31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2.15 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 the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the provision of payments for abortion through items of the Medical Benefits Schedule is an unacceptable endorsement of abortion which has now reached the levels of a national tragedy, with at least 60,000 unborn babies being killed in 1977.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable Members should:
Amend the Medical Benefits Schedule so as to preclude the payment of any benefit for abortion.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Anthony, Mr Birney, Mr Cadman, Mr Dobie, Dr Edwards, Mr Ellicott, Mr Keating, Mr MacKellar, Mr Martin, Mr Neil, Mr Ruddock, Mr Sainsbury and Mr Stewart.
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 restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments “that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate” is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in d uty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lynch, Mr Adermann, Mr Birney, Mr Lionel Bowen, Mr Fry, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Millar, Mr Ian Robinson, Mr Ruddock and Mr Sainsbury.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the Government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dobie, Mr Drummond and Mr Martyr.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:The humble petition of electors of the State of NSW respectfully showeth:
That compensation benefits payable to injured Australian Government employees and Defence Forces personnel under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act 197 1 should be increased as a matter of urgency in view of the financial plight of recipients, particularly those suffering long term incapacity and because of the significant increase in the cost of living which has occurred since compensation payments were last adjusted; and
That statutory provision should be made for the automatic adjustment of compensation benefits.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lionel Bowen and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth-
That because this budget will further increase the number of persons unemployed, because it reduces the average worker’s spending power by $ 10 per week, because it will reduce the income of pensioners, because it is unfair in placing a greater burden on the poor rather than the rich, and because it is driving this country into a depression.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that
The Federal Government withdraws this budget and provides Australia, within this session of Parliament, with a revised budget that increases the level of economic activity in Australia, lowers unemployment, removes the burdens placed on the disadvantaged, and revives business and consumer confidence in the future of this potentially great country.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The undersigned citizens of Australia humbly pray that you reject the motion to be moved by Stephen Lusher MHR which proposes: to remove items from the standard medical benefits table which currently permit medical benefits for abortion and to cease the funding of medical benefits schemes through which claims for termination of pregnancies can be made.
Your petitioners humbly pray that you support: a woman’s right to choose abortion as a claimable item under all health benefits schemes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Falconer and Mr Hunt.
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 the decision of the Australian Government to depart from its 1975 election promise, a promise re-affirmed during the 1977 election campaign, that pensions would be increased twice-yearly in line with increases in the CPI, will seriously add to the economic burdens now borne by those citizens who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pensions.
Your petitioners are impelled by this fact to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decision, and to determine:
That pensions will be increased twice yearly in line with rises in the CPI as promised by the Prime Minister in 1975 policy speech.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Peter Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of we the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: We the undersigned wish to lodge our disapproval of the pension being adjusted each 12 months and request same be adjusted each 6 months.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the pensions will be increased twice yearly in line with rises in the CPI.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Eric Robinson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of J. C. Ward, K. O’Day, Maxwell-Witherow & Co. respectfully showeth:
That current requirements of the Commissioner of Taxation for the lodgement of Income Tax Returns by Registered Tax Agents restricts the trading of such agents to a period of 8 months in any fiscal year. The demands by the Commissioner for lodgement of Income Tax Returns before the 28 February following the tax year is an imposition and restriction, limiting the trading from twelve to eight months.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the law should be amended to permit any registered tax agent to trade for a full year and lodge income tax returns to the close of the respective tax year.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That as parents of children in government schools we maintain that it is the responsibility of governments to provide and maintain a public system of education of the highest standard open to all.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the members of this house assembled ensure that the Commonwealth Government maintain a broadly representative Australian Schools Commission to determine;
National priorities in education strategies and allocation of funds to ensure equality of educational opportunity for all children allocation of funds for the continued improvement of public systems of education through General Recurrent and Capital Grants to Government school systems and Special Purpose Programs.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Birney.
To the Speaker and the members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled we the undersigned humbly present this petition e.g. that thousands of unnecessary abortions of convenience are performed in Australia every year, we request that wilful and unnecessary expenditure of public funds, and taxpayers money should not be directed to performing these acts, and acknowledge that abortion on request denies the fundamental right to life possessed by every unborn baby.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we believe the Federal Government changes to the health insurance system are unjustified, costly and artificially bureaucratic.
The planned abolition of bulk billing will place an unnecessary burden on the poor and the disadvantaged in our community. The decision to reduce the rebate paid from 85 per cent to 75 per cent of the scheduled fee is an attack on real wages.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should reverse its decisions on these matters and develop proper consultation with the trade unions and the community.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Cass.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We citizens of the Commonwealth, employed in the small business sector of the oil industry, earnestly request our government to implement, as quickly as possible, the package of measures as announced by the government on 31st October, 1978, designed to ensure that many thousands of Australia’s small businessmen and their employees be retained in the retail oil industry.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Connolly.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This petition of citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take urgent steps to concur with the wishes of a majority of electors at every polling booth in Australia at the 1967 referendum by resumption from the States of the major traditional Aboriginal land areasand reserves and former reserves as at 3 1.3.78, to become federal Crown land pending prompt determination of freehold title for Land Trusts and eventually for defined community co-operatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Government cut-backs in staff at the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the decision not to re-appoint a Staff Representative to the Commission is having a serious and adverse effect on Staff morale and the quality of the service to the disadvantage of the Australian Community.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that adequate funding be restored to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and that the position of Staff-appointed Commissioner be reinstated.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
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 say we are concerned about the deteriorating standards of ABC radio and television programs.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament take immediate steps to appoint an independent inquiry into the ABC which:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Keating.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That citizens in rural areas are strongly opposed to the automation of manually operated telephone exchanges which is resulting in loss of employment for telephone operators in difficult economic times and the unnecessary loss of an efficient, personalised telephone service which has proven to be eminently suited to the needs of rural telephone subscribers.
We the undersigned believe that Telecom Australia should be instructed to seek the views of country telephone subscribers before proceeding further with the automation program which is causing unemployment, confusion, discontent and unnecessary expense to country subscribers.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will call on the Government to halt the program pending a full and open Parliamentary inquiry into the needs and desires of affected subscribers and the full economic and social effects of the automation program on country towns, rural telephone subscribers and Telecom Australia employees.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrLucock.
-Has the Minister for Health appointed Mr Justice Ludeke to conduct an inquiry into medical fees and decided that the proceedings will be held in private? In view of the fact that national wage case hearings before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission are held in public, why is that not to be the case in relation to the proposed inquiry into medical fees, to enable interested parties and the general public to make submissions rebutting the proposed Government-Australian Medical Association sweetheart agreement?
– The sweetheart agreement to which the honourable member for Prospect referred really occurred while the Labor Government was in office. Doctors’ fees increased by 58 per cent in the three years that it was in office. They increased on average by 7.5 per cent in the first year the present Government was in office and by 7.3 per cent the following year. We have had a fee freeze since 1 January 1978. That fee freeze will stay in operation until 1 November of this year. There is no such thing as a sweetheart agreement in the sense that there was one while the Labor Government was in office. So Opposition members should not suggest that the Government is not doing its job. As the honourable member will know, the Commonwealth Government has no control over doctors’ fees. All it can hope to do is to get the co-operation of the medical profession, through its organised body, in entering into an inquiry into medical fees for benefit purposes. That is precisely what the Government is doing. The conditions which will apply to this inquiry, so far as the public is concerned, will be the same as those which applied while the Labor Party was in office. At that time none of the fees inquiries were public, but we will make public the findings of this inquiry. Mr Justice Ludeke, who happens to be a Deputy President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, has been engaged to conduct the inquiry and he will make his determination public. No doubt he will make that determination after the evidence has been brought before him in the course of that inquiry.
– I direct my question to the Acting Treasurer. In view of the recent events surrounding the St George Building Society Ltd in Sydney, can he advise what the Government intends to do to provide an insurance scheme for those people who deposit funds in building societies?
-I, like a number of other members, was concerned about the rumours that were circulated about the St George Building Society Ltd. The rumours did cause a lot of people a tremendous amount of unnecessary distress. They caused officials and Ministers a lot of unnecessary work. People ought to know that the Government in its last policy speech committed itself to preparing a scheme which would give insurance to depositors in building societies. A working party was set up, comprising officials from the Treasury, the Reserve Bank and financial institutions. That working party had substantial consultation with the States. It has reported to the Government on a number of options which are available to the Government. Further consultation with the States will occur. I have asked the Treasury to facilitate these further discussions so that we can implement the scheme as soon as possible.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Has his attention been drawn to remarks made by the right honourable member for Bruce yesterday, in which he stated that the Government could not force interest rates down in defiance of the market? I ask the Prime Minister whether these remarks accurately reflect his thinking on this key point of government economic policy. If so, when did the Prime Minister change his mind?
-Before calling the right honourable gentlemen I intervene to say, for the benefit of those who are not aware of it, that the seat that I represent is Bruce. So what the Leader of the Opposition is doing is speaking to a matter concerning a statement by me as Speaker. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that we do not have a full Westminster system in Australia.
– We should have.
– I agree. We do not have the Westminster system whereby the Speaker withdraws totally from all political activity. In fact it is not possible, in the system as we have it today, for the Speaker to do so, simply because the Speaker, from whatever party, will be opposed by the other party at the next election. Accordingly, the Speaker cannot withdraw totally from all public affairs. Under the present system he must remain in public affairs. I indicate that it is my intention to put to party leaders a proposal that this Parliament should consider the adoption of the Westminster system for the Speaker.
– Not till the next parliament.
-I have already indicated that I would not be both an advocate for the system and the beneficiary of the system. I now call upon the Prime Minister to answer the question.
– I think that all members of this House will know that a significant thrust of the Government’s policy has been to contain its own expenditures and to reduce the overall weight of taxation. It is worth recalling that this year alone, in spite of the surcharge which is operating at present, income tax payers are paying $3,000m less than they would have been paying under the rates that were operative when the Leader of the Opposition happened to be Treasurer. That is a very considerable reduction. Other taxes also have been reduced.
Economic policy is an amalgam of many different matters. Containing the deficit, containing expenditure and reducing taxation, where the possibilities for that unfold, are obviously very important to a reduction in interest rates. In addition, as I have said on other occasions, and as has the Treasurer, whatever we might do in Australia there are market forces operating in other countries. The United States and the United Kingdom have particularly close financial links with this country and if interest rates rise very substantially in those two major financial centres, quite plainly there can be some reaction within Australia. Through last year, even though inflation started to move ahead in the United States and in the United Kingdom- both events had not been expected earlier- and even though, as a consequence, some of the interest rates in those countries rose by 4 per cent to 6 per cent, there were significant reductions in interest rates in Australia. I think it is worth noting that the rates that were adopted in November were the rates recommended by the Reserve Bank and the Treasury. I say that very plainly because there has been a good deal of not entirely accurate reporting indicating that they were government imposed rates. They were not. It is also worth noting that on the very day on which the recommendation came to us there were significant moves upwards in United States rates and some changes in United States policy. That has been emphasised since. There have also been movements in the United Kingdom which have led to further increases in interest rates there.
Against the background that interest rates were rising so much in the United States and the United Kingdom, the reductions in interest rates that were achieved in Australia over the period of last year were quite a remarkable achievement and indicate the way in which the Government’s total economic strategy is working to the advantage of Australia and of business and enterprise in this country. Honourable gentlemen should note further that obviously the reduction of one per cent in house lending rates through last year offered very significant savings to every person building a house or who borrowed to buy a house or to build a house. The total savings for such people are in the order of $ 130m to $150m over a year. Quite plainly the market forces that are in part established by Budget processes, in part established by business activites and so on within a country and in part established by the relativities between a particular country, such as Australia, and other major financial centres all have a bearing on the interest rate structure.
I can only say that against the environment of situations in other countries that cannot be seen as improving- higher inflation in North America and higher inflation in the United Kingdom- the achievements of this Government in relation to interest rates and in terms of economic policy generally- there is much greater enthusiasm now in the manufacturing industry, as is indicated by the quite remarkable surveys by the Metal Trades Industry Association as to the industry’s current situation and future prospects- have been shown repeatedly in many different corners of this country.
We all know that the Opposition has a vested interest in gloom. The Leader of the Opposition, pre-eminently, was one who was saying that the 1980s were going to be a decade of despair, and how terrible it was. But then some people advised him that he was becoming too well known as Bellyache Bill and that therefore he ought to change.
Opposition members- Oh!
-Mr Speaker, don’t they come in? Having worked assiduously for two years to try to undermine the value of the Australian dollar in a way that no previous Treasurer would ever have done, and in a way which was totally irresponsible as a Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition suddenly saw the light. A few weeks ago he said:
The Australian dollar, if anything, is undervalued.’ That in itself is a recognition of the strength of this Government’s economic policies, because if we assume that he really believed what he was saying earlier, that the dollar was then in a weak position, the fact that he indicated a few weeks ago that it was if anything undervalued on his judgment, indicates that it had greatly strengthened meanwhile. That can only be as a result of the policies pursued by this Government. I thank him for that compliment.
Mr Roger Johnston proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs-
-Order! The honourable gentleman will need to put the question on the Notice Paper. He is not allowed to reflect upon either the personality or the physical shape of a person.
-My question is directed to the Acting Minister for Housing and Construction. I refer him to the statement made by the Government in this House on 22 February, that there was to be a steady improvement in the housing activity in this country. I ask: Is the Minister aware that statistics on the building approvals for January, released today, show that the number of new dwellings approved was 17 per cent less than the number in December and, in seasonally adjusted terms, represented a 7 per cent decline? Is he aware that the value of approvals for both new dwellings and alterations is the lowest since February of last year? How will he reconcile these statements? In view of the depressed state of the industry, does he concede that these statistics demonstrate the failure of the Government’s policy for people needing homes, and more particularly for employees in the industry?
-I think the Deputy Leader of the Opposition makes the mistake that is made by many others in the community, and honourable members on the other side of the House, about the building industry. There is a tendency demonstrated here this afternoon to keep on comparing statistics of today with the statistics recorded during the boom years. This is a continuing tendency on that side of the House. It is no good to compare figures now with figures recorded in the boom years, which we hope will never come again. As far as last year was concerned, there has been a falling off in the approval rate and in the commencement rate. No one need or should deny that, but one must also remember that during the preceding years there was over-building of dwellings. For example, in South Australia, which is the State that I know best, we had vacant at the end of the Labor Government’s reign a couple of thousand more houses than could possibly be filled.
– Because people were out of work.
– It was because the industry itself made a maladjustment. It is no good to keep on comparing these days with those of the boom period. I have not actually seen those figures yet. I have heard that they have been published but I have not yet examined them. Also, honourable members opposite might well have a look at the non-residential figures. They will find that there was a very steady growth from the moment we got into government, until this stage of the proceedings. I think that honourable members opposite do no good at all to keep on comparing the present figures with those for the boom years. They might also give us some credit for containing the cost of building. The cost when Labor went out of government suffered from an annual inflation rate of 20 per cent. Today it is about 7.7 per cent. The Opposition might give us some credit for getting the costs of inflation and interest rates down. If members of the Opposition keep yabbering away, I will have trouble in hearing what they are saying. They should give us some credit for making a reduction in the interest rates which makes it possible for more and more people to borrow money and buy houses. The cost of money has gone down since we have been in government. I think the Opposition does no service to the industry or to the nation by talking down any industry, including the housing industry.
-I direct my question to the Prime Minister. I remind him that for some time there has been criticism from some quarters of the investment allowance as being an undesirable taxation incentive on the ground that, amongst other things, it encourages investment in machinery and adversely affects employment. I ask the Prime Minister whether that criticism ever has been valid and whether it is valid today. I ask him whether the Crawford Committee said anything about the investment allowance which enables the Government to judge whether it is a desirable taxation measure to have. I also ask whether there is still a case for the investment allowance which we have today.
-The Study Group on Structural Adjustment commented very directly on these particular matters as one would expect. They are in part, central to what the Study Group report was all about. The Study Group has indicated very plainly in the report that the investment allowance can help in assisting the cash flows and profitability of firms and in encouraging the introduction of modern plant and equipment. It is therefore a particularly useful instrument of policy to avoid instability in the investment environment for industry. The Study Group believes the instrument should not be altered in substance before its expiry in 1985. Quite plainly the Study Group report endorses the use of the investment allowance, what it is doing and what it will do over the next few years. It then goes on to talk also about an accelerated depreciation allowance and indicates that well before time, so that industry can know what the position will be, there should be a careful examination as to whether the investment allowance should be continued or whether accelerated depreciation allowances should be introduced in addition.
I think that to have this endorsement of an important aspect of the Government’s policy is certainly very helpful. I am also glad to see that as a result of the Crawford report- on what must have been a rather quick study of that reportthe Leader of the Opposition has also changed his mind in relation to the investment allowance. We can be reminded that earlier the Leader of the Opposition said:
We would terminate the investment allowance introduced by this Government … It has made capital cheap . . . The investment allowance should never have been introduced . . . The Labor Party would not tolerate such a big handout to big business in a time of high unemployment and depressed economic activity.
I had thought that that was a reasonably plain statement of intention by the Australian Labor Party but I am glad to see that the Leader of the Opposition, between the time he got a copy of the report and the time he delivered some remarks yesterday, was able to give the report such total acceptance. He accepted it in totality. I only hope that the honourable gentleman does not find that he is in trouble with his own party for not going through his party consultative processes in coming to that particular decision.
– The Prime Minister’s credibility is like his virginity.
-The honourable member for Robertson will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw.
– I address my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Before doing so, Mr Speaker, I must say that I am in favour of free speech for Speakers. I note with dismay and some sense of shame that the Government has not been able to find room in Australia for the leaders of the Irian Jaya Freedom Movement who are refugees from Indonesian oppression. If Australia cannot help in such matters why does it not help other people wishing to assist refugees such as Chief Moli Stevens from the New Hebrides who is offering a home to refugees from Vietnam. Why has the Minister refused to see the Chief and thereby given such an unfavourable view of Australia’s attitude? Does the Chief really have anything to offer in this situation?
-I have previously dealt with questions on the Organisasi Papua Merdeka and refugees from Irian Jaya. I have indicated that it is not normal practice to disclose the details of discussions that have taken place between Papua New Guinea and ourselves in this area and in relation to turning down, in consultation with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, the request for asylum for those people who have now obtained asylum elsewhere. The resident of the New Hebrides, Mr Stevens, is visiting Australia at present. I understand that he has been involved in a plan to land Vietnamese refugees in the New Hebrides. He is reported in the Press to have claimed authority to speak on behalf of the islanders and on behalf of elements of the New Hebrides. In fact, he holds no position with the New Hebrides Government. He is president of small political party and I assume that he speaks on behalf of that political party.
The British, the French and, more importantly, the New Hebrides Government do not recognise the claimed independence for which he is working for this particular island or his authority to speak for anyone other than members of his own party. I am advised that his offer to settle refugees on Maewo Island was made without consultation with the people of Maewo and has been condemned by the local council of chiefs on that island. Obviously, any proposal to resettle refugees in the New Hebrides is a matter for the Government of the New Hebrides. We have been particularly pleased that the divided factions there, the Vanua’aku Party and the Francophone elements, have come together in the Government of National Unity. It is for them to determine their future and those people who should be settled. It is not for Australia to dictate to them the manner in which they should implement any refugee policy. Certainly any proposal is a matter on which they should initially express a view. The Government of National Unity indicated on 1 March that Mr Stevens’s continued attempts to bring Vietnamese refugees to the New Hebrides is against the wishes of the Government and the people of the New Hebrides, particularly those of Maewo Island and Santo Island where he wishes to settle them.
A public relations officer for Mr Stevens, who is evidently doing a reasonable job in getting him some publicity, contacted me and asked me to see him. I stated to him what the Government’s view would be. It is a view which I will continue to uphold as Foreign Minister. I will not go behind the backs of elected representatives, particularly at sensitive times in the development of communities in the South Pacific as they move towards independence, and listen to those who, firstly, would seek to divide the nation and secondly, are clearly operating against the express wishes of the Government of that country.
– I address my question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. He will be aware that staff ceilings necessarily dictated by the Government’s economic policy have limited employment opportunities in the Commonwealth Public Service, particularly in Canberra. Can the Minister indicate what stage the redrafting of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill has reached? Can he indicate also whether submissions made by Public Service unions in relation to the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act are being considered by the Government?
– I am pleased to inform the honourable gentlemen that the Government is proceeding with the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill. There were consultations with the staff associations before Christmas and further consultations took place last week. I aim to put the Bill before the Government’s committees in about a fortnight. I will introduce it into the House and, if possible, it will pass through this House and the Senate this session. It will proceed as speedily as it can. I am aware, as is the honourable gentleman, that a great many public servants are waiting anxiously on this Bill. As to the Commonwealth compensation legislation, I understand that my colleague the Minister for Social Security will be having discussions with the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisations, I believe today, with a view to dealing with its representations for an increase in the rates payable under the compensation Act.
-I preface my question to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs by quoting from an article in the Johannesburg Star of 13 January 1979:
The Australian Government is considering a plan to accept up to 10,000 Rhodesian refugees if the transitional government collapses.
The article goes on to state:
Australian immigration officials confirmed this week that it has doubled to four its immigration staff in Pretoria to handle the growing number of applications by white Rhodesians to come to Australia.
Will the Minister inform the House as to the accuracy of that report and will he describe the nature of the plan referred to? Given that the liberation movement in Zimbabwe has stated repeatedly that whites will be welcome to stay in that country and that they have important functions to perform in an independent Zimbabwe if they genuinely accept the principle of majority rule, I ask: On what grounds would the whites considered under the contingency plan be classified as refugees? Is the Minister prepared to accept white Rhodesians who are not willing to accept majority rule? If so, what would be the implications for race relations in Australia?
– I have not seen the report attributed to the Johannesburg Star. However, the fact is that there has been an upsurge of interest in migration to Australia from southern Africa generally, that is, from both South Africa and Rhodesia. Australia does not maintain an immigration office in Rhodesia. People wishing to migrate to Australia from Rhodesia have to go outside Rhodesia. Most of them travel to Pretoria. The increase in staff in southern Africa has been in response to the general increase in interest in migrating to Australia from that region of the world.
The Australian Government has made very clear its attitude towards the present situation in Rhodesia. We hope that a peaceful settlement will be achieved in relation to the difficulties being experienced there at the present time. However, should a refugee situation develop in Rhodesia- of course, we hope that it does notthen Australia is in a position to make a considered response to that situation, just as it has a capacity to make a considered response to any refugee situation that may develop anywhere in the world. I make the final point that refugees are refugees, irrespective of the colour of their skin, and that is the way Australia has always treated them.
-Can the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs tell the House what percentage of job vacancies in the economy are listed with the Commonwealth Employment Service? Would it be helpful if more businesses and employers listed their vacancies with the CES? Would this enable more unemployed people to be work tested and placed in employment?
– Roughly 35 per cent of vacancies are registered with the CES. That is an estimate, as the honourable member will appreciate. Certainly it would help greatly, in the service that the CES can provide to people who are registered with it for jobs, if more employers registered their vacancies with the Service. Schemes such as the job search scheme in Tasmania, which was so successful, the Jobuary scheme in South Australia, and the give-a-kid-a-job scheme in Brisbane were all aimed at increasing the rate of vacancies registered with the CES. As I have said, the CES has the people. We need the vacancies in which to place those people. With respect to the application of the work test, it would also assist greatly if an increasing number of vacancies were registered with the CES. I thank the honourable gentleman for bringing this matter to the attention of the House, and I urge all employers to consider utilising the services available through the CES.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer As the non-bank public unloaded more than $230m of government paper in the December quarter, and as the market rates for government paper have crept up to almost one half of one per cent above the official rates, how does the Government intend to encourage the non-bank public to take up government paper so that it can maintain control over the money supply in ways designed to avoid further increases in interest rates? Indeed, has the Government in fact considered a special March cash loan at higher interest rates, as reported in the Press last week? If so, will the Minister give a firm assurance to the House that any such increases in interest rates will not flow through into housing and overdraft rates?
– This is once again a question from the Leader of the Opposition which is designed to cause concern and lack of confidence in the Australian community. The Government has recognised and indeed the Treasurer has recognised that management of the money supply is something to which the Government should give close attention and they have indicated that the parameters which were set in the Budget Speech were not to be regarded as inflexible. The Government is committed to seeing that the money supply is so conducted that it continues to maintain downward pressure upon the rate of inflation. It will attend to that. I have no comment at all to make upon the question of speculation about a March cash loan. I simply indicate to the Leader of the Opposition that the Government’s fiscal and monetary policy is working for the benefit of the country and will continue to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister will be aware of the recent breakdown of the Middle East peace negotiations. Has the Minister been kept informed as to the progress of these negotiations, the reasons for their breakdown and the basis of President Carter’s proposed trip to Cairo and Jerusalem this week? Will the Minister inform the House of his assessment of the possibility of this impasse being successfully resolved, thereby allowing the negotiations for a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt to proceed?
– I raise a point of order. The question seeks an opinion from the Minister in terms of an assessment of the situation. It seems to be out of order.
-I rule that the question is in order.
-We have been kept informed by our own posts and, of course, by the parties directly involved in discussing this very important matter. As will be known to honourable members on both sides of the House, President Carter will arrive in Cairo on 8 March for talks with President Sadat and is scheduled to have talks in Israel on 10 March. The Australian Government hopes that President Carter’s visit to the Middle East will successfully resolve the differences between Egypt and Israel which are currently impeding progress towards the signing of a peace treaty between the two countries. Honourable members will recall that Australia welcomed through a statement of the Prime Minister, joined as I recall by the Leader of the Opposition, the two agreements signed after the Camp David meeting as a constructive framework for resolution of the Middle East conflict based on the provisions and principles of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242 and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
Of course, it is important to recognise that a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt not only would be significant in terms of the relationship between those two countries but also, more than any other single event, could create the momentum necessary to attain a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East which would, it is hoped, include those Arab countries and organisations currently opposed to the Egypt-Israel dialogue.
The Government believes that settlement of the Middle East conflict between Israel and its Arab neighbours is of absolutely critical importance. Such a settlement would remove a major flash-point for global tensions. It would also assist in achieving a climate conducive to stability elsewhere in the Middle East region, such as in the Lebanon or in the Yemens. Such a settlement would be an important element in diminishing the volatility of the whole strategically critical south-west Asian region.
– When and by precisely what means did the Acting Treasurer become aware that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd had speculated $ 18m in the endangered financier Associated Securities Ltd? What specific reports of Ansett did the Treasurer request when the Government legislated for a government guarantee of a $US1 lm overseas borrowing last November? In respect of his powers and responsibilities set out in the Airlines Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Act, what specific action has he taken following the $250m collapse of Associated Securities Ltd?
– The honourable member invites information from me that obviously is not available to me immediately. I will treat the question as being on notice and provide -
– Will you answer it today?
– The honourable member wants to know the facts in a detailed way. I will give them to him in a proper manner.
-Does the Minister for Health agree that the yearly escalation of ill health costs to the Government could be contained by greater concentration on health education and extensive use of preventive medicine programs? For example, is sufficient emphasis given to the establishment of physical education standards in primary and secondary schools throughout Australia? If not, can we forecast possible future problems for the health and welfare of the Australian people?
-Yes, I do believe that in the longer term health costs will be reduced so long as we are able to encourage our children to participate in better lifestyles and to participate more in sport and sporting activities. However, this is not to say that the Government so far has not been successful in bringing down the great escalation of health costs in Australia. When Mr Malcolm Fraser became the Prime Minister of Australia he and his Government inherited a situation whereby health costs were accelerating at a rate of almost 37 per cent per annum. Our preliminary estimates are that for the financial year ended 30 June 1978 the increases in costs have come down to about 10 per cent. That has been a remarkable achievement in itself.
However, I have asked my Department to draw up a program to encourage people to engage in better lifestyles and better health programs. I have also called upon advisers in the area of nutrition to look at better nutritional programs for the Austraiian people. Through the community health program, which is one of the very good programs of the former Government, opportunity is undoubtedly given to try to do something about the preventive aspects of medicine. Clearly a tremendous opportunity exists for policies to be pursued in this area. In the last decade most of the debate inside and outside the Parliament has been on insurance schemes designed to try to help people pay for health treatment costs. I think it is about time that we started to direct our attention towards policies that are designed to try to improve the general health standards of the Australian people. To that objective, Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education, and I have embarked upon a program to complement the national drug education program in our schools. An advertising program will commence in the media within the next week or two.
I have no doubt that the activities of the honourable member who raised the question will do much to improve the general health standards in his electorate. I congratulate Mr Barry Simon and some other members of the Parliament for their activities in this area. In particular I congratulate Mr Barry Simon on the initiative that he has taken.
-Order! The Minister will refer to members by their electorates and not by their given names.
Mr Humphreys proceeding to address a question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs-
SPEAKER-Order! The question is out of order.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. In the light of recent overseas reports that the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T may be responsible for birth abnormalities, has the Minister decided on any action in regard to the use of these herbicides in Australia?
– The first action I have decided upon is to seek from the United States the information upon which the United States Environmental Protection Agency based its decision. I checked with my Department at lunch time but the report still has not reached my Department. I am not going to pre-empt the advice that I receive from officials who are expert in this area. If there is any cause for concern I will refer that report to the National Health and Medical Research Council for immediate investigation and I will await its report. I do notice, however, that the State of Victoria has moved to place a temporary ban upon the use of 2,4,5-T in certain circumstances until such time as the NHMRC has had time to evaluate that report. In the light of its decision and in the light of the information that will come to me as a result of an examination of that report, I will take a decision in due course.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. I refer the Minister to his utterances that taxpayers were concerned that many able-bodied people were wandering around Australia when they should be working. I ask the Minister to give the Parliament and the people of Australia, including all taxpayers, the latest figures the Government has for the financial year 1977-78 on how many people were prosecuted and convicted for illegally receiving the unemployment benefit?
– The particular aspects of the question do not come directly within my ministerial responsibility but, I would expect, within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Social Security. I will direct the question to her and provide the honourable member with a reply.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I seek to have the information inserted in
Hansard. The Minister has been making all these allegations.
-There is no point of order. The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
– Six hundred people receiving the unemployment benefit were prosecuted by this Government.
– Order! The honourable member-
-Take 600 off 493,000 and see how any you get.
– I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
– The Minister should know.
-The House will come to order. I warn the honourable member for Port Adelaide that if he persists in speaking when I have asked him to resume his seat because he has no basis for the call I will have to take action against him immediately. I have already warned the honourable gentleman this week.
-Can the Minister for Trade and Resources say what implications the Crawford report has for the Government’s recent initiatives to encourage Australian industry to improve its export performance?
– I welcome very much the release of the Crawford report. I welcome the emphasis it places on developing our exports and the need for Australia, particularly its manufacturing industries, to get involved in more exports because of the job opportunities this creates and the stimulation it gives to industry within Australia. I do not think there is a general awareness in Australia that over recent years Australian manufactured exports have not been growing at the same rate as world trade in manufactured exports. Australia’s growth rate has been only about two-thirds of the overall world situation. That is unfortunate. Greater emphasis needs to be put on encouraging our exporters to get out and find new markets. The Crawford Committee ‘s report really confirms the actions that the Government has already taken to try to encourage export performance.
The introduction of the Export Expansion Grants Act has given a real incentive to companies to increase their export performance. We have also streamlined and broadened the operations of export market development grants. We have improved the financing facilities of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation. We have brought into being the Overseas Projects
Corporation, which has the capacity to bring together Australian industries for large operations. I am also having conducted a complete review of the Trade Commissioner Service and strengthening it in those areas where there are greatest trade opportunities. All this falls into line with the Government’s policy of trying to encourage and assist Australian manufacturing industries to go out and seek opportunities in areas where new trade patterns are developing. But probably the highlight of the Government’s policy objectives is the campaign known as Export Now’ that has been launched to try to make Australians as a whole conscious of the need to export more in order to maintain and develop Australian living standards. I am very pleased that this campaign is getting good recognition amongst the Australian media and the public at large. I am very pleased with the support that is coming forward from industry and the trade union movement. It is a worthwhile program which has been endorsed very much by the Crawford Committee’s report.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report on investigation and design prepared by the Joint Committee on the Second Hobart Bridge.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act 1974 I present the annual report of the Legislative Drafting Institute for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on work trucks, certain mobile machines, et cetera.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented on two separate occasions during Question Time.
-Does the honourable gentleman wish to make a personal explanation?
-Yes, I do, Mr Speaker.
-He may proceed.
– The first occasion occurred in an answer by the Acting Treasurer (Mr Eric Robinson) to a question I asked of him during Question Time. He claimed that I was seeking to weaken confidence by asking questions about prospective movements in interest rates. The standard of such discussion was established, with all of its respectability by the Prime Minister in 1977 and on frequent occasions subsequently when he discussed prospective reductions in interest rates of up to 2 per cent, which of course never materialised. It would be humbug for any member of the Government now to object to any other member of the Parliament discussing similar matters.
The second matter of misrepresentation concerns an assertion by the Prime Minister that yesterday I endorsed in toto the Crawford report. I did not do so. I glanced through the record of the parliamentary debate. Nothing there even in the remotest sense suggests otherwise. Although I warmly commended the report, I could not endorse it in toto because I did not receive a copy of the report until less than one hour before the House met. Only because I was able to apply two qualities which have evaded the Prime Minister- that is, the capacity to read quickly and the capacity to apply an intelligent understanding- was I able to gather together at least a response to the report which obviously stung the Prime Minister. Whilst I warmly commend the report, I will need to give it further detailed consideration before I can make a final judgment. I have to say that once again the Prime Minister has been caught out being untruthful- if not plain downright dishonest- to the Parliament.
-Order! I call upon the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that comment.
-Yes, Mr Speaker.
– The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) advises me that his officers gave a copy of the report to the officers of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) at 1.15 p.m. If his communications are so bad that he did not get it until much later, then so be it. My remarks were based on the Leader of the Opposition’s own words. When talking about the report he stated:
It is a general blueprint for action to prepare the nation for the future. It explicitly requires a much greater level of government activity within the economy than this Government has ever ben prepared to concede.
Later in his remarks he said:
The Government has to act on this report.
He went on to say:
Let me outline in a little more detail the general nature of the strategy which we believe is required to achieve the aims, implicit and explicit, in the Crawford report. We have committed ourselves to these aims . . .
Quite plainly, the general thrust of the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition was that he wanted to give the impression that the Opposition embraces the report. He finds that he needs to qualify that impression today because he had not consulted with the people in his own party and also because he found that his general statements embracing the report left him open to contradiction.
-Order! The right honourable gentleman is now debating the matter.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition)- Of course the report is a general blueprint and of course we support its general aims, but there is a vast distinction between supporting general aims and supporting a report in toto. There is no need for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to behave in such a desperately dishonest fashion when he has such an abundant majority in this House.
-Order! I call on the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw.
-I indicate to the honourable gentleman that, although the Leader of the Opposition is given great privileges in the House, he should not transgress them to make those sorts of allegations when he knows that he will be called upon to withdraw them.
-I accept that point, Mr Speaker; but in fairness I think you will agree that it is rather irritating when the Prime Minister- especially bearing in mind the position he occupies- constantly misrepresents situations.
-Order! If the honourable gentleman has been misrepresented he is entitled to state the point of misrepresentation and to correct it.
– I have done that. We will leave the Prime Minister to be judged by the standard of his conduct, which is not high.
-I claim to have been misrepresented, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable member wishes to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
-On Thursday last the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) misrepresented a discussion I had with him on the current difficulties of obtaining fruit pickers in Mildura. The honourable member for Port Adelaide stated that 2,591 people were registered as unemployed in Mildura, yet only 1,700 registered vacancies existed. This is not the case. One month ago, 2,591 people were registered for work in Mildura. Since that time all except 367 of those people have been employed, but at this point in time 1,700 vacancies exist. This means that 3,924 jobs were available but only 2,224 of those have been filled.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable member wishes to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
– I did not wish to enter into a debate with the honourable member for Mallee (Mr Fisher). What I said in the Parliament had nothing to do with the private discussion that I had with him previously. The figures I gave to the Parliament were the latest figures available from the Bureau of Statistics and those figures were made available to members of the Parliament. If any honourable member looks at the figures for January, he will find them to be accurate.
– by leave- I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the National Library Act 1960, this House elects Mr Bryant to be a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia, and to continue as a member for a period of three years from and including 16 March 1979.
I am sure that even in the absence of the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) this House will endorse the appointment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- I wish to advise the House that the Commonwealth Government has approved the development of the Nabarlek uranium deposit by Queensland Mines Ltd. In making this decision, the Government has taken full account of the recommendations made by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster) in relation to the final environmental impact statement submitted by
Queensland Mines on 19 January 1979. 1 would remind the House that, when announcing on 25 August 1977 its decision to proceed with uranium mining at Ranger, the Government indicated that further uranium mining projects in the Alligator Rivers Region would only proceed when the Government was fully satisfied as to the acceptability of the impact of the development on the environment and the Aboriginal people, having regard for the region as a whole. There are still some legal and administrative requirements with which Queensland Mines will have to comply before actual work can proceed. The authority to develop the Nabarlek project will be granted under the Northern Territory Mining Act as a Special Mineral Lease.
The Government is satisfied that the legislative controls which we introduced in April 1978 regulating uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region, in conjunction with the environmental requirements which will be imposed on the company, together with the controls negotiated and agreed between the Northern Land Council and Queensland Mines Ltd, will ensure that any adverse impact on the local Aboriginal population will be minimised. The Government is also satisfied that opportunities exist to allow the Aboriginal people to benefit from and participate in the proposed development. The legislative controls to which I have referred provide for the establishment of the Office of the Supervising Scientist, a Co-ordinating Committee for the Alligator Rivers Region and a Research Institute to maintain a close watch over the environment within the region. The Aboriginal people, through the Northern Land Council, are represented on the Co-ordinating Committee. In addition the Northern Land Council has been given standing in the Northern Territory Supreme Court to bring suit in relation to the enforcement of the environmental requirements controlling mining at Ranger. Similar provisions will apply to Nabarlek.
The Northern Land Council, on behalf of the traditional owners, has negotiated arrangements with Queensland Mines Ltd which in part provide for the control of the movement of nonAboriginal people to and within the project area, control of alcohol, the housing of non-Aboriginal workers in Darwin when off-duty, the protection of sacred sites, instruction of non-Aboriginal employees on aspects of Aboriginal culture, the formation of a liaison committee, training and employment of Aboriginal people and the establishment and promotion of local business enterprises by Aboriginals. The Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies was commissioned last year by the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to establish an on-going program to monitor the social impact of mining developments on the Aboriginal population within the Alligator Rivers Region. The Institute is in the process of establishing this program.
The Nabarlek deposit contains some 9,000 tonnes of uranium oxide. Production of concentrates will be at a rate of about 1,080 tonnes per annum over an 8 to 10 year period. Development of the mine, mill and treatment facilities is expected to take approximately 18 months. Work on the construction of the plant and development of the mine is expected to commence within the next two months.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform honourable members of the position relating to the development of some of the other uranium projects in Australia. Production of uranium oxide recommenced at Mary Kathleen in Queensland in 1976. Agreement has been reached with Peko and EZ for the development of the Ranger deposits. Production at Ranger is expected to begin in 1 98 1 -82.
In relation to the Yeelirrie deposit in Western Australia, the Minister for Science and the Environment advised me recently that there are no objections on environmental grounds to that project subject to satisfactory arrangements being made with the Western Australian Government. The announcement last week by the Premier of Western Australia on the Yeelirrie project is therefore welcome news that the Western Australian Government is satisfied with the arrangements.
In my statement to Parliament on 25 August 1977 I said that the Commonwealth Government would take decisions on the development of projects such as Yeelirrie subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary environmental requirements. The Commonwealth Government is obviously now in a position to take such a decision.
The Yeelirrie project would of course have to comply with other requirements laid down by the Government. These include foreign investment approval of the proposed equity arrangements and compliance with uranium marketing policies. As to the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits in the Alligator Rivers Region, the companies involved, Pancontinental Mining Ltd and Noranda Australia Ltd, have submitted draft environmental impact statements. Pancontinental and Noranda will also have to reach satisfactory arrangements with the Aboriginal people.
The Government’s decision on Nabarlek is a further step forward in our policy for the development of Australia’s uranium resources. Honourable members will have seen from the arrangements made in respect of Ranger, and which are being made in respect of Nabarlek, that the Government is taking great care to strike a responsible balance. We want to see a balance between the economic development of our uranium resources and the positive protection of the environment. We also want to ensure that proper provision is made for the welfare and interests of Aboriginal people in the Alligator Rivers Region and of all other people living in the region and working on the development projects. I present the following paper:
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– It is the policy of this Government to establish uranium mining and marketing on the basis of the recommendations of the Ranger uranium environmental inquiry. The announcement today of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) is further evidence of the Government’s failure to honour that commitment. One of the most significant recommendations of the Fox commission was that:
Construction of mines in the region -
That is the Alligator Rivers Region- be commenced sequentially at appropriate intervals.
On the basis of the Minister’s statement it is obvious that the Government has no intention that such development should be sequential. There are basic environmental concerns as well as concerns related to the orderly development of the Northern Territory economy and infrastructure dictating the wisdom of sequential development. In addition, however, there is the prospect of chaotic results in the international uranium market if development is not sequential. The Minister, in his statement, notes that exports from Mary Kathleen are proceeding, and that production at Ranger is expected to begin in 1981-82. The intention of the Ranger partners is to produce 3,000 tonnes per annum of uranium oxide in yellowcake, or double that amount if market conditions allow. The Nabarlek deposit contains 9,000 tonnes of uranium oxide, which is proposed to be extracted at the rate of 1,080 tonnes per annum.
On 28 February the Western Australian Government and the Australian Government gave approval for the development of Western
Mining Corporation’s $900m uranium mine at Yeelirrie in Western Australia. It is expected that this mine and mill will become productive before 1985, with an initial output of about 4,000 tonnes of uranium oxide per annum. The Minister’s statement indicates that the Government intends to proceed as quickly as possible with approval of the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits in the Alligator Rivers Region. The intention of Pancontinental Mining Ltd has been to produce initially 3,000 tonnes of uranium oxide at Jabiluka, rising to 4,500 tonnes and then to 9,000 tonnes, subject to market conditions. Noranda’s Koongarra proposal may produce 2,000 tonnes of uranium oxide per annum. Therefore, at the pace of the Government’s approvals to date, we might expect that by the middle of 1979 the Government will have granted approvals which would provide authority for the export, within a few years, of 19,000 tonnes of uranium oxide. This is not inconsistent with the prediction of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, in its last annual report, that Australia could contract to supply up to 10,000 tonnes of uranium per annum by 1985. It is to be noted, however, that the Commission’s prediction sees a decline from its prediction in 1976 that Australia could be then exporting between 16,000 and 19,000 tonnes per annum. The change in the Commission’s estimates reflects both sales by other countries and, of considerable importance, the continual delay in nuclear power programs and the cancellation of a number of reactor contracts.
It must be emphasised, therefore, that the Government, which has stressed the size of the investments that it is attracting to the Australian uranium industry, is creating a situation where, in a matter of a few years, our supply capacity could greatly exceed demand. This would, of course, have rapid consequences for the earnings on the large uranium investments that had been made. In the past, it has been possible to argue that the low cost of extracting Australian uranium gave it a natural price advantage. This advantage is rapidly being overtaken by the exploration of large, new uranium provinces in the western United States and Canada. There is, however, in the Government’s approach to this subject, not the slightest air of caution or concern, even for the commercial risks- given that the Government’s policy is based upon commercial considerations.
In January, the Deputy Prime Minister announced a new Government approach to uranium sales contracts. If I might, I will quote directly from the statement that he then made:
Companies which have received Commonwealth approval to develop uranium deposits will be allowed to negotiate sales contracts with prospective customers which provide that delivery is conditional on safeguards agreements being concluded with the customer countries before delivery takes place.
This means that the Ranger partners may proceed to negotiate such sales arrangements in accordance with the Government’s export marketing policy.
Other companies will be permitted to proceed with similar sales arrangements as and when Commonwealth development approval of their project is given.
Companies will thus be able to enter into contracts to secure markets in order to help finance development. Under these arrangements, no deliveries of uranium will be made until such time as a safeguards agreement is in effect between Australia and the customer country.
Despite the occasional utilisation of the word safeguards’, in this statement, the clear meaning of the statement is that the Government is panicking at the prospect that it may lose its place in the world uranium market. Panic and excessive enthusiasm are the stock-in-trade of the Deputy Prime Minister, who knows no way of approaching any subject other than with an axe. That is the farmer in him.
A Government committed to orderly marketing of uranium would be looking to sensible policies and facing up to the hard issues of sequential marketing. Somebody should be deciding who, among these various competing uranium miners, should be allowed to begin, and in what order. But this is not a Government to take hard decisions. If the farmers who run this Government are incapable of establishing an orderly marketing system for beef, then I suppose that we should not expect too much from them in respect to the establishment of a basis for the orderly marketing of uranium.
I have focused my remarks so far on the commercial aspects of the Government’s proposal to make this very point- that it cannot even be trusted to adopt sensible long-term approaches to mineral development and marketing. It has no foresight. It is bereft of ideas in this respect.
Whilst we have seen this rush to grant approval for mining operations. We have not seen evidence of significant developments in other areas of the Government’s policies announced in respect of uranium export. What progress has been made in negotiations between the Commonwealth and State governments concerning nuclear codes? Of this, Mr Speaker, we have yet to be informed. On the basis of what has been said privately- again nothing. What progress has been made with the development of satisfactory international arrangements to protect nonproliferation concerns? Very little. To return to the commercial aspect; what contracts have been concluded with anybody for the sale of uranium? We know of none; to date not one contract has been concluded.
In the last week of the last session of the Parliament, the Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) tabled in the House the document known as the Model Safeguards Agreement’. In doing so, he himself made the point that the document served no further purpose to the Parliament at all. This is obviously what we can continue to expect from the Government in the matters of the greatest political and strategic importance affecting uranium export- silence, until it is too late. What the ‘Model Safeguards Agreement’ tabling in November showed us was that it was the same document as had been obtained and published by the Sydney Morning Herald in June 1978. It had been obtained from a foreign Government, one of the 20 or so Governments to which the agreement proposals were put.
We know that that document was the basis of negotiation and conclusion of agreements with Finland and the Philippines. We also know that Euratom and the European Commission have stood in the way of conclusion of a United Kingdom- Australia agreement. We also know that officials have negotiated an agreement with South Korea. We do not know why the Government does not plan to proceed with that agreement at this stage.
We know that in September or October officials concluded an agreement with Iran. The reason why that agreement has not been proceeded with is painfully obvious to us all. Had not events in Iran moved so quickly we would, no doubt, have been committed by now to safeguards arrangements with Iran covering the transfer of uranium to Iran into the next century. However, as honourable members will know, in November 1978 the Chairman of the Iranian Atomic Energy Authority was removed from office to face charges of mismanagement and embezzlement. And we all know that the Government with which we would have had a safeguards agreement no longer exists. Moreover, we know very little to date about what kind of government will take its place. We do not know the other governments with whom the Government has been negotiating agreements. That is all a matter of secrecy. But the history of the agreement with Iran points to the inadequacy, the fragility and the cumbersome nature of such agreements. The Government’s safeguards policy is essentially a cosmetic package intended to facilitate the commercial trade interests of the Deputy Prime Minister. As he would see it, he is the Minister with the export control authority, the uranium king of Australia, the man who has not yet sold one tonne of Australian uranium. The role of the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs is to try to put fine clothes on these commercial objectives.
The continuing concerns of the Australian people in respect of the uranium industry focus especially on nuclear waste disposal and nuclear non-proliferation. Over the past two years, this Government has sought to wash its hands of the waste issue, declaring that to be the responsibility of consumer countries. It has also declared that adequate, satisfactory disposal methods exist. The Minister for National Development produced a piece of vitrified glass from his trouser pocked to demonstrate his faith in the vitrification process. Now, in the past month, the Minister, without any apparent embarrassment, has produced cash from the same pocket to support research by Professor Ted Ringwood of the Australian National University on a new process for nuclear waste disposal known as Synroc, a complete departure from the vitrification process. At the basis of Ringwood ‘s proposal is his doubt about the satisfactory nature and safety of the established waste disposal strategies that the Government earlier endorsed as satisfactory. That endorsement lasted nine or 10 months. Now the Government is shifting away from it. The Ringwood episode, if we may call it that, illustrates very clearly the folly of the Government’s overall approach to this subject. From the outset, its objective has been to minimise public discussion, to avoid as far as possible the provision of information, to refuse to enter into debate in the Parliament and to seek to cover up problems in the nuclear industry by giving soothing assurances. Now it has had to admit, in one key area, that this is not so. It will be forced to admit at some point that it should be adopting a sequential approach to mining. The bitter fact from our point of view is that those who are now in Government will have to admit that mistake as members of the Opposition, and that we, as members of the then Government, will be trying to clean up the mess. The same secretive approach damages the Government’s nonproliferation strategy. The Deputy Prime Minister has failed to answer questions that we have asked him about the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation (INFCE). The Foreign Minister has demonstrated in his answers to questions his incompetence to handle or understand the issues involved in safeguards agreements. The safeguards agreements that the Government is pursuing are as far from adequate as one could imagine as a basis for nuclear non-proliferation. Moreover, they are so cumbersome that they are likely to collapse under their own weight. What is needed is a more extensive and thoughtful approach by the Government to the management of the nuclear fuel cycle and, in particular, the avoidance of national access to or control over weapons-usable material and the means for their production.
In January, the Deputy Prime Minister also announced that Australia was contemplating the establishment of a commercial uranium enrichment industry. His statement made a very brief reference to the need for multi-national participation in new enrichment plants for nonproliferation reasons, but offered no further explanation of that remark, other than to say that Australia was among the countries that were studying the subject in the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation.
– We are not as bad as that.
– The Government has given us no additional information. That is all we have heard from it. This is an accurate portrayal of the facts. If the Government imagines that the evaluation will, by the end of this year, produce quick, feasible solutions to non-proliferation problems, then it is guilty of self-delusion. As one writer on non-proliferation observed recently: ‘There are no simple solutions that are feasible, there are no feasible solutions that are simple, and no solutions at all that are applicable across the board ‘. It is time that the Government came in here and told the Parliament which areas of the INFCE program it is participating in, what progress has been made and what consequences these developments may have for Australian policy. The Government must know that not even its own back bench members accept being kept in the dark and it will not be able to put off indefinitely the proper discussion of these issues.
A point which has been raised in the debate by my colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) relates to the setting up of the Kakadu National Park. This has still not occurred. Announcements have taken place concerning the development of Australian uranium deposits, yet all the infrastructure of policy which the Government promised in 1977 and 1978 has yet to come about. To date Australia’s uranium king, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), has not got one uranium contract despite the fact that agreements have been concluded with other countries and that mines have been given the right to proceed. It is a foolish policy even on a commercial basis alone, without any environmental consideration. On that basis the Government is looking at a production of 19,000 tonnes per annum at the most, from the mines to which it agreed, in a market which at the moment I think has a total world market of 40,000 tonnes. The Government is contemplating a 50 per cent increment to a market which is, by any standards, fragile.
Debate (on motion by Mr Hodges) adjourned.
-I have received letters from both the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) and the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, 1 have selected one matter for discussion, that is, that proposed by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports, namely:
The failure of the Government to adequately supervise and ensure the proper administration and distribution of finance to rural industry.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– This subject is designed to raise important matters of public policy concerning the expenditure of funds on behalf of the Commonwealth by the States, pursuant to the State Grants (Rural Adjustment) Act 1976. Under that Act the Commonwealth and the States, working through their respective instrumentalities, provide assistance to persons engaged in rural industries. But the thrust of all the legislation, and indeed the practice that is employed by the instrumentalities, is to see that the flow of funds goes essentially to working farmers whose financial circumstances are such that they cannot usually obtain resources or finance from the normal lending institutions.
Matters have been mentioned in this Parliament and by the media which raise serious questions as to the equity and indeed, the propriety of loans made to the father-in-law of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and family companies under or controlled by him. Let me say at the outset that essentially two people had both the resources and the capacity and, in my view, the responsibility to end media speculation in respect of those matters. One was the Premier and Treasurer of Victoria and the other was the Prime Minister. The Treasurer of Victoria has, on the most charitable interpretation, spent three days giving three different answers as to the nature of his professional and business relationship as a solicitor with the Fraser family and its trusts. The Prime Minister, apart from screaming down the telephone at the unfortunate chairman of the Rural Finance Commission, has simply resorted to his usual tactic of abusing and impugning the motives of all persons who question these loans and the circumstances surrounding them. The unacceptable facts are that the circumstances surrounding the loans to the Beggs family seem to involve evidence which transgresses the general policy upon which these funds are normally allocated and possibly even the statutory requirements within the relevant Victorian Act. The questions that we have to consider in respect of these transactions are, firstly, to have regard to the statements of the Rural Finance Commission in its 1977 report that there are constraints on the Commission’s lending program. It stated:
This has necessitated degrees of priority being established in order to spread the funds as widely as possible.
The first question is: Was the loan of $100,000 excessive in the circumstances? Having regard to the capacity of the borrower to obtain funds from the normal lending institutions, should that loan have been made at all? The second question is whether the total sum of $ 100,000 should have required the consent of the Treasurer of Victoria and whether the method of splitting loans by a series of mortgages overcame the statutory requirements. Finally, we have to consider whether the loan of $50,000 at 10 per cent to the Beggs family, in fact, constituted a debt reconstruction. If so, did not the circumstances surrounding the loan fail to comply with the stated purposes of the debt reconstruction agreement and the heads of that agreement as agreed between the Commonwealth and the States. It is important to remember at all times that the purpose of debt reconstruction is to assist the farmer who, although having sound prospects for long term commercial viability- here I am taking the terms of the agreement itself- has used all his resources, cannot meet his financial commitments and cannot obtain appropriate funds from lending institutions. In Victoria, once those criteria are fulfilled, that farmer tends to use the Rural Finance Commission as a lender of last resort I reiterate that two people, apart from Mr Beggs, are in a position to provide the detailed information which will enable those questions to be answered. Neither of them has chosen to do so.
Let us move to the details of the evidence as we know them. As already stated the Rural Finance Commission has never had sufficient funds to meet all the demands that are made upon it by its potential borrowers. At the time of these loans- early in 1977- this was equally the case, particularly as at that time large sections of the Victorian farming community, particularly dairy farmers, were undergoing great difficulties. The Rural Finance Commission has never been seen either within the rural community or by itself as competing with private lending institutions. Indeed as a general policy, if a farmer can obtain finance from private institutions, then his eligibility for rural finance is restricted. This general policy, which this House has approved, has been stated time and time again in the reports of the Rural Finance Commission. It is a policy which has been acted upon both by the Commonwealth and the relevant Ministers and indeed it has been enunciated and widely understood within Victoria’s rural community. Following the bush fires that swept through the western district in February 1977, the Premier announced a series of measures to help victims. This is referred to in the 1977 report which states:
The Commission was directed to administer concessional interest rate loans at the rate of 4 per cent to farmers, small businessmen and townspeople, to replace losses incurred in the fire to those who did not have ready access to finance from normal sources on reasonable terms. Generally speaking, the loans are to be repaid over a period of up to 20 years with the terms and conditions subject to review at the expiration of five years. For an initial period of two years interest only will be payable.
Again, I draw the attention of honourable members to the criteria. These funds were available to those who did not have ready access to finance from normal sources on reasonable terms. The funds that were made available pursuant to this concept totalled $2.1m. The loans were spread amongst 167 people. The average loan was $12,600. Three applicants were rejected. I do not know why. Presumably, they could not comply with the terms. It was from this source that a loan of $50,000 at a rate of interest of 4 per cent was obtained by the Beggs family.
The first question that has to be raised is whether the applicants fell into the category of being people who did not have ready access to finance from normal sources on reasonable terms. The second amount of $50,000 at a rate of interest of IOV2 per cent was made available under Part III of the Victorian Act, which allows general finance for country industry in farming areas. It would seem from the mortgage transactions that some part of this loan was used in clearing an earlier mortgage from a company known as Ambulando Nominees. That company is owned by a firm of Melbourne solicitors. One of the owners of the company is James Ford Strachan, a solicitor. Coincidentally, part of the land which constitutes the Beggs property is also shown to be partly owned by James Ford Strachan, a solicitor. He is also one of the signatories as mortgagor to the mortgage documents from the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission.
If James Ford Strachan is one and the same person the question arises- it is a serious question- as to whether money was obtained from the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission and public sources at lower rates of interest to discharge a mortgage held by a company in which one of the borrowers who could hardly be described as a poor former-he was in fact a solicitor- had a proprietary interest. All one can do is look at the documents and seek an explanation. On the face of it one can only presume that the general purport of the Act and the principles upon which the Commission normally operates do not apply to a solicitor who owns land over which a mortgage is held by a company in which he has an interest.
Subsequently, in an explanation of these loans to the media, Mr Beggs stated:
We naturally shopped around and took the lowest rate of interest available to us.
He also stated that the loan of $50,000 at a rate of interest of 10& per cent was to assist him in restructuring. Two elements are involved in those statements. First of all, Mr Beggs did not say that he could not get the money from anywhere else and that other sources of funds were not available to him. He said that they shopped around and took the best interest rate going. That is a rare situation to be in for someone receiving sums of that size from the Commission. He said himself- it is not a question of the Labor Party or anybody else saying it- that the second loan was to help him in restructuring. Certainly Mr Beggs’ own statements would explain why the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission, which was to make him a loan of $50,000 at a rate of interest of 10 Vi per cent, chose to operate under Part III of the Victorian Act. Clearly, having regard to Mr Beggs’ financial situation, he would not have been eligible for debt reconstruction under the normal principles of debt reconstruction.
The effect of these transactions was that the Beggs family received $100,000 in loans and $180,000 in compensation from the State Electricity Commission. This was a total of $280,000 in respect of losses which Beggs himself admits were independently estimated at $250,000. I suppose life was not meant to be easy but certainly few farmers in Victoria have ever had it as good as that. The interest rate on the loan of $50,000 related to fire damage is 4 per cent. The interest is repayable only for the first two years. The average loan to all other applicants was $12,600. Whilst there can be no doubt that extensive damage was done to the Beggs property which may have caused immediate problems of financial liquidity, at no stage has it ever been suggested by Beggs or any spokesman on his behalf that his financial situation was such that he could not have obtained assistance through the normal financial institutions. It would seem, to use Mr Beggs’ own terms that he did not merely shop around; he shopped around very successfully indeed.
What has to be remembered is that the funds that were made available to the Beggs family were funds which were not available to other Victorian farmers who did not have the capacity to borrow on the open market. Equally, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to believe that the Treasurer of Victoria could presumably accept without being informed a situation in which one family and its company could receive assistance to the extent of $ 100,000 by the simple device of splitting mortgages and creating two loans with different rates of interest. It has taken the Treasurer, Mr Hamer, over a week to sort out the complexities of his own professional relationship as solicitor to the Fraser family trust. I do not want to dwell on that point, but it raises the question of whether the course adopted by the Commission and the way in which it went about handling these loans was taken in order to resolve the immediate and direct conflict of interest in which the Treasurer found himself. If he had been notified of the amount of the total loan and if he had had to approve it he would have been in a direct conflict of interest situation in which he would have been approving a loan to at least one person who was a direct beneficiary and also a client of the Treasurer in another capacity.
The limited public funds available to assist farmers in difficult and strained economic circumstances have not been used in this case in the spirit outlined in the Act. They cannot objectively be said to have been used in that way. All the blustering, bullying and cavorting of the Prime Minister and his colleagues cannot escape that essential fact. I finish on this note: At least the Beggs family has restructured with some success. I notice from the livestock news in Stock and Land that in a recent sale conducted by the Prime Minister the top price of $1,700 was paid for a two-year-old bull by Mr Hugh Beggs for the Nareeb Nareeb herd at Glenthompson. Not only does he reconstruct on public money but also he keeps it in the family.
– The honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), who has just resumed his seat, has descended as low as anybody has in this House at any time, I believe in a manner very nearly outside the Standing Orders. If a person wishes to condemn an individual the normal practice is to move a motion, not raise a matter of public importance. At the beginning of the honourable member’s address to this chamber I thought seriously about raising and canvassing that issue but in view of the nature and relationship of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to the individual who received the loan I felt that it was hardly the right and proper thing to do. But I think it is important for this House to realise that an attack on an individual should be made by moving a motion in the correct way.
Not only have individuals within the Beggs family been attacked. As I understand it, the honourable gentleman has also attacked the probity of three very senior and highly respected public servants, the people who run the Rural Finance and Settlement Commission in Victoria. Lest anyone be under any misapprehension I repeat that they are: Mr I. K. Morton, Chairman of the Victorian Rural Finance and Settlement Commission, Mr C. O. Harry, the Deputy Chairman, and Mr T. A. Kerr. The whole attack has been based on the allegation that the loans were made beyond the responsibilities which these gentlemen exercise. I shall quote again to the House a statement by the Chairman on behalf of his colleagues. These gentlemen have been charged with the responsibility of administering these funds. This attack is on the probity of these three men and of every one of the officers who work with them. This gentleman, who was formerly a member of the Victorian Parliament, this gentleman who aspired to political responsibility over them, now comes into this place and says: ‘I have no confidence in those who would have been my public servants’. What a great attack this is! The man who is the Chairman of the Rural Finance Commission had a statement tabled in this House in which he said:
I have been informed of a question asked in the Parliament today about a loan made to relations of the Prime Minister by the Rural Finance Commission of Victoria.
Let me interpolate: ‘A Rural Commission of which I am Chairman, and loans and other transactions for which I accept total responsibility’. He continued:
The Rural Finance Commission makes loans solely in accordance with its own judgments and in accordance with guidelines determined by the Commission itself and in the case of natural disasters on guidelines determined by public agreement between governments.
Was the honourable gentleman suggesting, as I presume he was, that that undertaking has been breached? The attack is against the men who administer this Act and against a statement presented in this House saying that loans have been advanced solely in accordance with the guidelines determined by the Commission and in accordance with that statement. The statement continued:
The Commission has not done anything for the Beggs family that it would not do for others similarly placed. I have received -
That is, Mr Morton- no representations from anybody in relation to these loans, and the Beggs family’s presentation of its affairs has been exemplary.
In terms of the presentation today, the honourable gentleman has attacked the probity of the Commission and its officers. Not content with that, he has also attacked a Mr Strachan, who I understand is a solicitor in the firm of Messrs Aitken, Walker and Strachan, and the basis upon which an application apparently was made on behalf of the Beggs family. The honourable gentleman has attacked the probity of the Beggs family. He has said that in terms of the whole of the loan he believes that $ 100,000 was excessive. He has queried whether it should have been made at all. He believes that it should have required the consent of the Victorian Treasurer and he wants to know about the criteria of debt reconstruction.
Let me assert quite strongly that the honourable gentleman is wrong in fact and wrong in law. For a party that at one stage liked to speak of the privacy of the individual and the rights of the individual, the Labor Party has demonstrated anything but a preparedness to comply with those sorts of restraints. First of all, in terms of the responsibility of the Rural Finance Commission of Victoria, I think it is about time members of the Opposition realised that the Commission’s charge covers three separate sources of funds. One is that which is within the legislation passed by this House, about which the honourable gentleman’s attack seemed principally to be made, to wit, the States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Act 1976. That Act embraces a range of different sectors of lending. As I understand it, the loans that have been made to the Beggs family are not within that Act; the funds have not been advanced under that Act. Therefore, not only do I believe that the honourable gentleman is questioning matters that properly should have been canvassed by way of motion but also I query whether it is the responsibility of this Parliament to consider questions as to loans that are made available not from funds provided by this House but from outside those funds.
There are two other categories of sources of funds, and I want to speak about those. However, let me say that in terms of this legislation, that is, the States grants rural adjustment legislation, it is true that one of the categories relates to debt reconstruction loans, and there are other loans for farm build-up, farm improvement, rehabilitation, carry-on finance and household support, as to which I have made some comments in answer to questions in this House in the last few days. With respect to debt reconstruction, it is true that the criterion is to assist a farmer who, although having sound prospects of long term commercial viability, has used all his cash and credit resources and cannot meet his financial commitments. Many of the questions from the other side of the House have been pertinent to loans made in that category; and, had this loan been made in that category, then perhaps some of the questioning might have been valid. But the loan was not made in that category and, as I am advised, it was not made under this legislation.
The Rural Finance Commission of Victoria has two other responsibilities both of which are within its normal or ordinary embrace and both of which, significantly, give it a flexibility in advancing money to applicants which is far wider than that of a body that is charged with responsibility for administering only this Commonwealthsponsored legislation. As to the other two categories, the first relates to assisting those who through a natural disaster of one kind or another are eligible to receive assistance under the general criteria laid down by agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. Let me explain to the chamber that those loans and funds advanced as natural disaster relief are essentially within a broad embrace, the categories of which are determined by agreement between the Commonwealth and the State. As to the first part of the funds advanced in any financial year, the money comes from the State; it does not come from the Commonwealth. At the point when the minimal amount required to be spent by the State has been fully spent, the Commonwealth comes in and supplements that by whatever additional amount might be required by the State to cover natural disasters which have been designated as such by the State government and for which expenditure is included within the specific categories laid down in the agreement.
As I understand it, one of the loans came within that category. Whether it was State money or Commonwealth money I do not know, and I rather doubt that anybody would know. The way in which the money is advanced is that it is boxed together; the State has a responsibility up to a certain point and thereafter the money comes from the Commonwealth. The State in fact advances the money and the Commonwealth reimburses the State. At the point at which the money is actually advanced, it is far more likely to have been State money than Commonwealth money because the Commonwealth money comes in only in accordance with the broad categories that are identical around the States for natural disasters, be they fire, as in this instance, flood, cyclone, hurricane, or whatever. The whole concept is that there should be available to citizens in our community assistance in a form which can be administered in a proper and correct way.
There are two other elements of that, the first relating to the administration of the money. We do not believe that there should be a government agency coming in and meddling with the bureaucratic way of administering money. We believe that it is far better to have a commission operating it, as in Victoria. That Commission exercises its responsibility independently. It acts as a professional body, dealing with and considering applicants in a way that ensures that no preference is given to individuals. The second point I make is that, as I understand it, the Labor Party is suggesting really that the Federal Government is probably being excessively generous in the provision of funds for natural disasters. There has been some suggestion that in fact this money should not have been advanced because the money was running out. The honourable gentleman does not realise that we are talking about natural disaster funds, and no limit has been placed by this Government on the amount of money that will be provided for approved assistance in accordance with the agreement between the Commonwealth and a State for natural disaster purposes. There is no limitation on the amount of money that will be provided. However, the Labor Party is saying: ‘You are being too generous. You should not worry about people who have been burned out, flooded out or hurt in some other way by these sorts of natural disasters’. Of course, that is a proposition that no member on this side of the House would be prepared to accept.
The third area for which the Rural Finance Commission is responsible is equally important, and that area relates to funds provided by the Victorian Government. Whatever might be the position with respect to funds advanced within the natural disasters category, there can be no suggestion that this House is in any way responsible for funds that are advanced in that category. As I understand it, one of the advances made to the Beggs family came specifically from funds that are the responsibility of the Victorian Government. We do not administer those funds. It is not our money. We do not lay down the terms and criteria on which the money should be advanced. There is no responsibility on the Prime Minister or any other Minister in this place to determine the way in which those funds are advanced. Even if there were such a responsibility, I believe that the statement made the other day by Mr Morton more than adequately answers that charge. Moreover, he has been backed by another statement issued by Mr Bill Borthwick, the Victorian Minister of Lands, who, as the Minister responsible within the Victorian Government, examined the application by the Beggs family. He too has commented that the fires devastated much of the Beggs property at Glenthompson; they caused serious losses amongst stud sheep which were the result of generations of careful nurturing and breeding; and those stocks are irreplaceable in the market and can be replaced only by the slow process of again building up, by breeding a balanced flock. He mentioned that the Commission acted entirely in accordance with its own responsibilities, and he has completely endorsed the action of the Rural Finance Commission as being within the charge so far as the funds coming from the State Government are concerned.
This matter is one which in its narrow ambit is designed to bring some sort of pressure on the Prime Minister, suggesting that because a family happens to have a Prime Minister as a brotherinlaw or a son-in-law that family should not be entitled to the same assistance as every other member of this community. I believe that is an absolutely ridiculous proposition. Its presentation reflects no credit at all on those who suggest it. The matter of public importance states:
The failure of the Government to adequately supervise and ensure the proper administration and distribution of finance to rural industry.
If this matter were to be taken in its broader form then there would be cause to look at each piece of legislation to ascertain who is responsible for its maintenance. The States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Act is the principal Act on which much of the Labor Parry’s criticism is centred. Contained in that Act is a responsibility to an auditor. When referring to the report of the audit in respect of each financial year, paragraph 22 of the Schedule to the Act states:
If there is any merit in the Opposition’s criticism a series of avenues is open to it by which a valid complaint could be lodged. The first is to the public servants who administer the Rural Finance Commission of Victoria. Secondly, it could lodge a complaint with the AuditorGeneral. Thirdly, it could raise the matter in the field of politics. Of course, there are also ombudsmen and others at various levels who have an opportunity to exercise some supervision. The Opposition has not lodged any complaint at any of these levels other than in the political forum. Why is that so? There is neither in fact nor in law any validity in any of the Opposition’s criticisms. Rather, they are a condemnation of individuals who are unable to get up in this chamber and defend themselves. So far as I am concerned there can be no more demeaning an exercise of political power than to seek to abuse a man who is retired or people who have been affected by a natural disaster and who have been validly assisted under legislation that has been laid down not just by this Parliament but by the State Parliament as well.
The allocation of these funds is not within our responsibility alone. It comes also within the responsibility of the Victorian Government. It embraces agreements between the States and the Commonwealth in respect of natural disasters. Finally, the Rural Finance Commission of Victoria exercises some responsibility under the States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Act 1976. The Labor Party’s demeaning attack reflects no credit on the members of that party either collectively or individually. There is little doubt that this matter of public importance has no substance whatsoever. It is for that reason alone that the Opposition has made a political attack on these people instead of turning to the proper and correct authorities which exist to ensure that there is no abuse in any way by anybody who receives any assistance in accordance with the provisions of the legislation.
-Before I call the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe), I want to make a short statement. At the outset of his speech the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) talked about whether this matter of public importance should have been a substantive motion. I remind the Leader of the House that the forms of the House require the use of a substantive motion for debate when conduct of the sovereign or her representative, members of the House of Representatives, senators, or the judiciary is under attack. In relation to references to other persons, the normal forms of debate apply.
-In defending the Government on this matter of public importance and the issues that arise from it the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) hides, on the one hand behind the suggestion that one can break up this money between various acts and between the Commonwealth and the States and, on the other hand, behind the statement that one can trust a particular commission. He said that the Rural Finance Commission of Victoria comprises honourable people and that, therefore, is all that needs to be said. In Victoria, for a long time there has been a tendency for politicians to hide behind commissions. I believe that the questioning process which we have been involved in in this House looks at the relationship between the Commonwealth and the States; at the relationships between various types of legislation which concern relief payments; at the purposes of that legislation; and at what in fact has happened in practice. This matter of public importance seeks to suggest that the Government’s administration of Federal legislation, its relationship with the relevant State legislation and the commissions which administer that legislation require a great deal of examination.
One constant theme runs through both the relevant Commonwealth and State legislation and the guidelines governing the operations of the Rural Finance Commission of Victoria. Where funds are being provided under the relevant Federal legislation or State legislation through that Commission the funds ought to be provided to primary producers who do not have normal access to the usual sources of finance from banking and other commercial financing institutions. That proposition runs right through the States Grants (Rural Adjustment) Act which the Minister has just been discussing. One could go through each section of that Act and one would find almost the same words repeated. In the documents of the Rural Finance Commission one finds the same sort of emphasis as is contained in the Act. In its reports it has placed emphasis on the fact that priority in terms of lending ought to go to people for whom there is no reasonable alternative. If one looks at the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to the administration of disaster relief, again the same thing is said. Loan assistance will be given on concessional terms to primary producers to enable them to get back into operation when finance is not available from other sources.
In all the relevant legislation in terms of the guidelines that govern the operation of the Commission and in terms of its own annual reports, again and again this proposition is asserted. This priority is asserted. It is that priority which the Federal Government has failed to pursue in its relationship with the States. It is that priority which the Victorian Government has failed to pursue in relation to its own Commission. It is just not good enough for the Minister for Primary Industry to come in here and say that we are casting aspersions on the Commission. Our attack is not on the Beggs family. Our attack is not on the Commission. Our attack is on governments which have failed to honour their legislation. They have failed to administer programs in accordance with their aims and in accordance with their own legislation.
It is not true, as the Minister attempted to suggest, that we are concerned to reduce funds for disaster relief. We are concerned about the equitable distribution of the funds that are available. I believe that what we have established in terms of the facts that have already been uncovered in this case study of power is that funds are not distributed equitably, that in fact the treatment that was given to a particular family in the Western District was certainly not given to the families in Gippsland. We have established that a distinction exists between various programs. One can see that quite clearly in terms of the average amount of money that was paid to individual farmers. For example, in Gippsland the dairy farmers who suffered bushfire damage received an average of $4,000. In the Western District the average was $12,000. Over and above that average of $ 12,000 we find that this particular family and company that we are considering received two amounts of money amounting to $100,000. 1 repeat that the average loan was $12,000. We have to add to that the fact that the State Electricity Commission, after an exhaustive inquiry, reached an out of court settlement with the Beggs family which resulted in a payment which we believe to be about $180,000. The family received $280,000 of public money. It paid 4 per cent interest on one amount of $50,000 and 10.5 per cent on the other amount of $50,000.
Our argument is not that money ought not to be distributed but that the money should not be allocated on that kind of scale, especially when one thinks of the number of small dairy farmers across this nation who have been forced out of business because they could not get their hands on cheap money. I am reminded also of the small factories in Northcote that have gone out of business and of the massive number of unemployed because people are paying interest rates of 1 2 per cent, 14 per cent and 15 per cent for money to keep their businesses going but they still fail. What we are talking about is equity. The Government’s policy is said to be equitable. It is written into the legislation and it is certainly written into the charter of the Rural Finance Commission of Victoria. Equity has not been pursued in practice. If one questions who is responsible for the lack of equity, one realises that it is the responsibility of governments. The Federal Government and the Victorian Government are responsible in this respect.
When the Bill we are discussing was introduced in 1976 the Opposition said that a board ought to be established to supervise the distribution of funds. The honourable member for Riverina (Mr Fitzpatrick) pointed strongly to the fact that rural funds constantly were being distributed in an equitable manner. We raised that issue then and we raise it now. This is not an afterthought. It is a consistent theme of the Opposition that this kind of assistance ought to be provided on an equitable basis.
I want to move quickly to consider some of the circumstances in relation to the money received by Nareeb Nareeb. We ought to recognise the scale of this property. This is not a little farmlet; this is not a hobby farm: It is 12 square miles of prime grazing land in the Western District. It would have to be worth about $5m. What rot it is to suggest that people with that kind of property could not raise $50,000 from normal lending institutions. What rubbish! No one believes that a family of that standing with property of that scale could not raise that kind of money. That is what we are being asked to believe, and we are being asked to believe it when we know that the State Electricity Commission carried out an inquiry and awarded in the order of $180,000 for damages suffered. So this poor family received $280,000 and we are told by the Government that this is equitable treatment.
What about the involvement of the Premier of Victoria? I suggest that the Premier of Victoria, who says he is not responsible, has another look at section 38 of the Victorian legislation because it contains an interesting sentence which states that any loan made under this part shall not be less than $40 together with the amount of any other loan made by the Corporation to the same borrower and not repaid. That means that if $100,000 was obtained from the Commission it was the responsibility of the Premier. This morning the Chairman of the Commission, on whom I certainly cast no aspersions, said that the relevant section was section 35 and not section 38. Honourable members should have a look at section 35 which also shows that the Premier is responsible.
I put it to this House that the Premier is involved very closely with the Fraser family and the Beggs family. This was established last week. There is an inter-relationship between these families which, in many respects, along with many other large landholders, form the basis of the power of the Liberal Party in the Western District. Not a farmer in the Western District believed the Premier when he appeared on PM and said that he had never heard of the Beggs family. Certainly nobody in this House believes that. It is my belief that the Premier certainly was misleading whoever was listening to that program, if not directly lying.
We can go a little further and move to other questions. Why was this cheap money made available? Alternative sources certainly were available. The family received a considerable amount of money from the SEC. The Minister for Primary Industry pointed out that this type of money would not be provided under Commonwealth legislation. Reference has been made to debt reconstruction loans. For God’s sake, it is absolutely incredible to suggest a debt reconstruction loan for a family worth $5m. That money in fact was given by the Premier of Victoria, through the State Government, to this family with no strings attached and with no criteria involved. It is because of this relationship that exists between these two families that we have raised this matter in the Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The honourable member will resume his seat.
– It is a pity that this debate is not being broadcast so that the people of Australia can hear yet once again how the Opposition is using the forms of the House to continue its personal smear tactics against members of this Government and members and officials of the Victorian Government. The immediate aim of the exercise is to attempt to affect the outcome of the Victorian State election on 5 May. The present campaign will not achieve anything other than the alienation of decent people still further from the Labor cause. If any of the honourable members opposite had been moving around rural areas in recent days- I am sure that they have not- they would have found out what the events of recent days have done to their fortunes. It is to this Parliament’s shame and regret that we have on the Opposition benches at present several of the greatest purveyors of political muck-raking that the Federal Parliament has had the misfortune to experience in its history. Foremost amongst those are the two speakers from the Opposition who have participated in today’s debate, the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) and the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe).
The Opposition today concentrated its remarks on the loans paid to the Beggs family by the Victorian Rural Finance Commission. Not one whit of evidence was produced to support the allegations, which once again were typical of the gutter tactics of the present Opposition.
– What do you call evidence?
-The fact of the matter is that the size of loans from the Rural Finance Commission for bushfire relief- essentially that is the type of loan that we are discussing todaydepends on the loss incurred and on the computation of the Rural Finance commissioner’s judgment of loss.
-Did they take the SEC into account?
– The computation is done by commissioners who are autonomous people. I will come back to that later. Is the honourable member for Batman (Mr Howe) suggesting that the commissioners lack integrity and honesty? In Monday’s Melbourne Age a letter appeared from Mr P. F. Cashin.
– Did he know they got the SEC money?
-I listened to the honourable member in silence. He should listen to me. Mr P. F. Cashin was the Chief Superintendent of the Glenelg Police District at the time of the 1977 bushfires, which almost wiped out the Beggs’ property and which resulted in its entirely proper application for loan funds to help in some small way to repair the damage that was incurred. In his letter Mr Cashin says, amongst other things:
It is a sad day when politicians attempt to make capital out of the grief and despair of people involved in a tragedy such as the Woodhouse fire.
As Chief Superintendent of the Glenelg police district at the time, I personally witnessed the tragic aftermath of the fire at the Begg ‘s property.
The damage to the Beggs ‘ property was severe.
It is a slur on all people who asked for assistanceassistance needed urgently. I hope that someone takes some action to rectify the unfortunate allegations cast not only on the Beggs family but all the people involved in the fires.
He concludes by saying:
I strongly question whether any of the families involved will come out any better off financially. In fact, I think they will all suffer a loss that will take many years to rectify.
This letter is written by the highly respected Chief Superintendent of Police who witnessed this fire. I seek leave to have the full text of the letter incorporated in Hansard.
The letter read as follows-
from Mr P. F. Cashin
It is a sad day when politicians attempt to make capital out of the grief and despair of people involved in a tragedy such as the Woodhouse fire.
As Chief Superintendent of the Glenelg police district at the time, I personally witnessed the tragic aftermath of the fire at the Beggs’ property.
The damage to the Beggs’ property was severe.
It is a slur on all people who asked for assistanceassistance needed urgently. I hope that someone takes some action to rectify the unfortunate allegations cast not only on the Beggs family but all the people involved in the fires.
Information given to police and to other public utilities was considered as confidential. It would now seem that someone has broken this trust
The result of that will be that in any future similar tragedy people will be reluctant to supply information to the authorities or seek financial assistance.
Also let us not forget that we are talking about a loan and not some son of free handout.
I strongly question whether any of the families involved will come out any better off financially. In fact, I think they will all suffer a loss that will take many years to rectify.
– I return now to the wording of the matter of public importance we are discussing. One thing that could be said in its favour, other than the fact that the whole thing is obviously synthetic and patent, is that at face value it is refreshing that the Labor Party has raised an issue related to the rural sector. Never did a political party not only abysmally ignore but, worse still, deliberately create havoc and hardship in the rural sector as did the Labor Party when in government from 1972 to 1975. This is not only my view; it is the view of the Labor Party’s committee of inquiry which was established to investigate why the Australian Labor Party won only three of the 48 predominantly rural seats in the Federal Parliament in 1977. The report of the inquiry reads:
There is a body of opinion within the Party . . . which believes that following the last ALP government, the country voter is forever alienated from the ALP . . . and therefore it is futile to expect the ALP to significantly increase its basis of support in the country in the foreseeable future.
I am sure that the events of the last few days will strongly reinforce that view. So much for Labor’s transparently synthetic concern for the rural sector.
– Where is your evidence? Where are the facts?
-Order! I ask the honourable member for Ballarat to resume his seat. Three speakers have been heard in complete silence. At least one of the honourable members interjecting has already made his speech. I ask honourable members to keep quiet while the fourth speaker is addressing the Chair.
-The present Federal Government has gone a long way towards repairing the damage of Labor’s years in government, but we still have a way to go. We will never be able to compensate rural producers adequately for the losses and hardship they suffered during Labor’s years in office. The present Government can be particularly proud of what it has done to ensure the adequate and proper distribution of finance to rural industry. Much of this distribution is done through the States. For example, the rural adjustment scheme operates under an agreement entered into by the Commonwealth Government and all six State governments. It is an agreement common to all seven governments. The terms and conditions are common in all States, the criteria are common and the auditing provisions are common. The rural adjustment scheme, which has been applauded throughout Australia for years as a scheme of great benefit to the rural sector, can be supplemented by similar references to other schemes. There are many other avenues of finance for rural producers involving Federal Government funds but under all of them precise and accurate guidelines are laid down relating to the eligibility of people to receive assistance and the conditions of repayment by the States to the Commonwealth of moneys made available by the Commonwealth, and all moneys contributed to schemes by the Commonwealth are subject to Commonwealth audit.
I point out in passing that most of these schemes were not opposed, either in purpose or form, when the relevant legislation was introduced and debated in this House in years past, and that certainly is the case in relation to the schemes about which the Opposition has launched an attack today- schemes in which the officials who administer them have a very considerable degree of autonomy. All of these schemes are administered by men of high reputation and integrity and many of them are career public servants. Is the Opposition saying today that these people are under a cloud so far as their honesty and integrity are concerned? If so, I am sure that the persons concerned would welcome the accusations being made outside this House, but I am afraid that that is not going to happen because honourable members opposite know full well that such insinuations are entirely without foundation. They do not have the intestinal fortitude to get out from under the cloak of parliamentary privilege- a privilege that they are continually and progressively abusing in this place.
The Labor Party knows that it has got the skids under it throughout the community and it knows that nowhere is this more evident than in Victoria. Facing a State election, it is obviously getting desperate. Apparently it will not desist from stooping to the lowest possible depths in an attempt to retrieve the situation. If it thinks it will have any success through these tactics it has gravely misread the mood, the intelligence and above all the sense of fair play of the Australian people.
-The debate is concluded.
Bill presented by Mr Peacock, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill proposes a number of significant amendments and additions to the Passports Act 1938-73. It aims to update and modernise existing legislation and practice by clearly embodying in the Act the reasons for which a passport may properly be denied and by increasing the range of offences and penalties. Since the responsibility for the administration of the Passports Act was transferred to the Department of Foreign Affairs in March 1975, there has been a continuing review of the Passports Act and procedures which culminated in a report to Cabinet in February 1978. Honourable members may recall my statement in the House on 26 May 1978 on consular services, in which I foreshadowed the introduction of important amendments to the Passports Act.
Legislation governing the issue of Australian passports has remained substantially unchanged since 1938. The significance of the legislation to the public is now considerable. An average of well over 1,000 passports is issued by my Department every working day of the year. Present legislation gives a general discretionary power to issue or refuse passports but provides no guidelines. In keeping with the Government’s commitment to civil rights and administrative justice, this Bill seeks to provide a proper legislative basis for passport policy and a clear legislative framework for the exercise of ministerial discretion, which must continue to be an essential element in the administration of this difficult area.
The right to travel- to leave and return to one’s own country- is recognised as a basic human right. Australia has signified its recognition of this right by endorsement of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. In the not too distant past, it was argued that the need to carry a passport was an infringement of basic rights. Nowadays the withholding of a passport is likely to bring allegations that a basic human right has been denied. A passport or recognised travel document, whilst not essential for overseas travel under Australian law, is now generally necessary for travel abroad. As well as its obligation to provide travel facilities to its own citizens, the Government, as a responsible member of the international community, has an obligation to those countries to which its citizens travel. Australian passports contain a message from the Governor-General requesting other countries to provide free passage, protection and assistance to the bearer. This imposes on the Government a responsibility to ensure, so far as it can, that passports are not issued to persons likely to threaten the national security and public order of another country or the rights and welfare of its citizens. Of particular concern are political extremists and terrorists, drug pedlars, and persons inclined to violent acts as a result of mental illness. This concern is also reflected in the Bill.
For all the reasons I have mentioned, it has become necessary that the legislation spell out as clearly as possible the reasons for which a citizen may be refused a passport. In modern times the passport has become not only a very necessary document, but also an extremely valuable one.
There is growing traffic in lost, stolen and forged passports for use in connection with criminal and terrorist activities. Complementary to the Government’s intention to combat this traffic is its concern to preserve the international status of an Australian passport as a universally acceptable identity document. The Bill’s provisions relating to offences and penalties are specifically directed towards protecting our passports against abuse and misuse.
Before commenting in detail on specific provisions in the Bill, I want to mention in general terms a number of passport-related matters which I know are of interest to honourable members but which are not dealt with in the Bill. The present practice of requiring the consent of a spouse or former spouse to the issue of a passport has attracted increasing criticism from applicants for passports. I am aware that this policy has caused inconvenience and even distress on some occasions, but I have found it necessary to retain it as a practical means of protecting the financial rights of a spouse or former spouse. The existing procedure provides an opportunity for the other party to take legal action to prevent the applicant from leaving Australia, and thus possibly evading maintenance obligations or settlement of property matters. The need for the consent requirement, however, will be significantly reduced when Australia becomes a signatory to the International Convention on Recovery Abroad of Maintenance, and at that time the present practice will be discontinued.
A number of people have expressed concern that their place of birth is shown in their passports, and the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence recommended in its 1976 report on dual nationality that consideration be given to deleting the ‘place of birth’ from Australian passports. The reasons for this concern are well known, and an interdepartmental committee set up to consider the recommendations of the Joint Committee has given the most careful study to the possibility of deleting ‘Place of Birth’ and substituting ‘Place of Residence ‘ in its stead. However, omission of the place of birth would remove a significant item of personal information which enables ready identification. It is a requirement of most countries when considering applications for entry that the date and place of birth of the applicant be provided. A passport is internationally accepted as evidence on these points. A survey by Australian diplomatic missions in 1976 indicated that a number of countries would not accept passports which did not show the place of birth. The authorities of certain other countries advised that, although acceptable, the omission of the place of birth could cause difficulties for the passport holders. The omission of the place of birth from Australian passports could clearly inconvenience the large majority of Australian travellers and it is doubtful whether there would be any advantage for those persons who seek to have this information omitted from their passports, since the information would, in any event, need to be shown in visa applications. Place of Birth’, however, need not include the country of birth, and this latter detail may be omitted from a passport at the applicant’s request.
I should also explain the position taken by the Government in this legislation in relation to withholding passports from persons generally known as ‘white collar criminals’ who are suspected of attempting to escape from justice. Honourable members will know that in the past, passports have been withheld and/or withdrawn from persons suspected of having committed a corporate offence. Such action was taken upon receipt of advice by my Department from state corporate affairs commissions, or companies offices advising that an investigation was in process. However, in recognition of the Government’s policy relating to human rights and the view that the Passport Act should neither be used as an extension of the judicial system nor be expected to impose any more restraint on an individual than a court would be prepared to impose, this practice will be discontinued. Passports will, in future, only be withheld from such persons if a warrant for their arrest exists, or where the applicant is the subject of an Australian court order or condition of parole which restrains that person from obtaining a passport or from leaving Australia.
I shall now refer expressly to the principal clauses of the Bill. Honourable members may recall that in a Press release issued jointly by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) and me on 2 March 1978 we announced that the Government was to establish an inter-departmental committee to investigate and to recommend to Cabinet legislative or administrative changes necessary to reduce the incidence of children being removed from Australia by one parent without the knowledge, or against the wishes, of the other parent. The committee has concluded its investigations and will be submitting its report to Cabinet soon. This is not a problem which could be solved by new passport legislation alone, but insofar as it has proved possible, the relevant provisions have been strengthened and are set out in clause 8 of this Bill. Clause 6 inserts a new provision in the Act to the effect that an Australian passport remains the property of the Commonwealth. While this is considered to be the present position at law, it is desirable that the matter be put beyond doubt. Clause 7 empowers the Minister to issue passports. Currently the position is that only officers authorised by the Minister can issue passports. It is considered that, to retain an element of flexibility in dealing with the vast range of circumstances that surround passport applications, the Minister for Foreign Affairs should himself retain an unfettered discretion to issue passports.
Clause 8 inserts a series of new provisions into the Act. These list a number of categories of persons to whom passports shall be refused by authorised officers. In brief, these are, with certain exceptions, persons who are not married and who have not reached the age of 18 years, unless the consent of persons having custodial rights has been obtained; persons in respect of whom the authorised officer has reason to believe that there is in force a warrant for arrest issued in Australia; persons whom the authorised officer has reason to believe are required to remain in Australia under a court order, or under a condition of parole or of recognisance, surety or bail bond; persons who owe money to the Commonwealth as a result of circumstances arising from previous overseas travel; persons whom the authorised officer believes already to be in possession or control of an Australian passport in force- unless there are special reasons- and persons in respect of whom the Minister has decided that issue of a passport would threaten security or welfare in another country. Most of these provisions including the last one, conform with existing practice and simply give legislative expression to precedents on which successive governments have acted. These restrictions, I should add, apply only to the issue of passports by authorised officers and do not, as mentioned above, affect the Minister’s general discretionary power to issue passports.
Clause 9 increases certain penalties in the Act and provides that passports may be cancelled in circumstances which, if they had existed immediately before the passport was issued, would have prevented the issue of the passport. Clause 10 establishes an obligation on a person to whom a passport is issued to report any loss or theft to the relevant authorities as soon as practicable. Clause 1 1 provides that an officer may demand the delivering up of a passport that has been obtained by means of the false or misleading statement, ar has been used in connection with the commission of any offence against the Act or regulations. Clause 12 establishes a series of new affences relating to the improper use or possession of an Australian passport, forgery and fabrication of passports and the wrongful issue of passports. Clause 13 establishes greater penalties than under the original Act for a series of offences relating to the making of false or misleading statements in relation to passports, renewals or endorsements. This clause also applies to non-Australian passports where the purpose of the statements is to defeat the provisions of a law of the Commonwealth or of a Territory.
In conclusion, I wish to assure honourable members that substantial effort has been expended to produce a Bill which provides just and equitable treatment for Australians wishing to travel overseas; which provides the maximum protection for the welfare and convenience of those travellers; which nevertheless pays due regard to our responsibilities toward those countries to which they travel, and which brings passport legislation into line with the modern and liberal philosophies of this Government. It is fitting that, at a time when the administrative aspect of the passport function is being greatly modernised by the introduction of computerisation and other new techniques, the legislation governing it should also be reviewed and renewed. I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Lionel Bowen) adjourned.
– I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, it is expedient to cany out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to Parliament: Construction of Garden Island Dockyard, New South Wales, workshop, amenities building and services.
The proposal consists of five separate works each providing a functional facility for the dockyard as follows: A workshop building of 3 storeys to house facilities to service the new guided missile frigates; an amenities and refit control building of 2 storeys to house office accommodation for approximately 30 staff as well as showers, toilets, lunch and change rooms for 240 dockyard personnel; provision of rotary converter and reticulation to augment 60 hertz power supply to 3 wharves; provision of a 5 tonne electrical powered portal crane on the east dock wharf; extension of existing east dock wharf services to the southern end of the wharf with additional provision of general purpose electric light and power and ship-to-shore sewerage disposal services. A telephone ship-to-shore connection will also be provided. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $7.35m at October 1978 prices. The Committee in reporting favourably recommended the construction of the proposed works. Upon the concurrence of the House with this motion detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
-The Opposition does not oppose the motion. A number of large-scale works of this nature pass through this House at fairly regular intervals. In this particular case the work concerns a defence industries facility. It may be in the interests of the House when we are discussing an item involving some $7m to change facilities at Garden Islandrecognising that not dissimilar facilities exist at Williamstown in Victoria and that there is some doubt about future work loads in defence industries in Australia- for the Government to indicate what are its proposals for future naval works and constructions in Australia, in addition to maintenance. I very much doubt that the facilities which are being constructed- I am certain that they are necessary facilities- are warranted only for servicing the FFG frigates which we have on order. At this stage it is proposed to have three of them. I think that some collation of the works which are proposed- some indication of this could have been given to the House- may well have been given to the Committee. If it was, it would have been given to the Committee in confidence, not necessarily because it is confidential information but because the Department of Defence and its related offices tend to deal on a confidential basis with matters which, in other circumstances, especially in the United States, would be open to public debate.
The Opposition does not oppose this motion. However, I would like to see a more frank and open indication of the proposed work load and usage of this facility and other defence facilities which receive considerable sums of money. Such sums are made available by this House on the basis that public discussion will take place rather than on the basis of information being made available to committees confidentially. In such circumstances information on a particular project may be available to committees for assessment but information on the total intentions of the Department of Defence or the total defence needs of the country is not available for assessment.
– in reply- I wish to make a couple of points in response to the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). I cannot be absolutely certain, but I am 99.9 per cent certain that these works and all other works would have appeared in the defence works program at Budget time. In fact I am quite sure that they did. It is very often a question of such works not getting on to the program. But all works that are budgeted for are certainly on the public record. I would like to place that on record.
Secondly, there is no question of Department of Defence officers giving their evidence in private; the hearings are in public. The honourable gentleman made the point that there are Opposition members on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. I totally reject the suggestion that the matter is being hurried through. The evidence will be available in the Papers office when it is printed. It is all on the public record. The point that the honourable gentleman has made about hearings being held in confidence is not correct.
Furthermore, the item appears on today’s Notice Paper. There are times when members of the Public Works Committee who sit on both sides of the House debate the issue. I trust that the remarks I am making will not pre-empt any remarks which may be made by the Chairman of the Public Works Committee who is in the chamber. Certainly the matter is on the Notice Paper and there are Opposition members on the Committee. I defer to the superior knowledge of my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen), on this matter, if not on all matters; but I am 99.9 per cent certain that the details of this project will be found in the White Paper on Australian Defence which was put down last year. I do not think there is substance in the charge that this project is being rushed through as a secret measure.
– I did not say that.
– The honourable gentleman did say that. He said that it was treated in confidence; that the defence officers always give their evidence in confidence. That is just not so and it is especially not so in this case.
-by leave-As Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works I wish to refer to several comments made by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). Firstly, I point out that the hearings in relation to the Garden Island development project, which is the subject of this motion, were held in public. A full hearing was held in Sydney. The officers from the Department of Defence and the Department of Construction gave their evidence in public, and the questions were asked in public. No part of the proceedings was held in camera or was not open to the public.
Secondly, the whole object of the Garden Island development program, which is the subject of this discussion, is to provide facilities for the new FFG frigates. I seem to recollect that the first one is due to be delivered in 1981. The program involves fairly urgent works which will provide the facilities for the servicing of those new vessels. It does not impinge on any future development of Garden Island, which is the subject of additional planning by both the Department of Defence and the Department of Housing and Construction. I point out also that the Committee examined very closely whether we were duplicating facilities which are already being upgraded at Williamstown and which were the subject of an earlier inquiry conducted by the Public Works Committee. The Committee was satisfied that these works are not in any way duplicating the works at Williamstown and that the facilities being provided at Williamstown would not be adequate to service the new FFG frigates. The Committee was very conscious of the fact that there could be duplication of facilities and it examined this question in some detail. As I said before, Williamstown had been examined by the Public Works Committee previously.
I also point out to the House that in the White Paper on Australian Defence of November 1 976 the Government spelt out that it intended to develop the Garden Island facility. I refer to page 44 of that document which was put down by the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen). It states:
The Government intends that the major naval base at Garden Island, NSW, should remain, but be modernised and developed in a way which pays careful attention to environmental considerations and improved aesthetics.
This development is continuing and there are plans for the future development of Garden Island. I wished to make those few comments only to clarify the mind of the honourable member for Corio.
Mr SCHOLES (Corio)-by leave-Neither the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence (Mr McLeay) nor the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, the honourable member for Canning (Mr Bungey), listened to the remarks I made. I do not intend to repeat them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 1 March, on motion by Mr Killen:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Defence Force (Retirement and Death Benefits Amendments) Bill. It sets out in legislative form the clear intent of the Act. It has been found that the existing legislation does not carry this intent through into law. The situation which has developed as a result of a court case would enable this Act to be utilised for purposes for which it is not intended, and in the long term, because of the financial implications of those changes, could have serious effects on the future benefits available to members of the Defence Force. It is a question not of the benefits being reduced but of the cost of the increasing benefits at any given time becoming excessive and therefore governments being reluctant to deal with the legislation. The clear purpose of the Bill in the situation of persons being invalided out of the Services is to provide them with compensation for the loss of industrial earning capacity which they have suffered because of their injuries. The proposal is not for a national compensation scheme or for a general compensation scheme for persons who have been in the Services at some stage and who have suffered injuries or incapacities which are not the result of that service.
The Opposition supports the Bill because it makes clear in legislative form the purpose of the legislation. It will ensure that its purpose does not extend beyond what was intended. The Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act and its predecessor, the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Act, have been studied extensively by this Parliament in recent years. The Jess Committee sat for some considerable time to examine the DFRB legislation and make recommendations on means by which that legislation could be improved. The previous legislation was deemed to be unsatisfactory by all members of that Committee and recommendations were made which were accepted generally by both sides of the Parliament. Legislation to implement the recommendations of the Jess Committee passed through this Parliament in 1973. The provisions of the new legislation, which we are here amending, were applied to people who retired after 1 October 1972.
Unfortunately, some anomalies were created in the amending legislation in that persons with almost the same dates of service and promotion, et cetera, and who retired immediately before or immediately after 1 October found themselves with quite different benefits. In some instances, because of the way in which the original legislation, from which this legislation derives, was cast, retired persons have suffered disadvantages way out of proportion to what should be acceptable. In 1975 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) appointed the then honourable member for Herbert, Mr Duke Bonnett, now retired from this Parliament, as a single member committee of inquiry to inquire into the anomalies which existed in the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Act. Mr Bonnett was authorised by the Prime Minister to carry out that inquiry. He reported to the Prime Minister after he had left this Parliament but, I think, with his charter still intact, on 10 January 1978. Unfortunately, for reasons which the Government might explain, although Mr Bonnett was authorised by the Government to carry out this inquiry, the costs of that inquiry have never been met by the Government. In fact Mr Bonnett had to depend on voluntary labour, and persons who should not have been required to carry out that form of work on behalf of the Government, to produce his final report. That report has been in the hands of the Prime Minister for 15 months now. I understand that nothing has been heard of it. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that serious anomalies are brought out in Mr Bonnett ‘s report. I have a copy of it but it is not my prerogative to table it in the House or to make it public- I think that that is the Government’s prerogative.
I believe that retired persons who are now suffering fairly serious disabilities because of the differences between the two pieces of legislation should be entitled, at this stage, at least to a statement from the Government on its intentions with regard to the pre-October 1972 retirees. I cite just one example. A person who retired immediately prior to the operation of the present Act and who had almost the same length of service and the same promotions as a person who retired almost immediately afterwards receives a pension of at least $2,000 less than the person who retired under the present Act. That is set out in this report. The person who had served under the previous Act and who had retired under the previous Act would have paid a greater proportion of his salary as contributions to the Fund than would now be the case because of the changed contribution rates. Certainly the amounts would have been different but the proportion of salary would have been greater. Yet that person’s rights to benefits are considerably less. I ask the Minister whether he will take up Mr Bonnett ‘s report with the Prime Minister and whether the Government will table the report in the Parliament. It was prepared in good faith by the then honourable member for Herbert and a number of organisations contributed to its preparation in the belief that it would be taken seriously by the Government and that it would be a public document setting out the disabilities which persons who retired under the previous Act are now suffering.
I want to make it quite clear to the House that this is a responsibility created by an Art, which was passed by a previous Government, largely because of the manner in which some of the recommendations of the Jess Committee report were interpreted and applied. Anomalies were shown to exist fairly early in the operation of the present Act as compared with the previous Act and the Prime Minister clearly gave an undertaking that at least he would examine those anomalies when he authorised the then honourable member for Herbert to conduct his inquiries.
There is one other matter relating to the existing Act that I wish to raise and that is the position of widows who remarry. Service widows appear to be in a different position from those receiving benefits under the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme. Under the Commonwealth Superannuation Scheme as amended, a widow who subsequently remarries does not automatically lose the rights to a pension to which she was entitled in respect of her former husband. My understanding is that under the DFR and DB legislation she does lose that right to a pension. If that is so, it is a discrimination which should not be allowed to continue and I ask the Minister to examine the matter.
The Opposition does not oppose this legislation. As I indicated previously, the legislation sets in train what was the intention of the Act and what clearly is the understanding of its purpose. I raised other matters because I believe it is time that at least a report to the Parliament was made on what the Government’s attitude is to the report of the former honourable member for Herbert, Mr Duke Bonnett. What the Government decides to do about the report is a matter of policy- something it must determine- but it should indicate to the House, firstly, that that report exists, by tabling it, and secondly, the action it intends to take upon the report.
-I support the Defence Force (Retirement and Death Benefits Amendments) Bill which amends the Defence Force Retirement Benefits Act 1948 and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973. The Bill seeks to correct an anomaly in the legislation, as was disclosed by the Federal Court of Australia last year. After several appeals a former serviceman won his case. As the previous speaker, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) has said, if this situation were allowed to continue funds could be used up through their not being applied in the correct manner and this would be wrong. For example, a former member of the Defence Force could be granted further benefits for a disability which in fact was not connected with his original disability. The amendments to this Act will close the door on those sorts of expenses being charged to those who normally would get the benefit under the legal and correct classification. If the former Defence Force member’s condition is proven to have been connected with the original disability he will, of course, be in a position to have his situation reclassified. At one stage it may have appeared that the amendments to these Acts would virtually close the door on the serviceman applying to have his case reclassified. I have been assured that that is not so. The passage of this amendment will see to it that public funds are used in the correct manner. Although people may believe that their disability has been aggravated since they were classified, unless they can prove it clearly- it might even be a different sort of ailment- the public purse cannot be expected to foot the bill. This is understood by the principals concerned, and by the authority which decides these matters.
I support the Bill. I noted that the honourable member for Corio mentioned the Bonnett report. I hope that the Government will consider that report and act upon it. Duke Bonnett, a former member of this House, devoted a tremendous amount of his time- as did many other people- to putting that report together. It is relevant and should be noted by the Government.
-I support the remarks that have been made by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and, of course, the legislation itself. However, I ask the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) to take a closer look at some of the things that ought to have been done, in particular that which was mentioned by the honourable member for Corio. The interesting feature of this legislation is the number of amendments- some 28- that have been made to it since 1948. The Parliament is in continual search for an equitable system for the payment of people who have been injured in the service of their country. The same will be evident later in our consideration of the Repatriation Act. I take it that the history of human affairs is such that we will probably have to keep up the process, even under the benign administration of the present Minister- given and granted, of course, the guidance from this side of the House that he so eminently needs.
Anomalies have arisen in the treatment of people who were in the system and on pensions before 1972. I think of what happened to a friend of mine who achieved one of the highest ranks possible in the Australian armed forces and who had retired some time before that with service that was perhaps the most distinguished that anyone could have. He served in the First World War, in the Second World War and after that in Japan. Upon retiring at the appropriate age he received a pension for his time in the services. I took up his case, and that of similar people- of whom in 1972-73 there were some 8,000 or 9,000- with the then Minister, who was of my own political persuasion, in an attempt to have their situation brought up to date with the system that we were implementing. For some reason or other, on occasions such as this when we are getting around to making such amendments we always seem to be miserable to some people. We might extend justice and equity to 100,000 people but will leave 8,000 or 10,000 out in the cold. Therefore, I ask that the Minister give serious thought to bringing down an amendment of that sort.
I am interested, in particular, in clause S, which enshrines, or ought to, some of the principles we are to use in the treatment of young people who go into retirement or are injured in such a way that they have some sort of permanent invalidity. I refer to the special invalidity benefit to members under 18 years of age. Of course, there are not that many of them, but the same principle applies, I think, to a young person who is, say 20, 2 1 or 22 years of age and is just at the beginning of his career. In the exercise of their discretion of judgement, the people who are assessing that man’s invalidity and the effect that it will have upon his life are bound to consider the situation which applies at the time. In ordinary circumstances he will probably be a young man- on occasion it may be a young womanwho has left school at an earlier age that most others and has gone into the Services, where he has had some kind of apprenticeship training, or even had no special training that would allow him to claim that, in 10 or IS years, his income could be x, y, 2x or something such as that. This, of course, is one of the afflictions visited by the Services upon people in wartime. They enter upon permanent invalidity early in life and stay at the stage that one might call frustrated income development.
I do not know whether it is possible to evaluate the situation so that in later life, by the time that person is 10 or IS years older, one could say that in normal circumstances people such as that would have advanced thus far along the scale of income-earning capacity. I recognise that that is a particularly difficult problem. It is almost an abstract one, I suppose, looked at from the angle of the accountants and the like, but I realise that in many cases people have in fact gone from the Services into a lifetime of relative poverty. Poverty might be too strong a word but in an affluent community they are greatly disadvantaged. Therefore, I ask the Minister to ascertain whether he can take steps to ensure that young people, in particular, who are injured in such a way as to be incapacitated for further work will be protected against a lifetime of inadequate income.
Then, of course, there is the point that was made by my colleague the honourable member for Corio about the relative advantages to wives who come under the superannuation scheme compared with those who come under this scheme.
– There is nothing in it.
– I take it that that is not correct.
– I am glad to hear that it is not. It is one of the graces of modern society that we are abandoning some of the principles of the past, as a result of which we did chisel people out of all sorts of things. I do not know whether in this case the advantage has accrued to such people or whether they are to be equally disadvantaged. I am not au fait with the details of the Bill. In common with, I suppose, other honourable members, I rose to take part in the debate in order to give servicemen an assurance that this House and the Parliament are concerned about their welfare. If servicemen were to notice going through the House a piece of legislation to which only one honourable member had spoken they might consider, quite rightly, that we did not much care about it. That is not the case. I accept the responsibility of this Parliament to servicemen as being of a different measure to the responsibility that is owed to other people in the community.
When a person puts on a uniform and steps into the Services, even in peacetime, that person accepts a total and absolutely unqualified commitment to his country. As a result of his service he may well be totally incapacitated or killed. Even though that service may, over a long period, be in the quietest corner of the barracks, he is on call and his service, therefore, is totally unqualified. I accept the fact that some advantages should flow to people in the Services, and in kindred employment, over and above those afforded to other people in the employment system. I hope that the Minister will note the remarks of my friend the honourable member for Corio and do something about the matters that have been raised here. I recognise that there is a certain piquancy about this debate in that we have here an example of someone who has actually managed to beat the system for a while. I agree that we ought to iron that out but it is piquant to note that, event though a lot of people in the world do not get that to which they are entitled, sometimes someone can get something to which he is not entitled.
– in reply- The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) would have made a magnificant gaelic lawyer. I am bound to tell him that I did not quite understand his last remark. It seemed to me to be a little on the arcane side, but there it is. I can assure the honourable gentleman that I have listened with interest to what honourable members have said. I can give such assurances as may be appropriate that there is no discrimination with respect to widows. That was the point raised by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). With regard to the more substantive point to which the honourable gentleman refered- namely, the position of those who may be described and best understood by all of us as the pre- Jess report retirees- it will be appreciated that that has very substantial implications for a corporate government decision. The Government has not made a decision on that. It is not a matter which falls distinctly or peculiarly within my administrative responsibilities. It has wider corporate Government considerations. I thank honourable gentlemen for the manner in which they have facilitated the projected passing of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Killen) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 March, on motion by Mr Adermann:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Today we are debating the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1979. 1 would like to raise a point right at the beginning and that is that this Bill was introduced into this chamber only last Thursday evening and it is being debated today, only six days later. I think we have been given too little time to consider quite a major change that is to take place in the method of dealing with appeals in repatriation matters in a very involved Act. It has been difficult for us to get hold of all the appropriate people, to talk to the Returned Services League, to other servicemen’s organisations and to persons who act for veterans who are appealing both on the question of entitlement and on the question of assessment. I am not criticising the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) because I suppose the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) makes those decisions.
I thank the Minister for his co-operation through his Department in helping me to clear up some points in the proposed amendments. But we are dealing with a very involved Act. In the Bill proposed new sections are numbered up to 107VZZL. It is not easy. When I asked the Bills and Papers Office to give me the up-to-date legislation- I would not consider myself an expert on it- I realised by just looking at it that it was not the latest Act and that amendments were missing from the so-called up-to-date legislation. I hope that at some stage the Minister will be able to persuade the Parliamentary Counsel to give some priority to consolidating this Act and renumbering it, et cetera. On behalf of the Opposition I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide (a) that in assessment cases, the Repatriation Review Tribunal shall have power to receive, and to make determinations upon, any new evidence placed before it, and (b) for the re-introduction of the six-monthly indexation of pensions’.
The amendment will be seconded by the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart). For the benefit of members I think it is reasonable at this stage to quickly explain the main purpose of this Bill. We are dealing with the question of appeals. For more than 10 years before I came into this House I was one of the local medical officers for the then Repatriation Department. Since I came into this House I have helped a considerable number of ex-servicemen and exservicemen’s widows both from my electorate and from other electorates who have found out about my previous experience and who have tried to establish a medical case mainly on the question of entitlement rather than assessment.
Until now there have been four War Pension Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and four Assessment Appeal Tribunals. They have operated independently and there has not been overall consistency in their decisions on the interpretations of law. The proposition now is to establish a Repatriation Review Tribunal as the single, final body for the review of decisions on repatriation entitlement and assessment matters. So we will have a single tribunal dealing with both matters. The legislation provides for the reference of matters of principle from the Repatriation Review Tribunal to the Administrative Appeal Tribunal and for access to the Federal Court of Australia for the determination of questions of law. My main complaint about this legislation is where it deals with the question of assessment appeals. What has been happening until now is that an ex-serviceman applied for a pension to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal and he was or was not granted a pension. He either applied for a review for a higher pension and if he were dissatisfied with what had been granted he was entitled to appeal. The appeal went to the Assessment Appeal Tribunal consisting of an independent chairman and two specialist medical practitioners, usually specialists in the particular field which dealt with the main type of condition from which the ex-serviceman was suffering. In a number of cases, of course, this was not possible because the person concerned may have had entitlements for a number of conditions where different specialists would be involved. Generally speaking, a specialist was on that Assessment Appeal Tribunal who would know something about the type of condition. The ex-serviceman then prepared his case or somebody prepared it on his behalf, in effect replying to the reasons given for his original rejection.
To repeat, at the present time the appellant lodges his application for the increase, appointments are arranged, medical examinations conducted and reports completed. On the basis of these reports the Board or occasionally the commissioner or delegate makes a decision as to the pension rate. If the veteran is dissatisfied, he lodges his appeal. At the appeal hearing the veteran is examined by independent specialists who report their findings. In addition, reports by the appellant’s private doctors are often presented. This has become increasingly important since the introduction of published reasons for decisions. I would like to give myself a pat on the back there because I was one of those who felt very strongly about introducing this requirement of published reasons for decisions. This was done by the Labor Government when we had a chance to do so. As far as I was concerned it was ridiculous that a person was rejected either on the question of entitlement or assessment and he did not know why. All he was told was that he had failed. Now the appellant and his representative have a definite case against which they can present a contrary opinion. If he is to be given say, a 50 per cent pension, he can present evidence from his own local medical officers, from his employer, from his family and from friends indicating he ought to be entitled to a much greater pension.
An appellant is examined by the two medical specialists on the Assessment Appeal Tribunal. In 40 per cent of cases, as I understand it, appeals have been successful. Under the proposed system the appellant will not be examined at the Tribunal. If any further evidence is presented, the matter will be referred back to the original adjudicating body, thus adding considerably and unnecessarily to the complexity and time involved as well as the expense to the veteran. With the removal of the independent examining specialists, it will become mandatory for the veteran to adduce evidence. In reality there will be appeals on behalf of ex-servicemen against the Department’s decision using only the Department’s evidence as the basis for the appeal. All ex-servicemen will face delays and complexities in obtaining a determination.
I think that what is proposed will spell the end of a simple, relatively efficient and fair system. I can see no advantage whatsoever accruing to the veteran from these amendments although I can see advantages for the Department. It is inevitable that these amendments will work against the veteran’s interest. The abolition of examination by independent specialists is diametrically opposed to the recommendations of the Toose report. It is important for people who do not know the set-up to realise that these examinations by independent specialists, at present on the Assessment Appeal Tribunals, are not provided for, as I see it, in the legislation. They never have been provided for. They have developed over the years. One of the advantages from the point of view of the appellant has been that he was seen by the independent specialists. They looked at the report from the departmental medical officers but they also examined the exserviceman. They looked at the supporting evidence which was new evidence. In 40 per cent of cases, as I said, they decided that the exserviceman was entitled to a higher pension.
It would appear that these amendments have the interests of the Department at heart rather than the veteran. I cannot accept that the Department and its medical advisers in their examinations, reports and determinations are as completely unbiased and magnanimous as they would have us believe. The number of successful appeals- 40 per cent- surely attests to that fact. I regard the retention of the independent specialists on the Tribunal as very important. Further, I regard as fallacious the implication that having additional representatives of ex-servicemen’s organisations is any guarantee of a more sympathetic hearing. After all, it has to be pointed out that all the members of the tribunals at present are ex-servicemen. Not being an ex-serviceman myself, I would argue- in some ways this is irrelevant- that those of us who did not see active service are often much more sympathetic to the ex-serviceman than other ex-servicemen themselves who may take a tougher stand against their fellow ex-servicemen.
Much has been made of the provision of a right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court of Australia. I welcome this additional right but it should be kept in perspective. There seems to be an impression amongst some people, including exservicemen, that this right of appeal is tantamount to a second bite of the cherry. In fact, the right of appeal will exist only on a point of principle or law respectively to those particular tribunals. The number of cases in which such a basis for appeal will exist will be minute. The appellant will not have a further right of appeal simply because he is aggrieved at the decision of the Tribunal. It is important also to remember that a large number of people are affected by these amendments. Last year 9,772 appeals were lodged, 5,96 1 of which were appeals on the question of assessment. In round figures 40 per cent of 6,000 appeals represents 2,400 ex-servicemen who were successful. They will have a much tougher job. After 1 July this year when this legislation takes effect they are less likely to have their appeals heard.
I think it is wrong that the Government has not circulated this legislation sufficiently. According to people associated with the Australian Legal Aid Office, in Sydney at least, insufficient contact was made with them as advocates for the appellants by the present chairmen of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals. There may be all kinds of reasons why such contact was not made. But I think that when making such significant changes to the method of dealing with appeals the Minister and his Department should have made contact and heard evidence from all kinds of people. Perhaps they would then have come to a different conclusion, hopefully, the one which I have moved as an amendment in the second reading debate. This would make it possible for people to adduce new evidence at the point of appeal. Very simply- I do not want to detain people for too long about this matter- at present an ex-serviceman appealing against the assessment of his pension is entitled to adduce new evidence. He is entitled to a medical examination. In a large proportion of cases an ex-serviceman is examined at the time of his appeal. Now, if he adduces new evidence, that evidence has to go back to the Department. The whole thing has to start from scratch. The people who appear for ex-servicemen claim that these amendments will cause delays and will make it much tougher for them.
It has to be remembered that there is often a world of difference between what appears good on paper to people not intimately associated with the system and what is the reality. In some ways, one must suspect the motives of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs in proposing these amendments. One has to suspect that they are an attempt to discourage people from making appeals, to reduce the number of successful appeals and possibly- I am not sure- to eliminate the cost of the advising medical specialists. I am sure that it is felt by the members of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs who make the original decisions that the thousands of successful appeals lodged each year are a reflection on their decisions. An average of 2,400 successful appeals against assessments has been lodged in one year. I am afraid that the Minister may have accepted advice from his Department on that basis. I shall quote what some of the advocates who appear for ex-servicemen have said to me although I take a neutral attitude. They said: we regard the proposals as they apply to that AAT. as being retrograde in the extreme. Frankly, it is beyond our comprehension that the Federal body of the RSL could have agreed to them. We seriously doubt that the RSL’s advocates would agree with the proposals; it is questionable whether they were even aware of them. Again, we are brought to the conclusion that decisions have been made by people who have little first hand knowledge or experience of the Appeals system.
I do not know the procedure of the Returned Services League in getting opinions from the people who appear on behalf of its members. On a previous occasion I have met with Mr Justice Toose and the Secretary of the Department, Mr Kingsland, in regard to the proposal by Mr Justice Toose that there ought to be legal representation at the appeals. I can see difficulties involved. As Mr Justice Toose put it, it seems wrong that an ex-serviceman can use a deregistered barrister with all his ability- as well as the disability which led to his deregistration- to appear for him whilst he cannot use a registered barrister. I am not aware that this happens, but it is an extreme position put by Mr Justice Toose. Obviously, the other position, which is taken by the Department and which to some extent I share, is the difficulty created once lawyers are brought into this sort of appeal system. I see that the honourable member for Phillip (Mr Birney) is smiling. Hopefully he will be looking for work in the legal system again after the next election. There are difficulties involved. If lawyers were brought in, knowing what happens in workers compensation and third party insurance cases, I suggest that obviously they would add substantially to the costs. If I remember the figures for workers compensation cases in New South Wales, something of the order of 37 per cent of the total costs paid out by insurance companies goes to the legal profession; the other 63 per cent is shared by the doctors and hositals and by the poor blokes who were actually hurt. That 37 per cent does seem to be an excessive proportion to go to the legal profession; but this is not the time to become involved in that argument, except in the sense that it is relevant for those who would argue that there ought to be legal representation before the tribunals.
Since we are discussing amendments to the Repatriation Act, I think it is relevant to raise some of the points that have been put to me by the Returned Services League on the matters it considers to be of the highest priority. It is interesting to note that two or three of the matters that are of high priority are in fact a result of active steps taken by this Government during the last six months in an attempt to save money. Amongst the top four or five matters that the RSL considers to be of the highest priority is medical and hospital treatment for tuberculosis pensioners. Honourable members will recall the changes introduced last October by this Government. Other matters are the restoration of twiceyearly indexation, which was dealt with in the same piece of legislation, and an increase in dependants’ allowances, which have remained unchanged since 1954 for children and 1964 for wives. Obviously we cannot blame only this Government for that problem. Then there is the reduction in the time either in hospital or off work on full time medical treatment that qualifies a pensioner to receive war compensation at the temporary totally incapacitated rate, and the indexation of basic income limits affecting the provision of fringe benefits and the service pension. Three of those five matters are specifically results of what this Government has done. I think it is depressing that the Government has saved very small amounts of money through people who are a special responsibility of governments because they volunteered for service and served in the forces overseas or in war zones.
That brings me to the second part of the Opposition’s amendment- the question of reintroducing indexation on a six-monthly basis. As the House well knows, this change was debated simultaneously with the social security change on 10 October or 12 October last year and came into force on 1 November. Benefits for repatriation pensioners that previously were indexed on a sixmonthly basis will now be indexed on a yearly basis. The types of pensions that previously were indexed on a six-monthly basis and now have been changed to a yearly basis are pensions payable for certain disabilities general pensions and war widows’ pensions. If I remember correctly, the Minister said at the time that the likely saving in a full year by changing from six-monthly to yearly indexation is something of the order of $4m.
Four million dollars is a lot of money to us as individuals, but it is not a lot of money to this Government. Fairly recently the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) spent something approaching $40m for his VIP aircraft and work on them and the airports that is required to make him comfortable and happy. An announcement was made last week that the Government is spending $750,000 to house a collection of butterflies moths and insects that have been caught. They are certainly going to be very well housed. I do not usually go in for this sort of comparison, but I can just imagine what would have happened if the Labor Government had done that sort of thing. Imagine the screams that would have come from honourable gentlemen sitting opposite if the Labor Government had spent $750,000 on housing for insects and nearly $40m on the personal style of travelling of the then
Prime Minister and some of his Cabinet Ministers, and then had saved $4m by reducing the benefits paid to ex-servicemen.
I ask the Government to consider the proposals that the Opposition has put forward. Our amendment states:
That all the words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide (a) that in assessment cases, the Repatriation Review Tribunal shall have power to receive, and to make determinations upon, any new evidence placed before it, and (b) for the reintroduction of the six-monthly indexation of pensions ‘.
I should emphasise that there is no hurry for this legislation from the point of view of exservicemen. The legislation proposes to alter procedures relating to the tribunals from 1 July this year. The Bill could easily be amended to provide for the proposals in point (a) of our amendment. Even if the Government does not do that now, I hope that it will do it before the Bill is introduced into the Senate. I do not know whether this Bill has gone before the appropriate Government back bench members committee, but if it has -
– That would be the only place it has gone.
-Yes. In relation to point (a) of our amendment, it would be interesting to hear from the government back bench committee members whether these issues have been raised with them by people who are involved in appeals. I wish to make one final point that may seem disconnected. I promised Sir Mervyn Brogan, the Chairman of the Australian Veterans and Defence Services Council, that I would raise a matter with the Minister. A telegram from Sir Mervyn Brogan states:
Strongly urge amendment Repatriation Bill in clause 26, and where relevant consequentially, to omit words legally qualified medical practitioner and substitute medical specialist in relevant specialty. Such amendment regarded as most important statutory provision. Sir Mervyn Brogan, Chairman.
Honourable members know what that telegram refers to because I dealt with the matter earlier in my address. I hope that this Bill can be debated in a rational way and that the Government will think again before the Bill becomes an Act.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– I will deal with the points made by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman) in due course. I would like briefly to reiterate what the
Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill is all about. First of all, it establishes the Repatriation Review Tribunal as a single final body for the review of decisions- I stress that point- on repatriation entitlement and assessment matters. That is the first thing it does. Secondly, it provides for the reference of matters of principle from the Repatriation Review Tribunal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Thirdly, it provides access to the Federal Court of Australia for the determination of questions of law.
Problems certainly exist with the present system. There are four war pension Entitlements Appeal Tribunals and four Assessment Appeal Tribunals. Any ex-serviceman or any member of this House who has experienced some of the problems associated with these tribunals will understand that they operate independently. No machinery exists to ensure that there is any consistency in their decisions or in their interpretations of the law. I am sure that all of us know of almost identical cases which have been treated differently after appeal to tribunals. This has caused a great deal of trouble. People have come to my office saying: ‘My friend Bill Bloggs went before an appeal tribunal and won his case. I presented exactly the same case to a different appeal tribunal and I lost’. I believe this weakness exists in the present system.
I support the aim of this Bill which is to make the system easier to operate. I do not accept the statement of the honourable member for Prospect that this Bill has been introduced to help the Department of Veterans’ Affairs the Repatriation Commission or the Repatriation Boards. I think it has been introduced to streamline the appeals system, to standardise it and to make sure that all appeals go to one body instead of to eight bodies as they do now. That is not a good system. I think it is a wasteful system and that it has produced many anomalies. All of us have experienced those anomalies.
I think that a single tribunal certainly will ensure greater uniformity and consistency in decision making. This will benefit ex-servicemen who appeal against decisions of the boards or the Commission. Under the new system, an exserviceman will lodge his appeal to the Repatriation Commission if a board has rejected his case. If the Repatriation Commission rejects his case he can then appeal to the Repatriation Review Tribunal. At present he applies either to one of the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals or to one of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals. It seems to me that the new system will be much better. I should like to take up a point contained in the amendment moved by the honourable member for Prospect when he said: in assessment cases, the Repatriation Review Tribunal shall have power to receive, and to make determinations upon, any new evidence placed before it, . . .
The aim of the new tribunal is to review cases already heard by the Commission. If this amendment is accepted, it will mean that a case can be reopened and that it will have to be reheard by the Repatriation Review Tribunal. I believe that that would be very wasteful. I can see that in some cases it might benefit ex-servicemen but in many cases it will mean that a whole case will have to be examined once again. If any new evidence is produced in the hearing before the Repatriation Review Tribunal, that evidence will be sent back to the Repatriation Commission which will reopen the case- it will not rehear the whole case- in order to hear the new evidence. That should not be a lengthy procedure. I think that if each case in which new evidence is produced has to go before the Repatriation Review Tribunal and the whole case has to be reopened, long delays will be caused because we will only have one Review Tribunal. Of course, a number of panels will be working within the Tribunal. There will be a president who must be a lawyer. There will be deputy presidents who will head the panels that will hear the cases. It seems to me that the decision to introduce this new Tribunal is a good decision. It will streamline the system.
I should like to deal briefly with the constitution of the Tribunal. The President must be a legal practitioner and he will be responsible for the operation of the Tribunal. He will have power to decide the procedures to be followed by the Tribunal. This is important because it has been decided that the Tribunal hearings should be held in as informal an atmosphere as possible. It has been suggested that there should be legal representation. I agree with the honourable member for Prospect that this would be a bad thing. It would take away the present informality of the proceedings, which is one of the beneficial features of the whole system of repatriation appeals at present. It will be one of the great beneficial features of the appeals system in future. The Deputy President also must hold legal qualifications. In the absence of the President he will preside at Tribunal hearings. Entitlement hearings are not nearly as complex as assessment hearings. During the entitlement hearings the Tribunal normally will consist of a deputy president, a Services member appointed from the list of names submitted by the organisations representing returned soldiers, and a third member.
Most of the problems in the present system occurred in the hearing of assessment appeals. They are the hearings which really affect individual servicemen. In this case, the third member of the Tribunal will be a medical practitioner. The honourable member for Prospect referred to a telegram from Sir Mervyn Brogan whom I have known for many years. Sir Mervyn Brogan asked that the third member appointed to the Tribunal be a medical specialist. It is my understanding that the job of the medical member is to help other members to understand and to assess the value of the evidence before the Tribunal and to give opinions on matters of medical inference from proven facts. It is not his job to give medical advice as a member of the Tribunal. I do not believe that he should give private medical advice to the members of the Tribunal- especially if a decision rests on that advice- unless the facts can be vouched for.
– That is why Brogan wants him to be a specialist- so that he will know the difference between arthritis and an ingrown toenail.
-If there is any problem at all, the Tribunal can call for specialist evidence if it is required. That can be done under proposed new section 107VZ. I think that that is a satisfactory way of doing it. At any time, the Tribunal can call for a specialist opinion. That is better than having a specialist as a member of the Tribunal. If a specialist is a member of the Tribunal he might be a specialist in arthritis, as the honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) said, but he may not be a specialist in heart disease. It is much better to have a general medical member who can say to the Tribunal: ‘This problem requires the advice of a heart specialist’. A heart specialist can then be summoned to give evidence and opinions before the Tribunal. I agree with that. If there is a requirement for a specialist to be a member of the Tribunal it would mean that many specialists would be involved as different specialists would be required for different cases. This would make for great complexities. It is much better to have a good general practitioner who can advise the Tribunal on the calling of specialist evidence. I did not know about Sir Mervyn Brogan ‘s telegram to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) until just before I came here. I would have liked to telephone Sir Mervyn Brogan and talk to him about it but I did not have time to do so. I think that he is seeking to introduce a very complex system by having a medical specialist on the Tribunal.
I think that the proposal to allow for the reference of matters of principle from the Tribunal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is sensible. Under the existing system there is no right of appeal at all from either the assessment appeal tribunals or the entitlement appeal tribunals if questions of principle need to be settled. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal is a new tribunal which has not yet been completely tested, but I think it would be useful when there are questions of principle to allow this appeal to go forward. The same applies for access to the new Federal Court of Australia for determination of questions of law. I am glad to see that any costs incurred by an appellant in any referral to either the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Federal Court of Australia will be met by the Commonwealth. This is, of course, as it should be.
It is interesting that the proposed Repatriation Review Tribunal is modelled in many respects on the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It will function in a similar manner. Its role will be to review decisions that are the subject of applications before it rather than to hear applications, as is done in the existing repatriation appeal system. The system of appeals to both the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court of Australia will remedy a deficiency in the present system. There is no specific right for parties to obtain access to a court of law if they disagree on any issue of law. I believe that this change is a very good thing. Also, the President of the Tribunal may, on his own part, refer a question of law to the Federal Court. If this is done by the President of the Tribunal the cost to the applicant will be again met by the Commonwealth. If the Repatriation Commission appeals to the Federal Court on questions of law the applicants costs will also be met by the Commonwealth. Whilst the Bill provides a discretion in the Federal Court as to costs when an unsuccessful applicant before the Tribunal pursues an appeal to the Federal Court on a question of law, provision is made for the applicant to apply to the Attorney-General for assistance.
I would like very briefly to deal with the introduction of six-monthly indexation. As an exserviceman and an individual member of this House, I agree that there should be six-monthly indexation of pensions, but I believe that if this is to be done it should be done in the Budget context and not in the middle of a Budget year. If it were done now it would upset the whole system.
– You are crawling to the Treasurer.
-No. I believe that we can influence the system we have and that we should influence that system at Budget time so that sixmonthly indexation is restored. I do not think that the debate on this Bill is the occasion to move an amendment to give six-monthly indexation to pensions.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to correct one thing I said earlier. I talked about appeals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal from the new Repatriation Review Tribunal. I should of course have said that the Bill provides for reference of matters of principle to the AAT. The honourable member for Prospect was critical of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. I think he has been in the game long enough to understand that the Repatriation Boards and the Repatriation Commission are not part of the departmental system; they are quite independent tribunals. When they assess a case they do so quite independently without any interference from the Department. I regret that the honourable member saw fit to be so critical of the Department because in all of my dealings with it I have found it generally to be very efficient, sympathetic and acting in the best interests of exservicemen. It does its best within the regulations. The Department’s officers of course have to obey the regulations and in spending vast amounts of money they have to be careful to ensure it is not wasted. I have found the Department to be very efficient.
I would like to make just two points on the new Repatriation Review Tribunal. The concept of an independent tribunal combining the functions of both the previous War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and the assessment appeal tribunals was proposed by Mr Justice Toose in his independent inquiry into the repatriation system. The concept has been supported by the Returned Services League. I believe this legislation will unify and streamline appeal procedures for appellants whose claims have been disallowed. I support the legislation. I do not agree with the amendments proposed by the honourable member for Prospect. I commend the Government for its consideration to ex-servicemen as demonstrated by this Bill.
-The explanatory memorandum distributed by the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) makes a number of points. One is that this Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill 1979 will establish the Repatriation Review Tribunal as the single final body for the review of decisions on repatriation entitlement and assessment matters. The Bill also provides for the referral of matters of principle to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The Bill provides access to the Federal Court of Australia for the determination of questions of law. In the explanatory memorandum the Minister explained the existing appeal provisions. The memorandum states:
Over the years, marked differences have developed in the hearing of proceedings, between assessment and entitlement appeals.
Immediately preceding that comment the memorandum states:
Each Tribunal operates independently with no machinery to ensure overall consistency in their decisions or in their interpretations of law.
Apparently one of the reasons for introducing this amending Bill is that there are inconsistencies between decisions. I would have thought that a government that believes in competition, free enterprise and difference of opinion would not have used that as an argument to stabilise an appeal system. However, as those statements are made in the explanatory memorandum and also because of the statements in the second reading speech I wish to ask the Minister a series of questions. I hope that the Minister in replying to the debate will answer those questions. First, what were the substantial practical problems which prevented the Government from keeping to its intention to transfer the functions of the existing repatriation appeal tribunals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal? Secondly, what issues of law are likely to need clarification by the Federal Court of Australia and what issues of law have not been able to be clarified under the existing appeal system?
Thirdly, what issues of important principles of general application under the Repatriation Act are likely to be referred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal? Fourthly, why is it still retained in the Act that the representative of the Repatriation Commission or the appellant cannot be a legal practitioner although the President and Deputy Presidents of the new Tribunal have to have legal qualifications? Fifthly, what consultations have taken place between the Minister and/or officers of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and ex-servicemen’s organisations, the Chairman and members of the existing entitlement and the Assessment Appeal Tribunals and advocates who appear regularly before those tribunals?
The sixth question is: Is it anticipated that under the new system the time lag at present existing on the hearing of appeals will be reduced or lengthened? The seventh question is: Is it further anticipated that the number of appeals by ex-service personnel will be reduced and the number of successful appeals also reduced under this new legislation? The eighth question is: Can new evidence be introduced by the appellant before the new Tribunal at the time of the hearing or are the grounds of appeal restricted to the evidence already rejected by the Commission or by a board?
Until I get straight and satisfactory answers to all these questions I can only assume that these amendments to the Repatriation Act are a backdoor method of further reducing the prospects of ex-servicemen and women and their dependants obtaining just compensation for their war service. The 1977 amendments have created some confusion amongst ex-servicemen and women, medical practitioners, advocates and the appellants themselves. I cite as my authority for that statement the annual report of the No. 4 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal for the year ended 30 June 1978. The Chairman of that Tribunal is Mr K. L. Harding. The Deputy Chairman is Mr N. C. McGregor. Mr A. Lyne was a member of the Tribunal until 30 September 1977 and, on his retirement, Mr D. B. Nichols was appointed to fill the vacancy. The report at page 3 reads:
During the year, many of the implications of the amendment of section 47 of the Repatriation Act and the insertion of section 24aa have become clear. From the point of view of a Tribunal, the changes provide a much firmer legal basis for deciding appeals. In this respect, they build on the foundation established by the introduction of the practice of giving reasons for decisions.
Many appellants are not yet aware that there is now a clear requirement for the establishment on the evidence before us of one of the casual links between incapacity or death and eligible service which are prescribed by statute. Although no onus of proof is placed upon them, appellants neglect the evidentiary provisions of section 24aa at their peril. Some medical witnesses are unaware that it is no longer sufficient to rely on the inability of the Repatriation Commission to disprove aetiological possibilities of varying degrees of remoteness.
Most appeals still relate to the 1939-43 war and the 1977 amendments have accentuated the difficulties which arise through the effluxion of time. Widows are clearly disadvantaged. Over half of the appeals which we heard during the year under review were brought by widows. They were almost invariably unsuccessful. It is extremely difficult to establish a casual link between a death today and service which concluded 30 years ago. Many widows blame the war for the premature death of their husband with undoubted justification in some cases. They regard this as a proper basis for pension. However, the Act makes no separate provision for this eventuality. The widows of servicemen who were prisoners of war in the Pacific theatre are particularly disadvantaged.
The Government has now brought in these new amendments. The amendment I mentioned was almost taken straight out of the Toose report, the Independent Enquiry into the Repatriation System’, which took about four years and cost an inordinate amount of money. Mr Justice Toose did recommend that section 47 of the Act be amended or abolished. It was amended in the 1977 legislation. But what did the Government do about Mr Justice Toose ‘s recommendations on statutory bodies for determination of claims? On page 1 6 of the summary of the report honourable members will find that paragraph 67 says:
Repatriation Boards should be abolished and replaced by the following arrangements:
The report goes on to set out those arrangements in sub-paragraphs (a), (b), and (c). It suggests that the commissions should be retained but in paragraph 70 it states:
Jurisdiction in respect of matters the subject of appeal for entitlement and assessment at present shared by Entitlement and Assessment Tribunals should be placed with Tribunals empowered to determine both entitlement and assessment matters.
Paragraph 71 states:
Such Appeal Tribunals should have the independence, powers and status proposed for the projected Administrative Appeals Tribunal and, ideally, should be constituted as a Repatriation and Defence Division within that Tribunal.
Admittedly, the Minister did say that there are practical problems but he did not say in his second reading speech what those practical problems are. The Minister suggests that the Repatriation Review Tribunal, made up of both the Assessment Appeal Tribunals and the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals, should be established. The only thing that is added is that the Tribunal have referral powers to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and, on matters of law, to the Federal Court of Australia.
Until the Minister persuades me otherwise I am convinced that this again is merely a sop to our ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen. This proposal, to my mind, is designed to try to reduce the number of appeals that are being conducted by the Repatriation Boards, the Repatriation Commission and the Assessment and Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. I only wish I had time to analyse the figures of the Assessment Appeal Tribunals and the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals over the last couple of years. I believe it is sufficient to cite just a few. The Repatriation Commission says in its annual report that there were 9,772 appeals to the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals and the Assessment Appeal Tribunals. In the early part of my speech I posed the question: Is this legislation intentionally or unintentionally designed to cut down the number of exservicemen and ex-servicewomen who are appealing to bodies above the level of the Repatriation Commission? On page 58 of the Repatriation Commission’s report, under the heading ‘Table 12, Appeals to Entitlement Appeal Tribunals 1977-78’, the summary shows that no total figure of the number of appeals heard is given. The number allowed was 309 and the number disallowed was 2,802. A quick addition gives me a total of 3,1 1 1 cases heard. The Entitlement Appeal Tribunals had 2,588 cases outstanding as at 30 June 1978. But of the 3,1 1 1 heard, 309 were successful. On page 59 no total number of appeals heard by the Assessment Appeal Tribunals is shown. There were 2,249 appeals allowed, 3,480 appeals disallowed and 29 appeals reduced. There were 1,167 appeals outstanding as at 30 June 1978.
Mr Deputy Speaker, you know and the Minister knows that it is the duty of an Assessment Appeal Tribunal to decide the extent of disability or incapacity of applicants. There are better figures on the allowance of appeals by the Assessment Appeal Tribunals than the Entitlement Appeal Tribunals. But even in this example, 2,249 appeals were allowed, 3,480 were disallowed and 29 were reduced.
Is the Government fair dinkum in introducing legislation such as this when in an explanatory memorandum it comes out with the wonderful words that this proposal provides for a single appeal tribunal; that it allows the ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen involved in that infinitesimal number of cases to appeal to the Federal Court of Australia; that it allows the Assessment Appeal Tribunals to refer matters to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, again in an infinitesimal number of cases? A number of members of the Liberal and National Country parties in this Parliament hold high ranking office in various ex-servicemen’s organisations. I am surprised that tonight the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), the honourable member for Grayndler- that is I- and the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) are the only honourable members prepared to stand up and protect the eligibility of ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen to pension entitlements. The Liberal and National Country Party Government had been whittling their entitlements down prior to 1 972 but since returning to power in 1975 those parties have done so even more.
In the earlier pan of my speech I asked whether the Minister or any officers of the Veterans’ Affairs Department had had any consultation with ex-servicemen’s organisations. I doubt very much that they did. My information is that they did not. Even if they did, I pose this question: Why are ex-service organisations, which are supposed to protect the interests of their members, allowing the Repatriation Act to be weakened even further? It seems to me that those organisations have failed to protect the interests of our ex-servicemen and exservicewomen because they believe that this Government can do nothing wrong. In the near future those organisations will find that under the new legislation it will be much harder to get an assessment appeal or an entitlement appeal allowed than it was under the old legislation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Before calling the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), I draw the attention of honourable members to the presence in the Gallery of the Chairman and executive members of the National Aboriginal Conference. I am sure honourable members would wish me to extend a welcome to them.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-Mr Deputy Speaker, like you, I extend a particular welcome to the members of the National Aboriginal Conference.
I regard the introduction of the Repatriation Acts Amendment Bill as a backward step. Nothing in the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs (Mr Adermann) or in the remarks of the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) convinces me that it is anything other than that. I do not think it is relevant to consider streamlining a piece of legislation unless it is likely to produce a better system for the ex-servicemen and women of Australia. We are speaking in this debate about the rights of hundreds of thousands of people. It is true to say that those rights are now a fading vision. It is approximately six years since the last men and women came home from Vietnam; it is about 25 years since the last men and women came home from Korea; it is 34 years since they came home from the Second World War; and it is 60 years since they came home from the First World War.
I have the feeling that this legislation is part of the machinery which is being established to try to get the claims of ex-servicemen and women upon the gratitude of the people of this country to fade away as fast as possible. I have heard around the Parliament mention of people who are advocating that we should abolish the whole system- give our ex-service men and women a hearty golden handshake and then ask them to go away. They will not go away. The report of the Repatriation Commission shows that, in 1977, 10 men from the South African War were still drawing pensions, and it is 79 years since they came home. So we can look forward to having around people who have this kind of claim upon the Australian people for the next 40 or 50 years.
We have to examine very closely what we are doing in this field. The present Government has a sorry record in this area. The further in time we get from the wars, the drier become the tears of gratitude. The wars were so long ago that the people who took part in them are being forgotten.
As has been outlined by my friend the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), we have had a reduction in benefits, even in the last three or four years. We have had a reduction in the medical and hospital treatment available to people who are on a full pension. There has been a reduction in the dependants’ allowances, in relation to which none of us has done anything satisfactory over the last 15 or 20 years. Other reductions have been effected. Fringe benefits which have meant so much to many of the service men and women are slowly being whittled away. I do not think that that situation is good enough. The honourable member for Grayndler; (Mr Stewart) asked what were the causes of the substantial practical problems in the legislation which was brought down earlier. That is just another example of the way in which this Government has gone about its business. It makes promises without giving any consideration to the practicality of the situation. That is just another example of its performance.
I remind honourable members that this legislation is part of a very long search for the means to establish a satisfactory repatriation system. I do not suppose that there is an absolute solution at all. In the front of the Repatriation Act I see listed some 70 amendments which have been introduced since the first Bill was brought down approximately 60 years ago. We have to commit ourselves to the proposition that the Act needs constant scrutiny and constant examination. Because of the changing circumstances in the general community, the decisions we make concerning the benefit rights of servicemen in relation to the rest of the community may well be irrelevant in 5, 10 or 15 years time. That has little to do with the war; it has to do with the society in which we live. The argument that one would apply in relation to lots of other superannuation and pension scheme benefits is that the status of people ought to change with the changing times. So we should be liberalising some aspects of the repatriation system. Although it may well be desirable to talk about tidiness, streamlining and carrying out more logical examinations of matters, that is secondary to the fact that people are not getting a fair enough go. We of the Opposition are not alone in saying that. The evidence is contained in the report of one of the tribunals.
One of the interesting occurrences to me was the decision taken some two or three years ago to change the name of the Department. It used to be called the Repatriation Department. Everybody talked about ‘the Repat Department’. I am talking about thousands of people in this community. The War Memorial lists the names of 100,000 men and women who were killed in the wars. Approximately three-quarters of a million people volunteered to serve anywhere in the world during the Second World War. A total of one million people went through the Services. In the First World War there were 400,000 volunteers and about 3 13,000 people sailed away from these shores. We are talking about a mammoth commitment by the Australian people at that time and what I believe to be a moral demand upon us to examine the situation and to ensure that the commitment that they accepted is met with equal commitment on our part.
Servicemen experience extraordinary difficulty in proving a case these days. I do not think that this legislation will make it any easier for them to do so. It may make it tidier; it may appeal to the legal fraternity and to those who look at administrative systems. I do not think that it will make it easier at all. The question of evidence has been raised by my friend from Grayndler. I refer to the annual report of No. 4 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal for the year ended 30 June 1978. A substantial change to the spirit of the Act has been implemented. One has to show that there is a causal relationship between one’s war disability and one’s war service. In many instances that is very difficult to prove. Over a period of many years we have conducted a campaign to have accepted the view that, unless the Department, the Commission, or the responsible tribunal could establish that there was no causal relationship, that relationship should be accepted. The Entitlement Appeal Tribunal states as follows:
Many appellants are not yet aware that there is now a clear requirement for the establishment on the evidence before us of one of the causal links between incapacity or death and eligible service which are prescribed by statute . . . it is no longer sufficient to rely on the inability of the Repatriation Commission to disprove aetiological possibilities of varying degrees of remoteness.
Most appeals still relate to the 1939-45 war and the 1977 amendments have accentuated the difficulties which arise through the effluxion of time. Widows are clearly disadvantaged.
I think I should read again the lines read by my friend from Grayndler:
However, the Act makes no separate provision for this eventuality -
That is talking of the inability of widows to prove a case. The Tribunal continues:
The widows of servicemen who were prisoners of war in the Pacific theatre are particularly disadvantaged.
Surely that is apparent to everybody. How does a person prove that what happened to him in 1 945 on a field somewhere in Borneo, in New Guinea, in the Middle East, in the air or on the sea is now causing him serious disabilities? I do not think that we have gone about this matter in a scientific way. I am suggesting that the time has come for a scientific examination of the problem to be carried out.
By the year 1944-45 the people in the Australian Army, particularly those who were in the infantry and who were sent to the various war zones, were probably the toughest and fittest people one could find in the country and possibly on this planet. By the time the people in the Army had been put through the sifting machine, which included going to places like Canungra, there was no room in the system for them unless they could get up and keep going no matter what had happened to them. Back in 1944-45 those people- this probably includes some of the members of this Parliament- were probably the toughest and fittest people in the country. It is logical to presume that, unless they were disabled during the war, they should still be in 1979-35 years later- the fittest of their generation. The problem arises when they put their applications before the tribunals. There is no logical attitude on the part of the people who examine them. The people on these tribunals, who would be an average of 20 to 30 years younger, say: ‘It is just because you are too old. You are over the hill. You can expect this sort of thing to happen to you’. What I am suggesting is that we should examine thoroughly a group of them and see how fit they are in 1979. Let us take the infantry battalion to which I belonged in 1945.
– What battalion was that?
– It was the 2/33 Battalion of the 7th Division. Its only serious disability was that a lot of the soldiers came from Sydney. Apart from that, they were first class soldiers. They were pretty tough, they were pretty rough, and they knew how to deal with all sorts of people- their friends, their allies and their enemies. On occasions they drew very little distinction between people and how they would deal with them. As I say, they were on their last parade, as indeed were the members of every one of the other 40 or 50 battalions we had at the time, people of exceptional physical capacity. We could track down a number of those people without any great difficulty at all and examine them. We could find those who are still alive of the 750 soldiers or thereabouts who were on that parade and determine their physical capacity. We could then take a similar group in the community who did not serve or who served where the going was not quite so rough and see how the two groups equate I suggest that if they were the fittest in 1944-45 and if they are not still the fittest of their generation, they have a case to show that they have a demand upon the repatriation benefits of Australia, even if they cannot prove the causal relationship. It was my fortune to administer the portfolio of repatriation in an acting capacity for about four weeks back in 1973-74.
– It was a good department to survive.
-The department stood it all right. At that time I tried to float the suggestion that we do something like this and as far as I know there has not been anything done of that order. Even if it has nothing whatsoever to do with the position before us tonight of claims for repatriation benefits, it may well be a substantial contribution to medical science to carry out such a piece of research. There is no doubt that in the Second World War we had better records. People could prove their case better; they could prove much more easily than those in the 1914-18 War that they were once fit. So ask that we start to consider this matter in a more scientific way.
We also have to consider the fact that it is especially tough for a person now, 35 years later, to show the causal relationship. It is almost impossible for widows to do so. I suppose that in the last year or so a couple of dozen people have contacted me and said things like: ‘George died a few weeks ago. He had been sick for the last five or six years. I remember when he came home from the War in 1945. He wasn’t too well but he got better. He didn’t have too much trouble over the years’. What chance has the widow got? In many instances the widows are not even sure about the unit in which their husbands served.
They have no possible chance of proving anything. Any changes towards legalism in this system are going to prejudice the people who are making the claims upon the system. Therefore I suggest that this House ought to vote for the amendment. We ought to start to do something about re-arranging the system. As I say, I think we have a duty in this matter which transcends any other consideration of economy or anything else. It is a total duty.
I think we have made the Bill more complicated. I do not see any reason for worrying about appeals on questions of law. How are people going to handle that? We should make the law in such a way that the matters can be handled by the tribunals without reference to courts, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or anything else. I do not think that they are advances at all. The difficulties of interpretation are going to be compounded by this legislation. We have to remember that the original spirit of the system was that the benefit of the doubt would be given to the serviceman. I am not too sure that that spirit has ever been carried out.
– Do you remember Dr Evatt fighting about section 47, the onus of proof?
-That is right and he gave us very strong opinions about it. What I want to show is that in fact, no matter what the law says, at various times it has been easier for some people than others to prove their case. Of course the people who got the roughest run of all were those who served in the First World War. Anybody who has read much about the First World War or who has spoken to anybody who served in it cannot really understand how anybody survived it, let alone came home to claim pensions 50 or 60 years later. The figures as to the number of men who survived the First World War and who claimed pensions look ridiculously small to me. The figures in the last report of the Repatriation Commission, as it was called, show that in 1950 or 1951, more than 30 years after the First World War, some 15,000 men who returned from that War were receiving pensions. That is an infinitesimal number. In fact it looks extraordinarily small to me. I might check it afterwards and find out whether there is some different statistical way of treating things these days. As I said earlier, some 330,000 men and women sailed from Australia in the First World War. There was a casualty rate of about 95 per cent and 60,000 people killed. Their names are inscribed on the walls at the War Memorial. They had the highest casualty rate of anybody in the Allied Armies because they were nearly all front line troops and they served under dreadful conditions. Those surviving the First World War are entitled to some special consideration now, and I hope that they are getting it. I rather suspect that they are, although the figures reveal that the number now receiving pensions is not that high. Of course the actual figure is probably concealed in the number of Service pensions, but that is a pretty ungracious way of doing it. There is no doubt that, particularly for the First World War people, the umbrella of the repatriation system has a psychological effect. It is a piece of social and medical therapy in its own right. The latest figures- that is, as at the end of 1978- show that of thse who survived the Second World War only 100,000 veterans were receiving pensions. ‘Veteran’ is not the word that most of us use. So 100,000 of the 750,000 who served are receiving pensions. If I remember correctly, the figures show that there were 180,000 battle casualties in the Second World War. So we are getting to the situation where about 100,000 of the 180,000 are receiving a pension. They would not all be battle casualties but the percentage would be much higher for the Second World War than for the First World War. All these figures show that the people who were the earliest into the system are the ones who have got the least. Therefore it is time for a re-evaluation of the system.
On the whole, most of these members of the Services are not all that worried about their pension entitlements unless they are retiring with no superannuation and things like that. But they are concerned about the fringe benefits, such as medical benefits. There is no coverage like repatriation coverage. I cannot understand how anybody who has been through the repatriation system and who has had the advantage and the benefit of the repatriation system should oppose the introduction of a national health service. It struck me that no matter what a person’s estate, whether it be high or low, even if he opposed any idea of there being a national health service he was very glad that he was able to benefit from the repatriation health system. We should be expanding such health services. During our term of office we expanded the availability of the hospitals to encompass the local communities. I do not think that service has been used as much as it ought to have been.
What I am suggesting to the Minister is that at this stage, a long while after the sounds of battle have died, it is time to re-evaluate the way in which we carry out our duties in this matter. It is very difficult for people who have come onto this planet years after a war has ended to imagine what it was all about, and to understand that it is still possible to be struck down by things that happened 30 or 40 years ago, even if the complaint has not worried that person in the interim. I have seen men who have had injuries for 40 or 50 years and who have gone to work, gone off duty for a few days, gone back to work again and then collapsed because of an ulcer condition, a heart attack or something like that, only to find repatriation benefits and so on being denied to them because their disability could not be proved. The human frame was not made to carry extra holes in it and survive.
I am suggesting to honourable members that they examine the whole system of repatriation. Whilst I think this legislation is a backward step, I do not believe that it is the special ambition of the Minister. I believe that he is young enough to start to revamp the whole system. I warn the Minister that he will not get much change out of many of the people who are advising him if the first thing they look at is money and the second thing they look at is the people receiving that money.
-I had not intended to participate in this debate but since there has been only one speaker on the Government side I would like to do so briefly before the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) sums up. I am sure that everyone in the House has listened very carefully to, and is in agreement with, the sentiments expressed by my friend the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) and others about the concern of honourable members on both sides of this House for the welfare and well-being of ex-servicemen. They are, as the honourable member for Wills and others have said, a group in our community that deserves our special thanks and gratitude for everything that they have done. As a community we have an obligation to look after, wherever it can be done and needs to be done, the welfare of exservicemen and of their families. I must say that the new arrangements proposed in the Bill seem sensible and appropriate.
As a member of the Returned Services League I have mixed as much as I could with RSL members and with ex-servicemen generally and have not been aware that any great concern has been expressed about the suggested changes. Indeed, most of the expressions of interest that I have heard have tended to be favourably disposed towards the amendments. Having said that, I am sure that I speak on behalf of honourable members from all parties when I say that we share the hope of the honourable member for Wills that the new arrangements will not be such as will disadvantage ex-servicemen. I am sureand I am confident that the Minister in summing up will allude to the point- that the Government in common with all honourable members, would wish that the new arrangements would be carefully monitored to ensure that if unforeseen problems arose they would be fully examined by way of the monitoring system and, as necessary, adjusted in time. I did not want to let this opportunity pass without expressing a bipartisan view, on behalf of both sides of the House, as to the importance with which I know that all honourable members regard the whole question of benefits and arrangements relating to ex-servicemen and their families.
-I thank all honourable members for their contribution to the debate and call on the Minister for Veterans ‘Affairs.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, the Government rejects the amendment. I am not saying that honourable members opposite who have spoken on this Bill are not sincere and concerned about the problems of veterans. That would be uncharitable and unkind. I know of their concern and I appreciate the importance of the matters that they have raised. I hope that I shall not be uncharitable in any of my remarks. However, I doubt the sincerity of the amendment moved by the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). It was moved in two parts, ostensibly because the honourable member was worried about the new medical evidence aspect. Also, the honourable member tied with it a matter that he knew had been debated in this House and that could not, and would not, be accepted by the Government. Therefore he must have known -
-Do you want us to move them separately?
-No, I will not accept them separately. I will tell the honourable member why I reject both. However, the fact that they were tied did make me suspect somewhat the motives of the mover. The honourable member for Prospect said that it is an involved Act. In that he is quite right. He suggested that we should examine and consolidate it, and made reference to the numbering. In that I agree wholeheartedly with him. I hope that at some stage it will be possible to consider that problem. The honourable member said also that there had not been enough consultation. Both the Toose report and the substance of the proposals in the Bill have been discussed very extensively with the veterans’ organisations, especially the RSL and the Australian Veterans’ Defence Services Council. As a matter of fact, some of the early drafts of the Bill reflected the suggestions of those bodies. Certainly, there has been quite detailed consultation with the associations on this Bill.
The honourable member spoke, as people do sometimes, of departmental decisions in this field. He knows, and I believe the veterans’ organisations also know and understand, that the Department does not make decisions on entitlement and assessment. Those decisions are made by independent statutory authorities which are appointed by the Governor-General. I refer to the Repatriation Boards, the Repatriation Commission on appeals, and the tribunals. The honourable member knows that when Labor was in government, and before and since, the independence of those statutory authorities was and has been preserved. No Minister can interfere with them or make a judgment over and above theirs. Their independence has been preserved at all times. As the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) has said, the Repatriation Review Tribunal is truly a review body. It reviews decisions of the Repatriation Boards or the Repatriation Commission, as the case may be. In contrast, the present Assessment Appeal Tribunal re-hears completely a given claim. It is not a true appellate body.
One question asked was whether the tribunal could receive evidence that had not been before the original determining body. When that happens, the tribunal must refer it back to the commission; but under section 107VL, as proposed in the Bill, the tribunal may make an interim assessment on the papers that were before the original determining authority. I think that that is important. If the original decision were an incorrect one the appellant, therefore, should not suffer. The honourable member for Prospect seemed to be worried about the ex-servicemen on the tribunal. I could not quite understand him in that regard. As he knows, a representative on the tribunal is drawn from a panel that has been nominated by the veterans’ organisations, which have a great deal of confidence in that system.
The honourable member spoke also about legal representation before the tribunal. Informality has always been the aim, and I think that this has been appreciated by all. As a matter of fact, Mr Justice Toose made a suggestion about legal representation, but when we referred that to the veterans’ organisations, especially the RSL and the Australian Veterans Defence Services Council, they were very much opposed to that type of representation. The informality of the tribunals has always been appreciated. Also, of course, that feature has made it a cheap and efficient procedure for appellants. It has prevented tribunals from becoming the right of the rich man only.
The second part of the proposed amendment deals with twice-yearly indexation. Honourable members opposite ought to remember who implemented indexation, and how valuable it is. Before indexation was introduced to the payment of both social security and repatriation pensions, far too often the increase that was given to veterans or other pensioners depended on how much, if anything, the Treasurer had left to distribute. None of us will have forgotten the days when, at the end of the Budget, if the Treasurer had something left over he might give pensioners a five bob rise, or nothing at all. Indexation has been very valuable because at least the right now exists for pensioners and repatriation beneficiaries to receive the full consumer price index rise at least 12-monthly. There might be some disapplintment because, given the current economic climate, there cannot be a more regular adjustment, but indexation has been very valuable. The criticism of honourable members opposite ought to be tempered by the fact that the Government made a very forward step when it applied indexation to these pensions in the first place.
Of course, there was some mention aboutmedical examinations. Reference was made to a telex or telegram from Sir Mervyn Brogan. In answering that question the Government has carefully considered the medical examination of appellants in assessment cases by medical members of the Tribunal. However, the Government feels that the proper function of the medical member is to help other members to understand and assess the value of the evidence before the Tribunal and to give opinions on matters of medical inference from proven facts. We have the particular position now under the Appeal Tribunal where medical officers examine and become witnesses as well as judges. Now, if the Repatriation Review Tribunal wants specialist or other medical opinion, the Act provides that it request the Secretary of the Department of Veterans ‘ Affairs to obtain that report and he is bound to do so. In that area also, has been incorporated the right for the Repatriation Review Tribunal to make an interim decision. I believe that that too, is something that is important to the appellant and to the veteran.
The honourable member for Grayndler (Mr Stewart) raised a number of questions. I wrote them down very quickly and I do not know whether I got all of them. But honourable members can be assured that if the questions they raised in the debate tonight are not answered in the debate I will give them an answer later. I will refer to them the answers they have requested during the course of the debate. The honourable member asked: ‘Why not the Administrative Appeals Tribunal?’. The Government had a look at this matter and honourable members will remember that Mr Justice Toose in his report suggested this means. He asked what practical problems prevented us from taking this step. Of course one of the practical problems is that the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is not attuned to the summary disposal of large numbers of cases. In a year 275 appeals were lodged with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. Now tip into that amount almost 10,000 appeals in the repatriation field and I think honourable members can see a very big practical difficulty. Here we have done something along the lines of, if not identical with, what was suggested in the Toose Report and that is to combine the two tribunals and have an independent repatriation review tribunal. I believe that this proposal has been fairly generally accepted by the veterans ‘ organisations.
The question was asked why legal practitioners could not represent the appellant. I think I have given an answer to that. We cannot tell at the moment, of course, what will happen about the numbers of appeals and whether there will be a greater or lesser success rate. We will be watching that. However it should be a more streamlined and much more satisfactory system than the present one where, as I said in the second reading speech, the eight tribunals are independent bodies. There are no special guidelines. There is no way of assuring that the guidelines or principles being followed are identical. The mechanics of this particular Bill, as I have explained in the second reading speech, ought to go a long way towards removing some of those problems. They were a worry to the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant). They were a worry to me and I know they were a worry to the veterans’ organisations. As a result of looking at the recommendations of Mr Justice Toose and from talking to the organisations we feel that this is a way that ought to provide a framework for a better system. That is the answer I would give to the honourable member who raised that particular question. The honourable member for Grayndler was talking about references to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and to the Federal Court. I would not think that there would be very many, but they are sources of reference that were never provided before.
– They were never needed before either.
– Well, on matters of a law, for instance, there has been no satisfactory recourse for anybody who feels that he has not received justice. I would not think that there would be a lot of appeals in these areas but they are two extra avenues of reference and appeal that were not available before. Surely there can be no criticism of extra references and appeals that were not previously available. If we were taking them away I could understand the criticism.
– You have taken the loaf away and left a couple of crumbs.
– I think the honourable member for Grayndler is inconsistent there. I think he was inconsistent too, when he talked about the whittling down of pensions. I did not bring the figures with me tonight but that is not borne out by the facts. Nor is it borne out by the provision that was made in the last Budget. There has been a real increase in that particular area. He criticised me because I had not consulted the service organisations. I have explained that there were consultations and these were extensive. He then hedged his bet. As I had done that he then started to criticise the service organisations because they had no right to enter into such a scheme. That is a five bob bet each way if ever I heard of one. I am not criticising the sincerity or the concern of the honourable member for Wills and of other honourable members for veterans. That is recognised and understood. I hope that they recognise that same concern in the Government and in the Department which has been very faithful in its servicing of the veterans’ needs.
A number of things were raised which were not quite apposite to this amendment or Bill. We are conscious of them such as the sufficiency of other allowances, the dependants’ allowances and those sorts of things. Of course they concern us and they are things at which we are looking all the time. We are very conscious of the debt that Australia owes to its veterans. We are conscious, too, of the problems that they have sometimes in sustaining a case so long after the war. The member for Wills spoke about the absence of records. He said that because it was so long after the war they found difficulty in sustaining their case. Then quite illogically he came in and said that the first people into a system usually got the least out of it. I could not quite follow that logic. But the Act has not been altered. The things which honourable members think are important and which I think are important are still in the Act. For instance, the Act has not been altered in the fundamental principles and so the appeal will be granted unless resolved beyond reasonable doubt that it should not be. Those things which I think honourable members value in the Bill and which I valued in the Bill have been preserved. So the Act has not changed in those fundamental matters. We have done something along the lines suggested by Justice Toose. We feel that is a very appropriate streamlining. It is a fair and efficient way to get together in one tribunal, a Repatriation Review Tribunal, instead of having eight bodies as the honourable member for Leichhardt (Mr Thomson) said. I believe that the system is good. I believe it is worthy of a try and the veterans’ organisations feel so too. I thank honourable members for their contribution to the debate. Naturally we cannot accept the amendment or part of the amendment. There are other questions which I have not answered specifically. I have paper everywhere. Members of the Opposition who have been Ministers know that it is very difficult to get papers together and answer every question. I undertake that the questions which have been raised in good faith will receive an answer.
– Could I have recorded the fact that the Opposition is voting against the motion and is in support of the amendment. As no member of the Government parties is about to cross to our side I will concede defeat on this motion. But I would like to have our opposition recorded in Hansard.
-You would like your dissent recorded but you do not wish to divide?
– We would like it recorded that the Opposition is voting against the motion.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Motion (by Mr Adermann) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-I raise a matter which has bothered me ever since the Government got around to changing the name of the Repatriation Department to the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs. I have no idea why the Government chose a name like ‘Veterans’ Affairs’. It is imitative of the rest of the world. In some ways we must be one of the world’s most imitative nations. We do not seem to be able to think of anything for ourselves. The word ‘repatriation’ might not have been the best description of what it was about but it was enshrined and embedded in the Australian language as meaning something to do with the ex-servicemen and women of Australia. I am pleased to see that at least the Government has not tried as yet to change the names of all the Acts.
I suppose my principal regret is that although the term ‘repatriation’ may not have been strict English, it was good, accepted Strine. It meant what we meant it to mean; in other words, it meant things to do with ex-servicemen and women. I hope that we will start to apply ourselves to these matters in our own way and not try to imitate other people who have chosen the word ‘veteran’ to refer exclusively, apparently, to people who have belonged to armies and so on. For what it is worth, I ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann) to make sure that the Government does not start tinkering with accepted practices in other areas. If the Government really wants to change names it should think of something original. It should not imitate other people whose experiences in these matters are nothing like ours.
– in reply- When we talk of repatriation we often think of one section of the needs of ex-servicemen. As the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) knows, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs has incorporated many things, not only pensions, disability allowances and hospitalisation, but also housing and a number of other matters. It appears to me that the term ‘Veterans’ Affairs’ is more appropriate. I can assure the honourable member that I am not imitative or gimmicky. The honourable member will now be aware that many things have been brought together in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs other than what we used to think of as purely repatriation matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 March, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Foreign Antitrust Judgments (Restriction of Enforcement) Bill is designed to give the Attorney-General power to make orders to prevent the recognition and enforcement of certain anti-trust judgments of foreign courts. The particular matter which has caused this legislation, as well as legislation as far back as 1976, is what is known as the Westinghouse case in the United States, where $7 billion worth of damages are being sought against 29 uranium producers including four Australian companies. The Opposition supports the basic thrust of this Bill. However, we will be moving amendments at both the second reading stage and at the Committee stage; firstly, to give the Parliament greater control over the orders to be made under the Bill and the reasons for the making of orders, and, secondly, to amend the Bill so as to comply better with the princples of international comity.
The anti-trust law of the United States is contained in two pieces of legislation- the Sherman Act and the Clayton Act. Australia did not have trade practices legislation until the late 1960s and did not have effective legislation until the passing of the Trade Practices Act of 1974. An attempt to secure such legislation- the Australian Industries Preservation Act of 1906- was declared invalid by the High Court in the earlier part of this century. Fortunately, that decision was over-ruled in the concrete pipes case in the 1970s. The objection to the United States antitrust law is in its extra-territorial application and, in particular, to the fact that the United States courts look at the economic effects on their domestic economy of acts committed abroad, not to whether the acts in question were committed within the territorial limits of the United States. Article 18 of the Second Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States provides that:
A State has jurisdiction to prescribe a rule of law attaching legal consequences to conduct that occurs outside its territory and causes an effect within its territory, if either
the conduct and its effect are constituent elements of activity to which the rule applies,
ii) the effect within the territory is substantial,
it occurs as a direct and foreseeable result of the conduct outside the territory, and
the rule is not inconsistent with the principles of justice generally recognised by states that have reasonably developed legal systems.
The leading case in the United States is the Alcoa decision in 1945. Article 18 of the Second Restatement of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States amounts to no more than a restatement of the ratio of the Alcoa case, which has been followed by the United States ever since. In that case, it was held that the Sherman Act applied to agreements made by foreigners overseas if they were intended to affect imports in the United States and did affect them. It is this extraterritorial jurisdiction which the United States claims over the actions of foreign nationals committed outside the United States which is totally unacceptable in Australia.
At the outset, it must be stressed that unlike the 1976 Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Amendment Bill, this legislation is not an urgent measure. In 1976 we gave the Government qualified support- words which ought to be well understood on the other side of the Parliament- because of the urgency of the situation. The 1976 legislation was substantially based on the 1964 English legislation, the Shipping Contracts and Commercial Documents Act. The Ontario Parliament had passed similar legislation as far back as 1947 in the Business Records Protection Act. In 1976 we gave support to the passing of the Bill and the urgency with which it was passed. We did, however, object to some of the provisions it contained. Due to the hastiness with which the legislation was rammed through the Parliament, it had to be amended one month after it had been passed by the Parliament. The major alteration made to the legislation in December 1976 was to remove section 4 (2) of the Act, which provided that the validity of an order made by the Attorney-General was not subject to challenge in any court. The main reason for this was not that the Government thought such a provision was undesirable, which was the reason advanced by the then AttorneyGeneral; it was that the provision made the legislation open to constitutional challenge and the Solicitor-General had advised the Government accordingly.
Effectively the 1976 legislation was all in vain. It prevented the answering of letters of request issued to the Supreme Court of New South Wales which sought the taking of evidence from persons in Australia and relating to documents located in Australia. However of the 29 defendants in the Westinghouse case, nine were not from the United States and four of these were from Australia. Quite properly, they refused to enter appearances. This resulted in a default judgment being entered against them. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) in his second reading speech said:
It can be assumed that the Westinghouse Electric Corporation will take whatever action is available to it to enforce the judgment.
However, I do not think that there is much doubt that Westinghouse would not be able to enforce its judgment either at common law or under statute. At common law, foreign judgments will be recognised only if the foreign court had jurisdiction to hear and determine the case. The matters that are relevant in deciding whether the foreign court had jurisdiction are whether the defendant is a subject of the foreign country, whether the defendant was resident in the foreign country when the action began- in the case of a corporation the question is whether the corporation carries out substantial business at some definite place in the country of the trial - whether the defendant has voluntarily appeared, and other matters relevant to determining whether the defendant has voluntarily submitted to the authority of the foreign court. To be enforceable, a foreign judgment must be final and conclusive in the sense that it must have determined all controversies between the parties. It will not be enforceable if it is contrary to public policy or if the proceedings are of a penal nature.
Under any of these tests, the default judgment which Westinghouse has now obtained in the United States is unenforceable in the Australian courts. It would similarly be unenforceable under statute, that is, the legislation applying in each State which, with the exception of South Australia, is based on United Kingdom legislation- the Foreign Judgments (Reciprocal Enforcement) Act. The Attorney-General (Senator Durack) has stated that it would be unsatisfactory for the defendants to have to rely on the defences available to them under common law. The Opposition supports the view that Australian enterprises dealing in Australian commodities should present a united front and that the Government should be involved in the approval of pricing. That is part of the national interest which this Bill seeks to protect. However, great care needs to be taken in removing the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments from the judiciary and placing it in the hands of the Attorney-General. Whatever one might say about the office of Attorney-General, the possibility arises that it can be subject to political pressure.
This legislation raises peculiar and sensitive issues relating to the respective roles of the Executive, the Parliament and the judiciary. When the Foreign Proceedings (Prohibition of Certain Evidence) Act was before the Parliament in 1976, we objected to the attempt made to oust the judiciary from review of an order made by the Attorney-General. The Government eventually heeded our warning. It would be desirable for our warning to be heeded on this matter. Our objection is that the AttorneyGeneral can make an order preventing the enforcement of a foreign judgment without providing any reasons and all that can be. done is for either House of Parliament to disallow the order. That is not good enough. On such a sensitive matter as this, Parliament should be provided with reasons for the making of the order and should be required to consent to the proposed order prior to the Attorney-General making it. Accordingly,I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide-
that before the Attorney-General decides not to recognise or enforce any foreign judgment he shall first give his reasons to Parliament, together with all supporting evidence obtained by the foreign court; and
that no determination of the Attorney-General shall take effect unless the Attorney-General has first obtained the consent of both Houses of Parliament.
In the debate in the Senate it was said that this was an inappropriate amendment because the Parliament is not sitting for long periods of the year. There are several answers to that. Firstly, there is never a break of longer than three months, except during election periods. Secondly, I stress that orders should be made under this legislation only on very rare occasions. The common law position is that anti-trust judgments will not be enforceable in cases such as the Westinghouse decision. All that this legislation will do in the ordinary case is to save the defendant from having to enteran appearance in Australian courts. In doing so, the Attorney-General is given wide powers to oust the jurisdiction of the courts. In the Senate the Attorney-General spoke of the need for holding operations, that is, orders made to restrain companies from taking action to enforce a foreign judgment until Parliament agrees or disagrees. That is really to treat the Parliament with contempt. At the very least, the Government should consider the suggestion made by Senator Hamer that when making an order the Attorney-General should set out in detail the reasons for the order. At least, that way the matter could be examined by the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. I think that it would be far. preferable to have the matter considered by the whole Parliament. However, knowing that the Government is never disposed to accept Opposition amendments, I suggest that it might be prepared to accept a suggestion from its own side. It is essential that the grounds of national interest on which the Attorney-General bases his decision to make an order be precisely set out. That is the thrust of this amendment- to ensure that the AttorneyGeneral gives reasons and that this Parliament consents in advance.
The final matter with which I wish to deal is the provisions which allow the amount of money of a foreign judgment to be varied by the Attorney-General. In the view of the Opposition, these provisions are undesirable. It should be made clear that judgments which are penal in nature are already not enforceable in Australia. However, if a judgment is in part penal and in part compensatory, the non-penal part of the judgment can be enforced if it is severable from that part of the judgment which is penal in nature. That is the position at present. The justification given by the Attorney-General in the Senate for these provisions is that under United States law treble damages can be awarded. I do not think that anyone would doubt that treble damages are penal in nature. Therefore, it is not necessary to insert this provision to prevent the enforcement of treble damages awards as they are already unenforceable. In any event, the provisions are not limited to cases of treble damages. Clause 3(2)(d) states that the Attorney-General may:
In the case of a judgment for a specified amount of money- by order in writing, declare that, for the purposes of the recognition or enforcement of the judgment in Australia, the amount of the judgment shall be deemed to be reduced to such amount as is specified in the order . . .
That is far wider than the situation created by awards of treble damages. It enables the Attorney-General to vary any award of an amount of money by a foreign court in an antitrust action. The fundamental proposition ought to be that either the foreign court had jurisdiction to determine a case or it did not. Its judgment should be given either full effect or no effect, according to the ordinary principles of private international law. The Attorney-General has said that these provisions allow greater comity to be achieved with the United States. In fact, the opposite is the case. If the intention of these provisions were limited to cases where treble damages are awarded- which would not be necessary anyhow- then at least this ought to be spelt out in the legislation.
These provisions allow the Australian Attorney-General to interfere with the decision of the award of an amount of money by a foreign court which it had jurisdiciton to make. A company might not like the amount of damages awarded by a foreign court, but provided the damages are not penal in nature and the foreign court had jurisdiction to decide the case the company is not entitled to complain. It would also appear that under these provisions the Attorney-General can make enforceable in Australia judgments which would not otherwise have been enforceable. The effect of clause 3 (2) (d) is spelt out in clause 3 (3) (b), which provides that in the case of an order made under sub-clause 2 (d) the judgment may be recognised or enforced in Australia as if the amount specified in the order were substituted for the amount of the judgment. It could well be argued that these provisions enable the AttorneyGeneral to make a foreign judgment enforceable in Australia for a lesser amount than that awarded by the foreign court, when it would otherwise not have been enforceable at all.
Let me turn from the legal issues to the international political issues relevant to them. We take the point that within one nation measures such as these which work to restrain monopoly can have a beneficial effect, like other measures to restrain corporate activity such as those taken by a securities and exchange commission. We note the proper concern in recent years in the United States to extend laws prohibiting United States companies engaging in bribery and corruption so that those laws would apply to those companies abroad. It does not give the American citizen great comfort to know that a United States company building aircraft- is bribing the Japanese Government, the Dutch Government or the Iranian Government rather than the United States Government. This emergence of a moral concern to extend business principles abroad has its virtue. Some of that moral concern has been present among those advocating extraterritorial extension of anti-trust legislation- at least among the lawyers and in the Justice Department, if not at Westinghouse. But the effects abroad of anti-trust laws are not the same as their effects in the United States. Australia depends and must continue to depend upon international commodity agreements. The Common Fund proposal, which we support, is essentially an interlocking set of commodity arrangements. The anti-trust approach is closely linked to opposition to commodity arrangements. In 1976 a United States court decision declared illegal the arrangements in New York whereby a committee set daily prices for international coffee sales. That decision, fortunately, was overturned.
The Government’s approach is ambivalent. It supports, for example, the International Wheat Agreement, but it will not take any steps to establish orderly marketing of beef. This is more than relevant to the current uranium issue. In the case of the last recession in beef prices, supply exceeded demand by only 5 per cent, yet the market collapsed. It was such a situation of supply exceeding demand which led to the arrangements in the uranium market against which Westinghouse has brought this action. The Government recently withdrew Australia from the International Bauxite Agreement. We had the astonishing discourtesy of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announcing that decision within a few days of leaving Jamaica where he had been the guest of Prime Minister Manley, one of the main powers behind that Agreement. In 1975, Manley told me that the International Bauxite Agreement was a major factor for stability in the Caribbean. Australia is out of that Agreement, apparently because the Government believes supply exceeds demand. But the former Liberal-Country Party Government took Australia into the uranium cartel for precisely the same reason- supply exceeding demand. The difference between these two circumstances is the difference between the attitudes of the multinational companies involved.
In the bauxite-aluminium industry there is a very high level of vertical integration; that is, the miners are the refiners, smelters and marketers of aluminium. If we challenge their authority to control the global market they will tell us that we will damage our reputation for political and economic stability. Therefore they say that we cannot afford to belong to a cartel. On the other hand, in the uranium industry, decisions of the United States Government to protect uranium miners in the United States broke down vertical integration in the industry during the 1960s. This put the multinationals in favour of a cartel. The Liberal-Country Party Government got into that as speedily as possible. As the United States military needs for uranium declined at the end of the 1950s, the United States decided against renewal of its uranium purchase contracts with Canada and South Africa, thereby creating a glut of uranium which lasted until the 1970s. It was a buyer’s market.
At that time, the United States had a substantial lead in the nuclear industry. First, it was securing international acceptance of its light water reactor. Its chief manufacturer was Westinghouse. Secondly, the United States had a virtual monopoly of uranium enrichment capacity and the fuel for that reactor was, of course, slightly enriched uranium. As countries buying the reactor wanted to buy uranium on the international buyers’ market, the United States was forced in 1964 to accept a system of ‘toll enrichment’- that is, selling enrichment services on uranium from whatever source for a customer country. But the United States Congress insisted at that time on protecting the United States uranium miners by adopting legislation which effectively closed the United States market to outside uranium suppliers.
In describing the consequences, let me quote from a paper recently released by the International Consultative Group on Nuclear Energy. This paper was written by the French Government’s representative on the board of directors of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Bertrand Goldschmidt, and a former United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Nuclear Energy Affairs. It states:
The resultant embargo on the use of non-US uranium in the US market contributed to a depression of world uranium prices to the level of $5 per lb or less, too low to cover production costs and even more so to give producers the necessary cash flow for the exploration needed to assure future supplies. The outcome of this was swamping the market and a slump in prices at the very time that increased prospecting effort was necessary to cope with the increasing demand of the ambitious nuclear power plant programs foreseen for the 1970s and beginning of the 1980s. Furthermore, the chief US manufacturer and exporter of power plants -
The authors do not name the company but it was Westinghouse- helped, at the beginning of the 1970s, to perpetuate the stagnation by capturing and neutralising part of the domestic and foreign market in the US. The manufacturer -
Westinghouse- offered along with the sale of power plants all the uranium needed to fuel them for their 30 years of operation without covering itself by buying the requisite stocks, and thereby artificially reduced demand. The efforts of producer countries other than the US, acting in concert, aimed at remedying the situation were slowly beginning to produce results when suddenly, in 1974, the situation was reversed and the shortage emerged again, accompanied by its inevitable counterpart- a considerable increase in the price of uranium.
The actions of the uranium cartel had sought to secure some stability in a market severely affected by the decisions of the United States Government. The relationship between supply and demand was reversed in 1974 for many reasons, not the least of which was the oil crisis. Interest in nuclear power increased. Nuclear fuel consumers moved to ensure long term supplies. In the process, the fact that Westinghouse had not bought uranium to cover its contracts came to light and Westinghouse could not, and cannot, meet its contract commitments at the contracted prices. The holders of the contracts called on Westinghouse to honour its commitments. Since that time, Westinghouse has looked for ways to spread the blame and spread its losses.
The purpose of this legislation is to draw the line and make the point that it is absurd for a country not exporting uranium to be accused of fixing the price of uranium in a country not importing uranium. At the same time, whilst not opposing the legislation, we would like to see a more consistent approach by the Government to commodity arrangements, dictated by national interests rather than identification with the interests of multinationals. It should be pointed out that the legislation will not entirely protect Australian companies. Their assets outside Australia will be vulnerable, especially those in the United States.
This raises questions about the prospect of the seizure of Australian’s uranium exports. The Government’s policy is that uranium will remain Australian owned until such time as it is covered by safeguards. The earliest stage at which safeguards apply to material which is to be enriched is when it is coverted to uranium hexafluoride. In the normal course, most Australian uranium exports would be converted to uranium hexafluoride and enriched in the United States. This means that yellowcake owned by Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd, Conzinc Rio Tinto of Australia Ltd or Queensland Mines Ltd arriving in the United States would be very vulnerable to seizure. We make those points -
– It still would be under this Bill.
-Yes. The point is just that. As the honourable member said, it shows the difficulty involved in dealing with international arrangements. The point I want to make in the few minutes available to me is that the United States Government was very anxious to protect Westinghouse at a time when it was selling reactors and it legislated accordingly. In a nutshell, it thereby depressed the world market. It was very reasonable and proper for the others involved to try to give some stability to their markets, which they did. Now that Westinghouse cannot deliver the uranium for the contracted prices it has run to a court in the United States to suggest that there has been an anti-trust arrangement. As we know, we cannot expect the United States court to look at what Congress decided it would do to protect that industry. The other producers had to give themselves some stability. It is a bit far fetched, is it not, to suggest that that decision can be used now by Westinghouse to obtain compensatory damages from Australian companies. I make the point that if we are to have international comity, which we want, we need to put it on the basis that there should be a clear understanding of the commodity arrangements. That is the point the Opposition is making.
Whilst we can have an understanding about wheat, we cannot have one about bauxite. We ought to be doing so. It cannot always be said that what is best for the United States is best for the world. We have to make it very clear indeed that what has happened here is that Westinghouse has got itself into trouble by bad management and an inability to understand what it was about. It has sold the reactors but it cannot deliver the uranium fuel. There has been nothing wrong with the price fixation of those companies, including Australian companies, that had to give some stability to their market. In other words, the United States did not care two hoots about the other producers in the world when it decided to prohibit imports into the United States. People in this country often talk about free trade and they are very evident today, but honourable members will note that when it comes to the power of the purse and the question of profit in the United States we cannot penetrate that market. This applies to uranium.
As the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) said, this legislation will not protect us from seizures. We applaud that part of the legislation insofar as it goes to that aspect. But surely we can do better than is proposed in the legislation. The AttorneyGeneral himself will make this decision and Parliament will not have any knowledge of it. The thrust of our amendment is this: If the AttorneyGeneral makes such a decision he should bring it into the Parliament and the Parliament should be given the reasons for it so that in the international sphere the Parliament can say that that is fair and reasonable, as it would. We are suggesting that the Bill ought to be withdrawn on that basis. The reasons given in the Senate by the Attorney-General are not valid. There would be no problems if the passage of this Bill were delayed. There is no question at all that we could not come to some understanding of the situation if we examined it from the point of view of what was fair and reasonable. If determinations are to be made by the Attorney-General and there is a hue and outcry that he alone made the determination and that the Parliament knew nothing about it the authority of the decision will be weakened. Accordingly our amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill seeks to strengthen the provision on that basis. Clause 3 of the Bill provides that the Attorney-General can alter the amount of a judgment obtained in the foreign court. We find it rather exceptional that the Attorney-General could say: ‘I will accept jurisdiction up to a point, but I will alter the amount and that will be the judgment to be enforced’. We do not think these provisions should apply at all. Accordingly, in the Committee stage, we will be opposing those provisions of the Bill.
-Is the amendment seconded?
-I second the amendment.
-The overall issue involves questions of law, foreign relations and economic policy. This Bill is designed to deal with one aspect of the issue only. Although it is valuable it will not provide an ultimate solution. The Bill proposes that the execution of certain judgments obtained in the United States of America should not be allowed in Australia. The Attorney-General will have the power to make orders which will prevent those judgments from being enforced in certain circumstances where he is satisfied that to allow enforcement of the judgment would be against the national interest or that the judgment had been obtained in circumstances inconsistent with international law or comity.
It is easy to see the need for this specific legislation. The Westinghouse Electrical Corporation of America got its fingers burnt. As honourable members know, the company entered into arrangements to build and sell uranium fuelled reactors. The average price was $150m-odd. The company also guaranteed to provide to the purchaser a certain number of years supply of uranium at a certain price. I think from memory the price negotiated in many of the contracts was about $9 per lb for the relevant grade. Of course Westinghouse found, when the price of uranium went up, that it was no longer able to obtain its supplies at a price that enabled it to sell to its purchasers at either a profit or at a break-even figure. Very soon the price soared and Westinghouse was faced with having to obtain supplies at a price of somewhere over $40 per lb for the relevant grade and yet still supply the product at the previously agreed price.
I would have thought that simple business principles would have applied in the first place and Westinghouse would never have got into that position. However, having got into that position I would have thought that the sensible thing for it to do would be to take every step possible to reach some agreement with its purchasers for renegotiation of the conditions in regard to the price of uranium. Westinghouse either did not do so or was not able to do so. It tried to solve its problems by court actions against the alleged cartel and its alleged anti-trust actions. At this stage the interests of Australia and the Australian companies diverged considerably from the interests of America and the American company Westinghouse. Ordinarily one would ask why an overseas judgment should not be enforced in Australia. If a competent court has made a decision which has been transferred by proper process to Australia, why should a person subject to the judgment not be required to pay? The reason is that the interests are so diverse that such action is considered by the Australian Government as a matter of policy absolutely essential to prevent the enforcement in the particular case.
As a matter of basic principle I think that we should look at the type of economies of the two countries. America needs a much more sophisticated set of anti-trust laws than Australia. The very size of its economy, the economies of scale, the opportunities for massive profit and for abuse and the complexity of the social system require anti-trust laws on a scale far greater than those necessary in Australia where we are still building towards economies of scale which provide efficiency, where we need to give business the opportunity to develop and where we need to ensure that the need for competition is promoted but business opportunity is not stifled by undue government regulation. Secondly, there is a very different basis for the law in America than for the law here. An Australian court pursuant to Australian law looks at the dispute between the parties and makes up its mind as to the merits of the dispute without usually having regard to the consequences.
However, in America there is an underlying basis whereby the courts may have regard to consequences of an economic nature particularly in deciding whether or not the legislation is to be given extra-territorial effect. If the American court considers that certain adverse economic effects will flow from the facts pleaded by the plaintiff, it may decide that there is an extraterritorial effect of the law and get in as defendants persons who do not reside in that country. This is an entirely different basis from the way in which we would operate here and impinges directly upon the rights of, in this case, Australian companies. It provides for a rule with which companies in Australia or in many other areas would not be faced.
I point out in passing that the position at this stage is limited to America but may not necessarily be confined there. In section 86 of the Treaty of Rome which is in effect an anti-trust provision, member nations of the European Economic Community might seek to exercise similar powers and give courts similar authorities as has happened in America. This might possibly apply in relation to our aluminium products. We are bringing in a general law here but the need for it has arisen out of a specific case. As has been indicated by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), the Westinghouse judgments will not be allowed to be enforced in this country.
I think it is important to look at the differences in law for another reason. I refer to the actual amount of judgment. So far the actual damages have not been assessed by the American court. The claim was for $7 billion. The relevant law provides for treble damages which we do not have in Australia. In fact, we are moving away from punitive or exemplary damages in the defamation and other fields. Additional or penalty damages are given only in special circumstances. The American law provides for treble damages which are obviously a penalty. In those circumstances the laws probably would not have been entitled to be enforced for a number of reasons, including the fact that there was a penalty judgment in any case. It may well be that the judgment concerning Westinghouse for the reason of penalty and also for. other reasons would not have been enforceable within Australia anyway, but the legislation is designed to make sure that the position is clear and to provide for the Attorney-General’s decision. The likely size of an overseas judgment, assuming that it is anything like $7 billion, would probably wipe out the Australian producers who were involved. It would also mean.that any export of uranium and any moneys obtained from the export would not add to our balance of trade because there would be this drain resulting from the judgment. If uranium is exported- and I ask the House to note my speech on this previously when I referred to the importance of the safeguards before we export uranium- the whole basis of our economy could be brought asunder if this type of judgment were to be enforced against Australian producers. For those types of reasons it is considered that enforcement of judgments such as that in the Westinghouse case would be against the national interests.
I do not intend to go through the Bill in detail. What I have sought to do is to outline broadly the policy reasons for why the Government believes that the Bill should be passed. I will not address my mind to the amendments proposed by the Opposition. It is my understanding that although they will be considered by the Attorney-General a decision will have to be made on them.’ Certainly at first sight it may be thought unusual that the Attorney-General could vary the amount of the judgment, but in dealing with matters which affect national interests surely it would be in the interests of all concerned, one would think, if some reasonable agreement could be reached in a particular case. I would have thought that if a person seeking to enforce a judgment was not able to get all of it he might at least be happy to settle for that amount which the Attorney-General considered to be in the national interest Otherwise the plaintiff would get nothing.
The important thing that I next wish to deal with before finalising my contribution is what happens next. Australia is in a very difficult situation. It is my understanding that the executives and senior officials of Australian uranium companies have made sure that they do not enter the United States. There is some serious impediment to their de facto ability to carry on their duties as officers of their companies. They are unable in fact to ply the trade, a very important potential trade. The reason is that in America they might well still be subject to service of court process seeking interrogatories or the production of documents. If such processes were served on them, as I understand the situation, they cannot, for practical purposes, excuse themselves from answering questions or producing documents simply by saying ‘There is an Australian law that stops me from doing this’. It may well be that on the question of what is to be done with them the American court will take a lenient view, but there is certainly a real fear that should these people go to America they would be served with process requiring the production of documents or interrogatories. They may find that they are unable to comply with those court orders; they may find that they are subject to penalties by the American courts and they could be severe penalties. This is an intolerable situation.
The other thing that is intolerable is the possibility of execution in America against the assets of these companies. I understand that the companies have assets in America, although the extent of the assets is not known to me. I do not imagine that they would be very large but, nonetheless, in order to be able to continue their business, to trade and to operate properly and effectively, surely it is in our national interests that they be able to keep their offices, their assets, and not have them called up, executed against or sold by an American court.
The next important point is that if yellowcake or other produce were to go to America there is the danger that it could be seized pursuant to the judgment. There is also the danger that on enrichment the material could be frozen or seized by some American authorities pursuant to an order. As we all know, there are very limited enrichment facilities throughout the world and countries have to book many years in advance for enrichment. Australia has proceeded on the basis that a good deal of Australian uranium, if it is exported, would be enriched in America. So again the whole trade is in jeopardy. That is why it is absolutely vital that Australian foreign policy be brought into play, that negotiations be undertaken at the highest level between the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the United States Secretary of State, and their officials, to solve this dispute which has arisen from the conflicting interests of Australia and the United States. It is a very, very serious issue. We would not want to see it extended to other commodities. We would not want to see it extended to include aluminium or even primary products, although one would find it hard to imagine that that could come about. But Westinghouse has had a go. Westinghouse has tried to take action. Others in America, having got themselves into similar commercial difficulties, might also try to take action. I consider it imperative that the Government take every possible step to ensure that this matter is solved with the American Government at the earliest possible opportunity.
There is one other minor matter that I wish to raise. In the other place on 1 March of this year Senator Hamer asked what would be the situation if the Attorney-General changed his mind and wanted to rescind an order that the Parliament wanted maintained. I understand from discussions with the Minister’s officials that what the Attorney-General said at that time in answer to the question has been confirmed; that is, the original order, having been dealt with by the Parliament, would be gone and it would be necessary for the Attorney-General to make another order.
– There is no doubt that the conclusion reached by the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) is the correct one to reach about this very difficult matter. I say that because although this Bill, presumably, will be passed, although an order will be made under the Bill when it becomes law, and although full force and effect will be given to that order, it is not going to solve, as I understand it, the immediate practical problem facing the Australian companies. The immediate practical problem will arise if they take assets, which more likely than not would be uranium, into the United States. In those circumstances the American courts would have the power to execute on those assets of the Australian companies in the United States. So the honourable member for St George is quite right when he says that this problem must be solved by top level negotiations between the American and Australian officials concerned. The problem itself will not be solved by the passage of this Bill, or orders being made under the legislation when it becomes law.
I did intend to speak at some length about some of the problems in respect of this Bill but, Mr Deputy Speaker, you will be relieved to know that I have changed my mind. I merely want, for two reasons, to draw the problems to the attention of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), who represents the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) in this chamber. I raise these matters, firstly, so that they will be borne in mind if similar legislation is contemplated in the future and, secondly, so that they will be borne in mind when the AttorneyGeneral is making orders under this law when it becomes an Act. The first of those matters is that it is curious that the Australian companies, the defendants in the American action, did not enter an appearance in the American courts. They could have entered a conditional appearance, as I understand it, or they could have entered an appearance under protest. The second matter is that, having done so, they could have argued their jurisdictional point before the American courts. If they had followed that course the problem may have been resolved at that early stage- if they had been successful in the argument. If they had not been successful in that argument, they would then have been in the position in which they ran the risk that the American company, the Westinghouse Electric Corporation, would have endeavoured to register its judgment in Australia and execute upon that judgment in Australia.
As I understand it, even that would not have been the end of the world for the Australian companies because they could have easily argued in the Australian courts that the American court had not the power to adjudicate on the issues that were before the American court. In other words, the jurisdictional argument that they raise now could have been raised in the Australian courts if and when the contest was resolved in the Australian courts. Sir Zelman Cowen has written on this subject in a work entided Bilateral Studies in Private International Law. Before those involved in these proceedings go any further, I suggest that they have regard to what Sir Zelman Cowen wrote in that work. I instance one thing he wrote in that work. At page 80 he said:
Common law permits of a defence to an action on a foreign judgment on the ground that the rendering court -
That is, the court where the order was made- lacked jurisdiction.
In other words, Sir Zelman Cowen is saying, as I understand it, that the claim that the American court had no jurisdiction over this matter could easily have been raised and argued, perhaps successfully, in the Australian courts when the matter came before the Australian courts.
I turn, again briefly, to the next matter to which we must have regard. Even if things got to the last desperate stage where Westinghouse obtained a judgment, had it registered in Australia and sought to execute upon that judgment in Australia, it would not necessarily mean that it would be able to take the proceeds back to the United States of America. Clearly Westinghouse would want to satisfy itself about the prospects of returning to the United States with the fruits of its victory before it proceeded to register its judgment here and execute it. Sir Zelman Cowen, in the work to which I have already referred, pointed to the practical problem with which an American company in the position of Westinghouse is faced. It is faced with the problem of exchange control. There is power under the Banking Act and the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations, as he points out, for the Government, in effect through the Reserve Bank, to prevent the proceeds of a judgment being remitted overseas. The company would be faced with that problem and presumably it would not seek to execute the judgment in Australia until it was satisfied about that matter.
I suppose, and I hope, that someone has turned his attention to whether this Bill legislates in areas which are within the power of the Commonwealth. I assume that those concerned with it have done that. In fact, the Bill is so studded with references to the trade and commerce power and the power relating to trading or financial corporations that I presume that that is an attempt to found the jurisdiction or the power of the Commonwealth to pass this law. I merely draw attention to this aspect because if it has not been looked at it certainly should be looked at. More particularly, I note that the Bill seeks to have the effect that the judgment is not to be recognised or enforced in Australia. Honourable members will notice that the Bill does not use the words ‘in the Territories of Australia’ but rather in Australia’. I frankly do not know how the Commonwealth can make a foreign judgment unenforceable in the States. I ask the question:
Can it prevent a State Supreme Court from registering the judgment under State legislation? Perhaps it can, perhaps it cannot. But at least that is an issue to which I trust people have turned their minds. It may become a real, practical problem in the future. At the least this should warn us to be more cautious about making orders under this provision of the Bill when it becomes an Act.
I turn now to the last matter to which I wish to refer. It is not directly related to the precise terms of this Bill. It seems to me that a serious attempt should be made to facilitate the registration of foreign judgments, to make it easier to remove them from one country to another and to have them registered, enforced or executed here as the case may be. Anyone who has been involved in a case concerning the registration and execution of a foreign judgment knows how difficult it is. It is terribly complex, long, expensive and extremely difficult to do. The European Economic Community countries have turned their minds and their intelligence to this problem and to some extent, as I understand it, they have solved it. We should do likewise because the Commonwealth Act- the Service and Execution of Process Acland the Acts operating in each of the six States are complicated and difficult to enforce. So there is a real need for an urgent attempt to be made to rectify the cumbersome law relating to the registration and enforcement of foreign judgments. I hope that the Government will give its attention to that problem.
– I seek the attention of the House to respond briefly to some of the remarks by the shadow AttorneyGeneral the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen)- and the contributions by my colleagues on this side of the House, namely, the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown). If one thing has become apparent from the contributions of all honourable members it is that without this Bill there would have been a field day for lawyers if ever a foreign judgment had been sought to be enforced in Australia. It may well be that notwithstanding this Bill lawyers may have a field day if a foreign judgment were sought to be enforced in Australia. The debate on this Bill also serves to show that matters of law and international relations are inextricably woven in the issues which have given rise to this piece of legislation.
The House is well aware of the reasons, in the national interest, for this Bill to be introduced and passed. The Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time in the same terms as the one moved in the Senate. The Opposition also proposes to move amendments in the Committee stage. In replying to the debate on this Bill in the Senate the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) amply set out the reasons why the amendment proposed to the second reading motion could not be accepted. The Attorney-General observed that the Opposition did not oppose the Bill in principle but rather sought to have it withdrawn and redrafted. I have read the reasons given by the Attorney-General in reply. I feel that they adequately answer the objections that the Opposition seems to have to the procedures adopted in this Bill whereby the Attorney-General may make an order which subsequently might be disallowed. As the Attorney-General described it, his order under the Bill would be in the nature of a holding order and that would be the position unless and until the order is disallowed by the Parliament,
The Attorney-General also referred to the criteria, which are set out in the Bill, for his exercise of discretion to make an order. Those criteria are to be found in paragraph (b) sub-clause (2) of clause 3. I agree with the Attorney-General’s comment that that amply demonstrates the national interest which would require the Attorney-General to make an order. As he quite properly says, it can reasonably be expected that if an order were made while Parliament was sitting then an explanation would be given to the Parliament. If an order were made when Parliament was not sitting, even though there may not be a motion for disallowance, it would be expected that the Attorney-General would explain the reasons for making that order. It is for the reasons which I have broadly expressed that the Government cannot accept the amendment moved by the Opposition to the motion for the second reading and wishes to proceed with the Bill.
I thank the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) and the honourable member for Diamond Valley (Mr N. A. Brown) for their contributions in which they pointed out some of the complex legal aspects of private international law involved in the Bill and involved also in this whole area of the recognition within Australia of foreign judgments. The honourable member for St George commented on the situation concerning treble damages provisions in the United States legislation. I think that he explained well, on behalf of the Government, the reason why there is in the Bill power for the AttorneyGeneral to make an order to the effect not that the foreign judgment shall not be recognised or enforceable in Australia but that the amount of the judgment shall be varied. Whilst treble damages provisions in legislation are well recognised as being penal in character, it can properly be said that the Attorney-General ought to have this power, if he is disposed to allow a foreign judgment to be recognised or enforced in Australia, nevertheless to reduce the amount of the judgment to what might be regarded as being an equitable amount of damages which the plaintiff ought to recover in Australia.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I seek leave to deal together with the two amendments which have been circulated in my name.
We also notice that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) said, in answer to another part of our submission, that it is important that he have the ability to deal with these matters expeditiously because he is dealing with matters of national interest. Of course, the Parliament can disallow any decision that he makes. It should be borne in mind that we were suggesting that the Parliament ought to give him support by looking at the matter in the first instance. If he was making the point that that might not be practical because the Parliament could be out of session for three or four months and a delay could result, I point out that he has the power to reduce the amount of the judgment. Such an order can become enforceable, even though we may want to disallow it later, as we can under the provisions of this Bill. If he made an order during the parliamentary recess we would be put in the rather ridiculous situation of being very hard pressed to stop the enforcement of that judgment. For those reasons we suggest that these provisions do not help the legislation. They are merely creating a weakness in the sense that an Attorney-General, with all his powers, nevertheless has human frailties and might be making decisions which could well jeopardise our national interest in these matters.
– As I indicated in my reply to the second reading debate, the Government does not accept the proposed amendments to clause 3 of the Bill, which deals with the power granted to the Attorney-General to reduce the amount of a foreign judgment if he is otherwise disposed to allow that judgment to be recognised or enforceable in Australia. I do not wish to add to the comments that I made then, except to say that I do not really see the point of the last comment made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). He said that if the Attorney-General reduced the amount of the judgment that would put him in a different position, in respect of the Parliament, than if he made an order declaring that the judgment shall not be recognised or enforceable in Australia. Where the amount of the judgment is reduced for the purposes of recognition and enforcement in Australia, then the party holding the judgment may, if he wants to try to have the full amount of the judgment recognised and enforced in Australia, seek to have Parliament disallow the Attorney-General’s order.
– It would be too late.
-It would not be too late.
– Why not?
– Because the judgment is available to be enforced. If the honourable gentleman is thinking that the defendant might well try to remove assets out of the jurisdiction, then I have no doubt that the courts in Australia have power to prevent that from occurring. The plaintiff need not suffer any detriment except, as the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) pointed out in the Senate, by being delayed in having his judgment enforced. Otherwise his position would not be altered.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 February, on the following paper presented by Mr Peacock:
The Geo-Political Situation: A Pattern of InstabilityMinisterial Statement, 27 February 1979. and on the motion by Mr Sinclair:
That the House take note of the paper.
– I have only a few moments so I will conlude my remarks on this statement by emphasising as strongly as I can that there will be no hope for world peace unless we can strengthen the capacity of the United Nations to intervene in international disputes, despite the obstruction of the five permanent members of the Security Council, most of whom represent only a small proportion of the people on this planet. Australia is too negative in its approach to world problems. It waits for someone else to act then makes up its mind. We should be leading in the mobilisation of the democratic forces of the world to establish a United Nations body, not the stronghold of IS 1 officialdoms, but the voice of the people of the world, through a constituent assembly, perhaps along the lines of the soon-to-be-elected Parliament of Europe.
I note that the Inter-Parliamentary Union, at a symposium in Geneva in April last year, discussed the general question of the relationships of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the United Nations. During my sojourn at the United Nations with the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Shipton), we managed to convene meetings with the parliamentarians there and in fact established a United Nations parliamentarians group. I think that by gathering together the two threads of thought, we should be able to strengthen the United Nations so that in situations such as occurred recently in Vietnam, in
Kampuchea, in Cyprus and elsewhere, we may be able to intervene.
I want to stress that I think that the present structure of the Security Council is a monstrous gerrymander. Even the 800 million Chinese are not entitled to have their vote obstruct the wishes of the rest of the 4,000 million of this planet. When we get down to the French and the British with SO million people, it makes the system appear more ludicrous than ever. I hope that honourable members will give some real thought to the question of the structure of the United Nations.
– It is a great relief to be able to speak in this debate, after having waited for six days, as the debate seemed to be getting on at the end of every day. However, I would just like to say that it is a good sign in this House when a foreign affairs debate is left on the Notice Paper and can continue. I guess we can all say that there is no doubt that we are going through a great period of tension and strain in international relations. It is fitting that we are given this opportunity to speak, not only early in the session, but at a time when the events to which the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) made reference in his speech are actually taking place and changing day by day. It is worth mentioning for the record that when this debate started, China was playing imperialistic gunboat politics on Vietnamese land in a somewhat massive manner. Yesterday we had an assurance that the Chinese had achieved their purpose and we are being asked to believe that they are planning to return behind their own borders, having duly reprimanded the robber Vietnamese. Who knows; it could be that China will have withdrawn all its military presence in Vietnam by the time this present parliamentary debate concludes. But perhaps that is asking for a debate in this House to continue for just too long a period.
Whatever the reason it is, or should be, a chilling thought for all Australians to realise that this relatively newly admitted member to the United Nations not only can, but will and does use its military might, based on almost limitless manpower to reprimand a smaller nation. Such military action needs a mighty lot of explanation which has not as yet come forward. Perhaps the present Administration in Washington and the about-to-retire Government in Great Britain will consider this simple fact when they are negotiating and concluding their sales to the Chinese Government of major military equipment of an offensive as opposed to a defensive capability. It may be merely regarded as a trading success to those major trading countries, but to the smaller countries in the Pacific and Asian areas, including Australia, it should be the cause of grave and continuing concern.
The balance of military power in our region is changing in an horrific manner and at a time when President Carter is negotiating with the Russians on a new strategic arms limitation talks agreement. The President said in his State of the Nation address as recently as 24 January this year:
We have no desire to be the world’s policeman. America does want to be the world ‘s peacemaker.
I can only hope that this most powerful, democratically-elected leader in the world has thought through his decision for America to be a major supplier of military equipment to China and what the results of this trading in arms might be for Australia’s part of the world during the next decade. By all means let Australia trade with China; by all means let us be friends, even buddies, but for Heaven’s sake, let us not be blinded to the implications of the arming of China by certain Western countries. It was a comfort to note that the Foreign Minister in his speech to the House spoke on the reality of international power politics. For too long in this House we have seen power politics pushed under the rug, albeit a Persian rug. But we have not been stating the facts or their consequences in this House. The facts are that there is an international communist bloc. Honourable members opposite might prefer to call it an international socialist bloc, but the hard reality for us in Australia is that this communist bloc exists, albeit in two blocs. There is a Western bloc and there is a non-aligned bloc, or do we still refer to it as the Third World? I was relieved to hear the Minister say: . . power will continue to be the main arbiter in international affairs.
Talk to the Tibetans, talk to the Burmese, talk to the Koreans, talk to the Laotians, talk to the Vietnamese; they will tell some remarkable tales as to how close the Minister’s remark is to reality. There can be no doubting the involvement of international power politics on the African continent. When the Minister made reference to the armed intervention in southern Africa, those of us who had visited parts of southern Africa and eastern Africa during the past decade breathed a sigh of relief that we now have an official realisation by way of statement as to what is going on in that part of the world. Those of us who have been warning of the threat of expanding military activity and subversion were appalled to find that the appropriate and proper concern against the apartheid policy had appeared to beguile official thinking away from the realities of international intrusions. Let me repeat what the Minister has said officially:
I believe that we have been badly mistaken in confusing our natural and proper abhorrence of the policy of racial apartheid as practised in so many countries under a great variety of names with official disinterest and forgetting to observe very objectively the issue of international power politics, to quote the Minister, which have become of fundamental importance, particularly in the areas of southern Africa and Indo-China.
There would not be a person in this House who did not concern himself with the lack, in varying degrees, of human rights throughout the many countries in the southern African subcontinent. It is a cause of distress to many of us that the colour of a person’s skin or his racial background can prove to be of such personal disadvantage and distress. One would hope that our good offices would be used energetically to rectify this situation, particularly in all of the countries of the southern African sub-continent. I repeat, for too long we have ignored the power politics of the international scene as it has affected the whole African continent. Thus it was a great comfort to hear the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) refer in his statement to the fact that power would continue to be the main arbiter in international affairs.
What is the extent of military and subversive intrusion into the sub-continent, or the continent? Possibly we may never know but it is there. We talk of the invasion of Kampuchea by the Vietnamese and the invasion of Vietnam by the Chinese, and we express horror. The presence of Cubans in Angola and in the Horn of Africa is no less an invasion, which should call for revulsion from both sides of this House. Australia should be using every opportunity afforded it at the United Nations to ensure that these Cuban troops and civilians who are being used as support staff are sent back to Cuba pronto. The role of Cuban troops is a source of total disruption in the south-western section of the African continent and has been ignored by the Western authorities for far too long. The silence of the British Socialist Foreign Minister and the quaint attitudes of the United States Ambassador to the
United Nations are a disappointment which clearly should be re-examined. These gentlemen, though properly concerned about racial laws in the southern African area, have closed their intelligent eyes to the realities of international power politics.
But what of the Cuban presence? How real is it? Official estimates have shown that Cubans began to arrive in Angola in the spring of 1975. By mid- 1978 it was estimated that 20,000 Cubans were in that country. They are still there. The Cubans moved into Ethiopia between November 1977 and January 1978. According to the New York Times of that period, there are in that country some 12,000 Cuban troops and 1,000 Soviet Russian advisers. The estimate goes as high as 17,000. In the London Times of 9 August 1 978 Sir Herbert Marchant, a former British Ambassador to Cuba, was authoritatively reported as saying that in the whole of Africa there were 45,000 Cubans, spread over 14 different countries. That is quite a military presence, especially by a country from another and far distant geographical area.
Why is it, then, that the Secretary-General of the United Nations has recommended a united force for Namibia, but apparently turns a blind eye to 20,000 Cubans in Angola? We have reason to believe that the Cubans are becoming decidedly unpopular with the Angolan people, even when one considers that the Marxist President of that country keeps them there to protect his own position. One hears only today that President Machel of Mozambique is experiencing the same trauma with the Cuban and East European presence in his country. Although that cannot be ratified or confirmed, it does bear out things that I have been hearing in recent months about his personal concern over the presence of foreign troops- not other Africans- on his land.
A lot has been said in the last two or three days about who sent the Cuban troops, and the relationship of President Castro and Mr Brezhnev of the Soviet Union. It is fair to say that it would be naive of us to believe that the presence of Cuban troops was merely the result of a decision made in Havana by President Castro. I repeat, nobody in this House can witness the presence of such a large number of foreign troops in a country the size of Angola and not say something about it both here and, hopefully, in the United -Nations.
In looking at the complex problems of bringing true independence to Namibia and Zimbabwe let us not under-estimate the difficulties that need to be resolved before such independence can be achieved. Let us not be fooled by some statements which seem to say that a solution is acceptable only if it is perfect. We must be aware that peace and independence will be achieved only when the international power blocs let the local people make their own decisions.
It was my intention to go into this situation further but before I close I would like to say that I believe in the last two weeks two other significant statements have been made in this House. One was that of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) that the southern African area was of strategic importance to this country. The second was in his answer to a question that I asked of him on 22 February regarding the ANZUS treaty. It was very reassuring to have the Prime Minister say that the ANZUS commitment would not be modified or limited; that in fact it applied in its totality; that it had not been changed.
In conclusion, I would like to say briefly that one of the significant events in recent weeks, one that has received practically no publicity, has been the avoidance of war between Argentina and Chile. It is significant that a new force for peace, using the offices of the Pope in the person of Cardinal Antonio Samore, has been employed so effectively and so practically. I think that it should be pointed out that almost a century has elapsed since the good offices of the Vatican were last used in such a peaceful manner. I certainly welcomed the intrusion and also the effect of the negotiations that have been carried on by Cardinal Samore, which have, in fact, prevented war on the South American continent, at least for the time being.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Dr Blewett) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr Fife) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I would like to raise one or two points tonight. The first is that on 22 February I asked the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr McLeay) this question without notice:
I preface my question to the Minister for Administrative Services by drawing his attention to page 24 of what is described as the final report of the Silver Jubilee Commemorative Organisation, tabled in Parliament yesterday, at which the Chairman, Mr Harry M. Miller, states:
The Silver Jubilee Organisation raised in excess of $100,000 for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee appeal for young Australians.
Has this money in fact been paid to the jubilee appeal? Indeed, is the appeal fund in fact pressing for payment? What other funds were raised by the activities mentioned in the report? Will the Minister ascertain from Mr Miller what has been done with such moneys?
According to the Hansard report, Mr McLeay, the Minister answered:
I will treat this question as being on notice and will obtain the information for the honourable gentleman as soon as possible.
I would have hoped that within a fortnight it would have been possible for the Minister to ascertain whether $100,000, allegedly raised by the Silver Jubilee Organisation, had in fact been paid to the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal. It would just have been a question of ringing up, as the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) did from this chamber the other day when he wanted a statement from the officer in charge of a Victorian fund organisation. He wanted that statement within the hour. Why cannot the Minister for Administrative Services obtain a statement immediately and present it to the House in order to show whether money that was raised for a Commonwealth Government organised appeal has in fact been paid to that appeal? Surely it is possible for the Minister to do that. Is it just a cover up for Mr Harry M. Miller, a very prominent member of your political party, Mr Deputy Speaker? Surely it is possible to find out whether members of the National Country Party of Australia have shot through with the funds.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member is acting improperly to associate the chair with a political party.
– Well, with other members of the National County Party in this House. We all know that he is a prominent member of the National Country Party. We all know that he was appointed to a number of his positions, including the position in question, by prominent members of the Ministry who belong to the National Country Party. He is a personal friend of National Country Party members. While we are talking about the CP-that is the Country Party- let me deal with another CP, namely, the Communist Party of Australia.
– What is the difference?
-There is very little difference as the honourable member for Werriwa points out. They have the same sorts of friends. The Sydney Tribune of 21 February, the official organ of the Communist Party of Australia, has a big article about one of their friends. It states:
Goodluck ‘Sticking to principles’ Sydney: Liberal MHR Bruce Goodluck assured the Council for the Aged last week that he will proceed with his private member’s Bill to restore six-monthly pension rises.
He told the meeting his loyalty was divided between the party and his principles. He would stick to his principles.
His undertaking came only days after Prime Minister Fraser had carpeted him at a government parties’ meeting. Fraser and Treasurer Howard refuse to back down on their Budget’s provision for 12 monthly increases.
NSW Combined Pensioners’ Association secretary Jim Sharrock -
He is a good friend of the Tribune- told Tribune the Council meeting represented a broad section of pensioners, including trade unionists, public servants, teachers and handicapped and invalid pensioners.
Liberal MHR Maurice Neil stressed that people must write to their members supporting the Bill’, Jim says. ‘It depends on how much pressure is brought on members as to when it ‘II be introduced ‘.
So we have an interesting combination of the honourable member for Franklin (Mr Goodluck) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) being praised by the Communist Party of Australia as being very active members. It is not surprising that they are prized by the Communist Party of Australia because that Party must contain one of the largest bunches of hypocrites in this country, apart from those on the Government benches.
– I rise tonight to express my concern regarding the present population trends which are occurring in Australia. The latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for 1977 show that registered births were 1,519 fewer than in 1976. This means that for the sixth consecutive year Australia’s birthrate has dropped. When one considers that Australia’s population is aging, I believe this is a matter of grave concern for all Australians.
Australia has 5 per cent of the world’s land mass, 15 to perhaps 40 per cent of the world’s most sought after minerals, yet only 0.34 per cent of its population. In 100 years time, if present trends continue, Australia’s population will fall, at best, to 0.04 per cent of the world’s population. That will be the same proportion of the world’s population that was in Australia when Captain Cook first set foot in this country. The ramifications of this situation should, I believe, require the Government to reconsider urgently its decision on the number of migrants to be accepted into this country each year. When the Whitlam Government took office and unemployment began to rapidly escalate, that Government reduced immigration to 30,000 persons per annum. However, the net result was an actual outflow of people from Australia of some 5 per cent. On coming to office the Fraser Government increased immigration to 70,000 persons a year under strict guidelines. This year it is estimated that the gross figure will be 90,000 giving a net annual intake of 70,000. This, in my opinion, is far from sufficient. Surely it is essential for the Government to forget the short term and look at the overall long term population which Australia must have to remain viable and free as a nation.
If we do not populate this vast empty land mass with suitable migrants, then we and our descendants may find that we do not have the choice as to our immigrants. I know some people would think that increased migration at this time may add to unemployment. But this is only a short term and shortsighted view. Hopefully unemployment will not always be the problem that it is at present and indeed, there are already signs that the situation will become easier in the not too distant future. We should be gearing for that time now. I believe that migrants do not add to unemployment but with their demands for goods and services of all kinds they will, on the contrary, stimulate the economy and help reduce unemployment. The greatest period of Australia’s development in recent times, in fact of all times, has been during periods of the influx of great numbers of people. One can understand that unions fear that migrants may take the jobs of their members. I do not believe that this would be the case. I believe that the expressed opposition to migration from the unions is quite often the view of the executive rather than of the union members themselves. The rank and file union members in their day to day living are probably far more in touch with the facts of Australia’s multicultural development which has enriched all our lives culturally and financially. Many union members have entered this country as migrants. Many have gone on as Australians to become employers of large numbers of Australian workers.
Over the years migration has made Australia the great and wealthy nation that it is today. To blindly restrict the inflow of people into this country will only serve to stunt and retard its growth and development. It will prevent Australia taking its place as a fully mature nation in the international family. We should not allow transient problems to cloud our vision for the kind of Australia that we would like to see in the years to come. We owe this to future generations.
-In an article headed ‘Women seen as a problem in the future’- what is new- in the Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday 1 March 1979, the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Baume) is reported to have said that there were 152,700 more people at work than when the Labor Government was sacked in November 1975. The honourable member has since repeated this statement on television and the article refers to a speech which the honourable member made on 22 February 1979 and which appears in Hansard. In that speech the honourable member stated:
The only reason unemployment has gone up and has gone up by 131,000 in that period is because of the substantial increase in the work force.
He also said that under the Labor Party Government the number of jobs that were available went down. He also stated:
It is within the general capacity of the Opposition to lie with statistics.
I would like to look at the honourable member’s general capacity in this matter and place before the House the official figures so that other honourable members can work out the matter for themselves. I seek leave to incorporate nine tables in Hansard.
The tables read as follows:
– The employed civilian labour force of Australia went up in each of the three years of the Labor Government from 5,684,300 in November 1972 to 5,944,800 in November 1975, an increase of 260,500. There were only three quarters when the work force did not increase. In the period from November 1975 to November 1978 under the Liberal Government we saw an increase of only 52,500 compared to Labor’s record of 260,500. There have been four quarters when the work force did not increase under the Liberal Government. The honourable member for Macarthur’s claim of an increase of 1 52,700 is perfectly true if the period measured is from November 1975 to December 1978, as in December 1978 there was an increase of 100,200 over November 1978. One cannot gain a comparison of the increase in the other December over November figure because only quarterly figures were published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics until 1 978. It is probable that there is always a once and for all increase each December.
Table 9 indicates that the increase between November 1975 and January 1979 was minus 5,000. The honourable member for Macarthur is not comparing like with like. If honourable members examine tables 1 and 2 I am sure that they will agree with me. The calculations in table 9 show that, in fact, there has been a drop in the work force of 220,000 people. Tables 3 and 4 show that the participation rate of persons in the work force for the three Labor years in office was 62.1 per cent, 62.3 per cent and 62.7 per cent. Those were the highest rates ever. For the three Liberal years since the rate has been 61.5 per cent, 61.4 per cent and 60.5 per cent. At no time has it ever been over 62 per cent, a figure it always exceeded under Labor.
Tables 5 and 6 indicate that for the three Labor years the unemployment rate was 2.1 per cent, 3.7 per cent and 5 per cent. Under the Liberals it has been 4.5 per cent and 5.5 per cent and it is now near or in excess of 6 per cent. Tables 7 and 8 provide additional information and confirm the view of the honourable member for Macarthur with respect to female unemployment. I object to the honourable member’s use of figures to project a falsely optimistic view of the problem of unemployment. One needs to refer to the recent paper put out by the Department of Employment and Youth Affairs, which projected that 600,000 people would be unemployed in the future. I am also at a loss to understand the honourable member’s reasoning. One does not measure unemployment by employment. The figures on the participation rate show that this is false in any case. The analogy I would use is that one does not measure the number of people not in the army by the number of people in it. If one is measuring the number of people unemployed one takes the figures on the number of unemployed. If one is measuring employment one measures the number of people employed.
-Each day I am saddened and I know that many other members of this House are saddened by the tragic loss of life as a result of motor cycle accidents. It is pleasing to see the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Humphreys) in the chamber tonight. He is a member of the Standing Committee on Road Safety, as I am. I know that he is concerned that every day on Australian roads one motor cyclist is killed.
– Does he ride a motor bike?
-I do not know whether he rides a motor cycle but he is a pretty capable fellow in that regard. Most of the tragedies that occur involve young people under the age of 21. Each day they occur but we do not seem to be able to do very much about them. Many reports are furnished and many reasons are given as to why these accidents continue to occur. On average each year 3650 people die on the roads in Australia. Ten per cent of those deaths occur as a result of motor cycle accidents. That represents about 4.4 per cent of the total registrations. This matter is extremely serious, sad and tragic.
There is a lack of uniformity among the States about requiring young people to be trained before they ride motor cycles. A 250cc motor cycle is a lethal weapon. It can go just as fast as a 350cc motor cycle. We come forward with reports and refer them to State authorities. They may instigate rules and laws to overcome this tragic problem. Nevertheless every day we pick up a newspaper and read that a young person under the age of 2 1 has been killed as a result of a motor cycle accident.
– It is not always their fault though.
-It is not always their fault but, unfortunately, it occurs. We have to do something about it. I am afraid that it is getting worse each day. With the high cost of fuel and the number of motor cycles on the road it is becoming more and more of a problem.
I now refer to another matter. I am rather surprised at the actions of the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman). I do not know what he is trying to achieve. Somebody told me that he is a tough Labor politician. I am starting to wonder about that now. The other night the House debated the issue of the indexation of pensions. Whilst I was speaking in the House the honourable member for Prospect appeared on the program Nationwide and tipped the bucket on me. I am prepared to debate the pensioner issue with the honourable member for Prospect on any television program at any given time.
– Why did you not come at that time?
-I could not leave the House the other night to debate the issue on television with the supposedly tough Labor politician, but I throw down the gauntlet. I hope somebody will accept it and give me the opportunity to talk to a tough Labor politician who has the audacity to ask me continually why I did not cross the floor in October. The honourable member for Prospect has not crossed the floor in his life. He would not have the fortitude to do it. He should not try to associate me with the Communist Party. I am a Catholic. I am proud of it. I am against people who are anti-religion, against the freedom of the church and freedom of worship. Honourable members opposite should not try to associate that view with my party. I can refute it easily. It is very simple when one tells the truth. The tough Labor politician should be very careful. If you want to debate on television the matter of pensions you should give me the opportunity to do so with you. You should not try to tip the bucket when I am trying to defend in the House an issue that you, because of your stupid, ill-advised way of trying to -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member for Franklin is required to address the Chair, not other honourable members. I request him to observe parliamentary decorum.
-I have said everything I want to say on that point. I also mention that I am very pleased that a joint report from the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government has recommended today the commencement of a second Hobart bridge. The Labor Party must support that. Its Acting Prime Minister at the time, Dr Cairns, came to Tasmania after the disaster that had occurred and said that there would be a second bridge. The present Federal Government has honoured that commitment. It will inject $28.5m into the electorate of Franklin. That will be tremendous. Because of the danger of the bridge that is there at the moment, the second bridge will be of great benefit.
– It will be disgraceful.
-It will not be disgraceful. On 5 January 1970 -
-Order! The honourable member’s dme has expired.
-On 7 June 1978 the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) made a statement on immigration which held out considerable promise in the field of family reunion for the ethnic communities. He talked about the prevailing very tight criteria as though he seriously intended to loosen them. He promised changes to make it easier for family members. He suggested that there were problems in extending the criteria too far to include a major proportion of more distant relatives and therefore, by implication, suggested that it would be much easier for close relatives. He made this clear when he said:
As with so many statements of this Government there is a contrast between the implication, the promise and the actual fine print. There was a distinct improvement in the criteria for the entry of parents of people in Australia as a result of the decisions of last year. However, the criteria for other close relatives were hedged with restrictions. Non-dependent sons and daughters can now come to Australia provided they have no parent outside Australia. That is not a bad provision. One might accept that. However, in addition, they must not have a parent-in-law outside Australia, which is even more restrictive. Finally, they must have no brother or sister outside Australia. In addition to those provisions the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is, at the moment, applying a job guarantee.
The opportunities for sons and daughters, almost the closest of relatives, to come to Australia have almost been taken away by the restrictions with which they have been hedged. Similarly, brothers and sisters of people living in Australia have exactly the same problem. Again, they must have no parent outside Australia. If they have, they cannot come in. They must have no parent-in-law outside Australia. If they have, they cannot come in. They must have no brother or sister outside Australia. If they have, they cannot come in. Again, there is a job guarantee. Whilst there have been marginal advantages in relation to two categories of very close relatives, the promise in the Minister’s speech has not in any sense been met by the actual provisions. I believe that the ethnic communities were given a promise about close relatives which was implied in the Minister’s speech but which has not been carried out in the practice and detail of the administration.
The second issue I want to take up is the issue of NUMAS- the numerical multi-factor assessment system- which was introduced on the grounds that it would be consistent, nondiscriminatory, uniform and a major initiativethose are all the Minister’s words- and would be welcomed by Australia’s ethnic communities. It was based on economic factors and personal and settlement factors. We have been told that there are a number of factors involved, and they are all listed; but we have been given no detail, no indication, of how the points are awarded. It is impossible for members of this Parliament and members of ethnic communities to judge the scheme in detail without that information.
Let me take an example. Four points are allocated for education, but what are the points given for? Is it nought for illiteracy and four for a university degree? Is that the range? By contrast, in Canada, which uses a similar scheme, there are 12 points for education and one point is allocated for each year of education. We can judge that scheme. Again, we are told that under our present scheme five points are allocated for competence in English. But how will that be measured? What are the standards required? How are those five points to be distributed? Again let me take the Canadian situation. In Canada 10 points are allocated for language, and we are told quite clearly that under the Canadian regulations an intending migrant would get 10 points if he was fluent in writing and speaking English and French and he would get five points if he was fluent in writing and speaking English or French. In the Australian system, there are five points for presentation, but what on earth does ‘presentation’ mean? Does it mean no points if you turn up naked for the interview and five points if you turn up in a Saville Row suit? We have to be told the details of how these points are to be awarded. Let me say that, unless we are given those sorts of answers, the NUMAS system is a superb method of bureacratic obfuscation both for members of this Parliament and for the ethnic communities.
– I listened with interest to the interesting exercise in statistics used by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin). In particular, I was interested to hear his last comment that it was absurd to discuss unemployment in the context of employment. His analogy, which was a curious one, was that one does not determine the number of people who are in the Army by the number of people who are not in the Army.
– Was he serious?
– I presume that he could not have been serious. I should have thought that, when the Labor Party was inaccurately maintaining in the electorate, very strongly and without much success, the view that the present Government’s policies are entirely wrong because they are failing in the area of finding jobs for people, it would have been moderately relevant to establish that there were 157,000 more people at work.
– If it were true.
– It is true, according to the statistics. In fact, the honourable member for Werriwa has conceded that fact. As a result, the issue of discussing unemployment in the context of employment is specifically relevant if the Labor Party rests its case on the fact that the Government’s policies are not achieving an increase in employment. The honourable member for Werriwa said that it may well be inaccurate to relate November figures to December figures, and he made the very sound point that in fact there were no December figures to relate to because they were gathered on a different basis from that on which the November figures were gathered. He said that it may well be that the previous December showed a once and for all increase, but he than made the point that, even though there are not ‘annual’ figures in the sense of December figures or 30 June figures, in no year under Labor had employment fallen. We have already established that there are no December or June figures, so the honourable member had to take a year which ends artificially- some 12-month period.
I direct his attention to the employment figures for August 1974, which totalled 5,855,200. 1 also direct his attention to the employment figures for August 1975, which apparently makes up a year, on his criterion, because there are no June to June or December to December figures. The figure at August 1975 was 5,841,300 which, if my mathematics are not incorrect, indicates a fall of 48,000. It is all very well for the honourable member for Werriwa to claim that there was no fall during a Labor year. He is entitled to claim that. I must admit that I took the 12-month period ending in August because the Parliamentary Library indicated that it was the most convenient figure for it to use to go back historically to 1971. 1 have taken the statistics from the information the Parliamentary Library gave me and those figures are clearly correct. As a result, I want to stress with great vigour -
– Why don’t you incorporate the table? Why don ‘t you table it?
-I thank the honourable member very much for the suggestion. I have an additional set of figures that was put on my table this afternoon and when I get the opportunity I want to make a detailed examination of those figures. On the surface they appear to defend strongly the point I was making about the big increase -
– Why don’t you give the benefit of them to the House?
– If the honourable member does not mind, I should like to make a detailed examination of them first. I usually like to speak from a knowledge of the facts. The indication in those statistics, which I intend to examine very closely, is that an increasing number of married women in the work force is causing significant difficulties for unskilled young women entering the work force.
– I agree.
– They are competing in that area, and the honourable member for Werriwa agrees.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I also want to raise the question of unemployment, but with reference to unemployment benefits, the unfortunate term ‘dole bludgers’, and the accusation levelled at so many young people, particularly young men, that they will not work. I resent very much the use of the word ‘dole’ and the use of the word ‘bludger’. A great campaign has been organised around the story that growers cannot get fruit pickers. This is the story of a young man from Rosebud in Victoria. He was asked or instructed or directed by the Commonwealth Employment Service to go to Cobram in the northern part of Victoria. He was given a train ticket and told to report for duty as a fruit picker. When he got there he was told that there were no jobs, so he got on the train and went back home. Next day or thereabouts he again reported to the CES and was told: ‘You go off to Numurkah or Shepparton’. He got on the train and went off to one of those places, probably Shepparton, only to find again when he got there that there were no jobs. He went back home and was then sent to
Mildura. He could not go much further than that. When he got there, there was certainly a job available. He reported to an employer in the area for a fruit picking job, and looked at the conditions in which he was going to live. The place in which he was to live was a shed with a wire netting bed and no other appropriate accommodation. There was no adequate provision for cooking his food and no way in which he could go and get any.
Apparently there is a great deal of mismanagement of the system. I have no doubt that the fruit growers are reporting that they have vacancies. The vacancies are filled and the growers do not report that they have filled them. They do not make adequate provision for people’s accommodation, and we are talking now of young people. This young man is about 20 years of age and he has been around a bit. According to his mother, he has a good work record. I propose to provide his name and address to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), together with the appropriate facts, to see whether the Minister can have some research carried out. We cannot allow this sort of thing to occur. There is nothing more disheartening than being sent off on a wild goose chase when one is looking for work. I speak as one who was unemployed for three years during the 1930s and I have a great deal of sympathy for people who cannot find work. I believe that this is one of the greatest tragedies of our time. It is going to tear apart the social fabric of the Western nations of the world, and we in Australia should start to make a more critical examination of the way we are going about it. Employment and unemployment is a much more important factor than the value of money. Inflation is a phoney value set against the question of employment and unemployment.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
Does the Government condone the use by public servants of tape recording devices (a) attached to telephone or (b) attached to microphones hidden in their offices, to record telephone or other conversations in which they may engage with (i) Ministers, (ii) other parliamentarians, (iii) senior public servants or (iv) pressmen.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 15 August 1978:
How many applications for employment or promotion within the Australian Public Service were rejected on account of an adverse Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation report and in respect of which the person affected was never told of the nature of that adverse report in each year since 1970.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I draw the honourable member’s attention to the following statement contained in the second report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security (para 118):
I have not been able to determine accurately what proportion of adverse and qualified assessments resulted in action prejudicial to the persons the subjects of the assessments because it has not always or uniformly been the practice of employer authorities which receive ASIO’s security assessments to inform ASIO of the decision they reach after consideration of those assessments. And employer authorities have not always kept records in a form to enable them to retrieve this information ‘.
I would also draw the honourable member’s attention to the statistics on page 133 of the Second Report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security and to the footnote on page 46 of that Report.
ASIO’s function in the provision of security assessments is advisory only.
However, I am informed by the Director-General of Security that it is unlikely that more than one or two people in the last three years have been rejected for employment in the Australian Public Service or for promotion as the result of an adverse ASIO report.
With the introduction of new procedures for security checking and with the establishment of a Security Appeals Tribunal, under legislation shortly to be introduced, accurate records will be available. The numbers involved are likely to be very small.
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 22 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Science and Technology Council: Reports on Landsat and Bureau of Mineral Resources (Question No. 1930)
asked the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 13 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Arrangements for Biological Surveys in Australia’, and Participation in the Global Atmospheric Research Program’, (tabled in Parliament on 4 April 1 978).
Energy Research and Development in Australia’, (tabled on 4 April 1978).
Consideration of the Report of the Independent Inquiry into the CSIRO’, (tabled on 1 1 May 1978).
Science and Technology in Australia, 1977-78, Volume 1A’, (tabled on 26 September 1978).
Report on the Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology andGeophysics(BMR)’(tabledon21 November 1978).
The completed ASTEC report entitled ‘The Direct Funding of Basic Research ‘ has not been released. It was forwarded to the Prime Minister on 1 9 December 1 978.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 8 November 1978:
– The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 22 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2), (3) and (4) Documents relevant to the 1975 double dissolution were presented to the Parliament on 20 February 1979.
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 23 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Housing and Construction, upon notice, on 24 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 20 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Outstanding matters of difference which were essentially legal in character were settled.
Procedures now to be followed include consideration of these matters by the Chiefs of Staff Committee after which they will be referred to the Working Party for inclusion in the proposals to be submitted to Government.
After consideration by Government, the necessary legislation will need to be prepared and considered by the Parliament
Before the proposed Disciplinary Code can come into operation, subordinate legislation, instructions and Service manuals will need to be prepared.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 20 February 1 979:
Did the Prime Minister in his election policy in November 1977 promise to (a) increase the domiciliary nursing care benefit and (b) reduce the age for eligibility.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In the Supplementary Statements which are to be read in conjunction with the policy speech of the Prime Minister, it was stated that the age limit for the domiciliary nursing care benefit would be reduced from 65 years to 16 years and the daily rate of benefit would be increased. However, I would point out to the honourable member that no timetable or target date for the introduction of the changes was announced.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 March 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790307_reps_31_hor113/>.