31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. IS p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at 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’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Reverend K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government ‘s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling.
Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Cohen, Mr Fife, Mr Howe and Dr Jenkins.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie, Dr Edwards, Mr Nixon and Mr Short.
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 showeth (!) On 1 4 February 1 975 the then Australian Government deprived the officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic Decorations and Medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the citizen forces:
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 Aldred and Mr N. A. Brown.
To the Honourable, the Speaker, and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled will:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Newman.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Health and it relates to the recent publicity given to the changes to Medibank. Will the Minister inform the House whether all pensioner patients in public hospitals will have to contribute all but $7 of their pension towards the cost of their board and lodging in public hospitals? If this is not the case, will a pensioner patient with, say, a broken hip be classified as a long stay nursing home patient and, as a consequence, have to contribute towards his board and lodging?
– The answer to the first part of the question is an emphatic no. It is the Commonwealth Government’s intention that nursing home-type patients who have been admitted to public hospitals but who would otherwise be in nursing homes will be subject to the same benefit and conditions as geriatric patients who are presently in nursing homes. In other words, they will be eligible for the Commonwealth benefit and the health insurance fund benefit as nursing home patients and will contribute a portion of their pension towards their board and lodging in exactly the same way as pensioner patients in nursing homes. In view of the deliberate distortions being promoted by the Opposition I want to emphasise that there is a clear distinction between nursing home-type patients and pensioner patients requiring medical and hospital attention. There is a clear distinction between them. Such pensioners will be treated as hospital patients and will be entitled to the hospital benefit but they will not be required to make a patient contribution towards their board and lodging as are patients in nursing homes.
Pensioner patients who are admitted to hospital with a broken hip or with any injury or illness that could lead to long hospitalisation will be regarded as hospital patients; they will not be regarded as nursing home patients. So there is quite a clear distinction. The Government feels that there is not much justice in a system that provides benefits for and expects contributions from nursing home type patients who are in hospitals. Of course both the Commonwealth and the State governments have existing facilities and resources in many hospitals to accommodate nursing home type patients.
So there is no justification for treating nursing home type patients in nursing homes one way and nursing home type patients in hospitals another way. Let it be clearly understood that there is quite a distinction between the two types of patients. Pensioner patients who are in hospital because of illness will be treated as hospital patients and will be entitled to receive benefits; they will not have to make a patient contribution towards their board and lodging.
I should like also like to make it quite clear that the Opposition ‘s attempt to confuse the issue has not been to its credit. In fact it has caused a great deal of unhappiness for a lot of people. They have not been clear on the subject because of those statements. I might add that when the Australian Labor Party was in Government, it reduced the amount that a patient could keep from his pension from approximately $7 a day to $4. Since we came to office, we have progressively increased that amount from $4 to $7. Now we have indexed that amount to 12.5 per cent of the pension, so that each time there is a pension rise pensioners will get a correspondingly increased amount that they can retain for their own personal spending. So, far from doing the wrong thing by the pensioners, the Government has done the right thing by the pensioners.
– In the absence of the Prime Minister, I direct a question to the Deputy Prime Minister. I refer the Deputy Prime Minister to a question I asked the Prime Minister on Friday last regarding the Government’s proposal to reduce tariffs by 40 per cent. Will the Deputy Prime Minister outline in specific terms what the proposal will mean for industries which have tariff protection of, say, 30 per cent- for example, the electrical industry which has 3 1 per cent protection and the printing and publishing industry which has 37 per cent protection?
– It seems that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has been reading the newspapers and trying to predict what government attitudes will be.
– Where else can we find out?
– Well, if the honourable member wants to rely on the newspapers, I think he will be consistently wrong. The fact is that this matter is still before the Government, and the Government is giving consideration to it. So obviously anything that the honourable member reads in the newspapers about the matter at this stage is merely speculation.
I reiterate what the Prime Minister has said in this regard: There is a necessity for Australia to be involved in the multilateral trade negotiations. This is a water-shed year as far as world trade is concerned. Whether we are to engage in successful multilateral trade negotiations will depend upon countries being willing to participate in these discussions, in making certain bids and in being prepared to make certain recommendations or offers as to what they might be able to give.
There has been a suggestion that Australia should participate in a formula cut, as is the main basis of the multilateral trade negotiations by other countries around the world. The formula cut is that there should be an average 40 per cent cut of tariffs across-the-board over a period of eight years. The Prime Minister has pointed out that the full impact of this measure, particularly for the industrialised countries of the world, will mean little. The full impact of a 40 per cent cut will depend a lot on the terms and conditions which will apply.
There is a matter that has to be resolved in discussions during the course of the next month or so. The starting period is of immense importance for Australia because of the rather memorable 25 per cent across-the-board cuts in 1973. At the moment, countries such as Japan and Canada are recommending that the 40 per cent cut start from 1972. If this were to be universally accepted as the starting point, Australia would have already made a 25 per cent contribution. I hope members of the Labor Party will not argue about that. Being the authors of that action they must accept it. These are the matters of detail which one must understand. One must realise that they have a big bearing on what the eventual impact will be. But as no decision has been taken on this matter at this time the honourable member is merely canvassing speculation. I have nothing further to add.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Has the Government now received the report on the inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission into light commercial vehicles? Will the Government’s decision in due course be in accord with Australia ‘s domestic anti-infiation policies?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. This is certainly an issue which has been subject to very considerable Press commentary and representations by the many parties who have appeared before the Industries Assistance Commission. The report was received, I think, about two weeks ago. It is presently under study at departmental level. Obviously, I have read the report myself but it would not be proper for me to make any comment about the conclusions of that report or to comment on any detail included in it until such time as decisions have been announced by the Government in this House or outside it as may be appropriate. However, I assure the House and the honourable gentleman in particular that the Government will certainly have regard to any inflationary consequence of increased protection for domestic producers of light commercial vehicles.
As the honourable gentleman implied in his question,an 80 per cent guaranteed share for domestic producers of light commercial vehicles would entail cost increases for users, particularly in the rural sector which the honourable gentleman represents. In addition, it would no doubt lead to increases in unemployment in those areas which are concerned with importing and the distribution of imported vehicles. Against this the Government must have regard when the report comes before it for purposes of decision to the interests of domestic producers and, of course, component manufacturers. Apart from what I have said- I do not think I ought to add to it until such time as decisions can be announced- I assure the House and the honourable gentleman that the Government will have regard to the broad national interest when taking a decision between the competing representations which have been put to the IAC and will make a decision on the basis of the information supplied to the Government in the IAC report.
-I refer the Prime Minister to the question I asked on Friday last relating to tariff reductions. He indicated to the House that the reduction would be merely about one-half of one per cent each year for an eight year period. Is it a fact that a number of industries such as the electrical industry which has a 3 1 per cent tariff protection and the publishing industry which has a 37 per cent tariff protection would on a 40 per cent ratio have protection reductions of 12 per cent and 15 per cent over the same period? How does the Prime Minister reconcile those facts with the statement he made on Friday last?
– What I said before about this matter related to the generality of the position of North America and the European Economic Community where average industrial tariffs are about 10 per cent. Taking it on that basis, it is perfectly plain that the proposals starting in 1980 and running for eight years would mean that the reduction would be about one-half of one per cent a year for eight years, the first five years of which would be mandatory and the last three years of which would be dependent upon the economic circumstances of the time.
In addition to that, a number of countries have postulated different starting dates, some going back as far as 1972 or 1973, so that any tariff changes that might have occurred since then are part of the total element in the proposals. Also, I think all countries have indicated an intention to nominate exceptions hi relation to sensitive areas. Beyond that, there are safeguards clauses which enable an escape hatch to be established. So the honourable gentleman needs to judge anything that might have been said here against the Government’s known and very clear determination to provide adequate protection for Australian industry and not to do anything that would embark upon the kind of operation that led to a 25 per cent tariff cut, at one moment, across the board, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of Austraiian jobs. What we are concerned to have is proposals that will overall strengthen the Australian economy, and that will overall strengthen the world economy and the world trading situation. We believe that Australia has a responsibility to be constructive in those particular international discussions.
– I ask the Prime Minister: When can the Australian people expect a reduction of up to 2 per cent in interest rates on borrowings from building societies, and through bank overdrafts, as was suggested by him in his electorate talk of 27 November 1977, and at a Press conference in Lauceston on the same day?
-From the outset I have made it clear that when I indicated that throughout the course of this year there could be, in general terms, a 2 per cent reduction in interest rates, that included, certainly so far as official interest rates are concerned, the reductions that had already taken place and that had commenced throughout the latter part of 1977. It is worthwhile noting the reductions in yields in government securities since that time. They have been significant and have, in fact, been sustained. Long-term yields were shaded a further 0.1 per cent in the conversion loan of May. Interest rates on Commonwealth Government securities, on a 2-year basis, have come down 0.96 per cent, on a 5-year basis 1.1 per cent, on a 10-year basis 1.31 per cent, and on a 20-year basis 1.39 per cent. That is over a period, taking into account the latter part of last year.
At about the same time as yields on these government securities have fallen, important private sector rates have been dropping; for example, yields offered on finance company and industrial debentures have fallen significantly and in a widespread manner since late last year. Savings banks, trading banks and permanent building societies in most States have implemented reductions of 0.5 per cent in rates charged on home loans and paid on some classes of deposits. At present, the seasonal run-down in liquidity is requiring very careful management by the monetary authorities and it is worth noting that the suggestions of credit squeeze that were being made two or three months ago have faded from the scene completely, due to the skilful management of the Treasurer and the Governor of the Reserve Bank in handling the seasonal run-down situation. Indications are that this rundown period is being negotiated without undue strain. Nonetheless, even through this period, yields on private, medium and long-term debentures issued by companies have still been falling. That reflects the success of the Government’s general policy in winding down inflationary expectations and the continued application of responsible fiscal and monetary policies. With the continuation of those policies, there is no need to alter the general expectation that I aroused last year.
Mr Keating having addressed a question to the Prime Minister -
-Order! The question is out of order. Clearly, if one wishes to attack the character of a member of this House, or of the Senate, it should be by way of a substantive motion. However, having regard to the fact that a question preceded, if there is a wish on the part of the Prime Minister to answer it, I will permit that.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. I refer the Minister to my question to him several weeks ago about the real concern felt by many Australians regarding the funding of abortions through hospital and medical benefit funds. I ask: Does the Minister recall that in his reply at that time he stated that he hoped to be in a position to announce the Government’s decision in the near future? Is it a fact that the Minister’s announcement last week of changes to the health insurance system was designed inter alia to constitute the Government’s decision on the question of abortion funding via the path of optional deductibles? If so, can he inform the House as to how effective he expects this might be in dealing with the genuine concern felt by so many people on this sensitive issue?
– The Government has given serious and sensitive consideration to the question of paying benefits for abortions. It depends on the end of the spectrum at which one stands how one judges the decision that has been taken by the Government on this issue because there are two very clear schools of thought in the community on the issue of abortion. No doubt the honourable member has had thousands of letters, as I have, from people who are concerned that benefits are being paid for abortions from Medibank and from health insurance funds. I think I need to inform the House that the Government has recognised that to exclude from the schedule of benefits these gynaecological procedures, which would have the effect of denying benefits to those persons who require the procedures on proper medical grounds, could cause very serious hardship.
As for the legality of these procedures, a complex issue arises because of the differing laws on abortion as between the States. It is the States’ prerogative to ensure that doctors undertake their procedures according to the law of the States. Moreover, the honourable member would appreciate no doubt the great difficultiesindeed the questions of privacy- that would be involved if health insurance funds and Medibank itself had to determine what procedures were in fact carried out according to the laws of any State, and I would not like to see either my Department or the Health Insurance Commission placed in that position.
Having said that, let me now say that the Government has completed its consideration and has decided to amend the National Health Act to enable health insurance funds to apply for permission to delete certain items for benefit purposes, including gynaecological procedures, and subject to certain conditions that will be established after discussions with the funds it is anticipated that permission will be granted to a health insurance fund, should it make an application, to delete an item for the payment of benefits. We would insist that that particular fund, or any fund that made such an application, would give adequate public notice to the contributors concerned so that those contributors to the fund would be aware that certain items were not going to attract benefits from that specific fund. Beyond that the Government has decided to take the matter no further.
I have already had a letter from one health insurance fund which has indicated that it intends to make an application as soon as the legislation becomes law, and it feels that it has been very fair to the people whom it represents.
– I ask the Prime Minister a question. Is it a fact that he called a series of meetings with senior Ministers earlier this year for the specific purpose of discussing allegations made against another Minister? Did those meetings take place at the Lodge and in the Prime Minister’s office over a period of some three months? Did the other Ministers include the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Transport, the Minister for Primary Industry, the Attorney-General, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Minister for Finance? If so, will the Prime Minister and the other Ministers be giving evidence to the royal commission into alleged improper conduct involving last year’s redistribution of electoral boundaries?
– Clearly the last part of that question is hypothetical. I really ought to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for the quality of his question on this matter but if he thinks that I am going to relate in this Parliament or in other places the circumstances of meetings between Ministers involved very much in processes at the heart of government he is very much mistaken.
-My question, which is directed to the Treasurer, concerns the requirement of the taxation authorities, under section 26 (e) of the Income Tax Assessment Act, for persons living in employer provided or employer subsidised accommodation to include the amount of the real subsidy in their assessable income. As section 26 (e) requires the inclusion in assessable income not only of housing subsidies but also of any money, goods and other benefits received in relation to a taxpayer’s employment, what action has the Commissioner of Taxation taken to require business executives to include in their assessable incomes the value of such fringe benefits as subsidised holidays, recreation, life insurance, health costs and home improvements? Can the Treasurer also inform the House whether the Prime Minister is now required to include in his assessable income the housing subsidy he receives through his free use of the recently refurbished Lodge?
– If I may take the last part of the question first, I would say to the honourable member, as I said to the Leader of the Opposition when he asked a like question last week, that in my ministerial capacity I do not have access to the affairs of individual taxpayers, nor do I want such access. If the honourable member imagines that I am going to deviate from the attitude because he asks questions like that, he is mistaken. Nor is it part of my function as Minister responsible for the Income Tax Assessment Act to give interpretations on matters of law to this House. The question of how the Income Tax Assessment Act affects individuals is a matter for individuals to obtain advice on from their own taxation advisers and a matter for determination by the Commissioner of Taxation. It is not my function to give expressions of opinion on the law. I have already given, in answer to questions asked on this side of the House, an explanation of the scope of section 26 (e) and the reason why it is in the Income Tax Assessment Act. I explained to one of the honourable member’s colleagues from Western Australia on this side of the House the generality of that section so far as remote areas of Australia are concerned. I repeat that the words in section 26 (e) cover a number of items- I cannot recall all of them without looking at the section again- including, I think, some of the items to which the honourable member referred. The question of their application in individual cases is a matter of law and I again say that I do not intend to get into a discussion in this House on the position of individual taxpayers.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister inform the House on the present position of the application by the sugar industry for an increase in the domestic sugar price?
– Last Thursday I contacted the industry in Queensland and the Queensland Government with a further approach from the Commonwealth Government to the State Government’s request on behalf of the industry for an increase in the domestic price of sugar. The actual context of the price regime was one which we saw as needing to take into account both the cost movements as they had affected cane growers and the general on-costs that flowed at the milling and refining end as well as the price relativity to the International Sugar Agreement and the bilateral sugar agreements negotiated by the industry. Of course, it was also very necessary to take into account the impact on the consumer price index and on major consumers in this country.
Having looked at all those factors we approached the Queensland Government and suggested to it that the original price it had intimated would be necessary to improve the position of cane growers was not really justified and that there should be an increase of a lesser amount. I have had some contact with the Queensland Government in respect of that amount. I hope to be able later today to make an official statement on this matter. At this stage I am not in a position to advise the House finally of the position, although I would expect the increased amount to be significantly greater than $18 a tonne which was the figure originally discussed between the two governments.
In addition the Commonwealth Government feels that it is essential that there be an inquiry into the broad scope of the costing of production, milling and refining of sugar. It has been generally agreed between the two governments that there should be an inquiry into the structure of the industry and into cost increments as they affect, in particular, cane growers. The terms and nature of that inquiry have not been settled between the two governments. I am hoping that later in the day I might be able to make a firm statement on this matter.
I know that the honourable gentleman, together with some of his Queensland colleagues, has on many occasions mentioned in this House very deep concern about the impact of declining world prices for sugar and the effect this has on cane growers who for so long have forgone price increases in the domestic market in order, as they saw it, to act responsibly to contain costs within this country. I believe the offer made to the Queensland Government by the Commonwealth will both pick up much of the cost detriment that has affected cane growers and will help to sustain the industry at a time when world prices are not as high as cane growers or others in Australia might hope.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Health. Are any of the Vietnamese refugees now being permitted to enter Australia former prostitutes and drug pedlars, some of whom are suffering from a venereal disease which is resistant to all known antibiotics? Is it true that there has been an outbreak of a certain strain of non-specific, non.gonoccochal urethritis attributed to contact with Vietnamese refugees, for which there is no known permanent cure? Is it true that NSU or NGU as this disease is more commonly known cannot be detected in some cases until a month or six weeks after contracting the disease? Are tests being made within four weeks and again within six weeks to make sure that people with this incurable disease are not entering this country? Has the Minister read an article in the Medical Journal of Australia of 22 April 1978 which points out that as a result of a study of NGU it was concluded that in view of the pruritic and other complications of tetracycline therapy there is a proportion of urea plasmas which are resistant to tetracyclines?
– I had somewhere in my briefing notes some information relating to at least some of the matters to which the honourable gentleman has referred. However in the time available I am not able to refer to them. I should like to give an assurance to the honourable member that I have had discussions with my Department about the very serious problems to which he alluded in his question. I have asked my Department to make sure that proper screenings are undertaken in respect of all intending migrants coming to Australia and, in particular, the refugees who are coming from Indo-China at the present time. Discussions have been going on with the Public Service Board to make sure that we have sufficient numbers of medical practitioners to carry out the screening effectively. I know that discussions have taken place between my Department and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
I cannot really offer a medical opinion about the medical technicalities in the honourable member’s question. I did see the article in the Australian Medical Association’s journal to which the honourable member referred. I have no doubt that the medical officers of my Department are looking very seriously at the consequences of that particular venereal disease. However, I should not like to comment further on that. As to the other more detailed aspects of the honourable member’s question, I will obtain the appropriate advice from the Department and make it available to him and to other members of the House.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer the Minister to the Government’s election promise, which is of particular interest to people living in rural areas, that there will be an extension of the limit for the provision of free telephone line plant from 12 kilometres to 16 kilometres. Will this extension apply to both manual and automatic telephones? What is the expected time of completion of the Government’s commitment? Further, will the Government direct Telecom Australia to absorb the additional cost of the Government’s directives or will a Budget appropriation be made to meet the cost?
– As I have indicated previously to the House on this matter, Telecom Australia had interpreted the Government’s undertaking to apply only to cases where automatic telephone exchanges were involved and not to the manual exchange areas. I am having discussions with Telecom about its interpretation because the Government believes that a clear commitment was made. As soon as I can, I will give the House information on this matter.
-I ask the Minister for Special Trade Representations whether he has seen statements criticising Australia’s negotiating position on international trade matters, accusing official spokesmen of inconsistency and hypocrisy, and questioning how realistic is the case presented by Australia in these matters. I ask him whether those statements are correct. If not, what are the facts about Australia’s position on this matter? Further, what effect do statements of that nature, and those statements in particular, have on the conduct of Australia’s representations on these matters.
– I have heard of some speeches and examined the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on these matters. I must say that I have come to the conclusion that they do not really understand the extent of the problems because they speak as though one can make a valid and equal comparison between the nontariff barriers that the European Economic Community puts up against Australia’s agricultural products on the one side, and Australia’s tariff barriers on the other side. The position is that Australia at the present time is running an overall deficit in trade of nearly $2 billion. That has come about in recent years because of the virtual exclusion from the Community’s market of Australia’s efficiently produced agricultural products. In fact Australia has lost over 80 per cent of the export of its agricultural products in recent years. Australia is an efficient producer of many agricultural products in terms of price, quality and steady supply. As the House will know, my predecessor, the present Treasurer, made representations to the Commission and left a document containing some 25 matters. I shall be returning next week to Europe to receive the official response to those matters.
Australia’s case contains, in summary, two aspects. The first is that Australia should have equal access opportunity in trade for the products that it produces efficiently with the access that others have to our market for the products which they produce efficiently. That is, after all, the basis of international trade as accepted by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Second- and this is the point which is ignored by those who criticise the Government’s approachthe EEC brings into existence very inefficient agricultural produce, within the definition I have just given, by highly subsidising that production and then, when that leads to huge surpluses of a number of products, dumps those highly subsidised surpluses on the third markets where Australia would otherwise compete, if commercial considerations were those that were pertaining.
– Are not your remarks just as damaging?
– I should have thought that this would have been understandable even to the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith. I notice that every time he speaks about these matters he changes his mind. He had some comments to make in a speech in the House not long ago which were contradictory and indicated that the Government would never get any steel into the European Economic Community. In fact there is an arrangement by which a substantial amount- if the honourable member looks -
-I think the Minister should complete his answer and not be drawn aside.
– I accept your advice, Mr Speaker. I only point out that the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith does change his ground. There is a tendency in the whole argument to separate, to take one set of standards in relation to industrial products and another for agricultural products. If one were to make some calculations of a tariff equivalent, to translate into ad valorem terms the protective incidence of the variable levies of the EEC they would be: Sugar 150 per cent; beef and cheese, 200 per cent; and butter and milk powder, 300 per cent. Australia cannot ignore these matters, nor can it replace this trade with its efficient products in other markets as the Community is the world ‘s greatest trading bloc. It is important for Australia to involve itself. As the country most affected by the variable levy system against its agricultural produce, we must bring home our point of view to the community with all the vigour we can command.
-Does the Prime Minister recall his statement of 9 July 1 975 in which he said:
The half truth, the partial answer and the slipping over of the facts are a misleading of this Parliament . . .
Is it a fact that at a meeting held last January Senator Withers told the Prime Minister that he, Senator Withers, could have been responsible for the change of names of the electorates of Gold Coast and McPherson? In reply to a question in another place on 4 November 1977 Senator Withers said:
I have been asked why the names of the electorates were changed. I do not know.
In view of this what action has the Prime Minister taken as a result of any misleading of the House or himself in the matter?
– Congratulated Withers.
-Order! The honourable member for Prospect will withdraw. The honourable member will withdraw immediately or I shall deal with him.
– In part answer I refer the honourable gentleman to an answer which the Attorney-General gave yesterday in the Senate. Beyond that I will not comment in any sense, shape or form about discussions that take place in my office, or at the Lodge or in the Cabinet room. Also, I am not going to comment on any matters that might be directly or indirectly related to a royal commission that is in progress.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Resources whether he has seen reports which suggest that a New South Wales Government-sponsored trade mission has discovered a new and substantial market in Saudi Arabia for Australian meat and opportunities for Australian participation in joint ventures there. What information can the Minister give about prospects for sales of Australian meat on this market?
– I have seen the publicity that has been given to the fact that a New South Wales meat mission went to Saudi Arabia. One has to bear in mind that there is the prospect of a State election in New South Wales and therefore maximum mileage is being given to this trade mission to Saudi Arabia. People should not get carried away too much by the publicity. They need to keep this matter in its proper perspective. Certainly there have been increased sales to Saudi Arabia. This is hardly news to me or to my Department which has been heavily involved in getting new sales in this part of the world in recent years. If there is any credit to be given for the new sales it should largely be given to the Federal Government, the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation and the exporters themselves for action they have taken. The New South Wales mission which went overseas claimed that it had made sales worth a quarter of a million dollars-that is, 200 to 300 tonnes of meat- but at the moment we are selling about 7,000 tonnes of meat to Saudi Arabia. This has resulted from trade displays and trade missions we have sent there. There have been eight missions to Saudi Arabia in the last year. We have had one mission investigating cold storage facilities in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. We have a special mission there now, involving the AMLC, looking into the prospect of increasing sales of meat and of live sheep. We also have two joint ventures operating with Saudi Arabia. I do not think there is anything world shattering about the fact that New South Wales had sent a mission there. One has to realise that there is a certain amount of political gimmickry about it all.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether a series of anomalies in the parliamentary retiring allowance system has been drawn to his attention. Has he been able to consider those matters? Does he propose to respond to the matters which have been brought to his attention? If so, when?
– I am aware that there are anomalies in the parliamentary retiring allowance arrangements. I am particularly aware that the arrangements made for this Parliament are much less favourable than the arrangements made for most of the parliaments of the States. I am also aware that there have been conversations between Opposition members and members on the Government side. If the Leader of the Opposition will nominate a senior front bench member of his Party- I do not want to condemn any person by nominating somebody but may I suggest the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- I will nominate a Minister to see whether there is agreement about the nature of the anomalies and the remedies that should be pursued.
I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a letter from me to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) dated 25 May 1978, concerning taxation matters associated with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), and a reply from the Prime Minister to me dated 29 May 1978.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Then I seek leave to table these documents.
-Is leave granted?
-Leave is not granted.
– For the information of honourable members I present the interim annual report of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1977. Because of the delay in the presentation of the 1974-75 and 1975-76 reports the Auditor-General’s certificate in respect of the 1976-77 accounts was not available in sufficient time to permit the tabling of a complete report during the current session. The complete report will be tabled in the Budget session of Parliament.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 1 present an agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania made under the provisions of that Act.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a personal explanation on the basis that I have been misrepresented.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-Yesterday in the course of the debate on the censure motion, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that I had said that there had been no major statement on foreign affairs. That is incorrect. I said that there had been no major statement on disarmament. In the same speech, the Prime Minister said that I had made accusations, ‘knowing them to be false’. Those words were used in relation to whether the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) had had some discussion with the Commissioner of Taxation. The Prime Minister said that he had written a letter to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) about that matter. I know nothing about that matter or about the specifics of what then followed. The Prime Minister then incorporated in Hansard a letter from the Commissioner of Taxation. I have never seen that letter and I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition has ever seen that letter. So I have no knowledge about this matter in the sense that it has been suggested that I made some false accusation in connection with it. I think that ought to be noted for the record.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to say that I accept what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) has said. I regret that he does not have adequate liaison with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden).
-Mr Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Mr Speaker.
Mr SPEAEKERHe may proceed.
-On Channel 4 in Wollongong last night, I was accused by the State Minister for Transport, Mr Cox, of ‘having my usual disregard for the facts’ in claiming that federal funds were to be diverted from the southern freeway project in Dapto in my electorate. Mr Cox denied that I was correct in my assertions and said that in fact the money would not be diverted. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter from Mr Cox to the Honourable Neville Wran, outlining a reduced program of work on the southern freeway in my electorate. It clearly states that the accusation against me is incorrect.
Leave not granted.
- Mr Speaker, I shall read the letter from Mr Cox which will demonstrate that his accusation about ‘my usual disregard for the facts ‘is incorrect.
-The honourable gentleman is entitled to state the misrepresentation. That he has done. He is now entitled to state what he says are the facts.
- Mr Speaker, the facts are these: Mr Cox has written to Mr Neville Wran, saying:
Following the discussions I had with the Commissioner, he has now put forward a reduced program of work on the Southern Freeway, which provides for an acceptable level of work, so as to maximise -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. The honourable member claims to be quoting from a letter from Mr Cox to Mr Wran. I ask you to ascertain whether the honourable member can vouch for the authenticity of that letter. Did the letter fall off the back of a truck? How did the honourable member get hold of a secret letter?
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. Can I table the letter? Would that be of help?
-Order! There is no point of order in the matter raised by the honourable member for Hughes. The honourable member for Macarthur is entitled to continue.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. I repeat that the letter states in part:
Following the discussions I had with the Commissioner, he has now put forward a reduced program of work on the Southern Freeway, which provides for an acceptable level of work, so as to maximise the amount of funds that can be programmed for the earliest possible construction of the Northern Distributor.
The letter goes on -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now arguing the matter. He has stated the misrepresentation.
-He claimed that I had lied in effect. I believe that this letter clearly dramatises that that accusation is totally false. I suggest that the case would be rounded out if I read one more paragraph of the letter.
-The honourable gentleman is arguing the issue. He is in debate with the Minister. Personal explanations are not designed for that purpose. Does the Minister for Transport wish to proceed with the point of order he raised?
– Simply to facilitate the Opposition’s view on this matter, I am prepared to table the letter.
-The Minister is entitled to table a document at any time. If he wishes to do so it is in order.
– I present the report of the Review of Post-Arrival Programs and Services to Migrants. I also present copies of this report translated into the following languages: Arabic, Dutch, German, Greek, Italian, Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese.
– Any in English?
– I hope that the honourable gentleman can read one of those languages. I seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.
– It is with particular pleasure that I lay 10 copies of this report on the table of this House. This is the first occasion on which a report commissioned by the Commonwealth Government has been tabled in this Parliament in languages other than English. It is singularly appropriate that a report directed specifically at programs and services for migrants should be the first to be available in ethnic languages. I hope that this will set a pattern which will be followed in future where reports are of such direct interest to migrants.
Honourable members may recall that this Review was announced by the Government on 3 1 August 1 977. We established it in the light of our concern to ensure that the changing needs of migrants are being met as effectively as possible. We asked the Review to have regard to our federalism policy and our objective of supporting the enterprise and dedication of community groups who provide programs and services to migrants. As I said then, the Government is conscious of the special language, housing, employment and other difficulties faced by migrants during the transition from one society to another. We saw the need to provide an opportunity for migrants themselves to participate in identifying their problems and difficulties. We believed they should help to design programs and services relevant to their needs. The Review group was headed by Mr Frank Galbally and its members were Miss Francesca Merenda, Mr Nick Polites and Mr Carlo Stransky.
Migrants and their children now make up about one-third of the total population of Australia. They have come from many different ethnic origins. Few Australians in their lifetime have to face the same psychological and social stresses- the homesickness, loneliness, anxieties and frustrations. Few Australians face the difficulties many migrants are confronted with particularly in the early years after their arrival.
When the migrant first arrives the pressure is great. The goods necessary for living have to be purchased. Housing and employment difficulties have to be solved and children’s education arranged. Adjustments have to be made to a myriad of strange laws, regulations and an unfamiliar political system. In doing all this the migrant often has to struggle with an alien language.
Generally Australians have given a great deal of understanding and generous help to migrants. Ethnic groups themselves have generated their own organisations and societies to assist the more needy amongst their communities and encourage them to become self-sufficient and selfreliant. The Review has taken full account of all the problems migrants face. It has noted that notwithstanding these problems, migrants have struggled to maintain their cultural heritage and preserve their sense of cultural identity. Notwithstanding these efforts we recognise the special needs which migrants, particularly the nonEnglish speaking and the more recently arrived, have in settling here. It was for this reason we established the Review.
The Government agrees with the general conclusions of the Review. It agrees Australia is at a critical stage in developing a cohesive, united, multicultural nation. It agrees there is a need to change the direction of its services to migrants and that further steps to encourage multiculturalism are needed. In forming these conclusions, the Review has pointed to significant changes in recent years in the pattern of migration and the structure of our population. It noted changes in attitudes to migration and to our responsibilities for international refugees. It pointed to the large and growing numbers of ethnic groups in our community, and to the changing roles of governments. Against that general background, it conducted its own examination of programs and services, it received many submissions and held many discussions in the community over the past few months.
The Review adopted the following guiding principles which the Government fully endorses:
Having regard to those principles, the Review sought to identify the most critical areas of need. It sought to determine whether present services and programs meet those needs adequately. It concluded that migrants who arrive with little or no understanding of English have the greatest difficulties and often remain at a disadvantage because of that. Difficulties were judged to be greatest immediately after arrival, particularly for migrants who come from countries without a long-established tradition of migration to Australia.
The Review found that those who do not learn adequate English continue to be at a disadvantage and often suffer considerably in employment, through isolation from social contact and in many other ways. It found that these same people are often not effectively reached, and sometimes not reached at all, by present services and programs.
The evidence suggests that nearly half a million of our population face these problems and that many suffer severe hardship because of them. This group includes large numbers of those who are isolated at home- especially women- elderly migrants- whose numbers are expected to increase dramatically in the course of the next decade- those from smaller ethnic groups- whose own support services are limited -migrant women at work and the children of migrants.
The Review draws attention to the fact that the bulk of Commonwealth Government expenditure is through general programs designed for the whole Australian community. It points out that, since about 20 per cent of our community are currently ‘migrants’, a similar proportion of the Commonwealth’s general expenditure on education, health, social security and welfare and other areas should be for the benefit of migrants. It endorsed the view that services to migrants should as far as possible be through general programs and, consistent with its terms of reference, the Review has not sought to assess the effectiveness of these general programs as such. Rather, it has concentrated on establishing whether migrants are placed at any disadvantage through ignorance of available services or through difficulties with access, communication and so on.
Honourable members will be aware of the current Commonwealth programs and services directed specifically to migrants, covering migrant education, migrant welfare, interpreting and translation and other programs and services. The funds allocated to these totalled some $53m in 1977-78. The Review concluded that most of these programs and services are valuable and effective, but that there are also important gaps and deficiencies.
The Review found that the main areas of need -such as for fluency in English and for better communication and information- are common to virtually all areas such as health, welfare, education, employment and the law. Accordingly the majority of the initiatives proposed are directed at these general areas of need rather than at specific services or programs. Careful consideration was given to finding an appropriate balance between services and programs directed at the newly arrived- which can be costly at the time but can save significantly in the longer term- and those services directed at the backlog of needs in the established migrant community.
An integrated package of measures has accordingly been developed and the Review recommends that the Government implement this package over a period of three years. The package is shown in summary table form, together with suggested additional financial allocations, at paragraph 1.43 of the report. Altogether, the additional financial allocations proposed- in constant April 1978 prices- total $7.9m in the first year, $ 15.0m in the second, and $26.8m in the third.
After examination, I am pleased to inform honourable members that the Government accepts these proposals and the financial commitments which they entail. We believe the Review has developed a well-balanced and practical plan of action, and that it is now the job of the Government to see that this plan of action is properly implemented.
The Review itself believes there should be continuing evaluation of the effectiveness of these initiatives throughout the implementation period, and that some modifications may prove to be desirable. Whilst we accept the proposals, timetabling and the general thrust of the Report, there will be an opportunity for adjustment through regular close monitoring of external circumstances such as the responses of migrant groups. Subject to possible modifications arising from such monitoring, the Government accepts the proposals which I now summarise.
The proposals are in the fields of initial settlement; English language teaching; communication; information; voluntary, self-help and Good Neighbour Council services; special need and special groups; multiculturalism; ethnic media; and co-ordination and consultation. I emphasise, however, the close inter-relationships of the proposals in these different fields.
The Review found that many of the problems encountered by migrants arise from inadequate arrangements for their initial settlement. It recommended a comprehensive initial settlement program which will require extra funding of $ 12m over three years. This will cover classes in English and formal orientation courses including advice and assistance in housing, education, employment and other areas of need. This program should enable savings to be made by preventing later settlement difficulty. The program will be available to all migrants either in residential hostels or by attendance at new community centres. A living allowance will be paid during a specified initial settlement period.
Management of the program will be through new bodies known as migrant settlement councils, representing Commonwealth and State governments, the ethnic communities and voluntary organisations.
Because migrants* knowledge of the English language was found to be a critical factor in enabling successful settlement in Australia, special attention has been given to the teaching of English both to children and to adults. For children, there is compelling evidence that there are many who need special instruction in English but who do not receive it. The Review also found room for significant improvements in teaching methods and materials and in the distribution of funds for teaching English to children. In accordance with their recommendation, the Government will be providing extra funding of $ 10m over the next three years, to be distributed so as to reflect the needs of children in different areas who do not speak adequate English. We will also be seeking the co-operation of the States in setting up arrangements for better planning and assessment of English teaching to migrant children.
For adults, English language teaching will be an important part of our initial settlement program. But there will also be a continuing need for special programs for certain groups and for the ‘backlog’ of migrants in the community whose English is not adequate. Accordingly, there will be extensions to the availability and coverage of full-time courses of instruction. The current continuation classes will be replaced by certificate courses at different levels of difficulty. Advanced courses will be extended and there will be a wider use of ‘on-the-job’ English instruction and the home tutor scheme. There will also be provision for better education for teachers of adult migrants, additional funds for training such teachers and for the provision of teaching materials. The adult migrant education program will be established as a three-year program and an extensive survey of the needs for English of the various migrant groups will be conducted to improve planning and monitoring.
In spite of this increasing emphasis on the teaching of English to migrants, there will always be a substantial number in the community who do not understand English, and who therefore face difficulties in communication. We will therefore introduce financial incentives for bilingual staff occupying public contact positions. We will establish intensive English courses for migrants with overseas professional and sub-professional qualifications to help their work here. We will help relevant professionals to obtain or upgrade their knowledge of other cultures and languages. We will also be extending and bringing together existing Commonwealth Government translating and interpreting services, and offering to share with the States the costs of providing additional services in areas of State responsibility.
The Review found that migrants are often placed at a disadvantage by their ignorance of their rights, entitlements and obligations in Australian society. It found that resources for information programs are not necessarily inadequate, but that they are wastefully used through inadequate consultation and co-ordination. Accordingly, the Government will move to strengthen the Information Branch of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to provide a focus for co-ordination of advice. There will be an extensive survey of migrants’ need for information, and its dissemination. In accordance with the recommendations of the Review, steps will be taken to improve the ways in which migrants get information in areas of special need, including information relevant to employment, health, consumer protection, bail procedures, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and legal aid.
The Review gave careful consideration to the best means of providing support for self-help activities by ethnic groups, and the place of voluntary agencies and the Good Neighbour Councils indelivering services to migrants. They concluded that the ethnic communities themselves and the voluntary agencies can meet the welfare needs of migrants more effectively than government agencies. In accordance with their recommendation, the Government will be establishing a special program of multicultural resource centres. This will be phased in over three years and will involve the local communities in the management and operation of the centres. There will also be an increase in the numbers of ethnic welfare workers through an extension of the grant-in-aid scheme. Funding under the scheme will also change from one-year to three-year grants. As these recommendations take effect, the demands for direct services from the Commonwealth migrant services units are expected to decrease. Accordingly the Government will reduce its own direct service delivery role and strengthen instead its capacity to provide a consultancy, community development and co-ordination service. We will introduce a special program to provide ‘once only’ grants of up to $5,000 to assist voluntary groups to introduce new approaches to welfare service delivery or to restructure existing welfare services.
As required by their terms of reference, the Review examined the effectiveness of the Good
Neighbour Councils, their relations with other non-government bodies working in this area and the arrangements for government funding. The Review noted that when the Good Neighbour Councils were first funded no other nongovernment or major ethnic organisations were active in migrant settlement and the councils performed with energy and enthusiasm a difficult, almost impossible task. However, the Review concluded that because the needs of migrants have changed since the councils were established, and because it is not possible to revise the councils’ functions so that they do not duplicate or inhibit the role of the ethnic communities, there is no justification for continued Commonwealth Government funding of the councils. The Government acknowledges the very valuable role played by Good Neighbour Councils in times past. It is conscious of the goodwill and effort of those, including volunteers, associated with the movement both in the past and today. Nevertheless it accepts the assessment of the Review and their recommendation that funds previously allocated to Good Neighbour Councils be redirected over two years to other community programs. In keeping with the Review’s recommendation the Government will give special assistance in the council’s administrative problems associated with this, and it will assist in the redeployment of staff and the placement of volunteers.
I now refer to some special areas of need identified by the Reviewer, and to some groups judged in need of special assistance. The Government will be taking action in the area of the law to protect migrants’ rights in criminal investigations and in voting, and to improve information on such aspects as the legal system generally and family law. On income security, we will be giving high priority to resolving anomalies affecting migrants, in the light of the problems outlined by the Review. On employment the Government will extend the responsibilities of the Committee on Overseas Professional Qualifications. This will allow it to advise on subprofessional qualifications and to make suggestions for improving recognition of overseas qualifications and occupational retraining.
Also, in accordance with the recommendation of the Review, trade unions will be eligible for special project grants to improve migrants’ knowledge of and participation in union affairs. In the health area, the Review noted significant cultural and communication problems and, in addition to the Government’s recently announced program for funding interpreters, increased funds will be provided for the use of ethnic health workers.
The Government is conscious that many of the initiatives it is taking have been designed with regard to the special needs of migrant women. It will make sure particular account is taken of those needs in the implementation period. In addition, for these women and for their young children, the Government will encourage establishment of more child-care facilities at places of work. It will also assist with development of more appropriate community child-care and preschool services for migrants. The Government notes the particular advantages of the family day care scheme for migrant communities to which the Review draws attention. There will be special provisions for workers to be employed by ethnic communities to work in child-care centres and pre-schools to foster a multicultural approach and to help bridge the gap between school and home.
Action will be taken to follow up the Review’s observation about handicapped migrants experiencing problems of access to rehabilitation services, and that there should be greater use of ethnic workers in rehabilitation centres.
For older migrants, we will follow up the suggestion that greater support be given to those willing to care for their elderly relatives at home, and that institutions accommodating old people should specialise more in providing an environment acceptable to ethnic groups. There will be an increase in funds for the employment of ethnic workers for the aged.
The Government accepts that it is now essential to give significant further encouragement to develop a multicultural attitude in Australian society. It will foster the retention of the cultural heritage of different ethnic groups and promote intercultural understanding. We agree that schools are the key element in achieving such a goal and we will allocate $5m over the next three years to develop multicultural and community language education programs. As the Review recommended, we will establish a small group of experts in cultural and racial differences to advise on how these funds can be most effectively used to develop multicultural and community language courses in the schools, and I would expect that that group would liaise with the migrant ethnic communities in pursuit of that objective.
For students training in professions, we will encourage introduction of components of courses on cultural backgrounds of major ethnic groups.
Because of the lack of information on multicultural developments in Australia and overseas we will establish an Institute of Multicultural Affairs, which, among other activities, would engage in and commission research and advise government bodies on multicultural issues.
In accordance with the recommendation of the Review, The Australia Council will be asked to reassess its financial assistance to the arts of ethnic communities, to make sure that such arts are given more equitable support.
As well as extending the ethnic radio service of the Special Broadcasting Service to all States, we will upgrade the Sydney and Melbourne services, and will provide funds to the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council to carry out research on migrants’ views and expectations of ethnic radio. For ethnic television we agree that the Government should proceed as quickly as possible to establish a pilot station drawing on existing technical resources. This will assist in the assessment of public reaction and in working out the programming and administration details of the permanent service which we will develop over the next three years.
We will seek improvements to existing mechanisms of communication and co-ordination between governments, voluntary agencies and ethnic groups and give special attention to encouraging consultation with, and between, local agencies. At the Commonwealth level there will be greater co-ordination of the work of advisory bodies and a strengthening of policy planning and monitoring capability for all Commonwealth programs and services insofar as they are used by migrants.
From that outline of the various steps we will be taking, I am sure honourable members will appreciate the comprehensive nature of these proposals. It is of critical importance, in the implementation period and thereafter, that ethnic communities themselves must be closely involved and that there is full co-operation with other levels of government.
The Review has pointed to increasing emphasis in State Government programs on meeting the needs of migrants, and to the growing awareness of cultural differences which has led to the development of State ethnic affairs units. There has likewise been increasing interest and participation by local governments. Similarly, the welfare and cultural activities of the nongovernment sector have grown considerably in recent years. This has occurred through agencies representing particular ethnic groups as well as through some redirection of effort within the more traditional broadbased agencies. I have already advised Premiers of the findings of the Review and of our decisions, and have sought their co-operation.
A group of senior officials from relevant departments will supervise the implementation of the recommendations. They will be required to report at least every three months to me and to other Ministers concerned on progress. In addition, an independent evaluation of the implementation will be carried out through my Department. The Government undertakes to report at least annually on the progress in implementing this package of measures.
In conclusion, it will be evident to honourable members that the Government is accepting a commitment to additional expenditure in a period when strict expenditure control is being and will continue to be applied. I emphasise that strict expenditure control will continue to be applied and the Government is presently conducting a most vigorous reassessment of all areas of expenditure. We have accepted a commitment to additional expenditure in this case because, after thorough examination and consideration, we are convinced that the Review has responsibly identified areas of particular need where many members of our community are at a disadvantage. It always has been in our philosophy to seek out areas of need and disadvantage and to act upon them. It is only in such circumstances that the Government is prepared to make exceptions to our general rule.
Mr Speaker, I take this opportunity again, and this time publicly, to thank members of the Review Group for their excellent work. I mention in particular the Chairman, Mr Frank Galbally, for his personal commitment in preparing a report which is both sensitive to the needs and feelings of migrants and practical in its recommendations. I commend the report to all honourable members. I might say that I believe this is the most thorough review of services to migrants that this country has ever undertaken. I believe that if it had been undertaken a considerable time ago the position of many migrants would be much better than it is now. It will redress an injustice, and all thanks to the Review Group. I present the following paper:
Migrant Services and Programs- Ministerial Statement, 30 May 1978.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the report.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hayden) adjourned.
– I present a report by the Ad Hoc Working Committee on Australia-Japan Relations and I seek leave to make a statement.
– I wish to inform the House of decisions the Government has taken regarding measures to enhance the relationship between Australia and Japan, and to improve the management of that relationship which is in many ways unique. These decisions follow the presentation of a report to the Government by the Ad Hoc Working Committee on Australia-Japan Relations. This Committee was established in April of last year to inquire into and submit recommendations on measures which might be taken to enhance the relationship between both countries. The Committee has given emphasis to an examination of the adequacy of present machinery both within and outside of Government for managing Australia’s relations with Japan. The report represents the most far reaching examination by the Australian Government of our relations with an important neighbour. It reflects the importance Australia attaches to our overall relations with Japan and in particular the increasingly important economic interdependence between the two countries.
In its work the Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr S. B. Myer, had the services of eminent Australians from a wide variety of interests- including government, business, the trade union movement and academics. I would like to record my thanks to the Chairman and members of the Committee both for their time and valuable effort. I share the Committee’s appreciation of the numerous Australians in many walks of life who took the time and the trouble to make available their experience and views. I have already tabled an edited version of the findings and recommendations of the Committee. The Committee has identified four interrelated characteristics underlying the AustraliaJapan relationship which generate unusual opportunities and challenges, namely: The very high degree to which the complementary aspects of our two economies have contributed not only to Japan’s economic miracle but also stimulated Australia’s own growth in the late 1960’s and early 1 970 ‘s the need to overcome racial and cultural barriers; the pressure for change stemming from regional and global political and economic developments; and the application to the relationship of modern technological and financing concepts.
Commerce has been the underlying factor in Japan’s importance to Australia. Japan is Australia’s leading trade partner purchasing one-third of Australia’s exports. She is also increasingly important as a source of imports. But Australia snares other interests with Japan. Australia and Japan both have important relationships with the United States. As the two most important economically advanced countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia and Japan are the two most important allies of the United States in this part of the world. Both countries have a high stake in the security and prosperity of other economically advanced democratic powers in the world; in the continuation of the process of detente between the super-powers; in maintaining an open and nondiscriminatory regime in international trade; in encouraging a continuing United States presence in the Asia-Pacific region to the extent necessary to maintain a sound balance in that region; in opposing any attempt by the Soviet Union- or any other major power- to establish hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region; and in encouraging China to continue to play a constructive role in regional affairs.
Australia and Japan also share an interest in promoting economic development in South East Asia. Each country is concerned to maintain freedom to trade and invest in South East Asia and to protect its essential lines of communication in that area. It is in South East Asia that Australia and Japan face perhaps their greatest challenge. Australia recognises that Japan ‘s economic interaction with other parts of Asia will become an increasingly important factor in those countries’ efforts toward economic advancement The Committee feels- and the Government shares the view- that Australia should support a more active and constructive Japanese role in South East Asia and should encourage the Japanese Government to accord South East Asia a high priority. The Committee has recognised that Japan is a major world power whose capacity to influence global and regional affairs is already substantial, and can be expected steadily to increase.
The Committee concludes that Australia has a not inconsiderable capacity to influence Japan’s approach to international issues of close relevance to Australia’s interests. The Committee recommends- and the Government agrees- that Australia should support the evolution of a visibly independent Japanese foreign policy which is broadly compatible with that of the United States. We should recognise Japan ‘s vital interest in maintaining access to foreign supplies of raw materials and fuel and to foreign markets and should encourage other countries to do likewise. The Committee feels that despite the strength, warmth and depth of feeling that already characterise the relationship, it is essential for the relationship to grow, that there should be increased understanding and contact not only at a government level but at all levels of society. The Committee has recommended the adoption of measures to correct what it sees as the lack of familiarity and warmth in the people-to-people contact between Australians and Japanese and to establish a close rapport and sense of mutual understanding between the two societies. To this end the Committee has proposed increased communication, consultation and personnel exchanges in the areas of business, trade unions, agriculture, science and technology, culture and general tourism and has recommended that more attention should be paid in Australia to the training, in both language and culture, of personnel in both business and government involved in dealing with Japan.
Interdependence between Australia and Japan has worked well to date because, with relatively minor exceptions, both Japan and Australia have benefited in a variety of ways. Perhaps, however, the essential characteristic of almost every contemporary human activity is that of accelerating change. The importance of the relationship will continue but the present pattern of economic interdependence will change as the structure of Japan’s economy and Japanese economic and foreign policies change. It is imperative that Australia monitor and identify these changes and recognise their possible effects on the relationship, and ensure as far as possible that the changes in each country keep in step.
The Government has accepted the Committee’s recommendation that new machinery is needed in order that the existing relationship can be consolidated and improved so that it can cope with likely future challenges and pressures. The Government has therefore decided to establish a new and integrated set of governmental machinery comprising: A Cabinet Committee on Japan; a standing governmental committee at permanent head level to be known as the Standing Japan Committee; a joint Government/private sector committee to be known as the Consultative Committee on Relations with Japan; and a Secretariat that would service both the Standing Japan Committee and the Government/private sector committee.
The Cabinet Committee will be a committee of senior Ministers whose portfolios include responsibility for various aspects of our relations with Japan. It will meet under the chairmanship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Japan Committee will include the permanent heads of the departments of Foreign Affairs, Industry and Commerce, National Development, Trade and Resources, Primary Industry, Treasury and Prime Minister and Cabinet. It will be chaired by the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and will report to the Cabinet Committee on Japan. The Consultative Committee on Relations with Japan will also report to the Cabinet Committee on Japan. It’s members will include the Japan Committee members and representatives from academic, business, cultural, trade union and other interested community groups. The aim of the Consultative Committee is to achieve a high degree of collaboration and consensus in the Australian community about the relationship. It is a recognition by the Government of the vital role that can be played by members of the Australian community in the formulation of a genuinely national approach to our relations with Japan.
The Secretariat which will be established to service both the Japan Committee and the Consultative Committee on Relations with Japan will be located in the Department of Foreign Affairs. It will work closely with, but be functionally distinct from, the division of the Department that covers the geographical area. Its task will be to carry out research and policy work at the direction of the two committees and it will maintain links with the departments that have responsibility for the conduct of our relations with Japan, as well as with interested nongovernment bodies.
The Committee has also emphasised the positive contribution which Australia’s federal structure can make in enhancing the relationship with Japan. Acceptance of a shared responsibility for its health among the Commonwealth and State governments as well as private enterprise is essential, while suitable co-ordination of broad national aims with specific State expertise could improve Australia’s general negotiating position and remove apparent conflicts. In order that this may be achieved I have decided that a Premiers Conference should be held at the earliest opportunity to clarify areas of responsibility and explore better means of co-ordinating State and Commonwealth interests. These initiatives demonstrate the Government’s very real concern that Australia’s relations with our largest trading partner should be maintained and strengthened.
The relationship with Japan will be extremely important to Australia into the foreseeable future and it is the responsibility of the Government to make sure the realistic and effective management of that relationship. I have written to the Japanese Prime Minister informing him of my Government’s initiatives and assuring him of the great importance that Australia attaches to its relationship with Japan. Ministers and I will be looking forward to the next round of ministerial discussions between Japan and Australia that will take place in Australia later in June. Discussions will take place not only on bilateral matters but also on the broad based economic and trade matters about which I had talks with the Prime Minister of Japan a few weeks ago. Those discussions will be continued, I believe to the advantage of both nations. I present the following paper:
Australia-Japan Relations- Ministerial Statement, 30 May 1978.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– Quite obviously I have not had the opportunity to consider the report which has been tabled. It is nearly 300 pages in length. Accordingly, I must restrict my observations to those views expressed by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in his statement. Firstly, I would like to say that I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. Insofar as it goes, it indicates an initiative which should provide constructive relationships between Japan and Australia. Those relationships, as the Prime Minister properly pointed out, are extremely important to this country.
Japan dominates, in terms of a single country, our trading relationship. The health of the Australian economy is importantly affected by the level of economic activity in Japan. It it a matter of concern that that level of economic activity is well below the level that we have come to expect in previous years. Furthermore, it is disturbing to read a succession of Japanese banks reports in the past several months which make it fairly clear that even in spite of efforts by the Japanese Government to stimulate the level of economic activity in that country, the rate of growth is still going to fall far short of that to which we had become accustomed. That in turn, of course, means that levels of economic growth that we had derived so easily in the past will be much harder to capture. Indeed, the level of activity in Japan and overall the level of activity in the industrialised world indicate to a country such as Australia that rates of economic growth in the future will be very hard to maintain.
On balance it would seem to me that we will have to adjust for several years at least to lower rates of economic growth than those to which we have been accustomed. The implications are obvious. It means that the rate of improvement in people’s living standards, denned in the broadest sense imaginable, will decline. Further, it means that the capacity of our economic system to remedy defects in the system will be restrained compared with what we have been used to unless certain adjustments are made within the Australian economy as a response not only to this immediate problem but also to the structural imbalances which have developed in the Australian economy over the longer term and which portend serious problems even in the absence of the present world economic downturn in the future.
Before I jump that far ahead, I want to make the observation that whilst I welcome the statement I think it is becoming clear now, on the basis of what I have said, that many other things need to be done. The setting up of a Cabinet committee to be served by a consultative committee, both of which are to be served by a secretariat, is helpful. It should make some positive contribution. One obviously cannot quantify that, but in comparison with the sorts of challenges that we ought to be confronting I do not think it goes very far. To that extent I am disappointed that we do not have a more exploratory approach to the problems confronting this country. The secretariat which will serve the Cabinet committee and the Consultative Committee on Relations with Japan will carry out research and provide policy advice. Some reinforcement’ is to come from the Premiers Conference. I have found from my experience, and I am sure that every Government has found in its experience, that reinforcement of a cooperative kind which promotes the national public interest above regional interests is very hard to achieve from organisations such as the Premiers Conference. It is all worth trying and to that extent it is commendable, but I repeat that when one seeks to quantify all of this it does not seem to go very far.
I would like to make some other quick observations. Whilst it is desirable that accentuation of the relationship between Australia and Japan should be made, I believe that it is important that there be some accentuation of relations between Australia and other countries in our region. I am concerned, as I have mentioned on a number of occasions, about what seems to be a developing fragility in the relations between Australia and some members of the Association of South East Asian Nations. Already some ASEAN countries have indicated that they will divert their import demands from Australia to other sources. They have clearly said that it is their intention to do this as a response to the difficulties they encounter in seeking to improve their trade access to Australia. They point out that trade between ASEAN and Australia runs two to one in favour of Australia. This puts a fairly obvious strain on their capacity to develop economically which in turn influences the social progress which they can make.
ASEAN is important to Australia. Let me illustrate that in contemporary terms ASEAN countries are at a stage of early but quite marked industrial development. Their economic growth rates have been faster on average than economic growth rates in most other parts of the world. They have been able to maintain quite respectable rates of economic growth during the recent economic downturn. If in the political scene where we have responsibility, we are to project our focus well beyond the short term to the future which counts for this country and for posterity, to which we have great responsibilities, we must think not only of important current markets but also of significant current markets which will become very important in the future. We ought to seek to establish an association with those markets which will allow us improved access in the future.
Let me draw those two strains of thought together- our relations with Japan and our relationships with ASEAN countries- because they have a common thread. Whilst in Australia it is common, especially for this Government, to talk about a special relationship between Australia and Japan, the Japanese do not see it quite that way. They see Australia selling very large volumes of refined mineral resources of great worth to Japan but erecting various forms of trade barriers which greatly limit the access of Japanese imports to this country. The motor car industry in Japan finds that there are clear impediments to improved trade with Australia. I am not suggesting for a minute that therefore we should start ripping down our system of protection. But I am pointing to the serious problem that we have. If we seek spontaneously to dismantle that system of protection there will be a lot of social and economic dislocation in this country, and that sort of a move will be attended by a great deal of political resistance. I would expect that that sort of a move- a sort of stabbing in the dark, as it were- to bring about structural change in a rather brutal way would be unsuccessful.
So even in our trading relationships with an important advanced industrial country like Japan there is a pressing need for change of an obvious type. This is even more so in our relationships with developing countries such as the ASEAN countries. One can apply that to many parts of southern Asia. How will this change be brought about? It will not be brought about by governments receiving reports from the Industries Assistance Commission about a particular industry and then clamping down on the level of protection provided for that industry in a time of high unemployment, deepening recession and general commercial dislocation, which we have now. There will be enormous political resistance -and I would expect, successful resistance- to that sort of a move if it is done on the sort of significant scale which will be necessary to bring about the types of changes which have to be achieved in a relatively short time if we are going to hold out some future for manufacturing industry in this country. Again I would resist that sort of a move for the simple reason that its tendency is to impose the greatest level of sacrifice on a small group of people, usually those less well equipped to bear it, such as the blue collar workers on moderate incomes, people in nonmetropolitan areas and small businesses.
So, if we are to proceed with a system of change, we cannot do it with that brutal broad axe approach. What we need in this country is a program of social and economic development. Social development must be part of the overall economic blueprint because social implications arise from economic change, especially when sectoral change feeds into various regions of the country. If that sort of a program is developed and if it is clearly shown in terms of general economic indicators where the country is going- the sorts of safety nets that the Government has erected so that people will not be hurt and so that there will be assistance to facilitate change to which people will have to adapt- there will be co-operation. Part of the co-operative effort must involve consultation between various groups in the community, industry and labour- generally dialogue with the community.
If people understand how a change is taking place I believe that they will co-operate with it, they will welcome it, provided- this is an important proviso- it is also spelt out why it is necessary to bring about that change. We cannot go on with a system which does not facilitate improvement in the efficiency of manufacturing industry and which allows prices to be jacked up higher and higher. Putting to one side the obvious inflationary effects of that, what also has to be recognised is that products produced in such an uneconomic situation become inordinately costly. I must say that everything I have considered about the Australian motor car industry makes it clear to me that that industry is a victim of these faults about which I have been talking- faults of previous governments.
The average Australian motor car is 100 per cent dearer than its equivalent in countries overseas. What has happened is that domestic buyer resistance has settled in and people are not buying cars. Evidence of this can be gleaned by talking to people who conduct motor car repair shops. They have never had more business than they are receiving at the present time. In my own case I have a motor vehicle which I bought at the end of 1972. Making a rational economic assessment about the opportunity cost involved in using a volume of money to buy a new car and using that money elsewhere, the conclusion is quite clear in the present economic circumstances that it is greatly advantageous for me to use that money elsewhere. People make those sorts of rational assessments when they are going to enter into spending commitments, especially when very large levels of expenditure are involved, as is the case with motor vehicles.
That illustrates the point about which I am talking. If we are to sell more to other countries we have just got to face a few facts. We have to accept more; we have to buy more. There is no point in selling more unless we buy more. If we sell more than we buy, we force a revaluation in the exchange rate and we do not avoid problems in internal adjustment because immediately a number of domestic industries are disadvantaged largely the export oriented industries such as rural industries. We have seen that in recent times because of the inadroit way in which governments handled our exchange rate relationships and the domestic economy at a time when rapid and massive capital intensification in investment was taking place in the mineral industry.
In summary, what I am saying is that this move is welcomed to the extent that it takes us somewhere- it does take us somewhere- but it takes us nowhere near as far along the road of change and progress that we must travel if we are to respond to these very daunting challenges that are on our doorstep now. Because of structural change the Australian work force will have a permanent level of unemployment of at least 4 per cent in the future, in situations that we regard as normally fully employed in the economic sense.
That is not good enough. That is why there have to be the policies about which I am talking. Change is forcing itself through, brutally. We have to take control of it to make sure that we are in command of what is happening. We have to look after the people of this country and give them a far better future than they will get simply by setting up committees. Committees cannot resolve the great problems about which I have spoken. Programs, policies, and the physical action necessary to resolve the problems have to be undertaken.
Debate (on motion by Mr Giles) adjourned.
-I present the third report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House together with the minutes of proceedings. In doing so, I make a short statement. The Committee’s first report presented in May last year indicated that the Committee has agreed to a program which would enable a fully functioning Stage I parliament house to be constructed and occupied by 26 January 1988, the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. The purpose of this third report is to inform the Parliament of the conclusions reached by the Committee as to the procedure which should be adopted in selecting a designer for the new and permanent parliament house. The Committee examined a number of alternative methods of obtaining an architectural design and concluded that the competitive selection process which is described in detail in the report would be the most suitable for the parliament house project.
If the 1988 completion date is to be achieved, it is necessary that the design and building program proceed without delay. The Committee considers that announcement of the designer selection process and invitation for architects to register should be issued no later than November 1978. It recommends that the Senate and the House of Representatives each consider a resolution in the following terms:
That the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House should authorise the conduct of a two-stage competitive selection process, commencing no later than November 1978, for the design of the new and permanent Parliament House, and proceed to take all necessary steps in accordance with the design selection process set out in the Committee ‘s Third Report.
They are the terms of the resolution recommended by the Committee. The Committee has taken this action because public announcement of the architectural selection process will be a commitment to the design and construction of the new and permanent parliament house. The Committee believes that it should not proceed with the selection process without a commitment that funds will be provided for the design and building program. The time for decision has arrived. Parliament can no longer operate with full functional efficiency in its present accommodation. The provisional Parliament House presently provides 16,800 square metres and the Parliament occupies an additional 2,200 square metres in other buildings. This accommodation is clearly inadequate.
Construction of Stage I of the permanent parliament house, comprising about 54,000 square metres, will provide the proper solution to the accommodation problems of the Parliament into the foreseeable future. Planning for the future Stage 2 will require an assessment of the eventual size of the Parliament and consideration of other changes which may develop in the parliamentary system, but that is for future generations to determine. It will be a requirement for Stage 1 that the design for Stage 1 will enable future extensions to be added without destroying the overall concept and integrity of the building in the National Capital. It is stressed that the sketch on the Committee’s report is not the proposed design but merely an example of the effect a building may have on Capital Hill. The design for the new and permanent Parliament House will be selected by a jury- an independent jury- at the end of the process described in the report.
I commend the report to the House. I should mention that the purpose, in shorthand, of the selection process will be to select a designer, not to select a design, although the selection of the designer will be determined by the quality of the work that he puts into the design, so that it can be seen by the Committee and judged by the jury.
I also indicate to honourable members that at the request of the Committee the National Capital Development Commission has arranged an exhibition for today in Senate Committee rooms 1 and 2 to bring to the attention of all Senators and Members a number of matters related to the design and construction of the new and permanent Parliament House. I urge all honourable members to take this opportunity of inspecting the work done by the Committee and the progress which has been made in the planning of the new building.
Motion ( by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the report be printed.
– I ask a question of you, Mr Speaker. Does this require still for the Government to give its imprimatur to commit funds, or has that already been done?
-There is no commitment by the Executive Government for commitment of funds. When the honourable member for Robertson reads the report he will realise that the Committee is unwilling to launch upon the next stage, that is, of calling an architectural competition, unless there is a commitment of funds.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I have received a letter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The urgency of full Australian support for international disarmament and arms control initiatives and the failure of the Government to inform the Parliament on these matters.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– This is a matter of the utmost importance. As the resolution says, it is the support for international disarmament and arms control and, more important and perhaps more appropriate to today, the failure of the Government to inform the Parliament on these matters. As honourable members know from the record the matter was first raised by me on 2 May. It was raised on the basis that members in the Australian Parliament would have had the opportunity to discuss what Australia would be saying as a nation at the special disarmament conference of the United Nations. It is with regret that I now have to say that that conference has commenced. I do not regret that the conference has commenced, but that honourable members in the Parliament still have not had a debate on this topic, bearing in mind that the Opposition first raised the matter on the second of this month. It takes many days for a matter of this nature to be heard and then one finds that the special disarmament conference has commenced. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) is not present in the Parliament because, naturally, he has gone to the conference. That shows, does it not, that the Parliament does not seem to have enough facilities, or ability, to discuss a matter of the greatest importance to all mankind.
In the course of the censure debate yesterday it was said that the Parliament had adequately debated all matters relating to foreign affairs not the least of which- in fact the most important of which- would be disarmament. I remind the House that it received a lengthy statement, a 75- minute statement, from the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 9 May. I shall state what the Minister said, using his own words:
The Government believes that the forthcoming Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament has the potential to promote a new consensus on the principles and priorities for future arms control negotiations. We believe, however, that the Special Session should also play a major role in promoting nuclear arms control objectives.
They are fine words and though it was a summary it was in fact the whole content of the speech relating to disarmament. Honourable members heard nothing about the initiatives that they are anxious to know about and they heard nothing about the priorities. What the Opposition said on that day still applies. The Government failed to inform the Parliament and the Australian people about the details of the special session. It failed to define the issues arising at the special session. It failed to take initiatives, when it should have done so, not for the sake of the experience of a Prime Minister but for national security. When the Government did that and made its policies clear, the matter having been clearly argued, the Government could obviously count on national support and support from the Opposition.
Honourable members are now again endeavouring to raise this matter on the basis of what should have been done many months ago. I shall advert to the issues that are the subject of the special disarmament conference. They are major issues indeed. Australia was one of the 53 countries in the preparatory committee, participating for some period of time in all the aspects and details of what is to be discussed, what should be decided and what influences should be exercised at the special disarmament conference. I place on record again that when the Labor Government was in office from 1972 to 1975 it ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It ratified the Seabed Arms Control Treaty and sought membership of the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament. It participated in the first Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It is important that that be put on record because one cannot find any tangible evidence of what the Government is doing. The Opposition is of the opinion that the Government is a bit hesitant about the progress being made by the Carter Administration. This is a very hawkish government. Its background and previous expeditions into the question of disarmament have been more related to additional armament.
– You are a bunch of ostriches.
-Interjections make no sense if they do not have any merit. The Opposition wants to look at this issue. The Government has been most hawkish in the Indian Ocean, suggesting that there is likely to be penetration by overseas foreign influences which could well jeopardise our security. We have it on record that the President of the United States, as far back as 7 March 1977, said that he favoured demilitarising the Indian Ocean or certainly mutual restraint and he left the Government without a feather to fly with. That was some time ago. At that time it was well known that the Government was saying what a dangerous situation was developing in that ocean.
That has been the whole tenor of the background of disarmament as far as the Government is concerned. It is a government that is related to armament. It is a government that got Australia into Vietnam by deception and deceit and unfortunately attracted the United States into that area, with a disastrous loss of life. That is the whole point of what the Opposition wants to debate today. What sort of steps have we been taking in the world, particularly with our socalled great ally, the United States, as to what it can do in the strategic arms limitation talks. What influence could we not have as a mediator, particularly between the two great powers, when the shores of the Indian Ocean are the subject of the discussion. Of course we must have an influence and we should have exercised it. If we have exercised it, why cannot honourable members hear about it in the Parliament? It is of great concern that there have been proposals, obviously submitted by our Government in a number of areas, and honourable members know nothing at all about them. I have mentioned the Indian Ocean aspect. I want to raise the aspect of nuclear non-proliferation and the question of export of uranium, whether Australia can monitor what happens to those exports and whether adequate safeguards exist. When we try to talk about the problems involved in these matters we are denied access to the information that might be in the Government’s possession. When we ask what are the model safeguard agreements that the Government is proposing we are not able to get that information. So we in the Australian Parliament cannot find out what the Government is putting forward as its policy and . this sort of information is very important when we are looking at the question of nonproliferation. What are the circumstances in which the Government would permit enrichment or reprocessing? On the answer to that question rests our whole policy. Yet can we find out the answer from the Government? No. When we ask questions about the model safeguards agreement we are denied any information.
I advert now to some information that has come to me relating to the submission made by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. It was made as recently as 2 February this year. In that letter these remarks are made:
In the past, the Commission has relied heavily in its licensing approvals on the fact that the recipient country -
That is, of uranium- was committed to accept IAEA or EURATOM safeguards. Recently, however, the IAEA’s Special Safeguards Implementation Report indicated that a country’s agreement to subject its nuclear activities to IAEA safeguards does not necessarily assure that adequate material control and accounting measures are applied in all cases. It is therefore possible that the NRC could approve the export of nuclear materials to countries in which the IAEA is having implementation problems without the NRC knowing it.
The NRC is the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We are very much in the same positionin fact, we are in a worse position- because we do not seem to have a government with the competence to initiate that sort of concept. Let me advert now to nuclear non-proliferation. In the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons there are two concepts contained in articles 1 and 2. Article 1 talks about the nuclear weapon state and refers to an undertaking not to transfer to a non-nuclear weapon state any recipient nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives or to assist or encourage it to manufacture or otherwise to acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. That is a concept which is applicable to those countries that have that potential. Article 2 states that each nonnuclear weapon state undertakes not to receive the transfer from any transferor whatsoever of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosives. So there is a combination; those who have these items are not to give them to those who want them. The status quo is to be maintained.
I turn now to our attitude to the export of uranium and our policy on safeguards. It is clear that we could well be creating a nuclear weapon state, namely, the recipient of our uranium oxide. Apparently the Government has no idea what the position is in relation to this aspect. If it has, this Parliament has not been informed of it. If the
United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission is very concerned about that matter and says that there can be no guarantees given unless the use of uranium can be policed effectively and properly, why are we not equally concerned? Why cannot the details of the nuclear safeguards agreements that we are proposing be public information? I am told that they are to be found in the embassies of the Philippines and other countries but we cannot get them in Australia. That is not good enough. What is happening with the preparatory work of the committee which is preparing reports for the special disarmament conference?
I have in my possession two papers to which, apparently, we are signatories. We took part in their formulation. One is called a working paper and deals with the progress towards general disarmament. It was published as recently as 20 April 1978. This working paper has been all around the world but we could not get a copy of it in this Parliament. It sets out our approach to the problem. One does not deny the effectiveness of that approach but we might have had a lot of comments to make about it if we had known that these discussions were taking place. Dealing with the adequacy of the existing machinery on the question of disarmament, the working paper makes the point that the existing machinery is inadequate, that there is an urgent need to revitalise existing disarmament machinery and to create new forums for disarmament deliberations and negotiations. We want to know what that means from our point of view. The working paper then states:
The Conference of the Committee on Disarmament should be replaced by a new negotiating body attached to the deliberative organ of the United Nations General Assembly, sitting as a Disarmament Commission.
That is another suggestion about what should be happening but have we heard anything about it in this Parliament? We have heard nothing at all. The working paper also says:
The Disarmament Centre should be so strengthened and reorganised that it can carry out the tasks allocated to it under the Programme of Action especially in the field of studies and follow-up of disarmament agreements.
That is welcomed but it is the first we have heard of it. The working paper then makes a final recommendation in the following terms:
In order to make available to the international community technical studies of problems of disarmament an International Institute for Research on Disarmament should be established. This body would be responsible to the United Nations which would nominate its governing council and would provide its financing, but it would have complete autonomy at the scientific level.
I mention that to give an example of some of the matters in which we have been actively engaged and to which obviously we are giving our imprimatur, whether correctly or incorrectly. However, this Government has said nothing about them.
To conclude my remarks I turn to some of the very important matters in a paper entitled ‘Programme of Action’. This paper says, quite effectively, that we can obtain the goal of general disarmament if we work at it and establish the principles. As I have said before, on its past record this Government does not stand too high on principles. We certainly want to know about the priorities and the timetable for their implementation. This paper refers to a priority which it says should be implemented over the next few years, but do we know anything about it? No. However, it is discussed at length in this paper in the preparation of which we were obviously a participant.
I think it is unfair and improper that the national Parliament cannot have access to this information. These two papers could have been tabled in this Parliament and this would have encouraged debate. If they have been circulated to the embassies of the world why is it that the Australian nation has been deprived of this information? In the paper entitled ‘Programme of Action’ there is reference to zones of peace. The paper states:
It would be of great importance to establish a Zone of Peace in the Indian Ocean that would be free from great power rivalry and of great power military presence . . .
We welcome that statement and are delighted to see it, but how do we implement that recommendation? We are left in the dark about it. There are some other suggestions in the paper and this is the first time we have heard about them. The paper states:
Negotiations which have been initiated between the USA and the USSR, based on a staged approach with a view not to increase their currect military presence and to move on promptly to negotiations on reductions, should continue and lead to early and positive results.
Later the paper states:
The littoral and hinterland States of the Indian Ocean, at their forthcoming meeting, should, inter alia, reach agreement on measures, such as a commitment to settle outstanding disputes by peaceful means, the renunciation of nuclear weapons and the maintenance of a reasonable military balance among themselves, in order to promote conditions of security within the Indian Ocean region.
I mention that because we have the North West Cape base problem facing this Parliament again. When I asked a question the other day on whether there had been consultation between the governments concerned on the subject of strategic weapons, or in this case submarines which would use that base, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) did not appear to know anything about it. If we are moving towards a strategic position involving a first class offensive strike weapon, the new submarine employed by the United States called the Trident, why should not this government be consulted if in almost the same breath we are talking about demilitarising the Indian Ocean? The two subjects do not go together. This Parliament should have been informed of these discussions.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Since the Government took office Australia’s interest in and activity on international arms control and disarmament has increased in all international forums. The Government is very conscious of the increased international influence which Australia has acquired in international arms control and non-proliferation efforts as the result of its decisions on the mining and export of uranium. This has been reflected within the Department of Foreign Affairs by the creation of a new Nuclear Affairs Division to handle nuclear arms control, non-proliferation and safeguards issues. The Opposition’s claim that the Government has not kept the Parliament and the public informed of its activities is patently false. On 25 November last year the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) made a statement to the media on nuclear arms control. He also made a statement on foreign affairs in this House on 9 May this year which included reference to the forthcoming General Assembly session. He answered a question in this House on 28 February this year and a question on notice on 13 April this year. He also answered a question in this House on 1 1 May of this year. Since that time, the Government has been willing to have this debate brought on, but Labor Party disruption on previous occasions has prevented the debate from being heard.
The United Nations General Assembly convened a Special Session on Disarmament, commencing on 23 May in New York. In 1976, Australia was one of the co-sponsors of the United Nations General Assembly resolution which called for the convening of the Special Session. The Foreign Minister said, as recorded in Hansard on 13 April, in reply to Question on Notice No. 7 1 3 from the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr E. G. Whitlam):
The Government believes that the Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament can give new stimulus and focus to international efforts in the whole field of arms control and disarmament. Australia, as one of the ViceChairmen of the Preparatory Committee, has played an active role in the preparation of the major documents for the Session. It has emphasised the need for development of a set of basic principles to guide arms control and disarmament negotiations and for a realistic program of action as a contribution to a new international consensus on priorities for future negotiations. The establishment of meaningful priorities by the Special Session would act as a catalyst in promoting negotiations in specific areas of concern to the international community.
The Government is particularly concerned to see the Special Session promote nuclear arms control objectives, in particular the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime and the achievement of a comprehensive nuclear test ban treaty.
The Special Session will also examine ways in which the existing international disarmament negotiating machinery can be made more effective. The Government believes that changes can be made in the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD) in order to make it a more representative and more effective negotiating body. To this end, it has initiated consultations with a wide range of countries.
It must be made clear that the Special Session itself will not be a negotiating forum for specific new arguments; but it will chart the course of arms control and disarmament efforts for some years to come. Another measure of its importance is that it will engage for the first time all the nuclear weapons states and other militarily important powers in the international dialogue on arms control and disarmament.
In the Preparatory Committee, Australia has co-sponsored working papers in each of the three principal areas with which the Special Session will deal: Principles; program of action; and disarmament negotiating machinery. The Government’s decision to allow the export of uranium from new mines under stringent safeguards was taken in the context of its support for international nuclear arms control efforts; in particular for universal adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and the strengthening of the international nonproliferation regime; to obtain a cessation of nuclear testing in all environments; and to encourage the superpowers to continue the strategic arms limitation talks negotiating process towards nuclear disarmament. The Foreign Minister’s statements at the last two sessions of the General Assembly, which are public documents and set out Australia’s position, identified these three areas of international effort as the central issues of nuclear arms control. The Minister said, in addressing the General Assembly last year, that it was essential that the linkage between progress on these issues be fully appreciated.
The centrepiece of non-proliferation is the NPT, which has been ratified by well over 100 countries and which continues to attract adherents. Under the NPT, the nuclear weapons states have undertaken to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to the cessation of the nuclear arms race. This obligation is one facet of a three-cornered bargain on which the Treaty rests: Nuclear powers undertake to negotiate towards mutual nuclear disarmament; non-nuclear powers forswear nuclear weapons and accept safeguards on their nuclear industries; and countries in a position to do so undertake to co-operate in the peaceful development of nuclear energy. These interlocking undertakings have not only a legal aspect deriving from the Treaty, but also political and psychological ramifications of the greatest importance. Indeed, it would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the psychological dimensions of the problem. The importance of the Treaty lies as much in the international climate against proliferation which it sustains, as in the safeguards which it applies to the peaceful nuclear industries of its members. Although a number of potential nuclear weapon states remain outside the Treaty, as the trend towards its universal acceptance continues, the more difficult it will become for any state to contemplate the acquisition of nuclear weapons or withdrawal from the Treaty.
Australia’s stringent safeguards policy for uranium exports is designed to further the essential goal of universal adherence to the NPT. It offers something tangible, that is, access to our uranium for those countries which are prepared to renounce nuclear weapons by becoming parties to the Treaty. Equally, the policy offers a tangible incentive to non-parties to adhere to the Treaty.
At last year’s General Assembly, the documents of which are again public documents, Australia was instrumental in efforts to secure the adoption of a single nuclear test ban resolution, supported by the overwhelming majority of the Assembly, and for the first time, by the United States and the Soviet Union. A comprehensive test ban treaty now under negotiation between the United States, the Soviet Union and Britain would be an important barrier both to the spread of nuclear weapons and to the expansion of existing arsenals. I note that President Carter has said that an ultimate decision on production and deployment of a new weapon- the neutron bombwould be influenced by the degree to which the Soviet Union shows restraint in its conventional and nuclear arms programs and force deployments. The House will know that President Carter has decided to defer a decision on the production of the neutron weapon. There has been no suggestion that the neutron weapon might be deployed in Australia’s areas of immediate strategic interest.
In the Government’s view, further progress in the SALT negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union to limit their respective nuclear arsenals is crucial to wider nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Countries which have renounced the nuclear weapons option by ratifying the NPT expect superpower arms limitation as a quid pro quo. Some countries which have refused to accept this undertaking use lack of progress in superpower strategic arms control as an excuse for their refusal. Accordingly, Australia has been active in the United Nations in urging further restraint on the super powers. At the 1977 Session of the General Assembly, we co-sponsored, for the first time, the resolution on SALT which called on the superpowers to reach agreement on qualitative limitations and substantial reductions of their nuclear arsenals.
It goes without saying that the success of arms control efforts in the nuclear sphere is closely linked to satisfactory international controls on the utilisation of nuclear power for peaceful purposes. Over 30 countries have now embarked on nuclear power generation programs. International concern about the risk of proliferation has increased as a result. This concern has become the focus of increased international attention and action to get something done about it. Firstly, the NPT has become firmly established as the foundation for international nonproliferation efforts. Since 1974, some 20 countries have adhered to the Treaty, bringing total membership to over 100. Important ratifications during this period were those of the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, the Benelux countries, Switzerland, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
Secondly, the International Atomic Energy Agency has developed a progressively more comprehensive system of safeguards based on the safeguards obligations attaching to the NPT. The Minister has stated previously in this House that IAEA safeguards are not static. The Agency, through its Special Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation, continually monitors the effectiveness of its safeguards and introduces improvements where necessary. An indication of the importance that Australia gives to this is the fact that $US8 13,000 will be contributed by Australia this year to the expenditure program for safeguards. Thirdly, the major suppliers of nuclear equipment and technology, commonly known as the Nuclear Suppliers Group, have, over a two-year period from 1975 to 1977, drawn up new guidelines on the control of exports. Finally, the stringent nuclear supply policies which Australia, along with the United States and Canada, has adopted are an important contribution to the effort to ensure that world energy requirements can be met while minimising the risk of proliferation.
As a result of an American initiative, the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation Study has been launched. The Foreign Minister said in reply to a question without notice in this House on 28 February about that evaluation program- I paraphrase his answer- that the study is fully under way and has Australia’s active support. Australia is participating in seven of the eight working groups and is co-chairman of working group three, dealing with long-term supply of technology, fuel and services. Australia’s Ambassador-at-Large on nuclear non-proliferation, Mr Justice Fox, has established an office in London and is maintaining an active monitoring program. The record is there for honourable members to consult and to see the full answer by the Minister which gives a lie to the claim that this House has not been kept fully informed. The Government’s hope is that this study will open the way to new international regimes in the management and operation of the nuclear fuel cycle, which will greatly reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation for the future. What is important is to add further to international confidence, to assist effective and full cooperation in the peaceful development of nuclear energy.
May I add that the Government is also active in other areas of arms control and disarmament. Leaving aside the questions of nuclear arms control, which are of course of over-riding importance, Australia has participated actively in international discussions aimed at establishing prohibitions or restrictions on the use of certain categories of weapons which may have indiscriminate effects, or which may cause unnecessary suffering, particularly to civilian populations. These were the subject of discussions at the Diplomatic Conference on Humanitarian Law which concluded last year in Geneva. Although no final agreements were reached, useful progress was made in narrowing differences of view. A United Nations conference on such weapons is due to be held in 1979.
Australia has joined with other littoral states of the Indian Ocean in the work of the United Nations Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean. This Committee is seeking to elaborate the practical implications of declaring the Indian Ocean a zone of peace. There has as yet been no agreement on the geographical scope of such a zone and its terms of reference but the Committee has become an important point of contact and a forum for consultations for the littoral countries. The Secretary-General of the United Nations has been informed that we will provide information on Australia’s military expenditure for use in a pilot study on the reporting and comparison of military budgets. Until a standardised format for defining and measuring military expenditures has been agreed internationally, no progress can be possible in this avenue of arms control.
It is evident from this brief outline that Australia is playing a prominent and constructive role in working towards international consensus on the many difficult and complex issues involved. At the forum conducted in the electorate of St George recently the question of disarmament was considered. I said at the time that I supported Australia’s strong contribution to international efforts to bring about strategic arms limitation and progress towards disarmament. Strategic arms limitation is the only long term guarantee that the human race will not be involved in a holocaust. Through the Government’s statements of policy last year on nuclear issues, in the Foreign Minister’s own statements at the United Nations and in the media and in answer to questions in the Parliament the Government has sought to direct public attention to its efforts. It cannot be the fault of the Government if the Opposition, through lack of interest, fails to seek more information than it has in this and previous parliaments on arms control and disarmament matters. The honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen) who instigated this debate received on 19 April this year, with the agreement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs a briefing from officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs on the forthcoming United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament which has since commenced and will be in operation for some weeks.
The House is well aware that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will be visiting the United Nations General Assembly and will have talks with leading persons concerned with this problem. It is expected that he will address the Assembly. He will again stress Australia’s commitments and contributions in this field. The Foreign Minister left Australia recently to attend the General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament. He will again emphasise Australia’s contributions and commitments. He will also emphasise the areas in which Australia will continue to contribute to the committees, the various working groups and the general motivation of the international community towards seeking an appropriate set of solutions. I for one would welcome a greater interest from honourable members opposite in arms control and disarmament issues. This debate has been reasonably free of partisanship although the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith tried to inject some political element but not too much. That is to be welcomed. Let it be quite clear that the Government’s record is sound. It is commendable. The Government will continue to take appropriate actions. Above all, it has clearly been seen in this House, in the media, in the country at large and in the United Nations, to support the very proper measures with which the United Nations is proceeding.
-I think the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) must have a very large magnifying glass if he thinks that the statements to this House have been an adequate discussion or expose of what the Government is about. His own speech concentrated unduly on what is admittedly a very important area, the uranium and nuclear arms debate. The honourable member is one of the members in the Parliament who makes a very effective contribution when he speaks directly. I wish that he had not read his speech. What has the Government been saying? What is it doing? We on this side of the House say that a totally inadequate discussion has been arranged in the Parliament. This is the third time that we have put this matter of public importance on the Notice Paper. The honourable member suggested that it was through our own behaviour that we lost some of the previous cases.
– Hear, hear!
-That is not true. Honourable members will remember that Leichhardt himself got lost in the bush. It sounds as though the honourable member for Leichhardt is lost in this debate. On the first occasion when we tried to raise this matter of public importance the Government moved a motion of censure against the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and took up the time that the matter of public importance would have taken. It then closed discussion on it. The second time the Opposition tried to raise this matter of public importance something else happened. This is the third time. Four people are debating the issue. I am glad that the two honourable members on the other side, the one listed for debate and the one who has spoken, are people with their hearts in the matter. The four people who are speaking in this debate, of course, have all had some relationship to wartime activities. We know what war is about. We are trying to stop it.
I think that disarmament is the key issue for humanity. I know that poverty presents a great challenge to the capacity of the world to reorganise its resources. Hunger is a great damage to humanity. It causes great misery. There are some problems in relation to trade. There are many other problems. But the real threat to humanity comes from what has now become the arms race. We want to know what the Government is doing about it? What will it do? How will it do it? How effective will it be? I say emphatically that to this stage there has not been adequate discussion in this House. I am not criticising the two honourable members on the Government side who are taking part in this debate. Perhaps this is not even a real criticism of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). It is the way we run the affairs of this Parliament.
– They ran out of bullets.
-That is right. I want to see longer discussions. We should have parliamentary representatives at the United Nations discussions over the next few weeks. At least one senator from this side of the Parliament has gone to the United Nations. We have started to bring this matter into the open and get people on side. If honourable members want to know where I stand and what I feel about it they should read my remarks in this House in the debate on the Supply Bills on 24 May. I raised the subject as a matter of desperation because I thought that we would never debate this matter of public importance.
We would have to have our eyes closed not to realise what we are up against. First of all, there is the sheer pessimism of the issue. People will say: ‘But it is human nature to go to war’. I do not think that it is human nature to go to war. I am fortified in that resolution by the happenings of the last few years. As I have pointed out in this House many times before, I am a 1914 model. I was born at the beginning of the First World War. I grew to maturity and manhood to spend most of seven years involved in the last one. My involvement was not very vigorous but I fired my share of shots and dodged a few myself. Seven years of my life were taken up in actually being in and out of uniform and in the business of being associated with war. I do not think that will happen to my children and grandchildren. I shall bend every effort I have to make sure that it does not. We are up against professional vested interests.
For about 14 years between 1960 and 1974 or thereabouts the number of people in regular forces in the world increased from about 18 million to 22 million. Expenditure on defence in the underdeveloped countries increased from about $15 billion to $40 billion. Yet all the evidence and all the beliefs in this Parliament are that there are fewer threats of war than there used to be. This would be the case in our own region. In 1939 when there were real threats of war about, when people believed that Japan would be on the march in the not too distant future and when, in fact, Germany and Italy were opening the gates of war, about 8,000 or 9,000 people were in the Services in Australia. Now there are 70,000 people in the Services. I think that this is a great political and psychological challenge to us. Apart from that, there are commercial vested interests. We recognise the great psychological and political difficulties we face in attempting to reduce the number of people in the Services. We have to do everything in our power to reduce the expenditure on arms, the impact of our arms expenditure in this region and use whatever influence we have with our neighbours to prevent them embarking on an arms race.
I ask honourable members opposite what our next Budget will bring. It is likely to bring a reduction in expenditure on health services. I am sure that it will bring a reduction in expenditure on education. What will it do about the build up of arms? We on this side of the House recognise the political, social and psychological difficulties. We have to make sure that we have an impact in the world which is perhaps beyond our size and weight in numbers. As I have remarked on many occasions in the Parliament the influence on humanity through history has not always been that of the big battalions. We are in many respects the inheritors of the Greek tradition and culture, from the tiny city of Athens of 2,000 years ago, and of the British traditions and developments, in politics and so on, of the last few hundred years- the traditions of that tiny off-shore island of Europe. We have the chance to be influential in the same way. What can we do? First, there is the attitude to Russia. As I mentioned earlier, people, in debating this, will say, ‘But you cannot do anything about humanity.’ You can. But five short years ago, this Parliament did not recognise the existence of China. Suddenly the gates to China have been opened. We all want to visit that country. The Chinese people come here, and they are welcome. The Chief of Staff in Britain says that the Chinese are his friends, that the people who were on his side in the two World
Wars are his enemies. Somehow we have to diminish the resentment that appears to exist against the Russians.
We should encourage new approaches in the Indian Ocean. The United Nations First Committee has passed many resolutions. In 1976 it requested that the littoral and hinterland States of the Indian Ocean continue their consultations with a view to formulating a program of action leading to the convening of a conference on the Indian Ocean. Have we done anything about that? It is time that we did. As far as the Indian Ocean is concerned, the American bases in Australia, especially that at the North-West Cape, are a threat to our continued peace and to the security of the region. That is an inheritance of the past that will be difficult to shed, but I would guess that all honourable members on this side of the chamber, and most on the other, would be with the Minister, if he got round to making some efforts in that regard.
We have also to undertake an attack on the arms trade. It is perhaps Utopian to expect it, but we ought not to sell arms to people. We ought not to buy them either, and should take a strong line against those countries which sell them. The four principal arms suppliers of the world are the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States of America, Britain and France. We ought somehow to use all our influence to get those countries out of that business. It will take a great deal of political maturity, but there are all sorts of precedents in history of hopeful arrangements which can reduce tension. I refer to the arrangements between Canada and the United States of America at the beginning of the last century, between Norway and Sweden early in this one, and between Turkey and Greece after World War I- in which demilitarised zones were established and people were able to live peacefully on either side. The collapse of the barriers of Europe as a result of the development of the European Economic Community, threatening as it is to our trade, is a hopeful sign for humanity. We have to take into the debate the principles of hope, optimism and dynamism. Australia has the capacity to mobilise nations, both bigger and smaller than herself, and turn them loose in the forums of the world to try to bring the arms-trading nations to heel. We ought not to let the arms traders of the world, and their Governments, keep them under this continual threat.
-This matter of public importance concerns:
The urgency of full Australian support for international disarmament and arms control . . .
I would think that the speeches made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) summarised between them very well indeed just how much Australia is doing in this field. A great deal is being done. This debate could have been brought on earner; it could have come on yesterday but for the fact that the Opposition brought on a censure motion which delayed it. However, Government activity has been proceeding for some time. On 25 November 1977 the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) issued a Press statement on nuclear arms control.
– We had been dissolved by then, had we not?
– There was no response by the Opposition in the election campaign to that Press release by the Minister. I shall quote one small part of it:
On his instructions, the Australian delegation had cosponsored resolutions on a Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). These issues, as he had emphasised in two successive addresses to the General Assembly, were central to progress in nuclear arms control. Australia’s leading role at the United Nations on these questions was an aspect of the Government’s pursuit of international non-proliferation objectives.
I might say that both the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics supported Australia’s initiatives at that meeting.
The honourable member for St George and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition quoted from the foreign policy statement of the Foreign Minister on 9 May, in which the Minister said:
Last November the Government established an expert multi-disciplinary task force on non-proliferation and safeguards. . . . The Government has also joined in renewed international efforts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime, including the important International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation - which was mentioned by the honourable member for St George. I first saw the horrors of nuclear warfare in January and February 1946 when I was in Japan and viewed the ruins of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have never forgotten that sight and, were it possible, I would support in the strongest possible terms the banning of nuclear weapons. I hope that one day it will be. I hope that we are moving towards that. As a small nation we have not much strength, but we can add our voice. We have done a good deal in this regard.
On 27 February 1970, Australia signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. A LiberalCountry Party Government was then in office.
Admittedly the treaty was ratified by the present Opposition when in government, but the initiative was taken by those who support the present Government.
– You had to be driven to it.
-I must say that the honourable member for Wills gives me great joy. Shortly before I visited Japan on that occasion, he and I had been taking part in one of the last major operations of World War II.
– That is right.
– Because of that, one can forgive him a great deal. It is all very well to talk about Utopia. Although the honourable member for Wills would like to think that we live in Utopia, we do not. We live in a world of great unrest. The fact that so many new nations are struggling for national identity, particularly in our part of the world must add to that unrest. The problems in Africa today, the problems between Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the problems in Northern Thailand, are all very real. They are not going to run away. We have a responsibility to the people of Australia to ensure that, should it become necessary, we can defend ourselves. The first plank of this Government’s platform is the security of the nation. We cannot exercise that responsibility without spending money on defence. If we lived in Utopia, if we did not live in a very troubled part of the world, perhaps we could cut down on our defence expenditure. I would very much like to see that happen, but we must be realistic; it is just not possible.
There has been a good deal of debate and discussion on this subject in the Parliament. Most of the questions concerning it seem to have come from this side of the chamber, not from the Opposition side. I refer, for instance, to a question by the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns) on 1 1 May 1978, in answering which the Foreign Minister said again:
At the last General Assembly meeting we co-sponsored resolutions on the comprehensive nuclear test ban . . . and so on, as I mentioned earlier. There was no further debate on the subject nor were there further questions concerning it by members of the Opposition. We talk about a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean. I would be delighted to see such a zone established, but is it practical? Our efforts have been to keep the balance at the lowest possible level. We are faced with a vastly expanded Russian navy. I would like to quote one or two particulars to illustrate the expansion of that navy. The Soviet Navy in 1964 had 20 cruisers and the United States Navy had 29 cruisers. In 1971 the Soviet Navy had 37 and the United States Navy had 27. In nuclear powered attack submarines, in 1964 they were very close- 23 in the United States Navy and 22 in the Soviet Navy. However, in 1978 the United States has 68 nuclear powered attack submarines and the Soviet 88. I could continue quoting figures showing the vast expansion of the Russian Navy and the way it is moving into oceans of the world, like the Indian Ocean, in which it previously showed no interest. We cannot neglect that. It is there. It would be nice to think we could give up all the bases we have in the Indian Ocean. It would be nice to think we could give up the communications facilities which we provide to the United States, but it is just not practical. Unfortunately, we live in a real world.
I seem to have spent a great deal of my life involved in war in one way and another. We had a short period of peace from 1945 to 1950. From 1950 to 1972 Australian servicemen were continuously at war somewhere in South East Asia. Thankfully, at the moment we are not at war and I do hope, as the honourable member for Wills ( Mr Bryant) said, that my sons will never have to take part in a war. But we must be realistic about it. We are a small voice but we can have a great influence in our own area. I think we should do all we can to promote peace and stability in our own area by discussions, by talks, by visits, by trade and by aid. But if one of our neighbours asks us to help with arms, I would think we should help them, just as we have helped Singapore and just as we have helped Fiji very recently to arm a small contingent to join the United Nations force. That is the sort of thing we should do. We can do it only in a small way. We do not have a great surplus of arms. There is no doubt in my mind that the Government has done a great deal and, in relation to our size and influence in the world, we have played a very great part in discussions on international disarmament and arms control. I hope this debate has clarified what we have been doing.
I do not think we need to be ashamed for a moment. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) at the moment is leading a delegation to the United Nations conference on disarmament, and shortly the Prime Minister will address that conference. That will show Australia’s very great interest and concern. I believe there is no substance in this matter of public importance raised by the Opposition. In fact I cannot understand why the Opposition raised it because the discussion has had the useful effect of summarising the great deal that the Government has been doing in this matter in the international field.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson - Order! -Order! The debate is concluded.
Debate resumed from 25 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill which is now before the House comes before us as a consequence of the abject failure of this Government’s budgetary policy. It seeks to amend the Loan Act 1977 to increase the amounts which may be borrowed for defence purposes to meet a prospective increase in the Consolidated Revenue Fund deficit for this year. Such a deficit must be met either by transferring expenditure normally included in the Consolidated Revenue Fund to another account or by increasing receipts. Normal procedure is to transfer some defence expenditure to the Loan Fund and the defence expenditure is used simply because that avoids the necessity to go to the Loan Council.
In the Loan Act 1977, which was passed in October last year, the Government obtained the right to borrow up to $ 1,100m for defence purposes to cover the expected deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund of $90 lm and still leave some margin for error. Now because of the blowing out of the deficit, the Government needs a further $300m since the margin for error is almost used up and there will be a further requirement for something like $300m. So the Government is seeking to increase the amount of defence expenditure that can be reallocated from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the Loan Fund from $ 1 , 1 00m to $ 1 ,400m.
The blowing out of the deficit- that is, the fact that the actual deficit will be much higher than the budgeted deficit- is something which has been admitted by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). He said some time ago that it will be several hun.dered million dollars above its estimated level. Indeed, it now seems clear that the overall budget deficit for this financial year will be around $3,000m; that is, about $800m or 35 per cent above the budgeted deficit of $2,2 17m. The Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research of Melbourne University estimates the deficit for 1977-78 as being in the order of $3,050m and there have been various Press reports to the effect that an amount of $3,000m is expected by the Government.
What are the reasons for the deficit blowing out in this rather startling way? If one looks at the various components of Government receipts and expenditure one can soon see why it is all happening. If we look at the net pay-as-you-earn tax receipts, which is the income tax payable principally by wage earners, we see that the estimated amount will be $5 15m below the Budget estimate, that is, a rise of only 11.2 per cent compared with the 17.2 per cent rise which was budgeted for this year compared with the previous year. I note in passing that in a year when big tax cuts were introduced the Government was still able to budget for an increase in income tax receipts from pay-as-you-earn taxpayers of 17 per cent. That was principally due to the fact that the Government had abolished the tax deduction for children following the increase in family allowances. So net pay-as-you-earn tax receipts are going to be well down- over half a billion dollars down- according to the figures produced by the Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
The second aspect that the Institute points to as being important is sales tax receipts. It estimates that they will be $ 175m below the Budget estimate, that is, that the total amount of sales tax receipts this year will be up only 2.4 per cent over the previous year, compared with the budgeted increase of 13 per cent- a very much lesser increase than was in fact budgeted for.
The third main area on the receipts side is customs duties on imports. It is estimated by the Institute that receipts in this area will be $195m below the Budget estimate, that is, that the total amount raised through customs duties this year will be 2.8 per cent less than was actually raised in the previous year, compared with a 14.4 per cent Budget increase. So in those three areas namely, pay-as-you-earn tax receipts, sales tax receipts and customs duties receipts, there will be a very substantial short fall; in the first one $5 1 5m on the estimate of the Institute, $ 1 75m in respect of sales tax and $ 195m in respect of customs duties. We are looking at the best part of a billion dollars in just those three items.
In regard to outlays, the Institute estimates that they will be about $ 150m above the Budget estimate, despite the savings in Government expenditure of over $200m that were notified to the Parliament a few weeks ago when we were discussing the Appropriation Bills. The increase in outlays is due to previous election promises, principally concerning the beef producers, the removal of the expenditure limitations on such programs as the National Employment and
Training scheme and the Community Youth Employment Training programs, but also, importantly, to a big rise in social security and welfare payments. In fact, the Melbourne Institute calculates that they will be approximately $250m above the Government’s budgeted level, which means they will increase by 16.6 per cent compared with the budgeted rise of only 12.7 per cent. Of course the major reason for that is simply that the cost of unemployment benefits will be so much higher than the Government budgeted for because there are so many more unemployed persons than the Government expected. On our calculations the unemployment benefit will cost about $160m more than was budgeted for.
So we can see the reasons for the increased deficit. Analysis of these items shows that it is overwhelmingly due to the fact that the economy is far more recessed than the Government estimated in August last year, or should we say hoped it would be. The large shortfall in income tax receipts reflects the much higher level of unemployment than the Government assumed there would be. Less tax is paid because there are fewer people working than the Government had expected. The Government estimated in its Budget that employment would increase by 2 per cent from the end of June 1977 to the end of June 1 978. But what is the reality?
The fact is that there are fewer people working now than there were a year ago. In this respect I refer to the latest figures on civilian employment. In March of this year there were 4,724,000 persons working as civilian employees compared with 4,744,500 a year ago. According to the latest figures there were 20,000 more persons employed a year ago than there were in March 1978. So much for the Budget estimate of a 2 per cent increase in employment. The forecasted increase would represent about 100,000 employees. There has been no increase, let alone an increase of 100,000 in employment. In fact, there will be fewer persons employed at the end of this financial year than there were at the end of last financial year. That illustrates the massive miscalculation on the part of the Government and the abject failure of the budgetary policy. The Government has failed totally to produce any of the increase in employment which it forecast and on which its assumptions were based. In respect of the unemployment benefit, which is the other side of the appalling employment performance of the Government, not only does more unemployment mean less tax receipts but obviously it means increased unemployment benefit expenditure which, as I have mentioned, will be about $ 160m higher than the Government’s estimate.
The reason sales tax receipts are so low is simply because there is a much lower level of economic activity than the Government expected there would be. Retail sales for the year to March 1978 increased by only 10 per cent, which is barely keeping up with the rate of increase in inflation and population. So in terms of real retail sales per head of population there has been virtually no rise in the past year. The Government expected there would be an expansion in consumer demand in that period but it simply has not occurred. On the latest indications it is not likely to occur in the near future either. So in respect of sales tax we can see that the recessed state of the economy is an important reason for the substantial shortfall in receipts. The large shortfall in customs duties clearly is due to the recessed state of the economy. It simply means that fewer imports are coming into Australia because the country is running at a low rate of economic activity. It is true that there has been some slight increase in protection levels- a tightening of quotas and so on in some areas- but this would have minor influence on the shortfalls of the order to which I referred previously. I remind the House that according to the Melbourne Institute there was a decline of 15 per cent below the Budget estimate for customs duty receipts this financial year. Clearly, in this area also we can attribute the substantial decline in receipts against that which was estimated in the Budget to the low level of economic activity.
In this respect I also draw the attention of the House to the Budget economic growth estimates. The Budget forecast a growth of 4 per cent in real non-farm gross product during the course of the year. We have figures for only half of the year so far but they show that there has been no increase and that for the December quarter compared with the June quarter, on a seasonally adjusted basis, the real level of the non-farm gross product was in fact 0.6 per cent less than it had been in June 1977. So in the first half of this year not only has there been no progress but in fact we are further behind than when we started. It is quite clear that there is no possible hope of achieving a 4 per cent growth in the real non-farm gross product in this financial year, even if the figures are adjusted somewhat as normally occurs because the Australian Statistician tends to revise the national accounts figures fairly substantially. Even allowing for that, it is clear that there will be nothing like a 4 per cent growth in the course of this financial year. As I said, so far this year the figures illustrate that there has been a decline of 0.6 per cent. So there can be no doubt that the blowing out of the Budget is overwhelmingly due to recession. It clearly accounts for the major items causing the deficit to increase.
What are the prospects for next year’s deficit? It seems to us that economic activity is likely to continue to be low. Consumer confidence is down. The latest indicators from the Melbourne Institute show that in the last couple of months the consumer confidence index has declined quite substantially. If this continues in the course of the next couple of months we will be back to the low levels of 1976-77. Confidence rose around the time of the last election. The Commonwealth Bank’s economic newsletter recently looked at trends in the economy and just a glance across the headings of the various items show how pessimistic it is about the prospects of the economy. Under the broad heading ‘Current Economic Conditions’ in regard to consumer spending it says ‘Below Expectations’. In regard to industrial product it says ‘Remains Uneven’. In regard to labour it says ‘Little Underlying Change ‘. In regard to the home building industry it says ‘Trends Still Very Weak’. These are all indications of the fact that the economy is anything but likely to stage a brilliant recovery in the near future and, being as unbiased about the situation as one can be, it is difficult to have any optimism about economic recovery of any substantial nature in the near future. This has implications for the deficit and for Government economic policy in the near future.
In regard to the deficit, the Press reported two months ago that if there is no real increase in the level of Government expenditure the deficit in 1978-79 will be over $3,000m, and this information was supposed to have come from a Cabinet document. The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research has estimated that the deficit will be in the order of $3.75 billion for 1978-79 if there is no change in policy. That estimate is based on assessments about the level of economic activity and if everything else, such as tax rates and expenditure policy remains the same. That estimate assumes a rise of 3 per cent in real non-farm gross product in 1 978-79 compared with a rise of 1 .4 per cent in 1977-78. The Institute sees some mini-recovery occurring in the first half of this year as the tax cuts start to have some effect but then weakening off in the second half of the financial year. So it is just a mini-recovery in the recession rather than anything really strong developing.
But even with some slight recovery it seems that the deficit will increase even further, by about $750m in 1978-79, if there is no change in policy. Thus the continuation of recession, with consequent further rises in unemployment and slack economic activity, will cause the deficit to rise considerably again in the next financial year. The Government’s response to this apparently is to slash further into the real level of Government expenditure. As we have mentioned in debate after debate in this House, the Government cut heavily into the real level of Government expenditure in 1975-76- as soon as it came into officeand again in 1 976-77, and now apparently it proposes to do so again.
Various statements have been made recently by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) and the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) regarding the need to maintain the policy of expenditure restraint. Last night the suspended Minister for Finance apparently came out of his suspension temporarily to make a speech as the Minister for Finance. We regard this act as somewhat curious because we had been told by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the Treasurer was the Acting Minister for Finance. Nevertheless the suspended Minister for Finance produced a statement last night to an Australian Finance Conference dinner in which he spoke as the Minister for Finance and presumably therefore on behalf of the Government. He called for maximum restraint in government expenditure and indicated that there were various areas that the Government would be looking at closely in order to see what cuts should be made. One of the areas he mentioned was specific payments to the States. He said this area would come in for close scrutiny. Of course, this is an area which has already been cut back substantially by the Government in the last couple of years. The Government clearly intends to hack even more into the funds being made available to the States through specific purpose grants. As a result the States would be forced more and more onto thenown resources and have to bear the opprobrium of raising taxes or cutting expenditure themselves rather than the Federal Government bearing that responsibility.
The Minister for Finance, as he was last night, also mentioned some other areas which the Government would look at very closely to see whether extensive cuts could be made. He said that these are the areas of fast growth. He nominated social security, welfare programs, health and education. The suggestion in respect of social security payments is that the Government will take action such as restoring the means test for pensioners aged 70 years and over or introducing a means test on the family allowance. As Mr Robinson said last night, the Government will have to take some hard decisions, the soft options are no longer there. If the Government is going to start to slash real levels of government expenditure further it will have to take some very hard decisions indeed- certainly decisions that will have enormous economic ramifications, not only in respect of their broad macro economic effect but also in respect of the particular programs that will be slashed.
The effect of expenditure cuts in the broad term is something on which I want to concentrate at this time. The cutting of government expenditure at any time has the effect of reducing the level of demand in the economy. It must be borne in mind that the government sector is a very important sector of the economy. It covers approximately 25 per cent of total demand and therefore cuts in that area have important ramifications for the general level of demand.
A cut in the government sector level of expenditure is likely to mean that the overall level of demand will be reduced unless there are other areas of growth such as consumer demand or investment expenditure. Certainly there seems to be no likelihood of rapid development through increased consumer demand. So it is likely that a substantial cut in government expenditure at this time will only add to the recession by reducing demand at a time when the economy is patently short of the demand needed to generate economic recovery. The recession will cause a loss of revenue to governments through the loss of tax revenue and an increase in unemployment benefit payments. The deficit will be high, and the level of unemployment will be higher than it is now. I think that this is an extraordinarily important point for the Government to bear in mind.
If the Government is to approach the problem of a blown-out deficit by cutting real government expenditure it may still be faced with a high Budget deficit but at much lower levels of economic activity, because by cutting the level of government demand it will be pushing the economy further into recession thereby reducing receipts and increasing certain expenditure such as the unemployment benefit. It will be blowing out the deficit, and it will find itself in much the same situation as before but at a lower level of economic activity. This can go on and on. The logical sequence could lead to the point at which there would be simply no activity at all.
This vicious circle that the Government could find itself entering at this phase of the economic cycle is a tremendously important thing for the Government to understand. I am sure the Government does not understand the situation because if it did it could not talk about the policy initiatives which it now seems to be considering. The Government does not have to take my word for this. I refer honourable members to a very important speech made by Professor Perkins of Melbourne University who I hasten to assure the suspended Minister for Finance is not a halfbaked left wing academic but is a very respected economist. Professor Perkins gave a speech at the autumn forum of the Victoria Branch of the Economic Society of Australia and New Zealand. In his speech entitled ‘International Monetary Influences on the Australian Economy’ he said:
A further misunderstanding about the Budget that seems to be an obstacle to the taking of expansionary measures is the still widely prevalent habit of using the actual Budget outcome in a period of recession as an indication of the extent to which the Budget is expansionary. This is a very dangerous piece of economic illiteracy in a recession; for in such periods government tax receipts are cyclically low and its outlays on unemployment benefits (and other social services) cyclically high. If one takes a large actual deficit as an indication that the budget is expansionary, or ‘inflationary’, one may be led to advocate policies that will make the recession even worse. For this reason, a more objective discussion would be in terms of some estimate of what the outcome of the Budget would be (at existing tax rates and unemployment benefit rates) if the economy were at some acceptable level of employment; and on such a definition the cyclically adjusted’ (or ‘high employment’) Budget outturn for Australia has, on any reasonable estimate, been recently in considerable surplus- despite the clear need for a cyclical stimulus.
He is talking about the full employment budget, so to speak. This is a common form of analysis in the United States of America. It is used by the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States and by economists in other parts of the world. This Government flatly denies its relevance. Professor Perkins is saying that what is relevant is the full employment budget outcome. If that is in surplus at a time when one needs to have a deficit to expand the economy one is adopting the wrong policy stance. Professor Perkins went on to say:
If a government heeds the views of those who look only at the actual Budget outcome, it may feel obliged to increase tax rates (or reduce its spending) still further, even though the rise in the actual deficit is really an indication that its policies ought to be made more expansionary. If, instead, it proceeds to increase certain tax rates it will further depress activity, and this will lead to a rise in its outlays on unemployment, and a fall in its receipts from other taxes. It may even, with some lag, lead to the actual Budget outcome moving further in the direction of deficit; if this were subsequently again interpreted as an indication that it should tighten its policy still further, there would be no logical end to the process short of zero output
That is a tremendously important statement. It is so obviously true that policies which this
Government is about to pursue in the coming Budget will simply grind the economy into further recession and will blow out the deficit even further. Therefore, there will be more expenditure cuts, more recession and so on ad infinitum, if the policies are pursued long enough. This is simply economic madness. We say that the Government should totally reverse its policy stance, cease the policy of slashing government expenditure and face up to the fact that what is needed at present are expansionary policies, policies which will enable the economy to get going and in the process of economic recovery, reduce the deficit. In our view that is the important policy stance to adopt at this time.
One may say: ‘What about the inflationary implications of taking expansionary policies?’ To some extent these policies can be financed by scrapping existing expenditure that is not beneficial. In this area we point to the investment allowance which in our view is not helping the economy one iota. It is especially not helping employment because it changes the factor prices between capital and labour. Also, it is an incentive to employers to engage in the use of capital intensive equipment as against the use of labour and therefore adds to unemployment. The Government itself has admitted in the recent national wage case hearings that most current investment is being made in labour saving devices- that is, in more capital intensive means of production. This sort of investment will be made to an increasing degree as technology advances. The investment allowance can be put to the greater use of us all. However, if we invest in capital intensive equipment at a time of massive unemployment and change the factor prices in this way by a very substantial tax concession it simply makes it harder for people to get jobs because employers are given greater incentives to use capital intensive equipment.
Even if the deficit was increased the situation would not necessarily be inflationary. The important point, which the Treasurer acknowledged, is what happens to the rate of growth of the money supply and how the deficit is financed. In 1977-78 the Budget estimate for the rate of growth of the money supply was 8 per cent to 10 per cent. The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research estimate for the rate of growth in the money supply in this financial year is only 6.6 per cent. That is well below the lowest level estimated by the Government for the rate of increase in the money supply in this financial year. So clearly, more expansionary policies could have been adopted without exceeding the Budget monetary target. Furthermore, increased deficits could well be covered by increased borrowing from the non-bank public, so that there is no increase in the money supply in that respect. This is a point also made by Professor Perkins in his speech to the Economic Society of Australia and new Zealand in Victoria when he said: 1 would conclude that there is no tenable objection to the taking of expansionary budgetary measures in a recession; but that they should for the most pan be financed by borrowing from the non-bank public. For the permitted increase in the money supply ought to be only in the same sort of proportion as the consequent rise in real output (together with the unavoidable and acceptable rate of increase in the price level- if any).
We agree with that statement in the broad. We are not talking about rushing into expenditure which will increase greatly the rate of growth of the money supply and create wild inflation. No one is talking about that sort of stimulation to the economy. We are talking about the need for careful stimulation of the economy- one within broad monetary targets- and that can be done. Clearly on the face of it it can be done by cutting out certain expenditures at the moment which are counter-productive, by making some increase in the money supply which is clearly allowable on the face of the recent rate of growth in the money supply, and by financing greater expenditure by borrowing from the non-bank public.
In this respect, the Government has foregone two cash loans which it could have had this financial year to help finance a larger deficit. We advocate that the best approach is to adopt the policy of stimulating the economy by various expenditures and perhaps by cutting some taxes- by subsidising the States so that they can cut payroll taxes or by cutting sales tax. These taxes tend to be inflationary and cuts in them would be anti-inflationary in themselves and through the wage indexation system would have a double anti-inflationary effect by reducing the amount of the price increase which would need to flow on to wages to enable full wage indexation to continue to apply. The wage indexation system can be used to wind down inflation. It is not necessarily inflationary at all, as we keep hearing from this Government. So, there are various ways in which the Government can go about stimulating the economy and reducing inflation. We strongly advocate to the Government that in fact it does that.
One problem in the Government ‘s current policy stance which prevents it from doing that is its attitude to interest rates. It seems to be putting interest rate reductions first, rather than allowing them to come along with an improvement in the state of the economy. If large cuts in interest rates, such as the two 2 per cent which the Government has promised for this financial year were introduced it would make it more difficult for the Budget deficit to be financed. We would prefer to see interest rates reduced along with an improvement in the economy rather than put the reduction in interest rates first. I move the following amendment to the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that the substantial increase of the deficit above its budgeted level is evidence of the failure of the Government’s budgetary policy and calls on the Government to adopt policies which will generate economic recovery’.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-I oppose the amendment which has been moved by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). It is a rather spurious amendment. I think it can hardly be said that debates on loan Bills are among the more interesting debates in this Parliament. The honourable member for Gellibrand tried to introduce an element of drama into his speech by claiming that there had been an unprecedented ‘blowing out’- to use his words- of the deficit that is facing this country in the current financial year. I say that it was a dramatic interpretation because the honourable member for Gellibrand knows perfectly well that although the deficit will be slightly higher than was originally intended, there are perfectly good reasons for that. He is very well acquainted with those reasons- the ground the Government has given in respect of revenues demanded from people, that is, from personal and corporate taxation, and certain other factors which have arisen during the course of the year and which have required an increase in government expenditure. One of the more obvious areas to which I will refer briefly is the step that the Government has taken to provide such funds as will be required, without limitation and without ceiling, for employment programs and training programs directed at people who presently find themselves unemployed and who need to improve their skills and abilities in order to present themselves to employers in such a way that they can find successful employment.
Does the Opposition contest that action taken by the Government? If it does, I believe it should come out and say so. The honourable member for Gellibrand was singularly quiet with respect to that matter. It is not a dramatic ‘blowing out’ of the deficit at all. This is a machinery Bill. Successive governments have introduced similar Bills. Loan Bills, such as that which we are now debating, are not a new development. They have been used by successive governments for many years as the simplest and most effective method of completing the financing of a deficit which extends over the end of a financial year. So, there is no great secret about this. I am surprised at the stand the Opposition has taken on it. In fact, what should be appreciated by this House is that the Opposition consistently has been calling for the Government to ‘ rev up’ the economy. ‘Rev up’ are not my own words; they were the words, I believe, of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). What did he mean by that? ‘Rev up’ simple means: ‘Spend more’.
– Stimulate it.
– ‘Stimulate it’, says the honourable member for Hawker. ‘Stimulate the economy’ are the very words that the Opposition spokesmen on economic matters have been using in relation to economic matters. I do not think that the Government can possibly consider a course like that at this time just when there has been some marked improvement in certain elements of the economic picture. Inflation has come down very considerably since the Fraser Government was originally elected. This is not the time to change horses in midstream and to go back on one of those spending sprees that we witnessed during the period that Labor was in government. So, we reject this call to ‘rev up’ the economy. We take the view that there is some noticeable improvement in the economy and that is the only way that we will see a return to longterm prosperity.
The deficit that we are talking about in this debate can be financed by a range of mechanisms. These include net drawings under overseas credit arrangements; net proceeds of other overseas borrowings; net proceeds of bond sales to the non-bank public; net changes in treasury notes on issue to the banking system; net proceeds in bond sales to the banking system and the use of cash balances with the Reserve Bank of Australia.
I should like to dwell for a moment on this whole question of deficit and of government spending. I have observed among certain people in my electorate that there seems to be a misunderstanding of what the deficit really is and how it comes about. There are people in the communityI respect their views- who are pressing the Government continually to increase allocations in certain areas of government spending and in a range of areas of government spending. When I discuss these ideas with people, it comes back to the stark reality that they do not realise the Government is already spending in excess of $2, 500m more than is being taken through the various forms of revenue. I am often surprised at the effect it has on certain of my constituents when I make it clear to them that the Government is in a position where it does not want to create hardship for people, or groups of people, but it has to be recognised in the consideration of any government spending program that it is starting from a base of a deficit in excess of $2, 500m. Many people are absolutely amazed when I say that to them. But, when I tell them that when the present Government came to office the deficit was $4,500m the effect is even more dramatic. They understand, as soon as I put it in those terms, that the Government has managed to reduce the deficit from $4,500m by some $2, 000m. I say without any hesitation that the Government is very pleased that the Treasurer has been able to effect that improvement.
I indicated that I wanted to make some remarks on government spending policy. The Opposition has consistently refused to say what it would do. So be it. If that is the contribution the Opposition wishes to make to such debates, doubtless the public will judge the Opposition on that basis. That is one of the reasons why support for the Government has improved in recent months. The electors recognise that there is some improvement in the economy. They realise that there is no easy way out for an economy which is still running at a considerable deficit. People relate these matters right back to the family budget. A national budget is only a family budget on a far more involved, and infinitely greater, scale. People know perfectly well that if, with a family budget, they continue to spend far in excess of what comes in by way of earnings, they will get into some awful problems. There is no secret about it. The basic principle is the same. People understand that perfectly well.
The Government is determined to reduce the rate of government spending and to see, as a result, that there is a further return of confidence to the private sector, to industry, to business and to people in the community. It is determined to see that there is a return to a climate in which people are willing to make investment decisions, whether it be to build a house, add to a house, start a business, expand a business or all those things which create employment and generate prosperity for a range of people.
– Consumer confidence.
– Consumer confidence, my friend comments. That is exactly what it is. Australia needs more of that. If we had the misfortune to have in power a government which was going around saying that it would rev things up, at the expense of the taxpayer, the people of the nation know it cannot be sustained. The people have been through that once before, in recent years. It happened during the term in office of the former Government. The people do not want to see that again.
We are not a Government of big spenders. To give some perspective to this I point out that the Commonwealth Budget outlay increased by 46 per cent in one year during the term in office of the former Government, in 1974-75. From where did that money come? Largely it came out of the pockets of the people, the pockets of individuals. It was borrowed to a large extent, certainly, and the money was printed at the Mint. In 1975-76 that was down to 23 per cent. The present Government halved the rate of increase in Budget outlay in one year. This year it is down to 10.4 per cent. Maybe it will come up a little over that. The deficit may be greater because the Government has provided additional funds for employment training programs. They are terribly important programs. The Government has also provided additional money for certain rural relief programs. Does the Opposition contest that, given the state of the rural industry at the moment? There have been some additional expenditures towards national disasters and things such as flood problems.
The aim of the Government is to contain government spending, not to ‘blow it up’. It believes that people should have more say in how their funds are spent, not less say. In effect, that means that governments should have less say. There is support around my electorate for that point of view. It is clear that the Government is reducing the burden of taxation. That is the Government’s philosophy. It has been backed by action. The cost to revenue of the various taxation measures introduced by the Government, such as tax indexation, the new tax scales, the investment allowance, comes to a loss to government revenue of some $2,250m a year. That means that money, instead of going into government revenues, is staying in the pockets of the people for them to do with it what they want. Do members of the Opposition contest that? They are dramatically silent about it, but it was a big issue at the elections last December. I know the interest that the Australian electorate took in that matter at that time. People said that they wanted a government that was willing to reduce the taxation burden on them. That is exactly what they got. If the Opposition wants to ‘rev up’ the economy again it would be doing so by the demand on taxpayers. It would not be private or nongovernment money. It would be doing it with the money of the people. That would illustrate an insatiable demand to take from people a higher percentage of their earnings and use it for government spending purposes.
– They only want to take it from the rich.
– That is not correct. They do not want to take it from the rich. They want to take it from the battlers. They are the people who have been hard pressed. I am speaking of the people on average weekly earnings and less, who have suffered the most dramatic increase in the taxation burden. That is where the increase has come from, it is not at the other end of the scale, as my friend suggests. I have to correct him on that matter, though he has been here far longer than I. The figures support the view that the wealthy have not copped the tax burdens. The big revenues come from the small man, the multitude of small people in the nation. They have experienced a more dramatic increase in the taxation burden, relatively speaking. That is one of the problems: The people on less than the average weekly earnings and slightly above the average weekly earnings have carried the burden. It has been the middle management structure, the shop foreman and not the bosses or those people who sit in the executive suites. It has been the workers who have suffered. That has to be clearly understood.
I should like to indicate the elements of government expenditure which have increased most dramatically in recent years because I think it gives some understanding of where federal funds have been going. These are the trends: Commonwealth expenditure on social security and welfare programs has increased from less than 1 7 per cent of the total outlay in 1 967-68 to more than 27 per cent today, 10 years later. Effectively it is up ten per cent in ten years. In actual money terms it is a very considerable increase. I do not want to introduce a series of figures into my comments on this Bill, but this is a very dramatic increase.
The outlay on health has increased from six per cent of total expenditure in 1975-76, just a couple of years ago, to 13 per cent, or slightly less, today. Maybe today’s figure is closer to 1 1 per cent. As a result of that trend we had to introduce measures following the latest Medibank review. There was no option. The point is that Government expenditure cannot continue to escalate in line with the trend of recent years because if it does the opportunities for people to do what they want with their money, for the benefit of their well-being and that of their families, will be reduced. That is the difficulty that is being faced up to now by the Government.
When it comes to effecting savings there are many areas which I think the Government has to look at. I am sure that in the Cabinet discussions which are taking place now in relation to the next Budget there will be certain areas to which most consideration will be given. The basic question to be asked in relation to any program is whether there is a real need for the expenditure. Once that need is established the Government then has to determine where the cost burden should fall as between the public or the private sector. In health there is clearly a public sector and a private sector. Inevitably the debate on where the emphasis should lie will continue. Where do we get the best medical service for the most attractive overall cost? Let us be in no doubt that if the cost of medical services is to come from the public sector it will come out of the pockets of the people. The burden will not fall on the executives in this country because traditionally the escalation in tax scales has hit hardest the people at the lower end of the tax scale; in other words, those with lower earnings. That is one of the great anomalies we face today.
So there is no great difficulty in understanding what the Government is about with this Bill. It is doing its darnedest to restrain the increase in government expenditure without restricting government services. It is looking to the most efficient delivery of government services. It is cooperating with the States, with industry, with employers and with representatives of the trade union movement and it has never deviated from that course. Neither will the Government deviate from that course. It is getting a tremendous input from the groups to which I have just referred. The only input it is not getting into the economic debate in this country is that which should be expected from the Opposition.
– I would like to deal briefly with the nonsense that was spouted by the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu). He started off in a nonsensical fashion by telling us that the Budget deficit will be only slightly higher than predicted, $2.2 billion as against $3 billion. It is only a matter of $800m, not a very big increase in the projected deficit, a mere bagatelle for the people and the representative of the La Trobe electorate. However, for the people of Australia an enormous burden has been placed upon them because the Government’s projections were wrong. It is as simple as that. The honourable member asked whether the Opposition contested the schemes which the Government has implemented to provide help for the unemployed. Of course we do not but we do not believe, and I am sure that the honourable member for La Trobe does not believe, that the reason for the great increase in the deficit is the money that has been spent on schemes to help the unemployed. The reason the deficit has blown out is as well known to him as it is to me.
As pointed out by the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), the reason the deficit has blown out is that the Government’s revenue is a lot less than the Government expected it to be. Pay-as-you-earn tax revenue is down by $5 15m, sales tax revenue is down by $1 75m and customs duty revenue is down by $ 195m- nearly $ 1,000m in three items. Each of these results was promoted by the lack of confidence which people have in the Australian economy, and is it any wonder in view of the schemes that this Government has put forward to the Australian people as part of what should be a responsible economic program?
The honourable member for La Trobe rejected the call to rev up the economy. Of course he would. Government supporters have had their heads under a rock since the Government has been in office. They are economic troglodytes. They are out of step with world thinking. Mr Witteveen from the International Monetary Fund has been calling on governments around the world to stimulate their economies by injecting public funds. Mr Callaghan, the Prime Minister of England- not an altogether unreliable authority- has been calling for a similar injection of public funds. But what do we see from this Government? A total rejection of that call and adherence to its outdated, outmoded, discredited and paranoid policy on inflation. Never mind the social costs of getting inflation down. Never mind the fact that this policy has locked us into a situation of very high unemployment which of itself tends to wind down our economy. For every person who loses his job another person loses confidence, and when he loses confidence he fails to become a consumer. When he stops buying we might as well stop manufacturing. Last year the only two items which were manufactured in Australia in excess of our requirements in past years were the red ink with which people could write in the deficits on their own budgets and the unemployment relief forms that were needed for all the unemployed.
The Loan Act 1977 authorised borrowings for defence purposes of up to $ 1,100m so that expenditure on defence which would otherwise be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund could be met from the Loan Fund. This method of avoiding the Loan Council- that is, by using the excuse of providing funds for defence purposeshas been used by governments in the past and the Opposition does not really quibble with it. However, it is rather bemusing when we think of what members of this Government used to say about the Labor Government when it was in power and was stepping around the Loan Council on one remarkable occasion.
– It is not exactly just for temporary purposes.
-That is right. A moment ago I spoke of the reason why the deficit has blown out and I pointed to the lack of government revenue- a lack which has been accentuated by the economic policies that the Government has followed. The Government proposed in its Budget Estimates last year a two per cent increase in employment which perhaps would have helped the economy to some extent had it occurred. But what did happen? Rather than a two per cent increase in employment we now have less people in the work force than there were 12 months ago. The budgetary policy which the Government then put forward is now totally discredited. Unemployment is soaring and consequently people are losing confidence in the economy and are refusing to spend. Of course the economy is winding down. As soon as it starts to wind down, as soon as people stop spending, government revenue goes down too. If people are not buying anything there is no sales tax coming to the Government. If people stop buying imported goods the amount of revenue gained from customs duty goes down. When people are unemployed- and more people are becoming unemployed every day- payasyouearn tax collections go down. This has meant that we now have $ 1,000m less in Government revenue than the Government anticipated, and this is the reason for the Government seeking an expansion in its loan capacity.
The Government wants the right to borrow more money. We do not altogether disagree with a higher deficit if it is incurred for the right purposes. Our feeling is that the programs which the
Government has adopted have all been back to front. Of course we would not disagree with an increase in the deficit if Commonwealth funds were being injected into the economy to get people back to work. It is a very simple fact that the governments, both State and Commonwealth, are the biggest spenders in the nation. If money is not made available on a federal basis for both federal and State works, of course the economy will wind down. We will then find that the situation into which the Government has locked us at present will get worse. The Government just does not seem to have any positive moves in mind to correct the situation.
The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) referred to a speech made by the suspended Minister for Finance, Mr Eric Robinson, to the Australian Finance Conference last night in Sydney. I shall quote one of Mr Robinson’s gems:
The Government is determined to reduce the rate of government spending and return confidence and command over resources to the private sector.
If ever there were a policy calculated to make our economy go further into recession, then this is it, because the biggest spender in Australia is the Government. If the Government is going to reduce its level of government expenditure, there are few areas in which it can do so. It must, for example, make cuts to the social security area. I have no doubt that that is a possibility. I have seen canvassed in responsible newspapers the argument that the Government is thinking of imposing once again the means test on age pensioners over 70. Also, if the Federal Government cuts funds to the State governments, that will increase the level of unemployment. Every person we put out of work will decrease the level of the economy even further.
It is time that the Government realised that its policies are not working, that they are sending us back into the dark ages. It is time that the Government realised that all the experts around the world who are calling on a greater infusion of government spending into the economies of the world are giving correct advice. The sooner this Government is prepared to accept that advice, to reverse its paranoia with inflation, to reverse its paranoia with the deficit, and to get on with the matter at hand- the matter of injecting confidence into the economy- the sooner we will be able to correct our situation.
We expect the people of Australia to have confidence in their own country. How can we expect this if the Government does not give the lead? The Government should be in the position to say: ‘Come on’, not ‘Go on’. Let the Government exhibit confidence in Australia’s future. Our resources are unbounded. Why will the Government not invest in our future, invest in the future of the young Australian unemployed and inject some money into the economy so that the unemployed people can go back to work, so that the economy will start to pick up, so that confidence will be restored, so that consumers will start to buy and so that the revenue that should come to government will do so? We then would not be faced with the increasing demands from government to borrow to cover a deficit.
If the Government were borrowing to cover a deficit produced for reasons that I have just outlined- if it were injecting that money into the revenue, thereby increasing the deficit- we would not mind supporting the Government’s moves. While the Government adopts such outmoded, dark ages policies, we find it hard to support the Government I support the amendment made by the honourable member for Gellibrand, which seeks to add these words:
Whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion that the substantial increase of the deficit above its budgeted level is evidence of the failure of the Government’s budgetary policy and calls on the Government to adopt policies which will generate economic recovery.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Groom) read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.(Quorum formed).
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Clause 3 (Interpretation).
Senate ‘s amendment No. 1 -
After the definition of ‘Alligator Rivers Region’, insert the following new definition: “Commission” means the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, being the body corporate established under that name by the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Ordinance 1976 of the Northern Territory; ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 2-
In sub-clause ( 1 ), leave out ‘at the suit of the Director or of a Land Council ‘, insert ‘at the suit of the Director, the Commission or a Land Council ‘.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 3-
In sub-clause (3) after ‘Director’, insert ‘or the Commission ‘.
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.
Senate’s amendment No. 4-
After ‘Director’, insert ‘the Commission, ‘.
– I move:
These amendments arise from the agreement reached in Darwin on 10 May as a result of discussions with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the Northern Land Council. Honourable members will recall that some concern had been expressed about the role which the Northern Territory should play in the developments that are planned in the Alligator Rivers Region as a consequence of the Government’s decision to proceed with uranium mining in the region.
The purpose of these amendments is to give the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission standing to invoke the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory in relation to uranium mining operations for the purposes set out in clause 4 of the Bill. The Director of National Parks and the relevant land council also have this standing under the Bill. These amendments further underline our recognition of the role of the Northern Territory in respect of uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region.
– I notice that the amendments to which the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) referred have not really been circulated although I have a copy of them. The Minister has asked us to deal with the amendments forthwith. Be that as it may, the only amendments on the table relate to another Bill. What the Government is now proposing does not go as far as the Opposition requires. Honourable members will recall that when we debated this Bill on 4 May we made it very clear that there should be a right of audience before the appropriate jurisdiction not only for the limited group specified in clause 4 but also for people who had any interest at all. The Northern Land Council itself suggested that what is known as the class action suit should be available.
The amendments moved by the Opposition in this chamber and in the Senate have been rejected. Those amendments clearly showed what would have been in the public interest. They did not restrict the rights of anybody in the Northern Territory or anywhere else. It was on that basis that we argued that the Bill should be widened so that people who were able to show that they had an interest would have a right of audience before the court. This Bill will deny that right. All the Senate has done is to include in the Bill provision for one other body to make an application to the court in respect of uranium mining operations. At this stage I indicate to the Minister that the proposed amendments do not encompass the objections made by the Opposition. They do not meet the requirements of* our amendments. There is no point in our debating the matter at length. The issue is very clear. If the amendments moved by the Opposition on 4 May had been agreed to they would have given everybody concerned in the environment, not just the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, the right to appear before the court.
– Once again the Australian Labor Party has an obstructionist view towards the Northern Territory. It is objecting to the inclusion of the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission and suggesting that a number of other people should have the right to make representations. By all means let them do so. But the whole thrust of the Labor Party’s objections to these amendmentswe spoke about this at some length last night- has been to minimise the opportunity of people in the Northern Territory, the Northern Territory Administration and the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission to register their views. The Labor Party is objecting to people in the
Northern Territory with singular expertise in wildlife and national parks registering their views. The Labor Party is doing this on traditional grounds. It wishes to water down the authority which should be given to the Territorians themselves.
– Order! The honourable member for Cunningham will not pass between the Chair and the speaker.
– Please stop walking backwards and forwards. It seems to be a failing of the Labor Party. We had this attitude last night and we are getting it again tonight.
– Order! The honourable member for Cunningham is now alert to the fact that he should not cross between the speaker and the Chair. I am sure that he will not offend again.
– I stress that these amendments give strength to the Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission. As I say again and again, they are the ones with the ability. These fellows in the back benches here, who do not know anything about -
– I rise to take a point of order. I ask, Mr Chairman, if you are prepared to rule that the honourable member’s remarks have no relationship to the Bill.
– I am prepared to give honourable members reasonable latitude in focusing their remarks on the precise clauses before the Committee. I am not convinced that the honourable member has not done that.
– I thank you, Mr Chairman, and I also thank the honourable member for Hughes for his complete tolerance! I am simply here to espouse the cause of Territorians, as against the Labor Party’s approach that they should have nothing whatsoever to do with looking after their own affairs.
– I am astounded at the remarks of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder). If he had any wisdom at all he would see that the whole purpose of our amendments is to give everybody in the Northern Territory a right of audience. This Government’s amendment does nothing of the sort. However, we are not even opposing it, weak as it is. We are suggesting that it should be stronger. The honourable member knows that the Northern Land Council sent a telex to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) asking that the clause be strengthened to permit what is called a class action being taken to protect the interests of the general public. The telex from the Northern Land Council reads as follows:
-So what, says the honourable member, as far as this goes. The whole point of our amendment, which surely the honourable member can understand, is that there would be a right of action not only by the people here nominated but also by any person or persons whose interests were affected by uranium mining. The Government has rejected that. That is the basis on which we object. I am astounded that the honourable member for the Northern Territory, who must represent thousands of people who could be affected, should wish to deny them a right of audience. The Northern Land Council believes that they should have it. The Minister knows that. The amendment gives the general public a right of audience before a court.
– The Northern Land Council is happy with this amendment. It has agreed to it.
-If they have agreed to it they have not told us.
– I am sorry, but that is the situation.
-However, irrespective of what they say, a lot of other people in the Northern Territory also have interests. I would like to hear the Minister explain why, if the Bill is to be limited in the way now contemplated, they should be denied such access. The amendments that we moved would benefit people who should have a right of audience but now will have none. It is for that reason, which surely can be understood by all concerned, that we oppose this legislation.
That the amendments be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Consideration of Senate’s amendments.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
After the heading ‘PART II-PROPOSED CODES OF PRACTICE ‘, insert the following new clause: 6a. ( 1 ) The Minister may, from time to time, arrange for the formulation of-
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 approved by orders under sub-section 8(1).
The Minister shall ensure that there is afforded to the appropriate Minister of each State, and, on and after 1 July 1 978, the appropriate Minister of the Northern Territory, an opportunity to consult with the Minister or another Minister in relation to the formulation under subsection ( 1 ) of a proposed code of practice or a proposed variation of a code of practice. ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 2-
In paragraph (a), sub-paragraphs (i) and (ii), leave out the sub-paragraphs, insert ‘, proposed codes of practice, and proposed variations of codes of practice, formulated in pursuance of section 6a; and ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 3-
In sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out the paragraph, insert the following paragraphs: (aa) that an opportunity has been afforded to the appropriate Minister of each State, and, in the case of an order proposed to be made on or after 1 July 1978, to the appropriate Minister of the Northern Territory, to consult with the Minister or another Minister in relation to the formulation of the code or the variation as mentioned in subsection 6a (2);
that the code or the variation, as the case may be, has been furnished to each such Minister as mentioned in paragraph 7 (a); and’.
Senate ‘s amendment No. 4-
In sub-clause (8), line 37, leave out ‘or (7)’, insert ‘, (7) or (10)*.
Senate’s amendment No. 5-
Leave out sub-clause ( 10), insert the following sub-clause:
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 a State unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make regulations for carrying out or giving effect to, or for securing the observance of, that code of practice in the State. ‘.
Senate’s amendment No. 6-
Leave out the sub-clause (8), insert the following subclause:
An order made under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to a situation resulting from nuclear activity shall not authorize a Minister to give directions that have effect in a State, or to take any action in a State, unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make an order under that sub-section in relation to that situation. ‘
– I move:
-The Opposition opposes these amendments. We find it very strange that the situation which has now been created under this Bill, which the Government put forward as one of its major forms of protection for the Australian people, is that nuclear codes will in effect be governed by the desires and wishes of the State which wants to have the weakest possible codes. The Government must have either enforcement or consultation. It must either have consultation with the States or it must impose standards. The Government has now handed the matter back to the States. The whole essence of the Government’s claims was that it would provide strong, tough codes of practice so that Australians- people who were working in the mining industry, people who were living near mining operations, Aborigines and people who were in any way affected by the transportation of yellowcake- would be carefully covered so that both their health, and the environment, would not be impaired in any way.
I have had experience, and I am sure other honourable members in this Parliament have had experience, of agreement being required among the six States about codes. It is virtually impossible to get such agreement because there are always one or two States which will simply say: ‘We do not agree. ‘ I do not wish to get away from the subject of the clause, but I can recall an example in a matter relating to road safety in which I was closely involved. We were trying to get a national road code. In just a small thing like drawing up a uniform accident form it has taken 20 years of negotiations and meetings, and still we have not been able to get the six police departments to sit down and draw up a uniform form. That is the situation. That is something that is not of minor importance but I do not think it is as significant as is this particular matter.
– We are not asking the six States to agree.
– No, the Government is not asking the six States to agree but that is the net effect of what will occur. The Government cannot impose different codes on Queensland and New South Wales, for example. The Government cannot say: ‘We will impose a tough code on this State, a weak one on that State and a moderate one on this third State ‘.
– Which States do you not trust?
– I do not trust the six States collectively to come to a uniform agreement.
– Which one do you not trust?
– If the honourable member for La Trobe cannot understand English I do not know how I can more clearly explain it to him. I do not trust the six States to be able collectively to come to an agreement with the Federal Government. Let us take New South Wales for the purpose of the exercise. That State does not have mining but it will have transportation. It needs only that one State to say: ‘We want the weakest possible standards’ and the Government will lower the standards of the whole of the States to that level. The Minister is nodding his head. I would be delighted if he could explain to me how the Government intends to deal with the situation. At the moment the Bill allows consultation with the States.
– I was shaking my head, not nodding my head.
– Well, the Minister was shaking his head. I could hear it from here. Whatever it was, the fact is that the Government will say to the States: ‘This is what we would like you to do. Here is a nice strong series of codes that we believe will protect the environment and the people of Australia’. Five of the States will say: ‘That is a good idea. We like those’. The other State will say: ‘We think that is too tough. We do not agree with you’. What will the Government do then? Will the Government say to the States: ‘We will take your word for it and not have a code’ or accept a different code from each State, or will the Government then impose its will? If the Government intends to impose its will it might as well not have this legislation.
– That would be doing it illegally.
– I would have thought we could have imposed our will under the export arrangements whereby we have to give permission for export. The honourable member- I do not know where he comes from; I do not even know his name- is getting very excited about something or other.
– It does not say much for you if you do not even know the honourable member’s name.
– Dear, oh dear! The representative from the apple isle is having a few words to say. I repeat what I said to the Minister: This Bill is now a complete farce because there is no way in the world the Government can now impose a nuclear code which has any guts in it, any toughness, any restrictions on the States’ rights. The States will be able to go ahead and do exactly what they like.
– It is no wonder that the Minister brought this Bill into the House and simply dropped it on the table and chose not to give the House any explanation at all. I do not blame him for that because if one looks at the debate on the original Bill, which every honourable member on that side of the House supported, one will see our criticism of it was that it did not involve any effective negotiation, any effective consultation, any involvement of the States at any level. That was argued in this House, and in the discussion on the Bill members of the Opposition had the support of every State Premier. Despite that, there was not a single member on the Government side of the House who was prepared to stand up and say: Of course there ought to be consultation; of course there ought to be involvement; of course the amendment proposed by the Opposition should be supported ‘.
If we now look at what has occurred, we will see that there has never been a more shameful abdication of sovereignty, a more shameful abdication of their own position, than what is revealed by the amendments that now come before the House with the approval of the Ministerthe very Minister who told the House during the course of the debate on the Bill that what was important was to get the Bill through. In the note these provisions were supported by honourable members on that side of the House to a man. Suddenly not only do they have to be changed; if we look at Senate’s amendment No. 5 we see that it relates to clause 11(10) which deals with the capacity of the Commonwealth now to make regulations governing nuclear codes which cannot take effect unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make regulations for carrying out or giving effect to, or for securing the observance of, that code of practice in the State. What the Opposition is saying is that this Government is now seeking to pass amendments to the nuclear codes legislation- it is not simply talking about occupying the field- to the effect that unless any State government makes a request to the Commonwealth nuclear codes will not be brought into operation. I have been a member of a State parliament for many years and perhaps I understand a bit more about the operations of State parliaments than the Minister for the Environment, Housing and Community Development and members on the Government side. No State parliament anywhere in the Commonwealth, be it governed by the National Country Party Government in Queensland, the Liberal Government in Victoria or the Labor Government in South Australia, would ever pass this sort of legislation. They have a little more feeling about their sovereign rights than does this Minister and this sloppy slap-dash Government. No State government would pass legislation on industrial safety which says: ‘We will implement it only if the Commonwealth Government asks us’. It would be unthinkable.
This Government is not worried about nuclear codes or the protection of the environment. The speciousness of the Government’s position stands exposed by these very amendments. From the word ‘go’ it wanted to produce uranium regardless of the dangers, regardless of the hazards and regardless of the safety of the men on the job. The Government was so anxious that in the first place, it produced a Bill which ran absolutely roughshod over State’s rights. That was the view not only of members of the Opposition but also of every Premier throughout the Commonwealth. In order to sustain that objective of mining at any cost, irrespective of the dangers or problems, we now have before us a piece of legislation which is a disgrace to the Commonwealth Parliament, a disgrace to the party of Menzies. Has there ever been a more shameful, a more despicable, abnegation of the responsibilities of Parliament? This Government says: ‘Of course we are concerned about the problems of safety in the handling of nuclear substances’. But it is so concerned about those things that there will be a nuclear code only if a State government asks the Commonwealth.
– It is federalism.
-Federalism! The honourable member should look at the operations of State Parliaments. He does not have to look any further than the operations of his own Liberal colleagues in his own State. This Commonwealth Government is passing the responsibility on to not just the State governments; it is passing it on to the mining companies whose capacity to influence the level of codes and to influence State Government decisions is enormous. Everybody knows it. That is the real problem. The honourable member ought to look at his own State. There has just been a government inquiry which has revealed that a handful of property developers could corrupt the processes of government and waste government funds. There is some evidence of the capacity of those gentlemen. Property developers in Victoria do not have anything like the capacity of the mining companies. The Commonwealth Parliament is saying: ‘Of course we will have a nuclear code for Queensland but only if the Government of Queensland wants it. We will have a nuclear code for Western Australia but only if Sir Charles Court and his good friend Lang Hancock want it’. Lang Hancock reckons that if you put bolognaise sauce on yellowcake you can eat it. There will be a code in those States only if those gentlemen say they will have a nuclear code.
Whatever the Minister is about and whatever this Government is about, honourable members should not pretend for one moment that we are involved in an exercise in federalism. What we are involved in is a shabby exercise. The Government in the first instance brought in legislation which was hasty, ill-considered and concerned only with the objective of getting the whole process of uranium mining started. The Government made a mess of it and everybody knows. Now, in order to get uranium mining started before the wet season, the Government has adopted a position which completely contradicts and subverts any concept that the Commonwealth will be not the exclusive power but the paramount power in determining nuclear codes. That is the question that has to be considered. Nuclear codes will be needed because this legislation involves substances which will be a threat to every worker who handles them.
– What tripe.
– The problem with the honourable member for Hotham is that he is the greatest political deep throat in the country. Every time he opens his mouth you can see his prejudices move. I would say this to the honourable member: How does he hope to get uniform codes when as between the State of New South Wales, the State of Victoria and the State of South Australia there are no uniform regulations on something as simple as putting a safety device on a circular saw? This legislation involves a whole new complex area of technology. The Opposition has argued right throughout that there has never been anything like adequate consultation or involvement with the States so far as their experience and knowledge are concerned. This Government, because what it is really concerned about is the whole question of uranium mining, has said: ‘Righto, the Commonwealth chooses not to be the paramount authority and the real power for decision-making in respect of nuclear codes will rest with the States’. Given the political reality of the situation this is the position of the Commonwealth. Queensland has what has to be one of the most corrupt and decadent political systems operating anywhere in the Western democracies. Anyone who believes that the mining companies will not be the final arbiters and determinants of what constitutes an effective nuclear code, in terms of their interest and the way they perceive their interest, is not looking at either the reality or the history of this matter. One has only to look at what occurred in respect of the uranium mining at Rum Jungle.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The listeners to this debate tonight, or the readers of this debate, will realise that they just heard, or they have read, the full force of the left wing of the Australian Labor Party really rearing its ugly head. Could anybody imagine a more irrational, illogical or incoherent series of speeches from Opposition supporters than those made in this debate tonight? The situation is that the Senate has used its constitutional powers and returned this Bill to the House of Representatives, requesting that certain amendments be made to it. The Government supports those amendments. Why does the Opposition proclaim such agony in respect of these amendments as has been expressed tonight? Is it because of some genuine concern to ensure that the mining and the sale of uranium in this country is carried out on the most appropriate basis? Of course it is not. It is because of a desire on the part of Opposition supporters to frustrate at every turn of the road a decision taken by this Government.
– I raise a point of order. During the debate on the uranium Bills, Mr Chairman, you have made sure that everybody stuck to the subject under debate. The previous speakers have debated the amendments to this Bill. The honourable member has not mentioned the amendments.
– Order! I take the point made by the honourable member for Robertson. I require the honourable member for La Trobe to be more specific in addressing his remarks to amendments 1 to 5 which are currently being debated.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. Members of the Opposition can interrupt as often as they like. I do not mind because we will go on with this debate for as long as members of the Opposition want. The fact is that the Opposition has proposed the most irrational criticisms of the amendments we are discussing- amendments 1 to 5. There is no secret about that. We have heard the views of the full force of the left wing- the anarchists- of the Australian Labor Party. We have heard from those members of the Australian Labor Party who hate the States with a vengeance seldom seen before in this Parliament.
– Order! The honourable member for La Trobe is not being particularly relevant to the amendments under discussion. I would ask him to be more specific in addressing himself to the amendments.
- Mr Chairman, what members of the Opposition have said in this debate- it is their allegations that I am answering- is that the States are entirely incompetent to have any influence over the code relating to the uranium environmental protection that we are debating tonight.
– I take a point of order. It is quite clear, sir, that the honourable gentleman is treating you with contempt probably because you are a National Country Party man. I think you ought to put him in order.
– Order! The Chair is capable of observing and maintaining the forms of the chamber without assistance.
- Mr Chairman, you have the confidence of the Committee, despite what the honourable member for Hindmarsh says, because you perform your role with complete impartiality, and I congratulate you for that.
– I raise a point of order. My point of order is very simple: Although the honourable member for La Trobe has been speaking for four minutes he has not addressed himself to a single clause in the Bill. I just want to hear his argument on the clauses under discussion.
-Whilst the honourable member for La Trobe might have occupied four minutes of his speaking time he has not been able to take full advantage of the time available to him because of the points of order that have been taken. I remind honourable members that this is a forum of the national Parliament and not a Roman circus.
- Mr Chairman, it is perfectly evident from the way in which members of the Opposition are trying to frustrate this debate by interfering with the remarks I want to make that they have no logical basis on which to take their stand. They are intent on frustrating what I want to say. This is absolutely typical of their philosophical stand on the uranium mining question, particularly in respect of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill that we are now debating. Members of the Opposition will use every possible measure- they are not very productive thinkers- to frustrate this debate and the passage of the Bill. It is perfectly obvious to those with the capacity to learn, read and listen -
– I take a point of order. My point of order is that this very great generality is taking the form of a tirade of abuse. To what clause is the honourable member referring? Does he know anything about the Committee stage of this Bill?
– It is not for the Chair to direct honourable members on the nature of their remarks but to rule on questions relating to the forms of the House. The honourable member for La Trobe is falling somewhat short of the strict requirements of debating procedure. I give him a last opportunity to address himself specifically to the amendments before the Committee.
- Mr Chairman, I will go directly to the clauses we are debating and point out the fact that the codes which are the subject of the amendments are part of our obligation under international agreements that presently exist and which this Government will be proposing in forums to see that there is a universal approach to safeguards and environmental standards which will apply to the mining of uranium.
– You have got to be joking.
– We have the gigolo from Batman who will not concentrate on the amendments we are debating. The amendments and this code which the Government has come up with after a great deal of consideration after receiving the report of the Fox inquiry are specifically designed to provide that level and degree of environmental protection which is absolutely basic to the mining and treatment of uranium. These are the sorts of provisions which any country involved in the uranium cycle should regard as absolutely basic. The Government proposes them for that reason. The reason why members of the Opposition are opposing these amendments is that they do not trust any State to have any input into these codes, their execution and administration. It is not only a question of federalism; it is a question of protecting the rights of the citizens of this country irrespective of whether they live in a Territory or a State. As a supporter of the Government I do not understand why the Opposition should take such an antagonistic stand towards that position. We heard the previous speaker refer to one of the State governments as the most corrupt government in the Western democracies. I have seldom heard a more provocative or unparliamentary statement than that. The claim was made by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), a rookie in this House, a man who did more to devastate the position of State governments -
– Order! The honourable member is no longer relevant to the amendments before the Committee. I ask him to resume his seat.
-Let us look at what we are debating. We are debating amendments 1 to 5. We are debating whether or not the States or the Commonwealth have certain powers. In August of last year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wrote to all the States and said that the Government was going to try to bring in uniform codes of environment protection for uranium mining throughout Australia. Between August 1977 and 10 April this year there was no relationship between the Commonwealth and the States on this matter of nuclear codes. There was no meeting between the Australian Government and the States. The State Premiers were alarmed, when they read a Press report the week before the legislation was introduced into this House on 10 April, that the legislation would contain certain conditions. There had been no consultation at all. During Question Time on 10 April I directed a question to the Prime Minister. I might say that I received information from a certain quarter in South Australia. I asked:
Did the Prime Minister write to the South Australian Premier in August last year saying that there would be full consultation with the States in developing uniform legislation for the mining and export of uranium? Is it a fact that there were no discussions with the States prior to the announcement last week that Bills concerning uranium would be introduced into the House today? Is it also a fact that there has only been a last minute agreement to have discussions today with the States in regard to this matter? Is this an example of the Fraser Government’s policy of cooperative federalism?
The Prime Minister answered in these terms:
It is the policy of the Government to have discussions with the States in relation to the development of codes in this particular matter. I believe that the arrangements that are being made will give the States full opportunity to express their views.
The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives. When the legislation went into the Senate a rebellion occurred when six National Country Party senators said that they were going to cross the floor and vote against the legislation or move certain amendments to the legislation. If the Labor Party senators had voted with them they would have defeated the legislation. Let us put the matter in perspective. I should like to read to the chamber clause 5, which is the basic clause with which we have to deal. It is also the clause with which the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) dealt. It states:
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 a State unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make regulations for carrying out or giving effect to, or for securing the observance of, that code of practice in the States.
That means just what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said it means: That the real power of deciding the codes of practice for uranium mining outside the Northern Territory or any other Commonwealth Territory certainly is in the hands of the States. In other words, the codes of practice for uranium mining at, say, Mary Kathleen will be a matter for BjelkePetersen, and at Yeelirrie in Western Australia they will be a matter for Premier Court and his colleagues. They are the people who will determine the codes of practice.
– I raise a point of order. I would like your advice, Mr Chairman, in regard to clause 5 because it specifically mentions every Territory. I think that the following clause, clause 6, is the one that deals with the matter being pursued by the honourable member for Reid.
– It is my understanding that the honourable member for Reid is addressing his remarks to amendment No. 5.
-Thank you, Mr Chairman. What do nuclear codes mean? Nuclear codes in relation to nuclear activities mean:
any prescribed substance; or
Let us examine the definition of ‘prescribed substance’. Prescribed substance embraces plutonium and all actinides as well as the fission products which make up nuclear waste. I ask honourable members to think about this matter seriously. We in this chamber are now giving the States the right to determine that they can in fact have control over nuclear waste- a matter that will have enormous implications for the whole of this country not for a few years but for at least a quarter of a million years. This is a very difficult and dangerous situation. I am asking the Committee to examine the facts. I have referred to what was contained in the original Bill. What are nuclear activities? The fact is that ‘prescribed substance ‘ does mean nuclear waste. It includes plutonium. That creates the serious situation.
In the few minutes I have available to me to speak I should like to examine this situation. This Government brought in certain legislation and when the pressure was put on, what happened? It folded to the most reactionary forces within the Government parties. That showed who really has the power. The Government also has taken other action. It has adopted certain safeguards. It has said that it will sell uranium to certain countries but that certain safeguards have to be observed. For instance, one safeguard states that there will not be any reprocessing, because after reprocessing plutonium and unused uranium can be extracted. If there is pressure on the Government because it cannot sell uranium overseas, will it give in? Will it submit to those governments which say ‘We will not do certain things. We are not prepared to meet your stringent safeguards’? We have seen this Government give in to the State Governments. What will be the situation when it has to deal with governments whose national pride is involved? Do honourable members think that those governments will allow the Australian Government to impose its stringent conditions? Even if they did, what about those stringent conditions? Honourable members opposite have said that the left wing of the Labor Party really controlled the formulation of this policy. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Australian Labor Party’s policy on uranium which was formulated after a broadbased discussion?
The document read as follows-
ALP POLICY ON URANIUM
Conference recognises that the provision of Australian uranium to the world nuclear fuel cycle creates problems relevant to Australian sovereignty, the environment, the economic welfare of our people, and the rights and well-being of the Aboriginal people.
Labor believes, that having regard to the present unresolved economic, social, biological, genetic, environmental and technical problems associated with the mining of uranium and the development of nuclear power and in particular-
to the proven contribution of the nuclear power industry to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war;
the absence of procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes to ensure that any danger posed by such wastes to human life and the environment is eliminated, it is imperative that no commitment of Australia ‘s uranium deposits to the world’s nuclear fuel cycle should be made until:
a reasonable time has elapsed for full public debate on and consideration of the issues;
the Australian Labor Party is satisfied that the abovementioned problems have been solved; and
the Australian Government endorses Recommendation 6 of the First Fox Report, which states: “a decision to mine and sell uranium should not be made unless the Commonwealth Government ensures that the Commonwealth can at any time . . . immediately terminate those activities, permanently, indefinitely or for a specific period. “
Labor declares a moratorium on uranium mining and treatment in Australia,
Labor will repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor Government to the mining, processing or export of Australia ‘s uranium, and
Labor will not permit the mining, processing or export of uranium pursuant to agreements entered into contrary to ALP policy.’
MINERALS AND ENERGY-RESOLUTION
With respect to presently existing contracts, in the event of Mary Kathleen being closed down by the company or as a consequence of shortfall from this source, Labor will not allow any new mine to be opened in order to honour those contracts, but will assist in arranging for the final discharge of obligations under those contracts from overseas sources, as outlined in the First Fox Report.
Moved: T. Burns
-i thank the Committee. Our policy was formulated after broad-based discussion. The branches of the Australian Labor Party formulated our policy on uranium. That is why the policy is so firm, and that is why we are standing by it firmly.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I can understand why the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), who is sitting at the table, did not choose to speak in bringing down these amendments because if one looks at his speech on 10 April, which is reported at page 1297 of Hansard -
– A good speech.
-Exactly. It was quite a good speech. All the provisions that are listed on page 1297 are now of no effect whatever because what he set out was the procedure that would be followed in setting out a national code. Now whatever happened to that national code? The Minister identified himself with it, set out the safeguards but it does not exist any more. I will explain what the Minister has not explained to the Committee- what the amendments mean. For the benefit of those people who are listening to this debate, the key to it is contained in clause 1 1 of the Bill. Clause 11(1) states, in effect, that where the Governor-General says that the laws of a particular State or Territory are not adequate to provide for nuclear codes for environment protection then the Governor-General- in other words the Commonwealth Governmentshould take the lead and should provide for the imposition of codes. Now, the original sub-clause 10 of clause 11, which is one of the clauses amended in the appalling amendments before the Committee tonight, states:
Until such date as is fixed by Proclamation for the purpose 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.
In other words, the suggestion is that the Government wants to delay it, if necessary, until the States are in line, but there is no suggestion that the law of the Commonwealth should not prevail. Of course, the Constitution provides in the case of a conflict between a State and the Commonwealth that the law of the Commonwealth prevails. Now I will refer to the amendment which states:
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 a State unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make regulations for carrying out or giving effect to, or for securing the observance of, that code of practice in the State.
In other words, the States then have a veto power.
– Eliminate the States.
-I am not talking about eliminating the States. The honourable member for La Trobe would be well advised to be silent on this. His contribution to the debate was the most amazing performance that I have ever heard in the House. When I spoke on the Bill on 4 May I spoke in rather unusual defence of Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, who had sent a telegram. He said that the Commonwealth ought to be engaging in meaningful discussion now and that he would like to have some discussion about the final form of the Bill. What in fact happened is that the Government has gone through a 180 degree turn. Instead of saying that it regards it as a matter of national responsibility and following the advice of the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) and myself, that we have meaningful and worthwhile discussions with the States, in effect what the honourable member said is: ‘Right; let us give it away altogether.’ He said that we should forget the national responsibility and convert it to a State level. How far does one go? One of the most inane comments made by the honourable and ga-ga member for La Trobe was when he said that a universal approach is needed to this. I thought that was absolutely rich. In other words he was saying that we need standards that can be recognised internationally.
– Hear, hear!
-He says, ‘Hear, hear’. One can imagine the situation of somebody going to the United States or to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and saying that there will now be a universal approach on nuclear codes. Then, there are three speakers. One speaker will give the Queensland version; another speaker will give the Western Australian version and another will give the version of the Northern Territory. It is a mystery as great as the Trinity. We illustrate thus the magnificence of our universal approach to problems- come on boys, the three of you get up, either as a trio or consequentially and state Australia’s universal approach. What sort of piffle is that? Even the honourable member for La Trobe must realise that what he said is completely and utterly inconsistent. One cannot have a universal approach and also have three alternative approaches at three different levels from three different States.
This is a national responsibility. This is the National Parliament. How far does one take it. Supposing, and it is not too much of a reductio ad absurdum, that the pressure groups within Queensland say that the situation ought to vary from State to State and we ought to take into account the views of municipalities. They might say that we ought to get the views of local government on nuclear codes. Obviously the Opposition would not object to local government being consulted. It ought to be consulted. But suppose in your own State of Queensland, Mr Chairman, the local government instrumentalities say to the Queensland Government that they think there ought to be variable codes within the State and that whatever regulations the State Governor is asked to make ought to be based essentially on the recommendations of local governments. One could have the absolutely inane situation of variable codes from State to State which are essentially municipally or localgovernment based rather than nationally based.
The point the Opposition has made is absolutely and completely contrary to the suggestion made by the honourable member for La Trobe. The Opposition has not suggested that the States ought to be eliminated from this area. Of course they have to be involved in the discussions. That was the point of what I said and what the honourable member for Melbourne Ports said on 4 May. But we do not believe that the Commonwealth should vacate the field. I feel extremely disappointed that the Minister has not contributed to the debate. I hope that he will speak before the matter is put to the vote, to illustrate how he can reconcile what he said on 10 April in his eloquent speech, at page 1297 of Hansard, with the import of this Bill. The Minister was absolutely silent. He made no attempt to explain what the clause was. In fact it might be said that no speaker from the Government side tonight has addressed himself to any clause- not one.
– I have not had a chance yet.
-To the contrary, the Minister had the chance, as did the honourable member for La Trobe. Instead, honourable members were treated to ten minutes of beating about the bush. The Minister might also explain how he is able to reconcile clause 11(1) with clause 1 1 ( 10). I should think that they are really quite contradictory. The Government is saying that it will set out a national code but at the same time it says that the States will have the right to pull out the plug at any time. We ought to get away from the concept of rule by pressure groups or by developers. It is clear that the more one goes into local government, State or regional government, the easier it is for particular interest groups to exercise an influence that is perhaps a disproportionate influence. The closer one gets to a national interest the more difficult it is for narrow, sectional interests to exercise a dominant and disproportionate interest. That is what honourable members should be about in a National Parliament. They ought to think nationally.
This issue has international repercussions. If it does not work out it could cause great harm, not just for this nation but perhaps for the whole human race- I mean if the whole question of control of nuclear waste and nuclear controls is not reconciled. To say that the Australian contribution is to offer a kind of political schizophrenia, with two or three voices speaking simultaneously, so that if you want to hear the national view you just stick out your ear and Listen to the Tower of Babel, with different competing interest groups within the States putting different points of view, is appalling. The honourable member ought to hang his head in shame or at least go outside for a few minutes and think about the matter seriously and come back and have another go. It is a national responsibility. The States have to be taken into consideration. There is no suggestion of cutting out the States. But, I do not believe that what they say has to be absolutely decisive. The States should be given every opportunity to express their points of view but then let us speak as a National Parliament. If we are to have a universal approach it can be done with one voice only, at the national level.
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I shall not take up the full time that is available to me but, as Opposition spokesman on health matters, I feel that this is a relevant Bill. Honourable members may recall that in the debate, on 4 May, I supported the legislation, broadly speaking. I shall quote from my own speech: 1 agree with the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass)- 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.
I am one of those who believe that nuclear mining is inevitable, though I oppose it at the present time. I believe that the people of Australia must be protected. Those who work in mines and those who will work in mines, together with those who will be involved in carrying, transport, and so on, must be protected. It is terribly important to have that sort of legislation. I draw the attention of the House to clause 3 of the original Bill which reads:
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, and this Act and the regulations shall be construed and administered accordingly.
I emphasise that it says that the object is to make provisions within the limits of the powers of the Parliament. Clause 12 of the original Bill gives every possible conceivable constitutional reason for argument as to why the regulations and the legislation should be within the powers of the Parliament. It refers to nuclear activities being carried on by or on behalf of the Commonwealth or an authority of the Commonwealth for the purpose of trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, to nuclear activities carried on for purposes related to defence, to activities carried on by foreign corporations, by trading corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth and to activities carried on in, or in connection with, a Territory or carried on in the territorial sea of Australia. The clause then goes on to mention foreign treaties.
So clause 12 seeks to give the Commonwealth Parliament the maximum amount of power and we agree that that power should be used to protect the people of Australia to the maximum extent in relation to uranium mining if uranium mining commences in August during the next couple of years. I believe that it is unnecessary for uranium mining to commence in Australia. It should not commence within the next couple of years. However, if it does, and after all the Government has the numbers and can insist on it happening, it is essential that the persons working in this industry be completely protected. I shall quote again from my speech on 4 May -
– Order! The remarks of the honourable member for Prospect are not altogether relevant to amendments Nos 1 to 5 now before the Committee.
-I am addressing myself to amendment No. 5. 1 have pointed out that I support amendments Nos 1,2, and 3. Amendment No. 5 seeks to insert the following sub-clause:
If this amendment is agreed to it will mean that this Parliament will not be taking advantage of its powers, as was intended when this matter was debated on 4 May, to insist that the workers in Australia be protected as much as they can be protected. I have some doubts about that level of protection, as I pointed out on 4 May. What we say in the Bill is that we will go to the full limits of the powers given to this Parliament but the amendment enables us to crawl out of our responsibility to exercise that power. We say that although we have the power we will not exercise it unless the State Governor asks us to exercise it. What is the necessity then for all the references in clause 12 to the powers of the Commonwealth over the States?
Obviously the point of the exercise was to impose certain minimum codes on the States. None of us would argue that amendments Nos 1, 2 and 3 are not reasonable amendments which provide for full and appropriate consultations with the appropriate Minister from each State and from the Northern Territory, but we do not leave it at that. We then say that if those Ministers, after full and complete consultations, reject the proposed code we will not insist on that code. That is a deplorable position for us to take because it lowers the degree of protection to which I have referred. I emphasise again that I am one of those who originally supported the legislation.
Mr Chairman, I again wish to quote from my speech of 4 May. I hope that you will not object to me doing so because I think my remarks then were relevant. On that occasion I said:
What lam suggesting is that it is admirable to produce this type of legislation if there is to be uranium mining.
I then went on to debate whether there ought to be uranium mining and later said:
If there is to be uranium mining this sort of legislation is necessary . . .
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.
That is the aim of this legislation, to bring in codes under which people will be working. I went on to say:
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.
I meant by that that it would be risky for them if we did not impose those nuclear codes. It is important to realise that amendment No. 5, which we are debating with the first four amendments, stops us putting those codes into practice. The codes can be put into practice in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia or any State where uranium mining takes place only if the Governor of that State- I presume that means the State Government- requests those regulations to be put into practice in that State. I think it is doubtful that a State Governor would do that, and I hope that the Minister realises it. If this Government really wants to reassure the potential miners of uranium and the people who will be transporting the material mined, it will amend this legislation to put it back to its original form because that is the only form which offers protection to them. If the people working on the wharves, the railways, the trucks or wherever discover that the method of packaging used for this material is not up to the standard which the Federal Government wanted to impose but is only up to the standard of packaging which the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly agreed to, or that the Queensland Government agreed to because it received a big donation from one of the mining companies, I hope that they will take appropriate action and interfere with the carriage of those goods.
– Much of what has been said–
– I rise to order. For the sake of clarification I take it that the Minister is not closing the debate.
-The Minister, when speaking in Committee, does not close the debate.
-Much of what has been said by the Opposition does not warrant comment. However, I want to make some points on the subjects raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) and the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones). I think it is fair to say that because of what they said tonight they are guilty of a complete turnabout from what they said on 4 May during the earlier debate. It is more than just a shifting of ground. Now they are going in the opposite direction. On 4 May they said that the Government should take more notice of what the States are saying. They were saying in effect that Mr Hamer is a good Premier and that the Victorian Government is a good government which has made sound representations to which this Government should listen and act upon. That is exactly what we have done. Now these two honourable members are changing their colours. They do not accept what we are now doing, although they were calling for it on 4 May.
One wonders about their motives. The problem is that they, like other honourable members opposite, are totally opposed to uranium mining and seek to obstruct every Bill on this issue. That is their real motivation. We have talked to the States and their officials and have taken notice of their views. We have given them a chance to express themselves and now we are giving them the opportunity to create their own codes and their own legislation on uranium mining. If these honourable members had followed what has been said since August last year when the decisions on uranium mining were announced they would see that what we are saying now is completely consistent with what we were saying then. It has always been the intention of the Government that the codes should be enforced not under Commonwealth laws but under State laws. That has always been the intention of this Government and these two honourable members who have been so critical must realise that.
It is complete nonsense to say that there has been an abdication of power or authority. We retain the power and authority that we had under the Constitution. Honourable members opposite know that. All we are doing is giving the States an opportunity to create acceptable legislation and acceptable codes.
-What if they do not?
– Well, we have the power; that is the important thing. To suggest that we have handed over that power -
– Enunciate your power.
– I ask the honourable member to read section 5 1 of the Constitution and all the placita in section 51 of the Constitution and study it. He will see what powers we have. To suggest that we have abdicated those powers is complete nonsense. We retain those powers. By virtue of this amendment we are not handing over those powers at all. So there is no basis for the concern expressed by honourable members opposite. What they say indicates really an ignorance of the Constitution and the power that the Commonwealth has.
– I listened respectfully to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom). I believe that notwithstanding his inadequacy, which is represented by his very short term of experience as a Minister, he has made quite a good fist of things. It is true, as he said, that the Opposition tried to co-operate, not in getting this legislation through the Parliament but in an attempt to make it respectable and to give the Commonwealth something on which to hang its hat. A great schedule of amendments was moved. They concerned the establishment of an advisory council. We attempted to define the advisory council and things of that kind. We sought to find not just a power on the part of the Commonwealth, but a recognition of the sovereignty that the States have in this matter.
I do not wish to speak for the 10 minutes that is available to me at present; I just want to bring the Minister to book very quickly. I suppose the Minister would have heard of the Constitutional Committee of Review which operated many years ago and which was set up by the Menzies Government to provide guidelines for future governments as to the need for constitutional review. The Minister would be fully aware of that, I am sure. In fact he is nodding his head to indicate that he has. The Committee had as ex officio members the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives. In addition, the following members comprised the Committee: Mr Calwell, Mr Downer, Mr Drummond, Mr Hamilton, Mr Joske, Mr Pollard, Mr Ward and Mr Whitlam. They are all my contemporaries. I think their parties chose them because of their constitutional capacities.
They made a great number of recommendations in several reports. I shall tell the Minister of their recommendations in respect of nuclear energy. However, I do not need to do much more than remind him that the Constitution was drawn up before there were many issues which are now regarded as contemporary, every-day matters in evidence. For example, the Wright brothers would never have discovered aeroplanes. In my electorate the Hargraves were experimenting with aircraft well before the Constitution was drawn up.
– Was that in your day?
– Order! The honourable member for Hughes will ignore interjections. Whilst no doubt honourable members are interested in aviation, I remind the honourable member for Hughes that we are considering amendments Nos 1 to 5.
-I do not think the Committee needs to be reminded that we are talking about the constitutional obligations and the constitutional rights that the Commonwealth has in regard to nuclear codes. I was simply making the point that just as civil aviation was not covered constitutionally in 1901- the time when the Wright brothers were experimenting with aeroplanes- neither was nuclear energy. The Committee to which I have referred and which was the preferment of this Parliament and which had as ex officio members the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, came to certain conclusions. It may be that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has greater concepts than this Committee had about this matter. Let me tell the Minister what the Committee had to say. It said:
The growth of nuclear physics making possible the application of nuclear energy for practical purposes is a phenomenon of the present century and, alone, this would explain the absence of any reference to it in the Commonwealth Constitution.
That was the first thing that was said unanimously. There was no reference to this whole question of nuclear energy in the Commonwealth Constitution. Yet the Minister believes that the Commonwealth is adequately clothed in respect of these matters. At clause 1 1 8 of the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, brought up and ordered to be printed on 1 October 1958, the Committee said:
By reason of its various constitutional powers, notably with respect to defence and overseas trade, the national Parliament is not without some effective legal powers at the present stage of nuclear development in Australia. Expected developments in the use of nuclear energy for constructive and destructive purposes will, however, reveal serious deficiencies in Commonwealth legal power, particularly if it should be sought to promote a self-contained integrated nuclear power industry serving the needs of industry and national development as well as defence.
Clause 1 1 9 of the report states:
It seems that the Commonwealth Parliament has insufficient legislative power to make proper provision for the protection of the health and welfare of the community as a whole from dangers which can arise from the use of radioactive materials and isotopes. So the Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Parliament should be empowered by Constitutional amendments to make laws with respect to the manufacture of nuclear fuels and the generation and use of nuclear energy and to iodising radiations.
I am simply saying to the Minister that these are the comments of a constitutional committee made up of the best legal brains in this Parliament, including the former Prime Minster, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies; the late Arthur Calwell; a former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam and others, including some who are in the Senate at present. There were many dissentions to the generalisations of this report, but none in respect of the matter to which I have referred. This was a committee set up by a government of the Minister’s own political persuasionpeople of his own political ilk- who told the government of the day that it had no constitutional prerogative in this matter. The Minister knew of this all the time as did his colleagues, but they sought to come in on the grouter. The Government tried to be sneaky about it. It was so ravenous in its attempt to reap the profits of uranium it did not care whether the matter concerned Aboriginals, the environment, the States or anything else. The report of the Constitutional Review Committee of this Parliament warned the Government that it would be stripped of its constitutionality on this matter. Yet the Government dared to bring up this whole business before the States. The Government has been rebuked very mildly both by the States and by the Senate. It still knows that its legislation is useless, ineffective and innocuous.
In other words, what it all amounts to is that the Government is comprised of a bunch of crooks just coming in on the grouter. The Government has no regard for the States, sovereignty, decency or anything else. It simply regards it as political expediency to reap the uranium out of the ground. This hallowed document which was the product of the best brains in the Parliament that have prevailed since I have been a member of this place is just thrown on to the rubbish dump. That applies also to the words of wisdom of Sir Robert Menzies and people such as Senator Wright and the other revered people- the best brains of the Country Party, the Labor Party and the Liberal Party. I put it to the
Minister that the Government is making a mockery of the whole deal. It should have sought a recognition from the people of this country of the emerging development of uranium. The Parliament needs to go to the people to seek an understanding of these things. But the Government is not concerned about the understandings of the people. It is concerned with the get-rich people who will rip off the country by the exploitation of uranium. That is all this legislation is about. The Government tore up this report. I might as well tear it up too. It does not matter. The history of this Parliament does not matter. The Constitution does not matter as long as the American exploiters can make their money out of uranium.
– I wish to make a point in response to the rather amusing dialogue of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). He does not realise that he has completely stripped the arguments of his colleagues. I do not know whether he was in the chamber earlier. He totally destroyed the arguments of the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) who realises it and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). They said that we should have a national code enforced by national law. The honourable member for Hughes produced a document which we all know about. He said that the Commonwealth would have no power. I disagree with that point of view. No doubt the two gentlemen to whom I have referred would also disagree. The honourable member has destroyed their arguments.
– I have listened to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) in his last two contributions. I shall take issue with him presently. I also listened to the earlier amusing contribution from the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu). If I may digress very briefly his contribution reminded me of the fellow who got up to speak. Before he got up to speak he did not know what he was going to say; while he was speaking he did not know what he was saying; and when he had finished he did not know what he had said- neither did anyone else for that matter. I shall be precise and deal with the amendments affecting clauses 11 and 13 of the original Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. As we all know, the original Bill as presented to this chamber several weeks ago–
-Order! The honourable member for Cunningham may address himself only to the original clause 1 1 to which the fifth amendment relates. Clause 1 3 to which the sixth amendment relates is not presently before the Committee.
– I am referring to clauses 1 1 and 13 in the original Bill and to the fifth amendment. Clause 1 1 requires the States to legislate to implement nuclear codes governing the safety of mining and the transport of uranium. It also requires the States to administer those codes successfully and properly. Clause 1 1 to which I am addressing myself and to which the amendment refers also states quite succinctly as the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) pointed out that if the States do not carry out their obligations the Commonwealth will have the power to make them do so. In other words, federal power would be implemented. Clause 13 of the original Bill provides that in the ultimate emergencyone understands that this would mean a civil disturbance of some nature but more likely it would mean the hazards arising from the mining of uranium- federal power would be invoked. Again, this covers an emergency situation. We said at that time that great dangers to civil liberties were inherent in clause 13, particularly sub-clause (5) which provides for fines not exceeding $1,000 and for imprisonment not exceeding six months for any person who refuses or fails to comply with a direction by the Minister. As was said at the time that was truly a great danger to civil liberties.
Motion (by Mr Hodges) put:
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That Senate ‘s amendments Nos1 to 5 be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
-The situation that prevailed with amendment No. 5 also prevails with respect to amendment No. 6. Under clause 13 the Government, where the provisions of nuclear codes did not cover adequately what we would like to cover- the health of the people and the environment- could move in and virtually take control. What has happened here, as happened in the case of the previous clause discussed, is that now the Federal Government no longer has that power and it is up to the States to withdraw from the arrangement. The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) said, in answering a previous question- and I assume he will use exactly the same argument here- that under the Constitution extra powers are available. If that is the case, and the Government has power to override the States, why is it now bringing in this amendment? What is the point of the exercise?
– With respect, the honourable member did not understand what I was saying.
-The Minister is quite right; I do not understand him. First, we bring in legislation to provide a national nuclear code -
– You are a slow learner.
-I will deal with the honourable member in just a moment. We say that we want to have a nuclear code drawn up and will consult the States, but if they do not accept what we provide we will still impose those powers, because we must have a national code. We also say that we are not satisfied; that the situation has got out of hand; that the Government can move in and exert its powers to force the States into Une. Having done all that and passed legislation, we then come back and say that we do not require those powers: Now we are going to hand it all back to the States for them to come up with their own individual codes; that no longer will we assert national sovereignty to achieve uniformity of agreement.
The Minister now tells us that we are going back to the situation under which, if the Federal Government wants to go in, it can still do so. What is the point of this whole exercise of nuclear code legislation? I understand that the States already have codes that cover this kind of legislation; that they did not need this Environmental Protection Act in the first place; they could have drawn it up without us. Why are we involved in this at aU?
I want to take up the point that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) made the worst contribution that in nine years I have heard from a member of parliament. First, after waffling around in an incoherent, inarticulate, incompetent way he finally came to the point where he was pulled up, and then said that he was talking about international safeguards. The honourable member for La Trobe, quite honestly, has not even read the legislation or the Minister’s second reading speech. I noticed that the Minister was embarrassed when the honourable member was speaking. At page 1296 of Hansard of 10 April 1978 the Minister is reported in this way:
Clause 8 (3) outlines the matters which may be included in codes of practice developed under this legislation.
Later on he went on to say:
I should emphasise that this legislation is concerned with the health and safety of people, and the environment, as distinct from safeguards, the purpose of which is to ensure that nuclear material in peaceful use is not diverted to nonpeaceful purposes or to nuclear weapons. It has already been explained to the House that as a result of Australia’s adherence to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, Australia has undertaken certain safeguards obligations.
This has nothing whatsoever to do with international safeguards. The honourable member for La Trobe ought to have bothered to read the
Bill before he came into the House and tried to make a contribution.
– The honourable member for Robertson is talking the greatest lot of rubbish I have ever heard.
-Why does the honourable member not read the Bill?
– I fail to understand the remarks of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) on what is a very clear and straightforward amendment. With respect to the honourable member for Robertson, it is all very well for him to criticise the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Baillieu) and accuse him of not having read the Bill. I would have thought, after reading the amendment and reading clause 13 as it was originally drafted, that the honourable member for Robertson would have welcomed the Senate’s amendment because it is fundamental and in my humble opinion once again we are seeing in this debate the clear delineation between the centralists on one side of the House and the federalists on the other.
I simply refer to clause 13 to remind the honourable member for Robertson that the right of the Governor-General only accrues when he is satisfied that the health or safety of persons or the environment is likely to be harmed by a situation resulting from nuclear activity that exists in a State or Territory, and where there is not already legislation enacted to cover the situation. He therefore gives to the Minister a power to act in an executive capacity. All the Senate’s amendment says is that the Governor-General will not do that in a State without the approval of the State Government as indicated through the State Governor. What is wrong with that?
Is the situation once again that the people on the other side of the House have come to the conclusion that the font of all wisdom is Canberra and the people of the rest of Australia are idiots who do not know how to run the country? I say with the utmost respect to the honourable member for Robertson, for whom I do have a regard, that he did himself less than justice on this occasion because I would have thought it was fundamental, if a State government was not consulted on this matter, one could have executive power at Commonwealth level used without any restraint at all. I do not believe that the honourable member for Robertson really intended that to be the event. I do not believe therefore that he intends to oppose the amendment because the amendment is frankly safe. It gives a proper basis for executive action with the check that
State governments will not be overridden by any executive person in Canberra. I believe the amendment must be supported by all those who believe in the Commonwealth of Australia, who believe in federalism, and it will be opposed by those who are determined to turn this country into a centralist republic.
-Let me return to several of the points I was making before I was so rudely guillotined several minutes ago. They are common to both clause 1 1 and clause 13 of the original Bill. As I was saying, clause 13 of the original Bill provides for the ultimate takeover of responsibilities by the Commonwealth in an emergency situation, and obviously the situations that are imagined- as far as the Government is concerned anyway- are civil disturbances or actions against the mining and transport of uranium. Also there is a possible situation that could arise regarding the development of hazards from the mining of uranium.
In any of these contingencies clause 13 provided for ultimate Federal power to be resumed. We said in the debate some two weeks ago that the greatest danger in clause 13 was to civil liberties and I have referred to sub-clause (5) of clause 13. The reasons we opposed clause 13 at the time are very clear. Firstly, there is the assault upon civil liberties, and secondly, we are utterly and completely opposed to uranium mining at this stage because there is no known way to dispose of nuclear waste, and because the safeguards- such as the international atomic energy agency safeguards that the Government is depending upon, and also bilateral agreements and signatories to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty- are just not sufficient to guarantee that Australian uranium will not be used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.
That was why we objected to the Bill. That is why we object to clause 13. Other people objected to clause 13, namely, the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, and the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer. They said at the time that their objections were based, firstly, upon the assault upon civil liberties inherent in clause 13, and secondly, because clause 13 might pave the way for an ultimate Federal direction that uranium mining may proceed in the States against the wishes of the State government that may be in power at that particular time. It was not- and this is important- because they objected to safety procedures to govern uranium mining and transport in the ultimate eventuality of that going ahead.
Obviously there would have to be safety procedures. But when we look at what has happened in these amendments- firstly, the one we have already dealt with, sub-clause (5)- does that really mean that uranium mining can still proceed if the States object and there are no safety procedures whatsoever? Is that what sub-clause (5) really means?
Does sub-clause (6) really mean that if a real nuclear hazard did develop- one could easily imagine it, I will put forward a hypothetical situation in a moment- the States could override the Commonwealth, override the wishes of the workers and order that uranium mining could go ahead and must go ahead? That is what I think it means, because sub-clause (6) provides that an order made under sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to a situation resulting from nuclear activity shall not authorise a Minister to give directions that have effect in a State or to take any action in a State unless the Governor of the State has requested the Governor-General to make an order.
To members of the Opposition that means that if the States objected to a Commonwealth direction to stop, the uranium mining could still go ahead. Is that what it really means? We think that it does and that is what we object to because this is the sort of situation that could develop at, say, Ranger It might be remembered that the Fox Inquiry was told that mill tailings, which if exposed to the atmosphere give off radon gas for a hundred thousand years, would be stored under water and Mr Justice Fox said that was no good and they should be buried in the empty mine after the uranium has been taken out, and I understand that will happen. Nevertheless, in the short term they will be ponded. What will happen in, say, an extremely wet season when flooding develops or the dam breaks down and an emergency situation develops? Suppose that such a situation developed at some new mine in the future in Queensland and a reactionary Queensland government said: ‘No, that is not serious enough to stop the mining’. Under this amendment the Queensland Government could say to the Commonwealth that the uranium mining must still proceed. What would the Minister do about that with regard to this amendment?
The members of the Opposition say that the Minister has backed down and been stood over, firstly, by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly on the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill, and secondly, he has been stood over by the States with regard to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. His legislation is in tatters. The whole parcel ought to be withdrawn, and if he is still determined to go ahead with the nefarious activity of uranium mining he should come up with something better than the ultimate result of these Senate mutilated Bills.
-I am afraid that one is in a quandary in regard to the Labor Party’s position. Previously the Opposition was asking for effective consultation. Opposition supporters only have to read the amendments that have already been dealt with to find out that consultations must take place before the establishment of nuclear codes. It is in the legislation. It has been introduced in the amendments. Following that consultation, and with the assistance of an advisory council, the Government is to establish a draft code which is to lie on the table and be looked at in this House. There will be the right of discussion in the same way that a regulation is dealt with. During the period that that is happening here in this Parliament the State governments will be considering their attitudes to the code and whether or not they will implement it. It will be for the States to determine whether they will introduce a similar code, whether they can introduce a stronger code or whether not to introduce a code.
I would like to know where in this process proper and effective provision for consultation on the protection of Australians and their health is denied. If the States are denied the capacity to make these decisions the Opposition will say that the States are irresponsible. In the view of the Opposition which State governments are irresponsible? Obviously the Opposition would say one group of State governments and obviously the Government would say another group of governments. Between us I think we would hold that they are all irresponsible. But if honourable members look at the alternative we would all say that the States are completely responsible. Which State governments does the Opposition distrust and why does it distrust them? There seems to be no valid reason for opposing the proposition that has been put by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom) because under the amendments the legislation will allow the State governments a proper exercise of some of their capacities for the protection of the Australian community.
The Commonwealth Government has the reserve powers; there is no doubt about that. The State governments felt threatened by these propositions so why not, in a sense of conciliation and true federalism, give them the opportunity to demonstrate their bona fides? If they cannot indicate to the Australian community that they are responsible and that they will seek to protect the members of their communities then it would seem to me that the reserve powers that the Commonwealth quite clearly has should be applied. That is what the Minister has said and that is what the Government has said. So I cannot see why the Opposition, in view of its previous arguments, opposes these measures. If on the other hand in fact it wishes to control the activities of the States the Opposition clearly has stated its position tonight.
-My remarks will be brief. I know that time is limited because another piece of legislation is to be brought in tonight. I just want to make it perfectly clear that the legislation clearly provides that the States will have the power of veto in respect of nuclear codes. I am concerned about the implications of the nuclear codes. I read from the document on nuclear activities when we dealt with an earlier amendment. It is quite clear that the States can do anything with the uranium. They can store it, mill it, refine it or do anything at all with it under this legislation. This is the disturbing factor. I am aware of the reserve powers of the Commonwealth in regard to customs and exports but there are great implications involved. In the third recommendation of the first Fox report it was stated that the nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry yet this Government is giving authority to the States to have control over uranium.
The other point that I want to make quite clear is the Labor Party’s position on this piece of legislation. We decided as a party to oppose the motion that the Bill be read a second time. We moved certain amendments. The original Bill was much more beneficial to this country than it will be with the amendments which are being forced on the Government by the reactionary elements in the Northern Territory and some of the States. The Opposition will vote against the Bill at the third reading stage because its clearly stated policy is as follows:
Labor believes that having regard to the present unresolved economic, social, biological, genetic, environmental and technical problems associated with the mining of uranium and the development of nuclear power . . .
Labor declares a moratorium on uranium mining and treatment in Australia,
Labor will repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor Government to the mining, processing or export of Australia’s uranium, and
Labor will not permit the mining, processing or export of uranium pursuant to agreements entered into contrary to ALP policy.
– It has been suggested by some honourable members on the Government side of the chamber that the Opposition is being inconsistent. I would like to recall something that I said in the previous debate on this matter. I was arguing for consultation with the States on the ground that they deserve to be listened to. I was not saying that the Government has to do what they say. Consultation simply suggested that their arguments ought to be listened to and the evidence put to us was that that had not been the case. I said that if the Government were honest in its proclaimed view- that is, of supporting States’ rights- it would postpone this legislation while it had the discussions that have been sought. I then said that the Government may proceed to enact exactly the same legislation. On balance and looking at the amendments, I think that the original legislation is far superior to that which the Government is now proposing. On the amendments that it has accepted thus far, if the States do not agree with the Government on the nuclear codes, it is conceding their right to have what may be in the Government’s eyes inadequate codes. That is what I think is implied in the previous amendments.
In this last amendment we are dealing with the question of the health or safety of persons or the environment. If the Governor-General thinks that they may be harmed due to some nuclear activity and if he thinks that the laws of the Commonwealth, other than as provided in this clause, and the laws of the State or Territory do not make provision for protecting the health or safety of persons or the environment, under the original legislation he could require certain regulations, but under this amendment the States will be allowed to slip out from under. If a State does not ask for it, the Governor-General- even though he is afraid and even though he feels that the powers of the Commonwealth and of the States are inadequate- can whistle. If the States do not agree, he cannot do anything about it. I think that, from its own point of view, the Government is being less than sensible, because whatever the State governments might think, if the Governor-General- clearly on the advice of his advisers, namely, the Cabinet or the Ministersfeels that there is a dangerous situation, if a State Governor declines to request appropriate action and therefore the Government does nothing and if something harmful then occurs the Government will get the blame, not the States. The Government is creating a rod with which the community can beat its back. For that reason it strikes me that the amendment is quite illogical.
In the original legislation it is made quite clear that if the Governor-General is satisfied- in other words, if he agrees with the codes laid down by the States as well as the Commonwealthno action will be taken. So he will act only if the Government feels uncertain. Yet, feeling uncertain, the Government is now taking away the power, or is it? Is it suggesting some hidden power that it has not exposed to us at this stage?
– I want to deal briefly with some of the points that have been raised by speakers on the Government side of the chamber. It seems to me to be a very odd situation that when this Bill was introduced into this chamber- presumably it had been discussed in the party room of the Liberal Party and had received approval- what the Government was contemplating and endorsing in principle and what every honourable member on that side of the chamber voted for was a Bill which not merely gave the Commonwealth the right to prepare and develop nuclear codes but gave it that right exclusively. All the Minister had to do was to produce a code, see that a copy of the code got to a State Minister and then, acting on his own initiative, create an opportunity to consult. Then the Commonwealth code occupied the field. That was the principle endorsed by every honourable member opposite; that was the principle for which they voted in this Parliament.
The Opposition moved an amendment to the legislation on three grounds. First of all we said- I do not want to read the entire amendmentthat the Minister and the Government should not proceed with the Bill until such time as they had consultation with, and provided all necessary material relevant to, the Ministers of all the States and the Northern Territory. We also asked the chamber to endorse a proposal that until such time as the States were satisfied on the hazards and dangers associated with uranium mining and nuclear activities the Commonwealth could not compel any State to mine. Was that a centralist position? Of course it was not. However, every supporter of the Government, including the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Groom), voted for the legislation in its original form which was one of the most centralist pieces of legislation ever to come through this Parliament.
What has occurred to cause the Minister, the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and other Government speakers to change their minds? What has caused them to change their minds has been the view unanimously taken by all the States, irrespective of their political differences, that this legislation involved a gross interference with their sovereignty. The way in which the legislation was drafted proves that fact. That was the point we indicated to the Government. For the Minister to say that the Government has now brought in some amendments and it is now really all right avoids the real point. We say that there ought to be real and effective consultation because we believe that the Commonwealth has the major duty in this matter and ought to be the paramount authority in drafting nuclear codes. The opportunity to consult and the responsibility to confer does not mean the total abrogation of Commonwealth responsibility in this matter. That of course is what has occurred. If one looks specifically at the amendment, one sees that the operation of any code propounded by the Commonwealth can take effect only if the State asks for it.
Let me make my position clear. I adopt the arguments put by my colleagues: Like many thousands of Australians I believe that there are grave dangers and problems, not merely national but also international, in the mining of uranium. Putting that to one side, at least we could agree that if uranium is to be mined the best possible codes governing the safety and welfare of workers in the industry ought to be produced.
The amendment before the Committee virtually says that the responsibility for formulating a nuclear code will really rest with the States. The States are all in competition with each other in terms of attracting industry to their areas. They are all in competition in seeking overseas finance and overseas companies. Is it not a fact that a large company which wields tremendous influence and resources can say to a State: ‘Of course we will come in and do something, but we are not too happy about the standards of your nuclear code. We think you should not have too high a standard’? Does anyone seriously believe that that sort of conversation will not take place? One has to look only at the history of Rum Jungle and the despoliation that has taken place in the environment there. It is interesting to note that the submissions made by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and by the mining interests to the Fox Commission as to what they regarded as proper safeguards were rejected by the Commission.
The problem which the Government is creating for itself in its determination to go ahead and to get mining under way before the wet season sets in, irrespective of the hazards and irrespective of the problems which that can create for Australia, is such that it is now prepared to throw away any responsibility in terms of operating as a paramount power in the formulation of a nuclear code. Historically we have seen the intransigence of the Queensland Government on a simple issue, such as that of Aboriginal land claims. Does the Minister really believe- I do not believe it for one momentthat, given the history of that State, it is going to say simply: ‘Yes, we will accept what the Commonwealth gives us by way of a nuclear code’? The Queensland Government will make its own deals with the mining industry. The Commonwealth Government is adopting a standard by which it says: ‘The States will have the say and we will get into the exercise if they allow us to do so’. In my view, that is completely unsatisfactory.
That Senate’s amendment No. 6 be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Adoption of Report
Motion (by Mr Groom) put:
That the report be adopted.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– In the absence of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) who represents the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in this place I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard for the information of honourable members a copy of the statement made tonight by the Attorney-General in the other place regarding the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral Redistribution of Queensland in 1977.
-Is leave granted?
- Mr Speaker, leave is granted on the basis that I be given leave to make a short statement on the same matter.
– I cannot accept the granting of conditional leave. Is leave granted?
The statement read as follows-
Mr President, I inform the Senate that on the recommendation of the Government, His Excellency, the Governor-General has further extended the terms of reference of the Royal Commission inquiring into the electoral redistribution of Queensland in 1977 to allow Mr Justice
McGregor to make findings on whether any breach of a law of the Commonwealth or any impropriety occurred on the part of any person in the course of the redistribution in 1977 of that part of Queensland encompassed within the division of McPherson as it was before the 1977 redistribution took effect. The Government took this action after advice from me and with the concurrence of Mr Justice McGregor.
The view that I took was that, although the royal commissioner under his terms of reference as they were before this variation might hear evidence about the conduct of a number of persons, he was restricted by those terms of reference to making findings only about the conduct of Mr Robinson and the distribution commissioners. It was to ensure that Mr Justice McGregor was able to make findings in the light of the evidence, about the conduct of any person that the Government has taken the action that it has to have the terms of reference of the Royal Commission widened. Mr President, for the information of honourable senators I table the further terms of reference.
-Mr Speaker, I seek leave to make a short statement on the same matter.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Speaker, I require that the motion be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) We thank the Government for the statement. It clearly indicates that this is the second occasion on which it has had to extend the terms of reference of the Royal Commission. On this occasion the terms of reference relate to whether there has been any breach of the law of the Commonwealth or any impropriety by reason of anything said or action taken by or on behalf of any person. That is a pretty wide term of reference and we understand that it should be allembracing. The fact that has not been mentioned to the Parliament is whether the Parliament was misled by a Minister. We say that that was the situation. That is completely different to the terms of reference. The Opposition wants to put its position very firmly to the Government. Anybody who misleads Parliament should not remain in Cabinet and should not remain in ministerial office. The evidence of that is within the Hansard record itself. As has now been pointed out, on 4 November last year the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said that he did not have any conversations with anybody. As recently as last Friday he said: ‘I could have misled the Parliament on that occasion’. The matter is quite serious because it relates to the electoral redistribution and there are provisions which say there should be no influence on Distribution Commissioners. We find it very hard to believe that the Minister could have been so unmindful of what he had done. It is very clear from the evidence which has now been given that the Minister spoke to Mr Pearson on two occasions.
-Order! I interrupt the honourable gentleman to say that a Royal Commission is in course. The sub judice rules adopted by the Parliament and by myself are such that I do not believe that the national Parliament should be deprived of the opportunity of debating any major national matter. However, before the honourable gentleman proceeds further with what he proposes to say I indicate to him that in my view if he wishes to say that evidence ABC has been given he is free to do so. The Royal Commissioner would listen to the evidence and make his judgment on the evidence and not on what the honourable gentleman says the evidence was. But I regard it as going beyond the bounds of our sub judice rules if the honourable gentleman puts any construction on the matter for the simple reason that if the Royal Commissioner in fact concluded in a way which was consistent with the honourable gentleman ‘s construction it may appear that the Commissioner was influenced, whereas in fact he would not have been. So I ask the honourable gentleman not to put constructions on the matter.
-There will not be any constructions put on the matter, Mr Speaker. I emphasise again that on 4 November last in the Senate the Minister said:
I have never telephoned Mr Coleman about the naming of electorates.
I have been asked why the names were changed. I do not know.
Last Friday in the Senate the Minister said in answer to a question: ‘I may have misled the Parliament’.
-He said inadvertently -
– Do not leave that out.
– The honourable member is desperate to protect somebody.
– Report him accurately.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN So that we can overcome the interjections I advert to the fact that at the Royal Commission- I make no construction on the evidence- the Minister said that he telephoned Mr Pearson on one occasion. Mr Pearson said that he telephoned him on two occasions. When the Minister was asked to refresh his memory he said that it could have been two occasions. I do not put any construction on that except to say that it was without contest that the Minister had two conversations with Mr Pearson. Yet, on 4 November last, the Minister said virtually that he had had no conversation with anybody. That is why he said on Friday last: I may have misled the Parliament’. I am talking about ministerial responsibility and ministerial accountability to Parliament. It is as simple as that. As you know, Mr Speaker, in the time of the Labor Government any Minister deemed to have misled the Parliament was removed from Cabinet. We are asking that the same principle be applied here and that, just as was done with the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), the Minister for Administrative Services should be suspended from his position. It is only the truth and integrity that we are trying to seek. On 2 1 April the Minister for Administrative Services wrote to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), his colleague, and said:
I did not at any time discuss the naming of any Division with any of the Queensland Distribution Commissioners.
That is drawing a very long bow indeed because the Minister has admitted on two occasions that he spoke to Distribution Commissioner Mr Pearson suggesting that the Commissioners take note of what he was saying, namely, that there should be a change in the name of the electorate Gold Coast’. That amounts to a fact, that there was interference with the duties of a distribution commissioner.
– That is a matter of construction.
– It amounts also to the fact that this Parliament was misled. There was a reason for not telling the truth to the Parliament. The Minister could have said: ‘Yes, I did telephone Mr Pearson’ and that would have been an honest response. But for him to say ‘I did not do it’ misled the Parliament into believing that the Minister had not in any way interfered when he had, by virtue of what transpired in the telephone conversation.
It is for that reason that the Opposition regards this as a most serious offence. When Ministers are asked questions they should be able to answer them honestly and if they cannot answer them at all they should clearly indicate the position. But to mislead the Parliament -
-Order! The honourable gentleman knows that except on a substantive motion he must not attack the character of a member or senator. The honourable gentleman is making an assertion that there was a misleading of the Parliament. That is not established and can be established only by way of substantive motion. I ask the honourable gentleman to desist from that line.
-I will desist from it but I draw your attention to the fact that in the Senate last Friday when the Minister was asked did he mislead the Senate, he answered: ‘I may have done’. The question for the Parliament and the Prime Minister to answer is why should the Minister for Administrative Services be allowed to stay in ministerial office when another Minister has been suspended and when there is this statement by the Minister for Administrative Services, supported by a letter of 21 April to the Attorney-General saying that at no time did he discuss these matters. We say that that is a dishonest statement.
-The honourable gentleman is not entitled to make that assertion except on substantive motion.
– Then I say that it is a statement not in accordance with the facts as we now know them and. the facts as the Minister knew them all the time.
– That is not a statement of the facts as you know them. You read that letter again.
-I have read the letter. It reads:
I did not at any time discuss the naming of any Division with any Queensland Distribution Commissioners.
– That is not all that it says.
-It says a lot of other things but I did not want to pursue them. Mr Speaker, I am being subjected to a fair amount of cross examination at the moment, but the issue concerns what a Minister said in the Parliament. The question is one of ministerial responsibility. The question is -
-Order! The honourable will resume his seat. This is not a court and I ask him not to assume that it is. If he wishes to put an argument then he is entitled to do so but I ask him not to draw conclusions in relation to the matter because it is a sub judice issue.
– This is not a court but it is a Parliament where there are rules for the conduct of Ministers and there is a Westminster tradition as to what happens if a Minister transgresses those rules. My submission on behalf of the Opposition is that these rules have been transgressed more than once on the facts already known. It is the duty of an opposition to raise in the Parliament matters which it thinks is of national concern. As you know, Mr Speaker, this matter could be of the gravest national concern. I say no more than that. If the Minister had been able to say what was the true position when he was asked the question we would not be raising this matter now.
When a Minister is unable to give a truthful answer we are duty bound to raise the matter. Having raised the matter, I say that the question does not relate to what fines or penalty should be imposed on the Minister but to the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Government in respect of that Minister. The Minister should be removed from office. If the Minister for Finance was suspended from duty, whether he did anything to warrant that action, it follows of course that this Minister should be suspended also. We welcome the statement made by leave in this House that the terms of reference of the inquiry will be widened, but added to the statement should have been the announcement that the Minister for Administrative Services was suspended from his duties because of information he had given to this Parliament over many months by way of answers to questions. This should have been done irrespective of the terms of the inquiry. That is what the Opposition asks. That is what public interest demands. That is what preservation of the integrity of a parliament requires. It is in accordance with the precedent, as I say, of ministerial responsibility.
Wartime Executions in New Guinea- The Parliament- Military Build-up by Soviet Russia- Vietnamese Refugees- Tasmania- Medibank
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-Last week my colleague, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), came under rather heavy and inaccurate fire from the honourable member for St
George (Mr Neil) when he referred to the execution in Papua New Guinea of Papua New Guinean natives. Because the honourable member for Lalor has come under fire for raising the matter, I thought it would be useful if I reminded the House of the actual atmosphere of the time, of the dreadful atrocities of which the Japanese had been guilty and of the crimes that in fact were committed by the people of Papua New Guinea, many of whom were arrested and tried.
The issue which the honourable member has raised has two points. The first relates to whether anybody was authorised to carry out such executions and the second concerns what happened to the records. We should ensure that such events never occur again. Australia had had no experience as an occupying power. I think the honourable member for Lalor has brought forward this matter as a public duty. We should remember that these events occur no matter how well organised we are. Sir Edmund Herring of course has an extraordinarily high reputation in Australia as a jurist and a soldier. I regard him as a conservative jurist. I would consider that when he confirmed these executions he did it, as he thought, in his sense of duty. I believe a grievous error was committed by the armed forces at the time- this is not a reflection on the Army as such- inasmuch as it failed to observe the requirements of the Australian system that such punishment should not be carried out by administrative decree. It should have been, of course, confirmed by the Governor-General. Nobody of course is sure under what authority the armed forces were operating at the time. If it were the Defence Act and the procedures or a court martial were used, the people involved failed to carry out the correct procedures. Section 98 of the Defence Act provides:
No member of the Defence Force shall be sentenced to death by any court-martial except for mutiny, desertion to the enemy, or traitorously delivering up to the enemy any garrison-
The section goes on to list other factors and then states: . . and no sentence of death passed by any courtmartial shall be carried into effect until confirmed by the Governor-General.
My reading of that Act is that it is probable that at that stage the people involved presumed that the people of Papua New Guinea were subject to the Defence Act and subject to military authority. I am not quite certain of the actual proceedings of the time. This section supports what has been said by my colleague the honourable member for Lalor. The section I have read was brought in in 1939, so it was valid in the 1940s. Section 99, which was an amendment to the Act in 1934, provides:
The proceedings of a court-martial shall after promulgation be forwarded to the Minister for transmission to the Attorney-General for record.
I raise this matter because my colleague the honourable member for Lalor has come under heavy fire in this matter. I do not mind the honourable member for St George raising the matter. I think that he ought to remember that there are two sorts of facts; there are facts and there are Australian reports. The honourable member should be careful when he uses newspaper reports, particularly against one of our own colleagues. I say to those on the other side of the House who have been attacking my friend, the honourable member for Lalor, that these days people have forgotten what the atmosphere was at that time. The war in Papua New Guinea, as in the other islands, was carried out with a ferocity that would not be found on most of the battle fields during the Second World War. No quarter was given and none was asked. These days it is very difficult for us to remember what the atmosphere was.
I wish to raise one other matter tonight. Last night in this Parliament the honourable memberfor Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) gagged me twice in a discussion during the Committee stage of the Housing Assistance Bill. I think once might have been fair enough, lt seemed to me that the second time it was carried out just as an act of spite. When I rose during the adjournment debate to raise the matter I was gagged by the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), who thought I was a shareholder at one of his company meetings. When we called for a division we were ignored by the honourable member for Wide Bay (Mr Millar) who was in the Chair at the time as the Deputy Speaker. That is no way in which to behave in this place. There was a clear call for a division from this side of the House but the honourable member for Wide Bay chose to ignore it. So there are three issues: The way in which the honourable member for Bendigo usurped the authority of this House; the way in which the Leader of the House treated us; the way in which the honourable member for Wide Bay carried out his duties. This is no way in which to behave in a parliament of free people where minorities have rights like anybody else.
-Order! It is not the honourable gentleman’s night tonight either. His time has expired.
-Let there be no doubt in the mind of any person in the Australian nation today that the greatest threat to world peace is the ominously developing military build-up of Soviet Russia. Nowhere is this more starkly evident than in the continent of Africa. I fear Soviet Russia and so should every Australian who cherishes our basic freedoms, our way of life and indeed the very integrity of the Austraiian nation.
Russia ‘s militaristic expansionism which in the past has been sometimes clandestine and otherwise clumsily concealed is now blatant and arrogant. This nation and most of the free world sleeps and slumbers in blissful apathy while foul deeds are done only a few hours away from our shores. It makes no difference to me whether or not the Russians choose to act in their own right or through surrogates like Cuba and East Germany. Let Australians wake up and know the facts. The brutal military aggression, genocide, murder, rape, looting and devastation of property in no less than five out of seven military conflicts in Africa today have been inspired, master-minded and executed at the direct behest of the Kremlin. Soviet Russia bears an awful responsibility to humanity for what it has done and is continuing to do on the African continent. Its greatest international crime has been to molest the infant democracies in that continent as they struggle towards maturity. Russia, the great per.verter of freedom and truth, looks with lustful eyes at the virgin treasures of these under-age but nevertheless sovereign States. But even then, like the traditional corrupter of youth, it cannot resist the use of surrogates to perpetrate some of its more disreputable outrages.
No one can be really surprised at the atrocities in Kolwezi and Zaire of last week. We have seen them coming for months, if not years. Only five weeks ago, Norman Kirkhan, in a report in the London Daily Telegraph- A report never contradicted by Russia- revealed, not for the first time I believe, but for the third time, that the Soviet Union had set up a guerrilla training camp in Angola. The article is worth recalling at this point. It reads:
The Soviet Union has reportedly set up a secret training camp in Angola for 25,000 African guerrillas who will form armies to attack Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Zaire and Namibia.
Teams of Soviet and Cuban advisers have moved into Missao de Boma, in south-eastern Angola, to instruct the men in the use of field guns, surface to air missiles, rocket launchers and other heavy equipment.
The pupils are members of Mr Joshua Nkomo ‘s faction of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), the Southwest African Peoples Organisation (SWAPO) in Namibia and also include units of the Katanganese rebels who attacked the Shaba province of Zaire last year.
On 6 April in this House I predicted that the order of attack would be Zaire, Namibia and Zimbabwe. I stick to that prediction. For how much longer can the Australian nation ignore the statement by our own Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) that in 1 977 Soviet defence spending exceeded that of the United States of America by about 25 per cent. The Minister went on in his statement of 9 May to say:
While we do not discount the real defence needs of the Soviet Union, we cannot fail to be concerned at the apparent Soviet military build-up.
On page 23 of the statement the Minister went a little further. I shall quote from the statement because I believe this passage sums up the remarks I make tonight. Talking about activities in the Horn of Africa, Mr Peacock went on to say:
There has been a large build-up of Soviet and Cuban military equipment and personnel which has clear implications for the balance of forces in the region. It is regrettable, to say the least, that this build-up is taking place while the Soviet Union is engaged with the United States in substantive negotiations on arms control in the Indian Ocean. Now that Somali Government forces have withdrawn from Ethiopia the continuing presence of Soviet and Cuban military personnel can only hamper the search for peace, and we look to their withdrawal.
It is complete and utter hypocrisy for Soviet Russia to approach the pending disarmament talks and at the same time continue the military build-up which has now reached such proportions in Africa that Australia might very well find that the entire western seaboard of the Indian Ocean is under strategic Russian control within the next two or three years. People who talk about the Indian Ocean being a zone of peace in that situation with Russia in control of the western seaboard, ought to take the psychiatric advice which is available to them under Medibank. Let there be no doubt that Russia poses today the greatest threat to the peace of the world and unless it is stopped we will be at war.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to express my concern, which is shared by many millions of Australian people, about the number of Vietnamese who are invading our shoreline and about the Government’s failure to do anything to prevent it. If these people were genuine refugees one would feel sorry for them and would want something to be done to help them. But the vast majority of them are not genuine refugees. They are people who have chosen voluntarily to leave their own country, in some cases by hijacking vessels to do so. Many of them are very wealthy. Many of them have come to Australia with bars of gold.
An officer of the Bank of New South Wales in Adelaide told me that many of them who have arrived in Adelaide have come to the bank with bars of gold for sale. He or his staff have been required to tell them where they could sell them to a gold dealer. Others have come into the country with many tens of thousands of dollars worth pf diamonds.
These are rich people who have been racketeers, drug peddlars and, in some cases, prostitutes in their own country and who have not found it possible to fit in with the new lifestyle. It is not good enough; it does not fit the definition of refugee, for a person in Chile, Bangladesh, India, Malaya, Singapore, the Philippines or Indonesia to say that he would be four times better off in Australia on the unemployment benefit than he is in his own country, unemployed or even working for six or seven days a week, and therefore he will get into a boat to go to Australia and help himself to the social service benefits of the Australian taxpayer. That is what is happening in relation to the Vietnamese.
The other feature of the situation that worries me is that I am certain- the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has not told me this but I am certain for reasons which I cannot disclose- that the action of the government does not have the support of the Department. I do not believe it has the support even of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). It is a decision that is being imposed upon both the Minister and the Department.
I turn now to the question of disease, leaving aside the fact that these people are not refugees in the true sense. It has now been brought to my notice that some of them are riddled with a form of venereal disease that cannot be cured, that is resistant to all known antibiotics. It is a form of VD which is not only gonococcal but also nongonococcal in nature. There is no known cure for it. It is a virulent disease, it is highly infectious. Although people will say that there has been evidence in Australia for several years of the disease from Saigon known as Saigon Rose the fact remains that another one is now being brought into the country, allegedly via the so-called refugees. A young man who contracted it and has not been able to cure himself of it attempted to commit suicide not very many days ago because of the disgrace and because he sees himself condemned for life.
What is the Government doing to stop this? The Government ought to put these refugees in quarantine for at least six weeks- it cannot be done any quicker- until it can guarantee that they are not suffering from this incurable venereal disease. If they are found to be suffering they ought to be sent back. Never mind about the niceties of sending people back to somewhere they do not like. There would not be a person in the whole of South East Asia who would not come here and finally force himself on us if we did not make it clear that we are flat out trying to look after our own people.
– It is a bit rough to be shot for having venereal disease.
-The honourable member says that it is a bit rough to be shot for having venereal disease.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last week I spoke about the difficulties that Tasmania is encountering. I talked about the parochial attitudes that are killing the State. The north, the north-west and the south of the State are continually fighting against each other. I believe it is to the detriment of Tasmania.
– You are parochial.
-No, I am not parochial. I beg your pardon, I am parochial. I have spoken of this matter several times. It has even entered the field of football. To think that Canberra beat Tasmania by four points! An ordinary team from the south of the mainland can beat Canberra at any given time. The fact that we are fighting against each other is having a detrimental effect on the economy of Tasmania.
– And its football.
– Yes, and its football. I have mentioned the difficulties that the State Government has had in trying to bring the Tiger line into operation. In the long term it will be beneficial to Tasmania. Now a stupid argument is raging about whether Launceston should have a casino. The people of Launceston are saying: Do not bring the casino up to us. It will cause all the moral troubles in the world. ‘ They are saying that it will do this and that. Honourable members from Tasmania come to Canberra and continually fight for the economy of Tasmania.
We say that we need industries in Tasmania. I am saying very concisely that we need another casino in Tasmania to assist what will be our best industry, the tourist industry. Many other industries are leaving Tasmania. Although there is beauty in Tasmania, the people who come to Tasmania want a little more than beauty. They want night life. They want to have the best of two worlds. They can get the best of two worlds in Tasmania. They can have the old world which I hope will be promoted by the State Government and the Federal Government -
– And Federal Hotels.
-Forget about Federal Hotels. I do not care who builds the casino as long as the private sector builds it and as long as it will bring people to Tasmania to assist all the ailing industries. Hopefully it will create what we would like to see in Tasmania in the future.
I ask my good friend the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) whether he read an article headed ‘Tasmania will be better in Canada’. I very rarely say anything about the Premier of Tasmania, but it is an absolute disgrace to think that the Premier should go to the other side of the world and then start knocking the Federal Government. We are loyal Tasmanians first of all but we are also loyal Australians. We will stand by that. It is absolutely appalling that the Premier of the State has gone across to the other side of the world and made this statement. I hope that every good Tasmanian will remember that when the Premier returns to Tasmania.
– I want to draw the attention of the House to a sentence in the speech of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) of a week ago in which he announced without any justification that bulk billing would be abolished and I want to point to the answer to a question which I received yesterday -
-Order! I am afraid that we will have to wait until another day for the answer. It being 11 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
am asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
What progress has his Department made with the proposed directory of support services for women (Hansard, 8 September 1976, page 789; 6 October 1976, page 1613 and 24 May 1 977, page 1 774).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows
I am concerned that a wide range of information services should be available to women. Consistent with this view I have proposed that the Officer of Women’s Affairs should have a shop-front which would provide easy access to such information.
I have been advised by the Minister for Social Security that her Department has no plans to publish a separate directory of support services for women. The Department of Social Security produces numerous leaflets for the public on the services it provides.
My own Department is currently considering the feasibility of producing a directory of services for women and I expect to receive a report on this matter at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 8 March 1 978:
What sum was paid by the Department of Administrative Services, or by Departments formerly encompassing the functions now performed by the Department of Administrative Services, to each airline for air travel within Australia during 1976-77.
– The Minister for Administrative Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Payments in 1976-77 as shown in the accounting records of my Department were:
The amounts shown comprise expenditure from appropriations under the control of the Department of Administrative Services with the exception of the National Library of Australia.
The amounts shown include freight charges. These costs, which cannot readily be separated from fares, represent only a small proportion of the total payments.
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 8 March 1 978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There has been no substantial change in the details provided by the then Treasurer in response to the honourable member’s question (No. 1349) asked in the Thirtieth Parliament (Hansard, 8 November 1 977, pages 3 1 66-9 ).
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 4 April 1978:
What sums were paid under the Special Youth Employment Training Program (SYETP) and under the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full-time Training Scheme (CRAFT) in the Electoral Division of Calare during (a) 1976-77 and (b) the period 1 July 1977 to date.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The information requested is not available because statistics collected relate to Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) Office areas or, as in the case of expenditure on manpower programs, to regions, neither of which correspond with electoral divisions.
In view of the volume of requests and the time involved in extracting and preparing such information as is available, I have arranged for local offices of the CES, when requested by a member of parliament, to provide any readily available raw data which may be relevant to the question.
Public Servants and Service Personnel: Employment after Retirement (Question No. 765)
am asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 4 April 1 978:
Has he now examined the Scott Committee’s recommendations in May 1974 on the practice to be followed where public servants and military officers resign to take employment with Government suppliers (Hansard, 15 March 1978, page 738 ); if so, with what result.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to my answer of 2 May 1978 (Hansard, page 1678).
In that answer I pointed out that recommendations of the Scott Committee relating to suggested roles for the Purchasing Commission proposed by the Committee, had lapsed because such a Commission had not been established. I should not, however, wish it to be construed from thai observation that the Government has put aside all consideration of the Scott Committee’s recommendation. Examination of them has continued and in fact action has been taken to implement, wholly or in part, many of the recommendations. A number of others are still under consideration.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 5 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) The information is not available because statistics collected relate to Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) Office areas or, as in the case of expenditure on manpower programs, to regions, neither of which correspond with electoral divisions. Because of the volume of similar requests and the time involved in extracting and preparing such information I have arranged for local offices of the CES, when requested by a member of parliament, to provide any readily available raw data which may be relevant to the question.
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 7 April 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 5 May 1978:
How many working days were lost due to strikes in (a) 1976 and (b) 1977, and what was the estimated loss in wages.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The figures requested are shown in the following table:
As the official statistics only include workers directly involved in disputes and workers indirectly involved who are thrown out of work at the establishments where the stoppages occurred, the figures for 1977 do not include an estimated 2. 1 million days lost by workers stood down because of the electricity supply dispute.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 8 May 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Phillip Adams ‘ Comments ‘. I relied on it as being an accurate statement of his views. It was forwarded to me by the Australian Film Commission. The Chairman of the Commission informs me that the document was prepared by Mr Timothy Read, Head of Production of Film Australia, following a telephone conversation which he had with Mr Phillip Adams. The Chairman also assures me that Mr Read took lengthy notes of the conversation and that the document supplied to me accurately records the views expressed, and statements made to Mr Read, by Mr Adams.
Tax Sharing: Stage II Arrangements (Question No. 1077)
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 8 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I would point out that the Acting Premier conveniently forgets that Stage II will also enable a State to reduce the tax paid by its residents, which some Premiers continue to say is necessary. The Commonwealth has, of course, already honoured its election promise to reduce personal income tax.
asked the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 10 May 1978:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament (Question No. 1163)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 10 May 1978:
What steps have been taken to negotiate extension of (a) the Antarctic denuclearised zone and (b) the denuclearised zone in outer space.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Participation in International Agreements on Hijacking and Piracy (Question No. 1 166)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 1 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
1 ) The term ‘hijacking’ has no particular meaning in international law, although it is generally used to refer to unlawful interference with aircraft (as distinct from ships). Australia is a party to the following international conventions which deal, among other things, with ‘ hijacking ‘;
Australia is also a party to the 1958 Convention on the High Seas. Article 14 of that Convention requires States party to the Convention to co-operate to the fullest possible extent in the repression of piracy on the high seas or in any other place outside the jurisdiction of any State. The expression ‘piracy’ is defined in Article 15 and it covers both ships and aircraft.
Special Session of the General Assembly on Disarmament (Question No. 1177)
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 1 1 May 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Hon. Andrew Peacock, M.P., Minister for Foreign Affairs (Chairman of the Delegation)
H.E. Mr R. L. Harry, C.B.E., Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
H.E. The Hon. Mr Justice R. W. Fox, Australian Ambassador-at-large for Non-Proliferation and Safeguards
Mr J. A. Benson, Department of Foreign Affairs
Mr R. K. Thomas, Department of Defence
Mr A. R. Oxley, Australian Mission to the United Nations, New York
Mr L. A. Rowe, Australian Embassy, Lisbon
Ms M. S. Wickes, Australian Permanent Mission to the United Nations, Geneva.
Mr J. Ridley, Senior Private Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs
Ms D. J. Giles, Australian Mission to the United Nations, New York
Ms A. Darvall, Personal Assistant to H.E. the Hon. Mr Justice Fox. (2)I have met on several occasions with representatives of non-governmental organisations interested in disarmament and in the Special Session in particular. I have also replied in detail to a large volume of correspondence from both nongovernmental organisations and individuals expressing views and seeking information about Australia’s attitudes and approach to the Special Session.
asked the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice, on 23 May 1978:
When has he travelled overseas by aeroplane since 1 1 November 1975 (Question No. 1020, Hansard, 11 May 1978, page 2320).
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Once, in March 1977.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1978/19780530_reps_31_hor109/>.