31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petitionof the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 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’ Housing1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent or 283,000 home owning pensioners have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen, Dr Edwards, Mr James, Mr Keith Johnson and Dr Klugman.
To 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 Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray.
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (CMF) and the RAAF Citizens Air Force. by Mr Lionel Bowen.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. We, the undersigned residents of Australia, do hereby humbly request that the television signal transmitted from ABNS Channel 3 near Tumby Bay S.A. be upgraded, as present low signal strength is allowing intolerable interference with reception over most of the viewing area.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
– I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: What is the purpose for which land bought at Bundall, Queensland, on 4 February 1977 by the Australian Postal Commission is to be used? For how long prior to the purchase had the Commission been seeking land in the Bundall area? What departmental officers or Government members were aware of the Commission’s interest in acquiring land at Bundall?
– I will make inquiries about the matter raised by the honourable member and give him an answer as soon as possible.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade and Resources. I ask: What would be the effect on the Australian beef industry of proposed action by the United States further to restrict beef imports? What action is the Government taking in response to this new threat to Australian producers?
– Bills are before the United States Congress at the moment to introduce a counter-cyclical element in relation to beef import regulations. This is giving a great deal of concern to us because its impact will be to restrict on occasions the quantity of beef going into the United States. For instance, if it had applied for the year 1977 we would have got 23 per cent less beef into the United States. We find it quite incredible that at a time when beef prices are going up so rapidly in the United States- in fact they have doubled during the course of this year from about 50c per lb to over 100c per lb- the United States Congress is thinking of action that would have the effect of restraining imports and making the price to the consumer in the United States even greater. Vice-President Mondale will be coming to Australia next week and, apart from expressing our concern about this legislation, we intend making the most of the opportunity to ask that the United States give consideration to a further extension of Australia’s entitlement this year.
As the honourable member is aware from my answer to a question yesterday, we have been exporting at a faster rate this year than in previous years. Had not the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation imposed a limit or put aside a certain allocation for later this year, there would not have been any available market for a pan of this year. As our main market, that could have had disastrous effects. So we believe there is a strong argument, with beef prices in America going up, that America ought to give consideration to a further allocation of meat rather than to have any thought of imposing restrictive measures.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that in February last year the Australian Postal Commission purchased land at Bundall on Queensland ‘s Gold Coast from Ron McMaster Pty Ltd for $280,000? Is it also a fact that less than four weeks previous to that Ron McMaster Pty Ltd had bought the land from Watkins Ltd for $240,000? What discussions, if any, did the Postal Commission have with the former Minister for Post and Telecommunications about the matter before it was finalised?
– As I said in response to an earlier question on the same matter, I shall make inquiries and let the honourable member know the answer as soon as possible.
-Could the Treasurer inform the House of the current state of discussions between the Commonwealth and the States concerning the proposed new guidelines for infrastructure financing?
-I inform the House, as it would probably be aware, that in October of last year there was agreement between the Prime Minister and the six Premiers that an examination be made to determine whether the rules governing infrastructure financing could be made more flexible. As a consequence of that agreement a group of Commonwealth and State officials met. With the exception of one matter relating to voting arrangements, there was unanimous agreement between those officials regarding a more flexible arrangement for infrastructure finance borrowings which would give to the States greater scope and greater flexibility. In March of this year the Prime Minister wrote to the six Premiers indicating that the Commonwealth would be prepared to support that report before the Loan Council and that in respect of voting arrangements the Commonwealth believed that, consistent with its national economic responsibilities, any proposals under the new guidelines would need to be approved by a simple majority, including the Commonwealth.
As I think some honourable gentlemen are aware, some Premiers have balked at the suggestion that the Commonwealth should be part of the simple majority. Whilst the Commonwealth is prepared to talk about the voting arrangements with the States at some future meeting, it believes that its responsibilities for national economic management can be discharged effectively only if the voting arrangements outlined by the Prime Minister are adhered to. The really important aspect of these new guidelines is that the greater flexibility provided in them be taken advantage of by the States in terms of putting proposals to the Loan Council.
One State in particular- that is, South Australiahas already indicated through its Premier a particular proposal. I have suggested to the South Australian Premier that that proposal be particularised as quickly as possible. I think it is important that the attitude of the Commonwealth towards voting arrangements for loan approvals be made quite clear because, particularly in the light of some statements made by the New South Wales Premier yesterday prior to his departure overseas, the view may be developing that in some way the general arrangements that have prevailed in relation to overseas borrowings by the Commonwealth in the past will be altered; they will not. We believe that national economic responsibilities are involved and that the type of voting arrangements that we have proposed for the new infrastructure guidelines take account of the needs of the States but equally take account of the legitimate right of the Commonwealth effectively to discharge its national economic responsibilities.
– My question without notice is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it normal practice for the Government to provide windfall profits of $40,000 to its political supporters as a result of land purchases by Commonwealth departments or authorities? What procedures exist to ensure that land bought on behalf of government departments and authorities is not bought from land speculators who have access to inside information?
-The honourable the Minister for Post and Telecommunications.
– I directed my question to the Prime Minister.
-The question asked by the honourable gentleman obviously relates to earlier questions which have been asked of me and, as I have already said, I shall make inquiries and let the honourable member know the answers to those questions.
-Is the Minister for Defence aware of Press reports indicating that the Richmond air base in New South Wales may be moved to Dubbo? Is there any substance in those reports? If so, will the Minister welcome submissions from centres other than Dubbo, such as Parkes, which would be eminently suitable as an alternative location for the Richmond air base?
Is the Minister aware of the most important fact that Parkes is located in the electorate of Calare?
– I have not the slightest doubt that Parkes represents a heavenly existence in more ways than one. I do not wish to disappoint the honourable member but there is not in existence any proposal whatever to move the RAAF base away from Richmond, let alone to move it to Parkes.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Following the collapse of VIP Insurances Ltd in which Mr Makler syphoned off some $2m, leaving 60,000 policy holders without coverage, to safeguard the interests of policy holders, shareholders and creditors in the future, will he take appropriate action to prevent directors or other officers of companies leaving Australia when such action is recommended as a result of inquiries by either corporate or insurance affairs commissioners? Is it a fact that there are similarities between the collapse of VIP in New South Wales and V and G in the United Kingdom? As with V and G, will the Minister set up a wide ranging inquiry headed by an actuary to investigate and report upon the methods by which accounting procedures for general insurance companies may be tightened up to avoid situations leading to insolvency? Finally, is the Minister aware that very liberal exchange control procedures exist relating to reinsurance transactions? In view of the exploitation of these procedures in two areas, first the syphoning off of profits to overseas parent companies, and secondly, as is highly probable with the VTP company, the transfer of reinsurance funds outside Australia, will he take immediate steps to instruct the Reserve Bank to close those loopholes?
– The honourable member has asked a most detailed question regarding an area in which I know he has taken a very conscientious and genuine interest over a period of years. I treat the question seriously. I shall have examined the proposals that the honourable gentleman makes. At this stage I cannot indicate even a tentative response as to what the Government’s attitude is. I should like to make two general observations; first, that the circumstances surrounding the going into liquidation of VIP Insurance did cause the Government considerable concern. As the honourable member knows, a provisional liquidator has been appointed by the New South Wales Supreme Court and certain interim arrangements covering policy holders of
VIP Insurance were made speedily by the provisional liquidator. Of course, investigations regarding possible breaches of New South Wales law are being pursued by the appropriate New South Wales authorities, in particular by a special investigator who has been appointed under the New South Wales Companies Act.
I make no comment at this stage regarding the conduct of the managing director of the company. Inclusive offences and so forth have not been established and I refrain from making a qualitative comment about the behaviour of that particular gentleman. I make two final remarks. Naturally, a happening of this nature ought to cause any government to look again at the legislative procedures which govern an industry. But in so doing, I think it has to be borne in mind that there are certain things from which no amount of legislation can protect the community. We cannot legislate to make people more commercially competent. We cannot legislate to make people individually more honest. What we can do is to provide a proper level of protection consistent with the need not to over-burden the honest and competent sections of an industry with unnecessary regulation.
I conclude by saying that to my knowledge, from advice I have received, this is the first occasion on which a liquidation has occurred in an insurance company since the operation of the 1973 legislation. I want to make it very clear that in the Government’s view this particular occurrence does not in any way represent a general instability or general difficulty in the insurance industry throughout Australia. I regard that industry as extremely competent, extremely stable and extremely reliable. I do not think it is proper to infer from this occurrence that there is a general state of difficulty or malaise in the entire industry.
-I ask the Prime Minister: Has he recently visited the proposed Kakadu National Park area? Does he believe that the establishment of this national park is significant for Australia and, in addition, will have international relevance in the preservation of unique ecological and wilderness areas and important Aboriginal sites of world significance?
– I have visited the Kakadu National Park on a number of occasions. A few years ago I spent a couple of weeks in the region looking quite closely at a number of aspects of the park. It is an area of major consequence to Australia. The fauna and flora- the ecology- of the area, the Aboriginal sacred sites and rock paintings make the total area unique. It is an area of major national significance. In terms of the environment, I suggest that it would be one of the major national parks, not only for Australia but also for the world. It is something which needs preserving, not only for the present but also for all future generations.
-Has the Prime Minister noted a report that a submission which has been before Cabinet seeks an alteration to the motor vehicle local content plan to assist Chrysler Australia Ltd and possibly other motor manufacturing companies? Is there any truth in this report? In view of the present calamitous situation at Chrysler, with 1,100 South Australians being thrown out of work, will the Prime Minister inform us about this submission? If the Labor Government’s four-cylinder engine rationalisation plan had not been scrapped by the Prime Minister’s Government, is it a fact that the present disaster would not have happened?
– I am not aware of any report or any such submission. At the same time it ought to be noted that the present car plan as devised by the present Government in co-operation with the industry was, we believed- I think the industry understood this also- the best arrangement that could be devised for the motor industry under the existing circumstances. The honourable gentleman will be aware also that one of the factors which had to be taken into account was the entry into the market of the Nissan and Toyota organisations. Under the circumstances that they had established there were very heavy imports of cars from overseas, particularly from Japan. It was therefore a question of encouraging local content in their vehicles, rather than the high level of imports which was damaging Australian employment and Australian production. On this occasion it is well worth recalling what happened on another occasion when the P76 went out of production. Before that occurred the Minister for Social Security at the time, who was also, I think, Acting Treasurer pan of the time, described that car as a lemon and did what he could to hasten its unhappy end.
– Who said that?
-The Minister for Social Security of the time said it. The Daily Telegraph of 10 October 1974 reported Mr Hayden ‘s comments on a television program on reports that Leyland had closed its plant at Zetland and that thousands of its employees faced dismissal. He said that other manufacturers would sell more cars if Leyland ceased production and that this could lead to a transfer of labour to those manufacturers. He said that the public had shown that it did not want to buy the P76 Leyland car and that the car was a lemon. The Sydney Morning Herald of 10 October 1974 reported that the then Acting Treasurer had indicated the previous night that the Government was unlikely to extend any further assistance to Leyland than the purchase of land. On the television program This Day Tonight he is reported to have said:
I would have reservations about handing out taxpayers ‘ money towards propping up an organisation that had made a bad business decision; that had lost the race in the competitive market forces that we respond to.
That was an odd comment considering that the Labor Party itself destroyed competitive market forces. On the television program Mr Hayden said also that the company had produced a lemon in the P76 and was clearly a casualty of market forces and that to intervene would be to impose a choice on consumers who had shown that they preferred other cars. It is perfectly plain that Belly-aching Bill is continuing on his normal path. When he was in government he was trying to point the bone at one company after another.
– What is arrogant, stuck-up Mai going to do?
-Apparently that term is biting home in more than one belly.
-Order! I ask the right honourable gentleman not to refer to another honourable member other than by his office in the Parliament.
-Mr Speaker, I certainly shall not do so, however tempting it might be when the honourable gentleman’s favourite author has coined the phrase. We have a situation in which the Leader of the Opposition is continuing on the same path. It is perfectly plain that his practice is to be a prophet of doom in relation to Australian industy. This is in marked contrast to the circumstances in which Chrysler Australia Ltd has indicated its own confidence in the future. Chrysler has had problems but there is a restructuring in process and it has confidence in its new operations and partnership which it believes gives it a permanent and secure place in Australia. I hope all honourable members of this Parliament will give Chrysler every encouragement.
-Has the Leader of the House observed that up to 4 April there were 781 unanswered questions on the Notice Paper. What steps does he propose to take, either through the House Committee or Mr Speaker, to ensure that questions placed on the Notice Paper by honourable members are answered?
-Ministers always try to respond to questions on notice as quickly as the detailed information often required can be collated. I should say that not all questions on notice seem to bear the measure of urgency that the honourable member’s question suggests. Indeed, one can almost imagine that some of them have been placed on the Notice Paper because it is intended deliberately to take up the time of departmental officers who might reasonably be otherwise engaged in the development of policy and programs which are very much in the interests of the Australian people. It is important in the allocation of time that Ministers ensure that departmental officers have the same priorities as apply in the administration of the Government’s policies. I assure the House that Ministers attempt to respond to all questions on notice as quickly as is reasonable possible. In turn, might I suggest to honourable members that if they wish to secure information they do not ask questions on notice when the information is almost as easily available for members through the Parliamentary Library services or through some other public document from which honourable members can glean information simply by going to an index and looking it up for themselves.
Mr HAYDEN The Prime Minister would have noted in this morning’s newspapers reports of a joint venture between Conzinc Riotinto of Australia and Korf Industries of Germany to establish a steel mill in Victoria. Does he recall in the Government’s Foreign Investment Review Board guidelines a quote from the former Treasurer to this effect:
We will provide the maximum opportunity for Australians to participate as fully and effectively as practicable in the ownership and control of this country’s industries and natural resources.
I ask the Prime Minister: In the event of this undertaking proceeding, what steps does the Government have in mind to guarantee Australian participation? At what level would Australian participation be sought? Would the Government bear in mind the regional development and employment maximisation objectives of any such undertaking, especially in terms of areas which are suffering economic disadvantage of a long term nature?
– I suggest that the honourable gentleman read again the Act under which the Foreign Investment Review Board operates and the annual report of the Review Board. He will note quite well that any country seeking to operate an overseas concern in Australia must make application at appropriate times to the Review Board.
-Has the Minister for Primary Industry seen newspaper reports referring to the possibility that the Federal Government may subsidise the sale of 60,000 tonnes of beef to Russia? Can the Minister inform the House of the truth of these reports and the general position regarding orders for beef from Russia?
-I know the concern of the honourable gentleman at the plight of the beef industry. It is a concern that is shared by many honourable members in this House. Unfortunately, the suggestion that I read in the newspaper this morning rather intimates that the Russians in particular have already said that they are prepared to purchase beef and that the only factor that is stopping our achieving a sale is that the Government has not said that it will provide a subsidy. I am not aware of any current negotiations by the Soviet to buy meat. Indeed, I am advised that the Soviet has not purchased meat since September 1977. We had rather hoped that it might have participated in the market before this. Indeed, the Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Resources and myself have severally spoken to a number of persons including two Russian Ministers, both of whom were recently in Australia, about the prospects of purchases by the Soviet Government of meat.
The Soviet Government unfortunately does not set any regular purchasing pattern. I think it is to be regretted that it seems to be in and out of the market. It seems to act as an opportunity purchaser. Under those circumstances, I am afraid that even if some assistance were to be provided to the meat industry there is no certainty, as I understand the position at the moment, that the Russians would in fact purchase any meat. The Soviet certainly does have a long term program and we have been told that it does envisage that it will be buying beef in the future. I do not believe that the suggestion made in the newspaper this morning will in any way help to accelerate the implementation of that long term program. From the Government’s point of view, we are keen to sell meat at a reasonable price and to get the maximum part of that price to producers. If a subsidy is to be provided, my own inclination would be that that subsidy would best be directed towards the producer rather than towards the Russian consumer. For that reason, I am not particularly sympathetic to the proposition.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Primary Industry, ls it a fact that the Government has before it proposals for a trade-off, beef for fish, under a joint venture proposition whereby the Russians would, under licence, fish in Australian waters following the declaration of the 200-mile economic zone? What progress has been made with this proposition? Will he seek to bring it to a successful conclusion as quickly as possible in view of the grim and continually deteriorating position of beef producers in this country?
-Of all the policies that failed abysmally during those rather sad years from 1973 to 1975, 1 think that resources diplomacy was one of the more notable. The Australian Labor Party Government had some great concept of being able to trade off political advantage for economic gain. Opposition members, in the presentation of their ideas, do not seem to be able to divorce that failed concept from what we in fact do. What we have done on a number of occasions is to speak to overseas customers, firstly about the matters with which we are concerned and then, hopefully, about the matters with which they are concerned. Certainly the Soviet is interested in fishing in the 200-mile fishing zone in Australian waters.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I would be grateful if the National Country Party Minister could define -
-Order! The honourable gentleman will define his point of order.
– I would like to know whether he means communist Russia or Soviet Russia. In foreign affairs matters it is ‘communist’ and in trade it is ‘Soviet’.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order.
-I do not think the honourable gentleman’s intervention did him much credit. Fairly naturally, there is very real and wide interest in the 200-mile fishing zone around Australia. The Soviet, Japan and a good many other countries are interested in fishing those waters. What we intend to do is firstly, to develop a policy of access which hopefully will provide the maximum benefit to Australian fishermen; secondly, to provide joint ventures in which there might be some overseas interests and, hopefully, some expertise and management skills; and thirdly, to take account or what other countries might be able to use of any available residual resource. We are interested in looking at feasibility fishing projects. I have spoken about that subject in the House before. Therefore, it is not a queston of fish for beef. What it is a question of is ensuring that we maximise what advantages we have, by trying to ensure that, where countries have an interest in some form of trade, commerce or resource development in this country, we look at those areas where we can also maximise that resource development to our advantage. It will be with that general objective that this Government will pursue its policy in trying to sell beef, minerals and other commodities overseas.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Can honourable members take it from his answer yesterday that the high level conference in Jamaica has now been abandoned? Has the Minister for Special Trade Representations expressed any concern about this matter while he has been in Europe in the past month? In particular, has he asked West Germany why it withdrew its support from the Jamaican conference? In any event could the Prime Minister tell us what was on the agenda for the Jamaican conference and, in particular, what commodities were to be discussed? If the Jamaican conference is off, does he propose to take some initiatives himself to arrange another conference? Does he now propose to go to Europe? Will that be before or after he goes to the United States? Will the Minister for Special Trade Representations make his third trip to Europe to accompany the Prime Minister, or will he wait for the Prime Minister there?
– As the honourable gentleman would know, the Minister for Special Trade Representations has a particular task in relation to negotiations with the European Economic Community. I was glad to note that, however difficult the honourable gentleman might think that task to be, on a radio program a few mornings ago he lent general support to the objective of achieving greater access for Australian products in markets overseas. That is something which all members of this Parliament ought to support.
The bilateral discussions, which have been planned from the time of my last visit to Europe and the European Economic Community commissioners in June of last year, are now scheduled to take place in the early part of June. I have no doubt that those discussions will proceed. The
Minister for Special Trade Representations will be returning to Australia very shortly. He will obviously have to be in Europe for those discussions scheduled in June. During recent days he has been visiting various Common Market capitals again to press Australia’s cause and the validity of that cause. I would add that greater access to markets for agricultural products is of vast importance not only to this country but also to many others because, as I have said on other occasions, if future trade negotiations between countries were to concentrate on industrial goods alone one would find that the area under the ambit of those proposals would represent less than 20 per cent of world trade. The proposed tariff cuts starting from 1 980 will be about half of one per cent a year on average spread over about eight years. It is difficult to see resulting from that the kind of stimulus to world trade and to the growth in world markets that is required if we are to get the economies of many countries moving forward at a faster rate than is now the case.
It is too early to assume that Prime Minister Manley ‘s initiative will fall to the ground. A number of countries have not yet made a firm decision and I indicated, I think yesterday or the day before, the position in relation to Canada and Germany. I think both countries are quite critical to that initiative. What happens if it does not proceed remains to unfold. The broad agenda for the discussion was not constructed in any formal sense. It was constructed to try to create amongst a number of national leaders a greater sense of urgency so that their countries could give renewed impetus to the Multilateral Trade Negotiations, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, North-South matters and general policies and attitudes in relation to the common fund. The broad thrust of the meeting was certainly something that Australia not only could but would want to support. We have taken our own initiatives in relation to the common fund, as the honourable gentleman knows. I have indicated that we will be seeking every opportunity, through not only the Minister for Trade and Resources but also other Ministers, in appropriate forums to argue for maximum possible results of MTN in industrial goods and also of course in agricultural and other commodities.
The agenda for the Jamaican meeting was designed on a fairly broad basis. It was designed to put a stimulus and a thrust, coming from a number of countries, into the formal MTN and UNCTAD negotiations in which decisions will be made over the next few months. I am certain that the meeting was to a large extent motivated by a concern that those particular formal discussions might not be forward looking enough or constructive enough and that the countries might approach them with too rigid and fixed positions. When in a fixed and rigid negotiating position in a formal meeting it is sometimes difficult to break out of it. I think it would be unfortunate if the Manley initiative does not proceed because Australia certainly saw merit in it.
Mr PETER JOHNSON Is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware of the article in today’s Australian Financial Review which outlines the results of a survey conducted into the operation of the Special Youth Employment Training Program? Is it not a fact that SYETP has provided jobs for an increasing number of young people who had been unemployed? Is it a fact that more people than ever before are being assisted by the program? Can the Minister give members from both sides of the House some information in relation to the number of young people who have used this scheme to assist those people who do not have jobs to be trained by this excellent innovative program of the Government?
– I have seen the article to which the honourable member referred. I would like to inform him and the House that since this program was introduced more than 40,000 young people who were unemployed have been assisted. I have the figures to 3 1 March this year. At that date more than 19,000 young people were being assisted under SYETP which, as the honourable gentleman would know, has now been extended to cater for people up to 24 years of age who have been unemployed for four months or more. That figure of more than 19,000 compares with a figure of some 6,000 at the same time a year ago. The Special Youth Employment Training Program has proved most successful because it concentrates on on-the-job training and relevant work experience for young people who have been unemployed. I think it would be of interest to the honourable gentleman and to the House if I gave some information relating to the survey about which he has spoken. At the time last when the survey was taken, the criteria were somewhat different. For example, the age limit was 19 years. Those people eligible had to be unemployed for six months during the last 12 months and had to be away from full-time education for at least six months.
The trainees in the survey were very young. About one-third of them were under 1 7 years of age, about one-third were aged 17 years and one-third were between 17 years and 19 years of age. Bearing in mind those criteria and the numbers involved, it is clear that SYETP has provided employment for tens of thousands of young people who otherwise would have been very unlikely to get employment. These numbers are increasing. More opportunities are being provided for young people who are very disadvantaged in the labour market. The Government will continue to monitor this program which is proving to be one of the most successful programs it has introduced.
- Mr Speaker, I rise to take a point of order. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations was referring to and reading from a document which he described as part of the survey. I ask the the Minister to table the survey itself.
– I do not have the survey with me. I was talking only from notes.
– I direct to the Prime Minister a question which concerns his claims that the Government’s economic strategy has been vindicated by the recent report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on Australia. Has the Prime Minister noted reports of statements by the right honourable member for Lowe that people should not take much notice of such OECD reports on Australia because they are edited by Treasury officials, and that although all countries do some editing, no one does it with quite the same intensity as we do?
-Order! The Prime Minister is not responsible for statements made by the right honourable member for Lowe. I will give the honourable gentleman the opportunity to put his question in order but if he proceeds on that line, I will have to rule the question out of order.
- Mr Speaker, the question is based on the Prime Minister’s claims that the report of the OECD supports the Government’s economic strategy.
-I suggest that the honourable gentleman ask his question.
– Does the Prime Minister deny the validity of the remarks of the right honourable member for Lowe? If so, how does he account for the fact that the report on Australia runs quite contrary to recent reports on Great Britain and the Netherlands and to more general reports of the OECD and statements of recent times, all of which have stressed the desirability of more stimulatory policies being adopted?
-The honourable gentleman seems to show a very serious misconception of Australia ‘s policies. At the time of the presentation of the last Budget it was indicated that very substantial tax cuts would be introduced starting from 1 February 1978. Quite obviously, those tax cuts, as inflation comes further under control, are providing additional purchasing power throughout the Australian community. I suppose that if one wanted to use the word ‘stimulus’ in relation to those tax cuts, one could do so. But it is quite a responsible and appropriate way to do the job in our circumstances without in any sense lessening the importance of the fight against inflation. It is interesting again to note that the honourable gentleman is seeking to belittle the nature of a report which is highly creditable to Australia. The report will be hailed overseas as a mark of the sense of soundness of Australia’s economic policies. If the honourable gentleman was wanting to know which of the statements of the right honourable member for Lowe I agreed with or disagreed with, he would have to point much more accurately to which of the right honourable gentleman’s statements he was referring.
-I direct a question to the Treasurer. Has the waiting period for loans from New South Wales building societies recently been increased from three weeks to about six months? Does this reflect a serious fall in building society capital inflow following the marginal reduction in interest rates? What will be done to redress this situation?
-As to the first part of the question, I will find out, but I point out to the honourable gentleman that I am not responsible, nor is the Federal Government, in this respect. The waiting period for loans is determined by permanent building societies in New South Wales. As the honourable gentleman would be aware, so far as the general flow of funds into building societies and other financial institutions is concerned, we are currently in the seasonal rundown period. It is normal at this time of the year for there to be a greater degree of tightness than exists at other times of the year. I think it is fair to say that most observers of the rundown period would agree that the market is handling the rundown without undue strain and that the flow of funds, whilst naturally less at this time of the year than at other times of the year, has not been unduly constrained. The Government is keeping a close eye on the comparative flow of funds into the building societies, banks, and the Uke, and will continue to keep that monitoring under attention. I do not believe that the general level of lending figures supports the charge implicit in the honourable gentleman’s question, that is, that the liquidity position of building societies is more strained than it ought to be.
-Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
-I made an error in calling two questions in succession from the Opposition side. I would ask the Prime Minister’s co-operation to permit another question to be called from the Government side so that the balance of the two sides is maintained.
– I have asked that further questions be placed on the notice paper. Could I suggest that the balance be reinstated tomorrow?
by leave- I wish to inform the House of the decision the Government has now taken in regard to the acquisition of two aircraft to be operated by No. 34 Squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force. The Government is concerned that the means of air travel available to national leaders and, from time to time, to visiting dignitaries and groups of ministers, fail to provide protection against terrorist activity or other threats against security. Where commercial flights are used this risk extends to all passengers. An assessment of aircraft security considerations has been undertaken. This assessment indicates that the security risk in travel by foreign owned commercially scheduled aircraft or by privately owned chartered aircraft, whether Australian owned or foreign owned, is unacceptably high.
Personal contact with governments of other countries is now becoming increasingly important in inter-government relationships. This factor is imposing increasing demands on the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his staff to travel overseas, often at comparatively short notice. It is not always practicable to look to Australian Airlines, be it Qantas or the internal commercial carriers, to provide at relatively short notice charter aircraft for overseas flights, Internally, similar considerations apply. In a country so dependent on air travel, internally and externally, the Government recognises that the use of special transport aircraft owned and operated by the Defence Force offers a positive advantage in isolating from normal commercial traffic what could at any time be attractive targets for terrorist activity.
In considering how this government and future governments might best respond to situations of risk which cannot be forecast, but ought to be insured against, and recognising that situations can arise with unpredictable suddenness, the Government has examined various options. Members of the House will know that the No. 34 Squadron is presently equipped with two HS748 aircraft, three Mystere 20 aircraft and two BACIII aircraft. Of these the BACIII has the greatest range and passenger capacity but, even for long-range flights within Australia, intermediate refuelling is required. Whilst this is generally acceptable, the major disadvantage of the current aircraft fleet is that they are twin-engined aircraft unsuitable for long over-water flights. The option of chartering Qantas Boeing 707 aircraft, which has been a practice of Australian governments in the past, will no longer be available once the last of the Qantas 707 aircraft are phased out in the not too distant future. Aircraft types then available would be too costly for chaner, and they would not readily be available without severely disrupting normal scheduled airline services, particularly at relatively short notice.
The practical option remaining is for the Government to acquire aircraft capable of longrange over-water flights. Such aircraft would necessarily have at least three engines, and an extended range capability. Enhanced passenger space and facilities and baggage capacity compared with existing aircraft in the special transport fleet are necessary. The Government therefore has decided to acquire two Boeing 727 type aircraft. The possibility of acquiring secondhand aircraft will be examined. Such aircraft can be acquired on world markets at reasonable cost, and aircraft with adequate airframe life remaining should be available if we proceed now. As these Boeing aircraft are presently in Australian airline service, the possibility of linking in with their maintenance and spares support organisation is being examined. This would minimise the costs and the demands placed on Air Force resources.
The cost of two Boeing 727 type aircraft will depend on detailed evaluation of available aircraft and of the prospects of successful price negotiation. I will inform the House when I have more information on this aspect. For the time being the existing aircraft in No. 34 Squadron will remain in service. When the Boeing 727 aircraft come into operation, an examination will be made of the longer-term rationalisation of the aircraft in No. 34 Squadron, against the background of security requirements and the pattern of increased usage. All aircraft in No. 34 Squadron are available for service transport duties in the event of an emergency. I present the following paper.
Acquisition of Aircraft by Royal Australian Air ForceMinisterial Statement, 4 May 1978.
-by leave-The House must be shocked at the audacity of the Government in bringing forward such a proposal at this time. It is not much more than two years ago that the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and his Ministers were making repeated accusations about the cost of overseas travel by charter aircraft by the then Prime Minister. The Prime Minister of today made it clear to this House, to the public of Australia, and to anyone who would listen that he would use what he called the open cheaper method of commercial transport. I did not agree with that proposition then, and I do not agree with it now.
The Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) has been sent into the House on a mission for the Prime Minister. This is not a defence matter in the proper sense of the word. It is a matter of government policy whereby the Department of Defence operates a fleet of aircraft on behalf of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, with ministerial control resting with the Minister. The audacity of the Prime Minister in this case is shown by the very reasons that have been given for the purchase of two Boeing 727 aircraft, an aircraft which does not fit into the general pattern and structure of the No. 34 Squadron or the maintenance capacity of the Royal Australian Air Force in general. The Air Force has no Boeing aircraft, but it does have available to it aircraft of other makes that may provide suitable alternatives. It is an aircraft which is to be purchased exclusively for use in overseas travel by Ministers, but one has to say that it will almost exclusively be for the use of the Prime Minister.
I doubt that many Ministers would have the muscle to be able to use such an aircraft, other than in group travel. The cost of the purchase of these aircraft is not able to be assessed but, with the necessary examinations and other arrangements which have to be entered into and with the fittings and equipment which have to be installed in order to maintain and fly these aircraft because the facilities required are not in keeping with other facilities in the Royal Australian Air Force, it has to be in the $20m to $40m bracket. One day after a substantial proportion of the work force in the Australian motor industry, for example, has been told that its jobs are on the line and only a few weeks after another Minister has conducted a purge on people receiving $49 a week in unemployment benefits- a purge in which half of them were denied income for four weeks and denied compensation when they were reinstated- the Government suddenly finds that it has $20m to $40m to purchase two aircraft for a Prime Minister to travel overseas, when that Prime Minister said that it was improper and a waste of public funds for a former Prime Minister to use charter aircraft for which the government of the day had financial responsibility only for the short time that it was in use. It would take a lot of overseas travel to justify the purchase of two aircraft- not one aircraft but two aircraft- to convey the Prime Minister outside Australia. We are not able to compare the cost of his cheaper commercial travel, which he stressed greatly in his earlier days in office before he suddenly found that political gimmickry was not as important as his own personal comfort, with the cost of charter travel by the former Prime Minister because the cost of that travel was the total cost, including departmental officers and others.
– And all his friends and relations.
-For the information of the honourable member for Bendigo, I point out that only two days ago the Department of Productivity incurred the cost of bringing an aircraft to Canberra in order to give a ride to a friend of the Prime Minister. It was intended to take the aircraft to his home. I would be interested to see whether that Department actually sells an aircraft.
I return to the subject matter of the statement of the Minister for Defence. The costs of charter travel by the former Prime Minister were available to this House and were subject to criticism. The costs of overseas travel presented to this House by the present Prime Minister and by some of his Ministers could not be described in any other way than as a misstatement of actual costs of overseas travel. We were provided with information in answer to a question which indicated that one of the Prime Minister’s trips overseas cost $845. 1 would love to find the formula by which that can be done. We were informed also that a six-day overseas trip by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) had cost $62. 1 would like to find out how that can be done too. The Government is refusing to disclose the actual costs of the Prime Minister’s overseas travel by allocating the expenses involved to various departments, and the Ministers concerned refuse to answer questions which are placed on the Notice Paper and which are relevant to those departments and those costs. So we have the Prime Minister saying repeatedly that charter travel by a former Prime Minister cost X number of dollars and that it was an extravagant waste of money but refusing to allow to be examined the cost of his own overseas travel which in many cases has been greater. For the benefit of honourable members opposite, I inform them that on one occasion the Prime Minister had the airport at Singapore tied up completely for two hours because of a security problem on a commercial aircraft on which he was to travel. That was to the total inconvenience of the other passengers.
– What are you saying?
– What I am saying is that we have a double standard government which has suddenly decided that having taken all the profit it can find out of abusing a system that it now finds to be acceptable, it will not purchase an aircraft or charter aircraft but will in fact purchase two aircraft for the Prime Minister’s private use and overseas travel. It would be interesting to know exactly what level of usage is involved, what the cost is and what the alternative cost of using charter aircraft might be. I would suggest that charter aircraft would be readily available. We do not know the cost of the Prime Minister’s travel by commercial aircraft. Ministers have refused to disclose that and the Parliament has been denied those figures. The Government wishes to cover them up. The cost to the Press corps which accompanies the Prime Minister on his overseas travel by utilising commercial aircraft rather than travelling as they did previously, and most likely some of them will in the future and that might be the reason for the second aircraft, on charter flights on a paytheirway basis, was nearly doubled in some instances, especially for TV crews where they were required to use commercial aircraft. That was occasioned merely through gimmickry. That is all it was.
– That is why the Government is buying these aircraft.
-The Government is buying these aircraft because the Prime Minister’s personal comfort has been disturbed and the Government is now of the view that it has wrung every drop of political advantage out of its previous stance, which the honourable member now admits was a dishonest stance. I should like to raise a matter that is not set out in the paper but I would hope that the Minister for Defence can advise me. Who will pay for these aircraft? Is it an appropriation taken from the capital expenditure of defence or will it be a special appropriation made by the Treasury for this specific purpose?
– It does not come out of the defence vote.
– I am at least glad about that. That means that another 25 departments will be looking at their budgetary arrangements to see which one of them will lose between $20m and $40m. The Government has already committed itself to no increase in expenditure from its budgetary arrangements. The Government is being quite dishonest with the House in relation to this matter. The Prime Minister is showing his opportunist nature and the manner in which he is willing to manipulate the truth and the manner in which government services are conducted or ought to be conducted in order to achieve his own political advantage. Government supporters will have to answer why they carried out a campaign of vilification against a former Prime Minister for the manner of travel he used on the advice of security officers. They will have to answer why they have been consistently denying the Parliament details of the cost of the Prime Minister’s overseas travel during the past two years. So far the Government has supplied figures such as $62 for an overseas trip. One could not do it for that in a row boat and certainly the Prime Minister does not travel in a row boat. The VIP fleet is to be expanded by two aircraft. I ask Government supporters and the Parliament what extra usage will be made of the VIP fleet to justify four major jet aircraft each capable of carrying 30 or more passengers? Who will use them?
– Your Leader will use them.
-There are 26 Ministers and only one Leader of the Opposition. I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition also has some access to them.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition use them?
– He will use them as required. I ask what the extra usage will be that will justify the purchase of two extra aircraft each with a seating capacity even in VIP configuration of something between 40 and 50 people, or the Prime Minister?
– How many people did your former Leader take overseas with him on his travels?
-We have just heard another example of the double standards of this Government. The honourable member for Northern Territory (Mr Calder) still seeks to criticise the method of travel of the former Prime Minister as a means of justifying this expenditure. I return to what I was saying a moment ago.
– Tell us more about you former Leader?
-The honourable member for St George will remain silent.
-How will the extra two aircraft be used in an economic manner? No aircraft are to be phased out at this stage. That is included in the Minister’s statement. Some of the aircraft most likely are reaching the end of or are beyond their economic life. The VIP fleet has two BAC aircraft each with a seating capacity of between 20 and 30 people, depending upon the configuration. It will now have further seating capacity of somewhere between 40 and 50 people, depending upon configuration. Will these aircraft be utilised in Australia? If so, how? Who will be permitted to travel on them? Under what circumstances will the VIP fleet be used in the future? I think that the present arrangements are due for review but there has been no mention of a review. There has been no mention of additional use by the Government. In fact, a fairly substantial airline is being created without any additional workload having been suggested to justify it. The Opposition thinks that this statement is the height of audacity by a Prime Minister who, less than two years ago, described as irresponsible the use of a private mode of travel rather than commercial aircraft and has consistently denied this House the opportunity to know the facts and has misled the House about the cost of his own travel on commercial aircraft.
– by leave- The House will be aware that on 1 June 1977 the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) tabled the report of the Standing Committee on Expenditure concerning accommodation for married servicemen. The Government considers that the problems associated with defence service housing exceed, in some aspects, the terms of reference of the House of Representatives Committee. It has therefore decided that the inquiry and investigation arising out of the Committee’s report should be made more wide ranging and comprehensive to cover all aspects of defence housing and will include an examination of the scope for selling a proportion of the housing stock, particularly where such accommodation is frequently unoccupied. The inquiry will be carried out in the first instance by a senior level interdepartmental committee. This decision has been made having full regard to the report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure.
Until the results of the inquiry are available, and instead of following the formula for the servicemen’s group rent scheme, which would have led to substantial immediate increases in rentwhich I stress- the Government has decided as an interim measure to increase rent based on movement in the rent component of the consumer price index during 1977. This will mean an increase of 9.6 per cent. The increase will be effective in early July and rental for servicemen’s housing will be varied by amounts ranging from 50c to $4 per week. Turning to the Standing Committee’s significant contribution to the subject of service accommodation, I would like to commend the members for their obvious concern for the welfare of servicemen which is evident in the report, and which I share. There is considerable merit in many of the Committee’s recommendations, which are directed at producing greater flexibility and more economical ways of providing accommodation for married servicemen. The Standing Committee’s basic recommendations are aimed at the discontinuation of many plans for the construction or acquisition of housing for use by married servicemen; the introduction of explicit rent allowances and or concessions to compensate servicemen for housing related disabilities that are not compensated for by other schemes- this is contrasted with the present situation where the difference between market rents and the rents servicemen pay represents an implicit subsidy or rent concession; the gradual divestment by the Commonwealth of part of the existing defence stock by selling some Commonwealth-owned houses and returning some stock to the States.
A number of fundamental issues which require further examination will be examined by the interdepartmental committee. These issues include such matters as: Whether there is a ready availability of private rental housing to meet the special needs of married servicemen; the viability of a new housing allowance and/or concession scheme as a replacement for existing schemes; recognition and acceptance of a rental subsidy for married servicemen.
In addressing these aspects of the Standing Committee’s report, it may assist members if I briefly recount the history of Service married accommodation. Until 1955 it was not the general practice to provide housing for married members of the Defence Force in metropolitan areas except for a limited number of houses for ‘key’ personnel. Houses were provided for some married personnel in other localities. By 1955, the size of the Defence Force had considerably expanded, and lack of housing for married members had become so critical as to cause a serious morale and re-engagement problem.
Consequently, in 1956, the government of the day approved a vigorous program of providing married quarters for servicemen to enable the Defence Force to be deployed readily across Australia. Successive governments have continued this policy. Since 1956, some 16,000 dwellings have been provided for servicemen under the Commonwealth- State Housing Agreement. A further 3,000 dwellings have been acquired through the Department of Administrative Services or built through the Department of Construction. As a result there are now about 23,000 dwellings available for the use of some 28,000 married servicemen actively seeking official married accommodation. The shortfall of 5,000 dwellings is met by renting from the private market, and servicemen in this category are assisted through the existing temporary rental allowance- TRA- scheme, in addition, there are a further 10,000 married servicemen who make their own housing arrangements.
The Standing Committee on Expenditure has recommended not only the continuation of building or acquiring new housing other than in on base’ situations or elsewhere where the private housing market cannot meet the Service demands, but additionally the gradual reduction of existing defence stock. This would involve many servicemen in due course seeking accommodation for their families on the private market. An important issue is therefore whether this far reaching change in established policy would adversely affect the ready deployment of the Defence Force or the morale and welfare of Service families. The Committee has also made several recommendations in regard to rents and associated allowances for married servicemen. Experience has shown that these are complex and sensitive issues about which servicemen themselves have strong feelings.
When the Committee of Inquiry into Financial Terms and Conditions of Service for the Regular Armed Forces- the Woodward Committeereported to the Minister for Defence in December 1972, it noted that there was a series of variable and confusing rent situations met by servicemen as they moved from post to post, and it recommended a greater consistency of treatment both in standards of accommodation and in rental contributions. From 1972 to 1975 intensive study within the Department of Defence was directed at a system which would: Disassociate rents from salary as far as possible and relate them instead to the quality of the dwelling provided; apply standard rents to houses across Australia regardless of their source, location, type of construction or actual cost; prevent frequent rent increases to some Service tenants.
The Defence Group Rent Scheme-the GRSincorporating the above principles, commenced in April 1976. The Scheme was based primarily on relating rents to housing quality and to this end, every one of approximately 23,000 houses was measured and inspected to assess its compatibility with the authorised scales and standards for servicemen. It was decided that there should be six basic categories of dwellings and a rent was struck for each. The total of these rents when collected would equal the total of assessed economic rentals, in other words, the estimated cost of providing Service housing would be returned to revenue. Thus the confusion and unpredictability of previous arrangements were mitigated. Regardless of where a serviceman was posted he could be sure of the maximum rent he would be required to pay. However, during the two years’ operation of the Group Rent Scheme, very steep rental increases have occurred. These have resulted from costs of upgrading older houses, high costs of maintenance and increasing construction costs.
Apart from building or acquiring Service housing it has also been the policy of successive governments to provide financial assistance to servicemen who are posted to localities where married quarters are not available. This assistance, which is known as the temporary rental allowance, is very similar to longstanding provisions made for the Commonwealth Public Service, and includes provision for special consideration to be given to individual cases. The committee has recommended the ultimate phasing out of both the existing temporary rental allowance arrangement and the Group Rent
Scheme, and their replacement with a rent allowance or rent subsidy related to rank and local market conditions. In considering the Committee’s report, the Government confirmed the Committee’s view that Defence housing policy had direct bearing on deployment and efficiency of the Defence Force.
Pending a final decision which will be made when the report of the interdepartmental committee has been received and considered, the Government has decided to follow the Standing Committee’s recommendations to make increased use of a number of alternative sources of housing to meet the requirements for housing for servicemen- thus getting better value for money. These sources involve use of private builders, acquisition of existing houses on the open market and hiring of other dwellings. In other areas, particularly in capital cities, greater emphasis is being placed on use of the private rental market. The Real Estate Institute of Australia and a major project builder have been asked to assist in the review of scales and standards of housing for servicemen so that Service housing is more closely aligned with that in the general community. I believe that these changes will not only lead to more economical ways of building or acquiring Defence housing, but that greater use of the private rental market will provide satisfactory accommodation for a substantial proportion of servicemen.
The Government accepts the Standing Committee ‘s view that servicemen have certain housing related disabilities. In pursuance of the Committee’s basic recommendation to provide explicit rent allowances, the indepartmental committee will investigate, together with other possibilities, the feasibility of introducing a viable rent allowance or concession scheme to replace existing schemes for married servicemen. The existing schemes will not be replaced unless and until satisfactory and comprehensive alternatives have been developed to replace them. In anticipation of further debate on the Standing Committee’s report on accommodation for married servicemen, I commend the matters to which I have referred for the consideration of members of the House.
I present the following paper:
Accommodation for Married Servicemen- Ministerial Statement, 4 May 1978.
-by leave-The Opposition does not oppose the setting up of a committee to consider all the ramifications of the provision of Service housing, although we suggest that such a committee would serve a longer term purpose if it were a committee other than an interdepartmental committee- for example, a committee outside the departmental structure. This is not a simple problem and most likely is least of all a matter of economics. Servicemen are regularly transferred- far more regularly than people from most sectors of the community. The disruption caused presents a serious problem in these circumstances. In spending relatively short periods at a station it is important that families be established quickly in new locations and that they be established permanently. The problems faced by a serviceman’s wife or husband, whichever the case might be, in re-establishing a home on numerous occasions during a lifetime in the Services are disruptive and can cause very serious tensions apart from the purely logistic problems with which the Services are confronted.
Obviously, in some areas there is no alternative to providing adequate stocks of Service housing. In some other areas private housing could, at a cost, provide some of the accommodation which is needed. I would like to see that prospect examined in fairly great detail outside the departmental structure. I think the departments are more likely to have vested interests or prior commitments to existing arrangements, changes to which could be disruptive to their own operations, than would an inquiry which was held outside the departmental structure. Another area which must be looked at is the effect of any change in the Service housing structure on the communities into which servicemen move. Any significant shift from supplied accommodation to private accommodation, especially subsidised private accommodation, can have an effect on rental and housing values in an area which is to the disadvantage of the community concerned. I understand that this happened some years ago at Ipswich when a sudden influx of servicemen into the community forced up rental and housing values to levels which were to the disadvantage of the local community. As I said earlier, it is a very complex problem and one into which I would hope the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay) might consider having an independent inquiry.
I do not want to comment on the report. I have read the recommendations contained in it. Some of them are quite radical and I think it most likely that they could not be accepted in practice. Some of them seem to have an economic rationale which would be attractive to any government. But it is a more complex problem than economics and pure expenditure. There are people and families involved, families which have a minimal chance to lead the normal life that another family would lead and which, therefore, need to be in a position where housing is readily available. It is not unusual in a number of areas of government service for persons who should be or who are seeking promotion to have a period where they remain static in the interests of their families purely because they are not prepared at the time their families are growing up to undertake the necessary moves around the country. This statement sets up an inquiry. I hope that the Minister will examine the possibility of extending that inquiry a little more broadly and having it conducted outside the Public Service system. I am not being critical of the capacity of the Public Service to carry out its function but I do think that it has vested interests and that it is probable that the application of a person fresh to an inquiry, who can hear evidence from the various sections involved, would have a better result.
I want to make one other point. The accommodation for single servicemen ought also to be examined. At the moment in some of our Service bases in Australia the accommodation for single servicemen is certainly not in tune with what would be acceptable in the 1970s. I instance some of the facilities at Fairbairn in Canberra, which we have recently been debating. Single servicemen in some accommodation there do not even have ablution and other facilities available to them in the buildings in which they sleep. That is not a satisfactory situation in the 1970s. It is a situation which was probably acceptable 100 years ago but I do not think it would be considered acceptable now to have a set of living circumstances where servicemen have to leave the building in which they sleep and go somewhere else in order to wash their hands or to do the other things that they might wish to do in the middle of the night, especially under some circumstances. In this town I would think that would be a painful experience on some occasions.
There are a number of problems concerned with Service housing. There are also problems related to Defence Service home loans. I note in the statement that 10,000 married personnel are, in fact, accommodated in private homes. The availability of Defence Service loans has a bearing on the amount of housing that is required for the Defence Forces, especially by servicemen who feel that they are likely to be permanently stationed in one place or intend to retire to a specific area at the end of their period of service. At the moment those loans do not meet the financing requirements of home purchase and the delays are more than excessive, with the result that home values are being seriously undermined.
– That falls outside the terms of this inquiry.
-I am certain that it does but I am raising the fact that this matter is related to this inquiry. I do not intend to expand that.
– It was not even considered.
-The Committee was considering another matter but this is a related matter because the amount of housing that is provided by that system has a direct bearing on the amount of housing required under the other system. Therefore, if adequate Defence Service loans were available, the demand for Defence provided homes would be reduced by that amount. The Opposition does not oppose the setting up of the inquiry but it believes that it ought to be far broader and take into account issues which were not necessarily considered by the Standing Committee on Expenditure and, therefore, are not included in the Committee’s recommendations.
-by leave-I have not had the opportunity to read or to listen to the statement of the Minister for Construction (Mr McLeay). I know, of course, that it involves the very serious deficiencies in respect of Service housing in Australia and that there is a declared intention implicit in the announcement that has been made to investigate these matters. This is long overdue. My more contemporary experience of this matter is in respect of the acquisition of a large area of military land and the associated military housing in the HolsworthyMoorebank area, which is one of the substantial concentrations of military personnel in this country. I have been quite appalled to see the conditions under which servicemen live. In many instances the houses can be described only as huts. I have seen the deficiencies in terms of the scales and standards that are supposed to apply. In the Moorebank-Holsworthy and Anzac village areas the total army stock is 2,040 dwellings, 1,430 of which were obtained under Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement and 610 by direct Commonwealth provision. The 1,430 dwellings provided under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement include 810 constructed before 1 966, which require substantial upgrading, and 120 which require marginal upgrading. The balance is generally said to be in accordance with the scales and standards.
Of the pre- 1966 houses all but 310 have been upgraded or are in the process of being upgraded. But in respect of* that category of houses there are 310 families who are living in the most disgraceful circumstances. The deficiencies are in regard to such matters as carports, lock-up sheds, paths and drive strips, clothes hoists, hot water systems and insect screening. I receive incessant complaints from the wives of servicemen there to the effect that they have to carry hot water, either from the kitchen to the bathroom or the bathroom to the kitchen. There are very serious hazards to their families. I believe that the conditions are so inadequate that I can only commend any initiative that is being taken to redress the situation. The Minister can be assured- indeed, the assurance was given by my colleague the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes)- that the Opposition will be applying itself to this matter with the utmost enthusiasm.
The following Bills were returned from the Senate without amendment:
Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1978.
Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1 978.
– I move:
On 19 October 1961 the House of Representatives ordered the printing of a report of its then select committee inquiring into the voting rights of Aborigines. The Committee Chairman represented the electorate of Capricornia, as I do. Three other members of the Committee later became Ministers- Mr C. E. Barnes, Mr P. Howson and Mr K. E. Beazley. One important conclusion reached was that tribal Aborigines would soon become integrated into one Australian society and that the Government should assist this to occur smoothly by providing more access to free post-primary education, including a knowledge of political and civic functions and structures, social integration of schooling and employment, and decent housing. Not all of these recommendations have been carried out. Some moves have been made towards implementing the recommendations of this report, but I think the time is opportune for us to move for something more definite along the lines recommended. There have been disturbing developments, particularly in the States of Western Australia and Queensland, which indicate the urgency of the need to assist Aborigines to integrate as full citizens with respect to voting.
The 1961 report estimated that there were 26,000 full blood and 4,000 predominantly Aboriginal-blood Aborigines disenfranchised, except for those who were serving in or who had served in the armed forces. They gained the franchise in 1961. The superintendent of Cherbourg State Aboriginal settlement in Queensland told the Committee that he would not be allowed to inform it as to the racial descent of Cherbourg’s inhabitants. Queensland at that time had the most backward provisions for voting by Aborigines which I will outline briefly. The Committee then asked the superintendent at Cherbourg to circulate to the residents a document setting out their voting rights.
At Woodenbong Aboriginal station in New South Wales, only five out of 50 had enrolled, and people were not informed of their entitlement. Similarly, in the Torres Strait Islands, 57 out of 659 who had served in the Torres Strait Island regiment were enrolled for the Federal electorate of Leichhardt. So even among servicemen who were fully entitled to vote, less than one-thirteenth had enrolled. Most New South Wales Aborigines were exercising their long-established voting rights. In South Australia enrolment was not enforced for considerable numbers of semi-nomadic or illiterate people. However, compulsory voting did apply to those who had enrolled, as it applies, to the rest of us who are compelled to enrol. Compulsory enrolment in New South Wales and Victoria was recommended by the Committee. The Electoral Office was asked to have service and exservice personnel informed of their rights. I must stress that that is one of the recommendations which I do not think has been adequately carried out and which is a Commonwealth responsibility.
There is an interesting comparison of State laws to which I shall briefly refer. Queensland had no franchise for persons of half or more Aboriginal blood although half castes not living with Aborigines could, if they applied, get exemption. This right did not extend to serving or former members of the armed forces. It did not extend even to those Aborigines who had been exempted from the highly paternal Aboriginal Preservation and Protection Act, popularly known then by Aborigines as the Dog Act. They had to get a ticket exempting them from the jurisdiction of that Act in order to have many of the rights of citizens that the rest of us enjoy.
New South Wales had full franchise but in practice did not enforce enrolment. The franchise had been there since 1926, but only 487 of the 1,042 Aborigines who were on stations were enrolled. That is, in the State of New South Wales less than half of those Aborigines were enrolled, because the enrolment requirement for them was not enforced. That was probably with good reason, because after all, as I have already stated, no one had taken the trouble to explain to these people their rights and obligations.
Victoria was in a similar position, but the state of enrolment was slightly better. South Australia had no compulsory enrolment but, as I have mentioned, voting was compulsory. Voting was available only to persons who were domiciled at one place for one month. Probably, that provision would have to remain. If people cannot give a firm address for a period of more than one month it would be difficult to enrol them, irrespective of their racial or cultural background. 1 have no great quibble with that, but I think it is a matter which deserves the attention of the Government. Western Australia was not quite as backward as Queensland. It did allow what was described as ‘fit and proper’ serving or honourably discharged service personnel to apply for citizenship despite their being ‘natives’. That was defined as having one-fourth or more Aboriginal blood. Once the parents applied for and obtained exemption, their children were also exempt. In fact, the Committee disclosed a technical reason why serving or former armed services personnel were already automatically entitled to vote, but this entitlement had not been implemented in Western Australia.
The Northern Territory regulations provided for the vote for serving or former defence force members but not for wards declared under the Welfare Ordinance, which was another paternalistic provision. This meant that something like 1 7,000 Northern Territory Aborigines had been declared, by reason of their manner of living, personal associations, standard of social habits and behaviour or inability to manage their own affairs unaided, in need of special care or assistance. Only 89 out of roughly 17,000 Aborigines had not been declared wards or had been removed from the register of wards. However, part Aboriginal people were fully enfranchised in the Northern Territory and in practice were not regarded as Aboriginals. That was a substantial improvement on the situation in some of the States, particularly Queensland and Western Australia.
The Committee recommended voluntary enrolment for Aborigines and Torres Strait
Islanders, that is, outside New South Wales and Victoria, but compulsory voting for those who were enrolled. It wanted specially qualified electoral officers to be provided- this has never been followed up; no government has done this- to receive enrolment applications at places accessible to Aborigines and help to be provided to them to enrol upon expression of a wish to enrol. The mere fact that the Aboriginal makes some attempt or expresses the desire to enrol should be an indication that help and advice should be available to facilitate this. The Committee recommended penalties for duress or undue influence on Aborigines in the exercise of their franchise and an explanation of voting and Parliament, using well prepared visual aids and publications, to Aborigines at settlements and other centres. Surely all these are sound provisions which are even more urgent than they were 17 years ago when the House received this report. Seventeen years is a long time to wait to implement sound and sensible procedures and recommendations for proper integration of our Aboriginal citizens.
I indicated that more polling places were needed in the Territory. The experience with the elections for the National Aboriginal Conference certainly backs up that statement. The Committee of this House in 1961 rejected considerations of alcoholism, bank balance, education, work or housing as having any proper bearing on fitness to vote. I think that there would be very little dissent from that view in the House today. The interesting fact is that neither the Commonwealth nor the States has yet implemented these recommendations in full.
We have by and large provided for voluntary enrolment for Aborigines who, when enrolled, are subject to the same compulsory voting as the rest of us, but outstandingly we have not provided for official means to facilitate enrolment and voting. If Western Australia had done so we would not have had the disgraceful spectacle last year of a Western Australian Minister being found by a court of disputed returns to have been responsible for putting pressure on illiterate Aborigines not to enrol or not to vote, his expressed justification being that many of them had been brainwashed by his Australian Labor Party opponents while he personally found it distasteful to campaign among illiterates.
If Queensland had followed the recommendations of the Committee of this House we would not have witnessed another scandalous event last year, the suspension for six months of the Queensland Aboriginal eye care program because the Premier was afraid that energetic
Aboriginal field workers were persuading Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, whose languages they understood in many cases, to enrol. At the time the Premier was interviewed and asked to give reasons for his action in putting pressure on the Federal Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists to withdraw the team which had been recommended to Professor Hollows who was in charge of the eye care project in Queensland. These Aboriginal contact peopleenergetic, capable and linguistically qualified people- were recommended to him by the Federal Department of Health and by the Federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs as competent people. They were praised by Professor Hollows for their efficiency and hard work over enormously long hours in officially contacting people. The Premier accused them of political activities.
He was interviewed on television by Mr Paul Davey, who asked what evidence the Premier had that they were political activists. The Premier told Mr Davey that he could check with community leaders in some of the areas in which these two accused men were engaged in the Aboriginal eye care project who had seen bundles of electoral enrolment cards. I wrote to the Premier on 23 March and thanked him for making it possible for a television interviewer to disclose that evidence. I asked whether he would extend the same courtesy to me so that I could contact his informants, those leaders of communities whom he said could confirm the political activism. The reply from the Premier was that he had nothing to add to his previous statements. I think that that is a highly irresponsible way in which to proceed.
The Premier has made misleading statements not only on this matter but also in regard to his family’s mining interests, when he was confronted with documentary evidence that his statements were incorrect and deliberately misleading. This would probably have led to his sacking from office in any other Ministry in Australia except his own. Yet this sort of shameful interference with the democratic rights of Aboriginal citizens to enrol and to vote goes on with impunity. The Federal Government should look at constitutional amendments, if it is necessary to go to that length, to ensure that State governments also will carry out the recommendations made 1 7 years ago by the all-party Committee of this House which, as I said, was chaired by my Liberal Party predecessor in Capricornia.
I do not propose to take my full time because I hope that this matter will come to a vote and that a decision will be arrived at. The Opposition is not opposed to a suggestion that the Government will move an amendment to refer the matter to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. That Committee was set up after I placed this matter on the Notice Paper, But in whatever way it is done, I think that the matter should come to a vote and that a decision should be arrived at today so that we can demonstrate our concern to enable Aborigines to become full citizens and eventually to justify compulsory enrolment as for other citizens. Obviously it is not justified now when we have not taken steps to explain enrolment equally and to make it equally accessible to all Aboriginal communities.
Papua New Guinea has shown us how illiterate peoples can be made aware of voting rights and responsibilities and how voting procedures can be simplified. Many other countries have pioneered similar facilities. The National Aboriginal Conference elections last year have shown how we can do the same. It is time a concerted program was developed and a positive policy adopted to achieve definite goals in specified times. Seventeen years is far too long.
-Is there a seconder of the motion?
– I rise to second the motion moved by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham). I do so with some hesitation because I have in my possession a compilation of 38 reports which were produced in the 1 1 years to 1 976 and which cover matters affecting Aboriginal people. So it is with some trepidation that I support the proposal that there should be a further report. However, it is important that this matter be considered by a Committee of this House at this time. As the honourable member for Capricornia has rightly pointed out, it is now 17 years since an earlier Committee of the House reported, in 1961, on a similar aspect. It is worth noting that some of the recommendations of that Committee were intended to be of an interim nature to pave the way for further amendments at a later stage. I think that now, 17 years later, it is time to see what further improvements can be made.
Secondly this is the time when more Aboriginal people are participating increasingly in the electoral processes. Because of that it is important that we consider their views in relation to their recent experiences to see whether they can be taken into account and whether their access to the franchise can be facilitated. Thirdly the Aboriginal question is exercising more of the attention of politicians and therefore we ought to be looking particularly at the ways in which we can consult Aboriginal people directly. The best way of doing this, of course, is through the ballot box in the normal way. Fourthly we should be looking at this question now because in the last few years we have been concerned to establish formal organisations for the representation of Aboriginal people. I refer particularly to the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, which was the predecessor of the existing National Aboriginal Conference. It is appropriate with the experience of those few years to look at how that particular process is working and to see whether it has influenced the attitude of Aboriginal people in relation to the franchise in general.
Fifthly in view of the findings of the court of disputed returns regarding the Kimberley electoratethis followed the 1977 election in Western Australia- it is important that we conduct this review. That court revealed that in an electorate in which Aboriginal people constitute a significant proportion of the electors, some candidates are prepared to go to any lengths to try to influence those voters. I will refer briefly to that later.
Lastly, I think it is important that we should be conducting this inquiry now because in Western Australia a judicial inquiry has been established into these questions affecting electoral laws. I think therefore that we ought to conduct a Federal inquiry in tandem with the State inquiry because of course the State inquiry will be concerned only with aspects of State electoral laws. We ought to try to ensure that concurrent investigations into the Federal laws are held. It is vital that any consideration of electoral laws should as far as possible be free from any political acrimony. Although I intend in a few moments to refer to the circumstances of the Kimberley election, I do not want to inject an excess of passion into this debate. Indeed I would expect that the more outrageous practices of their State colleagues would be disowned by Liberal Party members in this place. With this in mind it seems particularly appropriate, if we are to have an inquiry, that it ought to be conducted by a committee on which all parties are represented.
Before dealing with some of the particular aspects of the circumstances faced by Aboriginal people, I want to examine briefly the principles which I think should guide our discussion of this question. In a democracy there is no more important issue than the operation of the franchise. The franchise is after all simply a means of allowing the people of a democracy to express their options or preferences on any question which is before them. These are usually fairly simple questions, for example, whether people prefer one candidate to another or whether they want to say yes or no to a particular and usually simple question. Therefore in considering the franchise a number of principles must be kept in mind. Firstly, it ought to involve the widest eligibility of the people in a democracy. Secondly, there ought to be equal access to the franchise amongst all those people who are eligible. Thirdly, their access to it ought to be as easy and as simple as possible. Fourthly, their participation in the franchise must be secret. Fifthly, and very importantly, their participation in the franchise must be free from any coercion. If we keep in mind those principles we will be able to make some progress in the consideration of this question.
I do not think it is important to take into account one’s facility with the English language to determine whether a person ought to have access to the franchise. That should be no bar at all. Secondly, I think one’s detailed understanding of the political process, the parliamentary process, also should not be a bar to people participating. As I have said, the questions put to the people are usually quite simple. They have to decide whether they prefer one candidate or another or one candidate from several candidates. Therefore the important question that is being asked is not whether the voter understands the whole workings of the political process but simply whether he prefers one of those candidates to another. This also raises a question of the complex problem of the formality of votes. In Australia we have a compulsory preferential voting system in which one can indicate a preference but cast an informal vote simply by not completing the whole of the ballot paper. It seems to me that one’s detailed understanding of that voting system should not necessarily be a bar to one’s participation in the franchise. Of course one’s physical incapacity should never be a bar to participating in the electoral process and one’s remoteness from centres of population similarly should not be a bar.
The important question that we have to consider when we are discussing the franchise and its possible reforms is whether participation in the electoral process is a privilege; that is, should people be forced to make an effort to exercise their participation in it, or is it a right to which all people are entitled, which governments should ensure is equally and easily available. Indeed should governments go out of their way to make it easy as possible for people to participate? I think this is particularly important in Australia where we have a system which operates largely by compulsory voting and so clearly we do not consider it to be just a privilege; we consider it an obligation. Therefore it seems to be clear that governments should ensure that as far as possible it is as easy as possible for people to participate in the electoral process. I think we must ensure that people who are aged, disabled, infirm, migrants and others who may not be fluent in English, people who live in remote areas and people who are uneducated are especially assisted in their participation in the electoral process.
This raises special problems concerning the Aboriginal population. By and large they tend to live in remote areas. Many of them do not have a complete facility with the English language. Not all of them understand the processes of the system. Currently they are the subject of special electoral provisions, as has been pointed out by the honourable member for Capricornia inasmuch as they do not have to enrol, but once they do so of course they must vote. When talking about the fact that many Aboriginal people, like most people in the community, have an incomplete understanding of the political process, it is worth pointing out that in traditional Aboriginal society there was a very sophisticated decisionmaking process. Its social organisation was extraordinarily complex but very efficient. Whilst Aboriginals may not be used to our particular processes, they are very used to the idea of making decisions, to participating in a decisionmaking process and to recognising leaders through that decision-making process.
When we are talking about what we should do about this problem and how we should improve the access of Aboriginal people to the franchise, I think we ought to keep four points in mind. The first is the question of improving voter education amongst Aboriginal communities everywhere. Just before the Kimberley by-election in December last year, we saw a hastily organised education campaign funded by the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in an attempt to take attention away from the Liberal Party’s practices in the earlier election. I congratulate him for taking that action. The only disappointment is that that education program, now that the by-election is out of the way, has fizzled into nothing. Secondly, we should provide opportunities via experience for Aboriginal people to learn through experience about participating in the electoral process. I think this was one of the very important aspects of the first National Aboriginal Consultative Committee because it was not based on appointments; it was based on direct elections. It was based on people having to enrol and to participate in elections in a more or less normal way. In this way we are able to give special experience under special conditions to the Aboriginal people so that it will be much easier for them then to take the relatively short step of participating fully in the voting system in general. Thirdly, we must give consideration to the simplification of procedures in our electoral process; and, fourthly, we must give consideration to the provision of special assistance not only to Aboriginal people but also to anyone who has difficulty in participating in the franchise.
A number of procedures in State and Federal electoral systems are in need of urgent reform. For instance, take the simple question of enrolment. In “Western Australia an Aboriginal is able to enrol for four different types of electionsFederal, State, local government and the National Aboriginal Conference. Surely it should not be beyond our wits to organise a way in which an Aboriginal person can enrol once and once only for all of those four types of elections. It is incredibly complex to go out to remote communities and try to explain these four different processes of enrolment when enrolment should be the most simple of procedures. It is simply a means of recording a name on a list so that when a person votes we know that that person is eligible to participate in that ballot. We must consider making the procedures for Federal, State, local government and other elections as uniform as possible. As the honourable member for Capricornia has pointed out, we do not want this nonsense of having one set of laws in Queensland, another set in Western Australia and then a quite different set for Federal elections. Surely we ought to be able to simplify those procedures which of course would benefit not only Aboriginal people but all electors. We must also look at the provision of multilingual balloting material for these people and the provision of interpreters at polling places. The next aspect is the -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar) Order! As it is now two hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the House, the debate on the motion is interrupted.
Motion (by Mr Ellicott) agreed to:
That thetime for the discussion of Notices, General Business, be extended until 12.45 p.m.
– The next matter to which I refer is the acceptance of how-to-vote cards as evidence of someone’s voting intentions. I refer also to the consideration of party symbols and party identification on ballot papers. Another matter which requires consideration is the introduction of optional preferential voting so that an elector, by simply having declared his preference for one candidate, does not have his vote declared informal simply because he does not extend his preferences beyond that. The next matter I raise is the consideration of the vexed question of postal voting. Lastly, I raise the question that the honourable member for Capricornia raised, namely, the consideration of whether Aboriginal people should continue to have the special enrolment provisions which apply to them.
It is vital to remember that Aboriginal people are for the first time participating in an extensive sense in the electoral system. Under those circumstances we must give very special attention to their needs. It is only now that they are considering that the political process is relevant to them and to their needs. A judge in the Court of Disputed Returns in Western Australia said that he was impressed by the sincerity of the Aboriginal people who tried to vote. He was impressed that they understood what they were doing. He was abhorred by the way in which they were prevented from exercising their intentions. Indeed, I think that we should go out of our way to encourage the Aboriginal people to participate in the process because a failure to provide that sort of encouragement will simply lead to the building up of frustrations and a withdrawal from the system which will be a matter for us all to regret.
-(Mr MiIIar) - The Minister may seek leave of the House to table the paper.
– I seek leave of the House.
-The Minister may table the document without debate.
This morning when I was making my statement I refered to an assessment of aircraft security considerations that had been undertaken. I have been asked by a number of people by whom that assessment was made and the nature of it. In consequence of that, I table the assessment which has been made by the Secretary of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and by the Secretary of the Department of Administrative Services.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek the indulgence of the House for one moment The Opposition does not dispute the security angle -
-Order! I remind the honourable member for Corio that I gave the indulgence of the Chair, with leave of the House, to the Minister for Defence to table the paper on the basis that there would be no debate on it.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I asked for leave to make a statement and the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) indicated that I would receive that leave.
-Does the honourable member for Corio seek leave of the House to make a statement?
-The Opposition does not dispute the security angle on this matter, and it never has. In fact, the justification for the manner of operation of the former Prime Minister, Mr E. G. Whitlam, as indicated in my earlier speech, was the security angle. However, I suggest that there are at least two methods of providing satisfactory aircraft travel overseas. I would never have suggested that the use of commercial airlines was a satisfactory arrangement. I think that when in opposition members of the present Government exploited that fact- to their detriment for the last two years. The point I make is that the cost of the purchase of two aircraft additional to the existing fleet which have very little other function is too great an expenditure under existing circumstances to be justified and it has not been justified by the statement. Charter aircraft could most likely be used for the travel of Prime Ministers, without taking into account any kind of operating costs, for the next 10 years at least when we take into account the cost of the purchase of these aircraft. I make that point without taking into consideration the maintenance or operating costs. The security angle is not in dispute.
-The questions that must be considered in the debate on this motion can be reduced to fairly simple terms. I propose to do that if I am permitted and I will deal with the matter fairly briefly. The motion that has been moved in this notice is that a select committee of the House be established to inquire into and report on extending and guaranteeing Aboriginal voting rights and obligations- I emphasise the word ‘obligations’- for the Federal, State and Territory parliaments. The fact of the matter is that Aboriginals have voting rights. I suppose that there is no question of extending those rights. The question becomes one of extending obligations. I say with respect to the mover and seconder of the motion that I do not believe they have made out a case that obligations in relation to Aboriginals ought to be extended at this time. Without going into the matter in any detail, I state that my view is that one would not entertain the setting up of a select committee to examine this question unless it was established that there was an important question to be examined and results to be achieved in moving in a certain direction.
The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth does provide under the Commonwealth Electoral Act for the enrolment of all Australians as voters except for people who are not permanent residents and the like. Aboriginals are entitled to enrol and, in fact, I believe that they have an obligation to enrol. Section 42 (5) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act quailifies the position in relation to Aboriginals so that they will not be convicted of an offence if they do not enrol. The sub-section states:
This section does not apply to a person who is an aboriginal native of Australia except to the extent that such a person may, if he so chooses, comply with sub-section ( 1 ) of this section.
The question we must ask ourselves is whether an obligation to vote which is placed on Aboriginals in all cases ought to be made compulsory. I would not accept that that ought to be the case and I do not believe that honourable members who have spoken in the debate have put that view. The fact of the matter is that Aboriginals have a right to vote in Federal elections. That cannot be questioned. It is also a fact that in recent experience in the Northern Territory, in both Federal and Territory elections, it has been shown that the existing procedures are adequate and that there is a very high degree of awareness amongst members of the Aboriginal population of their voting rights. They are being educated progressively how to exercise those rights. Not only have special courses been run but also has there been a development of the National Aboriginal Conference and its election procedures in which Aboriginals participate. They have a feeling that they are making decisions in relation to their own welfare and community. I think that this familiarises them in the way in which they can participate to an even greater degree in the ordinary elections that take place for Federal, State and Territory parliaments and assemblies.
The honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) referred to the report in 1961 which dealt with certain problems. In fact, most of those problems have been overcome. A situation exists in which Aboriginals are entitled to vote and that applies right throughout Australia. But it is a voluntary form of voting. I do not think that the honourable member has demonstrated that that system has failed in any respect. He referred to a particular problem in Queensland. My observation on that problem is that the matter of which he complained really related to whether people who were employed for another purpose ought to be endeavouring to enrol Aboriginals to vote. The fact of the matter is that those people were discharged when it was found that they were doing that. But that did not in any way stop them, or any other person if they wanted to do so, soliciting amongst the Aboriginals to get them to enrol on the electoral roll.
– It barred them from access to reserves.
– It ensured that as individuals they had the responsibility to undertake the duties for which they were being paid. Nobody could be heard to complain about people fulfilling the obligations of their contract of employment. That is the question. The fact is that those people were free still to encourage people to enrol if that is what they wished to do. In fact they had more time to do that. The West Australian situation, which the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) spent most of his time discussing, may have thrown up certain abuses of the electoral procedures in that State, but the honourable member did not emphasise what ought to be properly emphasised, and that is that what happened was shown to be an abuse of the electoral law. Mr Justice Smith overturned the election result and ordered a fresh election. That demonstrates that the procedures are adequate. If it is shown that there is an abuse of procedures in relation to the Aboriginal people, the matter can be taken to a Court of Disputed Returns and the position changed. That was done in this case, and a fresh election was ordered. That deals predominantly with the matters raised by the honourable member for Fremantle.
– That is if there is a handful of votes involved. What if there are more?
-The fact is that a fresh election was ordered. The matters complained of were heard by a Court of Disputed Returns and the matter was resolved. There was a fresh election, about which I have not heard complaints. As the honourable member for Fremantle knows, attempts were made to vary the Act in Western Australia and they failed in the Parliament.
– Temporarily they have.
-That may be the case, but the fact is that the law stands as it is now, and a Court of Disputed Returns upheld the law. If the situation changes, maybe one should look at the question again. However, the motion seeks to establish a select committee to look at this question, even though the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) in moving this motion acknowledged that since he gave notice of it, a select committee of the Parliament, of which he and the honourable member for Fremantle are both members, has been established. Amongst the terms of reference of that select committee is an obligation to take evidence, and to inquire into and report upon the present circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people and the effect of policies and programs on them, and such other matters relating to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people as are referred to it by resolution of the House and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). That Committee has a very important brief at the moment in relation to Aboriginal health. As honourable members know, that Committee is pursuing its brief with a great deal of enthusiasm. As the Committee has gone from place to place I think the members of it have become more aware of some of the real problems facing the Aboriginal people. I have, and I hope the honourable member for Fremantle has as well.
The problems facing those people are not related so much to the exercise of their right to vote or to their capacity to exercise that right, but rather to other questions such as those that the Committee is now considering and those upon which the Committee has already reported. The problem of alcohol and alcohol abuse is a very real one. The problems confronting Aboriginals in relation to their health are real and urgent. The problems in relation to Aboriginal housing and the facilities available to Aboriginal people are real and urgent, and nobody on this side of the House would seek to ignore them.
The questions we have to look at are whether honourable members opposite have established a proposition that there is something here that we ought to be looking at as a matter of urgency, something that should change our priorities and divert our attention from the very important matters that are now under consideration. I do not believe they have established that. The fact is that the previous reference has taken our Committee into Aboriginal reserves and Aboriginal communities. That, together with all the other inquiries and events that take place, places a pressure on the Aboriginal people, particularly the traditional Aboriginal people who live in outlying communities and have to face the sorts of problems experienced on outstations and the like. At the moment these people are attempting to remove themselves from the pressure that our community puts on them.
Unless members of the Opposition are suggesting that we ought to make voting compulsory for Aboriginals and assimilate them entirely into our community and abandon the policy of selfdetermination I do not think that is what they are suggesting- what are they seeking to achieve? They are seeking to achieve a second inquiry, taking another lot of members of Parliament into Aboriginal communities, to inquire about voting procedures and the way in which they operate, on top of all the inquiries that are taking place now. That would put at greater risk the Aboriginals who are resisting the sorts of pressures we are putting on them. Quite frankly, 1 personally am not prepared to support that sort of approach, and the Government is not prepared to support a view that this matter is in need of examination at this time. The Government has demonstrated, by the important program it ran in Western Australia in relation to Aboriginal education and participation in voting, that it will react to the matters specifically complained about which can be demonstrated.
The course run by the State Education Department ‘s Adult Aboriginal Education Section in Western Australia before the by-election in that State is a good example of the Government’s concern. The course was funded by the Commonwealth. I would suggest that if honourable members opposite can demonstrate a need for specific programs, they should make a request direct to the Minister for an extension of that sort of program. There is no need for a select committee or even for the House of Representatives Standing Committee to alter its priorities from the very important questions they are inquiring into now to examine matters about which members of the Opposition who spoke to this motion have established by their own words there is no urgency whatsoever.
-! want to make a few short points on this general question. First of all, I disagree with the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) on his interpretation of what we are about. What we are after is that the political activity of the Aboriginal people and their political rights be guaranteed by a program of education, enrolment, and so on, to ensure that when elections are held, the Aboriginal people take their place in the community as such. Parliament and elections are the business of parliamentarians. Therefore we ought to get on with the job of looking into the matter and see whether whatever is necessary to be done for the Aboriginal people is being done.
Australia has a pretty good record on the question of voting as opposed to electoral boundaries. We have had adult sufferage for a long time. We provided for voting by women before almost anyone else in the world. We are one of the few nations to have compulsory voting. I suggest that in respect of the Aboriginal community we should be doing what was done in 1 973 at the inauguration of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, as it was then called. Those of us who were in politics at the establishment of the committee recognised that the administrative task of getting thousands of Aboriginal people throughout Australia enrolled would be great. Some hundreds of people were called in as enrollers. They visited every Aboriginal community in Australia and they enrolled, I think, 30,000 Aboriginal people. At that stage the voting age was still 21, so they must have enrolled almost all those who were entitled to vote. In the subsequent election which occurred throughout Australia some 80 per cent of them did vote. I believe that is the way in which we should face up to all federal, State and municipal elections.
Politics in elections is the very heart of the social process. The Aboriginal people are now entitled to have their say and to have it in a formal way. I have no sympathy whatever with the view that because, perhaps, Aboriginals are illiterate in the English language they ought not to be allowed to vote, ore that there is no point in offering them the opportunity of voting. If the opposite were true, elections could not be held in India and in many other countries of the world. What I suggest is that we take this matter up and ensure that the enrolment processes are carried out thoroughly throughout Australia, and that there is a proper campaign to get Aboriginal people on the roll. I remind the House of what I think was a highly successful operation in 1973. 1 refer to the election of the National Aboriginal
Consultative Committee, which is now the National Aboriginal Conference. The Aboriginal people in that case showed that they were capable of making decisions. In the recent elections there was a big increase in the numbers of Aboriginal people participating, and I refer particularly to those in places such as the electorates of Grey and Leichhardt. I do not quite know what they did in Leichhardt- they seem to have made an error there- but in Grey they rallied to the cause of truth and justice and progress and supported my friend the sitting member. In the Northern Territory, as I understand it–
– They showed a very large amount of common sense.
– Are you going to speak on this?
– Yes, so watch yourself.
– You do not need to remind me.
– You have one and a half minutes to go.
-One and a half minutes should be almost adequate to expose this Government’s follies in this area. If honourable members want a demonstration of the capacity to organise and administer an operation properly, they should consider the numbers of voters who in 1973 took part in the first election of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee and those who took part in the last election. This is an area to which we have to apply ourselves with great vigour. I represent an electorate with one of the largest concentrations of migrants in Australia; we make an enormous effort to get through to them in their various languages the solution to the complexities of the Australian voting system. Although it is difficult, it can be done in an area such as mine, which has eleven or twelve square miles and 100,000-odd people speaking five or six different languages. But the point about this is that the Aboriginal people of Australia, remote as they are, unencumbered as they are with the Australian Press, often beyond the reach of radio and certainly without access to television, have to receive their information in some other way. If we want to make the political process work we should be doing this for everybody. If honourable members want to deliver proper political justice to the Aboriginal people of Australia, I suggest that they should read the specifications set out in 1973 by the Steering Committee on the establishment of the National Aboriginal Consultative Council, published in a very important document- the submission I made to the Public Accounts Committee. I hope that the House will accept this and ignore the remarks of the honourable member for Dundas, who is always terribly pessimistic when it comes to doing anything. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the documents to which I have referred.
The documents read as follows-
ELECTION OF NATIONAL ABORIGINAL CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL
The Steering Committee met from 19-23 March in Canberra. They came together to discuss, mainly, the election of a truly representative, fully Aboriginal, Consultative Council.
A number of advisers were asked to attend; they provided invaluable advice. They were Mr Malcolm Mackerras (Politics), Mr John Evans (Independent Solicitor), Mr Bourke (Commonwealth Electoral Office), Mr Rose, Mr Scott (Attorney-General’s Department), Dr Coombs and Mr Dexter (Department of Aboriginal Affairs).
In conjunction with these advisers the Steering Committee resolved that the following proposals be put to the interim National Aboriginal Consultative Council for consideration:
Number of elected members:
That the respective States and Territories restrict their electorates to a ceiling number of 6 and that each State use its discretion in realistically setting up its electorates; that this number of six be in effect only until the first election is complete, after which the decision of how many electorates there should be will be decided by the elected members.
That the number of electoral regions be as follows:
Eligibility for voting:
That the minimum age for voting and election to the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee be 18 years and that the Commonwealth definition of an Aboriginal bc utilised for eligibility.
How ballot papers marked and system to be used:
That the voting procedure of ‘First past the Post’ system be adopted and that photographs be included on the Ballot Papers with a small biography.
That the electors mark the Ballot Paper by placing an ‘X’ or a suitable mark alongside the name and photograph of their first preference.
Body responsible to compile and maintain electoral rolls:
That the members of the Steering Committee, with the assistance of Aboriginal and Islander people and the Commonwealth Electoral Office, be responsible to compile and maintain the electoral rolls.
The electoral boundaries were drawn up in conjunction with the Commonwealth Electoral Office and the AttorneyGeneral ‘s Department and followed fairly distinct lines. The map indicates the final draft.
That the single member constituency electoral system be adopted for the first election of the proposed National Aboriginal body.
Methods of voting:
That a combination of polling/postal/roving and absentee methods of voting be adopted for the first election of the proposed National Aboriginal body.
Timetable for election:
That the date fixed for the nomination of candidates shall not be less than 7 days nor more than 28 days after the date of closing of the Rolls. The date fixed for the Polling shall not be less than 7 days nor more than 2 1 days after the date that nominations close. The date of the Polling shall be fixed by the National Aboriginal Consultative Council at the meeting in May.
Nomination of candidates:
That a candidate be nominated by no less than 6 members entitled to vote in the elections in any electorate, together with a nomination fee of $10.00; that if a candidate receives 20 per cent of the successful candidates votes that the nomination fee of $ 10.00 be returned.
That Polling Officials at the first election of the proposed National Aboriginal Consultative Council include both Aboriginal and Islander officials and officials from the Commonwealth Electoral Office.
Frequency of elections:
That the members to the National Aboriginal Consultative Council be elected for a term of two (2 ) years and that they be paid a suitable wage to be fixed and that all expenses in consideration of his work be met by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
These motions are available on a separate paper to be submitted to the delegates for their consideration. Some have already been implemented and carried out. Others will need re-submission to the National Aboriginal Consultative Council.
As directed by the previous N.A.C.C. meeting, Mr J. McGinness and Mr John Moriarty met with the Ministers/Premiers listed below in the respective States to discuss the transfer of State powers re Aboriginal affairs to the Commonwealth:
Tasmania- A meeting is being arranged between Mr Ken Winder and Mr M. Miller with the Minister in Tasmania ( Dr Foster) to discuss transfer of powers. A visit on this occasion will also be made to Flinders Island to meet the Aboriginal Council and explain National Aboriginal Consultative Council proposals.
It is hoped that arrangements will be made before delegates leave their various States and contact should be made with members of the Steering Committee to ensure that these arrangements are being finalised.
As the Conference is being convened for two days, it is expected that members will have studied and thought about proposals previous to attendance at the Conference. It is hoped, also, that electoral maps will be available before the Conference, but if this is not possible, then members will receive these maps on the day of their attendance.
It would be appreciated if members would also make arrangements to be on time at the Conference commencing at 9 a.m. in the morning on Thursday, 3 May, and that they will not leave the Conference until its conclusion, which is presumably S.30 p.m. on Friday night, 4 May.
Accommodation has been organised for the Kurrajong Hotel and buses will transport people to and from the Academy of Science which is the venue.
For and on behalf of the Steering Committee of National Aboriginal Consultative Council
NATIONAL ABORIGINAL CONSULTATIVE COUNCIL
Proceedings of Meeting- 3 and 4 May 1973
ACADEMY OF SCIENCE
Thursday, 3 May andFr1day,4May
The Chairman delivered an opening speech and introduced the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr G. M. Bryant. The Minister delivered introductory speech. He hoped that the NACC would become part of Government. After he finished his speech he declared the meeting open. The Chairman thanked the Minister and introduced the Secretary of the Steering Committee who first asked for apologies from any of the delegates and then spoke on what the Steering Committee had done during its two meetings held on 25-26 February and 19-23 March. The Chairman then asked the members about elections of chairman for each day. There was an objection from one of the delegates that they were not asked whether Press were to be allowed in the meeting. At this point members divided into States to discuss elections.
Stewart Murray- Would like to mention a procedural matter. The minutes from the pre-meeting show only the motions. There was some very important discussion in those sessions and they should have been included in the minutes circulated. The minutes from these meetings should show discussion as well as motions. Proceedings should be more like Hansard Parliament Reporting.
Moved Harold Blair ‘That the Chair stand as it is’. No seconder.
Joe McGinness, Interim Chairman- Called for nominations from the floor for Chairman.
Nominated and accepted were:
Moved Sam Watson Snr ‘That the meeting accept these three as chairman and that each, in order, do a session each, today, tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon’. Seconded Stan McBride. Carried.
George Abdullah, Chairman, First Session- Reminded the meeting that they were concerned with national issues.
John Moriarty- The Exernal Territories Department want to do a film of this meeting. He thinks it would be a good idea. They could distribute the films at state level to let the people in regional areas and the people especially at grass roots level know just what is going on with the NACC.
Gary Foley- Would be agreeable to this on the condition that all future films of the NACC in meeting be done by an Aboriginal film group.
Chairman- Please put that in a motion. Now the first item on the agenda- whether we admit the press and other media to this meeting. In the past we have kept them out. Would like to hear what the meeting feels on this matter.
Moved Bruce McGuinness- Seconded Denis Walker That the press, TV, newscasters be excluded until tomorrow’. Carried. Two against.
Bruce McGuinness moved ‘That the words “The map indicates the final draft” be deleted from the second paragraph under the Steering Committee heading “Body Responsible to Compile and Maintain Electoral Rolls” ‘. Seconded G. Foley. Carried.
Bruce McGuinness moved ‘That the second paragraph, under the heading “Body Responsible to Compile and Maintain Electoral Rolls” be accepted as amended, that is “The electoral boundaries were drawn up in conjunction with the Commonwealth Electoral Office and the Attorney General’s Department and followed fairly distinct lines” ‘. Seconded D. Walker. Carried.
Bruce McGuinness moved “That the Steering Committee paragraph “Methods of Voting” be adopted, that is “That a combination of polling/postal/roving and absentee methods of voting be adopted for the first election of the proposed National Aboriginal body” ‘. Seconded G. Foley. Carried.
Bruce McGuinness moved ‘That the first two sentences of the Steering Committee paragraph “Timetable for Election” be accepted, that is “That the date fixed for the nomination of candidates shall not be less than 7 days nor more than 28 days after the date of closing of the Rolls. The date fixed for the Polling shall not be less than 7 days nor more than 21 days after the date that nominations close”’. Seconded G. Foley. Carried.
Chairman- Next motion is on Electoral Constituencies.
Gordon Briscoe- We passed a motion that two delegates per region now be elected.
Bruce McGuinness- Asked if there is such a thing as a two member constituency.
John Moriarty- Read the motion passed this morning and referred to by Gordon Briscoe.
Chairman- Have to think about three points:
Bruce McGuinness- Can we hear from the Secretary some tentative dates put forward for the election.
John Moriarty- We had proposed that 30 June be the election date but it may be a little premature. If we keep the number of constituencies and the number of elected representatives down, et cetera we might be able to have it in late July or early August.
Chairman- Can the electoral officer give us some indication.
– I will make my remarks as brief as those of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). I support what was said by the Chairman of the Aboriginal Affairs Committee, the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), about another committee visiting Aboriginal communities. Perhaps the mover and seconder of this motion have not spent as much time as other people going around the Aboriginal communities. It is quite obvious that the communities I have visited in Queensland and the Northern Territory are completely fed up with and bemused by the number of committees that go there asking them questions and pressuring them in one way or another. I think it would be counterproductive to set up another committee to go around the country trying to do what the mover and seconder of this motion have asked.
It is known that the Aborigines do not have to enrol, but once they are enrolled they are supposed to vote, even though many of them do not. Whether they do not vote because they are disenchanted with the electoral system or because they do not understand it or are pressured in some way is yet to be found out.
Whatever the reason, they seldom receive the same treatment as Europeans receive if they do not vote. They do not get a follow-up card saying that they will be fined or will have to appear in court if they have not voted or whatever. However, they are pressured to enrol, and I use the word ‘pressured’ advisedly. I agree with the views of the Reverend Sheperdson, who was the Aborigines’ guiding force in the Elcho Island area and across the northern coast of Australia, or at least in the Northern Territory. Despite the fact that at that time he had 800-odd Aborigines on Elcho Island- there are now 1,000- he would not pressure them to enrol because he considered that they did not fully understand what it was all about.
– They did not vote for the Country Party.
– In fact at this time on Elcho Island the Labor bloke got a majority of the vote, so it is quite obvious that they did not know what they were doing. I agree with the Reverend Sheperdson. Far more education should be given to Aborigines on how to vote and the reasons for voting, explaining who the people are and so on. There should also be control because, as we all know, the Aboriginal vote can be swayed very significantly one way or another by various pressures. A lot of work needs to be done on that, but it should not be done by another committee going into the area, it should be done through the normal channels that already exist there.
Referring to preferential voting, the mover and seconder of the motion suggested that there should be optional voting for Aborigines. In the National Aboriginal Conference elections there is optional voting but in the Federal elections there is a full preferential system. The Aborigines are confused by having optional voting in their own elections and then having a preferential system. They should not be confused in that way but should be educated for Federal and Northern Territory elections to use the preferential voting system at every election. At the last N AC election several members were elected whom the overall Aboriginal community did not want, and that happened because of the optional voting system. One settlement had more inhabitants than another and one candidate got all the votes in the larger settlement whilst the man who would probably have done a far better job for the Aborigines- certainly the Aboriginal community considered that he would have- was not elected because he came from a settlement that did not have the same number of inhabitants. That indicates how false the optional system can be.
I think it was the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) who referred to howtovote cards being accepted as a means of identifying a man’s preference for a candidate. The only way to do that is for the voter to indicate in the booth the candidate he wants by selecting a photograph. He could not be swayed because he would actually have to indicate the person. If he has a how-to-vote card, that could be torn up and another one given to him as he goes in the door. He would wave that card and that candidate would get his vote. In conclusion, I should say that the select committee would be just another bind for the Aborigines.
That the motion (Dr Everingham^ ) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
Australian people and that an ageing population growing at zero growth is not in the best interests of this country’s contribution to the prosperity of its own people and the South East Asian region and that, therefore, policies be adopted concerning immigration and the Australian family, which remedy the present trend of events having regard to the development, employment and social justice obligations of Government.
We have only a few moments in which to put forward the ideas behind the motion. It relates to immigration and to the social justice circumstances of immigration programs developed in Australia. On 2 August 1945 one of the most farreaching statements made in 30 or 40 years was made in this Parliament by the former right honourable member for Melbourne, Mr Calwell, who said:
If Australians have learned one lesson from the Pacific war now moving to a successful conclusion, it is surely that we cannot continue to hold our island continent for ourselves and our descendants unless we greatly increase our numbers.
His concern was immediately and proximately with defence. We are concerned now with immigration because we are concerned with the economic defence of Australia. One was a material manifestation of our problems; the other one is Australia’s position as a significant nation in the rapidly growing and the most dynamic part of this globe. I refer to Asia. I have been dreadfully concerned, as has been the honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean), to see over recent years the decline in the rate of increase in the Australian population and the development of fertility which is now at a level 10 per cent below that required for zero population growth. Under those circumstances, no government with any sense or with any sense of responsibility can stand back and say: ‘Well, it is none of our concern’.
I say that bearing in mind that there are those who advocate zero population growth for Australia. Those who advocate zero population growth advocate increasing distress and hurt for the Australian people. If Australian industry is ever to restructure itself in order to face the 1980s and 1 990s, that restructuring will be dreadfully painful if it is done in a static population growth position. The French had a delightful expression for it because they experimented with this proposition for very many decades, namely in the period up to World War I and in the period between the two world wars. The expression they used was 1’economie sclerotique. The nutrion of their own economy was sclerosed within their arteries and veins. We do not want that kind of position to apply to Australia.
So, for a whole host of social and hard economic reasons, I ask the Government to be bold in relation to immigration, and to be bold with a sense of justice. Why should the Government be bold? Let me give one or two details in relation to the present position. During the last five financial years from 1971-72 to 1976-77, the rate of growth of the Australian population has been 1.67 per cent, 1.56 per cent, 1.53 per cent, 1.1 per cent and 1.05 per cent. Because of immigration there was a slight boost in the second half of last year. But the trend is clear and the trend is obvious. We ask only that Australians be aware of it.
I say further that, not only in terms of domestic markets for industry but also in terms of support for the population, the nature of the Australian population is important. There is no greater threat to the welfare of the aged than that the aged are part of a population which is at zero rate of growth or less than zero rate of growth, because their own benefits inevitably will be reduced under those circumstances, as has occurred in every country. The honourable member for Perth and I are concerned about the welfare of Australian people and a new sense of dynamism -
– Are only the two of you concerned about it?
– The honourable member for Perth has had the good sense to indicate that he will second this motion. There is a need for a sense of dynamism for an expanding Australian manufacturing industry. People can talk about manufacturing industry in Australia being attracted to exports but the export potential of that industry will and must remain strictly limited in its capacity. It will depend upon a growing market in order to be able to develop what exports are possible. I do not wish to dwell upon that further.
There are three matters of social justice which I would ask the Government to consider in relation to its migration program. The first is that an Australian family policy ought to accompany a migration policy. There ought not be a gap and a barrier between the two. I find it difficult to justify, for example, that Australia’s assistance to young marrieds with children is one of the lowest in the world at the same time as it should be considering, and rightly so, an increased migration policy. I ask the Government to consider that proposition. It is not a matter of demonstrating a relationship between family allowance or family assistance and fertility. It is a matter of justice as between the child born to an Australian family and the child born overseas who is to be a migrant to this country. Justice must exist between the two. We know that the nature of the changeover from the tax rebate scheme to the family allowance scheme was first class, putting that money directly into the hands of the mother. We know also however, that there was a reduction in terms of the total household income then available to all taxpaying families with children. That must be acknowledged. We know what inflation has done. I merely say: Consider justice as between an Australian family and a migration program. The two are interrelated.
Another proposition I wish to put is that an expansive economic program should accompany any scheme that invites migrants to come to this country. There has to be an extension of demand for labour at the same time that an increased migrant program is developed overseas. Whether migrants are skilled or unskilled, if there is a contracting demand for labour there will of necessity be a displacement of a migrant as an addition to the work force and an Australian as an addition to the work force. A migration program and this sense of dynamism will enable both to be accommodated. My third proposition concerns housing. The greatest problem in housing is the deposit gap. The greatest problem in respect of the deposit gap exists for young marrieds when they have children. The deposit gap has increased by between four and five times since 197 1. The Australian Labor Party’s proposition of fiddling rather stupidly with interest rate schemes only exacerbated the problem. It tried to hide the deposit gap problem. I ask the Government to consider what it might do in respect of the deposit gap for young marrieds who have the care of children, at the same time as it looks at a new and bold immigration policy that might be implemented with a sense of justice.
-Is there a seconder to the motion?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak to it.
-Order! The time allotted for precedence of General Business has expired. The resumption of this debate will be made an order of the day under General Business for the next sitting.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, on behalf of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I present the Committee’s report entitled Observations and History of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I inform the House that this is the last report to be prepared by the present Chairman, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I wish to pay, muted a bit by political differences between us, a compliment to his service in this Parliament and to the manner in which he has conducted himself in relation to the duties allocated to him. In recent years perhaps in the face of the kind of opposition that one comes up against in trying to get proper parliamentary government here, some of the success of the committee has been due to his persistence on its behalf.
Bill presented by Mr Sinclair, and read a first time.
Mr SINCLAIR (New England-Minister for
Primary Industry) ( 12.48)- I move:
The object of this Bill is to amend the Wool Industry Act 1972 so as to extend the statutory accounting provisions in respect of the floor price scheme for wool to include the 1978-79 season. When the floor price arrangement was introduced in September 1974, it was designed to operate for the 1974-75 season only. Accordingly, the financing and accounting provisions provided for in legislation at the time were restricted to operations in that season. These provisions consisted of two measures. First, the Wool Tax Acts were amended to impose a special 5 per cent levy on sales of wool by growers in 1974-75. The levy was intended to provide a reserve for meeting any losses that might arise out of the floor price arrangement.
Secondly, the Wool Industry Act was amended to provide for the establishment of the Market Support Fund as a repository for the proceeds of the 5 per cent levy and also to lay down special accounting provisions for the reserve price operations. With subsequent decisions to continue the floor price scheme in 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78, successive amendments were required to cover operations in those years. Consequent upon the Government’s decision to extend the scheme to include the 1 978-79 season, it is now necessary similarly to extend the coverage of the accounting provisions in the Wool Industry Act as well as to continue the special 5 per cent levy on wool sales for another year.
The first of these steps is the purpose of this Bill, and involves merely an alteration of a specified termination date so as to include in the existing arrangements wool purchased by the
Australian Wool Corporation under the floor price scheme up to 30 June 1 979. The other legislative step required is amendment of the Wool Tax Acts to continue collection of the S per cent levy on wool sales during 1978-79. Bills to effect this amendment will be introduced immediately after the measure which is the subject of my speech. In moving to extend the floor price scheme and the associated accounting arrangements and the 5 per cent levy on wool sales, the Government is acting with the concurrence of the Australian Wool Industry Conference. The Conference has proposed to the Government that these arrangements be continued as a feature of the marketing of Australian wool, with repayments of earlier levy contributions being made to growers at appropriate times. Growers would continue to contribute levy payments to maintain the Market Support Fund at a desired level. The repayments proposal has been developed only in outline form at this stage.
I shall be discussing the proposals with representatives of the Conference at an early date in the context of broader discussions on a range of wool marketing issues. If these discussions lead to the development of a suitable scheme under which repayments could be made to growers on an agreed basis, detailed records of levy payments will be required for the operation of the scheme. It is likely that any legislation to implement a repayments arrangement would contain compulsory provisions requiring woolselling brokers and other wool traders to maintain and make available records of levy payments made by individual growers. All brokers and wool merchants therefore would be very wise to maintain records of wool levy payments. I understand that most already do so.
I believe that the Government’s approach to the matters I have dealt with will meet with wide approval in the wool industry and in the community at large. In particular, the extension of the floor price arrangements will continue to provide the growers and users of wool with a base of stability from which they can plan and budget with confidence. There is no doubt that that confidence has been more than justified in the overall tenor of the wool industry, which has improved so significantly since the days of the late 1960s when the competitiveness of synthetic fibres began to erode the price position of wool in the fibre market.
Whilst the actual level of the floor price for next season will not be determined and announced until the current season ends, the Government has already decided that the floor price for 1978-79 will not be less than the present level of 284c per kg clean, whole clip average. It is true also that the Government has given an undertaking that the floor price levels will be set for two years in advance in order to ensure a continuity of stability in the marketing of the Australian wool clip. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended us would prevent five Wool Tax Amendment Bills (a) being presented and read a first time together and one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the second readings, the Committee’s report stage and the third readings of all the Bills together and (b) the consideration of the Bills in one Committee of the Whole.
(Nos 1 to 5) 1978
Bills presented by Mr Sinclair, and together read a first time.
– I move:
These five Bills will amend the Wool Tax Acts (Nos I to 5) 1964 so as to continue in force for another year the special levy of 5 per cent on the sale value of shorn wool which is collected in connection with the floor price scheme for wool. The levy was introduced at the inception of the scheme on 2 September 1974 to provide a fund for meeting any operating losses on the floor price scheme. Originally, both the scheme and the levy were to operate for one season only. Their operation was extended successively to the 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78 seasons and the present statutory provisions for the payment of the levy expire on 30 June 1 978.
As already announced, it is now proposed that the floor price scheme for wool be extended further to operate during the 1978-79 season and that the levy of 5 per cent be continued similarly. If there is to be no interruption in the collection of the levy, the statutory provisions under which the levy is imposed must be amended before 30 June. Revenue from this levy is credited to the Market Support Fund established by the Australian Wool Corporation. For administrative convenience the special levy of 5 per cent is collected in conjunction with the 3 per cent levy that represents woolgrower contributions towards the financing of programs of wool research and promotion and the administration of the marketing functions of the Australian Wool Corporation. The present total levy of 8 per cent has been in force since August 1975.
All the five Wool Tax Bills are similar in their text, which simply extends the operation of the special 5 per cent levy until 30 June 1979. The Acts which they amend are also similar but each covers a different wool marketing channel. The need for five separate Acts arises from a constitutional requirement that laws imposing taxes should deal with one subject of taxation only. I commend the Bills.
Debate (on motion by Dr Klugman) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Street, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill proposes amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act concerning the exercise of the jurisdiction of the Industrial Division of the Federal Court of Australia under that Act. Briefly, it provides that, with certain exceptions, matters under the Act should be dealt with by a single judge with a right of appeal to a Full Court comprising three or more judges. Honourable members will recall that, following the creation of the Federal Court of Australia in 1976, the Conciliation and Abritration Amendment Act (No. 3) 1976 provided for the transfer of the jurisdiction of the Australian Industrial Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division. The Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Act (No. 3) 1976 also provided that when exercising its jurisdiction under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division would be constituted in precisely the same way as the Australian Industrial Court was formerly constituted. In those cases where the Australian Industrial Court was required to be constituted by three or more judges, the Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division would sit as a Full Court. Where the Australian Industrial Court was required to be constituted by a single judge, the
Federal Court of Australia in its Industrial Division would be constituted by a single judge.
Likewise, the provisions as to appeals remained unaltered. In those cases where there was no appeal from a decision of the Australian Industrial Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, there is at present no appeal from the Federal Court of Australia. In other cases, where an appeal lay from the Industrial Court to the High Court of Australia by leave of the High Court, an appeal now lies from the Federal Court of Australia to the High Court. In his second reading speech on the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1976, my colleague the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) foreshadowed the Government’s desire to modify the provision for the constitution of the Industrial Division of the Federal Court, and in relation to appeals, and indicated that such changes would be made subject to consultations with the peak employer and employee councils. Those consultations have since been held through the medium of the National Labour Consultative Council.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act presently provides that the jurisdiction of the Federal Court in its Industrial Division is to be exercised by not less than three judges except in respect of specified matters where jurisdiction may be exercised by one judge. In the Act as it now stands, there does not appear to be any consistent basis on which matters are reserved to a Full Court or placed within the competence of a single judge. Furthermore, successive amendments of the Act over the years have produced a number of anomalies. For example, with only two exceptions, a single judge of the Federal Court has no jurisdiction to deal with offences under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Yet such offences may be dealt with by a court of summary jurisdiction constituted by a magistrate. In the State industrial jurisdictions, offences are generally dealt with at first instance by magistrates. In relation to the enforcement of awards under the Act and recovery of amounts due under awards, section 1 19 of the Act enables such proceedings to be brought before a magistrate or a district court judge, except for proceedings for a breach or non-observance of a bans clause. However, those same proceedings, if brought in the Federal Court, must be dealt with by a full court comprising three or more judges. Again, in State jurisdictions similar proceedings are normally instituted before a magistrate.
The Government believes that the present requirements relating to the constitution of benches under the Act are in need of revision in relation to their adequacy in providing for the most efficient use of judicial resources and their influence on the cost of judicial administration. Against these criteria, to have three judges sitting where there are no compelling reasons for matters to come before a full court, is clearly a waste of judicial resources and an unnecessary expense in the administration of justice. Of course, the Government recognises that there are certain proceedings under the Act which, for practical considerations, ought to be reserved to a bench of three judges and this Bill reflects those considerations. The amendments proposed by this Bill provide that the original jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Australia under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to be exercised by a single judge of the Industrial Division of that Court, except that jurisdiction under sections 107, 108, 112, 113 and 143 will be reserved to the Court constituted by three or more judges of that Division. The Bill also preserves the right of a full court of the Federal Court to deal with contempt of the court committed in the face or hearing of the Full Court.
I turn now to those matters under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which are to be reserved to a full court. In relation to sections 107 and 1 12, which concern references of questions of law by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and by the Industrial Registrar, respectively, such references do not occur frequently and, when they do, an authoritative determination of the question of law is required. Similary, jurisdiction under section 108 which deals with determination of the validity of a State order or award, and section 113 which deals with appeals to the Court from State courts, are to be reserved to a bench of three or more judges. The former raises jurisdictional issues with constitutional implications. In relation to the latter, the Government believes that it is appropriate that appeals from State courts on matters arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act should come before a full court, having regard to the fact that such matters are usually concerned with bread and butter issues which may have a direct and immediate application to a large number of employees. In such cases it is desirable that they be determined authoritatively by a full court, rather than having the possibility of various different decisions by different single judges leading to an element of uncertainty which would need to be resolved by an appeal to the Full Court.
A further matter which is to be reserved to a full court is proceedings under section 143 of the Act for the cancellation of the registration of an organisation under the Act. Cancellation of registration is the ultimate and most serious penalty that can be imposed upon an organisation. For this reason, and because of the implications of cancellation for the effective operation of the conciliation and arbitration system, the Government considers it appropriate that jurisdiction in this matter should be reserved to a full court.
Although, as I have indicated, the Bill reserves jurisdiction in certain proceedings to a full court, it provides also that in relation to prosecutions for offences arising under those proceedings, such prosecutions can be dealt with by a single judge. As much of the original jurisdiction under the Act presently required to be exercised by three judges is to be transferred to a single judge, it is appropriate to allow a right of appeal from a single judge to a full court. This would also bring the constitution of the Federal Court in its Industrial Division generally into line with that of the General Division of the Court. Accordingly, this Bill provides that there be a right of appeal from the Court constituted by a single judge to the Court constituted as a full court, except in relation to proceedings under section 158P and Part IX of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
With regard to the exceptions, section 158P provides for inquiries into alleged irregularities in amalgamation ballots under the Act and Part IX for inquiries into alleged irregularities in elections in organisations. In each case the proceedings involve determination of matters of fact which are not complex and the Government believes that further litigation, which would be likely to be factionally motivated, should be discouraged. Part IX inquiries have in practice always been dealt with by a single judge and there has not been an inquiry into an amalgamation ballot. The exclusion of appeals does not extend to convictions for offences in connection with amalgamation ballots or inquiries into election irregularities which will be subject to appeal to a full court.
In relation to the limitations on appeals to the High Court presently existing in the Act, these limitations have been retained in this Bill. However, they have been extended to preclude appeals in inquiries under section 158P. As it is proposed that there be no right of appeal from a single judge to a full court in relation to section 158P inquiries, the Government considers that there should likewise be no right of appeal to the High Court. However, the Bill also provides that a single judge, in exercising jurisdiction in any proceedings under the Act may, at any stage of the proceedings upon application by a party or on his own motion, order that the proceedings be heard and determined by a full court.
The Government considers that such a provision is desirable to cover a situation where, in proceedings before a single judge in a particular case, the importance of the issue having regard, for example, to the difficulty of a question of law involved or the subject matter of the action, might justify the matter being determined by a full court. To give honourable members an example, the effect of the provisions of the Bill which I outlined earlier will be that proceedings under sections 140, 141, 171C and 171D of the Act which deal with the supervision of the affairs of organisations now will be dealt with at first instance by a single judge. Many, and perhaps, most actions under these sections are not so complex that they could not be adequately dealt with by a single judge. However, some proceedings can be of a highly complex nature, as the case of Moore v. Doyle and the litigation involving the Shop Distributors Association illustrate. It is to meet these exigencies that the Bill empowers a single judge to refer a matter before him to a full court.
Allied to this provision, the Bill provides that a single judge must refer a matter before him to a full court upon application by the Minister. I would not envisage many circumstances in which the Minister would make use of this provision. However, it does provide a remedy for a situation in which the parties to proceedings did not seek a reference and such a reference was desirable in the public interest. For example, it may be that, in circumstances where the Minister became aware that factions within an organisation had commenced proceedings which were likely to be protracted and subject to appeal to a full court, he would take steps to have the matter referred to a full court initially.
Finally, the Bill retains the existing jurisdiction and appeal provisions in relation to matters, the hearing of which commence before the date of commencement of the amendments proposed by this Bill. I believe that the amendments proposed by this Bill will provide more effective means of dealing with legal issues arising under the Act and represent a practical and logical approach to achieving the most resourceful use of the judiciary. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 to provide for the following: Firstly, the States tax sharing entitlements for 1977-78 to be $4,336. lm; secondly, the States’ tax sharing entitlements for future years to be 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s net personal income tax collections by the Commonwealth; and thirdly, periodic reviews of the per capita relativities between the States in their tax sharing entitlements. The effect of this Bill, together with the Bill to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 which we propose should be considered cognately, will be to put into effect arrangements agreed with the Premiers at the July 1977 and October 1977 Premiers Conferences.
This Bill represents a further development in the Government’s federalism policy. Major objectives of that policy are to give the States and local government greater independence and flexibility to determine their expenditure priorities together with a concomitant increase in their financial capacity and flexibility. With those objectives in mind, the Government, through the income tax sharing arrangements, has emphasised the provision of ‘untied’ funds to the States and local government who are free to spend them as they see fit in the light of their own preferences and priorities. The benefits of this approach can be gauged by the increase in untied funds flowing to the States and local government over the last two years. As is proper in a federal system, the States have been able to introduce Budgets giving effect to their own priorities including the implementation of a number of tax concessions.
Under stage 1 of the income tax sharing arrangements, as they presently stand, the States receive a specified share of Commonwealth net personal income tax collections. That arrangement is a central element in the Government’s federalism policy which is aimed at restoring a proper distribution of powers and responsibilities between the three spheres of governmentCommonwealth, State and local. The States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 presently provides for 33.6 per cent of the current year’s net personal income tax collections to be shared between the States on a weighted per capita basis. In 1976-77, the first year of operation of tax sharing, some difficulties arose from fluctuations in the estimates of the tax sharing entitlements. I add that these difficulties stemmed from the decision- as proposed by the States themselves- to have the States’ income tax sharing entitlements calculated as a percentage of the current year’s net personal income tax collections. Members will be aware, however, that the amount of these tax collections cannot be precisely known until after the end of the financial year.
At the 1 July 1977 Premiers Conference, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) offered to set the States’ entitlements in 1977-78 at $4,336. lm, subject to adjustment on account of over-payments in 1976-77, if they would agree to an earlier Commonwealth proposal that the preceding year’s collections be used as the base for calculating future entitlements. This base would reduce the uncertainty and the administrative difficulties which had been experienced with the use of the current year’s collections as the base. Members will be aware, of course, that local government tax sharing entitlements have from the start been based on collections in the preceding year for this very reason. The Premiers Conference in July 1977 directed that Commonwealth and State officers should examine and report on arrangements for changing the total tax sharing entitlements from 33.6 per cent of the current year’s collections to an appropriate percentage of the preceding year’s collections. It was subsequently decided that the Commonwealth should provide, in its 1977-78 Budget, for an amount of $4,336. lm for the States’ tax sharing entitlements in 1977-78. The officers’ report was received on 18 October 1977 and was on the table at the Premiers Conference on 2 1 October 1977.
On the basis of the officers’ report, the Premiers’ Conference of 21 October 1977 agreed to adopt the figure of 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s net personal income tax collections for purposes of calculating the States’ entitlements from 1978-79 onwards. The amount of $4,336. lm in fact represents 39.87 per cent of 1976-77 net personal income tax collections; that is excluding revenue from the health insurance Medibank ‘-levy. The entitlement of $4,336. lm in 1977-78 and 39.87 per cent of the preceding year’s collections in future years will be allocated between the States as prescribed by the 1976 Act. Legislation to change the per capita relativities may be introduced in due course as a result of a review conducted under arrangements provided for in this Bill, but that is something for the future.
That brings me to the third important element of the Bill. The Bill provides, for the first time, for the distribution between the States of their total income tax sharing entitlement to be the subject of independent inquiry and report. At Premiers Conferences in February, April and June 1976, which laid the foundations for implementing the federalism policy, it was decided that there would be a periodic review of relativities between the States, that advice in relation to the review would be sought from an independent body, and that the first review would be made before the end of 1980-81. Important questions as to how the review body should be constituted and the guidelines under which it should operate remained for consideration at the time the existing legislation was enacted. There followed discussion between the Commonwealth and the States on these matters and following consideration at the April 1977 Premiers Conference, the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Amendment Bill 1977, nominating the Grants Commission as the review body and prescribing the guidelines which it was to follow, was introduced into the Parliament on 26 May 1977 and was passed by the House. However, in the light of views expressed thereafter by several Premiers, the Bill was not proceeded with in the last autumn session. It was in fact let lie on the table to allow Premiers and members of this Parliament time to examine it in detail and reflect on its provisions.
At the 1 July 1977 Premiers Conference, the Premiers accepted the Prime Minister’s proposal that the body to review the relativities should be a special division of the Grants Commission consisting of the Chairman of the Grants Commission, two members of the Commission, plus three associate members, one of whom would be nominated by New South Wales and Victoria and two by the four other States. As I mentioned earlier in this speech, a separate Bill, to be considered cognately with this Bill, is being introduced to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 to provide for a special division of the Commonwealth Grants Commission supplemented by three associate members. The present Bill provides that that special division shall be the body to inquire into and report on the per capita relativities between States under stage 1 of the income tax sharing arrangements. The report of the review body will be discussed at a Premiers’ Conference before action is taken in relation to it. I want to emphasise that the guidelines for the review, as set out in the Bill, were agreed in detail at the 21 October 1977 Premiers Conference following lengthy consideration and on the basis of three joint reports by Commonwealth and State officers. The basic principle to be applied in the review is what is known as the equalisation principle which has been developed and applied over the years by the Grants Commission in its inquiries and reports in relation to special grants to the States. This broad principle may be expressed in the following terms: Each State will be enabled to provide, without imposing taxes and charges at levels appreciably different from those of other States, government services at standards not appreciably different from the standards of other States.
I turn now to the major specific provisions of the Bill. Clause 3 proposes the addition of two sub-sections to section 7 of the Act. Proposed sub-section 7 (2) provides for each State’s share of the total tax-sharing entitlement in 1977-78 of $4,336.1m. Proposed sub-section 7 (3) provides from 1978-79 onwards for each State’s share of 39.87 per cent of the base figure- that is, net personal income tax collections- in the preceding year.
Clause 4 provides for the Statistician to make his determination of State populations by 10 June instead of by 7 August as at present, thus allowing the finalisation of States’ entitlements within the financial year concerned. Clause 5 proposes the addition of several sub-sections to section 13 of the Act. Proposed sub-section 13 (3) requires the Minister to arrange for a review before 30 June 1981 and provides for the Minister to arrange reviews periodically thereafter after consultation between the Commonwealth and the States.
The October 1977 Premiers Conference agreed that the intention was for reviews to be held no more often than every three to five years, but that there should be flexibility to enable a review to be held whenever there were special circumstances which warranted this- for example, if a review were sought by, say, three States. There was extensive discussion of the timing of the first review at the April 1977 Premiers Conference and it was generally agreed that the review should commence as soon as possible. It was also recognised that the first review could take some time to complete. Accordingly, the Government would propose to issue an early reference under the new legislation once enacted.
Proposed sub-section 13(3) in conjunction with proposed sub-section 13 (4) defines the purpose of the review to be to determine whether any change is desirable in the figures set out in section 4 of the Act- that is, the per capita relativities. Sub-section 13(3) provides for a division of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, constituted in accordance with a proposed new section 19A of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973, to be the review body and sets out the guidelines for the review as agreed by the October 1977 Premiers Conference. The Conference agreed that these guidelines were not intended to place any limitation on the review body in considering the matters that led to the existing relativities.
The proposals embodied in this Bill represent the completion of the Stage 1 machinery of the tax-sharing arrangements. It is, therefore, an important step in the implementation of the Government’s federalism policy. Finally, I want to emphasise these proposals are all agreed with the Premiers on the basis of long and intensive discussion. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Howard, and read a first time.
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973 by reconstituting the Commission, in a form agreed with the States, for the purpose of enabling it to inquire into and report upon the per capita relativities between the States in their taxsharing entitlements. The Bill also makes provision for the Commission to inquire and report on special assistance to the Northern Territory. These provisions are associated with the proposal to confer responsible self-government on the Territory from 1 July 1978. Finally, the Bill makes provision for some minor changes of a machinery nature.
The States have been consulted as fully as practicable in the drafting of the provisions of this Bill which relate to review of the per capita relativities between the States in their taxsharing entitlements. For the purpose of review of the per capita relativities between the States in their tax-sharing entitlements, this Bill provides for the establishment of a new division of the Commission comprising the chairman, two other members of the Commission and three associate members who will be appointed on the nomination of the States- one by the Premiers of New South Wales and Victoria and two by the Premiers of the other four States. The effect of the relevant provisions of this Bill- principally clause 11- together with the Bill to amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976, will be to put into effect arrangements agreed with the Premiers at the July 1977 and October 1977 Premiers Conferences. We propose therefore that the two Bills be considered cognately.
The second reading speech to the Bill to amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 highlighted the fact that the two Bills together complete Stage 1 of the taxsharing arrangements, which are central to the Government’s federalism policy. Provisions governing inquiries and reports concerning the relativities between States of their tax-sharing entitlements under the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976 are included in a proposed new section, section 19a of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act 1973. That section also specifies arrangements for appointing associate members. Other proposed amendments deal with the working arrangements for associate members.
Any report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the matter of the relativities between the States in the tax-sharing entitlements will be discussed at a Premiers Conference before action is taken in relation to it. The Minister for Administrative Services, because of the continuing provisions in the Act, will be required to cause any such report to be laid before each House of the Parliament before any law relating to this matter is introduced into the Parliament. The guidelines to be followed by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in conducting reviews of relativities between the States are contained in the Bill to amend the States (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. That Bill also includes provisions under which the responsibility for conducting these reviews and making reports thereon may be referred to the Commission.
I turn now to the provisions of the Bill as far as they relate to the Northern Territory. The Government and the Northern Territory executive have agreed that financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and a self-governing Northern Territory will be modelled on the arrangements that presently apply between the
Commonwealth and the States. In the application of that model, of course, due regard will be had to the special circumstances and disabilities of the Territory. It is planned that selfgovernment should be implemented on I July 1978. Full implementation of the CommonwealthState financial model in respect of the Northern Territory should be achieved by 1 July 1979 or, at the latest, by 1 July 1980.
On the basis that a self-governing Northern Territory is to be placed in a similar financial position to a smaller State, it has been agreed inter alia that a self-governing Northern Territory should be eligible to apply for special grants, on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, on a similar basis to that of a claimant State. This is provided for in clauses 5 and 9 of the Bill which follow closely the analogous provisions in relation to the States.
In accordance with clause 2, these provisions will come into operation on 1 July 1978, the expected date of commencement of selfgovernment for the Northern Territory. However, it might be noted that these clauses depend for their effect on the passage of legislation, soon to be introduced, to provide for self-government for the Northern Territory. Special grants for the Northern Territory, of course, would only be appropriate in the context of an operational Commonwealth-State model or framework. Accordingly, special grants will not be paid in respect of the transitional period before the Commonwealth-State model has been implemented in respect of the Territory.
Having regard to the time that will be required for the Commonwealth Grants Commission to undertake its initial inquiry into the revenues and expenditures of a self-governing Northern Territory, however, the Bill provides for the Territory, if it so wishes, to apply for a special grant any time after 1 July 1978. An early application would allow the Commission to commence an inquiry during the transitional period and thus be in a position after the transitional period to recommend speedily a special grant in respect of a financial year in which the CommonwealthState model is effective. I commend this Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Willis) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 10 April, on motion by Mr Groom:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation. Before the debate on this Bill resumes, I suggest that it might suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978, as they are associated measures. Of course questions will be put separately on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matters of the three Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the three measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The view of the Australian Labor Party on uranium mining is well known and has been covered fully by previous speakers in the debate concerning the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act. The three Bills that we are now debating deal primarily with uranium mining in the Northern Territory and in particular in the Alligator Rivers region. These three Bills- the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill amending the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill- are based on recommendations of the second Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, better known as the second Fox report. As is well known, the second report dealt specifically with the effect of the Ranger proposals in the Alligator Rivers region whereas the first report had dealt with the larger question of uranium mining, including the dangers of mining and milling, the operation of nuclear reactors, the problems associated with the safe disposal of nuclear waste, the dangers of the diversion of fissile material for terrorist purposes and the dangers of the diversion of fissile material for nuclear weapons, that is, the problem of nuclear proliferation.
In this debate I shall restrict my comments to the questions raised in the second report and the impact of the three Bills now before the House. Firstly, I would like to deal with the proposed amendments to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975 which will be the vehicle for the long awaited proclamation of the Kakadu National Park. I think it is important to repeat what has been said and is known about the Alligator Rivers region, the major portion of which is proposed to be included in the Park. Probably a direct quote from the second Fox report will suffice. The report on page 1 7 states:
The distinctive subregions and the large seasonal changes give rise to a wide diversity of plant and animal habitats. As a consequence, the Region is rich in numbers or species of both flora and fauna. Zoologically and botanically it is representative of a large pan of the far north of tropical Australia. However, because of the diversity of the native species which occur in the Region, it is regarded as one of the biologically richest in Australia. For example, more than 950 species of plants were recorded in the environmental factfinding study, and they occur in a wide range of vegetation types, including a variety of forest, woodland and scrub communities. More than one-third of the bird species known in Australia have been sighted in the study area, and the large populations of waterfowl on the coastal floodplains are one of the Region’s outstanding features. It is also rich in other vertebrate fauna. The insects are the only invertebrates studied in detail; 4,500 species were collected and identified during the fact-finding study, and many more are believed to bc present. Of the aquatic fauna, only the fish are well known. Forty-two species have been collected in the study area, representing about a quarter of all recorded Australian native freshwater fish.
That is a quote from the Fox report, but the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) was equally laudatory. He has said:
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 archaeological attributes.
One could hardly have been more laudatory than was the Minister and I compliment him on his comments. There is no question of disagreement on the value of the proposed Kakadu National Park.
One then needs to turn to the second Fox report to see what effect uranium mining would have in the Alligator Rivers region. We should remember that the second Fox report dealt primarily with the proposed Ranger uranium mine at Jabiru. Nevertheless it took into account the proposals of Pancontinental at Jabiluka, Noranda at Koongarra and Queensland Mines at Nabarlek. It pointed out that any contaminants from the proposed mining and processing operations at Jabiru or Jabiluka would now into the Magela drainage system and thence into the East Alligator River. Let me just quote a few sections of the second Fox report to indicate how little knowledge we have concerning the effects of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers region. On page 59 in referring to the hydrology of the Magela system, the report states:
Not enough information about the local oceanography exists to enable the way river water diffuses into the sea to bc determined.
On page 60 with regard to water quality, the report states:
Information is not available on the chemical form of the metals in Magela Creek water, a major factor influencing their toxic effects.
On page 63 in referring to water quality in the dry season, it states:
The Commission has little information on the flow conditions in different catchments likely to result in backflow, when and for how long such conditions exist, or the balance between backflow deposition and flushing of material from these billabongs.
On page 66 in referring to the fate of natural contaminants, it states:
If the present fate of natural contaminants in the Magela system were known, it would be easier to assess the impact of additional contamination from the proposed Ranger and Jabiluka operations. However, knowledge of the fate of these contaminants is very limited, despite considerable investigation over the years.
On page 69 the Commission in summing up states:
Clearly large gaps exist in knowledge of the Region, and the Commission accepts the contention of a number of biologists who gave evidence that existing information is not sufficient to enable ecological effects of mining, especially long-term effects on aquatic ecosystems, to be predicted. The deficiencies are not confined to the problems already discussed in this chapter, but include information on the life history and biology of species, the sensitivity of species to contaminants and interactions between species.
On page 90, when examining the proposed water management program, the report states:
If mining and milling proceed in the manner proposed by Ranger large amounts of contaminated water will leave the mine site. This water would be runoff and seepage from the ore stockpiles and waste rock dump, water pumped from the mine pits, seepage and runoff from other parts of the site.
After taking into account Ranger’s proposals, it stated:
How is it possible, on the basis of the repeated statements by the Fox Commission that it simply does not know what will happen in the Magela Creek system if uranium mining goes ahead, that the Government could come to the conclusion that there would be adequate safeguards of the environment of the proposed Kakadu National Park? However, if one considers that the Jabiluka mine seepage would flow into the Magela Creek and the Koongarra mine seepage into the Norlangie Creek and thence into the South Alligator River, the only possible conclusion that one could arrive at is that the Government by its approval of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers region is prepared to place at risk one of the world’s great wildlife sanctuaries, and certainly Australia’s greatest. It is almost inconceivable that it could be contemplated in this day and age. When one looks around the world at the wanton destruction of rain forests, wetlands, wildlife and ecosystems in general over the last century, all in the name of economic progress, and when one realises how little has been left unspoiled through economic exploitation, it is frightening just what some people will despoil if money is involved.
– It is not contemplated; it cannot happen.
– I suppose we should expect this from members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. Their reputation as environmental piranhas is well deserved. I am sure they would mine the gold out of their grandmothers ‘ teeth if they thought there was a quid in it.
– When were you there?
– As a matter of fact I have just arranged to go there in the next few days as a member of the Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. I presume that the honourable members who are attempting to interject have been there.
– Yes, we have been there.
– Has the honourable member read the Fox report?
– Yes, and I have been there.
– It does not sound like it, when I listen to what the honourable member is saying. I deal with the Bill to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. We shall oppose the mining of uranium in the catchment area of the Alligator Rivers region within the Kakadu National Park whilst not opposing the declaration of the Park itself. We are most anxious to see the Park declared. What Government supporters are saying, in effect, is that what the Fox report says is absolute nonsense. Alternatively, are they saying that the location of the Kakadu National Park has changed since the presentation of the Fox report. It is still there. The environment has not changed. It is exactly the same. It will change only when the Government permits the mining to start. As I said before, honourable members opposite would sell anything, even the gold out of their grandmothers’ teeth.
– You are selling a bit of rubbish at the moment.
– I wish that somebody would get an interpreter for the honourable member. I draw attention to what we regard as a confidence trick being played on the Australian public by the manner in which the National Park has been declared. The Government states- technically it is correct-that the Park is being declared in two stages. Stage one will be declared immediately and is denned in a map released with the uranium package of last year. The area marked in blue will be stage one. The area marked in green will be stage two, which the Government has denned as a conservation zone. In this area mining exploration will be permitted but wildlife and other material features will be protected. The sleight of hand occurs over the exclusion of Jabiru, Jabiluka, Koongara and I presume, Cooinda. Is that correct? I take it that Cooinda is excluded.
– Yes, but what about the Fox report? Did you read it?
-Yes, I read what it stated in relation to the National Park. I read that very carefully. I am not prepared to accept all the recommendations of the Fox report. I regard the report as a valuable guide, not as an unchallengeable bible or commandment that we are bound to observe. Let me continue. I mentioned the four areas excluded from the National Park. Honourable members opposite then say: Look, we are not mining in a national park’. If that is not a confidence trick, I do not know what is. Each one of those mining leases excluded from the Park is geographically within the boundaries of the Park. The absurdity of the Government’s position can be seen from the suggestion that only a small part of the Alligator Rivers region will be mined. In the case of some forms of mining, this may be true. In the case of uranium mining, with its contaminants flowing into the water systems, the effects can and probably will be spread throughout a large portion of the region. We can only hope and pray that the Alligator Rivers region does not finish up like the Rum Jungle project about which the second Fox report stated:
In the ten kilometres of the East Finniss River downstream from the mine, fish and other aquatic fauna have been almost eliminated.
– What about -
-The Minister should not get uptight. I will say something about this in a minute. I will continue the quotation: . . pollution from Rum Jungle has killed pandanus palms along the east branch of the Finniss River. It has also eliminated reeds, water-lilies and other rooted acquatic plants from the waterway. Erosion has occurred along the stream banks.
In fairness to the Government, I state that I recognise that there will be much greater environmental control over mining in the Alligator
Rivers region than there was over mining in the Rum Jungle. There would want to be. There was absolutely no protection at Rum Jungle. I wish to make this final point with regard to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill. We urge the Government to proceed forthwith to acquire the Gimbat and Goodparla pastoral leases, as recommended by the Fox report, and add them to the proposed National Park. Because the upper reaches of the Alligator Rivers region commence in this area, it is important that they be added quickly to the Park.
The Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill 1978 is based on the recommendations contained in chapter 17 of the second Fox report. The report listed at page 294 the various destructive elements that could affect the environment and for which standards and procedures should be set. I hope that the House will bear with me while I read out all these metals and minerals.
– You have been reading your speech all the time, so it is no different now.
– I read better than the honourable member does. The honourable member seems to be enjoying my speech and paying attention to it. lt is the first time that we have seen him come to life. These various destructive elements include contaminants from the mine site such as copper, lead, zinc, uranium, thorium radium, manganese, cadmium, molybdenum, iron, mercury, chromium, nickel, arsenic, magnesium, calcium, ammonia, chloride, sulphate, nitrate, phosphate, bicarbonate and suspended solids. That is not a bad lot of contaminants to go into a river system.
The report listed as well other water quality factors, conditions for release from retentive pond No. 2, sewerage from the mine site and from the regional town, procedures to limit suspended solids in run-oft” during construction periods and to control erosion during operations, sulphur dioxide, external ionising radiation, ore dust, yellowcake dust, other dust, noise, ground and air blast vibration during construction and operation. It sounds like a nice place to have a holiday. As well the report pointed out the need to specify standards and procedures concerning the visual impacts of mine development, soil erosion, revegetation of disturbed areas and waste dump and the general rehabilitation of the mined areas.
To see that this very large and important role was performed adequately, the report recommended that a research institute type structure be established and headed by a supervising scientist and that he be provided with a staff of highly qualified scientists to assist him in the task of collecting and assessing information, developing research programs, standards, practices and procedures. The report also recommended that a coordinating committee, consisting of representatives of government and Territory agencies, the mining companies, the Northern Land Council and the National Parks Authority be established. The Bill gives effect to these recommendations, and in this respect it represents a welcome change from what has happened in the past.
However, there are many aspects of the Bill which we do not like and which we feel could be improved upon. For example, we are not satisfied that the supervising scientist has enough independence from the Government. Clause 7 of the Bill requires him to comply with directions from the Minister and to furnish the Minister with information regarding what is happening with relation to his responsibilities in the region. Our concern is that there does not appear to be any compunction on the Minister to inform the Parliament and therefore the public of what is going on. The Minister has a stunned look on his face.
-The supervising scientist must report to the Parliament.
-That is at the end of the year. We do not see anything in the Bill relating to the reporting, on a weekly or daily basis, of happenings. The supervising scientist will report to the Minister. We are not aware of how that information will be relayed to the Parliament.
– You want to fetter his discretions and his activities much more by your proposed amendments.
– We will deal with that when the Bill is considered at the Committee stage. If the Minister can show us where we are wrong, we will listen. That is how the position appears to us from our reading of the Bill. We can deal with that when the Bill is considered at the Committee stage. The supervising scientist should be and should appear to be a very impartial person. If something detrimental to the environment in the Alligator Rivers region is happening, it is important that it be known by the Parliament quickly and not hushed up. We will move an amendment at the Committee stage to that effect.
Our major concern with the co-ordinating committee is that 90 per cent of those people who comprise it will be representatives of government agencies and mining companiesorganisations that have a total commitment to uranium mining. The only person whom the Bill requires to be a member of the co-ordinating committee and who is not a member of a body involved in mining is the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. The Minister mentioned in his second reading speech that the Northern Land Council will provide a member of the coordinating committee. However, this is not specified in the Bill. We believe that many organisations outside those mentioned by the Minister have a vital interest in the region and are likely to give the co-ordinating committee more balance. Therefore, we shall move that the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the Northern Land Council and the Northern Territory Environment Council provide members of the committee.
The most obnoxious clause in the Bill and the one that creates suspicion in our minds about the sincerity of the Government as to where its real sympathy lies is the provision in clause 31 for penalties of $1,000 or six months in gaol for any member of the Public Service or for the supervising scientist and his staff who reveal information to the public concerning the operations in the region. This is an outrageous provision and can be designed only to conceal misdemeanours by the mining companies and to prevent the public from knowing what is happening. Public servants already have enough restrictions on them under the Crimes Act and the Public Service Act. Why is it necessary to include a clause that will create such unnecessary secrecy? In the mining and milling of uranium- and this is not at the stage where it is likely to be made into some sort of nuclear weapon, we are talking only about the mining and milling of it- we have reached the point where the project is already part of the defence system.
The final Bill in this cognate debate, the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978, has almost been aborted at its birth. I understand that although the Bill will be passed, it will not be proclaimed, and we have heard rumours that an amendment to it is to be moved by the Minister. I do not know whether those rumours are correct.
– You have not seen the amendment?
– I have not seen the amendment. Basically, what this Bill provides is codes of practice to govern nuclear activities in Australia with regard to the health and safety of people, and the environment. It does not concern itself with nuclear safeguards, which should be governed by our Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and by the Atomic Energy Act. It is supposed to be concerned primarily with the mining, milling and, I assume, marketing of uranium in Australia. At the moment, whatever codes are drawn up are drawn up by the Austraiian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council. Unfortunately this body, which reports to the Minister, lacks legal muscle.
It was proposed that the Bill would provide the Australian Government with the power to override any failure on the part of the State or Territory to comply with the codes of practice. Mr Hamer and, I understand, all States except Western Australia have objected to this legislation, and the Prime Minister has indicated that the Act will operate only in the Northern Territory. The Minister claimed in his second reading speech that the codes would be drawn up in consultation with the States and the Northern Territory, but in fact if this Bill were passed and proclaimed, there would be no need to consult anyone. All that the Minister would have to do would be to send a copy of the codes to the States, and if the States did not adopt them, the Commonwealth could override them.
Our major objection to the Bill is that it provides no opportunity for public inquiry or public comment on the codes. An earlier draft of the Bill, which we were successful in getting a copy of, provided that there would be an Environment Protection (Nuclear Activities) Advisory Council, which would draft proposed codes for the Minister, who would then hold a public inquiry on the proposals and allow public comment. Reports and recommendations would then have been tabled in Parliament and the opportunity provided for discussion. The most horrific provisions of this Bill are clauses 13 and 14, which appear to give the Government enormously oppressive powers. The Minister recognised this in his comments on clause 1 3 in his second reading speech when he said:
The Government appreciates 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 provision of the clause would never be invoked.
We believe that these clauses are open to too wide an interpretation, and will provide any government with an opportunity of restricting civil liberties severely. At the Committee stage of the Bill we will be opposing clause 13, and also clause 14 which we think is even more oppressive. Overall, these three Bills are unsatisfactory. They are environmentally unsound, they are unnecessarily oppressive and restrictive of people’s civil liberties, and they further the cause of uranium mining, to which the Australian Labor Party is opposed until adequate safeguards have been found.
– I move:
-Is the motion in writing?
– The motion is in writing.
-Is it seconded?
– I second the motion.
– This brazen act represents yet another broken election promise by the Prime Minister and yet another extraordinary display of bad taste. Hence the insensitivity and indulgence -
– On a point of order, has the honourable member for Blaxland delivered to you a copy of this motion?
-It is with the Clerk at the moment. I am waiting for him to hand it up to me.
– Have you seen it? If not, I suggest the debate should not go ahead until you have.
-I wish to make the point that a copy of the motion had already been handed to the Clerk when I called the honourable member for Blaxland. I would not have called him otherwise. There was some delay until the written motion was handed up to me. The motion is, ‘That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended -
– On a point of order. The Chair is not entitled to read the motion until such time as the mover and the seconder have spoken to it.
-I uphold the point of order.
– This brazen act represents another broken election promise by the Prime
Minister and yet another extraordinary display of bad taste. The Government, of course, is now running away from the issue because it is not game to debate it.
Motion (by Mr Fife) put:
That the honourable member for Blaxland be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr J. L. Armitage)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-I second the motion, Mr Deputy Speaker. What is in question in this House is the opulent lifestyle of the Prime Minister -
Motion ( by Mr Fife ) put:
That the honourable member for Shortland be not further heard.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr J. L. Armitage)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)The question now is that the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders proposed by the honourable member for Blaxland be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr J. L. Armitage)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-The three Bills which we are debating- the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill 1978, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978- form a package of Bills now before the House. The debate on the other Bills commenced yesterday. The package of Bills forms an integrated whole and each has implications for the others. But, taken together, they deal with the need to make an early start on the mining and development of our uranium resources, whilst at the same time ensuring adequate protection of the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region, protection of the rights and legitimate interests of the Aborigines in the region, protection of the safety of persons engaged in the uranium industry, and the development of adequate safeguards to prevent proliferation of the nuclear armament industry.
Before I turn to the detail of the Bills before the House, I wish to make a few remarks about the need to develop our uranium resources. The essence of the Bills, I believe, is related to that issue. These resources are of enormous potential importance for the future economic development of our nation. Their development can earn Australia some $20 billion between now and the end of this century. These earnings, which would essentially be in the form of foreign currency. would go a long way towards removing the constraints on our development, which balance of payments difficulties may otherwise impose.
The term ‘economic development’ seems to have become something of a dirty term in certain circles in recent years. The argument in these quarters has been that we should concentrate instead on improving the so-called quality of life, and that economic development is inimical to that.
What this argument ignores is that no country can improve the quality of life and standard of living of its citizens without continuing economic development. It is only through economic development that we as a community can improve the lot of the disadvantaged persons among usthose who through no fault of their own live in poverty, those who are ill and those who are aged. It is only through economic development that we can generate the national income that is necessary to improve housing and education, develop and maintain national parks and assist those other nations in the world less fortunate than ourselves. Economic development is a sine qua non for the improvement in the quality of life of our people. It is a necessary precondition. The two are not incompatible; they are complementary.
Our uranium resources are of enormous potential economic importance. They have no actual importance unless they are developed. If we do not develop them our standard of living and our quality of life will suffer. It will be not only our standard of living that will suffer; it will also be the standard of living of many other nations of the world, the citizens of many of which live in poverty and deprivation. We live in an energyscarce world. The oil crisis of 1973 had a major destructive effect upon most developed Western nations. This in turn led those nations to take economic policy decisions which had a highly damaging effect on many, indeed most, developing nations, thereby setting back even further their legitimate hopes and aspirations on behalf of the economic well-being of thousands of millions of people.
If we want to see the world progress we must develop alternative sources of energy. We cannot continue to rely upon oil to the extent that we have in the past. We must learn to conserve our energy resources, particularly oil. Among other things, this means using much less oil for power generation than we have in the past. We must further develop our coal deposits. We must spend more money on solar energy research and so on. None of these things will fully meet our overall energy needs during the next 30 or so years if the world is to achieve the rate of overall economic growth necessary to improve living standards to the extent to which the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the globe very reasonably aspire. The only energy source which can enable us to do this over the next several decades is uranium. The world needs uranium to generate electric power. Electric power is essential for development. Nowhere is this more so than in the developing nations.
The use of uranium for electricity generation is already an established fact of life. As the Deputy Prime Minister said recently in this chamber, there are now 194 nuclear power units with a capacity of more than 95,000 megawatts operating in 21 countries. 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. What amazes me about the debate in this country in relation to uranium is that those people who oppose uranium mining and the development of resources seem to be taking the view that it is a new industry. It is not a new industry. It has been in existence for more than 20 years. That is not to say that our uranium should or would be sold primarily to developing nations. Many of them would not have the infrastructure or other facilities to utilise uranium in this way. Nor would they all have the necessary sophistication or perhaps willingness to abide by the stringent safeguard provisions which the Australian Government has so rightly laid down as an essential condition of the sale of our uranium- safeguards which are more stringent than those applied by any other uranium supplier in the world.
It is not necessarily the developing nations to which we should sell uranium; rather it is the more developed nations. If those nations utilise increasing proportions of uranium as electricity generating fuel that will ease the pressure of their demand on oil and coal for this purpose, thereby enabling the developing nations to procure those energy sources more readily and at lower cost. As a result that will facilitate the economic growth prospects of those countries. We in this Parliament have a responsibility to Australia and the rest of the world to develop our uranium resources as speedily as possible, subject, of course, to essential safeguard provisions, reasonable environmental and safety considerations and the rights and interests of the Aboriginal and other inhabitants of the areas where the reserves are located. The Bills before the House deal with all these considerations. Their general thrust deserves the support of all Australians who have an interest in the well-being not only of ourselves but also of the thousands of millions of people who live in other nations throughout the world.
An incident having occurred in the gallery-
– I was asked a question from the gallery. I want to see my children grow up in a world where there is growth and improvement in the quality of life. Many of these people see Australia as having a vital role to play in the development of their countries through our position as a reasonable supplier of energy resources and other raw materials. I can say only that it is a matter of dismay to me that so many honourable gentlemen opposite seem completely oblivious to their responsibilities in this respect. I find it incredible that the shadow Minister with responsibilities in relation to this matter has not yet even been to the area of these uranium deposits. Obviously had he done so he would not have made the speech that he made here today. It can only make me wonder what is the real motivation behind the actions of certain honourable gentlemen opposite. I can conclude only that for many of them the motivation is a desire to prevent development in Australia and in the poorer nations. What motivates this desire is something I will leave to the House to judge.
There are several detailed aspects of the Bills before the House on which I wish to comment. My consideration of these matters has been greatly assisted by discussions in Darwin with senior members of the Northern Territory Assembly just three weeks ago, discussions with executives of the Ranger and Pancontinental leases in the Alligator Rivers Region and by inspections of those leases and nearby areas. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to discuss these matters with representatives of the Aboriginal community, and I accept that some of my considerations of the issues may have suffered as a result.
On the basis of my discussions in the Territory, I should like to set straight several points made by the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen). Firstly, the honourable member talked about seepage from the Ranger operations, and I presume he meant also the Jabiluka operations. The fact is that there will be no seepage at all from either development. The problem mainly discussed is the release of tailings wastage from the tailings ponds. The fact is that with the proposals both for the Ranger and Pancontinental schemes there will be no release from the tailings ponds, with the exception of the possible need for release in the very wet wet seasons, which on the average occur once every six years at most. The release would occur at a time when the Magela Creek system was in full flood and that means a waterway system of something likevarying from one part to another- up to five miles wide and up to 30 miles or more long. The release, which would be controlled in the case of the Ranger deposits, would go through retention tanks along the way and would be only a minimal release, at a time when the river is in full flood and flush.
Another point which I think the honourable member for Robertson made was that there would be waste and loss from the milling operations. As I understand it, that is simply not correct. Another impression which the honourable member for Robertson gave was that the area of mining operations would be large in relation to the total area about which we are talking in the subject of these Bills.
– I did not say that at all. You were not listening.
-That certainly was the impression I got. It is worth recording and making public the fact that the total area proposed for the Kakadu National Park is 12,500 square kilometres. As the Minister said in his second reading speech, as we all on both sides of the House agree and as the honourable member for Robertson said in his remarks today, the area of the Kakadu National Park is of unique value not only to Australia but also to the world and not only to present generations but to all future generations. There is no disagreement about that. The total area proposed for mining, milling and the tailings ponds and the like -
– That is what I said is a confidence trick because it affects the whole region.
-It does not affect the whole region. For example, the area associated with the Ranger development is of the order of five square kilometres. I might be a little bit out in that figure, but it is approximately that.
– Why does it flow into the system?
– He is a slow learner.
-Yes. He obviously has not listened to what has been said; he has not read the Bills which this debate is all about, nor has he been to the region, nor does he know the frequency of releases and the timing during the year in which any releases would be made. As I said, at most they would be made about once every six years and only at a time when the Magela Creek system would be in full flood. But another fact which the honourable member for Robertson seems to have ignored is that these matters are of concern in the sense of needing control. That is precisely what the three Bills we are debating are about.
I commend the Government for the content in particular of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill. There is a close relationship between this Bill and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill, about which I shall have something to say a little later. As the Minister said when introducing the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill, which is designed to establish an office of a supervising scientist, a co-ordinating committee and a research institute for the region, it is the co-ordinating committee which will be 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. Therefore, this Committee will have a vital role to play.
I particularly welcome the Minister’s observation that many varied and at times conflicting interests in the region have to be considered and reconciled. Again, I do not think that that is a statement which would draw any disagreement from either side of the House. Certainly I fully accept it. I only make the plea, however, that the committee in its work bear fully in mind what I said earlier today about the need to get on with the job of developing our resources, I make the same plea in relation to the provisions of the Bill which ensure close collaboration between the supervising scientist and the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, who is to be responsible for the proposed Kakadu National Park.
Under the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill the Director of National Parks and Wildlife is given enormous power, not only in relation to national park management and environmental considerations but also in relation to the development of uranium mining and milling. It is understandable and, I think, highly desirable that the Director does have these co-ordinated responsibilities, particularly, as the House has agreed, in view of the importance of the ecosystem of the Kakadu National Park. However, I do believe that it is quite essential that the Director should take too a balanced view in his approach to his duties. I should be interested in any comments which the Minister may make later as to how this can be ensured.
In my recent discussions with senior members of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly it was made quite clear to me that they are gravely worried about the powers being accorded the Director. In particular they feel very strongly that the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has been deliberately excluded from any involvement in drawing up the plan of management for the Kakadu National Park or in its subsequent administration. They obviously fear for their position in relation to the development of any further national parks in the Territory. My reading of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill makes me have some sympathy with this fear. It might be that there is something in the Bill which would allay this fear and I have missed it. I would appreciate any comments which the Minister might make on this point too at a later stage.
I am pleased to see that the Bills permit the controlled exploration for uranium and other minerals in the Kakadu National Park. What is not clear to me, however, is what would happen if this exploration were to lead to the discovery of commercial deposits. Again, I would appreciate some comment on this from the Minister in due course. The Bills before the House also provide for considerable power to be given to the Northern Land Council. I can only express the hope and the confidence that the Council and all other interested parties will work together constructively and co-operatively to further the interests of all Australians through the early controlled development of our uranium resources and the necessary protection of this remarkable ecosystem.
I must say that some of the remarks made to me about delays which are occurring or are said to be occurring in achieving satisfactory negotiations between the Northern Land Council and the Ranger interests over compensation for the use of Aboriginal land do cause me concern. I hope that either the remarks were exaggerated or that the present differences of view can be quickly resolved because I believe it is essential that developmental work in the Alligator Rivers region uranium deposits commences during the forthcoming dry season. Time in this respect is not on Australia’s side. There are other major suppliers of uranium around the world and they are selling their uranium, not all of them on terms or subject to provisions which we would consider responsible. We are losing markets at the moment, particularly in terms of small spot sales around the world. Nations which we would regard as being less responsible in their selling practices are gaining these sales. Further delays are going to heighten this problem. Subject to the points of clarification I have raised today, I fully support the Bills before the House and commend the Government for their introduction.
-I join in the debate on this group of Bills- the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. I have an uneasy feeling that perhaps the first two Bills might better have been debated together and the Bill relating to nuclear codes have had a section to itself. Whilst the three Bills are truly environmental and deal with different aspects, it seems to me that the content of the two groups I mentioned is somewhat different. I think perhaps I should advert to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill first.
During the course of debate on this and other Bills I have heard the suggestion that the Opposition has been irresponsible in not taking decently the fact that the Government has made a decision on this matter and is not trying to help the Government in what it is doing. I take the opportunity to reaffirm my intransigent attitude to uranium mining at this stage. It is not my intention to go through the variety of reasons that have caused me to form that opinion because they are very wide ranging, including a fear of the use of the material for nuclear weapons. Not the least of these is the problem that we talk about in regard to the safe working and health aspects of the open cut mining and milling of the material.
It seems to me that in many ways this Bill is a rather dragnet Bill which allows very wide activity to cover all those unforeseen eventualities that people fear may occur. That causes me to wonder just how much is known about the safe working and handling of this material and how much confidence we can have that with our present knowledge we will be able to lay down what is an acceptable code. Many of the aspects of mining and uses of such material, apparently far less dangerous than the radioactive material about which we have been talking, have been shown after some years to have very grave effects. I refer to say the medical group of diseases known as the pneumoconioses. Their causes have been realised only after years of using the materials. There is the recent example of the furore that is going on about the handling of asbestos and its after effects after many years. This Bill is pretty much all-embracing in its definitions. In his second reading speech the
Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) commented that the Bill 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. One wonders, having read the Fox reports and the many comments on them, how much knowledge there is to enable governments to give this utmost protection. Under this Bill the Commonwealth Minister may make the proposed codes and variations available for public comment. Surely there is something in this controversial subject that should be subject to mandatory examination.
The emphasis in the Bill itself seems to be on carrying out its functions by regulation. It may be said that there are mechanisms in the Bill for the handling and discussion of those regulations. It always worries me that we in government are going further and further towards bypassing Parliament and carrying out most of our ‘legislation’ by regulation so that it is hard at times to get a look at the overall picture that occurs with this type of subordinate legislation. I think this is well illustrated in this uranium legislation. Government supporters cannot deny that there has been a very hot reaction from State governments and the threat that there would be High Court challenges to the legislation. In fact, the Victorian Premier, Mr Hamer, made quite a point of the lack of consultation between this Government and State governments in the drafting of the Bills. Forgetting my basic opposition to the question of uranium mining and processing, it is cause for great concern that there has been this lack of consultation. Whilst the purpose of these amendments introduced by the Minister is to exempt the States but not the territories, they seem to me to be symptomatic of the lack of consultation and lack of confidence that I have in this Bill to give effect to a code of practice that is widely accepted and recognised throughout Australia.
Having said that, I return to the question of the national park itself. As honourable members know the concept of this national park has been going on for many years. The Northern Territory Reserves Board recommended the establishment of such a park in 1965. Four years later the Minister for the Interior reinforced the recommendation and a Cabinet decision in 1973 stated that it would be set up. The first time I was in the area was as a member of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation which investigated wildlife conservation between 1 969 and 1 972. 1 have been there several times since. From the ecological point of view it is a most interesting region. Since those earlier recommendations two factors that have come into consideration have been the recognition of Aboriginal land tights and the inquiries that were carried out into that subject and, of course, the discovery of substantial deposits of uranium in the area. That has changed the whole ball game. The area of the proclaimed national park is very substantial. It just about covers the whole of the Alligator River catchment area. But important omissions from the area are, of course, the three mining areas held by Ranger, Pancontinental and Noranda. They are outside the park yet when we look at the map we see that they are physically surrounded by the park. It is semantic nonsense to suggest that they are not part of the park because what is done there will affect a great deal of the surrounding area.
I think it was the second Fox report that quite clearly cast doubts on the measures that would be taken in handling tailings and all the spinoff of processing and whether it is possible to protect the area. There are other problems that will arise as a result of processing. The industrial processes may produce solid, liquid or gas discharges. This is a fairly sensitive environment to any concentrated pollution. Whilst I believe that, given these difficulties, a bold attempt has been made for a proper plan of management, there will also be pressure of numbers of people on the national park produced by the mining processes themselves. Goodness knows, this occurs enough in conservation areas and national park areas where there are no such commercial operations.
The Environmental Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill, which deals with the Alligator Rivers region and the setting up of a scientific structure to monitor events, contains certain deficiencies. For example, reference is made to the Co-ordinating Committee. On the Coordinating Committee are to be representatives of various groups. The Bill states:
. The Co-ordinating Committee shall consist of-
The Minister shall cause to be prepared and kept a list setting out the name 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 . . .
Nominations will be made from those bodies to the Committee. My colleague, the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen), has pointed out that that representation is not sufficient for the Co-ordinating Committee looking after this area and investigating the problems that may occur. The Government has made a national issue of this question of uranium mining. We are told that it is a great national issue; that it is of great national importance. Surely one should take a wider national view of those who belong to the Co-ordinating Committee and who will have some say in monitoring the effects of what occurs. Why can we not have representatives from, as he has put forward, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the Northern Territory Environment Council and similar bodies? These bodies are not in a bureaucratic sense involved in the day-to-day operation of or the results of uranium mining; they are not involved in the industrial sense in the results but they are interested because of their fields of activity. They possess expertise which could be used in this area. They could give an independent assessment of what may occur in this very uncertain area of environmental protection, the very area in which we are not sure of what will occur.
If it is not truly known what the environmental effects may be, we may face a situation where, put under test, it will be shown that in the middle of the national park mining should not take place at all. We want to be certain that there are at least some voices on the Committee who have no vested interest in seeing that the operation continues. Whilst I have mentioned these three mining areas- we understand that more than one of them will start at the same time- that are in the park yet not in the park, we know that examinations have shown that there are other vast deposits of uranium contained in the area of the Kakadu National Park. We have seen the response to pressure in this case. What are the real protections against the further exploration for and extraction of uranium in that park? Honourable members on this side of the House have no confidence that provision has been made for any protection at all of this great national park. We believe that this lack of protection is in strong contrast to the attitude taken to national parks in other countries where the private enterprise ethic is very high. One recalls the great forests on the west coast of the United States of America from which the timber could well have been used during World War II but in relation to which President Rooseveldt himself said: ‘They will not be touched; they are there for posterity’. The Americans are very grateful that these areas have been preserved. Yet here, in a uniquely ecological area, one that would attract worldwide interest, we are teetering on the brink of disaster, we have a lack of knowledge of what is in the area and we have a government which is not putting up effective mechanisms to protect the area.
– Can you imagine this happening in American parks?
– No, not in the national parks. The attitude in America is entirely different. The Americans would not allow this type of mining. In fact, one knows that they are drawing back from involvement with nuclear power. What was a thriving industry is becoming depressed. In fact, the whole concept of what we will yield after destroying these areas is probably based on a false premise. That will become obvious. So that a little sense can prevail I urge that some consideration be given to the amendments put forward by my colleague, the honourable member for Robertson.
– The Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill proposes substantial changes to the principal Act. Its main objectives are to facilitate the creation in two stages of the Kakadu National Park and at the same time enable it to be convened to Aboriginal land under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1 976. The mechanism for doing this will be by the grant of a long-term lease by the Aborigines to the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Under stage one the main area of the park will immediately become Aboriginal land and the national park will be proclaimed as soon as possible under the Act and will cover the same area, excluding the uranium mining areas. The remaining area is in stage two and comprises land not yet subject to an Aboriginal land claim, pending the making of such claims the new concept of a conservation zone is to be used to enable the Commonwealth Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service to control the land in the interim. The total area of the national park eventually will include the South Alligator and the East Alligator River basins other than the Arnhem Land reserve, uranium mining leases and certain pastoral leases excluding Munmarlary and Mudginberri. It is possible that parts of the southern and eastern pastoral leases may be acquired later.
The total area of stages one and two, approximately 5,000 square miles, would comprise a substantial portion of the Northern Territory. Stage one constitutes about half this area and stage two constitutes the other half. That park would be one of the largest, if not the largest, park in Australia. The method whereby the park used to be controlled needs some consideration. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly for some years has been under the impression, following discussions with the late Senator Greenwood, that if the park was declared to come under a Federal Act the day-to-day management would remain with the Territory. This was understood by the Majority Leader from an agreement between the then Majority Leader, Dr Goff Letts, and the former Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, Senator Greenwood. It appears that that agreement called for cooperation between the Federal body and the Northern Territory National Parks and Wildlife Commission in preparing major plans for the management of the two parks, Kakadu and, of course, Ayres Rock-Mount Olga area in the south, known as Uluru National Park. It also made provision for the Territory Commission to manage the daytoday running of those parks. I am referring here to the plan of management.
This Bill does not really provide for any consultation at all between the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth. It pays no regard to that arrangement and appears to vest full control and management in the hands of the Commonwealth. It appears to be a clear exercise of the use of section 122 of the Constitution. I will not read that section; the Minister can check up on it later. This is contrary to recommendation No. 7 of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Development which stated, amongst other things, that the Australian Parliament should not legislate in respect of those functions, the executive responsibility for which has been transferred to the Territory Executive.
Also the Bill pays no regard to the current proposals for self-government for the Northern Territory, due to become effective on 1 July this year. Responsibility for Territory parks and wildlife has already been transferred to the Northern Territory Executive. A comprehensive Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Ordinance has been passed and is now in operation, establishing a Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission to control parks and wildlife in the Territory. This Bill seems to be a retrograde step in the orderly transfer of powers which were considered by the Joint Committee to which I have referred and which are being considered by the Commonwealth Government at this time.
Admittedly, the report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry recommended that the national park be created under a Federal Act but, at the time that report was prepared, moves towards self-government for the Territory were only beginning to gain momentum. The Inquiry was set up in 1975. Its first report came out in 1976 and the second in 1977. The Fox Inquiry paid no attention to the question of selfgovernment when framing its recommendations. The national park was only a secondary issue in the Fox report and accordingly little evidence was presented on the matter by the Northern Territory representatives because reliance was then being placed on the Greenwood understanding, which apparently is now being completely ignored. It is only in recent times that a change in attitude by the Commonwealth has become apparent. This is probably due to pressure from the bureaucracy of the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
This Bill, in comparison with related Bills such as the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, clearly shows that there is a direct intrusion into local Northern Territory matters whereas the latter Bill largely equates the position of the Territory with that of the States. Some examples of this intrusion contained in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill include: Firstly, that the national park is to be proclaimed under a Federal Act; and, secondly, that negotiations for the lease from the Aborigines are in the hands of the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. The lease is to be granted to him. There is no provision for the involvement of the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission or its director, despite the years of experience of many able men headed by a very competent director.
The new concept of a ‘conservation zone’ as an interim arrangement vests substantial control in the hands of the national Director. He has very wide powers in many matters extending beyond parks and wildlife, including regulation of mining, fishing, pastoral and other commercial activities, building, roads and other transport facilities, timber and so on. The national Director has sole responsibility for the preparation of a plan of management and is not required to refer to the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission at all. That is set out in the Bill. The matters that can be included in the plan of management have been extended in the Bill and include the establishment and control of town sites, town planning, building control, public services and amenities. The day to day management of the national park and its wildlife is to be vested in the national Director with no requirement to involve the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission at all. The national Director is to have sole control over access to the national park and activities in the park. That gives a Commonwealth officer control over entry into a very substantial portion of the Northern Territory. As I have said before, 5,000 square miles will virtually be under Commonwealth control. From the point of view of Territorians, added to this- we have no objection to it- are 96,000 square miles of Aboriginal reserves which are now Aboriginal lands. Claims under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act will increase that area quite considerably. So we have a different ownership of land within the boundaries of the Northern Territory.
I just wonder where the Commonwealth thinks it is going in all these matters. At a time when we are seeing the transfer of powers to the Northern Territory Executive, constitutional reform and self-government, we see the Commonwealth endeavouring to divide the Territory. The national Director is to have the right of access to any area in the region and the right to require information, with power to apply to the Supreme Court to enforce his rights. No such similar power is given to any Territory Authority. The Bill requires consultation with Aborigines- that is fine and it is only natural- but nowhere does it recognise the existence of the proposed new Northern Territory Government, even though the national park is nominally within the boundaries of the Territory. This appears to be designed to cause racial problems, a general dislike of people in the south by people in the north and a dislike amongst people in the North.
The Bill envisages that the national Director will have a central role in the protection of the environment and in the enforcement of environmental controls, whether relating to uranium mining or not, in the area comprised in the national park or in any conservation zone, pending the extension of the national park. This function extends far beyond matters of park and wildlife management which would normally be the only functions of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and it intrudes into a wide area, the responsibility for which would otherwise lie with the Northern Territory and which is presently covered by a large body of Territory law. The Bill, by amending section 7 ( 1 ) (a) of the principal Act will open the door for national parks to be declared under that Act over all other parks and reserves in the Northern Territory, whether administered by the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission or not, whereas in the case of the States section 6 (2) as amended would require the consent of the States before such action could be taken. Therefore the Bill is framed in a manner which would facilitate the eventual takeover of all parks and reserves in the Northern Territory.
Because of the lack of consultation with the Northern Territory Executive, which is the present legislature, there is a general fear in the Northern Territory that the National Parks and Wildlife Service will as it has in the past, manage parks in a patchy way. In fact its management has been even worse than that. Its track record with regard to the running of the Uluru National Park has been an utter disaster. It has been a disaster for the people who have been endeavouring to develop business enterprises in that area. They have had demands made on them by the Reserves Board and tourist organisations generally to provide first class accommodation in a national park which is of very great significance. I do not say that it is more significant than the proposed Kakadu National Park. It is entirely different. I would say that it is of equal significance. It has received national and worldwide recognition. Because of the continual bungling by this Service, which apparently will have the management, organisation and overall control of the proposed Kakadu National Park, the general approach of visitors to the Uluru Park is one of some scepticism. The people who have been trying to do business in that park- no doubt people will also try to do business in the Kakadu National Park- have suffered considerably. I am certain the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) has received numerous representations from those people. I know that he has received representations from me concerning this matter.
The Territory is suffering and has been suffering for a long time from having been Canberracontrolled in the early days. There was a general criticism of the Canberra control of the Northern Territory, no matter to which party one belonged. That situation does not seem to have altered very much. We have written into this Bill and the other Bills in this package the fact that the Northern Territory is not acknowledged at all. After all it represents one-sixth of the total area of Australia. It has a wonderful wealth in its uranium deposits, its scenic beauty and its national parks. From the actions of the Commonwealth one would think that the Territory did not exist. If it did acknowledge that the Territory existed, one would think that the people up there were a bunch of nincompoops, completely incapable of running their own affairs and having no knowledge or experience in any of these matters. In fact, the people in the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, as it will be called, have a tremendous experience and a tremendous ability, and they would be backed by Territorians. It is only as a result of some political squabble that the rest of Australia is told that they are unable to carry out their work. They are very able to do it, and they have proved that over the last 20 years. Why the Commission is not included in this Bill, I do not know. As I have intimated to the Minister, I cannot support this Bill unless the Northern Territory is in some manner written into the day-to-day management of the proposed Kakadu National Park.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I think that -
Motion ( by Mr Hodges ) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The Supervising Scientist has power to do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for, or in connexion with, the performance of his functions.
Omit the clause, substitute the following clause: 6. ( 1 ) The Supervising Scientist has power to do all things that are necessary or convenient to be done for, or in connexion with, the performance of his functions.
Any recommendations for action shall be made in writing to the Minister, who shall, as soon as practicable after he has received them, cause the recommendations to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.
Either House of Parliament, within15 sitting days after the recommendations have been laid before that House, may, in pursuance of a motion upon notice, pass a resolution disallowing the recommendations for action.
If neither House of the Parliament passes a resolution in accordance with sub-section (3) disallowing the recommendations for action, the recommendations for action become a mandatory requirement from the day immediately following the last day upon which such a resolution could have been passed by either House.
If, at the expiration of 15 sitting days after notice of a motion to disallow an order, either wholly or in so far as it related to a part of the code or of the variations of a code approved by the order, has been given in a House of the Parliament, being notice given within 15 sitting days after a copy of the order has been laid before that House-
the notice has not been withdrawn and the motion has not been called on; or
the motion has been called on, moved and seconded and has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, this Act has effect as if the order had been made, or as if that part of the code or of the variations of the code had been approved by the order, as the case requires.
Clause 6 causes the Opposition concern in respect of the powers of the Supervising Scientist. As I mentioned during the cognate debate at the second reading stage, the Supervising Scientist will not be able to let the members of the public know, through the Parliament, of his communications with the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development during the period prior to the tabling of his report. Obviously the Parliament will receive a full annual report from the Supervising Scientist, but I imagine that there will be communications between the Supervising Scientist and the Minister on a weekly or monthly basis whenever a crisis occurs. If that happened, I am not aware of anything, and we cannot see anything in the Bill, that would allow the Parliament and the public to know what was going on. We want a situation where, if the Supervising Scientist reports in a particular way to the Minister, we will be able to find out about it. We also think that at the moment too much control is provided for the Minister over the Supervising Scientist. Clause 7 will require the Supervising Scientist to comply with directions given to him from time to time by the Minister in relation to the performance of his functions or the exercise of his powers, and to furnish the Minister with such information in relation to the operation of the legislation as the Minister requires. It seems to us that the Supervising Scientist could be quietened or kept quiet by an instruction from the Minister. That causes us a great deal of concern. The amendment we have moved will provide that any query the Supervising Scientist may have or any action he may wish to take he will be able to make or to take in the full knowledge that the Parliament knows about it.
We would seek to make a minor amendment also to sub-clause (5) of our amended clause 6. Where in the middle of the page it reads, ‘this Act has effect as if the order had not been made ‘, we would wish to have it read ‘has been made’. Later where it reads ‘or as if that part of the code or of the variations of the code had not been approved’, we would seek to amend it to read ‘has been approved’.
-I support the amendment to this provision. I accept as bona fide the Government’s point that the object of the exercise is to ensure that the Supervising Scientist, without having any pressure put on him to do things, really assesses matters to acquaint himself with what he considers are the anxieties about the procedures, their safety, or whatever it might be. But the Bill leaves it at that. There is nothing to say what the hell he is supposed to do with an assessment when he makes one. Of course, the presumption is that he will report to the Minister, but if the Minister is of a mind to take no notice of it, that is where the matter stops, and no one else will be any the wiser. All the effort of the Supervising Scientist will stop dead.
Because what is at issue is the safety of the procedures- and judging from the debate going on around the world on the subject, this is not a matter of minor significance- in our view the report made by the Supervising Scientist should be available to everybody and not just to the Minister as is the case, for example, with the national parks legislation. When recommendations on park management are made in accordance with that legislation, it is useless for the Minister to sit on them and do nothing about them. The Labor Party when it was in government was pushed into that situation by members of the Liberal Party. When I was Minister, they made the valid point to me that the whole community should be able to know of and should be acquainted with the recommendations in these sorts of areas. The same argument applies to environmental impact statements. When inquiries are set up under the legislation concerning such statements the report of the committee of inquiry has to be made public. It is not just given to the Minister, who may shove it into a pigeonhole. It must be given back to the community at a public hearing.
We suggest that the same principle should hold in this case. The report of the Supervising Scientist may include recommendations that cause the Minister to say, ‘That is all very good; there will be nothing to worry about’. However, whichever way it goes, the recommendations should be made public. That is what we are proposing. Of course, the recommendations should go to the Minister but it should be mandatory for him to place them before both Houses of Parliament, as it is under other legislation relating to environment questions. If the Supervising Scientist makes recommendations, presumably he makes them for good reasons. If the Minister thinks, they are OK, he will not move dissent from them when they are put before Parliament, as he would be required to do under our amendment if he disagreed with them. If the orders, recommendations or the advice of the Supervising Scientist are not disagreed with they would be accepted automatically after 1 S days and would become a new requirement. On the other hand, if the Minister and the Government decide that the Supervising Scientist has gone overboard or that what he is recommending is impractical or unnecessary, the Government is always free to object to it by moving a motion in the House to disallow it.
The procedure will be perfectly open. Everybody will know about it. The Parliament, presumably, will do what the Government requires for the Government has the numbers. So the Government will have the recommendations disallowed and the situation will stay as it was: Nothing will be changed. In those circumstances at least the community will know that nothing has been hidden. There will be no suspicions that the Government has been trying to avoid its responsibilities. If the Supervising Scientist is an idiot, he will be exposed as such, and that will save us all a lot of bother. If the Government conscientiously thinks that the Supervising Scientist has made unnecessary and ridiculous recommendations, it is as well that the whole community should know about it. For those reasons we recommend this procedure.
The wording of the minor amendment we have suggested to the circulated amendment is designed to put the proposition in the way that the Supervising Scientist’s recommendations will be accepted automatically after the required IS days, as should happen if the Supervising Scientist makes a recommendation based on his experience and on all the expert advice and all the assistance that obviously he will get or should get from the departments and everybody else. I trust that the Minister will make sure he gets that cooperation. If not, why bother to appoint him. The Opposition, while accepting that the Government is acting in good faith, argues that when the Supervising Scientist submits recommendations, they should automatically come into effect after the required 15 days unless Parliament believes they should not be followed.
There is nothing highly controversial about that. It involves accepting the good sense of the Minister’s suggestion about having a Supervising Scientist but provides a mechanism whereby his deliberations and his reports can be dealt with meaningfully rather than, as could be a danger, quietly pigeonholing them, with nobody ever knowing what they were. In those circumstances, presumably because the Supervising Scientist will, in essence, be an employee of the Government, a public servant, he will not be able to say anything about it. What if he thinks something terrible is happening? He has made his report. He just has to shut up. What does he do if he thinks the Government has taken ill-advised action? At least, through public debate the Government will be able to defend itself. If it does so successfully, that will be too bad for the Supervising Scientist. He will have had his chance to express his views publicly, but will know that the Government has disagreed with them and disallowed them. That is our reason for proposing this amendment.
– The Government does not see any real sense in the amendment proposed to clause 6. Sub-clause (1) of the circulated amendment is identical with clause 6 in the Bill, but sub-clauses (2) to (5) are really suggesting the new concept that all of the recommendations for action should be in writing. The Government believes that would certainly inhibit the activities of the Supervising Scientist. What is meant by recommendations for action? It could result in the Supervising Scientist not being able to carry out many of the functions that he will be required to carry out.
Further, the proposed amendment is in breach of the usual principle that advice to Ministers in matters of this son is confidential. The procedure required by the amendment would be administratively cumbersome. In any event, I think Opposition members recognise that an important part of the legislation is that it makes provision for a report to Parliament. This will enable honourable members to look carefully at the operations of the Supervising Scientist on behalf of the people they represent. For ariose reasons the amendment is unacceptable.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 17- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
The Minister shall cause to be prepared and kept a list setting out the name of each Department, authority, incorporated company or other body that in his opinion has un interest in uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region and-
– I move:
At present the Co-ordinating Committee to be set up in the Alligator Rivers Region will include only the Supervising Scientist, the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and, from memory, at least one and not more than two representatives of the various government agencies, both State and Territory, and of the mining companies. That will mean that 90 per cent of the people on the Co-ordinating Committee will have a vested interest, a committed interest, in uranium mining. The only person referred to in the Bill who would not come into that category is the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) mentioned that the Northern Land Council will be represented on the Committee, and I have no doubt that that commitment will be honoured. There will then be two and perhaps three representatives on the Committee who do not have mining interests, and from memory there is no specific limitation on the size of the Committee.
If one looks at the Fox report, the people we could have on the Committee would be representatives of the various branches of the Department of the Northern Territory- mines, water resources, animal industry and agriculture, forestry and fisheries, commercial and industrial affairs, forward planning and major projects coordination, and transport planning- sections of the Northern Territory Public Service with relevant responsibilities and the Commonwealth Departments of Health and Construction. Then there would be representatives from Pancontinental Mining Ltd, Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd and Noranda Australia Ltd. The Committee will be dominated by people who have a commitment to mining.
The Opposition believes that the Kakadu National Park is a national asset and that people not only in the Northern Territory but throughout the whole of Australia have an interest in it. Even though many of them have not visited it they are aware that it is going to open, and I believe that hundreds of thousands of Australians will go there in the future because they know more about it and will have greater access to it. We believe that the Government should show some sensitivity for members of the Opposition and other people who are concerned about the Park by adopting the suggestion we have made. We have suggested that the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Conservation Foundation, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, the Northern Land Council, and the Northern Territory Environment Council be specifically included in the Bill and represented on the Co-ordinating Committee. This would provide a balance between those people who are committed to uranium mining and those people in the Austraiian community who have a concern for and interest in the future of the Kakadu National Park.
– I rise to speak on this clause of the Bill because I think it is the crux of the matter. The activities of the Supervising Scientist will depend very strongly on the sort of committee he has advising him. It disappoints me that the Opposition has not seen fit to refer in its amendment to the Northern Territory Administration. I do not know whether that is an indication of the Labor Party’s attitude to the Northern Territory, but I should have thought that the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) would be very concerned that there has been no mention of the Northern Territory Administration. However, in his second reading speech the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) mentioned particularly the Director of National Parks and Wildlife, the Northern Territory Administration and the Northern Land Council. Once we begin to specify various bodies within legislation we run into trouble. We must accept that it is the Government’s intention, through this body, to provide proper information to the Supervising Scientist.
The functions of the Supervising Scientist are such that the role of the Committee will be to consider programs for research and collection of information, to review those programs and make recommendations to the Supervising Scientist on them, to consider and review standards, practices and procedures and their effect, to review requirements under prescribed instruments, to make recommendations to the Supervising Scientist on those factors, and to perform such other functions as are confirmed or are incidental to the foregoing. If one looks at the role of the Co-ordinating Committee, one would have to recognise that there are some people who should be on it. The Opposition has not specified the Northern Territory Administration, which would be a vital group to have involved. The Minister has said that he will include the Administration, and he means it, but the Opposition is not prepared to accept that the Northern Land Council will be included and wants it specified. I think that the provisions set out are reasonable, and I hope that the Minister will view the matter in the way that I have expressed it. I believe that this is the most vital clause in the legislation.
-I have to rise to answer the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). I do not know whether he was not listening to me or whether he has not read the Bill. I did in fact specify the various government agencies.
– It is not in your amendment.
– It is not in my amendment, but clause 1 8 of the Bill states:
1 ) The Co-ordinating Committee shall consist of-
The Minister shall cause to be prepared and kept a list setting out the name 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 Bill provides that the Minister will include each department, authority, incorporated company or other body that has an interest. I said that that would mean that the various Territory agencies and all the Commonwealth bodies automatically would be on the Committee as specified in relation to the area. I then said that the Opposition feels that, as well as those bodies, the following groups ought to be included, and I will not run through them again. I do not know what the honourable member for Mitchell was talking about. Not only did I go through and list them all, but there is provision in the Bill.
– I too was confused by the amendment. The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) ran through a list of people, and I hope that he mentioned specifically the Northern Territory National Parks and Wildlife Commission or its Director. Clause 18 (2) of the Bill states that the Minister shall cause to be prepared a list of people, and I am here to emphasise specifically the case for the Northern Territory. I said earlier this afternoon that there is a body in the Northern Territory with considerably more experience in this sort of matter than all these other people put together. That body is made up of practical people, and that is the point I am making. There should be some practical people on the Co-ordinating Committee.
-I really do not understand the response of members of the other side. Of course all those people should be on the Committed, and I have assumed that the Government would not be so silly, when making a list of departments, to leave out any of the people mentioned, they are all departments of the Federal Government and when the Northern
Territory gains its independence, obviously they will have to be involved. If the Government wants to include them it should introduce an amendment to do so on the day after the Northern Territory gains its independence. The Opposition would not object to that for one moment. The groups we have proposed in our amendment would not be seen to be as directly involved as some of the other groups. For instance, the Academy of Science is based here; it is not based in the Territory. By virtue of the fact that this is a scientific exercise, we are appointing to the position of supervising scientists someone who presumably will have some stature. As a member of the committee which the Government proposes to set up- it is not our revolutionary proposal to help him, but that of the Governmenthe might have access to advice from his peers from the Academy of Science. Despite the fact that some honourable members opposite think that the Australian Conservation Foundation is a pink organisation, it does have amongst its membership many people from the same political party, and many patrons who have supported the Australian Labor Party, including such reds as the Duke of Edinburgh.
– We support it financially.
– The Government also supports it financially, as the Minister says. Exactly; more power to your elbow. One ought to support it. We think it is the sort of Australia-wide, allembracing environment group which could reasonably be added to the list of groups which could be seen to have some sort of interest in this whole business. One could go on to mention other organisations.
What is the objection to the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, for goodness sake? I mean, part of the purpose of the exercise, quite apart from just protecting Aborigines, is to know more about what goes on. A research institute is being set up specifically to look into the problems of Aborigines. Why should it be excluded when much of what goes on may have an effect on the Aborigines? What is wrong with having the members of that Institute on the co-ordinating committee? I mean, it is not a subversive organisation. As far as I know, the Government has control over who is appointed to the dashed organisation anyway. I could go on to refer to the Northern Land Council and other organisations. I do not understand the Government’s resistance to a very innocuous amendment which, if it were to be accepted, might have the effect of making the Government look better in the eyes of the Australian community. I see nothing that the
Government could lose by accepting it; it can only gain by supporting the suggestion.
– I think a couple of points ought to be made in relation to this issue. Firstly, as honourable members opposite must recognise, there is real danger in specifying bodies and organisations which should be represented on the co-ordinating committee. Are honourable members opposite suggesting that it has proposed a complete list of all the bodies which might possibly nominate members and which should be represented on the co-ordinating committee?
– No. There might be more.
– The honourable member says that there might be more. I think it is important that the Minister should be given flexibility in determining which bodies are responsible and which bodies should be included on the coordinating committee. Obviously one would imagine that some, if not all, of the bodies mentioned would be included on this committee.
The other point which I think is relevant is related to the creation of the Uranium Advisory Council. Perhaps one or two of the bodies mentioned might be the sorts of organisations which could be included on that sort of body as well. The role of the co-ordinating committee will be very much one of administration and dealing with technical matters. So community based organisations such as those proposed could be included on the Advisory Council. We do not see any merit in the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Government opposes it.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 30- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 31 (Secrecy).
-The Opposition opposes clause 31. Our objection is fairly basic. We think that it provides an opportunity for the Government to be excessively secret about what is happening in the Alligator Rivers Region. Frankly, the Opposition cannot understand why it is that we need in the legislation provision for a penalty of $1,000 or imprisonment for six months, or both, to be imposed on anybody, whether he be the supervising scientist, a member of his staff, or any of the departmental people involved. Regrettably we will be engaged in the mining, milling and marketing of uranium.
Why has this clause been included in the legislation? It is not as though we are talking about nuclear weapons or the likelihood of terrorists stealing the yellowcake or anything like that. I mean, we have not reached that stage yet; it is purely and simply a mining operation. I doubt that any other operation of this nature would involve the imposition of that sort of penalty on someone who spoke to the public.
As I understand the situation, public servants are fairly well covered in relation to what they can say by the provisions of the Crimes Act and the Public Service Act. So why we have this added clause in the Bill, I do not know. One can imagine only that the Government believes that there will be a few Nader-type whistle blowers who will reveal to the public or to the Press that something is going on there about which the public ought not to know. I look forward with great interest to the Minister’s explanation why this clause has been included in the legislation.
– The Government believes that clause 3 1 should remain in the legislation, for obvious reasons. It is typical of the sort of provision contained in legislation of this kind which relates to officials who under legislation are given responsibilities and the opportunity to obtain confidential information, not only of a commercial kind but also of a personal kind. It is a matter for the Government, if it is felt necessary, to disclose this sort of information, if that is desirable in given circumstances, which might be received from official sources. I do not know whether honourable members opposite would suggest that those involved- the supervising scientist and others- who have the right to get information of all kinds under the legislation should not at the same time have an obligation to ensure that that information is used only for proper purposes and should not be bound by proper rules of secrecy. There is nothing unusual about this provision. Therefore we believe it should remain.
– I am a bit mystified. I would have thought that under lots of other legislation many public servants would have this sort of access to private- that is ‘private’ with a capital P underlined and in inverted commas- information. They do not go blabbing about it, and they are covered by the ordinary rules and regulations governing public servants. Clause 3 1 reads in pan:
I would not have thought that that would have to be specified in this legislation. If that son of provision is to be included in this legislation it might have to be included in a hell of a lot of other legislation. I would have thought that it is assumed that that sort of thing does not go on. No doubt any person who was guilty of such an act could be punished under the provisions of the Public Service Act, the ordinary laws of defamation, or goodness knows what. I am just mystified as to why that has to be specified in this legislation. We are not saying that people should be allowed to blab about these things; not at all. It just seems to be an unnecessary provision to put in the legislation. Surely that sort of provision applies to public servants everywhere all the time. I am thinking of the social welfare area, the health areas and goodness knows what other areas. Are these sorts of terms specified in legislation dealing with those areas? I did not think so; I did not realise that that was the case.
– If the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) examines the particular clauses in the Bill which are relevant to the question of obtaining information- I refer in particular to clause 27- he will find that the supervising scientist is given extraordinarily wide powers, which I think the Government would concede, to obtain information and that very limited opportunity is given to a person to refuse to supply that information. A person who does not comply with a notice which is served upon him under that clause is subject to substantial penalties. We believe it is essential for the supervising scientist to have such powers to carry out his job effectively. Similarly, under clause 29 he is given very wide powers to gain access to buildings. That clause reads in part: to full and free access to all buildings and places in the Alligator Rivers Region for the purpose of the performance of his functions . . .
Again the powers are very wide and very significant. If a sensible comparison were made between this legislation and other legislation, it would be recognised -
– What other legislation?
-The sort of legislation that has been mentioned. If that comparison were made it would be recognised that there is a very real need for such secrecy provisions. We believe they should remain in the legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Groom)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 10 April, on motion by Mr Groom:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
-Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– I have already spoken to this Bill. I have some amendments for the Committee stage.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Cohen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 7 of the Principal Act is amended-
– I move:
Omit proposed paragraph (aa).
The reason for proposing this deletion is that we do not believe that Aboriginal land held under lease by the Director should be singled out for the treatment outlined in this provision. If this paragraph were included in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill its effect would be to the disadvantage of Aborigines for no well-explained reason. We believe that as far as possible a decision on the status of Aboriginal land should be left to Aborigines and that their views should take precedence over those which may be concerned with environmental issues.
– This paragraph enables a park or reserve to be declared over Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory and leased to the Director. This course has been agreed to by the traditional land owners in the Northern Territory. The deletion of this paragraph would mean that the proposed Kakadu National Park could not be declared in accordance with the methods which so far have formed the basis of all negotiations with the Northern Land Council. The proposed lease would have to be directly between the Commonwealth and the relevant land trusts and would not involve the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. If the Opposition’s proposed amendment were agreed to it would involve substantial redrafting of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill. It would mean further negotiations with the Northern Land Council and that Council might not necessarily agree in those circumstances to the lease to the Commonwealth. For those reasons, we oppose this proposed amendment.
– I wish to make an explanation concerning the voting during a previous division. During the cognate second reading debate on the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill and the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill I intimated that I opposed an amendment moved by the Opposition to the motion for the second reading of the latter Bill. I intimated also that I opposed the second reading of that Bill. As a formal vote was not taken on the amendment moved by the Opposition, I voted against the second reading of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill as a means of indicating that I opposed the Bill.
Clause agreed to.
Section 8 of the Principal Act is repealed and the following sections are substituted:
8c. ( 1 ) Where the plan of management relating to a park or reserve the whole or part of which is within the Region so provides, townships may be established and developed within the park or reserve or that part of the park or reserve, as the case may be, and the succeeding provisions of this section apply accordingly. “(2) A township, other than a township to which subsection (3) applies, may be established and developed-
– On behalf of the Opposition I move:
After sub-section (2) of proposed section 8C insert the following sub-section: (2a) A township shall not be established or developed by the Director on Aboriginal land except after consultation with the Aboriginal Land Council established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 for the area in which the land is situated.’.
The effect of our amendment, if it were adopted, would be that a township could not be established or developed by the Director on Aboriginal land except after consultation with the Aboriginal Land Council established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 for the area in which the land was situated. I think that the proposed amendment is self-explanatory. It is a reasonable amendment and is in accordance with the spirit of many other sections of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act and other Acts, for which we have been debating amending Bills this week. I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) to consider accepting our proposed amendment in that spirit.
Clause agreed to.
Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended-
by adding at the end thereof the following subsections:
– On behalf of the Opposition I move:
The import of this amendment is that under the Government’s National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill the Director may, for the purposes of Part II of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, surrender to the Commonwealth any interest held by him in respect of land within a park or reserve within the region. Our proposal is that it should be mandatory that the Director surrender such interest. Again, we believe that such an amendment would be in the interest of the Aboriginal people and would do no harm to the interests of the Director or the interests of the Australian people.
– The proposed amendment, if adopted, would require the Director to relinquish to the Commonwealth any interest held by him in land in a park within the region for the purpose of Part II of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. This requirement would apply even if no land rights claim were made. The Director’s interest granted by the Aboriginal land trusts could be affected also, even though the land was already vested in those land trusts. The Director is subject to ministerial direction. If a land rights claim were upheld and the Director refused to surrender his interest in land within a park the Minister could use the power of direction which he has under the Act. The amendment is therefore unnecessary and could have unfortunate and unintended results. We oppose the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Section 1 1 of the Principal Act is amended-
by omitting sub-section (14) and substituting the following sub-sections: (13a) Where, under paragraph (13) (b), the Minister refers to the Director a plan of management in respect of a park or reserve wholly or partly within a prescribed area, he shall cause a copy of the suggestions referred to in that paragraph to be served on the relevant Chairman, and the Chairman may, within the period of 1 4 days after receiving the copy of the suggestions, make representations to the Director in connexion with the suggestions.
by adding at the end thereof the following subsection:
– I move the following amendments:
In paragraph (b), omit ‘and substituting “general” ‘. Omit paragraphs (g), (h) and (j), substitute the following word and paragraph: and (g) by omitting sub-sections ( 13) to ( 16) (inclusive ) and substituting the following sub-sections: “( 13) Subject to sub-section (20)-
in a case where the Minister is satisfied that, in relation to a plan of management in respect of a park or reserve wholly or partly within a prescribed area, there is a substantial difference of opinion between the relevant Chairman and the Director, the Minister shall refer the plan to the Director, together with his suggestions, for further consideration; or
b) in any other case, the Minister may-
accept the plan of management as submitted under sub-section ( 12); or
refer it to the Director, together with his suggestions, for further consideration. “(14) Where, under sub-section ( 13), the Minister refers to the Director the plan of management in respect of a park or reserve wholly or partly within a prescribed area, he shall cause a copy of his suggestions referred to the Director with the plan to be served on the relevant
Chairman, and the Chairman may, within the period of 14 days after receiving a copy of the suggestions, make representations to the Director in connexion with the suggestions. “(15) Where the plan of management has been referred to the Director under sub-section (13), the Director shall, as soon as practicable after receipt of the plan or, in a case to which sub-section ( 14) applies, after the expiration of the period referred to in that sub-section, give further consideration to the plan, having regard to the suggestions of the Minister and any representations received under sub-section (14), and again submit the plan, with or without alterations, to the Minister, together with-
a ) his comments on the suggestions of the Minister: and
a copy of any representations received under sub-section ( 14), together with his comments on those representations. “(16) Where, under sub-section (15), the Director submits a plan of management, with or without alterations, to the Minister and the plan is in respect of a park or reserve wholly or partly within a prescribed area, the Director shall, not later than the date on which the plan is so submitted to the Minister, serve on the relevant Chairman copies of the plan and of any comments and representations submitted to the Minister under sub-section (15), and the Chairman may, within the period of 14 days after receiving the copies, submit to the Minister representations in connexion with the plan. “(17) Where the Minister receives representations under sub-section (16) and he is satisfied that there is a substantial difference of opinion between the relevant Chairman and the Director in relation to the plan of management, the Minister may appoint a person (being a person whom the Minister considers to be suitably qualified and in a position to deal with the matter impartially) to inquire into the matter. “(18) A person appointed under sub-section (17) shall inquire into the matter and submit a report, together with his recommendations, to the Minister. “( 19) Subject to sub-section (20), as soon as practicable after the plan of management is submitted to the Minister under sub-section ( 1 5 ) or, in a case to which sub-section (16) applies, after the expiration of the period referred to in that sub-section, the Minister shall accept the plan as so submitted or, if he is of the opinion that the plan as so submitted should be altered, the plan as so submitted and altered by him in such manner as he thinks fit. “(20 ) The Minister shall not take any action-
under sub-section ( 13)- except after giving due consideration to any representations or comments submitted to him under sub-section (12); or
under sub-section ( 19)- except after giving due consideration to any representations or comments submitted to him under sub-section (15) or ( 16), and to any report and recommendations submitted to him under sub-section (18). “(21) When a plan of management is laid before both Houses of Parliament under section 12, the Minister shall cause the plan to be accompanied by-
copies of any representations and comments, and of any report and recommendations, submitted to him under this section in connexion with the plan, other than those that have been given effect to in the plan; and
in a case where he has made alterations to the plan under sub-section ( 19)- a report specifying the alterations and setting out any views expressed by the Director, and, in the case of a plan of management in respect of a park or reserve wholly or pardy within a prescribed area, by the relevant Chairman, in respect of matters to which the alterations relate. “(22) In this section- prescribed area’ means an area wholly or pardy within the Region, being an area for which an Aboriginal Land Council has been established under the Aboriginal Lands Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976; relevant Chairman’, in relation to a prescribed area, means the Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Council for the area; traditional Aboriginal owners’ has the same meaning as in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976”.’.
The purpose of these amendments is to make specific provision to ensure that Aboriginal interests are fully taken into account in the preparation and approval of a plan of management for the proposed Kakadu National Park. Proposed sub-sections (13) and (14) of section 1 1 of the principal Act provide that in the event of a substantial difference of opinion in relation to a plan of management between the chairman of the relevant land council and the Director the Minister shall, firstly, refer the plan to the Director with his suggestions for further consideration and, also, provide the chairman with a copy of those suggestions. The chairman may make representations to the Director in respect of those suggestions. Under proposed sub-section (15) the Director is required to give further consideration to the plan and to submit it again to the Minister with his comments and any representations received from the chairman. The Director is further required under proposed sub-section (16) to send copies of the plan and of any associated comments and representations to the chairman who, in turn, may make further representations to the Minister.
In the unlikely event that a substantial difference of opinion still remains between the relevant chairman and the Director in relation to a plan of management, sub-section (17) will empower the Minister to appoint a suitably qualified person to inquire into the matter and submit a report, with his recommendations, to the Minister. Proposed sub-sections (19) and (20) relate to the procedures through which the Minister shall accept the plan of management. Proposed sub-section (21) requires the plan of management to be laid before both Houses of Parliament and to be accompanied by, firstly, copies of representations, comments, reports and recommendations submitted to the Minister other than those that have been given effect to in the plan and, secondly, a report specifying the alterations to the plan by the Minister and any views expressed by the Director and, in the case of a plan of management dealing with Aboriginal land, any views of the relevant chairman in respect of the alterations. Honourable members will appreciate that we are dealing with procedures for the establishment of management policies and arrangements for the use of land to which Aborigines will hold title. The Government believes it is essential that every reasonable opportunity should be given for Aboriginal views in respect of that land to be considered and, if reasonable, incorporated in the plan of management for that land.
– The Opposition does not oppose the amendments.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Section 14 of the Principal Act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections:
– I move:
Amendment agreed to.
– I move:
This amendment refers to a report given to the Minister which would indicate whether the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service had, in fact, complied with an agreed plan of management. The Opposition does not believe the Minister should determine the matter other than in accordance with the plan of management. We believe, therefore, that the wording of the amendment tightens up the intent of the Bill, makes it more explicit and gives a clearer direction to the Minister as to his function in determining the matter.
– The Government opposes the amendment moved by the Opposition. The Government believes the amendment would restrict unduly the powers given to the Minister. It is possible that the Minister may wish to go beyond the strict requirements of the plan to ensure equity and fairness to people concerned in a particular matter. Ministerial responsibility to Parliament would, on the other hand, ensure that the Minister would not give directions which fail to ensure the observance of the minimum standards of the plan and would not abuse his discretion by going too far in the other direction. The Minister’s power will not affect any legal remedies against the Director to ensure compliance with his statutory duty. For those reasons the Government opposes this amendment.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 1 1 and 12- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
After section 17 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted: 17a.(1) . . .
The Opposition believes there has been undue concern to protecting mining interests in this whole series of Bills. I refer, for example, to the question of penalties for a supervising scientist who discloses a matter that he discovers in the course of his supervisory duties, which was dealt with in the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill. If it is necessary to have an industrial inspector, a health inspector or any other kind of authority to monitor and restrain the activities of a corporate body, surely the least we can do is to give that authority the freedom that is extended to industrial inspectors and other authorities who have a responsibility, by virtue of their public position, not to disclose information irresponsibly. The Opposition feels that this is an unwarranted concession to private interests. We feel that it is dangerous and smacks of totalitarian procedures rather than democratic procedures. We strongly urge the Parliament to omit sub-section ( 3 ).
The Opposition believes that there are already adequate safeguards for individual rights in court procedures. The only kind of incrimination we can envisage is that very type of incrimination which ought to be brought out. We believe that so much protection is offered by this sub-section, for some kinds of breaches of the law there would be no remedy possible and that all sorts of powerful restraints are available to corporate bodies to restrict the flow of information to such an extent that it is very difficult to police their behaviour. We believe that the court ought to have the discretion, whether privately or in public hearings, to have access to that type of information. Certainly it refers to incriminating a person but in many cases acts for which corporate bodies are responsible can be punished only by prosecuting an individual. We believe that such individuals acting as agents of corporate bodies have undue blanket protection under this subsection.
– The Government opposes the suggested amendment which really is proposing omission of a provision in the legislation dealing with self-incrimination. The provision as it stands is, we believe, consistent with proper legal principles for the protection of the rights of citizens and is similar to other provisions in legislation covering offences of this kind. Therefore, the Government opposes the amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 16 (Contracts and leases).
– The Opposition opposes this clause. For the reasons I outlined earlier we wish it to be omitted from the Bill. Aboriginal interests should take priority over national parks, wildlife or any other interests in the disposal, administration or allocation of purposes to Aboriginal land. We believe that this clause makes an unnecessary and unwarranted intrusion into those rights, if in the administration of those lands we are really interested in Aboriginal land rights and Aboriginal priorities.
– The action suggested by the Opposition would remove the requirement for ministerial approval of contracts involving a lease of Aboriginal land. The advice received by the Government is that the Opposition’s proposal is unnecessary because the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill will require the relevant Aboriginal land trusts in the region to enter into leases with the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. We believe that it would be totally improper for the land trusts to be placed in a position of being required to grant a lease to the Director if he could be prevented from entering into the agreement by the lack of ministerial consent. Proposed sub-section 21(2) merely ensures that both parties are required and have adequate power to enter into the proposed lease agreement. The Opposition’s move is opposed.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Groom)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 10 April, on motion by Mr Groom:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. We advanced our argument with respect to this amendment in the debate on the Bill just passed.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Cohen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr G. O’H. Giles)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
In Committee (Quorum formed).
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
-It seems to me that this is an occasion on which it would be appropriate for the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) to inform honourable members of the Government’s position, which seems to have changed since this Bill was introduced as a result of the reactions of the Premiers of the various States as communicated to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). I believe that it would not be in the interests of this Committee if we were to proceed through the Committee stage of the Bill without being provided with a full statement of the Government’s intentions as to the way in which the Bill will operate. Whilst I do not share the view of the Premier of Victoria in regard to the mining of uranium, I certainly share his view that there exists a body of knowledge and experience, not merely in the State of Victoria but indeed in many States of the Commonwealth, on the whole question of open-cut mining. I doubt whether there would be available to this Minister anywhere within the Public Service knowledge of industrial safety measures in relation to opencut mining techniques which would surpass the knowledge which exists in Victoria, in which State open-cut mining has been operating very successfully for many years.
– Order! I ask the honourable gentleman to direct his remarks to clause 2 which is concerned with the coming into operation of the Act.
- Mr Chairman, you might not be aware of it because the Prime Minister does not always inform all honourable members -
– No reflection on the Chair, please.
– It is not a reflection on the Chair. The fact is that we are now in the Committee stage of the Bill and if you, Mr Chairman, had read this morning’s Press, as I have -
– I hope that you are still not reflecting on the Chair.
– The honourable gentleman may care to listen. We are being told that, whilst the Government wants this legislation through, it wants it through in quite a different form, and what is involved is how this Bill will be proclaimed. It will be proclaimed in ways which are not necessarily traditional, as a result of representations being made to the Prime Minister by the Premier of Victoria and other Premiers. Quite frankly, if that is what is occurring and if it involves the processes of this Parliament, I take the view that at the first available opportunity that information ought to be put into the possession of all honourable members. It should not be available to them because they happen to have read the daily newspapers but it should be available to them by way of a statement made in this chamber. Mr Chairman, the fact that you raised it with me in the way in which you did strengthens my position. You are the Chairman of Committees. That is an important and prestigious position. What do you as Chairman of Committees know of the procedures that the Government intends to take in respect of this Bill?
– Order! The Chair is concerned not so much with the procedures of government but with the procedures that apply to the debate that is presently taking place. Clause 2 concerns itself with the manner in which the Act shall come into operation, and that is the parameter within which the honourable member must direct his remarks.
- Mr Chairman, you and Mr Speaker are the guardians of the prerogatives of this chamber. The point I am making is simply that it is not good enough -
– It is hard to find the point you are making.
– It is all right for the Prime Minister to treat the political goons of the Liberal Party in the party room with contempt, but it is not good enough for him to treat this Parliament with contempt. If honourable members opposite want to lie down and become a pack of brown noses in the presence of the Prime Minister, that is their prerogative.
– I take a point of order, Mr Chairman. The honourable member for Melbourne Ports has not realised yet that he has been elevated to the Federal Parliament. He still thinks that he is leading the Labor Party in Victoria to disaster, which he has done for years.
– I might say to the honourable member for Bendigo that since I have been elected and have had to associate with him any movement has been distinctly downward.
– The point I am making is simply this: We are at the beginning of the Committee stage of the Bill and the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has not sought to inform the House -
– I take a point of order. Two amendments are to be moved in the Committee stage. I think that is the concern of the honourable member. The details have been circulated, and he should be aware of them. At the appropriate time, when I move those amendments, I will make an explanation. The honourable member already has the details before him.
– I have them.
– I thought that the honourable member was saying that he did not have any details before him.
– The point of order is upheld.
– I am saying that I condemn the Minister because it is not good enough for him to come into this chamber, to drop some documents on the table and to work on the basis that honourable members happen to know what is going to go on because they may have read in the daily Press about statements made by the Prime Minister. What I was suggesting to the Minister was that the proper course, in the interests of this chamber, would have been that at the earliest possible opportunity in the Committee stage he should have informed us of the representations that have been made by the Premier of Victoria and by the Premiers of other States. The Minister should have indicated the position he was proposing to take as a result of those representations. That has not happened. I do not believe that is either a good procedure or a proper process for the Government, the Prime
Minister and the Minister to treat honourable members in such a cavalier manner.
The representations that have been made by the Premier of Victoria and by other Premiers raise very serious points that ought to be canvassed properly in this chamber. They ought to be argued properly. That can take place only when they are formally the property of the chamber, and they become the property of the chamber by the Minister’s taking action, not by an honourable member saying that he happened to have read something in this morning’s paper. That is the point I am concerned to make and I invite the Minister in the consideration of clause 2 to inform the House, as is his duty, of the nature of the representations that have been received and the details of what has taken place between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Victoria or any other Premier for that matter. If the Government proposes to take a certain course in respect of the proclamation of this Bill and the way in which it should operate, I suggest that all that information ought to become the property of the House. It should not become just a technical exercise related to the way in which a particular clause of the Bill should operate.
– I respond by saying that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) will just have to show some patience. When we reach the consideration of clauses 1 1 and 13,1 will explain it fully.
– I rise on this issue because the Government has proclaimed itself as the guardian of the rights of the States and it has said that the Opposition is not terribly concerned about the rights of the States. I do not want to enter into the argument about the specific concerns that the States may have about this legislation. I want to point out only that they are still concerned. We are all aware of the factthe Government’s proposed amendment confirms the fact- that in response to protests from the States the Government has changed its mind about those aspects of the legislation which appear to bear on the States. We can argue about that later but the fact still remains that the States- at least two of them- are not yet satisfied. I shall quote from a communication from the Acting Premier of Tasmania to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which was sent either yesterday or today. It is in response to the Prime Minister’s telex of 3 May. The Acting Premier, Mr Batt, said:
I am pleased that you have recognised the need for consultations, as urged by a number of the States.
I might point out that the Prime Minister, I understand, first wrote to the States in August last year. There were very minor consultations apparently but the first time the States really knew of the substance of the legislation was when they saw copies of it. There was, I understand, very little real consultation with the Premiers. Maybe the Labor Premiers would be squealing because they do not agree with the Liberal Federal Government, but when Mr Hamer joins in I tend to accept the claim that there was not satisfactory consultation. Quite clearly something went amiss. The telex from Mr Batt continued:
However, the amendment of the legislation so that certain sections will not apply to the States until appropriately proclaimed is unsatisfactory to us. We regard it as quite undesirable that legislation, which could potentially be used against States ‘ rights and civil liberties in unspecified circumstances, should be passed. Proclamation can take place without further parliamentary consideration.
Of course that is the fact. The Acting Premier of Tasmania has objected to the proposed course of action. Now I shall quote from a telex from the Acting Premier of South Australia, Mr Corcoran. He stated:
You have asked for specific points of concern with the legislation to be raised. In previous correspondence the South Australian Government has pointed out a number of areas particularly in the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill and the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act. Our concerns are of such a nature that we feel they can only be dealt with adequately in serious discussions at the highest level.
By that he does not mean officers; he means between the Premiers and the Prime Minister. He continued:
I am prepared to convey to you our more detailed apprehensions about the Bills in the course of preparations for such consultations.
Once again I call on you to reconsider your position and to withdraw your legislation so that the issues raised may receive the careful and detailed consideration which they demand.
Having quoted from those telexes, I want to put it on record that I do not know what are the specific objections of the States. They have not communicated them to the Prime Minister. They feel that they have not been asked. In taking this stand I am not suggesting that I would necessarily support the States. I might agree more with what Mr Hamer has to say and less with what Mr Dunstan has to say. That is irrelevant. The point I am making is that the States feel that they have not been properly consulted. This legislation can override their powers and their rights.
Many people in the community feel that there are threats to civil liberties. I am not debating that issue at this stage. I am simply saying that where those anxieties exist, in my view if a government proclaims to be concerned about the rights of the States and proclaims to be concerned about the rights of the individual against what it epitomised as an over-centralised Labor Government then proceeds in this fashion in the face of those objections, including objections from Liberal Premiers, it strikes me as quite incongruous. I think if the Government were honest in its proclaimed views it would postpone this legislation whilst it had the discussions that have been sought. It may then proceed to enact exactly the same legislation. That is possible. What can only be interpreted as arrogant action, despite protests from a range of Premiers, in proceeding to pass the legislation in the face of the States’ fears and anxieties without consultation strikes me as quite unreasonable.
-Mr Chairman, I join with the call of my colleagues for the Government to withdraw this legislation rather than to hold up that area which is applicable to the States and of current concern to them and simply push ahead with the various Bills that apply to the Northern Territory. It is of little wonder that the State governments are denouncing this package of legislation, particularly the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. While the Atomic Energy Act grabs overall power over this unfortunate area of uranium mining -
– Which State governments do you trust?
– I certainly do not trust the Queensland Government. I do not trust the Victorian Government either for that matter, although it seems to be on the side of the angels on this matter. It is certainly not on the side of this Government. The Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill abrogates responsibility for the actual administration of these Codes to the States, but it does not spell out how they should perform their duties. How is it suggested that they should perform their duties on nuclear codes administration? Should it be through the departments of labour and industry, through consumer affairs bureaus, perhaps? Where is the appropriate structure in State administration at the moment? No wonder they are concerned. It is easy enough to legislate but it is a different matter to administer.
In its usual arrogant manner this Government assumes ultimate control through clause 13 of this Bill with all its anti-civil liberties connotations. The Government wants the best of both worlds. Nuclear safety codes are either a State matter or they are not. The Government, as I have said, wants the best of all worlds- ultimate power without responsibility for the administration.
I cannot see how it can do anything else but withdraw this legislation and redraft it rather than to seek to get around the matter simply by saying that it will not promulgate it for a while, having regard to the States. Mr Hamer in this morning’s Press gave this legislation the greatest roast by a Liberal Premier ever. Amongst other things he said:
I believe that the Bill itself is deficient in failing to provide machinery for full consultation with the States in formulating proper controls for nuclear activities.
The Minister concerned in South Australia, Mr Corcoran, was equally critical. He said:
Mr Fraser ‘s decision to pass the Bills but proclaim them only in the Northern Territory was no real compromise.
Instead it is an admission by the Prime Minister that the Bills pose a serious threat to State rights.
Then of course there was further criticism. One Professor Kerr in South Australia said:
Secrecy provisions in the legislation infringe basic civil rights and penal clauses for defence purposes are not appropriate for a civilian industry.
In the light of all this criticism, much of it from the State colleagues of honourable members opposite, how can the Government simply go ahead and attempt to get around the matter by saying that it will proceed with the legislation, amend it a little, set it aside, then confer with the States at a Premiers Conference and tidy up the legislation. Yet the legislation is still good enough to be enacted in the Northern Territory? What an illogical position to take. I rest my case at this time and I urge the Government to think twice about the matter and to withdraw this obnoxious legislation immediately.
-I think that some of the comments made by honourable, members opposite need proper balance and ought to be given proper consideration. The comments made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) are relevant in the spirit of federalism. It is pleasing to see the Opposition espousing the cause of federalism and of proper consultation between the Federal Government and the States. However, we should be aware that in August 1977 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcom Fraser), as part of the package statement on the development and use of uranium in Australia, gave notice that there would be nation-wide regulations controlling the use and the transport of uranium and codes concerning uranium use. The States were given -
– He can do that only through the States.
– He gave notice to the States and mentioned that this would be done in cooperation with the States and the Territories. He said that this is the way in which we would be moving. The States had notice of what the process would be. Within the last six weeks, there has been detailed contact between the Prime Minister and the Premiers on what was encompassed by and envisaged within this legislation. I point out that the Australian Government has strict obligations under the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. We have international obligations covering the way in which uranium is handled in Australia. We cannot deny those obligations and we must fulfil them in the international sense.
If honourable members referred to the debate that took place last night on the Bill to amend the Atomic Energy Act, they would recognise that the Opposition failed to see that part of the obligations placed on the Australian Government are within the ambit of international controls of these commodities. It is all very well to say that we will place certain restrictions on our trading neighbours and that we will place restrictions on countries that buy our uranium but that we will not observe those restrictions within Australia. First of all, we in Australia must accept that we have international responsibilities. We must be prepared to fulfil those responsibilities. I think that the Government has moved in a responsive way. If the States want more time to discuss this matter, if they wish to consider what codes they might apply, that is a reasonable approach. I understand that the Government will be following that process. However, we cannot fall back to a situation in which we are prepared to deny our responsibility and in which we are prepared to set aside this legislation and not indicate firmly what our eventual intention will be.
It seems that the Opposition is proposing that every State in Australia should be allowed the opportunity of having different or varying codes. In fact, one State might decide to have no codes at all because uranium is not of interest to it. That State may not have any uranium deposits, nor may uranium be transported through it. But, for example, within New South Wales we have a stockpile of yellowcake at the Lucas Heights establishment which is operated by the Atomic Energy Commission. That commodity has to be moved and it must be moved under international requirements. If the New South Wales Government were not to decide to enforce codes that were of the same strength or the same type as the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty imposes upon Australia, I am afraid that under those circumstances the Federal Government would have an obligation to override the wishes of the State Government. I think that it is a very simple matter. Let us have discussions but eventually recognise the ultimate responsibility of the Federal Government.
– It is a complete misuse of the legislative process to force the passage of a Bill through a legislature in an unsatisfactory form and then announce that the deficiencies of the Bill can be cured administratively either by regulation or by delaying its proclamation- under clause 2 of this Bill- or by segmenting its applicability State by State. I draw the attention of the Committee to the text of the letter which the honourable R. J. Hamer, Premier of Victoria, sent to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It seems to me that what he is suggesting is eminently reasonable and not inconsistent with what my friend, the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), has said. I ask honourable members to remember that the Fraser Federal Government has claimed to follow a ‘States righteous’ position but which in practice has been very much centralist. Mr Hamer writes: . . in response to a specific request on your part, on 2 1 September 1 977,I nominated the Minister for Conservation in Victoria as the State Government contact point for information relating to the development of uniform codes of practice relating to uranium mining in Australia. Unfortunately, the Bill in question was prepared and presented to the States as a virtual fait accompli without any recourse to the State Minister nominated for that purpose.
Mr Hamer goes on to refer to a later clause, clause 1 1. But his remarks obviously are related to clause 2 in this legislation because they refer to the question of whether the Bill should be proclaimed. The Premier states:
In my view, this provision -
That is clause 11 - . . cannot be said to provide for more than token consultation with, and input by the States. It certainly does not qualify as a measure of co-operation and, in effect, says that the States must either implement Commonwealth policy or be subjected to Commonwealth legislation in what I believe to be clearly State matters.
I leave out a paragraph of the letter but I will be happy to table the whole letter at a later stage. Mr Hamer continues:
I am particularly perturbed that, in the event of any challenge, Victoria may be forced to participate because such fundamental principles concerning future StateCommonwealth relations are at issue.
The scheme envisaged by the Bill would appear to be designed to force the States to adopt a Commonwealth code in areas which are primarily the States’ responsibility. But in my view the scheme will be invalid because, under the Bill, the code cannot be limited to matters within the legislative power of the Commonwealth. On the contrary it is to deal generally with standards, practices and procedures with respect to nuclear activities which, as such, are outside Commonwealth legislative power. The power to make regulations which is conferred on the Governor-General is as wide as the matters which may be contained in a code and, that being so, the power is too wide and not within constitutional limits. The attempt in clause 12 to bring the matters dealt with by the Bill within the ambit of Commonwealth power would, in my view, be ineffective. I am concerned at the possible future implications, which could be far-reaching in many other fields, if the attempt to extend Commonwealth jurisdiction by such indirect means into areas for which it has no specific head of power were to be seen as a precedent.
He then goes on to say:
It may be, that uniform Commonwealth-State legislation could represent an acceptable, constitutionally correct and proper alternative approach to this matter.
Although the Premier of Victoria is not a political ally of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) or myself, nevertheless we understand his point of view. He goes on to say:
To expedite consideration I propose that State and Commonwealth officials should meet to explore the question of an alternative approach which constitutionally would be fully acceptable to State Governments in respect of State matters, and which would facilitate effective co-operative machinery to ensure the adequate maintenance of uniformly prepared and implemented codes.
I look forward to your comments on these issues as a matter of urgency and would add that I am advising the other State Premiers of the terms of my letter to you.
One might ask this Committee: What is the advantage of trying to force this legislation through the Parliament and then going through an infinite period during which the GovernorGeneral is asked not to proclaim it? Where is the time advantage in that course of action? Alternatively, we might follow the procedure of passing the Bill, having it assented to by the GovernorGeneral, having it proclaimed and then finding that we are facing a constitutional challenge in the High Court of Australia which might delay the whole procedure for some months.
It seems to me that there would be very few members on either side of the House who would regard the Bill as satisfactory in its present form. Instead of having this fail-safe clause, which provides that parts of the measure can be proclaimed at some distant time, why not engage in consultation with all six States now as a matter of urgency, precisely as the Acting Premier of South Australia and the Premier of Victoria have suggested? I believe this is a badly constructed Bill and that there are serious implications in it in that excessive power is proposed to be exercised on what is probably not a legitimate constitutional base. I would have thought that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), as a distinguished lawyer, would be fully aware of that point. I hope that he will take into consideration and agree that this may be an appropriate time to report progress to allow the Government to enter into consultation with the States.
– I make one or two brief comments at this time. There seems to be a suggestion in what has been said so far that a lot of people were caught by surprise by the form of this legislation. I reiterate the point made by colleagues on my side that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did make a statement in August of last year which clearly indicated almost the precise form that this legislation would take. I refer honourable members to bis speech, and in particular to the comments made by the Prime Minister in the House under the heading ‘Mining and Milling’. He said at that time:
There shall be a uniform Australian code covering the mining and milling of uranium. The code will be mandatory and implemented progressively by legislation together with the States and territories, commencing with the Code of Practice on radiation protection in the mining and milling of radioactive ores which has already been prepared and published by the Department of Health. The Code of Practice will be prescribed by Commonwealth legislation, but where State or Territory legislation has an equal or more stringent code, the Commonwealth legislation will be held in reserve and the administration of the code will be left entirely in the hands of that State or Territory.
The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) is concerned about consultation. I suggest that the important question is consultation in relation to the preparation of codes. We are talking about the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, and it is the preparation of the codes provided for in that Bill that is important. If honourable members look at the Bill in its present form, and in particular at clauses 7 and 8, they will see provisions requiring consultation with the States.
– You think that is a proper method of consultation?
-That is a proper method of consultation -
– Victoria does not think so.
– . . . because we are now in the situation where the codes have to be prepared, and they must be prepared in consultation with the States. That requirement was always in the Bill. It was always in the mind of the Government. That is what this Bill is all about. The preparation of the Codes of Practice is the operative part of it. That is why it is called the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. I do not know whether the honourable member for Melbourne Ports has read clauses 7 and 8.
– Of course I have.
– If the honourable gentleman looks at them, he will see important provisions that do require consultation. There will be consultation. He raises the question of the application of the legislation to States and Territories and says he thinks it is wrong that it should perhaps apply to the Territories and not to the States at this stage. He wants it removed in toto.
– That seems to be the suggestion. Some considerations must be borne in mind: For example, the development of the uranium industry in the Northern Territory and the need for the Government to be concerned about the health and welfare of the workers in the field. That is why it is important -
– Do you think the State Governments are not?
– I will make some further comments when we get to the appropriate clauses.
-I feel I must argue as a liberal liberal, if I may, on this issue. I come back to it. I agree with the view expressed first by the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), and more or less reiterated in part by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), that ideally there ought to be uniform codes. I agree with the view that we have international obligations and, clearly, ultimately in that sphere the Federal Government will be held responsible. I agree that the mining and processing of uranium in Australia must conform to those international obligations- never mind the fact that we happen to have however many sovereign States there are. I concede partly the point made by the Minister that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) foreshadowed all this in August 1977. The trouble is that the Premiers are afraid, not of the codes yet, because they have not been formulated, but of the legislation as it stands, for as they understand it they are afraid it will infringe their rights. I think they are probably wrong. I do not know. I have not talked to them. I certainly find rather surprising a lot of the arguments put by the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry
Jones) quoting Mr Hamer. Mr Hamer is not a Labor Party stooge, so I do not understand why the Minister is ignoring him.
When the Labor Party was in government we proceeded to implement legislation such as this, including some legislation that I brought in. I refer for example to that dealing with national parks. I was attacked specifically because it was said that the legislation would infringe State rights. At least I had the nous and the sense to listen to what Liberal-Country Party shadow spokesman said, and I changed some of the legislation. They represented the States’ views. I saw the telegrams they had received from various States, mainly Liberal Party governed, and I was at least persuaded by the arguments to delay the legislation, to talk about it, and finally to reach a compromise that the States were prepared to accept, or at least one that the members of the Liberal Party in this House were prepared to accept on behalf of the States, so carrying the can. Of course, when the Bill went through there were no arguments. People were happy.
Therefore, again arguing for the sake of this discussion as a liberal liberal, valiantly standing for the rights of the States, I say that surely given the sort of communication that has been received from a number of Premiers, including the Premier of Victoria, the Government would be far better advised to delay the legislation. Frankly, I hope the Government finally wins its point because I think at this stage from what I know of the Bill I am inclined more to the Government’s view than to the view of the Premier. I am not sure. However, at least the Government ought to have the sense to iron out the differences between it and the States before it imposes the Bill on the States. If the Government proceeds as it is, it will be acting in an arbitrary and almost authoritarian fashion by shoving the legislation down the throats of the States.
I concede that ultimately the Government might have the power to do that, and I disagree with that view in Mr Hamer’s letter. But why do it? Why behave like that? Why not be a little more rational, and be what you claim you are, the new Federalists?
– I join issue with the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) in terms of his view that it is an appropriate form of consultation for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to make a general statement in the House, then for legislation of this sort to be introduced in the way in which it has been introduced, with copies being supplied for the States, and then for the Government to move from that position. What is implicit in the Minister’s position is that that constitutes proper consultation with the States. The fact is that it is an arbitrary, centralist view which I think is an unacceptable standard for this Parliament. It is certainly unacceptable to those who have any knowledge or background of the way in which State governments operate.
I believe that when the Premier of Victoria said: ‘Unfortunately the Bill in question was presented to the States as a virtual fait accompli without any recourse to the State Minister nominated for that purpose’ he was being completely accurate. I ask the Minister to think about the implications of what is taking place. Let us deal with it in two areas. We are talking about a code of safety. The fact is that every State in Australia has more experience, administratively, in the enforcement of the law, and in the enforcement of industrial codes, than the Commonwealth.
– Not with uranium.
– The mere fact that the process might be new does not matter, uranium is obtained by a process of open-cut mining. The State of Victoria knows a great deal more than the Commonwealth about the processes and the technology of open-cut mining. That happens to be the result of experiences in developing huge brown coal deposits. It also happens to be a fact that in my own State, whatever its imperfections, there is environment protection legislation on the statute book that goes further than anything the Government has contemplated in this legislation, and indeed further than any environmental Commonwealth statute. Environmental protection codes operate in Victoria, and there is an administrative structure in that State that is tremendously well developed.
I abhor the whole approach of the Government on this matter. First of all, the procedure of passing legislation and then effecting substantive changes in the law by virtue of regulations that are promulgated by the Governor-General, as a process, is something that has to be watched continually by the Parliament. The definitions clause in this Bill gives the Government enormous power in terms of the regulation-making provisions. Let us consider just one area that has been a matter of considerable political controversy in the uranium debate, and I refer to the disposal of nuclear waste. Many of us on this side of the chamber believe that uranium should be left in the ground. We do not feel that the technology has been developed to a stage where we can safely dispose of nuclear waste. Yet within the definitions clause of this Bill there are provisions that enable the Commonwealth to make Australia a nuclear waste dumping ground. There are people in Australia who have publicly touted that view as an inducement to selling uranium overseas.
– That is what they say.
Mr HOLDING That is what has been said.
– Order! The honourable member is ranging rather wide. I request him to direct his remarks to the clause in question regarding the date when the legislation will come into effect.
– I am arguing that it should never come into effect, Mr Chairman, and I am addressing you on that point. On the question of the disposal of nuclear waste, it is open to the Government of the day to reach -
- Mr Chairman, I raise a point of order. There are no provisions for the disposal of nuclear waste within the ambit of this Bill. I therefore consider that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports is completely out of order. He is not talking to the Bill or to any aspect of the Bill.
– Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
– It is a pity that Government back bench members do not even read their own legislation. If the honourable member looked at the definition of ‘nuclear activities’ he would see that it refers to possession, acquisition, abandonment or disposal of any prescribed substance. If he then looked at the definition of ‘prescribed substance’, if he could understand it, he would see that it includes nuclear waste. I am sorry to have to give the honourable gentleman a lecture about his own legislation. What I am saying is that if the Government of Australia were to make such a decision, than it ought to be a matter of considerable concern, a matter that is very much subject to approval by way of legislation in this Parliament. What we are being asked to approve in this legislation is a concept whereby the Government can initiate nuclear dumping in Australia by way of regulation. I for one fear that. I for one believe that the Minister should reconsider the legislation. I believe that this legislation, in terms of clause 2, should never receive the royal assent.
Let us consider the terms in clauses 7 and 8 that the Minister regards as providing the basis for proper consultation. What sort of effective consultation is it when this Minister produces a code that is sent to the Minister in the State of
Victoria? The Commonwealth Minister does not have to consult because the mere passage of that code to a State Minister provides an opportunity to consult, according to the terms of the legislation. If the Commonwealth Minister says: ‘I cannot be bothered talking to these State fellows; they bore me stiff’, then all he has to say is that the mere passage of that code to the relevant State Minister has provided the opportunity to consult. On that basis, after the passage of time, the Commonwealth can say: ‘We occupy the field and our code becomes the code. ‘ No State government anywhere in Australia, be it a Liberal Government or a Labor Government, is going to accept that sort of heavy-handed approach from any Commonwealth government, be it Liberal or Labor. No State government, having regard to its own background knowledge and experience in the handling of industrial affairs and industrial and environmental legislation, where some States are well ahead of the Commonwealth, should be prepared to accept that sort of treatment.
I believe that the proper course is not merely that this Bill should not receive royal assent but that, in good faith, the Minister should say to the States: ‘We are not going to proceed with this legislation. ‘ There is nothing to stop the Minister from entering into consultations tomorrow. He could have entered into consultations months ago. There could have been an exchange of views. One State government- South Australiahas taken the view, I believe properly, that it is not going to mine uranium in its State because it is not satisfied that proper safeguards have been made at the international level. Equally, it is not satisfied in regard to the disposal of nuclear waste. The honourable member for Mitchell may laugh, but that is the viewpoint of a significant section of this community. If it is the viewpoint of a State government, it is a legitimate viewpoint. It ought to be open to the Minister to say: ‘I will persuade them that that is not the situation because I will make available to them all the material that is open to me and to the Commonwealth Government.’ Of course, under this legislation the Commonwealth Minister does not have to get involved in that exercise. He does not have to convince a State government that needs to be convinced about the incipient dangers involved in the whole process of nuclear energy, a State government that does not want to become involved in the proliferation of nuclear weapons, a State government that is not convinced by whatever evidence this Government says it has in respect of waste disposal.
It is perfectly legitimate in a federal system of government for the Commonwealth Government to make available to a State government any relevant material in its possession to endeavour to persuade that government. Under this legislation, of course, that process is not necessary. The Commonwealth Government will deliver to the States a code and tell them that that is it, take it or leave it. The delivery at a certain point of time means that if the States have not communicated with the Commonwealth Government within a period of six months then they have had the opportunity to consult, and the Commonwealth will occupy the field. Just as that process is unacceptable to the Liberal Premier of Victoria and to almost every other State Premier, it ought to be thoroughly unacceptable to all those members of this Parliament, particularly the so-called small ‘1’ liberals, who continually harp about State rights, but when it comes to a situation of allowing this Minister and this Government to override those rights in a very real way they are not prepared to speak on behalf of the States.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I want to follow through the remarks of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). It has been pointed out to me that whilst the Federal Government preaches a great deal about federalism it does very little to put its preaching into effect. I should point out to all honourable members that the recent Labor Government was much better at carrying out a federalist policy than these people who so ardently espouse the concept of federalism. It has also been pointed out to me that when it comes to the implementation of programs to fund community health centres, Aboriginal welfare programs and the like, the Labor Government had full consultation with the States.
– Order! I request the honourable member for Cunningham to confine his remarks to the clause. He is ranging far too widely.
– I am simply trying to point out the reason why there is a great deal of difficulty with the States at the moment. The reason is that these people who espouse federalism, as I said, are quite willing to get away from their ideals altogether when it comes to the crunch. One particular problem bothers me. I will be very succinct in stating it. It is one of the main reasons that the States are worried at the moment. I refer to the question of what ultimately will happen to local waste disposal- not overseas at the end of the nuclear fuel cycle- but here in Australia. I refer to the problem of the final disposal of the mill tailings.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Chairman. The honourable member’s remarks are totally irrelevant to clause 2 of the Bill with which we are dealing.
– The point of order is upheld. I again ask the honourable member for Cunningham to confine his remarks to the clause with greater precision.
– Yes, Mr Chairman. I was merely pointing out that I believe that one of the main reasons why the States are concerned about this legislation is that what will ultimately happen to the environment as a result of long term waste disposal in Australia has not been properly thought through. I think that that matter would have a great deal of relevance to what was in the minds of the leaders of the States.
– And the Bill ought not to be proclaimed.
-I think it ought not to be proclaimed. I do not want to canvass your ruling, Mr Chairman; I simply wish to make the point that the tailings which will be disposed of here in Australia- in the Territory and ultimately in the States, if mining takes place in the States- will remain injurious to human life for 100,000 years. There is no way whatsoever that they will remain buried for 100,000 years. So I join with the honourable member for Melbourne Ports and others who have spoken tonight. I stress very strongly the point that the Government should withdraw this legislation and redraft it in consultation with the States.
– I wish to make one or two comments in response to the remarks made by the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). They have failed to understand the point I was endeavouring to make earlier, and that is that it has to be realised that this is a vehicle for codes of practice, and it is the consultation on the Codes which is important. I wish to refer very briefly to a letter sent by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the Premiers in August 1977. 1 think it explains the situation very well. I think it provides a clearer understanding of this question of consultation, because it is the consultation in the preparation of the Codes- the operative part of the legislationwhich is important. The Prime Minister said in that letter
The Ranger Inquiry recommended that the existing element of the Code referred to above -
That is referring to the Code that had been established- should be made mandatory by legislation. My Government has decided to accept this recommendation but to go further and, together with the States, to establish by legislation a uniform national Code which covers all aspects of mining and milling of uranium as well as any future nuclear activities.
This next part is important:
I recognise the contribution which State authorities have already made in this field and believe that it is essential that this task of developing further elements of the Code take place as a joint exercise and to this I invite participation in this work by officials of your State.
So the joint exercise was concerned, is concerned, and will be concerned with the preparation of the Codes. That is important.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr Chairman. I ask the Minister to lay on the table the letter from which he quoted.
– Does the Minister wish to table the letter?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Object of Act).
-Clause 3 deals with the object of the Act. I agree with the honourable member for Marybyrnong (Dr Cass)- I have not seen all the alternative codes and I have not seen the final Code proposed by the Government- when he said that the likelihood is that we will get better environment protection nuclear codes from a Federal government than we will from individual State governments. There may be differences of opinion on that point, but basically my belief is that local governments, whether in Queensland or in the Northern Territory- I refer especially to the Northern Territory which has a very small legislative assembly- are likely to be influenced much more easily by powerful mining groups in allowing certain things to happen than would people from down here. Hopefully, that is the situation. Clause 3 states:
The object of this Act is to make provision, within the limits of the powers of the Parliament, for protecting the health and safety of the people of Australia, and the environment, from possible harmful effects associated with nuclear activities in Australia . . .
The important point to remember is how to protect the health and safety of the people of Australia. I have some doubts about this matter.
Obviously the Government has also. I wish to refer to an article written by Sir Mark Oliphant who was Professor of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University for a long time. The article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday, 25 April. He wrote:
It now appears certain that uranium mining will soon begin in the Northern Territory. Many people fear that this may increase exposure of Australians and other people to ionizing radiations which are deleterious to individuals and to succeeding generations.
It is therefore worth reporting once again how expert opinion continues to be full of uncertainties. The plain fact of the matter is that neither those who claim that exposure to low levels of radiation is harmless, nor those who are equally convinced that it can cause cancer, malformations of the foetus, leukaemia, or other unpleasant effects, have convincing evidence to support their view.
Congressional hearings in Washington in February raised serious doubts about this question and about the efficacy of the safety precautions imposed to protect those whose work exposes them to low levels of radiation, as in uranium mining and handling.
That is obviously what we are dealing with; there were great uncertainties. He concludes his column by referring to this congressional inquiry:
The Congressional inquiry reveals that there is as yet no certainty about the effects of low levels of radiation, or of the inhalation of very small amounts of radioactive materials, upon human beings. There is, however, growing concern over the long-term safety of all involved with nuclear energy, from the mining of uranium to its use as a source of energy.
I think that is an important point. We do not know. On 7 March of this year I put a question on notice to the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) in these terms:
Are there any figures available showing the number of deaths caused by lung cancer in uranium miners working (a) underground and (b) in open cut mines in (i) the USA, (ii) Canada, (iii) South Africa, (iv) the USSR and (v) Czechoslovakia.
The Minister for Health provided an answer but I will not go into the details of it. I will mention the important points. In answer to that part of the question dealing with underground mining the Minister indicated that in the United States, Canada and Czechoslovakia the figures show quite clearly a very high rate of risk. I am not suggesting that that sort of risk rate would be transferred to open cut mines, because basically it depends on the concentration of the gases in the atmosphere where the mining is taking place. As an aside I mention that it seems that in South Africa there is much less chance of getting lung cancer from working as an underground miner than from not doing so. So apparently underground mining there is good for you. In all other countries miners suffer 2.5 to three times more from lung cancer than other people. We have no figures available for the Soviet Union. That is very depressing because the Soviet Union is one of the largest producers of uranium and one of the largest manufacturers of atomic energy plants. In fact, that country exports both those commodities. It is depressing that we do not have any figures available from the Soviet Union. More important than that is the fact that the Minister said in reply to my question:
There are no data available relating specifically to open cut mines.
That is the important point. We are dealing with the open cut method of mining uranium in Australia. We have no figures available.
I have read to the Committee the arguments put by Professor Sir Mark Oliphant on the inability to have answers to all of these questions. We know that there are vast differences between different people who might be exposed to small quantities of radiation. We know that in all countries the incidence of lung cancer at least, is very much greater in the case of miners who smoke though we do not know why. We know that the incidence is much greater in miners who work in open-cut mines or in any kind of mine. Smoking seems to be much more significant in these cases. Is it due to the fact that there seems to be some attachment of radioactive particles to the substances in the cigarettes that are inhaled or is there anything in my own theory, which has not been confirmed anywhere, that it is just due to the fact that people who smoke draw the gases in much more deeply than other people and they get a -
-Order! The honourable member is getting away from the clause which is designed to accommodate the matters about which he expresses concern.
-I am saying that the object of this measure is to make provision to protect the health and safety of the people of Australia. I argue that we do not know. The object is a good one. I support strongly the aims of this legislation.
– Order! I must insist that the matters about which the honourable member expresses concern are completely consistent with’ the objects of the Bill as outlined in clause 3 and therefore his argument is not relevant to that particular clause should he go beyond that point. I ask him to confine his remarks to the clause.
– What I am suggesting is that it is admirable to produce this type of legislation if there is to be uranium rnining. There is strong argument whether there should be uranium muting at all. If there is to be uranium mining this sort of legislation is necessary. What I am questioning is whether, as a result of this legislation, we will know what to do in relation to the problems involved. It is not of much use introducing nuclear codes if we do not understand what we are doing. I think I have made my point. Hopefully I have. The point I am trying to make is that there is a great lack of information. That is a pity. I believe that for the next 20, 30 or maybe 50 years nuclear energy will in fact be the main new source of energy used in the world. I am not happy about it but I do not see any encouraging alternatives on the horizon.
I hope that the Government will investigate deeply the risks involved and will be extremely tough with the States in enforcing legislation to protect workers in this industry. If there is any doubt upon any matter relating to .the industry I hope the Government will always resolve that doubt in favour of the people working in the mines and will insist that companies take what will often be quite expensive precautions to prevent any risk and harmful effects to people working in the industry. The legislation provides that heavy fines may be imposed upon companies should they not carry out the codes- $50,000 a day is one of the fines referred to in clause 14. It is important that the stage at which fines of that nature might be imposed should never be reached. We should ensure that the companies cannot tempt workers by offering them high wages to perform in an occupation which in the long run might be extremely risky to them.
Clause agreed to.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears-
Australia ‘ includes all the Territories; international organization’ means an organisation of which 2 or more countries, or the Governments of 2 or more countries, are members;
There is not much to be said about these amendments. They are merely definition clauses and are related to what the Opposition will propose in a later amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Omit the clause, substitute the following clause: 7. ( 1 ) The Minister-
shall cause to be furnished to the appropriate Minister of each State, and to the Minister for the time being administering the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 and, on and after 1 July 1978, to the appropriate Minister for the Northern Territory and shall cause to be published in the Gazette-
proposed codes of practice for regulating or controlling nuclear activities in Australia (including codes of practice to replace existing codes of practice approved by orders under sub-section 8(1); and
proposed variations of codes of practice, being codes of practice approved by order under sub-section 8 (1); and
shall ensure that each Minister to whom a proposed code of practice is furnished under paragraph (a), or a person nominated by the Minister concerned, is afforded an opportunity to consult with the Minister or another Minister, or with a person nominated by the Minister, in relation to the proposed code of practice.
The Minister for the time being administering the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 shall, within 1 month of being furnished with a proposed code of practice, make a direction under sub-section 11(1) of the Act that an inquiry be conducted in respect of the environmental aspects (if any) of the proposed code, and the provisions of the Act shall apply to that inquiry.
Where the Minister for the time being administering the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 is furnished with a proposed code of practice or a proposed variation of a code and an inquiry is currently in progress under the Act in respect of a proposed code or variation, the Minister may direct that the first-mentioned proposed code or variation be referred to the Commission conducting the inquiry, and the provisions of the Act shall apply as if that Commission was appointed to consider that proposed code or variation.’.
This amendment concerns the setting up of a public inquiry and obtaining public comment on the codes and practices involved in this industry. At the moment the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council provides the Minister with drafts of codes practised. The Opposition would like to see the various codes published for public comment and an open public inquiry into them held with a wide range of people in the community having an opportunity to make a contribution towards the drafting of the final codes. At present there is really no way of that occurring. The council merely advises the Minister who notifies the States and the Territories. The Opposition would like to see this brought out into the open and trade unions, environmental bodies and other groups given the opportunity to put something forward for inclusion in these codes. These comments relate also to the next amendment through which the Opposition hopes to set up an Environment Protection (Nuclear Activities) Advisory Council which will help in drafting codes of practice.
– The Government opposes the amendment. Clause 7 of the Bill ensures consultation with the States and the Northern Territory and enables public comment to be sought.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clauses.
These amendments concern setting up an environment protection (nuclear activities) advisory council. We know that the original draft of this Bill provided for such a council. But this provision was dropped from the draft of the Bill for reasons which are probably contained in the Government’s wish not to have these matters brought out into the open. We believe that there is a very strong case for the establishment of a body which is independent of the Government and which provides the opportunity for a range of people to make an input into designing these codes of practice. We believe, that there ought to be, for instance, employee representatives on such a council and that, as I have mentioned before, there should be an open public inquiry into this whole question. We are very concerned about the fact that the Government wants to retain control over what goes into these codes of practice. Therefore, we have moved this amendment seeking to set up the environment protection (nuclear activities) advisory council.
Proposed new clauses negatived.
After sub-clause ( 1 ) insert the following sub-clause: (1a) The Governor-General shall not make an order under paragraph ( 1 ) (a) before the time at which the public inquiry to be held under sub-section 7(2) or 7(3) has reported its findings to the Minister for the time being administering the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974.’.
This amendment simply provides that the Governor-General shall not confirm codes of practice until the public inquiry has been completed and its findings have been reported to the Minister. Once again, this amendment is part and parcel of our desire to see these matters brought out into the open and debated by the Parliament. It is part and parcel of what we have been advocating throughout the entire debate on these Bills, namely, that there should be a full and open inquiry and that there ought not to be a confirmation of codes of practice until these procedures have been carried out.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 9 and 10- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 1 1 (Regulations for carrying out or giving effect to codes of practice).
– I move:
At the end of the clause, insert the following sub-clause:
10) Until such date as is fixed by Proclamation for the purposes of this sub-section, regulations shall not be made in pursuance of sub-section ( 1 ) or ( 2 ) for carrying out or giving effect to, or for securing the observance of, a code of practice in any State.’
I have some comments to make in relation to both this clause and clause 13. To save repetition, I seek leave to refer to clause 13 now.
-The purpose of the amendment to clauses 11 and 13 of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill is to postpone the application of those clauses to the States until a date to be proclaimed. The amendments are proposed following receipt by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) of expressions of concern from some States about the effect of the Bill on existing State legislative and administrative arrangements. The Government believes it proper that any view expressed by a State must be given due consideration, particularly as the nature of this Bill represents a new concept in CommonwealthState legislative arrangements. It should be noted that prior to the introduction of the Bill the States had been advised of the nature of the Bill.
Honourable members will recall that on 25 August 1977 the Prime Minister stated, and I repeat something said earlier
There will be a uniform Australian code covering mining and milling of uranium. The code will be mandatory and implemented progressively by legislation together with the States and territories, commencing with the Code of Practice on radiation protection in the mining and milling of radioactive ores which has already been prepared and published by the Depanment of Health. The Code of Practice will be prescribed by Commonwealth legislation but where State or Territory legislation has an equal or more stringent code, the Commonwealth legislation will be held in reserve and the administration of the code will be left entirely in the hands of that State or Territory.
The mechanism provided for in the Bill will give effect to the matters announced then by the Prime Minister.
It is important that the uranium legislation be passed as soon as possible if development of the Ranger uranium deposits is to proceed this dry season. Early passage of the legislation is important also in the context of the Commonwealth’s negotiations with the Northern Land Council on aspects of the development of the Ranger deposit. For these reasons it is considered that the Bill should not be delayed in its passage through the Parliament, which was suggested by some States. However, because particular concern has been expressed about aspects of this Bill, as I have said, it is proposed to delay the application of clauses 1 1 and 13 of the Bill in relation to the States until there has been an opportunity for a further exchange of views between the Commonwealth and the States on the Bill.
– I think that this proposal to defer and delay two important segments of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, namely clauses 1 1 and 13, makes a complete mockery of the legislation. These are the most important parts of the Bill. We are placed in the position of the Government saying: ‘We will give you a Bill; we will put some clauses in it, but they are not going to take effect because we are going to move an amendment, but the clauses will be delayed and will have to be fixed by proclamation’. Let us make it very clear that not only State rights are at issue in these two clauses; the matter of civil liberties is very much involved also. That is the important issue in regard to this matter. There should be consultation, certainly; but it is important also that there be an understanding of all the issues. This legislation as drafted is not at all acceptable from the point of view of civil liberties. We shall move amendments to clause 13 on that very basis.
Clause 1 1 is based on the presumption that the Sates are going to legislate. If they do it will be in order, but we do not know how they will legislate except that apparently they will legislate in accordance with the codes. But if they do not do so we will pass regulations, which will be deemed to be sufficient. I ask the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom): What will happen if there is a dispute as to the interpretation of those regulations? If it is deemed to be a Federal issue, there is no court we know of to which we can go to resolve the matter. That is another great gap in this legislation. We have a segment of the legislation which mentions the implementation of codes and practices, but we have no segment at all dealing with their enforcement. What court will we go to to argue the question whether an order should not be made in respect of these matters referred to in clause 11? If there is no State legislation, what Federal court do we go to? There is none. We would have to rely on prerogative writs on the basis of trying to delay by prohibition or mandamus. No provision is made for this.
Why not delay the whole Bill? Why does the Government not take it back and re-introduce it when it has clarified all these matters? I refer not only to what the Government deems to be State rights. On that issue, let us make it very clear that we have always taken the view that there has to be a national responsibility in this matter and a national government ought to have responsibility. So we do not object to the Government’s proposals on that basis. But we do object strongly to the detail of the legislation. If we look at what happened last evening to the Atomic Energy Commission Bill we see that no State rights are left under that legislation- the Commonwealth has the power to go in and mine. So at this stage it is not too difficult to conclude that that Bill was the major Bill. The Bill which we are presently debating certainly can be delayed in order to discuss all the other matters which flow from what are deemed to be reasonable codes of practice to provide safeguards in the mining and transportation of uranium. When we talk about these matters let us make it clear that if we have a national or international responsibility, we also have a responsibility in the area of civil rights. We have failed to do anything in that area. We also have a responsibility in respect of Aborigines but we have failed to do anything in that area as well.
– Come on. Of course we have.
-It is true. The honourable member knows very well that it is left to the State of Queensland to look after the rights of Aborigines. That is why they are so neglected. From the point of view of this legislation the Government is claiming that it has a national responsibility. The Opposition accepts that but there is also a responsibility in the area of civil rights and other matters which are affected by this legislation. For those reasons the Opposition rejects the amendments and suggests that the Minister postpone any further discussion on the Bill until such time as it is drafted to the satisfaction of the Parliament.
– I rise briefly to support the view which has been put forward by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). This is a slovenly and lazy way for any Government to proceed. With respect, it almost constitutes an abuse of the forms of the Parliament. The Government is saying to the Parliament: ‘We are bringing in legislation. We believe it is excellent legislation’. In the second reading speech of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) we were told how necessary it was that this legislation be enacted but we are told now that we will have only part of the legislation; the rest is to be delayed. It is important, having regard to the proper processes of this Parliament, that Ministers get their Bills right and that governments bring legislation before this House in proper form. The fact of the matter is that the reason the Government is embarrassed and the Minister is embarrassed and the reason we have to adopt this very odd form of legislation, only part of which we are told will have some effect, is because of the intentions of the Government in the first place. The overall, overweening intention of the Government was, of course, to get the whole process of uranium mining under way in Australia. As far as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was concerned there was no room for further debate or argument anywhere in Australian society about the whole question of uranium mining.
I come back to the point I was making. I and many hundreds of thousands of Australians take the view that the present state of our technology is such that the healthiest thing we could do, not merely for the people of Australia but for the people of the world, is to leave uranium in the ground.
– Tell the Russians that.
– I am perfectly happy to tell the Russians that. I believe the position of the Soviet Union on this matter is completely irresponsible. I believe the attitude of the French in conducting nuclear tests in the Pacific was completely irresponsible. I believe that for this Government to proceed with this son of sloppy legislation in spite of the fact that a very large component of the Australian community is gravely concerned about the whole question of uranium mining is, in itself, quite reprehensible. It was this Government which was so determined to get the whole process of uranium mining started. It was in such a hurry to do that, it was not prepared to have discussions with the States on any of these issues. The grave issues that are involved have been referred to already by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the member conducting the carriage of this Bill on behalf of the Opposition. The single fact remains that the Government is in this mess because, as far as the Prime Minister was concerned, it was more important to yield to the demands of the mining companies than it was to have any relevant discussion.
– Clause 1 1 deals with regulations for carrying out or giving effect to codes of practice. I ask the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to address himself to that aspect.
– With due respect, the code of practice is not related to anything other than the process of uranium mining. It is not possible to talk about a code of practice and not talk about what the code of practice is supposed to govern. The code of practice is supposed to govern the process of uranium mining. We are not talking about pulling teeth. We are not talking about Sunday school picnics. We are talking about a code of practice to deal with uranium mining. We are in the situation where the Government is proceeding with sloppy, ill drafted, ill conceived legislation because of the determination of the Prime Minister to try to curtail the very real debate that should continue to occur in Austraiian society about the desirability of uranium mining.
– I rise on a point of order. The honourable member is talking about uranium mining as a whole. He is not confining himself to the codes. The formulation of the codes is very specific. He is not being specific.
– I uphold the point of order and I remind the honourable member for Melbourne Ports to narrow his remarks to the code and not canvass the broad aspects of the uranium issue.
– I am perfectly happy to talk about the code. The Prime Minister wanted these codes railroaded through the Parliament without any effective consultation with the States. I do not ask the Minister or the House to rely on my view of that. They have been told that by a distinguished Liberal Party Leader from the State of Victoria. That is his view.
– He did not mention codes at all.
-Of course he did.
– Read the statement.
– The request of the Premier of Victoria was that this legislation should not be proceeded with. He made that request because he understood the very grave danger the legislation represented in terms of the constitutional rights, not merely of the State of Victoria, but all States. He adverted to the question of constitutional challenge. That is not something to be simply laughed aside. The point I am concerned to make is that we are in that situation because the Prime Minister and the Minister have failed to have continuing, ongoing discussions with all the States or some of the States on the whole question of nuclear codes. Discussions have not taken place in accordance with what the Premier of Victoria, a Liberal Premier, says ought to be proper and effective consultation. He is joined in that by six other Premiers. Discussions have not taken place because the Prime Minister, the Minister and the Government are more concerned to do the bidding of the mining companies than they are to provide an effective and proper basis for consultation in terms of nuclear codes. That, of course, is what has occurred. The Prime Minister was determined to try to head off any future discussions. He was concerned about the fact that one State, South Australia, has said that on the available evidence, it does not want to be involved at all in uranium mining. What the Prime Minister was concerned to do was to create a situation where, by way of producing a code and using the powers under the Atomic Energy Act, if the Commonwealth so desired it could endeavour to force the Government of South Australia, whether it wanted to or not, to mine uranium. That is what this legislation is all about. This is the final exercise, indicating the degree of pressure which those very large and powerful mining companies are prepared to exert in order to develop uranium reserves in Australia to make a dollar. Their prime interest is not the problem of power; their prime interest is the profit they can make from the development of this resource. They were concerned to get the project moving and the Prime Minister was prepared to do their bidding.
This is the whole pattern of the legislation which has come before this House. It does not matter which Bill we look at. The dominant and salient feature which runs through all this legislation is the determination of the Prime Minister and the Government under any circumstances to curtail any further debate on this matter. It does not matter what rights are curtailed, whether they are State rights or individual rights. The Government has got itself into the mess, having put this legislation through the party room and having received the approval of the gentlemen on the back bench, of then having to come into the House and say: ‘Well, whilst we told you two days ago it was all right, we now have to tell you that we can only deal with it in terms of this amendment. Whilst we want you to pass the legislation, we will not really act on all of it; we will act only on part of it’. That is a sloppy method for any government to use; it is a sloppy way for this Parliament to proceed. It is, of course, the sort of inevitable process which will develop under a government such as this Government and under a Prime Minister who is so arrogant that he is not really concerned about the rights of the Parliament, just as he is not concerned about the rights of the States.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to.
That the question be now put.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Proposed new Part IV A.
– I seek leave to move the amendment which seeks to add a new Part IVA.
After Part IV, insert the following new Part:
12A. In this Part, ‘the Court’ means the Federal Court of Australia. 12B. The Court may on the application of the Minister or any other person, make such orders as it thinks necessary for or in relation to the enforcement of, or to prevent or restrain the contravention of-
pursuant to a law of the Commonwealth; or
b) in a State or Territory pursuant to a regulation made under sub-section 1 1 ( 1 ) or 1 1 (2 ), may recover the amount of the loss or damage by action against that other person or against any person involved in the contravention.
I feel that the exercise which is essential to give some semblance of order to this Bill is an exercise which provides for enforcement and remedies. The Bill itself does not contain such a provision. In explaining this amendment I again advert to the fact that the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill which was passed last evening gives the Commonwealth Government complete rights over the States in respect of rnining, the working of minerals, production, transportation, treatment, possession, storage and disposal. In other words, there are no State rights left in regard to all those matters in relation to uranium. The previous Part IV was a very feeble attempt by the Government to say that there will be codes. Clause 11 provides that the States may pass legislation. That is an extraordinary way to deal with a Commonwealth responsibility, bearing in mind that the Atomic Energy Act has been amended to give us that responsibility. We have the responsibility; the States have no rights in the area at all. We are now saying that under clause 11 they can bring in the code by State legislation.
On the basis of this new Part citizens in the States apparently will have to go to State courts to work out whether orders should be made for enforcement or for prevention, which are normal matters of judicial interpretation, relating to all those matters that I have mentioned. From the point of view of a national responsibility, if we leave it to the State courts, we could get six different interpretations because they could apply their laws as they interpret them. Then there is a sort of safeguard, an all-embracing clause, which provides that if the States do not pass their laws we will do it by regulation. So there may be a very hybrid result. Some States may pass State laws, the Commonwealth may bring in regulations and the citizens who are affected one way or the other will have to work out to which courts they will go in order to determine whether there should be an enforcement of the code or an objection to the code. It would appear that if a State does pass a law in relation to this matter the citizens will have to go to State courts. If the States fail to pass a law they will have to try to find a Federal court to deal with the matter. My submission is that there is no federal court available, so they can try to seek some sort of remedy only by way of a prerogative writ. I make this point in all sincerity.
-That is the pointwhich court? Perhaps they will have to go off to a federal court. There is no provision made for them. The Government will do it by regulation, under clause 11.
– It is a Commonwealth regulation.
-The Government will do it by Commonwealth regulation.
– We have the High Court.
-They can go off to the High Court, says the Minister. That is his answer. I accept what the Minister says. I did not think he wanted every citizen to go off to the High Court on the basis of a prerogative writ, but he is right; the High Court is about the only court to which they could go in order to work out what should be done about the enforcement of these codes. Surely the Minister’s interjection adds great weight to what I am putting, that is, that this proposed new Part should not offend the Government. It states that there will be a court, which will be the Federal Court, and that all matters relating to this Bill can be dealt with by that Court. It would provide for uniformity of decision, it would give a clear understanding of all matters that are affected by this composite legislation.
In my view- at this stage I canvass this thought- if it were accepted it would do away with the necessity for the Northern Territory Supreme Court legislation. That legislation would not be necessary if we had the Federal Court to deal with all these matters, particularly those in relation to the Alligator Rivers. On that basis we ask, in relation to national responsibility: Why should not the Federal Court of Australia- that is, a new federal court- do it? The provision is in this new Part. It has been carefully worded to provide that the Court may, on the application of the Minister or any other person, make such orders as it trunks necessary for or in relation to the enforcement of or the prevention, restraining or contravention of all those matters mentioned in this legislation. So by adopting this amendment we would overcome those very problems that would be created if we left it in its present very badly drafted terms by which the States legislate and by which individual State courts have to interpret, with a resultant variation of decisions. Then, if there is no State legislation, the unfortunate citizen will have to take out some sort of prerogative writ to go off to the High Court and try to argue the situation. There is no provision in this Bill for them.
The amusing situation in respect of clause 1 1 is that it allows the States to do something which is not specified, other than that they can bring in the codes. They would actually have to legislate. We say: ‘That situation will apply. As far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned we will bring in some regulations. We do not know what the regulations will be. If you are worried about that you can .go off to the High Court. ‘ Surely, if we have a completely democratic approach to any problem, the citizens have their rights. We do not own this forum just to decide, here and for all time, the rights in respect of the codes about which we are talking or the rights of citizens. This judicial arm is a very essential arm of democracy, and we should be able to say that citizens could go off to a court as they could under the umbrella of an old, outmoded concept such as the one in clause 1 1. They could go to a State court and do whatever they think. We have made no specification. They could go off to a State court, but if they have to find a federal court to deal with the matter- it could be only the High Court- it would be a most expensive one and one which is likely to prevent them from exercising any of their normal judicial rights.
We are saying that if we were to legislate in the normal fashion we would give citizens the right to have these matters argued before a court. We have created the Federal Court. It is on that basis that I moved this amendment. I did so for the very simple reason that everybody in Australia, whether they live in a Territory or a State, can take action in accordance with what would be deemed to be the uniform federal law on a matter that is a national responsibility. I will say no more in respect of this matter because it is quite clear that the wording is inoffensive. It is normal drafting, based fairly and squarely on what we would expect to find in any normal legislation creating the rights of enforcement and remedies. I make the point again that in the interests of the Government, if this legislation were adopted, it would do away with the need for the Environment Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court) Bill which is listed for debate later this evening. On that basis I urge the Government to consider and accept the new Part IVa which relates to the enforcement and remedies position and provides that the Federal Court of Australia will be the sole arbitrator to determine those matters.
Proposed new Part negatived.
1 ) Where the Governor-General is satisfied that-
7 ) An order under sub-section ( 1 )-
Omit sub-clauses (1) to (5), insert the following subclauses:
The provisions here relate to the question of the drafting of the clause as it is now provided, which is really offensive to the question of civil liberties. At the present time the clause states that where the Governor-General is satisfied as to certain conditions he may authorise a Minister to take certain action. So at the moment only two people are involved- the Governor-General and the Minister. Then a number of orders may be made in relation to people. The clause is very wide. At the start it talks about the health or safety of persons being likely to be harmed by a situation resulting from a nuclear activity, but the situation is not defined. From the point of view of people’s rights, those words are offensive.
Without worrying at this stage about the Governor-General being satisfied and authorising a Minister, we say that where a situation exists, or where a person is convinced that there is a problem, some action can be taken and the order could be made on that basis. In other words, the court can then be the arbiter of the objective assessment of the position. But we get a very subjective situation when the GovernorGeneral has to be satisfied- we do not know how he would be satisfied- or where the Minister makes an order. It is on those two issues that we object to this clause. The wording ‘a situation resulting from’ is very wide. The Opposition makes it very clear in its amendment by using the words ‘where a situation exists where the health or safety of persons … is likely to be harmed’. On that basis we say that the Governor-General may, by order, authorise a Minister to give such directions as are necessary. You then get a test of the situation but you get no test at all in the present clause in which we have the subjective position of the Governor-General being satisfied or the Minister deciding to make an order.
For those reasons clause 13 is thoroughly objectionable. It interferes with the civil liberties and rights of every citizen in Australia. People would not be able to test the situation. The situation could be anything at all arising from a nuclear activity. The proper approach is to talk about the health and safety of people, but as the clause is worded the health and safety of people are only a segment of what the GovernorGeneral is going to be satisfied about or what the Minister is going to make an order about. He could make an order dealing with any one of us here if in a subjective test he feels that something should be done to detain people, to take their property from them, or to prevent their being assembled in an area. All these things could happen if he says that this is a situation resulting from a nuclear activity. The point I want to make is very clear.
– Do you think a court should do it?
-I think a court should be able to be the judge of the situation rather than a Minister or the Governor-General. The court would look at the real issues- which is what the clause set out to say- the health and safety of persons, or the environment. That is the real issue. It is the wording of the clause that is offensive because the test is so subjective that it could affect people ‘s rights. If one looks closely at it one will find that the basis of the text is the Governor-General’s satisfaction or a Government Minister making an order. That is where it would end. If one considered it on the other basis and said -
– He has to be convicted.
-No. The real test is what we are about.
– Upon conviction.
-How can there be any test of whether the Governor-General is satisfied or whether the Minister is satisfied? There cannot be any argument on that test. That is the point I am making. Of course, the test is the health and safety of persons. That is the issue that ought to be argued. The Opposition proposes the words ‘where the health or safety of persons … is likely to be harmed’. By all means make that the subject of the order, but not the question of whether the Governor-General is satisfied that the health or safety of persons is likely to be harmed by a situation resulting from- they are the offensive words- a nuclear activity or whether the Minister is going to make an order. I want to make this very clear and concise. There is no suggestion that we do not want to prevent hazards to the health and safety of persons or the environment. We may say that any order made on that basis is fair enough but the test should be whether that was the primary consideration. If the test is whether the Governor-General was satisfied that the health or safety of persons was likely to be harmed by a situation resulting from- those words cannot be defined- a nuclear activity, we then have to consider whether the order or the regulations were made on a valid basis.
– Do you want the court to have an interpretive role?
-An interpretive role on the basis of whether the health or safety of persons, or the environment are likely to be affected. That is a reasonable proposition. Surely the Government does not want to remove the courts from this matter altogether. The Government has already said in a stupid fashion in clause 1 1 that it will let the State courts do whatever they want to do. Then in clause 13, an allembracing clause, the Government says that where the Governor-General is satisfied or where a Minister makes an order that will be the end of the situation where it applies to results of nuclear activity. If the Government had defined those words very clearly, as the Opposition has done, setting out in detail the penalties and setting out what the court should look at, the objective test would be whether the health or safety of persons, or the environment, are likely to be harmed. Honourable members opposite are all saying that that is what they want done. I am saying that if a person objects to the fact that an order was made against him because somebody said that a situation arose from a nuclear activity it should be tested in a court. If the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) did not want to leave his home in spite of the fact that there was some danger in a situation resulting from a nuclear activity, I ask him to what court he would go to test the position and to argue whether that order was made on a valid basis.
– But the Government has the role of establishing this.
-The Government has no greater role than has any other citizen when it comes to judicial interpretation of democracy. That is what is objectionable. The honourable member has given it away again. He said that the Government is the one to test whether the situation is likely to harm him. Why is he objecting to the fact that evidence should be given?
– That is the role of the Government.
-It is not the role of any government to do away with judicial interpretation and the opportunity to a citizen to go into the court and say- no honourable members opposite can object to this- ‘I am appearing in this court on the basis that there is no objection from the point of view of health and safety of persons or the environment. The order has been made on an improper basis. ‘ From time immemorial courts have been able to say to governments that they have made an order on a wrong basis. The Government set up the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to look at its bureaucracy. One cannot trust any one person always to do the right thing. The human element can be intruded into these orders and regulations and there has to be an objective test as to whether it was a valid exercise of power or not. On that basis there is a role for the courts to play. We have a Bill in which the Government has made no provision for a citizen to appear before a judicial tribunal.
-The Government has made some vague arrangements that the States may pass some laws. In regard to the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill there is very limited jurisdiction in which anybody can appear. The Government is frightened to let people exercise their rights. It is because of that issue that we object to this clause in its present form and that is why we have moved our amendment.
– I want to make a very brief comment. I think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bo wen) has misinterpreted some of the provisions of the clause in his comments. If the Governor-General is satisfied on a subjective test that these conditions exist he may authorise a Minister to give directions and orders, and then the matter can come before a court. The question of an offence is the question of a breach of an order made. That is a matter for evidence. The honourable member said that there is no chance to give evidence. Of course there is a chance to give evidence.
– There is not.
-Yes there is. It would be an offence if there were a breach. It would be an offence to be dealt with in a court of summary jurisdiction.
– If the situation were as simple as that, the Minister would have no objection to the Opposition’s amendment. Our amendment clearly states that if that is the situation it can be tested. The point I am making is that we cannot test the mental capacity of the Governor-General to be satisfied. The Government knows that. When the Governor-General is satisfied we cannot put him in the witness box and ask him on what basis he has made -
– But then it’s directions and actions. Look down a bit further.
-I think the Minister is getting very sensitive about the situation. There is nothing wrong with the amendment but there is everything wrong with the fact -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment (by Mr Groom) agreed to:
At the end of the clause, insert the following sub-section:
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
1 ) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted by this Act to be prescribed, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular-
– I move:
In sub-clause (1), omit paragraphs (a), (b), (d), (g) and (h).
This clause contains a number of other provisions, but there is very strong objection to the way in which the sub-clauses to which we object are worded. For example, the clause states that the Governor-General may make regulations:
That can mean anything at all. There is no need for that provision. It covers everything. To make a prohibition on the doing of an act or thing absolutely with no further definition is objectionable. Clause 14 continues:
There is no further definition of that provision. Another provision states:
Honourable members are always anxious to point out in this Parliament that they want freedom of information. Why would we be anxious to guarantee confidentiality in this situation? The Opposition also objects to clause 14(1) (h) which states: empowering the Minister to make provision by order with respect to any matter with respect to which provision can be made by the regulations;
Again, we do not know what this paragraph will cover. Not all the provisions in clause 14 are objectionable but they include those very wide terms and ambiguous words which mean nothing in themselves but which mean everything in detail if anybody wants to exercise any powers. I make it very clear that legislation is not drafted in this way by those who are interested in the rights of people. Pursuant to clause 14, as it stands at present, regulations could be made in respect of any matter at all. Under yet another provision, all aspects could be deemed to be confidential and no information would be published.
That is the kind of dictatorial provision that normally would be associated with some fascist dictatorship. There is no way in which it could be included in legislation purporting to achieve the ends suggested. I can think of no parallel to this legislation which introduces regulations prohibiting anything or which enables anything to be done without the Parliament being informed what the purpose of that action is. Again, I say that there is no real test in relation to what is sought to be achieved by this legislation. On that basis, I have moved the amendment on behalf of the Opposition.
-This is the fifth attempt I have made today to rise to speak in the debate. I have been silenced by the Government Whip each time despite the historic nature of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill which was alluded to by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) when he introduced it. I address my remarks to clause 14 and to the amendment that has been proposed by the Opposition. I say by way of summary that some of the issues that have been raised are not new issues. The issues that are raised in this aspect of the legislation -
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Groom)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 3 May, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill I would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Environment Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate on both measures? I will allow that course to be followed.
– I inform the House that the Opposition opposes the Environment Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court) Bill, for the reason that we proposed amendments to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill that would have created jurisdiction for a federal court in respect of the matters dealt with in this Bill. If that provision had been accepted, there would have been a court to deal with all matters such as are envisaged in this legislation. I make the point again: We are being presented with specific legislation for the Northern Territory alone. Uranium is a national responsibility, a matter of national interest, and the Opposition would want the same set of laws and the same interpretation of those laws throughout Australia irrespective of where uranium was located. We now have the rather unwise proposal that the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory alone have jurisdiction in that area.
The Bill is objectionable on two grounds. In our view, the greatest possible access to the courts should be given. Under this Bill access to the courts will be at the suit of the Director- the Director in the terms of this legislation means the Director of National Parks and Wildlife- or of an Aboriginal land council. That means that nobody else can found any action in a court. All honourable members would have received telex advice from the Northern Land Council making the valid point that provision should be contained in the Bill for the public to establish individual suits or class action suits to protect the general public interest. If such suits are not allowed, an intolerable burden will be placed on the Northern Land Council, says that Land Council, because it has to defend the interests not only of Aboriginals but also of all others in the community at large. The Opposition agrees with those submissions and says that the Bill should be altered accordingly.
Let us make this point: In the debate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, which was passed last evening and gave the Commonwealth absolute powers to control uranium mining irrrespective of any State legislation, we stressed again the importance of civil liberties. Honourable members will recall that legislation was adopting the provisions of the Approved Defence Projects Protection Act. For example, section 4 of that Act makes it an offence punishable by six months imprisonment summarily, and 12 months imprisonment on indictment, to boycott, threat to boycott, hinder or obstruct works carried out by or on behalf of the Commonwealth. It is an offence to encourage, boycott or obstruct by speech or in writing. Clearly, the Government is using this legislation and all other legislation against demonstrators, trade unionists and people generally. That would be a major reason why the Atomic Energy Act was used as the Government’s first line of attack.
It follows, does it not, that there would be many people wanting to test the issue of environmental control and all the other matters as here defined concerned with uranium mining operations, yet the jurisdiction is being limited to the suit of the Director or of a land council. Everybody else will be excluded. Let me quote from the Law Reform Commission report on access to the courts:
The right of effective access to justice has emerged with new social rights. Indeed, it is of paramount importance among these new rights, since clearly the enjoyment of traditional as well as new social rights pre-supposes mechanisms for their effective protection. Such protection, moreover, is best assured by a workable remedy within the framework of a judicial system. Effective access to justice can thus be seen as the most basic requirement, the most basic human right, of a system which purports to guarantee legal rights.
The Bill will deny access to the courts. As I say, the only persons entitled to go to the courts will be the Director of Parks and Wildlife and Aboriginal land councils.
To criticise the standing provisions of the Bill is not to criticise the bodies that will have access to the courts. However, when a whole new body of law- in this case uranium law- is put on that statute book, it is depressing indeed to see that the Government is making access to the courts as narrow as possible. In the view of the Opposition, access to the courts is a fundamental right. Yet we always find that the conservatives are afraid of the courts and the judiciary. They have proved it here this evening. They have rejected every amendment that would have provided a judicial test of any action or order that could interfere with the rights of people. People have a right to ask why a government would be afraid of courts testing its actions. It makes nonsense of legislation to try to make those rights unenforceable.
The second reason why the Opposition believes this Bill is unacceptable is related to the first. We consider that uranium law is a special body of law requiring stringent public safeguards in the same way as uranium itself. We believe that the whole of the law should be administered by the one court, not by a series of State courts and the Northern Territory Supreme
Court, and perhaps in another type of Federal Court action. We feel that there should be the one court dealing with these matters and, in our view, as submitted earlier, that ought to be the Federal Court, which was set up by the present Government after a proposal to establish it had been twice rejected by the Government parties when they were in opposition. As a matter of interest that rejected legislation became one of the infamous 1975 double dissolution Bills.
The Federal Court is very little different from the Superior Court. Having been set up, it should be given the widest possible jurisdiction to allow people to seek to enforce their rights under Federal law. In Committee the Opposition will be moving the amendments that we have circulated. We would give an accurate definition of the person called the supervising scientist. We would provide that there could be an action at the suit of the Director, and we propose to move an amendment to clause 4 to widen the provision to give access to the courts not only to the Director but also to the supervising scientist and any person or persons whose interests are affected. We say also that any organisation shall be taken to have an interest if it is concerned with the environment in the region. There will be some ancillary amendments.
We object to this legislation on the basis that there is no need for it. The Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill should have been amended to provide for the Federal Court to deal with these matters. If that amendment had been accepted, this legislation would have been made redundant. For those reasons we oppose the Bill.
– Briefly, I endorse the statements by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). It is a matter of concern that, given the claims, the demands, and the legitimate aspirations of the Aboriginal people for land rights, the Parliament should adopt a position in which it gives with one hand and tends to take away with the other.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
– I seek leave to move a motion regarding the adjournment of the House.
Leave not granted.
– I move:
That Standing Order 48a (Adjournment of the House) and Standing Order 103, ( 1 1 o’clock rule) be suspended for this sitting.
The intention of the Government is to facilitate the passage of the two Bills that are the subject of this cognate debate.
-The Opposition is opposed to this move. When the rearrangement of the sitting times of the House was dealt with, we said that we would co-operate completely with the Government in facilitating the passage of legislation through the House. But within 24 hours of that arrangement being made the Government is bundling legislation through the House, trying to legislate by exhaustion, as the Opposition predicted yesterday. The Government is unable to manage the business of the House in a manner which the Opposition and even Government members can understand. We are not going to agree to this course. After sitting here for 12 hours, we are not going to agree to sit here for another three or four hours while the Government makes everybody sufficiently tired to ensure that any legislation it wishes to have passed can be passed through this chamber. The Opposition will not meet the arrangements of the Government in this way.
We objected to the manner in which the matter of public importance proposed yesterday was shelved by the Government. That arrangement was made just half an hour before the Government broke it. Today we had broken, again without notice, an arrangement made by the Whips that four speakers should take part in the debate on the legislation dealing with the environmental aspects of uranium mining. That debate was terminated after two speakers had made their remarks. The fact is that this Government is trying to restrict the amount of information which flows from the Parliament to the public The manner in which it is doing that- it has been doing it for weeks- is by arranging for the most controversial debates to take place on a day when the proceedings of this House are not being broadcast. A check of the record will show that the Government has brought forward for debate on Wednesdays censure motions and any other controversial legislation. Here again at half-past ten on a Thursday night the Government is trying to rearrange the business in such a fashion as to legislate by exhaustion. We will not co-operate in any way at all in adopting that method of legislating.
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 1 to 7- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
After section 12 of the principal Act the following sections are inserted: 12b. ( 1 ) Where the Minister is satisfied that a Land Council and the Director are unable to agree on the terms of an agreement to be entered into by them in compliance with the condition referred to in sub-section 12 (2b), the Minister may, after consulting with the Land Council and with the Director, appoint an Arbitrator, being a person whom the Minister considers to be in a position to deal with the matter impartially, to determine the terms of an agreement that, in the opinion of the Arbitrator, complies with that condition and should be acceptable to the Land Council and to the Director.
– I move:
Omit proposed sections 12b and 12c.
The Opposition outlined its objections to these proposed sections during the second reading debate. I do not want to detail the Committee on the amendment. The principles behind it have been well outlined. We propose to divide the Committee on the first two amendments to this Bill because we think they involve important principles. The first of those amendments is the one which I have just moved. We believe that the
Aboriginal people and not the Director of National Parks and Wildlife ought to be the authority which decides the disposal and the use of Aboriginal land. Nor should an arbitrator be interposed by the Minister between those parties.
That the sections proposed to be omitted (Dr Everingham’s amendment) stand pan of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to consider clauses 9 and 10 together?
– Concerning clause 8, Mr Chairman–
Opposition members- Oh!
-Order! Clause 8 has been agreed to by the Committee.
– Surely after a division the honourable member must be given a chance to get across the chamber to his place.
– Is that your ruling, Mr Chairman?
– Order! Is it the wish of the House that the question be put again on clause 8?
Honourable members interjecting-
-Very well. I will proceed.
Clauses 9 and 10- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
After section 23 of the Principal Act the following sections are inserted:
*23e. ( 1 ) Sub-section (2 ) applies to every person who is, or has been-
a member of the staff of a Land Council.
Penalty: $ 1 ,000 or imprisonment for 6 months.
Sub-section (2) does not prevent the communication of information or the production of a document by a person authorized by a Land Council for the purpose-
Neither the Permanent Head of the Department that deals with matters arising under this Act nor an officer of that Department approved by him for the purposes of subsection (3) shall, either directly or indirectly, except for the purpose of advising the Minister in connexion with this Act, make a record of, or divulge or communicate to any person, any information communicated to him by a person to whom this section applies, being information concerning the affairs of another person acquired by the person to whom this section applies by reason of his membership of, or employment by, a Land Council or his activities as an authorized person.
Penalty: $ 1 ,000 or imprisonment for 6 months.
Omit proposed section 23e.
In common with so many of the clauses to which the Opposition has objected in this package of Bills on uranium this provision involves secrecy. The need for that approach has not been justified to this Parliament. Certainly there are grounds for having more than ordinary secrecy in legislation relating to atomic energy passed in the shadow of a nuclear war or even a cold war. However, this is not a military operation. Admittedly there may be grounds for some degree of secrecy where industrial secrets are involved. There is no special kind of secrecy in this sort of industry which warrants this provision. We are utterly opposed to the severe penalties of $1,000 or imprisonment for six months. We have been through all of this before in the debates on other Bills. We totally oppose the secrecy provision.
That the section proposed to be omitted (Dr Everingham^ motion) stand part of the clause.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Proposed new clause 1 1 A.
– I move:
After clause 1 1 , insert the following new clause: 1 1a. Section 42 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting sub-sections (2), (3) and (4) and substituting the following sub-sections:
If a Proclamation referred to in paragraph 40 ( 1 ) (b) or 41 ( 1 ) (b) is not laid before each House of the Parliament within 1 S sitting days of that House after the making of the Proclamation, this Act has effect, and shall be deemed to have had effect, as if the Proclamation had not been made.
If either House of the Parliament, in pursuance of a motion of which notice has been given, within 1 S sitting days after a copy of a Proclamation has been laid before that House, passes a resolution disallowing the Proclamation, this Act has effect, and shall be deemed to have had effect, as if the Proclamation had not been made.
If, at the expiration of 1 S sitting days after notice of a motion to disallow a Proclamation has been given in a House of the Parliament, being notice given within 15 sitting days after a copy of the Proclamation has been laid before that House-
the Proclamation has not been withdrawn and the motion has not been called on; or
the motion has been called on, moved and seconded and has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, this Act has effect, and shall be deemed to have had effect as if the Proclamation had not been made.
If, before the expiration of 15 sitting days after notice of a motion to disallow a Proclamation has been given in a House of the Parliament-
that House is dissolved or, being the House of Representatives, expires or the Parliament is prorogued; and
at the time of the dissolution, expiry or prorogation, as the case may be-
the notice has not been withdrawn and the motion has not been called on; or
the motion has been called on, moved and seconded and has not been withdrawn or otherwise disposed of, the copy of the Proclamation shall, for the purposes of sub-sections (3) and (4), be deemed to have been laid before that House on the first sitting day of that House after the dissolution, expiry or prorogation, as the case maybe.’.
The amendment is in the terms used in the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, which was debated earlier today, to provide that the Houses of the Parliament will have an opportunity to disallow a proclamation. Under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, if a proclamation is not laid before the House, as our amendment requires, it could actually become law without the Houses of Parliament having an opportunity to debate it. I believe that this is a drafting error. At the time of the introduction of that act a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, raised this matter with Parliamentary Counsel. I believe that the wording we have provided in our amendment would overcome this disability and would make it possible for either House of the Parliament to move for disallowance and for that motion to be determined, instead of it perhaps being put to the bottom of the Notice Paper where it might never be determined and, under existing procedures, the proclamation would then become law without an opportunity for debate on it.
– The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill seeks to make a number of amendments to the principal Act. The Bill proposes that land to be included in a national park cannot be declared to be Aboriginal land until an agreement to lease is entered into with the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. In the event of disagreement there is provision for arbitration by a person nominated by the Commonwealth Minister. There is no provision in the Bill for consultation with the Territory authorities or with the new Territory Government.
– I agree. It is a shame. As I have said before, this land is in the Northern Territory and the people in the Territory should be considered. I think that the honourable member for
Robertson (Mr Cohen) mentioned this earlier too. The Land Council is to have a right of access to a park and a right to obtain information. It is to have the power to apply to a Supreme Court to enforce these rights, the same way that the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service can under a related Bill. No similar power is given to any Northern Territory authority. I am here to point out that fact.
Proposed new clause negatived.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 12a.
– I move:
After clause 1 2, insert the following new clause: 12a. Section 46 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from sub-section (1) all the words after “Commonwealth, as the case may be,” (second occurring) and substituting “ for the purposes of sub-section 43 (2) or 44 (2), as the case may be”.’.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 26- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
All that piece of land in the Northern Territory of Australia containing an area of 324 square kilometres more or less bounded by lines described as follows: Commencing at the most eastern northeastern corner of Pastoral Lease 668 (Gimbat); thence westerly and northerly by northern and eastern boundaries of the said Pastoral Lease to the most northern northeastern corner of the said Pastoral Lease; thence easterly by the easterly prolongation of the most northern boundary of Pastoral Lease 668 (Gimbat) to its intersection with the meridian of east longitude 133 degrees; thence south to the point of commencement. ‘.
– I move:
All that piece of land in the Northern Territory of Australia containing an area of 390 square kilometres more or less and bounded by a line commencing at the northwestern corner of Pastoral Lease 739 (Mudginberri); thence southerly by part of the western boundary of the said Pastoral Lease to the north-eastern corner of Pastoral Lease 737 (Munmarlary); thence northwesterly by a line from the said corner of the said Pastoral Lease to the intersection of the parallel of south latitude 12 degrees5 minutes 30 seconds with the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees 33 minutes 28 seconds; thence nonhwesterly by the nonhwesterly prolongation of the said line to its intersection with the sea-coast of Van Diemen Gulf at Point Farewell; thence by the said sea-coast and the left bank of the East Alligator River to its intersection with the northern boundary of Pastoral Lease 739 (Mudginberri); thence westerly by the northern boundary of the said Pastoral Lease to the point of commencement. ‘.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.
SCHEDULE 4 Section 3
All those pieces of land in the Northern Territory of Australia containing an area of 7000 square kilometres more or less bounded by lines described as follows: Commencing at the northwestern corner of Pastoral Lease 739 (Mudginberri); thence southerly by part of the western boundary of the said Pastoral Lease to the northeastern corner of Pastoral Lease 737 (Munmarlary); thence nonhwesterly by a line to the intersection of the parallel of south latitude 12 degrees 5 minutes 30 seconds with the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees 33 minutes 28 seconds; thence northwesterly by the northwesterly prolongation of the said line to its intersection with the sea coast of Van Diemen Gulf at Point Farewell; thence generally southwesterly by the said sea coast to the left bank of the Wildman River, but excluding therefrom those pans along the sea coast of all intersecting rivers, streams and estuaries inland from a straight line joining the seaward extremity of each of the opposite banks of each of the said rivers, streams and estuaries so that the aforesaid boundary line shall follow that part below the sea coast of each of the aforesaid straight lines across each of the aforesaid intersecting rivers, streams and estuaries; thence generally southeasterly by the said bank of the said river to its intersection with the eastern boundary of Pastoral Lease 785 (Point Stuart); thence southerly, southwesterly and westerly by eastern, southeastern and southern boundaries of the said Pastoral Lease to the southwestern corner of the said Pastoral Lease; thence southerly by the eastern boundary of Pastoral Lease 786 (Point Stuart) to the southeastern corner of the said Pastoral Lease; thence easterly and southerly by pan of the northern boundary and the eastern boundary of Pastoral Lease 766 (Wildman River) to the southeastern corner of the said Pastoral Lease; thence easterly and southerly by pan of the northern boundary and an eastern boundary of Pastoral Lease 747 (Annaburro) to the southeastern corner of the said Pastoral Lease; thence easterly by part of a northern boundary of Pastoral Lease561 (Mt Bundey) and a northern boundary of Pastoral Lease 6 1 2 (Goodparla) to the most northern northeastern corner of Pastoral Lease 612 (Goodparla); thence northeasterly by a line to the southwestern corner of Reserve No. 1227 (Woolwonga Aboriginal Reserve) as notified in Commonwealth of Australia Gazette No. 60 of 4 July 1968; thence generally nonherly and easterly by the western and nonhern boundaries of the said Reserve to the northeastern corner of the said Reserve; thence easterly by part of the southern boundary of Pastoral Lease 739 (Mudginberri) to its intersection with the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees53 minutes; thence north to the parallel of south latitude 12 degrees 38 minutes 12.227 seconds; thence nonheasterly to the intersection of the parallel of south latitude 12 degrees 38 minutes and the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees53 minutes 30 seconds; thence north to the parallel of south latitude 12 degrees 36 minutes; thence west to the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees53 minutes; thence north to the parallel of south latitude 12 degrees 35 minutes; thence east to the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees 54 minutes 25.7 seconds; thence southeasterly to the intersection of the parallel of south latitude 12 degrees 36 minutes and the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees 55 minutes; thence north easterly to the intersection of the parallel of south latitude 1 2 degrees 35 minutes 16.28 seconds and the meridian of east longitude 132 degrees 56 minutes 22 seconds; thence nonh to the left bank of the East Alligator River; thence generally westerly by the said bank of the said river and the northern boundary of Pastoral Lease 739 (Mudginberri) to the point of commencement and including those parts above the sea coast of Field and Barron Islands’.
– I move:
Secondly, all that piece of land in the Northern Territory of Australia containing an area of 324 square kilometres more or less bounded by lines described as follows: Commencing at the most eastern northeastern corner of Pastoral Lease 668 (Gimbat); thence westerly and northerly by northern and eastern boundaries of the said Pastoral Lease to the most northern northeastern corner of the said Pastoral Lease; thence easterly by the easterly prolongation of the most northern boundary of Pastoral Lease 668 (Gimbat) to its intersection with the meridian of east longitude 133 degrees; thence south to the point of commencement.’.
Amendments agreed to.
Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Groom)- by leaveread a third time.
Debate resumed from 10 April, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I seek leave to move five amendments together.
– The amendments refer to clauses 3, 4 and 6 and propose the addition of a new clause 7. Clauses 3, 4 and 6 read in part:
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears- requirement’ means an obligation, condition, restriction or prohibition;
This Act does not prejudice any jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, any right of action of the Director, a Land Council or any other person, or any civil or criminal liability of a person, apart from this Act.
The Opposition did not favour this legislation. It favoured a federal court. To that extent it opposed the Bill at the second reading stage. However, we were not successful and we are now looking at the drafting of the Bill. The live amendments relate to obvious weaknesses in the Bill. The first amendment provides for the definition of a supervising scientist to be introduced into the Bill. The introduction of the definition of a supervising scientist into the Bill would enable that person to have jurisdiction pursuant to clause 4. The amendment to clause 4 provides that jurisdiction would be available to the Director, the supervising scientist, land council or any person or persons whose interests are affected by uranium mining operations. The further amendment to clause 4 provides that any organisation, whether incorporated or not, would be taken to have an interest that was affected by uranium mining if included in its objects was the question of environmental concern. The other amendments are ancillary.
The land councils have been kept out of the problems of dealing with all the matters. Whilst they have some jurisdiction in this matter it is limited to them and the Director. It is very important that we should widen the Bill so that the very narrow provisions in it can be expanded. If this were done it would mean that not only would the Director and the land council have jurisdiction but also the supervising scientist and any person whose interests were affected would be given what is called locus standi. That would be in line with a precedent established under section 27 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act. We are also proposing that organisations which have as one of their objects concern with the environment will be taken to have a standing. That is the most important part of the amendments. The ancillary amendment relates to the question of costs. The amendment provides that virtually no costs will be awarded against the plaintiff. These people would take an action in the public interest. Therefore, they should not run the risk of having to pay costs. Of course, if the claim were vexatious it could come under court rules and be struck out, so there is no question of vexatious litigation from that point of view. With that submission we ask the Government to consider favourably the amendments.
– This Bill gives the Northern Territory Supereme Court jurisidiaion to make orders in the nature of an injunction or a specific performance on application by the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service or a land council in relation to the Alligator Rivers Region where uranium mining operations occur. The Supreme Court may enforce any relevant Commonwealth or Territory laws. The Bill follows a recommendation of the Fox report. The Court is not given power to impose new environmental requirements. This Bill fails to recognise the standing of the Director of the Territory Parks and Wildlife Service. It also ignores the current negotiations for the transfer of the Northern Territory Supreme Court to local control. The Bill could have been enacted by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly.
– The Government has considered the five amendments moved by the Opposition. It opposes all of them.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Groom)- by leaveread a third time.
House adjourned at 11.11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
What sum was paid by his Department, or by departments formerly encompassing the functions now performed by his Department, to each airline for air travel within Australia during 1976-77.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Department of Home Affairs was established on 20 December 1 977 to carry out certain functions which had previously been the responsibility of the Departments of Administrative Services and the Prime Minister and Cabinet. The latter Departments still retain the relevant financial records for the financial year 1976-77. Consequently, the information sought by the honourable member in relation to the Department of Home Affairs is being included in the figures supplied in the answers to Question No. 443 addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services and Question No. 439 addressed to the Prime Minister.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1976:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 5 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It has been agreed that the Australian territorial sea around the islands of Boigu, Dauan and Saibai, which will lie to the north of the seabed boundary, will be three miles, and that there will be a line delimiting the territorial sea between these islands and Papua New Guinea.’
A seabed boundary will be delimited between Australia and Papua New Guinea. It will run through the protected zone which, the two Ministers agreed, will be established in the Torres Strait. Papua New Guinea agreed that the seabed boundary will lie to the north of all Australian inhabited islands except Boigu, Dauan and Saibai. Australia has accepted that the seabed boundary will be drawn in a location more southerly than the line at present applying under Australian legislation for offshore petroleum administration purposes, that this line does not represent the Australian view of the appropriate permanent location of the seabed boundary, that the seabed boundary will run to the south or Boigu, Dauan and Saibai and it will be continuous. ‘
The joint communique issued by the Prime Ministers of Australia and Papua New Guinea, Mr Fraser and Mr Somare, on 11 February 1977 stated that: ‘provisional agreement had been reached on the location of a seabed boundary running some 1200 miles from the Arafura Sea, through the Torres Strait and out through the Coral Sea.’ The joint statement which the Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister, Mr Olewale, and I issued on 10 February 1978 concerning interim proclamations of extended maritime jurisdiction in the area between Australia and Papua New Guinea stated that:
Neither Government was committed to final and permanent arrangements in respect of maritime boundaries on the basis of the interim proclamations to be made but it was their intention that such arrangements would be decided upon in the course of the negotiations they had now agreed to resume on a settlement of all issues relating to the Torres Strait and other areas between their two countries.’
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 16 March 1978.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Teachers: Candidature for the Parliament (Question No. 779)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
For the General Elections held in 1972, 1974, 197S and 1977 which candidates (a) indicated teaching as their occupations and (b) for which Electoral Divisions did they nominate.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The Australian Electoral Office has provided me with the following information:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science, upon notice, on5 April 1978:
Is the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization Division of Entomology making any investigations into the genetic control of pests; if so, what is the nature of these studies?
– The Minister for Science has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The CSIRO Division of Entomology has research projects on genetic control of two pests, namely, the sheep blowfly and the screw-worm fly.
Sheep blowfly, Lucilia cuprina, the primary cause of flystrike in sheep, is the major pest of the sheep industry in Australia. The Division’s research program aims at reducing the incidence of flystrike by using genetic means to reduce blowfly abundance. The over-all strategy involves the release of millions of genetically-defective laboratory-bred blowflies as fully-fed maggots that will complete their development in the ground and, as adults, mate with wild flies, spreading sterility and lethality through the wild population.
The most promising strains of genetically-engineered flies so far developed are called translocation-male strains. Females of this strain are blind and cannot survive in the field. Males are not blind, but are partially sterile and transmit the genes for blindness to their female offspring. The combination of male sterility and female blindness can, in theory, cause genetic death rates of more than 90 per cent in each generation. If this mortality rate can be achieved in practice, it should be enough to control sheep blowflies in most years. Feasibility studies are continuing, involving releases of laboratory-bred strains over defined experimental areas.
The Old World screw-worm fly, Chrysomya bezziana, is widespread in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. If it entered Australia, it would pose a very serious threat to our cattle and sheep industries in the tropics and subtropics. As a precaution against such an event, the Division of Entomology has a research group stationed in Papua New Guinea to study the biology and ecology of the fly and to assess the feasibility of genetic forms of control under Australian conditions. The applicability of the sterile male release method used in the USA against a closely-related species is receiving particular attention.
asked the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Wartime Execution of New Guineans (Question No. 879)
asked the Minister for Home
Affairs, upon notice, on 7 April 1 978:
Further to the answer to question No. 331 (Hansard, 5 April 1978), concerning the hanging of New Guinean indigenes in 1943-44 by Australian military courts, will he ascertain and advise the whereabouts of (a) the ANGAU War Diary, legal section dealing with the 1943 executions,
the ANGAU file 506/ 1/4 relating to wartime trials and
the files of Sir William Webb, wartime Atrocities Commissioner, relating to executions.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am informed as follows:
ANGAU War Diaries, including those kept by the Legal Section of H.Q., ANGAU, are in the custody of the Australian War Memorial.
The file 506/1/4 ‘A file dealing with trials, held by Australian New Guinea Administration Unit, for various Civil Offences committed by Natives, 1943-44’ is in Commonwealth Record Series A2663, ‘written records files, war of 1939-45, multiple number system’, at the Australian War Memorial.
All known extant files of Sir William Webb are held by the Australian War Memorial which also holds a copy of his 1943-44 report entitled ‘A Report on Japanese Atrocities and Breaches of the Rules of Warfare’.
In answer to the honourable member’s earlier and related question No. 33 1 of 1 March 1 978, 1 explained that the state of the records for the period in question would probably require a major search to locate the documents sought. I now provide the honourable member with the results of the search carried out by Australian Archives staff.
Evidence in the ANGAU War Diaries held at the Australian War Memorial suggests that confirmation of sentences imposed pursuant to trials held in New Guinea was made by the GOC, First Australian Army. The proceedings, together with confirmation of findings and confirmation or commutation of sentence were then forwarded to HQ ANGAU.
The Department of the Army file 85/1/671 ‘Death and other sentences imposed on Natives in New Guinea’ in Accession MP 742/1 ‘General Correspondence’ held in the Victorian Branch of Australian Archives, indicates that in this case the report on the trials by the GOC First Australian Army, the proceedings, the summary of the trials, and the original minutes of confirmation of the sentences were forwarded to Land Headquarters, Melbourne for transmission to the Minister for External Territories.
A search of records held by Defence archival authorities in Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane and of other possibly relevant records in Australian Archives (including files of the Departments of External Territories, Defence, AttorneyGeneral’s, Prime Minister’s and Foreign Affairs) has failed to find any trace of the documents or any reference to their disposition.
The military records of ANGAU were transferred to the Australian War Memorial after the war. It is understood that they were heavily culled. A thorough search of records held by the Australian War Memorial, including war diaries of ANGAU, HQ First Australian Army ‘A’ Branch and New Guinea Force ‘A’ Branch together with the Webb collection of donated papers and ‘A Report of Japanese Atrocities and Breaches of the Rules of Warfare’ by Sir William Webb failed to locate the documents requested.
Item 506/1/4 ‘A file dealing with trials, held by Australian New Guinea Administration Unit, for various Civil Offences committed by Natives, 1943-1944’ in CRS A2663 Written Records Files, War of 1939-45, multiple number system’, at the Australian War Memorial, refers to the execution of Embogi and Baji. The proceedings of the trials are, however, not included. This file also indicates that reports of the executions of these two persons are located in HQ ANGAU memos LS 134 of July 1943 and LS 172 of 17 September 1943. These memos would have been issued by New Guinea Force ‘A’ Branch but do not appear in the relevant diary.
If the documents were returned to ANGAU they should, in accordance with Army Headquarters memo 135675 of 15 October 1945, have been handed over to the Provisional Administration. In 1959, the Administrator of the Territory of Papua New Guinea informed the Archives Division, Commonwealth National Library, through the Department of Territories, that the only extant records of the Provisional Administration were a few Patrol Reports, the balance having been destroyed in the fire at the Government Secretary’s Office in 1949.
The personal papers of the then Minister for External Territories, the Honourable E. J. Ward, held in the National Library of Australia have also been examined but without success.
Electoral: Inclusion on Ballot Papers of Particulars of Party Affiliations (Question No. 909)
am asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1978:
Will he bring up to date the answer which the then Minister for the Interior gave me on 10 June 1970 (Hansard, page 3282) on the national, State and provincial legislatures in which the names of political parties are permitted or required to be placed beside the names of candidates on ballot-papers at elections.
– The Minister for Administrative Service has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
To the extent of the information available to it, the Australian Electoral Office has updated the answer which the then Minister for the Interior gave to the honourable member on 10 June 1970 (Hansard, page 3282):
asked the Leader of the House, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780504_reps_31_hor109/>.