export market it is from May to July. As the experience of 1 977 revealed, most of the Corporation ‘s income is received after this promotion period. Therefore, there is a serious but short term cash liquidity problem facing the Corporation. I am advised by a Corporation member that the Corporation cannot use even bank overdrafts for this purpose- hence, this legislation.
To conclude, I refer to two points relating to the promotion activities of the Corporation. Firstly, a public relations officer has been recently appointed to co-ordinate the promotion and advertising activities of the Corporation to obtain the maximum cost-benefit. Secondly, the corporation, along with the Australian Canned
Fruits Board and possibly other bodies, is financially assisting a three-year project at Monash University researching the importance of fibre in a healthy diet. There appears to be an increasing awareness of the effect of lack of fibre in today’s diet. Apples and pears are two of the most natural and pleasant ways of providing fibre. I quote from two recent newspaper statements on the importance of fibre in diet, the awareness of it and the importance of apples and pears, and fruit and vegetables generally in the provision of that fibre. An article entitled ‘Lack of cereal fibre “linked” to heart disease’ which appeared in the Canberra Times on 20 March, stated:
There is a definite link between lack of cereal fibre in people’s diets and heart disease, according to a recent British survey.
This indicated bread was now the main dietary question relevant to heart disease, the man who conducted the survey, Professor J. Morris, said.
Professor Morris, professor of community health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was speaking on the ABC’s Science Show, broadcast on Saturday.
He said the standard white loaf contained only a third of the cereal fibre of wholemeal bread and a half that of brown bread.
The survey showed no such association between heart disease and fibre from other sources such as fruit and vegetables like peas, beans and nuts, Professor Morris said.
The survey had investigated 337 people over a period of 10 to 20 years.
In last Thursday’s Melbourne Age an article appears under the heading: ‘A town goes corny for medical research’. The article states:
The small town of Strathalbyn in the Adelaide hills is to be the centre of one of the biggest and most important health studies ever undertaken in Australia.
During the next six months the eating habits of the 1701 townspeople will come under close scrutiny by a medical research team representing the Gastroenterology Society of Australia- specialist doctors who study the stomach and intestine and their diseases.
The object of the project- regarded as a pilot study which may untimately influence the health of Australians- is to encourage people in Strathalbyn to restore fibre to their diet.
There is growing concern that lack of fibre in the dietbran, wholemeal bread, leafy vegetables and fruit- has become one of the major health hazards of western civilisation’, project co-ordinator Dr R. L. Willing said yesterday.
The report goes on in similar terms. The point is that the Apple and Pear Corporation together with the Canned Fruits Board has recognised the significance of dietary health and fresh and canned fruit and vegetables. Hence one can see the importance of continuing the promotion activities undertaken by the Corporation and the necessity and the good sense in this legislation being passed today.
-I support the Apple and Pear Corporation Amendment Bill. It is in keeping with the Australian Labor Party’s policy of generally supporting the stabilisation and orderly marketing of primary products. Indeed, the Labor Party is truly the pioneer of much of the stabilisation and orderly marketing schemes that embrace rural industries today. Many of them were initiated by Labor governments as far back as the Chifley Government. We support the legislation also in the interests of the pome fruit industry which has gone through very difficult times in recent years. As the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) said, it is going through a period of self-adjustment and it needs help and sympathetic support in getting through that period. Like him I am confident that in a few years the industry will be stable and able to stand on its own feet.
One of the difficulties of the industry is the slowness with which it has adapted itself to innovations. I refer particularly to the hedgerow planting of trees, which I understand is done in still only a fairly small sector of the industry in Tasmania. Last year I went to a parliamentary conference in Bulgaria, one of the communist bloc countries. On one of our days off we were taken on a tour of one of the rich agricultural regions of Bulgaria. We saw thousands of acres of apple trees planted according to a hedgerow system. They looked to be in very fine fettle indeed. They were well managed and pruned and very highly producing. These are the sorts of techniques with which we have to compete if we want to sell our fruit overseas. Obviously these trees had been planted ten or IS years ago. It appears that those countries had adopted these new techniques and innovations much more quickly than we have. That is one of the big problems within the apple industry today.
This amending Bill bears out some of the misgivings we voiced when the Bill dealing with the Apple and Pear Corporation was going through the Parliament in December 1976. At that stage we anticipated budgetary problems because by putting the levy on the product rather than basing it on hectares or the number of trees planted it meant that the Corporation could not know what its budget would be because it did not know what its revenue from the levy would be. The estimate was that it would be from $700,000 to $800,000 but nobody really knew. And this is what has come about. The Corporation does not know what its income will be. It does not get the income from this year’s crop until about January next year and so in the interim period it will have no income.
I think that the Government should have foreseen this difficulty. If it had based the levy on acreage or the number of trees this problem would not have arisen. The Corporation would have been able to impose the levy, knowing what revenue it would get from year to year, and would have been able to use it. This amendment bears out some of the misgivings we voiced at the time. It indicates that the Corporation is having difficulties with budgeting. The Bill does not state to what extent the Corporation is having difficulties or the nature of them. Giving the Corporation power to borrow money means that the Corporation has to pay interest on the money borrowed and ultimately this comes out of the pockets of the producers. I am saying that this should have been foreseen, as we suggested it would cause problems, but unfortunately it was not.
In relation to the industry generally this year, I cannot agree altogether with some of the previous speakers about the prospects. Fortunately there will be less pressure on promotion and expenditure this year mainly because the domestic crop is down. I understand that it is down by about Vh million bushels on what it was last year- about 20 per cent- and this, of course, will have a very significant effect on the local market. That 20 per cent reduction in the quality going on the domestic market should mean better prices all round for producers. I understand that this is the expectation for this year. The other aspect about the levy which we criticised was that by putting it on the product there were greater possibilities for evasion of the levy. I think that the fact that the Corporation did not get the money it anticipated now bears this out too. At the time we wondered how the Corporation could apply the levy to apples that were sold in bulk- say apples that are brought from orchards at Batlow to a market like Canberra. Substantial quantities are brought to Canberra in bulk bins, and the levy is imposed on a bushel basis. I do not know whether the levy is being paid on those apples. The fact that the Corporation has not received the revenue it expected indicates that possibly there is considerable evasion of the levy on the product which would not have come about if the acerage or number of trees had been levied.
As I said, the expectations on the domestic front are good. This of course does not help the Tasmanian producers who are so dependent on the export market. I believe that the export market is reasonable but not as good as last year. Producers do not expect to get quite the same prices they got last year. There is heavy competition from European areas of production and we have the extra freight costs to bear. We are in a difficult situation in that respect. But in the export area there are some favourable signs, particularly the development of new markets in the Middle East. I understand that the Corporation has been successful in air-freighting fruit to the Middle East. There seems to be some buyers there who feel that the price is not so important. The Middle East countries seem to have a lot of money to pay for all sorts of things these days. With a little enterprise from our Apple and Pear Corporation in promotion and hard selling that market has considerable potential and we should like to see it exploited. The other area where we have had fairly substantial markets is Asia, particularly Hong Kong, but I believe that now we are coming under more competition from South American countries, particularly Chile. Wherever we go we run into competition. We have to sell on price, quality, service and presentation. We have to be right on the ball about all these things or we just do not get the sales. Fortunately our Corporation seems to be moving in that direction.
The other element in the export market which has to be considered is the effect of currency variations. We tend to be devaluing from week to week, or day to day sometimes. There is a certain amount of instability in our currency. This may make our product easier to sell in some areas but against that we have the extra costs on those parts of production costs which are associated with imports. This means that we have to pay more for apple wraps, spray chemicals and machinery that we import. So really there is no great benefit when we devalue. We get some benefit but it is offset to some extent by our import bill.
To conclude, I solidly support this amendment as being another aid to the marketing legislation. We always support such legislation in the interest of the producers and the consumers, particularly the producers because these people are locked into the industry. They have a lot of capital invested in it and cannot just walk out. There was a day when a person could walk out of the industry, cut his losses and get a job somewhere. Now, because the general economic strategy of this Government has failed and fewer alternative employment opportunities are becoming available from day to day, these people do not have the choice of opting out of their apple growing and getting into something else. There is nothing else to get into, particularly in Tasmania where the employment position is so bad. The employment situation generally is another reason why we must strongly support these measures, which aim to assist the producer and stabilise the industry.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Groom) read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr Groom, and read a first time.
– I move:
In moving the motion for the second reading of the Bill I want to say that this is an historic occasion. The six Bills being introduced today give effect to commitments made by the Government in this Parliament last August at the time it announced its decision on uranium. In this Bill, and in the Bills that follow the Government gives evidence of its determination to strike a responsible balance between economic development and the protection of the environment.
Honourable members will recall that very significant deposits of uranium were discovered in the Alligator Rivers region of the Northern Territory in the early 1970s. In 1975 an inquiry was instituted under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 into the proposal by the Ranger consortium to develop uranium deposits at a site some 200 kilometres east of Darwin. Fundamentally, the inquiry was designed to provide a basis on which the Government could take responsible decisions for environmental protection. A commission was appointed to inquire, and I quote from its terms of reference: in respect of all the environmental aspects of:
The first report of the Ranger Inquiry, which was tabled in October 1976, discussed the broad issues confronting Australia as a country with rich and plentiful uranium resources. The questions of proliferation of nuclear weapons, the risk of diversion of nuclear materials from peaceful uses and the problem of safe disposal of radioactive wastes were considered. The second report, which was tabled in May 1977, considered the many issues relating to the specific proposal that uranium be mined in the Alligator Rivers region. The second report contained recommendations on measures to ensure that the necessary degree of environmental protection was provided over the full period of uranium mining developments in the region. As announced last August, the Government decided that the environment of the region would be protected from the consequences of uranium mining through a series of actions. It decided:
To establish a major national park in the Alligator Rivers region.
To appoint a Supervising Scientist to coordinate environment protection in the region.
To set up a research institute to provide a centre where research and monitoring staff can work together.
To establish a Co-ordinating Committee to include representatives of all agencies involved in research and monitoring activities, the mining industry and other relevant bodies.
To develop a uniform national code of practice to apply to uranium mining and milling in Australia.
To adopt strict environmental controls and standards in relation to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers region.
The Bill now before the House establishes an office of Supervising Scientist, a Co-ordinating Committee, and a research institute for the region under Commonwealth authority in a way that recognises the existing responsibilities of Commonwealth and Territorial agencies in the region and the interests of the Northern Land Council and the mining companies.
I would like to refer to the main clauses of this Bill, which, I am sure honourable members will agree, is a very significant piece of environmental legislation. In particular, honourable members will appreciate the scope of the environmental protection measures, in a geographic context, by reference to the schedule attached to the Bill, which is in effect a copy of map 3 from the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The Alligator Rivers region as defined comprises the catchments of the East, South and West Alligator Rivers, Field and Barron Islands and the territorial sea adjacent to this area. The main land area consists of the sandstone Arnhem Land plateau, lowlands, floodplains and tidal flats, as well as hills and river basins at the headwaters of the South Alligator River. It was defined in this way by the Ranger Inquiry to maintain the integrity of the ecosystem which is representative of a large part of the far north of Australia.
I should like to refer also to the definition in clause 3 of the Bill of ‘prescribed instrument’. Honourable members will see that the Supervising Scientist will have functions in respect of a very broad range of activities conferred by prescribed instrument, which include activities carried out under laws both of the Commonwealth and of the Northern Territory. It is expected that much of the administration and enforcement of these prescribed instruments will remain with existing authorities under arrangements to be agreed with the Northern Territory Executive. Thus emphasises the co-ordinating role of the Supervising Scientist as distinct from any suggestion of direction of government agencies operating in the region.
I draw the attention of honourable members to the definition in the Bill of ‘uranium mining operations’. A very wide range of actions and activities directly associated with uranium mining in the region are included. It does not, however, cover prospecting and exploration, nor matters concerning the provision of infrastructure services. These will be controlled by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, through the plan of management for the park, to be prepared and administered under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.
Part 2 of the Bill deals with the Office of the Supervising Scientist. The functions of the Supervising Scientist are set out in clause 5, and, as honourable members will see, his role is basically threefold. The first is to collect data on the effects on the environment of the region of uranium mining operations. The second is concerned with the development and promotion of standards, practices and procedures for the protection of the environment and with measures for protection and restoration of the environment in the region. The third main function is to co-ordinate and supervise the implementation of requirements for environment protection under prescribed instruments. I emphasise that these functions relate to the consequences of uranium mining activities in the region.
The Supervising Scientist will advise the Minister on all of these matters and will perform other functions, consistent with his principal role, in accordance with prescribed instruments. In carrying out his functions the Supervising Scientist is required to comply with directions from the Minister and to provide the Minister with any information that he may require. In the clauses dealing with the appointment of the Supervising Scientist, honourable members will note the provisions covering pecuniary interests. I am sure honourable members will appreciate the need to make sure that the Supervising Scientist can undertake his functional responsibilities free of any imputations of financial interests. The Bill includes the usual provisions for remuneration, termination of appointment and the appointment of a person to act as the Supervising Scientist.
Part 3 of the Bill establishes a Co-ordinating Committee for the Alligator Rivers region. The Bill provides that the Supervising Scientist may convene meetings of the Co-ordinating Committee and that he will preside at all meetings of the Committee at which he is present. The functions of the Co-ordinating Committee are essentially to assist the Supervising Scientist in his role of protecting the environment from the effects of uranium mining operations in the region. It will consider and recommend programs for the collection of data, consider and keep under review standards, practices, procedures and measures for environmental protection and restoration and keep under review requirements and their implementation under prescribed instruments.
The Co-ordinating Committee is the focal point of the system proposed by the Government for the protection of the environment from the consequences of uranium mining operations in the region. Honourable members will appreciate that there are many varied and at times, conflicting, interests to be considered and reconciled in the Alligator Rivers region. There are many organisations and authorities operating in the region pursuing objectives within their own scope of authority. The role of the Co-ordinating Committee is to provide a forum and a mechanism for these interests and organisations to communicate, consult, consider and reach understandings and agreements on the protection of the environment. It will be the task of the Supervising Scientist, presiding at meetings of the Coordinating Committee, to obtain comprehensive and co-ordinated advice and recommendations which take account of all interests and which have as their primary objective the protection of the environment from uranium mining in the Region.
In this context the membership of the Coordinating Committee is obviously very important. The Bill provides that the Co-ordinating Committee consist of the Supervising Scientist, the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, and other members appointed by the Minister. The Bill provides that the Minister keep a list of each department, authority, incorporated company, or other body that in his opinion has an interest in uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers region. The Minister will make appointments from people nominated from that list. I expect that membership of the Co-ordinating Committee will include representatives of Commonwealth and Territory government agencies involved in the research, monitoring and environmental protection programs, the Northern Land Council and the mining companies. Other provisions for the Co-ordinating Committee contained in the Bill deal with normal administrative procedures, and cover the appointment of deputies and arrangements to be made in situations where a member may have a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in matters under consideration by the Committee. This latter provision is particularly important because of the need to provide protection in respect to the commercial interests of the mining companies who will be represented on the Committee.
Part IV of the Bill establishes an Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute. The Institute is to be managed by the Supervising Scientist. It will provide him with the staff and equipment he needs to carry out his functions. Clearly it will be necessary for a comprehensive and well equipped field laboratory to be located in the region. Honourable members will be pleased to know that under the direction of Mr Robert Fry, who has been seconded from the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development to undertake preliminary functions of the proposed Supervising Scientist, steps have already been taken to establish monitoring of base-line environmental conditions in the region. Using temporary field laboratories, a significant amount of work has already been undertaken to establish a data base for later development of environmental protection programs.
Part V of the Bill covers the need for the Supervising Scientist to be supported by high calibre staff, with the necessary professional and technical skills. For this reason it gives the Supervising Scientist the powers of a permanent head in respect to staff. With the approval of the Public Service Board, he will be able to engage people and set their terms and conditions of employment. We believe it essential that the Supervising Scientist has this administrative flexibility because of the specialised functions that he is required to perform. Clauses 27 and 28 of the Bill give the Supervising Scientist the power to obtain information and to have access to buildings and places in the region to enable him to carry out his statutory functions including those of managing the Institute-
Clause 3 1 deals with the confidentiality to be observed by the Supervising Scientist, his delegates, his staff and members of the Public Service who may deal with matters arising under this Act, from time to time. The Bill also ensures that there is close collaboration between the Supervising Scientist and the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. The Director is responsible for the proposed Kakadu National Park. This Bill provides that the Supervising Scientist perform his functions and exercise his powers in accordance with the plan of management in force under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.
I wish to draw the attention of honourable members to provisions which require the Supervising Scientist to report on his activities. Clause 36 sets out a quite comprehensive list of details that the Supervising Scientist is required to include in an annual report. An important provision within this clause is the one requiring the Supervising Scientist to furnish a statement setting out the cost of his operations during the year. Honourable members should note that the Supervising Scientist furnishes his report to the Minister but that under clause 36 ( 5 ) it is mandatory for the responsible Minister to then lay that report before each House of the Parliament within 15 sitting days after it is received by the Minister. That provision is vitally important as it provides an opportunity for scrutiny of the Supervising Scientist reports by honourable members and senators from either side of the chambers.
I want to say particularly that the Government is most concerned to ensure that Aboriginals, whose land and lifestyles are certain to be influenced by the development of large-scale mining operations in the region, are treated fairly. I believe the package of legislation now before the House provides adequate measures to achieve this. Equally, I look forward to the constitutional development of the Northern Territory. I confidently expect that the Commonwealth and the new Government of the Territory will form a genuine and respected partnership in this important enterprise. I believe this Bill and the Bills that follow demonstrate the Government’s determination to protect the environment in the region, and to safeguard the interests of people in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in Australia. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Groom, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is the second in the package of three Bills under my portfolio which the Government has decided to introduce as part of its policy for uranium mining developments in the Northern Territory. The Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill which I have just introduced dealt with scientific institutions and arrangements- the establishment of an Office of a Supervising Scientist and a Scientific Research Institute.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 to facilitate the declaration of Kakadu National Park in the Alligator Rivers region. Since the park will include land over which Aboriginal land claims have been, or will be, granted, the amendments provide for the leasing of Aboriginal land to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife to manage as a national park.
The Alligator Rivers region is important in the context of world conservation. An area of outstanding beauty and grandeur, it also has great significance because of its social, cultural, biological, anthropological and archeological attributes. The region also contains some of the largest uranium deposits in the world- a resource of great economic potential to Australia.
The Alligator Rivers region encompasses a variety of landforms ranging from high plateau through lowlands and flood plains to tidal flats. The natural habitats contain a wealth of flora and fauna of great potential interest not only to
Australians but all mankind. Nearly 1000 species of plants have been recorded in the region and there is an impressive abundance and diversity of animals. The large number of Aboriginal archeological and art sites bears witness to thousands of years of Aboriginal occupancy and the cultural significance of the region. Of particular concern are the Aboriginal paintings rated with the great palaeolithic an sites of France and Spain and the bushmen paintings of Africa. The prehistoric paintings are a priceless inheritance.
The Ranger uranium environmental inquiry recognised the intrinsic value of the region, and central to its recommendations was the establishment of a major national park to safeguard these assets. The Commissioners saw this as the most effective way of minimising the impact of uranium mining on the physical, biological and cultural resources of the Alligator Rivers region.
This Bill takes full account of the principal recommendations of the Ranger inquiry and the Government’s decisions of August 1977. The need to ensure that conservation and resource use in the region are harmoniously blended has been uppermost in our minds in preparing legislation to establish Kakadu National Park. The most significant amendments relate to Aboriginal land and its use as a national park. The Northern Land Council, in evidence to the inquiry, suggested that land in the region which became Aboriginal land should be leased to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and be declared a national park under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. The Ranger inquiry accepted this suggestion and recommended the Act be amended and the process of declaration be expedited. This Bill enables these recommendations to be implemented, with the Director entering into a long term lease agreement with Aboriginals.
Clause 9 of the Bill ensures that the traditional Aboriginal land owners, through the appropriate Land Council, are fully consulted in the development and implementation of the plan of management for the park. Although major disagreements are not expected, provision is made to overcome any problems that may arise between the Land Council and the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. In resolving any differences the advice of appropriate Ministers will be sought. If necessary an impartial person will be appointed to advise on any issues arising in the implementation of the management plan. The management plan prepared by the Director and approved by Parliament will ensure environmental protection, and that appropriate management practices are employed, taking into account the interests of the traditional Aborigines owners.
Aboriginals, with their long involvement with and concern for the natural environment, have a key role to play in park management. I envisage that opportunities for their employment in the park will increase as the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service develops training programs and other measures for Aboriginal advancement.
The Ranger project area and the Pancontinental and Noranda lease areas will be excluded from the national park. The park will be declared in two stages. Stage 1 will become a national park immediately and will include all the land subject to Aboriginal land claims recommended by the inquiry. The second stage will be under special Commonwealth control prior to its declaration. Under the provisions of clause 6 of the Bill, a conservation zone will be established over this stage to ensure that the wildlife and natural features of the area are adequately protected and conserved pending its incorporation in the national park.
The Bill enables the making of regulations to control and regulate such activities as mineral exploration and tourism within the conservation zone. Arrangements for mineral exploration of the conservation zone, for which my colleague the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) will have primary responsibility, are being developed. These will be pursued as a matter of urgency so that the addition of stage 2 to the national park may take place as quickly as possible. Every care will be taken to minimise environmental disturbance during the exploration phase. Developments in the conservation zone will be consistent with the concept of its future transfer to the national park. Ministers having particular responsibilities in the conservation zone will exercise these through special administrative arrangements and the Director will carry out his functions in accordance with these arrangements. In this way, integrated management of the whole area to be a national park will be facilitated.
The Government decided that the mining town to serve mines developed in the region should be included in Kakadu National Park on land leased from the Director, and be subject to the plan of management. Town planning and development will therefore be integrated with that of the park as a whole. Appropriate amendments are included to provide for the preparation of a town plan which will specify details of zoned use, building standards, transportation, public recreation and essential services such as water, electricity and sewerage.
Another recommendation of the Ranger inquiry accepted by the Government concerned the making available to the Director of information about activities affecting the park or future park areas. Clause 13 confers on the Director appropriate rights of inspection and access to information whilst respecting the confidentiality of information where necessary. My colleague the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), who represents in this chamber the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), will be introducing a Bill to confer jurisdiction on the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, in relation to the enforcement by it of certain legal requirements for the protection of the environment in relation to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers region, at the suit of the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, or the appropriate Land Council.
Clause 12 enables the Director, subject to the agreement of the Minister, to set and impose fees for entry to parks and for the use of services provided by the Director. Clause 15 extends the Director’s powers of delegation so that he can delegate appropriate functions to persons, including Aboriginals or groups of Aboriginals, who would not be eligible under the delegation powers of the principal Act. This is a very important provision and will facilitate the involvement of Aboriginals in the practical management and protection of the park to be established on thenland.
Section II of the principal Act deals with plans of management. The Ranger inquiry saw the plan of management for the park as being the principal means of co-ordinating management of the area to ensure that park development proceeds rationally. Within the national park, activities such as those of the Supervising Scientist will operate in accord with the plan of management. Honourable members will note that the definition of the region in this Bill differs from that contained in the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill which I have already introduced. As defined in this Bill the region does not extend into the Arnhem Land Aboriginal reserve and does not include the Gimbat or Goodparla pastoral leases.
In its second report the Ranger inquiry recommended that consideration be given to the resumption of Goodparla and all or part of Gimbat with a view to their incorporation in the park. The significance to the national park of these areas lies in their location in a land system poorly represented within the proposed boundaries and in the fact that they contain the upper reaches of major rivers, the protection of whose catchments is important for the proper conservation of the park. The Government accepted the inquiry’s recommendation that Gimbat and Goodparla be considered for later addition to the park.
A number of associated Bills are being introduced which result from the Government’s uranium decisions. Certain provisions in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill, the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill and the Environment Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court ) Bill are related to this Bill.
Declaration of the Kadadu National Park will be the culmination of efforts dating from 1965 when the Northern Territory Reserves Board recognised the national significance of the area and put forward a proposal to create a national park. Subsequently a wildlife sanctuary was established under the authority of the Department of the Northern Territory. 1 would like to pay tribute to the farsightedness of those authorities and people in the Territory and elsewhere who quite early recognised the great qualities of the area for conservation. I trust that the same interest and support will be available to the Commonwealth in its stewardship of the Kakadu National Park, through the co-operation of the Northern Territory Executive. The national park will be considerably larger than the existing wildlife sanctuary and the area proposed as a national park in 1965. The establishment of Kakadu National Park is indicative of this Government’s concern for the natural environment and Aboriginal interests.
Social problems arising from the influx of new people into the region and the desire of some Aboriginals to follow traditional life styles will need sensitive understanding. The preservation of Aboriginal paintings, the control of introduced animals such as the buffalo and the protection of endangered species will require detailed research. The integration of different uses such as conservation, scientific research, education, fishing, tourism and mining will be a complex but rewarding task. Highly skilled and innovative persons sensitive to the special requirements of the Aboriginal people and sensitive to the unique nature of the environment in the Alligator Rivers region will be needed to ensure the success of the Government’s intentions in this field. New principles of management will have to be established and new standards set because the situation in the Alligator Rivers region is unique not only in Australia but also in the world.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I am sure that all Australians can take pride in the fact that we will have a national park of world standard in the Northern Territory, as a result of decisions made by this Government. I commend the Bill to the House.
– I move:
With your indulgence, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to direct a question to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom). A number of honourable members on this side of the House- in particular, the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), myself and a few other honourable members- are very anxious to visit the area of the proposed national park. I was wondering whether the Minister could make facilities available so that we could spend some time in the area in order to see the problems that are outlined in the Bill.
– Could I respond by saying that it certainly would be a rewarding experience to go to the area. I shall certainly speak with the appropriate people to see what arrangements can be made.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is intended to give effect to the Government’s decisions on the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry as far as they affect Aboriginal land rights. The opportunity is also being taken to seek some machinery amendments to facilitate the administration of the Act and to remedy defects which have been found in the operation of the Act.
Honourable members will recall that by virtue of section 1 1 (2) of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, the Ranger Inquiry was enabled to inquire into and report on Aboriginal land claims in the Alligator Rivers region effectively as if it were the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. The Ranger Inquiry recommended that traditional Aboriginal claims to a large portion of the vacant Crown land within the region should be granted to an Aboriginal Land Trust. The amendments will implement this recommendation. I announced in my statement on 25 August last year that the decision to negotiate the purchase of Mudginberry and Munmarlary pastoral leases meant that these areas would become available to form part of the National Park and that the traditional land claims to these areas could be heard in accordance with provisions of the Land Rights Act and recommendations submitted by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. Negotiations with the lessees for the acquisition of the leases have been continuing and are not yet complete. However, in anticipation of their eventual acquisition, the Bill will provide for Aboriginal land claims to be made over land in Stage 2 of the proposed Kakadu National Park, notwithstanding that the land may have become part of a national park.
The Government proposes that when the leases have been acquired, opportunity would be given to the traditional owners of the land to make a claim before the Aboriginal Land Commissioner. Depending upon the recommendation of the Aboriginal Land Commissioner and my consideration of his report, there will be opportunity for this land to become Aboriginal land within the meaning of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. It will be a condition of any land grant that the land to become national park should be leased back to the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The next step would therefore be for the Northern Land Council on behalf of the traditional owners to make an agreement with the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service which would cover the lease of the land to the Director so that it might become a national park and to provide for the management of the park. Provision will be made that if agreement cannot be reached between the Northern Land Council and the Director I can appoint an arbitrator to determine the matter.
In relation to the Ranger area, the inquiry considered representations made on behalf of the traditional owners regarding the proximity of the Ranger area to the sacred sites at or near Mount Brockman or Djidbidjidbi. The inquiry recommended in chapter 14 that the Land Rights Act be amended so as to move the southern boundary of the Ranger project area, as delineated in Schedule 2 of the Act, further away from the Aboriginal sacred sites. This is being done.
The Ranger Inquiry found that it was common practice in the Northern Territory not to grant mineral leases as such but to notify applicants of the Administrator’s approval to the grant and of any conditions specially attached to the grant; that this is regarded as substantially the equivalent of a grant. The effects of this practice were not taken into account in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The inquiry, by recommendation 14.2, recommended that section 40 ( 1 ) of the Land Rights Act should be amended so that the prohibition against granting a mining interest without consent should certainly include the common case of mining leases being approved by the Administrator, but not formally granted. The Bill does this by an additional definition of grant which will ensure that an approval to grant a mining lease is treated in exactly the same way as an actual grant of a mining interest.
The inquiry was concerned to ensure that the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Northern Land Council should be able to reinforce the environmental protection machinery. My colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) has already indicated that the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act will be amended to provide for the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to have appropriate rights of inspection and information. This Bill seeks similar rights for the Northern Land Council, as recommended by the inquiry in recommendation 18.2 (s).
As I have already indicated, the opportunity is being taken to seek further amendments to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. But I would stress that none of these amendments alter the original policy expressed in the Act. This is a complex piece of legislation and since it has been in operation it has been found that amendments are required to ensure the effective administration of the Act and to remove the possibility of interpretations contrary to its intention.
It was the intention, in drafting the principal Act, that in establishing a land trust it ought to be sufficient to describe in general terms the beneficiaries of the land held by the land trust. However, the Government has received legal advice that the Act requires specific identification of the Aboriginal groups involved. Because of this advice, the establishment of Land Trusts has not been possible. I have been unable to recommend to the Governor-General the grant of any land to land trusts because of the difficulty of identifying in specific terms the beneficiaries involved. Consequently, title has not been granted in respect of those areas of land described in Schedule 1 of the principal Act. To determine the traditional owners in this degree of detail would be a complex and timeconsuming task which is intended to be the long-term responsibility of the Land Councils in establishing a register of traditional owners under section 24 of the Act. It is therefore intended to amend the Act so that specific identification will not be required. This will enable the early establishment of land trusts to hold tide to the land described in Schedule 1 of the principal Act which include all of the major Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory.
The Aboriginal Land Commissioner has drawn my attention to the fact that there are defects in the protection given to him and to voluntary witnesses in hearings before him. He has also pointed out that he cannot administer an oath or affirmation to a voluntary witness. The Bill will seek to remedy these defects and to give the Commissioner the same protection and immunity as a justice of the High Court.
The principal Act provides for the closing of the Aborigines Benefits Trust Fund which was established under section 21 of the Northern Territory Administration Act and for it to be replaced by an Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account to be established under section 63 of the Land Rights Act. Because it has not been possible to grant land to land trusts and therefore revenue from Aboriginal land has not commenced to flow to the ABTA, it has been necessary to maintain the ABTF to receive royalties for the benefit of Aboriginals. Minor amendments are proposed which will facilitate the closure of the ABTF and ensure that its assets are transferred to the ABTA.
The principal Act required that I should set up at least two land councils in the Northern Territory. This I have done and the two Councils, the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council, have commenced operations and have proven to be dedicated representatives of the traditional owners. Already, in anticipation of their being granted Aboriginal land, the Councils have entered into substantial negotiations with mining companies and other interests on behalf of the traditional owners. The Councils have demonstrated a responsibility and a capacity which fulfils the expectations of the Government to which I alluded in my second reading speech to the principal Act in June 1976. Honourable members will be aware that the Aboriginal Land Rights Act provides for the creation of additional land councils under certain circumstances. I have received representations from the Tiwi people of Bathurst and Melville Islands seeking the establishment of their own land council. I am having inquiries made to ascertain the strength of this demand and will, if I am satisfied that the majority of the people are in favour, create a separate council for the Tiwi people. In anticipation of such a move, the Bill provides that representations of the councils on the Aboriginal Benefit Trust Account Advisory Committee shall have relation to the number of Aboriginals living in the area of each council in fixing the number of members that each council can elect to the Advisory Committee. It is also proposed to ensure that any land transactions affecting Aboriginal land should be registered under the normal Northern Territory system of land title registration. This will ensure that there is an accurate record of dealings in Aboriginal land.
In my second reading speech to the Land Rights Act in 1976, 1 said that the Government believed that the Act would allow and encourage Aboriginals in the Northern Territory to give full expression to the affinity with land that characterised their traditional society and gave a unique quality to their lives. This has already occurred. I and other members of the Government, in our dealings with the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory, have been impressed with the increased self-confidence of the people and the way in which they have accepted the fact that they are to become the owners of their land. I am aware that moves by Aboriginal people to assert their rights as provided by the Aboriginal Land Rights Act have caused some people to become wary and even fearful of the new situation which now prevails. I have said on other occasions that this new confidence being demonstrated by the Aboriginal people is a measure of the success of the Government’s policy which provides for Aboriginal self-management.
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act is a unique and historical piece of legislation. It provides the opportunity for Aboriginal people to participate in matters affecting their lives in a way which has hitherto been denied them. This needs to be accepted by those people who have in the past been used to making decisions for Aboriginals and by those who have been able to take decisions which might vitally affect Aboriginals without thought for Aboriginal opinion.
The amendments which are now being placed before the House are designed to give further effect to the Government’s policies in relation to Aboriginal land rights and to allow Aboriginals, as I said in my statement to the House on 25 August last year, as owners of their land, to follow their own lifestyles on their own land to the extent that they choose, to participate in and influence the course of development of and on their traditional land, and to take advantage of the full range of opportunities which development may open up to them. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Everingham) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Newman, and read a first time.
– I move:
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Atomic Energy Act 1953 as part of a package of legislation giving effect to the Government’s decision on the further development of Australia’s uranium resources. A fundamental element of the decision announced in this House on 25 August 1977 was that development of the Ranger uranium deposit would proceed on the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Whitlam Government and Peko Mines Ltd and Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited. Amendments to the Act contained in this Bill will enable the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to participate on behalf of the Commonwealth in a joint venture with Peko-EZ. This is in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding, which used the Atomic Energy Act as its legislative basis.
The opportunity is also being taken to strengthen and clarify the legislative basis for the application of nuclear safeguards within Australia in accordance with the agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and Australia in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Certain minor amendments of an administrative nature are also proposed to update the Act.
The Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth and the Ranger partners, concluded on 28 October 1975 by the Whitlam Government, represents a blueprint for development of Ranger and is a manifestation of the policy of the Whitlam Government for Northern Territory uranium development. The Memorandum of Understanding was itself an elaboration of the so-called ‘Lodge Agreement’ made on 30 October 1974 between the Whitlam Government and Peko-EZ. Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the AAEC will participate in the Ranger Project on the basis of providing 72 Vi per cent of the capital. The
Commonwealth will receive 50 per cent of the net proceeds of sale, and Peko and EZ 25 per cent each.
In his statement to this House on 25 August 1977 announcing the Government’s uranium decision, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) indicated that this Government is most conscious that the Memorandum of Understanding would not have been our preferred approach to mineral development. However, the Government would not wish to disturb arrangements entered into in good faith by the companies with the previous Government.
– Do not give us those crocodile tears.
– It is wonderful how the honourable member for Reid gets upset when uranium is mentioned in this place but the Government of which he was a member made that arrangement. As a consequence, the present Government did not accept the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry that the Atomic Energy Act not be used for the grant of authority to Ranger to mine uranium. The Ranger Inquiry recommended against the use of the Atomic Energy Act on the grounds that this legislation was enacted largely with defence considerations in mind.
After reviewing this matter, the Government nevertheless considered that the Atomic Energy Act could provide an appropriate basis for mining operations at Ranger, in accordance with the agreements concluded between the companies and the Whitlam Government in 1974 and 1975. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) indicated in his statement of 25 August 1977 that in reaching this decision the Government had regard to the view of the Ranger Inquiry that its concern over the appropriateness of the Atomic Energy Act would have less force if the Uranium Advisory Council recommendation of the Inquiry were adopted. The Deputy Prime Minister stated on 25 August 1977 that the Government had accepted this recommendation, and that he would be elaborating on this matter later.
Accordingly, we are proposing amendments to sections 17 and 34 of the Atomic Energy Act which will substantially broaden the basis of the Act and clearly authorise the participation of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in the Ranger project for the purpose of ensuring the supply of uranium. Not only will the amendments we are proposing provide a clear legal basis on which the Ranger project can be authorised to proceed, but they will also remove the main obstacle that the Ranger Inquiry saw in proceeding with the Ranger project under the Atomic Energy Act.
I now turn to the matter of nuclear safeguards. As all honourable members would be aware, Australia ratified the Treaty on the NonProliferation of Nuclear Weapons on 23 January 1973. By ratifying this most important international instrument, Australia undertook, amongst other things, not to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices and to accept safeguards applied by the International Atomic Energy Agency covering all nuclear material in all peaceful nuclear activities within Australia, under our jurisdiction or carried out anywhere under our control.
Accordingly, and pursuant to the Treaty, Australia subsequently entered into an agreement with the IAEA for the application of nuclear safeguards in Australia. This agreement provides that Australia shall establish and maintain a national system of accounting for and control of material and that safeguards shall be applied in such a manner as to enable the IAEA to verify the national system ‘s findings.
The legislative base for the control of nuclear materials in Australia is Part III of the Atomic Energy Act 1953, headed ‘Control of Materials’. This Part of the Act gives the Minister power to control nuclear material and the Act provides for regulations to be made to that end. The national system of accounting for and control of materials was, therefore, established under the Minister responsible for the Atomic Energy Act. The body involved, the Australian Safeguards Office, answers directly to the Minister through the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission. To date no regulations have been promulgated under the Act in relation to safeguards. At present, all nuclear material which is required to be inspected by the IAEA is located within the Atomic Energy Commission. Hence, it has been possible to ensure Australia’s compliance with safeguards obligations under the Nonproliferation Treaty by ministerial direction.
It is necessary, however, for regulations to be in place to ensure this compliance as the inventory of material for which safeguards are required increases and spreads beyond the Atomic Energy Commission and government ownership. Furthermore, following the announcement by the Prime Minister on 24 May 1977 of Australia’s policy on nuclear safeguards to apply to exports of Australian uranium, Australia will be entering into government to government bilateral agreements with customer countries. Those countries may wish to make these agreements reciprocal. For Australia ‘s part we will certainly be most happy to do so as a practical demonstration of our view that the conditions we wish to see applied are conditions which we consider responsible countries should readily accept. It will be necessary for us to demonstrate that we have the ability to enforce these conditions within Australia. It is therefore desirable that regulations in relation to safeguards be made in due course.
Section 34 of the Atomic Energy Act at present provides that the powers conferred in relation to the control of materials shall be exercised only:
The Government has taken the view that these provisions should be strengthened and clarified, to ensure that relevant powers of the Commonwealth, including the external affairs power, can be drawn upon in relation to safeguards matters. We believe that it is most important that the fullest possible range of powers should be available for the implementation of our domestic safeguards obligations arising from international agreements.
Section 38 of the Act presently provides that the regulations may prohibit or authorise the prohibition of certain activities in relation to nuclear materials, except under and in accordance with a licence. It is now considered that safeguards requirements are both regulatory and prohibitive in nature. In view of this, it is proposed that section 38 be amended specifically to allow for the making of regulations which may make provision for and in relation to regulating or controlling such activities. The effect of the amendment is that control of material can be exercised through the issue of licences, by regulation or both. Honourable members will note that clause 10 of the Bill provides for the making of regulations in relation to the working of minerals from which, in the opinion of the GovernorGeneral, a prescribed substance can be obtained. In this regard I should make it clear that it is not the intention to include within the scope of the regulations the working of minerals which contain only small traces of prescribed substances.
A number of minor amendments of an administrative nature are also proposed. Clauses 4, 6 and 7 of the Bill update provisions of the principal Act relating to staff and officials of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to bring them into line with current drafting practice. In addition, section 31 (2) (b) of the principal Act is to be amended to meet the request of the Auditor-General that he no longer be required to report on the ‘state of affairs’ of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. It should be noted that this exemption will in no way impair the Auditor-General’s reports on the financial statements submitted to me by the Commission and is in line with suggestions made by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, which examined the matter in 1976. Finally, it is proposed that section 61 of the Atomic Energy Act be deleted as it is no longer required in view of recent amendments to the Judiciary Act.
This Bill, together with the related Bills which are being introduced today, is a further earnest of the Government’s determination that the development of uranium mining in Australia will be carefully controlled and proceed in a responsible manner with full regard to the need for the protection of the environment and the welfare of all Australians. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Groom, and read a first time.
– I move:
The object of this Bill is to establish mechanisms for protecting the health and safety of the people of Australia, and the environment, from possible harmful effects of nuclear activities in Australia. In the development of the provisions and procedures outlined in this Bill, the Government reviewed overseas regulatory mechanisms for their relevance to Australia. We noted particularly the very specialised nature of the nuclear industry, the likelihood of potential hazards involved in the nuclear fuel cycle and the limited extent of the nuclear industry in Australia at present. At the governmental level, we needed of course to take account of our federal system of government, with its division of powers between the Commonwealth and the States. After considering all these factors carefully, the Government decided to regulate and control nuclear activities in Australia by codes of practice and to legislate to enable such codes to be approved following consultation with the States and the
Northern Territory, to be implemented through the laws of a State or Territory.
I am sure honourable members agree that this legislation should command the support of all sections of the Australian community. It will enable governments to ensure that the nuclear industry in Australia is so regulated as to afford the utmost protection to the people and the environment. Australians now recognise the crucial role which energy supplies play in determining the prosperity and stability of societies throughout the world. Our forthcoming involvement in the mining, milling and transport of uranium requires that responsible governments should have appropriate protection strategies in force.
A major provision of this Bill is clause 7, which requires that the Minister shall furnish proposed codes of practice, and proposed variations, to the appropriate Minister of each State. These shall also be furnished to the appropriate Minister of the Northern Territory, on or after 1 July 1978, in line with the constitutional development of the Territory. The Commonwealth Minister may make the proposed codes and proposed variations available for public comment. The clause further requires that opportunities are available for consultation between the Commonwealth, the States and the Northern Territory in respect to the proposed code or proposed variation. Subject to this consultative process, the Bill provides at clause 8 that the Governor-General may, by order, approve codes of practice, and variations; he may also, by order, revoke such codes or variations.
Clause 8 (3) outlines the matters which may be included in codes of practice developed under this legislation. They include standards to be observed, practices and procedures to be followed, and other measures, such as licensing and supervision, relating to nuclear activities. Their immediate application will be to regulate the running and milling of uranium in the Alligator Rivers region in the Northern Territory. The environmental conditions which each mining company in the region will be required to observe will provide for consistency with the relevant codes as they are promulgated, where comparable or more stringent requirements do not already exist in the conditions.
I should emphasise that this legislation is concerned with the health and safety of people, and the environment, as distinct from safeguards, the purpose of which is to ensure that nuclear material in peaceful use is not diverted to nonpeaceful purposes or to nuclear weapons. It has already been explained to the House that as a result of Australia’s adherence to the NonProliferation Treaty, Australia has undertaken certain safeguards obligations. We have established a national system of accounting for and controlling nuclear material as required by the Non-Proliferation Treaty and by our safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The domestic legislative base for giving effect to these obligations has been the Atomic Energy Act, and will continue to be that Act as amended. This applies also to the implementation of any obligations arising from bilateral safeguards agreements we enter into with other countries. For these reasons safeguards considerations will not be included in codes of practice to be developed under this Bill. Similarly, it is not intended that codes relating to the medical, industrial, and agricultural use of radio-isotopes will be developed under this Bill, as satisfactory arrangements already exist.
Clause 9 of the Bill sets out the procedures for public notice to be given of orders made by the Governor-General, and for their scrutiny by both Houses of the Parliament. Part 4 of the Bill contains provisions relating to actions which the Commonwealth may take in respect to the implementation of the codes of practice. Honourable members will appreciate that the codes in themselves do not have the force of law. It is our expectation that their implementation will be through laws of the States and the Territories. Clause 11 authorises the making of regulations, to carry out, give effect to, or secure the observance of, the code in a State or Territory where, in the opinion of the Governor-General, the law of that State or Territory does not regulate or control nuclear activities in the manner prescribed in the code of practice. This regulation may be invoked only after a date prescribed in the order approving the code. Provision is made in clause 10 for the regulations to exclude or modify the application in Commonwealth places of State laws that give effect to a code. Should an unforeseen situation arise as a result of a nuclear activity, which is not regulated or controlled by a Commonwealth, State or Territory law, and which is likely to affect health, safety or the environment, the GovernorGeneral will have power, under clause 13 of the Bill, to authorise the appropriate Federal Minister to act to control hazards associated with the situation.
The Government appreciates that the powers conferred on the Governor-General under this clause would need to be used with the utmost discretion. It is our hope and indeed our expectation that the provisions of the clause will never be invoked. However, it is our judgment, after considering all relevant factors, that a contingency provision of this nature is a proper and responsible discharge of our duty to provide for the health and safety of people in Australia, and the environment. Honourable members will note the constraints provided in the sub-clauses of clause 13. Any order made under this power expires at the end of three months, but this may be extended by a further three months, by order of the Governor-General. Orders made under the provisions of this clause have effect only in relation to situations likely to affect health and safety, or the environment, that arise from nuclear activities, as denned in the Bill. Finally, any authority vested in the Minister under this clause is subject to disallowance by the Parliament.
Mr Deputy Speaker, I do want to stress that the provisions of clause 13 apply only when no Commonwealth, State or Territory law exists to control a potentially hazardous situation arising from nuclear activity, as denned in this legislation. Honourable members will appreciate that some time could elapse before there is, in all the States and Territories, an appropriate body of laws developed under the procedures envisaged in this Bill. During this period, hazardous situations could be dealt with through actions authorised under clause 13.
Generally, we would see the steps involved in arriving at approved codes of practice as including:
Initial drafting by the appropriate Commonwealth department, for example, Department of Health for health codes, Department of Transport for transport codes, Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development for general environment protection codes; consultation on the proposed draft code with relevant State and Territory Ministers; the release, where appropriate, of the draft code for public comment, particularly by industry and trade unions; consideration of the draft code by relevant advisory councils such as the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council; final consideration within the Government and submission to the Governor-General; the provision of an order in writing by the Governor-General approving the code; tabling of the order approving the code of practice in both Houses of Parliament.
Honourable members will see from this that the development of codes, which involves many interests, could well be a lengthy process. More time will elapse while the States and Territories establish the required implementing laws and procedures.
I wish to mention now the action that the Government has already taken in respect to the involvement of the States and the Northern Territory in this legislation. In August 1977, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wrote to the State Premiers and recently I wrote to Mr Everingham, Majority Leader of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, inviting State and Territory officials to take part in developing codes of practice. The response has been positive to the need for these national codes. We will be following up on these matters with a view to advancing the development of codes and their related laws and regulations at the earliest possible time.
In this context I am sure honourable members will be pleased to know that one important code of practice on radiation protection in the mining and milling of radioactive ores has already been prepared by the Commonwealth Department of Health in consultation with other Commonwealth and State authorities, industry and trade unions. It has received wide acceptance and is now already in the process of being brought into line with the provisions of this Bill. Other national codes of practice which will need to be given priority include the management of mining and milling wastes, and transport of yellow cake, in view of the Government’s policies for uranium developments.
In concluding I want to emphasise that this Bill is designed solely to protect Australians and their environment. It is responsible environmental legislation that will provide for the development of protection measures in respect to nuclear activities in Australia. Not to act to provide these measures would be irresponsible in the light of the Government’s decision to proceed with uranium mining developments. Any suggestion that the codes and regulations to be enacted under this legislation would be arbitrary and repressive is refuted by the provisions in the Bill for development of the proposed codes of practice through consultative processes with the States, and for public comment. In a similar context, I draw the attention of honourable members to the role of the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council. This body of eminent non-government professional people has already played a most significant part in advising the Government on the effects of the various actual and potential sources of ionising radiation exposure on the Australian population and the environment. The Council will have a much wider responsibility as a consequence of the present proposals to advise me on the development of codes of practice, and I look forward confidently to a continuation of this very valuable relationship with the Government.
In presenting this Bill the Government is honouring its undertakings to the Australian people and the governments of the States and Territories. This legislation demonstrates very clearly our determination to see that uranium development in Australia is regulated and controlled to ensure the protection of the environment and the health and safety of Australians. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on the motion by Mr Cohen) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
The purpose of the Bill is to confer jurisdiction on the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in relation to the enforcement by it of certain legal requirements for the protection of the environment in the Alligator Rivers region. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry saw the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and the Northern Land Council as having a special interest in reinforcing the environment protection machinery in the Alligator Rivers region. It saw as an advantage of the recommendations it made with regard to Aboriginal ownership of land and the creation of the national park that there would be people with the interest and knowledge to protect the environment from the consequences of mining operations. The Inquiry therefore recommended that the environment protection provisions be made legally enforceable and that both the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and the Northern Land Council be given the right to enforce those provisions, particularly by way of injunction to restrain or compel action. It envisaged that the jurisdiction to issue injunctions should be conferred on the Northern Territory Supreme Court and recommended that the Court would have a wide discretion as to the exercise of its jurisdiction in such cases.
This Bill will give effect to the Government’s decision to accept the inquiry’s recommendations. It confers jurisdiction on the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, at the suit of the Director of National Parks and Wildlife or the Northern Land Council, to make orders for the enforcement, in relation to uranium mining, of environmental requirements which are contained in Commonwealth and Northern Territory laws and in instruments made under those laws, and it gives the Court a wide discretion as to the exercise of this jurisdiction. It should be noted that the Bill does not give the Court power to impose new environmental requirementsonly to make orders in relation to requirements which are imposed elsewhere. The Bill also provides that the Court may order the repayment of costs incurred in work to remedy any detriment to the environment. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
-In the House of Representatives last Friday the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) drew attention to the Hansard report of an answer given on the previous day by the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and claimed that the report departed from the Minister’s actual words in a significant way.
The Principal Parliamentary Reporter has provided me with the following statement:
My attention was drawn on Thursday night by a member of Mr Eric Robinson ‘s staff to the proposed emendations in the Minister’s answer and they were closely scrutinised before being accepted. The first change was the substitution of ‘This in fact is occurring’ for This in fact has occurred’ in the reference to gowth in employment. This could not in my judgment be regarded as a significant alteration of sense within the terms of the definitions laid down by many Presiding Officers. The same may be said of the next alteration, the excision of the sentence ‘It is perfectly clear that that has occurred’, since this was in amplification of the previous sentence ‘Does the Opposition claim that there has not been growth in employment during the course of this year?’ The third alteration, the insertion of the word ‘not’ in the sentence ‘There has been substantial employment growth’, caused me more hesitation, but it was accepted on the assurance of Mr Robinson’s staff member that the omission of the word was a slip of the tongue.
The Principal Parliamentary Reporter is required to make similar judgments every sitting day and on this occasion, as on all other occasions, he acted completely in good faith. However, since the matter has given rise to complaint by honourable members, and as there is no dispute about what was actually said, I have instructed the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to restore the original wording of the report.
I now put aside the particularity of this instance and speak generally. The scrutiny of corrections to the report is a constant problem to the Hansard staff. The alterations in phraseology made by some honourable members are frequently so extensive as to make it extremely difficult in the very limited time available to determine whether the rules have been infringed. Honourable members can co-operate by keeping corrections to a minimum and ensuring that they reach the Hansard office within the appointed time. The correction by honourable members of the Hansard report of their speeches is a longestablished right but I emphasise that although elimination of obvious errors is permissible there are occasions when a matter is more appropriately set right by the member concerned making a personal explanation to the House rather than making an alteration that may reflect upon the accuracy of the Hansard report.
- Mr Speaker, I think that the honourable member for Gellibrand would have liked to be in the House to hear the explanation. Was he notified that you were making a statement?
-I did not notify the honourable member for Gellibrand. I am reporting to the House at the first opportunity I have had to do so.
-As a matter of courtesy, should you not have notified the honourable member for Gellibrand that you were going to make a statement?
-I think the honourable gentleman misunderstands the situation. No cause arises for debate. A copy of the statement will be sent to the honourable member for Gellibrand.
-by leave-In the absence of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) I make this point: The reason that he brought this matter to your attention was that the word ‘not’ in the statement of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) was not a slip of the tongue in the view of the Opposition and that the Hansard ‘ greens’ were an accurate reflection of the course of his answer and the intent of his meaning. Subsequently, the Minister obviously realised that his answer was incorrect. He should have adopted the procedure of coming into the chamber and here seeking to amend his answer. Mr Speaker, the insertion of the word ‘not’ did change substantially the meaning of what the Minister had said, and in the view of honourable members on this side of the House the answer was so important and critical to the Minister’s assessment or understanding of his own portfolio area that the change needed to be brought to your attention in the House so that it will not happen again. I can understand that the Principal Parliamentary Reporter is in a position where he is not able to keep an eye on the vagaries and subtleties of the political debate. Be that as it may, it ill behoves a senior Government Minister to change an answer in such a way as to alter the intention and meaning of his answer. In future I hope that you, Mr Speaker, require Ministers in particular to observe the rules of the Parliament and the integrity of their statements and change only grammar and not the meaning of their statements.
-The rules are clear. I have applied them on this occasion.
– by leave- At the opening of this Parliament on 21 February the Governor-General stated that the Government would be proceeding with the development and export of Australia ‘s uranium resources. The six Bills just introduced underline our determination to proceed with uranium development in a carefully-regulated and responsible fashion with full regard for proper environmental control and for ensuring the welfare of the Aboriginal people. Those considerations were central elements of the Government’s policy on uranium development announced on 25 August 1977.
The announcement of that policy was made only after long and careful consideration by the Government of the recommendations of the
Ranger Inquiry conducted under Mr Justice Fox as presiding commissioner. I remind honourable members that the Government’s decisions were substantially consistent with the recommendations of the inquiry.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-The few variations from the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations were agreed to on the basis of achieving the same purposes and satisfying the same principles. The Ranger Inquiry was of course initiated by the Labor Government in 1975. It was a comprehensive and lengthy public inquiry and its findings have been the subject of extensive public debate both in the Parliament and in the community at large. One of the specific undertakings given by the Government last August was that we would establish a Uranium Advisory Council as one of the elements in the administrative arrangements for control and regulation of uranium development. The Government has now agreed that the Uranium Advisory Council be established with the following terms of reference:
The function of the Uranium Advisory Council shall be to advise the Minister for Trade and Resources with regard to the export and use of Australian uranium, having in mind in particular the possible hazards, dangers and problems of and associated with the production of nuclear energy; and the development of the uranium mining industry in Australia, including exploration.
The Council shall, as soon as practicable after each 30 June, prepare and furnish to the Minister for tabling in the Parliament a report on the operations of the Council during the year ended on that date.
The Council shall furnish to the Minister, by such time as the Minister may direct, a report on any other matter referred to the Council by the Minister. The Council may also furnish to the Minister a report on any other matter within its terms of reference.
The advice and assistance of the Council shall be made available as required to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, the Northern Land Council, the supervising scientist, the co-ordinating committee and other agencies, as well as to the mine operators.
The Government considers that these terms of reference will provide a suitable basis for the operation of the Council. The terms of reference have been purposely framed so as to allow the Council to operate with flexibility and in accordance with the recommendations and suggestions of the Ranger Inquiry. The actual individuals to be members of the Uranium Advisory Council have not yet been settled, but the Government has agreed that the Council should include representation from the following groups: The Austraiian religious community; the Aboriginal community; a national voluntary environmental organisation; the Northern Territory community; the Australian Council of Trade Unions; a person with experience in energy matters; the
Australian uranium industry; a nuclear scientist; a medical practitioner or health physicist; an environmentalist with experience in natural resource development; an economist with experience in natural resource development; and an expert in national and international affairs or law. In the near future I expect to be inviting various individuals to be members of the Council. The names of those appointed will be announced as soon as possible.
The Government has agreed that the Uranium Advisory Council will be supported initially by a group of three research staff who will be engaged by and will report directly to the Council. These staff, although employed under the Public Service Act, will work independently of my Department in order to preserve the independent status of the Council and its advice. The Government also has agreed that the Council may contract outside consultants as necessary. The Department of Trade and Resources will service the administrative requirements of the Council including the provision of an administrative, as distinct from research, secretariat. I also wish to advise the House on the stage reached in the implementation of other aspects of the Government’s uranium policy announced on 25 August 1977. As I have mentioned, the Government’s policy is based on an acceptance of the findings of the Ranger Inquiry. In reaching our decisions on uranium development we had special regard to the issues of nuclear non-proliferation and world energy requirements. As regards the former, it is very clear that only by developing our vast uranium resources can Australia play a real role in strengthening nuclear safeguards and preventing any ill-considered rush to plutonium based energy systems. Only as a major potential exporter of uranium is Australia in a position to command attention and exert influence in the direction of more stringent nuclear safeguards systems. The United States of America, Canada and other nuclear supplier countries have in recent times taken initiatives to strengthen nuclear safeguards. Australia, in its position as a major potential uranium exporter, strongly supports such nuclear non-proliferation and safeguards initiatives.
Australia’s stringent safeguards policy has received international attention. We have prepared draft bilateral safeguards agreements on the basis of our policy and invited potential customer countries to conclude such agreements with us. Already there has been very significant and gratifying progress in this regard. Australia is at an advanced stage of negotiations of bilateral safeguards agreements with three countriesthe United Kingdom, Finland and the Philippines. We hope shortly to begin negotiating with Japan and other countries. Other countries have expressed interest in negotiating bilateral agreements with us. For Australia to achieve progress in the direction of more stringent nuclear safeguards in such negotiations, it needs to be abundantly clear that we intend to develop our nuclear resources and play a positive and active role in international nuclear developments.
Australia’s standing in international nuclear forums also has been enhanced by our decision to proceed with development. The International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation is a major international initiative in regard to nuclear nonproliferation and the use of nuclear power for peaceful purposes. It was launched by President Carter in October last year. The study is expected to proceed over about two years and involve over 40 developed and developing countries, including Western and communist countries. Mr Justice Fox, Australia’s Ambassador- At-Large on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Safeguards, is fully engaged in Australia’s effort at INFCE. Australia has been elected to the very important position of Co-Chairman of Working Group 3 of INFCE dealing with the major questions of fuel supply assurances in the context of nuclear nonproliferation. Australia is also participating in other working groups.
In addition to the contribution Australia is making at INFCE, we also have participated for the first time in a working group under the auspices of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group on the subject of multi-labelling. The Nuclear Suppliers’ Group brings together 15 of the world’s major nuclear exporting countries. It has developed common guidelines for the safeguards to be applied to nuclear exports, and Australia has accepted these guidelines. The invitation to Australia to join the working group on multilabelling is a further recognition of our increased significance in international nuclear affairs.
The second major consideration in regard to the development of Australia’s uranium resources is our international responsibility as a country rich in energy resources to make those resources available to countries less endowed than ourselves. In the wake of the world energy crisis many countries have no viable alternative energy source other than nuclear power. This is true both of developed and developing countries alike. Already nuclear energy is a fact of life in many countries and there are firm commitments and proposals to install nuclear capacity on an increasingly significant scale so as to provide urgently needed supplies of electrical energy. There are now 194 nuclear power units operating in 2 1 countries with a capacity of over 95,000 megawatts of electricty. There are 213 nuclear power units under construction in 27 countries. An additional 100 units are on firm order in 17 countries. This means that nuclear power units with a total generating capacity of 388,000 megawatts are either in operation, under construction or on firm order in 34 countries throughout the world. There are 307 units at the planning stages with a proposed total generating capacity of over 300,000 megawatts. This is a total of 814 nuclear power units in operation, under construction, on firm order or planned. This figure is higher than that mentioned last August when the Government’s decisions were announced.
There is a significant potential demand for Australian uranium to fuel the existing and planned nuclear energy requirements of other countries. This is underlined in recent reports of the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The Nuclear Energy Agency estimates that world uranium reserves, including those of Australia, are 2.145 million short tons and that the cumulative demand to 1997 is 2.3 million short tons. In other words, world uranium demand exceeds supply even after counting Australia’s existing resources. Since the announcement of Australia ‘s decision to proceed with further uranium development a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, the Philippines, the United States, West Germany, France, Finland and Japan, have registered their desire to secure uranium from Australia for their nuclear power programs. In view of the energy situation facing the world it is important and, indeed, imperative that Australia’s abundant energy resources are made available.
It must also be recalled that Australia has existing export contracts to about 11,700 short tons which were approved in the early 1970s and which successive governments, including the Labor Government when it was in office, have repeatedly stated will be honoured. Australia will not be able to honour those existing contracts, which are long-term contracts extending to 1986, unless it proceeds with the development of new uranium mines. Australia’s credibility as a stable trading nation on which other countries can rely is therefore very clearly at stake in relation to the undertakings that have been given to provide other countries with the uranium they must have for the production of electrical energy. I will be very disappointed if development cannot get under way in the forthcoming dry season. I am sure no political party would want to add to Australia’s embarrassment by placing in further jeopardy the honouring of existing contracts.
Honourable members will recall that last August the then Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development stated that strict environmental controls and standards in relation to uranium mining would be adopted. In this regard the Government is presently examining the nature of environmental requirements, consistent with the environmental controls agreed on by the Government last August, that would be included in the grant of a mining authority to the Ranger consortium. These requirements will be designed to meet the very stringent controls that the Government believes are necessary. They will carry legal force and will, of course, be subject to supervision by the supervising authorities in the region and subject also to the oversight and co-ordination processes established in the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill 1978. In relation to the Ranger project, the Government also has under consideration proposals made by the Northern Land Council on Aboriginal wishes relating to the development of the Ranger project. I expect that negotiations on this matter, as required by section 44 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, will be resumed shortly.
In my statement to the House on 25 August 1977 I said that, in addition to proceeding with the development of the Ranger project, the Government would take decisions on the development of other uranium deposits, subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary requirements. In accordance with the administrative procedures under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, Pancontinental Mining Ltd and Queensland Mines Ltd have prepared draft environmental impact statements on the development of the Jabiluka and Nabarlek deposits respectively. The comments that have been received from the public on these statements are being examined by the companies. I would also mention that Noranda Australia Ltd has been designated in terms of the administrative procedures under the Act as a proponent of all actions related to the uranium deposits at Koongarra. Western Mining Corporation also made available for public comment a draft environmental impact statement on its research plant at Kalgoorlie proposed in connection with the Yeelirrie deposit in Western Australia.
There are, of course, other elements of our policy as announced on 25 August 1977 which also are in the course of implementation and in respect of which further legislation will be required. With regard to marketing, we said on 25 August 1977 that we accepted the thrust of the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry that a uranium marketing authority be established, but that we would not take a final decision until the implications of foreign anti-trust laws had been fully examined. The Government hopes that it will be in a position in the near future to take the action necessary to establish appropriate marketing arrangements. The Government also said on 25 August 1977 that the information available pointed to substantial economic benefits from the development of the uranium industry and that it would wish to consider the accrual of an appropriate share of uranium profits for the benefit of the public generally. As previously indicated, the Government has initiated discussions with the industry on a possible framework for a secondary or resource-based tax on future earnings from uranium development.
In its announcement last August the Government said that stage 2 of the Kakadu National Park would be proclaimed at a later time and that, in the meantime, exploration would be permitted under strictly controlled conditions to be supervised by responsible departments. As indicated by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), provision is being made in the Bill to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act to protect wildlife and natural features in the stage 2 area. Provision is also being made to enable regulations to be made that will allow exploration to take place in that area. Subject to meeting Aboriginal interests in the area and the necessary environmental controls, the Government will be proceeding with a tightly controlled exploration program so that the resources of the stage 2 area can be identified and appropriate action taken as quickly as possible to enable the proclamation of the area as a national park.
Development of uranium also will be dependent upon the co-operation of those members of the trade union movement who will be involved in mining, milling and transport activities. Honourable members will be aware that the Australian Council of Trade Unions determined that affiliated unions should make labour available to facilitate the honouring of existing contracts from Mary Kathleen and the Lucas
Heights stockpile. ACTU resolutions in the past have identified areas of concern associated with the use of uranium as an energy source. However, the ACTU has not said that there should be a total renunciation of the intention to supply from new mines. The ACTU has called for consultations in relation to the development of new uranium mines. The Government said it would be glad to accede to this request, and talks between Ministers and the ACTU have already taken place. Further talks are planned.
Australia’s decision, as announced on 25 August 1977, to proceed with further uranium development has received wide acceptance in Australia and abroad. We have set ourselves a policy of carefully regulated and controlled development, paying due regard to proper environmental control and ensuring the welfare of the Aboriginal people. The successful and prompt implementation of our policy is a challenge for all sections of the Australian community. I believe this is a challenge and a responsibility which Australians are well equipped to accept. I present the following paper:
Uranium Development- Ministerial statement, 10 April 1978.
Motion ( by Mr Newman ) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-Apart from a precis of the technical aspects of the Bills which were introduced tonight by other Ministers, the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) contains very little new information. In fact, it is really just a rehash of things the Government has said at earlier times but more importantly the statement is significant for what it lacks rather than for what it says. I detail now a number of areas in which I think the statement is unsatisfactory and I will refer to those areas later. The speech is unsatisfactory, firstly, because of the absence of any reference to a policy of waste disposal. The Government seems to have ignored this question completely. The Deputy Prime Minister’s speech failed to deal with safeguards and arms control. The Uranium Advisory Council personnel seem inappropriate for safeguard negotiations and arms control. The Government’s model safeguard agreement is secret and confidential except to this Government and foreign governments. Australia’s involvement in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation is not a policy. Activity and negotiation are not a policy. Working Group No. 3 of the INFCE deals with fuel assurance only. Australia’s contribution to that group is preoccupied by demand assurance rather than nonproliferation. There is no expose by the Minister of the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group guidelines which he now says the Government has accepted. No detailed attention is given to that whatsoever. The Minister’s assessment of uranium demand is unrealistic and is supported by misleading statistics. The hollow arguments tendered by the Minister about developing new uranium mines only to provide a small shortfall under the contracts existing prior to 1972 are fallacious. The reference in the speech to Australia’s trading obligation in respect of existing contracts is jingoistic. The Government has failed to introduce simultaneously with this legislation legislation for a resources tax on uranium development and upon old oil in Australia. They are our basic complaints about the Minister’s speech.
I will deal now with those complaints and seek leave to continue my remarks later. I address myself to this question of waste disposal. Waste disposal is a major stumbling block to the development of nuclear power in the world. Yet it seemed to me that the Government has completely ignored it in the Minister’s statement and in its public and private deeds. The waste disposal problem is the most intractable problem facing the uranium industry. It is one which gives members on this side of the House most concern about the course of nuclear power. In the United States some States are considering the passage of legislation- some may already have passed it; my memory may not serve me correctly on this- to prohibit the further expansion of nuclear power in those States until the problem of waste disposal is solved. Just a few weeks ago we found the advice which President Carter is getting is amplifying the fact that it will be into the late 1980s before there is any kind of solution to permanent isolation of long life actinides from the biosphere.
I deal now with the question of arms control. Only one person that the Minister mentioned as being a member of the Uranium Advisory Council would seem to have any qualifications whatsoever to deal with the question of nuclear safeguards and arms control legislation and limitation. That is the expert in national and international affairs or law. If one goes through the list one sees mentioned the Australian religious community, the Aboriginal community, a national voluntary environmental organisation, the Northern Territory community, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, a person with experience in energy matters, the Australian uranium industry, a nuclear scientist, a medical practitioner or health physicist, an environmentalist with experience in natural resource development, an economist with experience in natural resource development, an expert in national and international affairs or law. The last person mentioned would be the only person which we could in any way believe to be qualified to deal with other countries on the question of arms control and the development of nuclear safeguards and enshrining those, either in multilateral agreements or with Australia in bilateral agreements. While they may be admirable appointments, the personnel of the Uranium Advisory Council seem to be completely unsatisfactory for the kinds of policies which the Government ought to be interested in pursuing.
I will now turn to the Government’s model agreement. Today in this Parliament I asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), for the second time in two weeks, whether he would table the model safeguard agreement and he gave his reply, which we now know is spurious, that this was a matter between the Australian Government and foreign governments and as such was confidential to them. I put it to the House and the Australian people that if 15 foreign governments are in receipt of this document why cannot the Australian people be privy to it? If it enshrines the kind of safeguard policies outlined by the Government in a succession of speeches made in this House, if it accurately reflects the content of those policies, why cannot the Opposition and the Parliament see it? Obviously, the Government does not want the scrutiny of the Parliament on this matter, particularly in the light of any bilateral agreements it might make, to obviate the problem of having a comparison made between the bilateral agreements and the model safeguards agreements and that there can be no demonstration by the Opposition or by the public at large that the Government has shifted ground on the question of safeguards. That is not mentioned in the Minister ‘s speech.
I will now deal with the question of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. The Minister’s speech is completely unsatisfactory from the perspective of non-proliferation and safeguards. That part of the Minister’s speech dealing with the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation entirely misled the Parliament. Activity does not make a policy. Negotiations do not tell us the terms of agreement. Bilateral arrangements do not address fully the basic problem of keeping weapon material out of national hands. Participation in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation means nothing in itself. South Africa and India are participants in INFCE. The Government should tell us exactly what it is saying at the INFCE. Of course, there is no expose of this. Mr Justice Fox has not participated in the INFCE. He has attended no meetings since the organisation conference last October. Other countries are largely mystified by his existence and utterances. Perhaps the Minister might tell us what Mr Justice Fox has been doing all this time, running around Europe and other places, if he is not appearing at this conference.
The Department of Trade and Resources has dominated Australia’s participation in INFCE Working Group No. 3, which deals with fuel assurance. Australia’s contribution to that group has been preoccupied by demand assurance more than non-proliferation. Our participation as an observer in the Nuclear Suppliers Group Working Party on multiple labelling is an activity but it is not a policy. All these things are trotted out as activities on the basis that they are policies, and of course they are not. In short, all these words add nothing. What is needed, among other things, is a clear indication that non-proliferation concern drives the policy. So far it appears to be a cloak for deception and a minimal statement to facilitate commercial activities. The Minister mentioned the Nuclear Suppliers Group but there is no articulation by him of the kind of guidelines to which he says the Government has agreed. Surely the statement should have included a fairly comprehensive resume of the kind of guidelines which this group has brought down and details of our agreement with them. But we do not hear anything about them.
The next fallacious argument that the Minister put in ‘his speech is the matter of uranium demand. He made a case, using statistics, about demand outstripping supply. Anybody who wants to lump in projected uranium reactor capacity can make all kinds of projections. The Minister’s assessment is unrealistic and, by his own admission, it includes 307 nuclear power stations which are presently at the planning stage. Given the fall away of growth in the gross national product in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, as well as the problems of siting nuclear power stations and the environmental backlash against them, it is very likely that those projections will not be met. Indeed, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in its latest annual report says that the demand for uranium will be down by 36 per cent. Let me read to the House an article which appeared in the Australian newspaper and which deals with that report. The article reads:
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission has forecast a drop of 36 per cent in world demand for Australian uranium because of delays and revisions to nuclear power programs. the drop in demand meant that sales between 1980 and 1985 would amount to between 33,000 tonnes and 50,000 tonnes instead of 78,000 tonnes as originally estimated … a decrease of 36 per cent on the previous estimate.
That is a very conservative estimate. We on this side of the House believe that the decrease will be even much greater than that. Only just a few months ago Australia’s Ambassador to the European Economic Community communicated to the Government his belief that uranium demand in the EEC had fallen dramatically. Yet the Minister trots out this mixture of fact and farrago in which he suggests that uranium demand will outstrip uranium supply. We do not believe that is the case, and we believe his statement to be misleading.
The greatest nonsense that the Minister spoke tonight was in relation to the question of existing contracts. He spoke about establishing a new mine to honour the balance of the existing contract. Let us get this into perspective. A new mine in the Northern Territory- Ranger, for instance -has a productivity capacity of 3,000 tons a year. The existing contract agreed to by the previous Labor Government and conservative governments prior to 1972 accounts for about 11,700 short tons of uranium, of which only approximately 2,500 tons cannot be met by the Mary Kathleen mine or by the Atomic Energy Commission’s stockpiles. Therefore deliveries can be made into the 1980s. One could pick up 2,700 tons in a butcher shop. The contracts were negotiated at current market prices. So Australia could provide from other sources of supply the 2,700 tons without the need arising to establish Ranger.
On what commercial basis could anybody suggest that $250m worth of uranium plant be developed to supply one year’s capacity? That plant would have a life of 25 years. That is the argument the Minister put forward tonight. He spoke of the Labor Party running out on trade obligations. He makes that sort of jingoistic reference to our trading obligations and how Australia cannot fall back in any way upon the absolute letter intent of those contracts. Let us just examine what the Japanese are doing now to our iron ore and coal contracts. They are not abiding by the letter of the law of those contracts. Just today we find in the annual report of Conzinc Riotinto of Australia that in the March quarter the tonnages of Hamersley Holdings Ltd are down by 36 per cent. If that son of thing happens across the industry, we will see these massive iron ore and coal industries running losses. Yet the Minister tonight has been talking about our meeting 2,700 tons of uranium after 1983. What absolute nonsense. So we reject that policy out of hand as absolute nonsense.
Again the Government has failed to mention anything about a resources tax. It has had 18 months in which to construct a resources tax on the uranium industry. But given the fact that it was the Government’s intention to develop such a tax, it has introduced today a plethora of Bills, none of which contains reference to such a tax. The only reference to it is when the Government says that it is still talking to the industry about it. Because things are not going too well in the iron ore and coal industries, we on this side of the House know that the Government thinks that the climate for the introduction of a resources tax is a little way off. The Government is about to drop the proposal. It is about to drop a similar proposal in relation to uranium. Hence we have the sort of sneaky reference to it that we have had tonight We believe that legislation introducing a resources tax on uranium should have been presented into the Parliament tonight, along with the other Bills. If ever the industry gets a start, such a tax damned well will be introduced because the public of Australia will demand it.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is using unparliamentary language in the term that he used.
– Yes, Mr Speaker. I say in summary that the Minister’s policy statement tonight offers no new information. It is just an apologia for previous policy postures of the Fraser Government. It is simply a compilation of the technical aspects of the six pieces of legislation. It offers no new information and it reflects very poorly upon the Government because of the manner in which the Government seeks prematurely to develop this industry and the rewards which will come to the Australian people. More importantly, however, there is a lack of attention to the safeguards which will ultimately affect not only Australians but also other people who happen to inherit this world which is becoming polluted by these types of industries. Shame on the Government for bringing down a sleight of hand statement. We reject the import of it totally.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
-by leave- I refer to the allegations made by the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) against me concerning the redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries in Queensland last year. When I first heard of these allegations very late last year I contacted the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) by telephone in Perth. Subsequently on 18 January I met with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), Senator Withers and the honourable members for Fadden, Bowman (Mr Jull) and Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) in the Prime Minister’s office.
The honourable member for Fadden, after some hesitation, made a general allegation towards me but he refused to give any details or to be specific concerning his allegations. He did, however, indicate that I was the Minister he had been referring to and said that I had used influence on the Distribution Commissioners. I indicated to the Prime Minister in the presence of Senator Withers and the three Queensland members that I rejected the allegation completely and that it was without foundation. I said quite clearly that at no stage had I sought to influence the independent deliberations of the electoral commissioners, nor had I asked any other person so to act.
The honourable member for Fadden refused to accept that assurance and, when it was suggested by the Prime Minister that since this was an allegation of a criminal act against a Minister and which involved Commonwealth law, that perhaps the Commonwealth Police should be asked to make enquiries. I indicated that I completely agreed with this suggestion and in fact encouraged it. After all, a very serious allegation had been made towards me. The honourable member for Fadden was not attracted to this suggestion at all and, even though requested to do so, continued to refuse to discuss the matter further in my presence.
I then withdrew from the meeting and I understand that the honourable member for Fadden had further discussions with the Prime Minister and Senator Withers and subsequently discussed at length the matter with both the SolicitorGeneral and the Attorney-General. The SolicitorGeneral and the Attorney-General reported to the Government on 15 February 1978. I was informed that no further action was to be taken but did not see that report until it was tabled in Parliament last Friday. Honourable members are of course aware in that report that it is indicated, in the opinion of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General, that the matters complained of neither required nor warranted investigation by the Government. It said suggestions of impropriety on my part are in their view unfounded.
As far as I was concerned I thought that was the end of the matter but last Friday the honourable member for Fadden saw fit to make a personal explanation to the House. Honourable members will remember that he made further allegations concerning a lunch in Beaudesert in Queensland last year. I have been contacted by the chairman of that lunch who has authorised me in the plainest terms to say that he rejects utterly the interpretation that has been made upon a general informal discussion which occurred regarding speculation on the likely outcome of the Federal redistribution.
Mr Speaker, from the very inception of this regrettable incident I have deliberately not sought the protection of the Parliament; I have made a speech outside the Parliament to my own electorate conference on this matter; I have given a television interview and a radio interview on the same matter. I at no stage sought meetings with any people because there is no basis whatever to the allegations.
Let me repeat in this Parliament without any reservation, without qualification, and in the most unequivocal terms that I can give the House my assurance that at no stage in any way did I seek to influence the independent deliberations of the Commissioners. I have never personally sought or made representations with a view to influencing them, nor have I sought directly or indirectly to influence others so to act. I reject utterly and completely the allegations made against me by the honourable member for Fadden.
Might I in so moving, Mr Speaker, point out that, so that the House can deliberate also upon the paper that I tabled the other day- the report from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and the Solicitor-General- I intend to follow this motion by two procedural motions so that I can bring the two papers together for common debate in the chamber.
-Before I put that question, I would like an indication from the Leader of the
House as to when he proposes to move the other two motions.
-Then I think the honourable member will need leave to have three motions before the House at the same time.
-I was rather hoping, Mr Speaker, that the Opposition might move that the debate be adjourned, and then pick it up later so that the two matters could be before the House, instead of just one.
– Very well.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That Orders of the Day Nos. 2 to 5, Government Business, be postponed until a later hour this day.
Debate resumed from 7 April, on motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the House take note of the papers.
- Mr Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this matter. Before the debate on this order of the day is resumed, I would suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have, as I intimated a moment ago, a general debate covering both this motion and the motion to take note of the statement made a few moments ago by Mr Eric Robinson. They are associated with the same subject. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the matters at the conclusion of debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Speaker that you permit the subject matter of both to be discussed in this debate.
-I will permit discussion to proceed on these matters.
-The Opposition is not satisfied with the first statement made by Mr Robinson on Friday, 7 April, or indeed the statement he has made tonight in the Parliament in relation to the allegations made against him by the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron). This whole affair, which involves no fewer than four members of this House, the honourable member for Mcpherson (Mr Eric Robinson), the honourable member for Fadden, the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull), the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and the former honourable member for Capricornia has a smell about it that can only be removed by an inquiry which is initiated by this Parliament and carries the confidence of this Parliament.
The Minister, Mr Robinson, has attempted to throw a blanket denial over a series of allegations which demand specific answers. The Government should treat this matter with the utmost seriousness if it too is to avoid charges of collusion. If the honourable members who believe that undue influence was exerted on the Queensland electoral commissioners are proved correct the Minister, Mr Robinson, should resign immediately. If, on the other hand, these serious charges, which contain an allegation of a criminal act against the Minister, are disproved by an inquiry, then the honourable members so involved should resign.
The Parliament is responsible to discharge its affairs in such a manner as will provide justice for the parties involved and, in so doing, retain the confidence of the people in the parliamentary system. This issue which is before the Parliament tonight is a very unique occurrence. We have, in one or many forms, allegations which have been raised by members of the Liberal Party against a Minister of the Liberal Party. It has to be recorded that there is not one charge that has been raised by this side of the House. This side of the House has become involved because of allegations which have been made specifically in the House.
I also raise the point that we are not in this House with the privileges of a member of the Liberal Party or of the National Country Party or of the Australian Labor Party, but rather as members of the House of Representatives. The charges and allegations which are made against the Minister are very serious and cannot be overcome in the manner in which that has been attempted here tonight. In fact, had not the Opposition on Friday last pressured the Government, there would have been no discussion in this Parliament at all on this extremely important issue. The Minister, in a personal explanation on Friday last, made a statement to the House that he would not discuss the matter in the Parliament; that he had indeed issued a statement to the Press. The statement to the Press comprises four paragraphs, in which he says that he is not guilty of the allegations.
In addition, by virtue of the actions of the Opposition in the Parliament on Friday last, the Government was forced to table an opinion of the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in relation to this issue. The Government had been moved itself to use its own offices, including one of its colleagues, to take the matter further, but after the matter had been taken further, and after the honourable member for Fadden had been informed of the findings of the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General, he not only restated the charges but also increased the charges and allegations against the Minister. In that he has been joined, of course, by the charges which have been made against the commissioners by the honourable member for Lilley, in statements made to this Parliament last year.
The honourable member for Bowman was involved in the statement made by the honourable member for Fadden, and as there has been no personal explanation dissociating him from that statement one has to reach the conclusion that the honourable member Bowman does not disagree with the statements that have been made by the honourable member for Fadden. It is not now just an inquiry that is being sought into the role of the Minister. Charges are also being made about the role of the commissioners. An inquiry also has to be made into that. So we must have it clear- the allegations against the Minister are being made by honourable members on his own side and not by honourable members who have just come into the House. The honourable member for Fadden and the honourable member for Lilley have between them a quarter of a century of service in the Parliament. Each has served as an officer of this Parliament. They are not new caps to the House of Representatives, and they have raised very serious questions about the role of the Minister in the Queensland electoral redistribution. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the first Press release by the Minister on Friday last.
The document read as follows-
The Minister for Finance, the Hon. Eric Robinson, today refuted unreservedly the allegations made by the Member for Fadden, Mr D. M. Cameron, that he had in any way sought to influence the Electoral Commissioners during the redistribution of Federal Electorates in Queensland last year.
Mr Robinson said that he had never personally sought or made representations with a view to influencing the independent deliberations of the Electoral Commissioners nor had he sought directly or indirectly to influence others so to act.
Mr Robinson said that he had assured the Prime Minister in unequivocal terms that there was no basis to the allegations.
Mr Robinson said that this denial reconfirms the comments he made earlier this year in the presence of the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, and the Members for Bowman, Fadden and Lilley.
– We are not satisfied with events to date. Let me take honourable members back to 30 March and to a Press release by the honourable member for Fadden in which he said:
Yes, a meeting did take place with the Prime Minister in mid- January and there were five others present. Proposals for a police or judicial inquiry were discussed and rejected . . .
At the level of the Prime Minister this matter has been discussed. A judicial inquiry was discussed before the further allegations were made to this Parliament on Friday last. There can be no more serious charge than that any honourable member, particularly a Minister, has used his influence with the electoral commissioners to save his soul and behead some of his colleagues in passing. So the idea of a judicial inquiry did not initially come from this side of the House. The concept of a judicial inquiry came from the Minister’s colleagues. One would have thought that the Minister and the Commonwealth electoral officers of Queensland would have welcomed a judicial inquiry to clear their names, because there can be no clearing by the statements which were made by the Minister on Friday last and again tonight. There is no mention, in the Press releases of the Minister, of most of the charges which have been made against him.
I remind honourable members of section 22 of the Electoral Act which states:
Except as provided by section eighteen A of this Act or by the last preceding section, a person shall not, by writing sent to a Distribution Commissioner, or by word spoken to or in the presence of a Distribution Commissioner, seek to influence the Commissioner in the performance of his duties under this Act.
In the opinion given by the Attorney-General and in the statement made by the SolicitorGeneral, it is stated that:
Although it may be difficult to say that offence-creating provisions such as section 170 apply to section 22 of the Act, we do not doubt that a breach of this section is likely to give rise to criminal liability . . .
The charges, the allegations, are extremely serious. I also seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard, if the Minister sees fit, the whole of the statements made by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General which were provided to this House and tabled last Friday.
The document read as follows-
Electoral Redistribution of Queensland
The Attorney-General has discussed our Advice to you with Mr Cameron. Mr Cameron emphasised to the Attorney the importance he attaches to the fact that Mr Teulan ‘s map (which Mr Cameron has recently seen) is considerably closer to the Commissioners’ Determination than any of the documents officially before them. In particular it resembles the Determination in its treatment of the Beenleigh subdivision in relation to the present seat of Fadden and in this respect differs from the Liberal Party Submission and, as we understand him, all others.
This feature of the Teulan Map strengthens Mr Cameron ‘s belief that this map in fact was before the Commissioners, and improperly so, and Mr Cameron contends, since one copy of it was given to Mr Robinson, suggests that he improperly gave it to the Commissioners for party political purposes.
Nevertheless the Commissioners inclusion of Beenleigh in the new Fadden is an obvious enough step. Once the boundaries of the new Mcpherson were settled, the inclusion of Beenleigh within the new seat constituted in a substantial part by what remained of the old Mcpherson is to us both logical and sensible. That the Commissioners in this regard departed from the submissions does not render their conclusion any the less sound. Such a choice is one which the Act clearly empowers them as experts to take.
But irrespective of the above considerations, the degree of resemblance between Mr Teulan ‘s map and the Commissioners Determination, whether considered alone or with all the other factors relied on by Mr Cameron, is quite clearly incapable of supporting an inference that the map was improperly communicated to them or that they, whether improperly or not, acted on it.
We remain firmly of the opinion that the matters raised neither require nor warrant Government action.
We have as requested by you ascertained and considered the matters of complaint that have been raised in connection with the above redistribution. We have spoken with Mr Donald Cameron and have read and considered the matter contained in the speeches to the Representatives by him and by the Honourable Kevin Cairns and to the Senate by Senator George Georges and Senator the Right Honourable Reginald Withers. (H.R. Hansard 27 October 1977 pp. 2535-7, 2543-7; 3 November 1977 pp. 2382-3; Senate Hansard 4 November 1977 pp. 2124-2129). We have also considered the matter in a document shown to the AttorneyGeneral and given on a confidential basis by Mr Cameron to the Solicitor-General as well as the contentions advanced in a number of letters from Mr Cameron to the Solicitor. We have also examined relevant parts of the Report to the Parliament of the Distribution Commissioners for the Queensland Redistribution and where appropriate other documents of public record.
By section 16 the Governor-General must appoint three Distribution Commissioners, one of whom shall be the Chief Electoral Officer or an officer having similar qualifications, and if available, the Surveyor-General of the State or an officers with similar qualifications. The Governor-General must also appoint one Commissioner to be chairman. Section 1 7 indicates that a majority of the Commissioners may take the relevant determination. It suggests, but does not in terms either require or prohibit, the making of a minority report should there be disagreement.
As soon as practicable after appointment, the Commissioners are to invite suggestions relating to the Distribution of the State. This is to be done by advertisement requiring lodgment within thirty days of the advertisement: section 18A ( 1 ) (a). They are to invite the lodging of comments in writing within fourteen days after that thirty days has expired. The comments are to be upon the suggestions they have received; section 18A ( 1 ) (b). The Act by section 18a (3) requires the Commissioners to consider any suggestions and comments.
A map with a description of the boundaries of the proposed Divisions is thereafter to be exhibited and the comments relating to the suggestions (section 18a (1 ) (b)) made available for perusal.
Written suggestions and objections may be lodged with the Commissioners with thirty days after publication in the Gazette of an advertisement drawing public attention to the Map. (section 20).
The Commissioners must consider all suggestions or objections lodged within thirty days from the advertisement drawing public attention to the Map. (section 2 1 )
Except as provided by section eighteen A of this Act or by the last preceding section, a person shall not, by writing sent to a Distribution Commissioner, or by words spoken to or in the presence of a Distribution Commissioner, seek to influence the Commissioner in the performance of his duties under this Act. ‘
The following matters of fact are said to have occurred;
Mr Teulan later corrected his statement by saying that the redistribed seat was slightly different from his map in that the Commissioners had included the Boonah subdivision. He also said he had submitted a copy of his proposal to Liberal Pany Headquarters and the Pany did not accept the submission.
that Mr Teulan’s map was prepared at Mr Robinson ‘s request and that he improperly and in breach of the Act conveyed it to the Commissioners.
The National Party’s submission (Volume II at p. 51) suggested a ‘Proposed Division McPherson’ of 65,701 electors and ‘just on quota because of the growth potential in the Gold Coast Section ‘.
They strongly imply:
That the Commissioners were of the view that the suggestions as to name made in the Submissions of the Liberal Party, the three individuals and probably the National Party should be adopted.
Attorney-General 9 February 1978
-Let us have a look at the most recent statement by the honourable member for Fadden, because all this has taken place since the honourable member for Fadden was given the opportunity, along with the honourable member for Lilley and the honourable member for Bowman, to discuss this matter with the Minister against whom these allegations have been made, and with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and with the responsible Minister, the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers). As recorded at page 12 19 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 7 April 1978, the honourable member for Fadden said:
The following words are in inverted commas in the Hansard- not going to have a bar of them having their lingers in the redistribution’. No honourable member needs to be reminded how sensitive a subject this is to members of the House of Representatives.
That is not an allegation in third hand. The honourable member for Fadden was saying that the Minister told him personally that he was not going to have a bar of the Electoral Commissioners having their fingers in the electoral redistribution of Queensland. That is the quote out of Hansard in relation to the honourable member for Fadden being told this by a senior Minister in Queensland. Again I quote the honourable member for Fadden ‘s words:
It was perhaps during June and most definitely at the latest early July that I heard how the Commissioners allegedly had been informed that the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) was dispensable in this redistribution.
Let us just remember how early that was and when the Electoral Commissioners were appointed. The honourable member for Bowman obviously believed it. He has not taken any opportunity since Friday, after the statement was made, to deny that he did not have any knowledge of the situation. Again and again, the honourable member for Fadden quoted into the Hansard record what the senior Minister said; that is, that he was ‘not going to have a bar of them having their fingers in the redistribution’. The honourable member for Fadden said:
By early August reports were rife that one of the Commissioners had been so disenchanted with the way the redistribution had been carried out that for two days he refused to sign the report.
So for two days everybody in Queensland apparently believed that one of the Commissioners refused to sign the report. The honourable member for Fadden continued: . . the senior Queenslander, after I raised the matter of the Commissioner’s reluctance, snapped back saying: ‘But he signed the final report, did’t he? ‘
What was going on in Queensland with this redistribution? I should have thought that all honourable members opposite would want to know whether in fact a senior Minister had used his position in order to survive as best he could. As the honourable member for Lilley told Parliament in November last, Ministers are usually not affected by redistribution. Electoral Commissioners have the political sense to leave Ministers alone. I suggest that we look at what the honourable members for Lilley had to say in October of last year. He told the Parliament: no Ministers are even in danger. Their seats are never put at risk. They are never significantly disadvantaged in a redistribution.
He went on: lt is a widely know fact in that State that the nonCommonwealth officer has been desperately unhappy about what occurred in the redistribution. That has been made known to people. It is known to honourable members in this place- honourable members who are not scheduled to speak- and it is not known indirectly. It is quite clear that one of the Commissioners felt that the minds of the other Commissioners were not open in respect of the redistribution and he desperately considered making a minority report.
The honourable member for Fadden is joined by quite a senior member in this House, the honourable member for Lilley, in saying that the Commissioners did not have an open mind about the redistribution in Queensland and that the third member was very unhappy about what had occurred.
Let me go on with what the honourable member for Lilley said- and I think here we have the essence of the real problem about the Queensland redistribution:
In south-east Queensland, the Commissioners made a change. They changed the electorate of the Gold Coast to the electorate of McPherson and changed the electorate of Mcpherson to the electorate of Fadden. I am fascinated as to what caused them to make those changes. I say to the House: I am totally convinced they acted on evidence other than that presented to them in public documents.
As every honourable member from Queensland knows, the changing of the name of a seat can be political dynamite. Everybody in this House knows or should know about the arrangements that are made between the National Party and the Liberal Party and who is going to have contestants against them, depending on the name of their seat. The Commissioners took the role of Parliament in changing the name of the seat of the Gold Coast back to the seat of McPherson. That is the role of the Parliament. The Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, said in the Senate, when questioned on this, that he did not know why the Commissioners had taken this action. But that is the essence of this dispute. In fact did the Minister use his influence on the Commissioners to retain the old seat of McPherson in order to see that he would not be opposed by a member of the National Party? Did this action mean that the Commissioners had to look upon the former honourable member for Capricornia, the honourable member for Bowman and the honourable member for the old seat of Griffith as being completely dispensable to this Parliament?
Government supporters are not sitting in judgment on this question as members of the Liberal Party or of the National Country Party; they are sitting in judgment on this question as members of the House of Representatives. If they allow Ministers to use their influence every time there is a redistribution, they are going to be extremely sorry for the powers that they will be placing in the hands of the Executive. Those Commissioners should be treating every member of the Parliament and of the public in an honest, decent way. There is only one way in which to treat this subject- that is, by an open, judicial inquiry which will inquire into the allegations against the Minister and which will inquire into the allegations of the Commissioners who were charged with the Queensland redistribution so that we will all know, so that everybody in this Parliament will know, whether in fact that was an honest redistribution.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Speaker, the House has heard the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron) make serious allegations against a Minister of this House and involving Distribution Commissioners for Queensland concerning the redistribution in Queensland. Some time ago the honourable member for Fadden came to Canberra to discuss this matter with the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) and myself. At that time he was unwilling to approach the Commonwealth Police, to lay his evidence before them and suggest that they conduct an inquiry in the normal way. As an alternative, I suggested that whatever information he had be placed before the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) for examination and report. They examined all the material put in front of them by the honourable member for Fadden and advised that the material did not warrant further investigation.
The honourable member for Fadden has made some additional information available to this House. Thus the Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General have been invited to examine that material and any other material that the honourable member for Fadden, or for that matter, any other honourable member of this House, might wish to place before them, and, in the light of that, report to the Government on the proper course to pursue. I shall report to the House as soon as the Government has considered that further advice, which it will do without delay.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) put.
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the House take note of the paper.
Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no.
That so much of the Standing Orders -
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr Lionel Bowen- Mr Speaker -
-Order! I have to put the closure motion again because that motion related to the debate on both issues. They were to be voted on separately.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The closure motion can apply only to the motion on which it is moved. Even though a cognate debate is agreed to, in accordance with the procedure of the House it is in order for a member to speak to the second motion.
– I will uphold the point of order.
-Mr Speaker, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith moving that a judicial inquiry be appointed to inquire into and report upon whether any offence under section 22 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act has been committed by the Minister for Finance or any other member.
Mr Speaker, this is a most serious matter.
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith be not further heard.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has moved a motion. That motion needs to be put in writing.
– It is in writing and it is seconded.
That the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen ) be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I second the motion. Mr Speaker, only Mr Coleman, the Chief Electoral Commissioner-
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the honourable member for Blaxland be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Lionel Bowen’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 5 April, on the following papers presented by Mr Staley:
Public Broadcasting Planning- Guidelines for Phase 1- Ministerial Statement, 5 April 1978- and on motion by Mr Anthony:
That the House take note of the papers.
– I am sure most members in the House tonight will welcome the fact that we are debating what has been the first major statement by the Government on the future of public broadcasting in Australia. Indeed, I believe it is a statement on which the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) should be congratulated, a statement for which we have all been waiting for a long time. The people involved in public broadcasting have been terribly confused, worried and perturbed at the non-direction that the issue has been taking over recent years. The proposals that have been put forward by the Government concerning public broadcasting are wide-ranging. The introduction of public broadcasting will fill a void that has existed in the system in Australia. It will be an opportunity for many members of the public to take part in this exciting medium.
It is probably interesting to look briefly at the history of radio broadcasting in Australia. Some justified criticism has been levelled at it over the years. It was rather disorganised in its planning and, like Topsy, it just grew. It grew to the stage where, during the term of the last Labor Government, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) as Minister for the Media introduced some experimental licences under the Wireless and Telegraphy Act 1905. There was certainly confusion as to how these licences could justifiably exist under that Act. Now, with the revisions to the Broadcasting and Television Act and the incorporation of public broadcasting stations under that Act, we are almost ready to go ahead with the initial stages of public broadcasting.
The Minister’s statement has highlighted the fact that very soon we will be enjoying official frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia. That is an exciting proposition. FM broadcasting opens up a completely new frequency. It is a frequency which is ideal for music broadcasting. It will provide stereo radio to the people of Australia. But our discussion tonight is primarily about public broadcasting and the fact that the Government is to set up three particular categories of broadcasting licences. The first, which will be known as Category E licences, are to be issued to educational bodies intending to provide programs for continuing and adult education, including material designed to enrich the cultural life of the audience. The next category is Category S licences, which will be issued to groups intending to provide programs serving a particular interest or group of interests. The third category is Category C licences, which will be issued to community groups intending to provide programs serving a particular community. They are the three types of licences. Something that should be noted by members of the public who are listening to this debate tonight and who may be interested in becoming involved in the field of public radio is that three distinct types of technical licences will also be issued. When a station is set up it could be a wide coverage station, it could have medium coverage giving an urban cover of about 32 kilometres or it could be a low coverage station in a metropolitan area giving a 15 kilometre coverage. For country stations the coverage will be 28 kilometres.
It is probably worth our while in looking at this matter tonight to consider two points. They are the only things that worry me about the Minister’s statement. Although the Minister gave a guarantee that public radio licences would not necessarily go onto the FM band, it would seem to me to be reasonably obvious that the feeling within the Department and in the mind of the Minister is that possibly that is where they will go initially. I said a moment ago that the FM radio band opened up an opportunity for stereo radio. I think that in many respects FM radio should be used primarily in this field. If we are to make maximum usage of this spectrum, we should be looking towards providing stations that will be providing predominantly musical programs. In some respects, it could be a waste if we were to have FM stations that provided nothing but talk programs for many hours of the day. Perhaps they could be more conveniently located in low powered AM stations. I do not think that that is really beyond the realms of probability.
The only other thing that has caused me some concern is the fact that, as I mentioned before, some distinctions are made for country areas. The commercial radio industry in country areas is at the moment undergoing some very severe pressures. A number of country commercial radio stations are finding it very hard to operate profitably. It is not a secret that there are a number of licence holders in country areas who would be quite prepared to hand their licences back. Category C licences especially, which are to be encouraged in relation to community groups, could cause severe problems in some of the country areas if they were issued in a willynilly fashion. Too much competition in a country area might lead to a country commercial station being almost forced out of the market.
That leads to other areas of concern. It is not in the nature of the public broadcasting licences as they are proposed to provide those services which are provided by the commercial and national networks. If local stations in some of the towns in western Queensland had to hand back their licences the local audiences could be deprived of the coverage of major sporting events because it would not be a financially viable proposition for public broadcasters to go into the realm of outside broadcasts and the coverage of special events. At this stage it could be worth considering just what the effect of the Category C licences could be on some of the far flung areas of a State. It we are to protect local commercial stations to any great degree obviously they will also need to look at their operations. If they are to be the primary local participation station they will have to make sure that they are providing a service which the local community needs. Unfortunately, some of the far flung areas now have commercial stations which have developed into what sometimes could be described as nothing more than juke box radio. I am sure that we do not want to see that trend encouraged to the detriment of some provocative programming, programming that will discuss issues in the local community and programming that will provide service to the local community. In all sincerity I believe that the country stations which are now providing quite good services and which are finding it hard to survive should receive a little protection.
I was interested to see in the Minister’s statement a reference to the funding of public broadcasting stations. This is important. There will not be any direct government financing of these stations, but there may be some indirect financing. There will not be spot commercials as we know them in the commercial radio field at the moment but there will be provision for sponsorship of these stations. We probably need a clear indication as to exactly what such sponsorships would entail. I assume that when we talk of this sort of sponsorship we are looking at block programs being sponsored with a billboard appearing at the opening and closing of a program. I can see nothing wrong with that. It would certainly help the viability of some of these stations. This will be a real problem on which we will have to keep an eye in the teething stages.
Obviously as a number of amateurs- I do not say that unkindly; I refer to people who have not had a lot of experience in the radio industry- will be going into these stations they will have to be very careful of their financial controls. It would not surprise me if we were to see the collapse of some of the public broadcasting stations until the time when the whole medium is understood, when the operations of these stations are taken down to a fine level and when they can look after their own affairs well and expeditiously. This has happened in the United States to a great degree. Because of the nature of public broadcasting, many stations there have in fact gone broke. There is a lot we can do to encourage radio stations to look at their operations to make sure that they are viable, but obviously they will have their teething pains. I am sure that this will be a fact of life.
One of the advantages, as I have said, of the Minister’s statement is that we know exactly where we are heading in the field of public broadcasting at the moment. At least we have the blueprint of what it is all about. There has been a great deal of concern expressed in some cities around Australia that a number of would-be public radio operators are going to all sorts of lengths to get themselves established. I think it would be a good idea if at some time the Minister could give us an indication of what will be happening to some of the existing licence holders. Some of those organisations- I think particularly an organisation such as 4ZAP in Queensland in which more than SO organisations have invested an amount of money- have no guarantee of a licence. This situation has caused me a lot of concern from the outset when some people from these organisations came to see me. Obviously, they are dedicated. A lot of people in true faith have invested money in an organisation such as this. Surely they will be able to apply for a licence and they will be able to go through the full proceedings of the hearings of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Obviously there will be a chance that they will get a licence. If they do not I suppose there will be a lot of organisations and individuals in the community who will be very disappointed.
The responsibility for the content of public radio station programs has been well and truly spelt out in the Minister’s statement to the House. When a licence comes up for hearing a committed statement of exactly what that station is going to provide- the services it is going to provide and the type of programming it is going to provide- is one of the things that will be taken into consideration by the Tribunal in the granting of the licence. If a station goes outside its charter, obviously the Tribunal must have the power to re-hear that application. This was one of the problems when the licences were issued under the Wireless and Telegraphy Act 1905. We had some rather radical stations that were not under the protection of the Broadcasting and
Television Act and the old Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Those stations caused a lot of concern in the community. I do not necessarily refer to concern about the political content of their programs but to some of the language that was used on the air and some of the doubtful subjects that were debated. After all, radio is a public medium. Of course, there were no controls there. At least now public broadcasting is brought under the umbrella of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and there will be minimum standards that must be met and observed in the name of good taste, if you could call it that. I think that is a good thing inasmuch as we have the whole of the broadcasting industry now under that one framework. We will have a situation where people know the standards that must be observed and how far stations can go in the provision of certain programs. That is not to say necessarily that there must be censorship, but I am sure that in a public medium like radio people do not want some of the topics and language coming over the air and booming into their lounge rooms as occurred. So it is important that that provision is there now.
Overall I am quite pleased that the statement has at last been issued. I think there are some exciting concepts in it. I welcome the concept of the Category E licence that will be issued to educational bodies that are providing a real educational service, not like some that have been put over by some stations in the past. Adult education and continuing education are very great things and are needed in the community. The participation of a particular educational institution or a consortium of institutions is indeed an exciting prospect. Category S licences will provide for special interest groups. The 2MBS and the 3MBS set-up with fine music could well receive a licence. I think that would be welcomed by all. Certainly the community participation stations- those that provide for their own local community- will provide a lot of challenge for a great number of communities in Australia because, at this stage, there is really no restriction on how many of these low powered stations will be able to operate in the market place in this completely new field of the broadcasting spectrum.
-The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) mentioned in his statement that government involvement in Australian broadcasting must be directed to ensure freedom of expression and enterprise in all forms of communication available to Australian society, particularly radio and television, and that this freedom is best served by diversity of structures and outlets. We in the Opposition are pleased to hear that. In our view the commercial and national networks, as they have been to date, have not provided that freedom of expression and while every political party has probably said it, it has been left to the system as it was to provide it. The reality is that it has not been provided. So I am glad that the Minister went on from that simple statement, with which nobody could disagree, to say: . . to obviate the risk of freedom of expression and enterprise for one sector, or group, being indulged at the expense of others . . .
He meant that to achieve this freedom it is necessary to encourage a diversity of the use of the air waves by proper planning.
The Opposition agrees completely. One cannot assume that giving licences to the commercial stations, as was the case until the Labor Party came to power, was enough to guarantee that there would be the diversity or freedom of expression which is inherent in the whole concept of broadcasting and the needs of the community and the fact that broadcasting has to be controlled in some way, because otherwise we get mayhem on the air waves and no one hears anything. In other words, in a very real sense one could say that the air waves must be socialised and properly planned if people are going to be able to hear things. If there is to be a proper diversity of programming, it must be planned. If it is going to be spontaneous let it be well planned, one could almost say.
The Minister acknowledged that if one is to be mindful of the inherent relationship between freedom of expression and a free society’ one has to acknowledge that the best way this can be nurtured is by encouraging wherever possible public consultation in the actual planning process. With that we completely agree. In fact, very soon after I was appointed Minister for the Media in June 1975 1 set up an inquiry into public broadcasting.
– I read the report carefully.
– I am pleased to hear the Minister admit that he read the report very carefully. I fear that very few people have read it carefully. The inquiry met from July to October and produced its report in that short time. It conducted public hearings or interviews in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra and Perth- the major cities where it was likely that there would be a sudden burst of activity in this area. I may refer to that report later. I am pleased to note that the Minister admits he read it very carefully. I think it was an excellent report and, in fact, my reading of the Minister’s statement suggests that he must have read it. If not it would have to be a case of great minds thinking alike. He has come upon many of the ideas that were mentioned in that report.
When one comes to consider the needs for public broadcasting it is as well to consider the listening audience. Here, the Minister made the comment that the starting point must be a general assumption that the total viewing or listening audience is comprised of a series of majority and minority groups. He went on to elaborate by pointing out that all people at some time or another will form part of a mass audience. Most of those people at some time or another will, in following specialised interests, be potential members of minority audiences. That is very true. To put it another way, like any biological function, if we were to graph the interests of the community we would get what is called a frequency distribution curve. Most people would be represented in the middle of the graph and minority interest on either side. The ironic thing is that as individuals we do not stay in one spot. For example, in sport an individual may be right in the middle of the graph, but for music he may be right on the end. So we have almost got a spectrum, a particular distribution curve for any particular interest in the community. Different people will constitute the majority and the minority. It is a very complex matter. The Minister went on to say that the broadcasting system in Australia: . . has tended to serve mass audiences well but to overlook those members of the various mass groupings with additional and quite specific interests outside those catered for in mass appeal programming.
I certainly agree with the second part of that statement about varying interests but I question even the assumption that the commercial system has satisfied the mass audiences very well. Let us consider the way it has done it in the past, say, on television. I know that this debate is not dealing with television but it is easier for me to make my point if I refer to televison. What happened when a particular type of program became popular? I remember not so long ago that the Crawford cops and robbers programs were very popular. When one station had such a program the other commercial stations would provide diversity of interest for the mass audience which homed in on that program by providing exactly the same sort of program. So in fact the poor old mass audience had no choice. It had cops and robbers on three of the four available television stations. The three commercial stations ran cops and robbers programs at the same time.
– There is more diversity now, is there not?
– There is more, but I would like to elaborate on this in order to make a point which I want to make later. So the diversity, if there was any, was provided by the poor old national station. The Minister makes mention of that again later in his speech. He points out again that the commercial sector necessarily has to cater for largely undifferentiated audience blocs via mass appeal programming because the commercial stations are out to make money. They are out to make money by increasing their advertising revenue; they are increasing their advertising revenue by having bigger audiences. So they tend to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to get the largest audience possible. Ironically the national service is left to cater for the rest. Of course, it could not do just that, and the Minister puts the paradox very clearly when he says:
The national service . . . tended to program for mass audiences, albeit across a wide geographical service area, while at the same lime tending to concentrate on more specialised educational and cultural interests.
Therein were the horns of the dilemma for the ABC. Whenever it tended successfully to provide a program which had mass audience appeal there was immediately uproar from the commercial stations. What happened in relation to the radio station 2JJ was a good example of that. It struck a responsive chord for those ne ‘er-do-well young people in Sydney who apparently flocked to listen to it. It was all very well when people viewed it with scorn, until the day when the ABC brought things together. Suddenly the commercials realised that they were losing a potentially enormous audience and they complained: ‘The ABC has no business competing in the mass appeal area ‘.
No one pointed out to them successfully that nobody had stopped the commercial stations from providing the same sort of programs. They had just never done it because to do so was considered too revolutionary, I guess. But they protested. They always protest whenever the ABC becomes too successful in appealing to a mass audience. They say: ‘That is not the job of the ABC. It is the job of the ABC to concentrate on the minority interests’. Of course, the ABC does concentrate on the minority interests and gets low ratings.
A minority interest, say, on the left side of the spectrum- I do not mean political; I mean simply in terms of geography- may be interested in, say, pop music as an art form presented in the way in which not even the commercials want to go into it, or in jazz, or in whatever one likes to mention. It is not so likely to be interested in heavy classical music, the sort of music that you hope will break into a tune but never does, if you get what I mean. That is the sort of music I happen to like. That is why I can afford to rubbish it; I prefer it that way. The point I want to make is that it is an impossible task.
So when the ABC provides a particular type of program which appeals to those on one side of the spectrum, and that includes a relatively few people in the total community, complaints are heard to the effect that really no one is very interested in the ABC. It is said: ‘Look, it has such a low audience rating. Why do we spend so much money on it?’ That is in direct conflict with the case of the ABC successfully providing a program for a mass audience. Then what we hear is this: ‘Whoa, that is not where the ABC ought to be’. Of course, the way in which to look at the ABC’s minority programming is to try to ascertain what is the potential audience. Say the ABC gets an audience rating of 5 per cent for a program. When a survey is carried out in the community it is found that only 6 per cent of the community were likely to be ever interested in it. So it has attained a very large audience. In providing that particular program the ABC has been very successful. I dare to suggest that in most cases that is the position with the ABC. Anyway, this complicated business of people’s interests and our individual idiosyncracies is the very raison d’etre for the potential new public sector. The Minister said:
The new public sector is seen as complementary to both pre-existing sectors . . . This is not to imply that public broadcasting should be confined to elitist interests.
Again I read from the Minister’s statement because I think it is important that people should understand this. He went on:
After all, a special interest may range for example from football to Flemish weaving, from film to Florentine art, from hard rock to harpsichord recitals, from Bach cantatas to brass bands.
Amen! I agree completely. So it is not a question of the posh or very select few wanting a lot of money spent on very select programs. It is a desire for the whole community to have available to it programs covering all interests that can appeal hopefully to absolutely anybody in the community. We agree with that philosophy. That is the way in which we were trying to approach the whole question of public broadcasting. It is the essence of what this working party’s report was all about. So I am glad to note that the Minister has mentioned that phase one, the introductory phase, will be as short as possible. I completely agree with that proposal. I think a lot of the experimental work has been done. Hopefully the Minister will be able to slip into phase two and deal with a large number of stations as soon as possible.
I would like now to discuss briefly the types of stations which will be licensed. There are the Category E licences. The Minister points out that the programming of these educational stations may include material designed to enrich the cultural perspectives of the audience served’. I am glad that he said that, because the Minister who preceded him in that portfolio took a very narrow view of education. When I issued those licences my view was that anything which increased the understanding and the tolerance of the community- anything at all- was education. Life experiences are educational.
– I agree with you.
– I am glad to hear the Minister murmur: ‘I agree with you’. Sadly I think the previous occupant of his portfolio took a very narrow view. That is certainly the case judging by the panic response or the phone calls I got from a number of the student stations and so on which had been told that they had wandered outside the definition of ‘education’. They told me what it was all about. I said: ‘As far as I am concerned, that is education, but if you want to be sure to hang on to your licence you had better concentrate on the three Rs and nothing else ‘. I am glad that those days are over.
In relation to this category the Minister says that licences will be issued ‘to consortiums of educational institutions’. To some that may seem unnecessarily restricting, but I think I can appreciate the argument. In order to demonstrate his fairness in this regard I think the Minister has to issue fairly quickly a number of licences to student bodies, because inherent in that suggestion that the licences in the Category E group will be issued to educational institutions- student bodies have already reacted- is the implication that they will not be granted licences in this category. If I understand the Minister correctly and if there are medium powered stations which in fact are pretty powerful stations covering more than most of the metropolitan areas at this stage, as I understand it -
– At this stage, of course, there are limited numbers.
– I realise there are limited numbers. I do not wish to argue with the Minister about whether or not there are limited numbers. A medium powered station in fact would be capable of covering most of the metropolitan areas thus far expanded and beyond- a fair way into the country. After all, 3MBS in Melbourne is a fairly low powered station, but I have tuned into its programs when I have been travelling to the far reaches of my electorate, which is a fair way away from its transmitter. I can still hear its programs there. I can understand but I think the student bodies are entitled, as are other special interest groups- I will come to that matter in a moment- to be granted broadcasting licences. I hope the Minister will show that he is not prejudiced against them by quickly providing them with licences in one of the alternative categories which I will come to in a moment.
The next interesting group, of course, is the Category S licence; in other words, the special interest groups. They have a wide range of particular interests about which I was talking before. I hope that many people take up those options. I suggest that even the commercial stations may need to consider approaching their programming in this way. They will have to do that if they are really to give the so-called mass audience genuine diversity. That is another argument which I can take up some other day.
Finally, in relation to the Category C licences, the Minister lists, together with the shire councils and schools, student organisations. I hope that he will quickly license the stations which have already had licences so that they do not feel victimised, because I feel fairly confident that most of them ought to qualify. So, all in all, the three public broadcasting licence categories, the Minister says, are ‘not intended to restrict licences to immutable programming compartments’. Of course, if we are realistic the programs will overlap. It would be shortsighted in the extreme to say, ‘Thus far and no farther’, or ‘If you, as an educationist, touch on anything else you are out’, or vice versa. I hope the Minister does succeed in persuading the Department to be tolerant and to be not as restrictive as it has been in the immediate past.
One could say much more, but I see that my time is running out. I simply say that when we licensed education stations we intended that public broadcasters should be included. I used it as a device by which to issue the licences, because I knew I could not change the Broadcasting and Television Act, with the obstruction in the Senate of the then Opposition parties. But under the Wireless Telegraphy Act it was possible to issue experimental licences. One of the conditions made by me was that they were not to be just educational licences but also were expected to include public broadcasters. Sadly when we were kicked out stations with such licences had to restrict themselves. So I welcome this move now to provide a wide range of programs for everybody in the community.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I am pleased to be able to join in this discussion of the statement on public broadcasting made last week by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). It is important, because it is the first of a number of major statements that will be made on the whole area of broadcasting. I think the Minister’s own words were that, up till now, there had been a certain amount of haphazard ad hockery in relation to broadcasting policy. In my opinion, it is certainly high time that we did come to grips with the planning and programming of broadcasting in this country. This paper, I believe, will go part way towards establishing that new era.
As we know, a number of experimental stations, established under the old Wireless Telegraphy Act, have been operating in the public broadcasting sector. Many of those have been operating on FM wave lengths. We need to look at the introduction of FM in Australia with some concern and care because it is a new medium for this country, though certainly not for other countries, where it has experienced a tremendous boom in popularity.
Also the Minister reminds us of the critical importance of broadcasting, of the control of broadcasting and of the general development of broadcasting policy to a nation such as ours where we value freedom of expression, and protect that freedom of expression at all times. Broadcasting is, of course, crucial to the importance of mass communication in any democracy. Also, we are well aware of the fact that the electromagnetic spectrum is limited, that there are not many slots available within it, and we have to realise that of recent years we have seen some major developments occur in the use of the air waves.
We have had, of course, a dual system of broadcasting, both national and commercial. To that has now been added the broader perspective of public broadcasting, both on FM and AM, also the spectrum of citizens band radio. I think it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the air waves are utilised correctly by responsible and responsive operators, where they are undoubtedly fulfilling a broad audience demand and a broad audience need. Let us not shy from the fact that there has been some misuse and abuse of the air waves.
I must use this opportunity to speak briefly about the development of citizens band radio, which I believe poses a tremendous problem for the Minister and, incidentally, his Committee. Citizens band radio is a new medium of communication that has been developed in this country in only very recent times. I must admit that it gives me great concern to consider how effectively any regulatory body or government can oversight citizens band radio operators. I believe that there are some very fundamental principles at stake, including the privacy of the individual, the propriety of operators, their clubs, their organisations and use to which the air waves, in this case, are put.
Likewise, I think that that public broadcasting media, and the air waves that they will use, must also bear this responsibility. FM is a very special medium that must not be abused, ill-managed or wasted. I am concerned that there are many people who would aspire to operate on FM frequencies but who would not be using that frequency to its best advantage. I see little point, quite frankly, in having a station operating on FM, a very large proportion of whose broadcasting time deals with the voice, with the spoken word, when in fact the technicalities of FM are basically such as allow superior, high fidelity, stereo transmission.
I sound this note of hesitation because I believe that we as a government, and the Minister with the responsibilities of his portfolio, must ensure that the regulating authorities in fact abide by the demands and expectations of the community; that the minority groups which will have access to this medium do not in fact saturate it solely for the sake of those groups.
We should look at the categories in an historical sense, both as to how they have operated in the past, and as to how they might operate in the future. Firstly, Category E licences will be issued to education bodies intending to program for various educational activities and specifically as was mentioned- for continuing and adult education. I might add that the statement of the Minister was that such programming may include material designed to enrich the cultural perspectives of the audiences served. I might also point out that a little later in the explanatory notes at page 4, it is also said that category S stations, special interest stations, would also use material that would enrich the cultural life of the audience. It seems to me that here there is considerable overlap, or at least a need for clarification as to what that purpose might be. It is referred to in relation to both category E and category S licences.
These categories also will be able to operate under medium coverage broadcast licence which, in urban areas, is intended to serve a listening audience in an area with a radius up to 32 kilometres. I remind honourable members that, in urban areas, that would be a very large listening audience. Again, it gives cause for hesitation as to how the whole of the sector might be managed when we find that one particular station under this category would be able to broadcast over a radius of 32 kilometres in urban areas.
The category S, or special interest area, as has been suggested could well cover music, sport or religion, again on a medium coverage basis. We may well find that there is some conflict with the commercial sector which has, to a large extent, concentrated on sport and music- music certainly of a popular and rock type- in the category S area.
Turning to category C, again there seems to be at this stage no indication as to the number of stations that would be licensed. If one looks at the suggestions of the community groups that might be eligible for licences, such as shire councils, schools, student organisations and resident groups, designed for a specific location, and where also the suggested areas included places like Bathurst and Manly- Warringah, again it would seem that there will be a potential for a very large number of these licences to be granted. It is not for me to say whether it is a good thing or not a good thing to have a specific category C licence for Manly- Warringah, but if that were the case I could well imagine that there would be some 30 or 40 eligible claims for licences in the Sydney metropolitan area alone.
I take the specific case of Bathurst, not only because it was suggested as an example but also because it is within my electorate. There is an FM station licenced under the old Wireless Telegraphy Act operating from Bathurst under the auspices of the Mitchell College of Advanced Education. The licence holders will be coming up for renewal of their licence this year, and it has already been proposed that their licence be confined to the city of Bathurst and the immediate surrounds. I do not believe that this is a wise move. Bathurst is part of an overall growth centre, namely, Orange, Bathurst and Blayney, and the licence holders at the moment are very keen to ensure that their licence encompasses the whole of the growth centre area. There would appear to be some technical difficulties in the interpretation of the Act at this stage, because the station cannot operate without a translator station, to overcome some of the geographical barriers and be able to broadcast effectively to the western end of that area, namely, Orange and its district. I believe that this statement of the Minister does clarify that. Previously, the Department had held rather rigidly that a single licence holder may not broadcast from more than one station. The Minister states that licencees, whilst not permitted to own or control more than one public broadcasting licence, will be able, and allowed, to apply for translator licences, which will overcome that specific problem, as I see it, with the local station to which I referred, 2MCE-FM.
It is very important that stations are operated by licence holders who have a secure financial and professional base. The honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) did indicate that in other countries there had been licence holders who, for a number of reasons, had not been able to continue and had allowed their licences to lapse. I think it would be wise of this Government to ensure that that situation arose as infrequently as possible, and that we grant licences to people who will be able to operate them in a professional, responsible and competent sense.
Finally, I should again like to agree with previous speakers who have referred to the difficulties of some of the commercial radio stations presently operating in rural or non-urban areas. Some of those stations have experienced considerable cash flow problems. I believe that it would be advisable for those commercial stations in the smaller centres to be able to apply for public broadcasting licences and to be able to obtain them. I think there is a somewhat sweeping tendency to say that there is a tremendous audience demand out there for our public broadcasting service but in many cases that public demand has not yet been identified, and in some cases not even surveyed nor expressed. I think there would be a danger in granting too many licences without that assurance of public demand and that assurance of diversity of public demand which the public broadcasting sector is designed to serve.
In concluding my remarks, I say that I welcome the statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. As I have said, I have some hesitations but I believe that further statements that will come from the Minister will clarify some of those guidelines. I congratulate the Minister for grasping the nettle in this very difficult area of government policy. It is not an easy area to resolve and there have been many competing demands. I look forward with interest to further statements from his office.
-The Lalor electorate is the core of what is sometimes called ‘the deprived west’ of Melbourne. The whole area has a population approximately equal to Adelaide’s, but with only a tiny fraction of Adelaide’s cultural, social or sporting amenities, whether they be cinemas, swimming pools, football fields, meeting halls, golf courses or radio stations. Adelaide has two national stations, four commerical stations and one university station. The ‘deprived west’ of Melbourne has none.
The area is in a band roughly 10 to 30 kilometres from Melbourne’s centre, but psychologically and environmentally it is as far from Melbourne as Ballarat or Bendigo, with a deepseated sense of social isolation which will be difficult to overcome. Added to this is a certain environmental bleakness, made worse by the official vandalism and lack of effective planning by many public authorities- State and Commonwealth. Perhaps 40 per cent of the population have a mother tongue other than English. In some areas the figure is as high as 60 per cent. The area is also extremely badly serviced by public transport and road linkages. It seems to me exactly the kind of area that could be well served by the issue of a category E or educational licence, a category S or special interest licence or a category C or community licence.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) will recall that in 1974-75 there was an attempt to secure a radio licence for the Sunshine City Council. At the time it was laughed at by many people in the State Government. Yet what they were trying to do was absolutely correct. My predecessor, Dr Jim Cairns, and the Department of Urban and Regional Development played an important role in encouraging this project which was slapped down in 1975 and which was subject to constant attack by the Victorian Government. But if the Mornington Peninsula can have its own station 3 MP, then why not 3DW for the ‘ deprived west’?
My first instinct on reading the ministerial statement on the development of public broadcasting by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications was to applaud it. But careful rereading of the statement raises many complex issues which the statement does not go very far towards resolving. The Minister’s statement, if he will forgive me, reminds me of what is often said of Chinese food: It is agreeable to receive and easy to digest, but afterwards you still feel hungry. The Minister said in his statement:
I am well aware of widespread concern about what has been described as the ‘haphazard ad hockery’ of broadcasting planning and regulation since its inception in this country.
He went on to say that his statement was: the first of a series in the Government’s systematic approach to the development of policy guidelines for the entire broadcasting system.
I should have preferred to see the working out of a national information policy, as I suggested in the House on 4 April. We could then have moved from the general to the particular. With this piecemeal statement, virtuous though it is, whilst we can infer the Minister’s general views on information policy, we still find ourselves backing from the particular to the general- in other words, ad hockery, not of course in a haphazard way, but nevertheless backing into the problem.
The propositions in support of public broadcasting look good at first because they are in marked contrast to the present state of the broadcasting industry. Apart from the Australian Broadcasting Commission which at least presents a considerable variety of programming, the commercial radio industry presents little more than popular music, news and weather, sports commentaries and, in some cases, ‘talkback’ programs. There are few, if any, fully produced programs on radio apart from those on the ABC. Australia ‘s media ownership is the narrowest oligopoly anywhere in the world outside one party States.
We must examine the statement in its commercial context. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table entitled ‘Metropolitan Media Ownership and Control’ from the book, Politics and the Media by Henry Rosenbloom.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. I do have some anxieties about possible implications of the ministerial statement, although I do not question the Minister’s good intentions. However, the statement could represent the thin end of the wedge for the ABC. At present, a major justification for the ABC’s admittedly high budget is that its charter requires it to provide for a wide variety of minority interests. What if a whole series of small scale local stations were deemed by a future government or by a future Minister to relieve the ABC of that need to be comprehensive? It might be said, for example, that the existence of 3MBS-FM in Melbourne, run by the Music Broadcasting Society of Victoria, reduces the need for 3AR-AM to provide fine music. It might be that if the State education departments have their own stations then the ABC has less need to provide educational programs. I should hate to see what we think of as minority interests being edged out as tiny, weak and impoverished while the general audience remains big, strong and profitable. The commercial networks have never been under any pressure to seek any goal other than to pursue the goose that lays the golden eggs.
When has there ever been any attempt to persuade existing licence holders to attempt to diversify their programs, to provide a greater range of choice to encourage a range of taste? The creation of the E, S and C licences will be valuable if it stimulates the whole area of broadcasting commercial and non-commercial as well. However, it could cause positive harm if it increased pressure to push diversity in programming towards the fringe, so that the mainstream increasingly becomes rapid, stale, repetitive and unadventurous.
Australia has been a multi-cultural society since the late 1940s. But to our lasting shame, our mass media, not even the ABC, has never reflected this. So far as radio and television is concerned, it simply never happened. It is so extraordinary. Perhaps we are the only country in the world where the transmission of a French film in the French language or of a German film in the German language has until recently been prohibited. In Australia, we could not have subtitles; it had to be dubbed.
The issues that concern migrants as a whole have not been discussed adequately in and through our media and I doubt whether they will be now. If ethnic radio simply means presenting recipes for minestrone, borscht and gefilte fish, it will have failed and will become increasingly marginal. When did the mass media last provide programs which could stimulate children or young people between the ages of 12 and 18 other than treating them as part of an exploitation market on behalf of advertisers? The very point made by the Minister at page 7 of his statement may be reinforced if minority interests are increasingly isolated from mainstream broadcasting. By equating the mass media audience with the market, our community runs the grave risk of confusing breadth of response with intensity of response and of confusing short-term and long-term factors.
The media can have great influence in moulding tastes. Unfortunately, in the commercial sector, excessive emphasis is put on the goal of promoting an instant disposable culture, the product that is quickly created, quickly consumed and quickly thrown away. We confuse the best-seller with the masterpiece. If we take the 1978 sales figures alone, Harold Robbins might seem to be a greater writer than Leo Tolstoy or the Sound of Music might seem to be a greater work than the Marriage of Figaro. But if we take a longer time scale- 10, 20 or 30 years- then Tolstoy and the Marriage of Figaro soar ahead. Unfortunately the time scale of commercial media operation is hostile to the encouragement of higher critical standards in taste or to recognising the arts as one of the greatest stimuli to self-understanding and personal development. Not everyone is moved to tears by the French Post Impressionists in the Jeu de Paume -
FM Broadcasting- Construction of Freeways in Sydney- Taxation- Electoral Redistributions- Unemployment- Radio Scanning Equipment: Importation- The Parliament
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
-I wish to raise a complaint which is related to a matter that has been discussed by the House tonight. I refer to frequency modulation broadcasting by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I think the easiest way to explain this matter is by my reading a communication from a friend of mine.
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Scullin that it is inconsistent with the Standing Orders to make direct reference to an earlier debate.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I think you are assuming that the subject I am about to raise is directly germane to the previous debate. With respect, it is a complaint which is not necessarily referable to the previous debate.
-I accept the honourable member’s explanation. He will appreciate that I was influenced by his declaration that he was to make reference to the previous debate.
-Unfortunately I have been robbed of half a minute of my speaking time. I would like to read a complaint that has been made by a friend of mine who is a distinguished medical practitioner, hospital administrator and music critic. He wrote:
ABC-FM have been broadcasting 24 hours a day for just over two years. A rough breakdown of the different sorts of music provided prior to March 1978 was-
In July 1977 the Audience Research Department of the ABC carried out a survey which showed that, inter alia, 64 per cent of FM listeners enjoyed ‘classical ‘ music, 34 per cent rock, 26 per cent jazz, and 13 per cent opera.
As a result of this survey, the Commission decided to alter FM programs rather drastically. The net effect has been to increase jazz from 4 hours to 12 hours a week, to leave opera as it was, and to virtually totally abandon rock music
The rock allocation since February (when it was averaging a meagre 30 hours per month) has been-
despite the fact that the ABC’s own Research Department found that 34 per cent of its FM listeners enjoys rock. This would seem to strike new heights (? depths) of bureaucratic ineptitude.
There has been quite an uproar about this savage attack on rock music, but to date the ABC has been totally insensitive to consumer reaction.
On 8 February I wrote to Mr Norgard to complain. On 7 March he replied (copy attached) and said, ‘Let me, at the outset, assure you that we have no intention of neglecting the interests of our rock, folk and jazz music enthusiasts’. Later he stated, ‘I should mention also that all categories of music will receive equal treatment, and there are no plans to confine programs to the classical field ‘.
Unfortunately the FM programmers apparently don’t know what the Chairman has in mind. If, as a matter of policy, FM reverted to (say) 5 per cent of its music being rock, its audience would increase greatly, and no one could level at ABC-FM a charge of blatant discrimination against rock music listeners. At present this is clearly evident.
You will remember that it was the Labor Government which first showed an awareness of rock music listeners with the establishment of 2JJ in Sydney. These latest attacks on rock music probably are not a conservative political ploy, but in any case I believe they should be most strenuously resisted.
In view of the fact that, according to the ABC’s audience recearch department 34 per cent of the ABC’s listeners indicated their interest in rock, I think that this drastic cut should be discussed. Perhaps honourable members should take up the attitude that a number of listeners to ABC-FM are taking in presenting a petition to the Commissioners of the ABC asking them to review the hours that are available for rock listeners. I have left a copy of the preamble to that petition with the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley), who is at the table. I seek leave to have the preamble to that petition incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
For some time now it has been apparent that all is not well with non-classical FM programs at the ABC building in Collinswood. Apparently ABC-FM is to become a ‘fine music’ station, whatever that entails but it is certain that is does not include much rock, folk or jazz to name but three categories of non-classical music We use the word apparent because not many hard facts have emerged from the various newspaper articles which have cursorily dealt with the revamping of ABC-FM. However, it seems clear that Rocturnal and Folk on Wednesdays and perhaps Jazz-Track are to be irrevocably changed, if not completely removed from the airwaves.
At present the scope of music offered by ABC-FM is very narrow and any further narrowing of its approach would be completely unjustified according to the few pointers of popularity of the non-classical programs that we have. Rocturnal was recently voted No. 1 radio rock program in Adelaide by readers of Ram magazine and came in second to 3XY’s prestigious album show in Melbourne, despite the facts that Rocturnal is presented from 10.30 p.m. Saturday to 5.30 a.m. Sunday and that Ram readers are usually thought to be AM radio listeners. As well. Rocturnal is rumoured to have rated very highly in a top secret ABC-FM poll conducted recently.
One newspaper article implied that the proposed (but as yet unspecified changes to programming was because of this poll, but the results of this poll have not been made public. Considering that ABC-FM is paid for out of taxpayers money it is not unreasonable to expect that we, as both taxpayers and listeners, have some say in what kind of programs we wish to hear on ABC-FM.
Rocturnal, Folk on Wednesday and Jazz-Track are currently introducing Australian artists to Australian audiences, and many of these artists are no doubt grateful to ABC-FM for allowing them the opportunity to be recorded and presented by a local radio station prepared to back local artists. The ABC has one or two television programs which do this but FM stereo broadcasting is unique in that the quality of reproduction is so good, AM broadcasting is not of the same quality as FM stereo broadcasting, and cannot reproduce stereophonically. It would be extremely narrow minded and short sighted of the ABC to limit this technology to one form of music only. Already there are numerous AM and some FM stations devoted to the ‘fine music’ format and the few existing non-classical programs on ABC-FM are required to cater for a large range of musical styles. Rocturnal for example caters for rock, pop, blues, soul, reggae, country, jazz, electronic and the many permutations and combinations of these; and Folk on Wednesday caters for the various schools of folk music as well as providing some ethnic music listening.
These programs, too, have timeslots which do not promote widespread listening. Rocturnal’s hours we have mentioned and Folk on Wednesday is on from 9.30 p.m.- 11.30 p.m., hardly peak listening time. It is a tribute to the quality of these two programs and Jazz-Track that people are prepared to stay up and listen to them. We will always have some minor complaints with the programs because of the wide spectrum of musical styles and approaches which has be be incorporated in each program but it is obviously well worth the effort for thousands of listeners each week.
Over-leaf is a petition which we would urge you to sign if you believe that programs such as Rocturnal, Folk on Wednesday and Jazz-Track should be retained and improved by giving them better timeslots. These programs are in fact the last non-classical programs on ABC-FM. Can you remember the various specials we had (Black music, the story of the Who, the Leo Kottke concert, the Ralph McTell Concert, the Chieftans concert, et cetera)? These too have slowly disappeared from the FM airwaves. Surely we cannot allow the few remaining programs to be sacrificed to the god of ‘fine music’.
– I think that that puts the case to members of the House. I hope they will support the cause of rock music listeners of ABC-FM.
– I draw attention to a scandalous situation brought about by the decision of the New South Wales Government to sell off land acquired by the previous Liberal-Country Party coalition government for the purpose of constructing freeways in the metropolitan area of Sydney. Accused, quite correctly, of making the future construction of freeways virtually impossible by selling off the land acquired, the New South Wales Minister for Transport, Mr Cox, has sought to excuse himself and the Labor Government by saying that the greatest proportion of property acquired for any single freeway was for the Warringah Expressway. According to New South Wales Government sources- that means Mr Cox- quoted in the Sun-Herald of last Sunday ‘the north shore freeway plan had been pushed ahead to please supporters in the coalition’s electorates there, while areas with the greatest need in the western and southern suburbs were neglected’. According to the same source, 5 1 1 properties in that area were affected and 242 or 47.4 per cent were purchased. They are now being sold and the citizens of the Manly- Warringah area will be deprived of adequate transport for years to come.
What a strange inversion of argument to defend an indefensible policy by drawing attention to the biggest crime of all, that is this irreversible sellout of the rights not only of the citizens of Manly- Warringah but also of the countless thousands of Sydneysiders from all over the metropolitan area who travel to the northern beaches and waters for their recreation. Unlike the other areas of Sydney referred to by Mr Cox as having greater transport problems than ManlyWarringah, this area has no railway system whatsoever and is therefore wholly dependent on road and water transport. After the Sydney Harbour Bridge there are only three approaches to Manly- Warringah by road- the Spit Bridge, the Roseville Bridge and the Mona Vale road. All three are well beyond saturation point at peak hours and on wet days even the slightest accident can delay traffic for hours, and I mean literally hours.
This area was almost half-way towards acquiring the necessary land for an expressway through a new route when the Labor Government took office in May 1976. Following a doctrinaire, pseudo-conservationist line the Labor Government declared all inner freeways black and proceeded to sell off the land. It is no use saying that people can travel by public transport. The only public transport is buses or ferries connecting with buses. A railway would be too expensive for such an area. As it is, the people of ManlyWarringah are condemned to the pollution and anti-conservationism of stalled traffic until some future government confronts the hideous expenditure required to correct this ghastly mistake. The Federal Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) recently condemned the road spending priorities of the Labor Government of New South Wales. Never was a major policy decision so richly deserving of condemnation. It is a decision that will return to haunt the Labor Government and drastically shorten its period of office.
Mr FitzPATRICK (Riverina) ( 10.38)- I raise tonight a matter that is causing a great deal of concern in isolated country areas in New South Wales. It is a matter which, if not handled with some consideration, I consider will cause irreparable damage to the position in life of thousands of young Australians. I refer to the fact that since mid-February officers of the Taxation Office have been assessing the rental value of teacher housing assistance properties with the intention of collecting tax on the difference between the rent teachers pay and the market rental value as assessed by the taxation officers. Many teachers in my electorate have been visited by these taxation officers. The teachers have been informed that section 26E of the Income Tax (Assessment) Act requires the inclusion in a taxpayer’s assessable income of the value to him of all benefits given or granted in relation to his employment or other services rendered by him, whether given in money, goods, the use of premises or otherwise. That, of course, means that the teachers will have to pay tax on the difference between the market value of the rented homes and the actual amount they are paying. Many people will ask: What is wrong with this?’ Most members of Parliament at some time or other have handled problems connected with this section of the Income Assessment Act. I myself have had many problems to handle in respect of mine employees who had been given shares at below the market value in the mining company employing them. But I believe that the situation in which teacher housing assistance rentals are below market value is a different consideration altogether.
Many of these houses are provided in high cost isolated areas to encourage teachers to remain. Often they are provided as compensation for the loss involved in a teacher moving from a home in a larger town or city. Often this move involves the teacher living away from his own family. The son or daughter of a teacher may require education that is not available in a small isolated town. The son of a teacher might be serving an apprenticeship or some other problem along these lines may exist.
Teachers living in more desirable locations in a city or town should be prepared to pay the same rent as people who live in private accommodation. But the legislation should not apply in western New South Wales because at present it is hard to obtain experienced teachers who are needed for the education of children in these areas. This method of assessment if continued will tend to deplete further the western regions of their already short teaching staff. It must be remembered that teachers in these regions cannot opt to purchase or build homes as is the case in larger cities or towns. The resale prospects for properties in isolated areas is almost hopeless.
Certainly people who build properties in isolated areas do so at a very high financial risk. Of course, this is not the case in larger towns or cities where the purchase of a property is often considered to be a good investment. As a consequence country towns have an under-supply of homes which of course drives up the rent. However, the taxation valuer does not seem to be inclined to consider these things. He just says it is his duty to assess the market value as it exists and applies in a town. He assesses the difference in what the teacher is paying in rent and the market value of the house.
I am sure that the Schools Commission would wholeheartedly agree that without acceptable teacher accommodation and some assistance in respect of rent education for the western division children will suffer. I can assure the House that this is already a big problem. I ask the Government and particularly the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to give every consideration to seeing that a commonsense solution is found to the problem.
– I have listened to the personal explanation of the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) tonight and I say that I do not wish to alter, vary or retract anything that I said in this House last Friday, 7 April. The honourable members for Bowman (Mr Jull), Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) and I could not in conscience support the Opposition motion moved tonight by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Bowen). The judicial inquiry proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was too narrow and restricted.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Fadden must not refer to a previous debate that has taken place during today’s proceedings.
-Okay, I will talk about the one that took place last Friday. What we have contended for is a completely full judicial inquiry not restricted to one narrow section of the legislation and by other legal technicicalities. I cannot any more refrain from acquainting the House with the full contents of the statutory declaration which I hold and which I referred to last Friday. I now read that statutory declaration in full. It states:
I, We, the undersigned of BEAUDESERT, in the State of Queensland, do solemnly and sincerely declare that we were present at a meeting held at the Logan and Albert Hotel, Beaudesert on Tuesday, 26th July, 1977 and we have clear recollection of the following being said by the Hon. E. L. Robinson.
THAT (a) Beaudesert, Boonah, Woodridge and Kingston would form part of a new electorate, and THAT (b) the Gold Coast region would form a seat that would be called ‘Gold Coast’.
We further state that Mr John Teulan was promoting himself and was being promoted by the Hon E. L. Robinson as the Candidate in the new electorate, as outlined by Mr
Robinson, before the commissioners had even announced the new boundaries.
The statutory declaration is witnessed by a Justice of the Peace. Mr Deputy Speaker, I might inform you that another statutory declaration signed by two other persons who were at that luncheon is in the mail on its way to Canberra. For my own part I am completely prepared to submit myself to a full and unrestricted judicial inquiry into this whole matter. Justice will not be served by a narrow and restricted judicial inquiry such as that proposed tonight by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. Justice must not only be done; it must manifestly be seen to be done. A half-baked limited inquiry will satisfy nobody and a full and complete inquiry equivalent to a royal commission is the only satisfactory forum to hear and determine these matters. That is what the honourable members for Lilley and Bowman and I have been pressing for ever since we first arrived in the office of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 19 January this year.
In conclusion I express a degree of sadness that the document prepared by the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) and the SolicitorGeneral was tabled in the manner in which it was tabled last Friday. When I originally handed the Solicitor-General a paper which was virtually an aide memoire of several pages I did so in the belief it would remain confidential. I am not stating that it has been produced in this House, but regrettably the names of some persons were included in that document and unfortunately they were repeated in the paper produced by the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General. I had every intention of giving those people total confidentiality. When I spoke last Friday in this chamber I referred to those people by symbols and in one case I completely left out the name because it really was not important. Finally, I assure the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) that he made one mistake in a recent speech -
– Order! Again I must remind the honourable member for Fadden that he must not refer to a debate that has taken place in the current session.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am always one who abides by your rulings. I will leave the matter at that.
– I will not buy into the debate on the matter referred to by the honourable member for Fadden (Mr Donald Cameron). I will leave that to my colleagues. The honourable member for Mackellar (Mr Carlton), who spoke earlier during this debate, referred to expressways on the northern side of Sydney. The honourable member, who is not in the House at the moment, attacked the Premier of New South Wales and the New South Wales Minister for Transport. I might say that both the Premier and the Minister for Transport are doing a remarkable job. According to all the statistics and available surveys the New South Wales Labor Government will be in office for at least another 20 or 30 years.
Tonight I wish to speak about the important subject of unemployment. As late as last Thursday the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) said in this House that the unemployment situation was above politics. He asked for a joint committee to be established so that every effort could be made to eliminate the suffering of many Australians who are unemployed. After all, full employment should be the fundamental right of any person who is fit and well enough to work. I believe that any Commonwealth government should agree with this proposition.
I would like so speak tonight about an article that appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is a large, well-circulated newspaper which includes a feature called the ‘Monday Job Market’. It is the only large metropolitan newspaper in New South Wales, or in Australia, which every Monday at no cost to the employer or employee gives an opportunity for the unemployed person to put his message across for work and for the employer to ask for labour, that is, to advertise jobs. In this morning’s edition I read that a car dealer has vacancies for 30 employees. The article stated:
John Trlin says he is looking for 30 men, and a woman, from 1 5 to 52 years of age wanting to earn up to $50,000 a year.
The article reports Mr Trlin as saying:
I am desperate. I ‘m prepared to take people from technical courses and sales courses. I’ll teach them if they want it.
The article continued:
He said he would like men who can type and do shorthand.
Mr Trlin is reported as having stated that he has positions available for trainee salesmen to work 60 hours a week on commission only or on a retainer of $200 a week plus commission. He is looking for an insurance manager, who could earn $27,000 a year, an advertising manager, two service managers and a sales manager, who could earn $250 a week plus overtime. He is reported as having said:
I give young kids a go. If they come good in the week-end jobs I take them on as apprentices.
This intrigues me. I have great respect for the Monday Job Market’ in the Sydney Morning Herald. This chap is either a genius or a fraud and I think that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) should employ him because the Government might need him. He could be a great help to it. Many unemployed people not only in Sydney but also throughout Australia are working 20 to 30 hours a week part-time and have no union shops. Many people now do not have to join a union. I am wondering whether the Sydney Morning Herald, which started off trying to help unemployed people, might be encouraging this trend. People who can do the jobs advertised might not have to join a union, and people such as Mr Trlin who put small advertisements in the newspapers might be assisting the development of this very dangerous situation. Many constituents in my electorate have received employment as a result of newspaper advertisements. On most occasions their replies to the advertisements have been acknowledged. Sometimes they have replied to the advertisements but have received no answer from prospective employers. I think it is important in the unemployment situation we have today that every person has to play the game, whether he be an employee or an employer.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I want to bring to the attention of the House tonight a matter that should be of grave concern to us all. It is something that, I understand, has developed only in recent months and as yet has not reached major proportions. However, certainly it is on the verge of doing so if something is not done very soon by the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to the importation into Australia of radio frequency scanning equipment. This equipment scans UHF and VHF frequencies and, I understand, is being used in some areas of north Queensland by fishing fleets. The ramifications of its use are quite frightening especially when one considers that UHF and VHF frequencies are used in this country by police forces, defence personnel, other law enforcement agencies and a number of organisations to whom confidentiality on their radio frequencies is important. I understand that at the moment at least three types of scanners are being imported into Australia. The first is known as The Touch, which is produced by Westcom Communications Division of San Marcos in California. Another one is put out by the Realistic organisation and the third is put out by the Electric Co. of Indiana in Cumberland. It is called The Bearcat 210 and is a five band FM scanning receiver.
These receivers scan the selected frequencies at a sample of 20 per second which is a pretty fast rate. Obviously with this machine one could either hook onto a frequency, whether it be that used by the police or some other organisation, or constantly scan the frequency stopping at various positions to hear what is going on. The ramifications of the use of equipment such as this is frightening if it gets into the hands of the wrong people. I believe that a recording device can be attached to this equipment so virtually there could be a 24-hour operation. If the criminal element wanted to scan police frequencies there could be a 24-hour listening device installed to record every piece of information transmitted by a police force or other law enforcement agency. Because these sets are not used for picking up regular broadcasting or for transmitting they probably do not need to be licensed in Australia.
The other frightening thing is that if this equipment went on general sale in Australia it could be sold at just under $200 a set. It is on sale in the United States of America at the moment for some $299, so to suggest the $200 to $300 range in Australia would not be an exaggeration. I appeal to the customs authorities, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the office of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) to hurry up and get together and make some decision on this equipment. If they do not obviously the security of this nation could be very much at risk. The law enforcement agencies could find themselves in an incredible position because there would no no confidentiality attached to any of the messages they put on the air. I understand that officers have been looking at this equipment for some months but as yet have made no decision on whether they should stop its importation. I suggest that they make that decision as soon as they can.
– I intended speaking in the adjournment debate on one subject but as there are only two minutes remaining I will raise instead another matter. One of the difficulties that honourable members may be having with adjournment debates is that they do not know whether they will be called to speak. There does not seem to be any pattern of selection of honourable members to speak. I suggest to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for you to take up with Mr Speaker, that we use a system somewhat akin to that used at Question Time and have kept a list of honourable members who speak in the adjournment debate. I am not being critical of anyone here tonight, let me make that clear, but I think it would be an idea if we had a list kept to avoid the situation where an honourable member who has not spoken in the adjournment debate for three weeks comes into the chamber and does not get the call, yet somebody who has already spoken four or five times in adjournment debates in that period is given the call. The list system as it is used at Question Time is good. Such a list for adjournment debates would not prevent anybody from speaking if there was nobody else here wishing to speak, but it would give honourable members a fair opportunity to speak in the adjournment debate. I had intended to raise another matter and I notice that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) is in the chamber. I thank him for coming in and will raise the matter tomorrow night.
-I have noted the honourable member’s remarks. I mention that an examination of calls in the adjournment debate over several weeks revealed that there had been a fairly even distribution, although that could be only coincidence. I have noted the honourable member’s remarks and will take up the matter with Mr Speaker.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The House adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Insight Advertising Pty Ltd, recruitment advertising$ 1,490.91
Gordon and Gotch (A’asia) Ltd, recruitment addvertising$ 164.90
Edward H. O’Brien, telephone directory- $81.00
Hostel Facilities for Aborigines in Guildford Area (Question No. 134)
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February:
Community Relations on the difficulties encountered by Aboriginals in finding accommodation in the Guildford area (Hansard, 14 March 1978).
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
July 1977- The Western Australian State Departments for Community Welfare and Mental Health Services;
November 1977- Ananda Marga;
December 1977- Holmesdale Homes.
No applications for assistance for projects in the Guildford area are before my department for consideration under the Homeless Persons Assistance Act.
The attention of the Department of Social Security was drawn to the findings-
Aboriginal Children in the Northern Territory: Hearing Defects (Question No. 144)
am asked the Minister for Health, upon notice on 22 February 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Although statistics on this matter are not at present distinguishable by race, there are a small number of Aboriginal children with known, significant, permanent hearing defects who have not been fitted with hearing aids for various cultural and psychological adjustment reasons. At present there is a lack of acceptance ofhearing aids by many members of the Aboriginal population, especially in remote communities. It is anticipated that, with the increasing assistance of Aboriginal health workers who are in close communication with their own people, and are now receiving training in primary audiometric screening under the program, some of these cultural and psychological problems will be overcome.
An additional inducement to the wearing of hearing aids by severely handicapped children will be the production of a more acceptable device (now in the process of design at the National Acoustic Laboratories, Sydney)- that is one that is less obtrusive, more easily fitted, more robust, and therefore more suitable for Aboriginals living in these remote communities.
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
What is the estimated cost of increasing by $10 per week the means test free income allowed to (a) single and (b) married pensioners.
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question.
Department of the Treasury: Expenditure on Travel and Subsistence (Question No. 253)
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Overseas Travel- $ 178,335
Domestic Travel- $2,093,600.
These figures include amounts expended prior to 7 December 1976 on fares and travelling allowances for staff who, with the creation of the Department of Finance, were, as from that date,_transferred from the Treasury to the Department of Finance.
Overseas- 7.8 per cent
Domestic- 92.2 per cent.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
What overseas loans have been entered into by the Australian Government, on what terms and commission, and for what purposes during the periods (a) 1 July 1976 to 27 November 1976, (b) 28 November 1976 to 30 June 1977 and (c) 1 July 1977 to date.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Information on distribution of earnings is not available on an annual basis before 1 974. In May of that year, and in each subsequent May, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has undertaken a Survey of Earnings and Hours of Employees covering all employees, full-time and part-time, including managerial staff, with the exception of: members of the defence forces; employees in agriculture; employees in private households; waterside workers employed on a casual basis; persons employed by private employers (other than hospitals) not subject to payroll tax; employees on workers’ compensation.
On the basis of the Survey data, the answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2), (3) and (4) Australian National Railways does not presently advertise Trans-Australian Railway passenger services independently but participates with other systems in advertising through the Railways of Australia Organisation on an ongoing basis. As Trans-Australian Railway passenger services are part of a joint operation with other systems, it is considered that promotion should be undertaken on the same basis. Railways of Australia passenger advertising budget for 1977-78 is $208,000 which is used for promotion of passenger services in all States, on the basis 97 per cent television, 3 per cent press. ANR meets 13.25 per cent of this amount. In addition, there is incidental expenditure on publicity material such as timetables, booklets, strip maps and other material. Extensive use is also made of public relations avenues for promotion of these services. These include extension of free travel to television, press, radio and other media representatives for promotional purposes.
asked the Minister for Transport upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
What sum was paid by the Department of Social Security, or by Departments, formerly encompassing the functions now performed by the Department of Social Security, to each airline for air travel within Australia during 1 976-77.
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Payments in 1976-77 by the Department of Social Security were:
asked the Minister, representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The costs of employing these staff during 1976-77 were:
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 March 1978.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The provision, number and purpose of libraries in the Depanment have not been the subject of a specific review by the Public Service Board, except in relation to staff classifications. The numbers and levels of staff are kept under scrutiny by the Department’s Establishments personnel and the Public Service Board. See also (4) above.
Access to the collections by individuals such as Doctors, accredited research workers, university staff, students and interested members of the public is made by special arrangement on enquiry.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As a result of recent decisions by the Australian Transport Advisory Council, the third stage of the rule is currently scheduled to come into effect as from January 1 98 1 .
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
i ) My attention has been drawn to comments at pages 155 and 156 of the publication Report of the Indpendent Inquiry into the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation August 1977. It is a matter for regret that the Report includes such ill-researched, uninformed and incorrect statements and criticisms- see (2) and (3 ) below.
A review of these 35 projects shows:
Four incorporate precast wall panels (Library- Australian Capital Territory, Building Research LaboratoryVictoria, Mineralogy and Land Resources Laboratories- Western Australia, InspectoryQueensland)
Copper downpipes were used at the Fish Biology Laboratory to minimise salt water corrosion. They were also used encased in columns or recessed into brickwork thus minimising future maintenance which would be difficult or costly. In two instances they were used to match adjacent older buildings. Comparative extra costs compared with galvanised fittings were: Fish Biology Laboratory- $1,600, Soils Laboratory-$130, Urban Studies Building- $1,200, Stored Products Buildings- $2,700, Fluid Mechanics Laboratory $1,400 and Geomechanics Laboratory- $3,800.
Pyrex wastes are used where it is necessary to handle corrosive materials which cannot be handled satisfactorily by other materials including PVC. Comparative additional costs compared with other materials which would have been unsuitable were: Minerals Research Laboratories, Building 12 which was constructed before PVC wastes were provisionally approved by the responsbile Authority- $8,000, Agronomy Building-$ 1 ,000.
Precast concrete panels were necessary for the Inspectory building as brickwork would not meet security requirements. Precast wall panels were used elsewhere to match existing buildings or harmonise with surroundings. In some circumstances precast concrete can provide cost and time advantages compared with brickwork. Extra costs compared with brick construction are estimated to be: Library- nil, Building Research Laboratory- $4,900, Mineralogy and Land Resources Laboratories- $7,000.
The comments at page 156 of the Report that selection of these materials increased costs from double to six times are non specific and are misleading.
asked the Minister for Construction, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The statements are not correct.
The facilities have been designed and constructed in accordance with the CSIRO brief and, in fact, incorporate major economies identified by the Department of Construction following examination of this brief. CSIRO accepted the Department’s advice that savings could be made without detriment to their functional requirements including an estimated $650,000 savings on emergency power and vibration control requirements.
These and other savings relating to finishes and standards may not have been achieved if the funds had been controlled by CSIRO or if the Department and CSIRO had not been working in close co-operation.
Continuity of screening is provided by lA “galvanised wire netting in the cavity brick walls and by the metal deck roofing, all of which are effectively earthed. Although installed for its electro-magnetic screening properties, the reflective properties of the glass also reduce the radiant heat load on the building and resulted in substantial savings in the cost of airconditioning plant, window treatments, and sunscreens. In addition, the operating cost of the airconditioning plant is reduced by up to $ 1 5,000 per annum.
If charges of extravagance amounting to misuse of public funds are made it might be expected as a matter of prudence and of responsible procedure that conclusions reached would be supported by fact and would have been checked with the Depanment concerned. This was not done and the Report’s conclusion that considerable savings could have been made in the construction of the National Measurement Laboratories if CSIRO had controlled the funds is without foundation.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780410_reps_31_hor108/>.