31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the 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 1 978-79 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 duty bound will ever pray. by Mr John Brown, Dr Klugman, Mr Martin and Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of Bunn-Carter-Keenan 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 28 February following the tax year is an imposition and a 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 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 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 benefit schemes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
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 Carlton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of North Queensland, support this protest at the unjust treatment by the Federal Government of people depending on the old age pension, which is considered to be below the poverty level.
That we protest at the Federal Government’s failure to provide all sections of the Australian community with conditions of retirement more comparable to that section who now retire in comfort under superannuation and long service leave schemes.
That immediate action be taken to provide that all sections of the Australian work force be allowed to retire under a more comparable level than that which exists at present.
That we protest at the re-introduction of the means test for people over seventy years of age, especially those people who have already been assessed by the Social Security Department before being placed on a full age pension.
That we protest at the Government’s failure to honour their promise to have pensions adjusted in line with the CPI cost of living adjustments, which is applied to all other sections of the community.
That the amounts allowed for earnings by single and married pensioners should be increased to a more comparable level to the high cost of living, before it affects the pensions.
That the amount allowable before a pensioner pays income tax which covers all forms of income, including the annual pension, should be increased, as the high cost of living warrants this consideration.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Dr Everingham.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the Government’s decision to abolish the twice-yearly review of Pensions.
That this decision will cause untold hardship for people on fixed incomes who will now be a full year behind rising prices.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will request the Government to reintroduce twice yearly pension reviews in line with the Consumer Price Index. by Mr Hodges.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will urge the Commonwealth and State Governments to select a site for Sydney’s second airport immediately and to protect it by immediate development.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
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 Macphee.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain electors of the Division of Leichhardt respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that if these sprays are allowed to be continued to be used, the Government will legislate to protect people from the harmful effects resulting from the use of these sprays.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth that steps should be taken to totally ban the import of all seal products into Australia and to seek a commitment from the Canadian Government that they will ban the slaughter of seals.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled should acknowledge our concern for seals.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Wilson.
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:
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:
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 incomes 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 Mr Young.
-I ask the Minister for National Development whether the fifth report of the Royal Commission on Petroleum stated that Australia: . . needs an agency to examine . . . transfer prices. No country which the Commission has examined operates without this type of review, and price control mechanisms that do not purport to survey offshore profits are simply beside the point.
Will the Government set up such an agency in view of widespread community dissatisfaction with the way in which domestic oil producers and the major oil companies are able to rip off Australian motorists with the complicity of the Australian Government?
-Before I call the Minister, I point out to the Leader of the Opposition that, in asking a question, it is out of order to include in the question the words ‘complicity of the Government’, ‘rip-off’, or words of that kind. The purpose of a question is to seek information. I will permit the question asked by the Leader of the Opposition on this occasion, but I do ask him to delete such words from his questions in future.
– The Government’s position on the reports of the Royal Commission has been made clear, so the answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is no. As to the implication that there is some rip-off by the oil producers, let me just repeat that which I have stated in this House on several occasions. The Government fixes a parity price. Through taxation, royalties and excise levy, the Government takes for the Australian people about 80 per cent of that price. That revenue goes back into health, social security and other services which otherwise would have to be financed by increased taxation.
– Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs confirm reports that have been received today that Mr Bhutto, the former leader of Pakistan, has been executed? If he has been executed, what is the Government’s attitude to this event?
-I can say that, according to reports in the Pakistani Press this morning, Pakistan authorities have carried out the death sentence imposed on former Prime Minister Bhutto. This was the death sentence imposed by the Lahore High Court and confirmed by the Pakistan Supreme Court. Honourable members will be aware that on 6 February 1 979 the Pakistan Supreme Court, by a four to three majority, upheld the death sentence imposed on the former Prime Minister by the Lahore High Court decision in March 1978 for alleged complicity in the murder of the father of a political opponent. A petition to review the case was rejected by the Supreme Court on 24 March this year, and last minute appeals for clemency were not accepted by the Pakistan authorities.
The Australian Government deeply regrets the execution of Mr Bhutto. Honourable members will recall that many countries and international organisations appealed to the Pakistan authorities to exercise clemency on humanitarian grounds. Australia was among the first to do so. The Government made further representations on Mr Bhutto ‘s behalf in February of this year. Mr Bhutto will be remembered as a controversial figure. Whatever views may be held about his attainments during his terms as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, it must be recognised that he was prominent internationally because of his energetic espousal of issues of concern, particularly to developing countries. We regret that representations and appeals for clemency were not accepted.
-My question is directed to the Treasurer. It is in response to an answer that was given to this House by the Minister for Health regarding low alcohol beer. In view of the way in which the Minister for Health extolled the virtues of low alcohol beer, will the
Government consider reducing the excise payable on beers that have an alcohol content of 2 per cent or less?
-I will consider the proposal which is implicit in the question, but I say that against the background of a belief on my part, which I think is fairly widely shared across party lines and in many sections of the community, that the taxation and revenue raising laws of this country should, as far as possible, be neutral on relative social and society attitudes to various forms of behaviour and various forms of conduct. I think the honourable member would agree that one could get into very difficult and contradictory situations if, through the revenue laws, one were to try to fine tune the behaviour of people and fine tune attitudes.
Having said that, I recognise that there is a health view of substance, and I will consider the honourable gentleman’s suggestion. But I would not want him to think that that consideration would take place other than against the background of the general view that I have expressed regarding the nature of our revenue laws.
– I draw the attention of honourable members to the presence in the House of Mr Duwabane, the Minister for Defence in Papua New Guinea. I am sure that the House will welcome him.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-Can the Prime Minister inform the House whether there has been an attempt to hijack an aircraft from an Australian airport?
– Earlier today, I was advised that shortly after 11 a.m. Pan American flight 815 arrived at Mascot airport and its passengers disembarked. After the aircraft had been sprayed for quarantine purposes, a man grabbed a woman, forced her back into the aircraft and closed the door from the inside. At that time nobody else was on board. It was at that time believed that the man and woman were unknown to each other. Later the man reopened the door and asked for a plane to take him to Russia. He later asked that the plane which had come from overseas be refuelled to take him to Russia.
An airport safety committee has been established on the spot with representatives from the Department of Transport- the New South Wales Director, State police, Commonwealth police and Pan American World Airways. State police are in charge of police operations with the Commonwealth police assisting. The man has been identified as Domico Speranza. On later advice it has become clear that he wants to go to Moscow.
A Commonwealth Police officer, Inspector Burrows, was in the cabin of the aircraft with the man and the girl at a later point. He was able to free the girl but was wounded himself in the process. The position at 1.45 p.m. was that the man was in the cabin with two New South Wales police, still with his knife and having produced a beer can with a wick that looked like a bomb with which he was threatening to blow up those present.
So, the matter is in the hands of the police. All the appropriate action is in hand. The woman has apparently been freed and we are to be thankful for that. But on the latest advice available to me there was still a very difficult situation for the police. I think at this moment we can only hope that it ends all right with nobody being further hurt.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that, as a result of legal action by the licensees of several Sydney commercial television stations, many public submissions from interested persons have been rejected on the ground that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal cannot hear submissions from any person who does not have a pecuniary interest? If so, is this action in direct conflict with the concept of public accountability and the need for people to have some say in the way in which the frequency spectrum is used? What action does he intend to take to ensure that the public has the right to submit evidence on the ground of ‘public interest’ at hearings of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal?
– Before I call the Minister, I should point out that on some constructions that question may amount to a request for a legal opinion from the Minister. The Minister is under no obligation whatsoever to give a legal opinion. If he has any facts that he wishes to give to the House, he may proceed.
– I point out that procedures governing the conduct of public inquiries are laid down in the Broadcasting and Television Act and under the Act it is for the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to make decisions about such matters. Included among such matters, of course, are the presentation and reception of submissions by the Tribunal and the hearing of witnesses. In the course of its duties under the Actand wide powers are vested in the Tribunal for deciding about procedures- the Tribunal will make such decisions. Of course, it will not always make decisions which appeal to all members of the public or to broadcasting interests. Matters have been raised along the lines of the question asked by the honourable member. At this stage, I would simply say this: The Tribunal is committed, as is the Government, to public accountability for broadcasters and to the opportunity for the public to have a say on important aspects of the broadcasting system and the performance of particular broadcasting stations.
The Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has indicated that he thinks that there may be a need to review some aspects of the procedures which were decided upon and instituted in the Broadcasting and Television Act. I believe that it will be possible to make out such a case. When the Sydney hearings of the Tribunal are over I will hold discussions with the Government about matters relating to public accountability and procedures of the Tribunal.
-Is the Minister for Industry and Commerce aware of the extent to which States are protecting their industries by the use of de facto tariff and customs barriers under the guise of State preferences? Does he believe it to be in the national interest for the common market established in Australia at Federation to be Balkanised in this way? In the light of the recommendations of the Crawford committee that government policy should actively accelerate the process of structural change in manufacturing industry, will the Minister convene a meeting of relevant State Ministers to discuss the removal of State preferences? If not, will moves to achieve structural change involve the maintenance and establishment of all major industries in each State of the Commonwealth?
– The answer to each of the three parts of the question is in the affirmative. I am certainly very much aware of the State preference arrangements which are applied by a number of States at present. I would agree with the honourable gentleman that those preference arrangements are certainly not in the national interest. As a general proposition, State preference and protectionist arrangements clearly lead to a distortion of trade between the States and contribute to the misallocation of resources throughout Australia as a whole.
I can say that on sheer economic grounds it would be very difficult to justify a number of the decisions which have been taken by the States on the basis of State preference. This matter has been raised with the States on earlier occasions. The final decision making, of course, rests with the States, but I give the honourable gentleman a clear assurance that it would be my intention to raise this matter at the next meeting of Commonwealth and State industry Ministers, subject to agreement by the States that the matter be properly placed upon the agenda. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. He can be assured that I certainly very much share his concern.
– I can think of a good many diseases and insects that afflict the Government of New South Wales, but it is true that a grasshopper plague can seriously prejudice the level of agricultural production right across eastern Australia. As the honourable gentleman’s question suggests, hatchings are already apparent in quite a deal of western New South Wales. They are apparent in the Mallee and in western Queensland. The honourable gentleman would know that because of the degree to which grasshoppers tend not to register State boundaries, we set up the Australian Plague Locust Commission which is designed to co-ordinate the efforts with regard to grasshopper eradication by State authorities, which have the prime responsibility, together with some assistance from the Federal Government. This ‘grasshopper commission’ in fact operates in Canberra and I am sure that the honourable gentleman, and indeed any member of this place, would be very welcome to go and discuss with the officers of that Commission the problems that he has raised in the House today and perhaps as a result ensure that there is recognition of the problems that affect his constituents.
What is happening is that through the coordination of eradication measures, hopefully some of the worst features of grasshopper plagues can be contained. Given the cost of the application by spraying of the various insecticides that are necessary to contain both the breeding and the hatching of grasshoppers, the honourable member will know that regrettably there is a limit on the degree to which governments at any level can completely frustrate the desire of the grasshopper to fulfil its life cycle. The initial problem, I gather, is that the first hatching, which is apparent at the moment, is not as serious as the second hatching. We all know that the second coming is more serious than the first. Therefore, we need to have a very profound concern about the effect that that will have on Australian agriculture. I take note of the honourable member’s question. I can assure him that the Commonwealth is co-ordinating its grasshopper eradication campaign with the States to the maximum. Hopefully, together we might be able to arrest some of the worst effects, particularly as they pertain to agriculture, throughout not only New South Wales but also western Queensland and western Victoria.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to the forthcoming elections in Rhodesia. Can the Minister give me and the House any information regarding the sending of observers to Rhodesia from this country?
-I understand that the parliamentary Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence is examining this matter. I advised senior officers of my Department who were to appear before the Committee to indicate to it that, should the Committee wish to send observers on behalf of that Committee or on behalf of the Parliament- not on behalf of the Government- they would go with my blessing. It would then be a matter for the Committee, in conjunction with the Minister for Administrative Services, to determine the size of the delegation and, in conjunction with my colleague the Minister for Finance, to determine the funding for the delegation. I see some benefit in a parliamentary delegation’s observing the elections; but I lay stress on the fact that the members of the delegation would be going as representatives of the Parliament and not as a sign of the Government’s endorsement of the elections.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for National Development. Has the Government commissioned a design cost study for a new reactor to replace the HIFAR reactor at Lucas Heights? If so, might it not be prudent to locate any new atomic reactor outside the Sydney or any other urban area? Will he consider my request for a parliamentary inquiry into matters relating to the suitability of the Lucas Heights site, having regard to increasing public concern about the discharge of radioactive material- I am referring to both liquid and gaseous wastes- and the possibility of a disaster or an act of terrorism occurring?
– The question of a replacement reactor or new design reactor is still under consideration. No design briefs have been issued. In regard to the discharge of effluent, let me make it clear, as I have done in correspondence to the honourable member for Hughes, that all discharges, for example, into the Woronora River, from the reactor site are in complete accordance with the regulations of the Health Commission of New South Wales, which I understand sets these standards. All effluent discharges meet the requirements of the various authorities of New South Wales. As to public concern about safety at the reactor, let me make it very clear to the honourable member and to all other members of this House that safety standards at the reactor have never been compromised. Safety receives the highest priority of all the matters that are under consideration by the authorities that run the reactor. I am satisfied that the reactor operates efficiently and that no member of the public should be worried about the operations of the reactor.
-Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General seen reports of a New South Wales Government proposal to establish a government-controlled- that is, subject to ministerial direction- legal services commission to supervise legal aid services in New South Wales? Does this proposal involve Commonwealth agencies such as the Australian Legal Aid Office and perhaps the Aboriginal Legal Service? Is the proposal in line as to control and co-operation, particularly with the legal profession, with any proposal for New South Wales to participate in the formation of a New South Wales legal aid commission under the umbrella of the Australian Legal Aid Commission? Has the New South Wales Government refused to be involved in a co-operative arrangement such as those finalised in other States, including South Australia?
-On behalf of the AttorneyGeneral I can inform the honourable gentleman that neither the Attorney-General nor his Department has seen the proposed New South Wales Bill, nor has the Commonwealth been consulted concerning the establishment of the proposed legal aid commission in New South Wales. I note from public comments made by the President of the Law Society of New South Wales, Mr Mackay, that he is concerned that a New South Wales commission would be under ministerial control and would not be independent of government, as is the case in all other States. That is a matter for regret. It seems that the New South Wales Government, notwithstanding that the Premier is a lawyer, does not have sufficient confidence in its own legal profession to provide legal aid to those who need it. I do not think any government should underestimate the value over many, many years of the services provided by the legal profession- in early days completely freely and in latter days under subsidies by governments. I think it is to be regretted also, if I may say so to the honourable member who asked the question, that the New South Wales Government seems to be moving not in a spirit of co-operation but in a spirit that is quite the opposite. That is in contrast to the way in which the Commonwealth has approached this whole question of legal aid throughout Australia. It always has been on the basis of the closest co-operation with the legal profession and the closest co-operation and consultation with all State Governments.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Is it a fact that the Chairman of the Austraiian Broadcasting Tribunal undertook at the Adelaide broadcasting hearings in October 1978 to release a report based upon the open hearings? Is the Minister aware that the failure of the Tribunal to release the report is preventing any body or individual wishing to exercise a legal right to challenge the findings of the Tribunal from doing so? Will the Minister request the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to release the report immediately?
-The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has the responsibility to report in writing on all decisions it makes pursuant to licence applications. It is overburdened with work and I believe that would be the only reason which would have deterred it from presenting a report after the Adelaide inquiries. However, I will follow the matter up with the Tribunal and seek the earliest possible release of the written report.
– I ask the Minister for the Capital Territory: Has his attention been drawn to an advertisement on page 10 of today’s Canberra Times which asserts that there is a dangerous confrontation between small shop owners and landlords in the Australian Capital Territory, and which calls for a public inquiry into the administration of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority? Can the Minister inform the House of any such public inquiry? Can he indicate whether any action is contemplated on the need for a business leases review ordinance in the Capital Territory to assist small businessmen?
– It is a fact that my notice has been drawn to an open letter, to the Prime Minister actually, which appeared in the Canberra Times this morning. It does point to what is regarded in the letter as a serious situation. I understand that next week the Public Accounts Committee is proposing to make certain inquiries in relation to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. Honourable members will recall that the Authority was established some years ago and successfully constructed the Belconnen Mall, which is one of the largest shopping centres in the Southern Hemisphere. It was opened last October. Since then, the Authority has proceeded to lease the premises to various large and small shopkeepers. The letter in question appears to be signed by Mr Petersilka, who is a very well known Canberra resident, although I understand that recently he decided to move to Queanbeyan, a matter that one might regret. However, the fact is that in recent years a number of small businesses have come under strain in the city of Canberra because of the fall-off in growth and therefore have felt that to some degree their businesses are under threat. Needless to say, when a large shopping mall is opened there will necessarily be tension of some description between the authority running it and the various lessees.
I can assure the honourable member that I am keeping a watch on the activities of the Authority. It is going through the early stages of the running of the Mall and I believe that it is trying to do its best. As honourable members know, under the ordinance the Authority has to act in a way that is consistent with proper commercial practice. On the other hand, it has done what I think is a significant thing. It has built this Mall at a cost of some $41m. The Authority borrowed $40m of that $41m and it has to service that money. It was done under a Government guarantee, of course, but at the same time the Authority has the task of making sure that it gets in the interest and also meets the capital repayments. That is no mean task, and therefore it is necessary for the Authority to apply to the running of the Mall strict and proper business practices.
In conclusion, I say to the honourable gentleman only that the question of the review of the Business Leases Ordinance is under consideration. One question that has been put to me is that there ought to be provision for arbitration of the rental on the renewal of a lease. That would mean imposing on existing contracts a provision that is not there, and one is reluctant to do that. However, the matter is under consideration. As against that, there is a great surplus- it has been measured at about 25 per cent- of commercial premises in Canberra at the moment. I would have thought that that would have the effect of keeping rentals down.
-I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the agreement that the Deputy Prime Minister has secured with the United States on minimum beef imports sets that minimum at no higher than the low level of imports in 1975? Is it a fact that the newly negotiated cheese quota is less than the present volume of Australian cheese sales to the United States? Is it a fact that, on the basis of current wool exports to the United States, the proposed United States tariff reductions will provide a benefit of less than $4.5m? Will the Prime Minister now indicate what Australian industrial tariffs will be cut and which will be bound as a quid pro quo for these so-called gains in primary exports?
– It has been characteristic of the Labor Party -
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. This question was addressed to the Prime Minister, as a result of his trip abroad. Let us hear how he performed abroad, in the light of the revelations made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat. There is no point of order.
– It is regrettable that on so many occasions in this place the Labor Party demonstrates the king-sized chip it continues to carry on its shoulder and the attitude it has towards securing added benefits for producers in this country. On nearly every occasion when the Minister for Trade and Resources or the Minister for Special Trade Representations has been overseas the Labor Party has seen fit to criticise the formal achievements that have been registered, which demonstrably have brought to one of the industries it tried to cruel a level of prosperity that is just now giving those industries the chance to catch up. As far as the negotiations with America are concerned, it is true that one of the principal American negotiators was in this House earlier in Question Time. He is the UnderSecretary for Agriculture in the United States. He is one of those who have contributed towards recognising the peculiar dependence that this country has on agricultural access to the United States market.
It is true that like most of us, and like Oliver Twist long ago, we would have liked more. As the honourable gentleman would know, there are still two negotiations remaining to be concluded. The Minister for Trade and Resources has still to conclude his arrangements with Japan and the Minister for Special Trade Representations is still negotiating Australia’s position with Europe. The level of attainment in all three- that is, in the United States, Japan and the European Economic Community- sets not an upper limit but a base from which, hopefully, we can maintain in the future a level of access which will give to agricultural exporters in particular a security which they have never before enjoyed. Because of the irresponsible actions of the Whitlam Administration we were frequently put in a position where we would have reasonable access one year and almost none the next.
The minimal access that has been secured through these multilateral trade negotiations does give to Australian exporters a security which I think is going to help to restore something like a correct perspective between the different sectors of the Australian community. It will also engender some continued overall improvement in economic activity which will flow back to Australian consumers and from there to Australian employment levels and will hopefully correct some of the imbalances resulting from the policies of the Australian Labor Party when it was in government.
I believe that attainments in the MTN obviously are not as much as we would have hoped, but they still provide a sound base from which every Australian exporter can look forward with far more confidence than was the case before the MTN round began.
-Has the Minister for Primary Industry received a report of the McKinnon inquiry into the sugar industry? If so, can he inform the House of its recommendations, particularly those regarding the price and pricing mechanism for domestic sugar?
-The Government received the first copy of the McKinnon report late yesterday. At the moment only 14 copies are available. Copies have been sent to the Queensland Government which joined in the commissioning of this report. I am endeavouring to contact the Queensland Minister for Primary Industries to determine whether the report can be published before decisions are taken on what action should ensue. The report is a very voluminous document. Without doubt the three-man commission has gone into many of the complexities and difficulties facing Australian sugar producers in a way that was necessary. I know from the brief examination that I have undertaken of the report to date that they have recognised many of the peculiar difficulties that the industry is suffering. I believe that nonetheless there is a very real necessity to have the report published and examined publicly before it is adopted by either government and before action is taken on the recommendations contained in it.
I hope that as soon as I have been able to contact the Queensland Government it will be possible for the printed report to be made public and then of course to receive some public comment before the Government determines what action should ensue. I know of the honourable gentleman ‘s interest in this subject and of his continued concern for the wellbeing of cane growers in Queensland. I believe this document is going to help significantly in putting the plight of those cane growers into perspective in relation to demands on consumers elsewhere in Australia. It is for that reason that we commissioned the report and it is for that reason that it deserves proper and adequate examination from the public.
-I repeat my question to the Prime Minister. Could he indicate which Australian industrial tariffs will be cut and which will be bound for the so-called gains in primary exports? Could he please answer the question this time?
-The Minister for Trade and Resources will be making a full statement on matters concerning the multilateral trade negotiations when he returns from overseas. The full details of the arrangements have not yet been published. They will be in proper course, and the appropriate place in which to do it is this Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who has pursued the recommendations of the House of Representatives Select Committee on Tourism by having a study undertaken of the significance of tourism to the Australian economy. Has a preliminary working paper been prepared? What facts have come forward so far?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question. His interest in the tourist industry is well known in this House. I pay special tribute to his work as Chairman of the Select Committee on Tourism. One of the significant recommendations of that Select Committee was for the undertaking of a study of the economic significance of tourism in Australia. I am pleased to advise the House, in response to the honourable gentleman’s question, that the Bureau of Industry Economics last week released a preliminary working paper on the economic significance of tourism to this country. The BIE ‘s calculation showed that in 1973-74- the only year for which data are presently available- the contribution made by tourism to the gross domestic product at factor cost amounted to 2.7 per cent, its contribution to total employment was estimated at 2.5 per cent, and its usage of Australia’s capital stock was estimated at 2.9 per cent.
Seeking to put these figures in perspective, the paper estimates that, in terms of direct contribution to gross domestic products, the tourist industry is of about the same size and importance as the motor vehicle industry. If tourism’s share of gross domestic product at factor cost was the same in 1977-78 as it was in 1973-74, tourism would have contributed about $2,250m at current prices. Similarly, if its share of total employment had remained unchanged, about 132,000 persons would have been working in tourist related industries and activities in 1977-78. The tourist industry is an effective Australian industry with very sound short and long term growth prospects. The report produced by the BIE amply demonstrates that fact and will provide a major contribution to informed public opinion about the importance of tourism in Australia.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Did the Reserve Bank sell only $7m of a $20m tender offering of Commonwealth bonds maturing in May 1980 at a yield of 9.46 per cent? Was this yield 0.8 per cent above the rates at which bonds were issued in the Commonwealth loan late last year? Does the fact that only $7m of the $20m offering was sold mean that yields would have had to go higher than 9.46 per cent to sell the remaining $ 13m of the offering? Does this upward movement reflect market realities, to use the Prime Minister’s terminology? If so, what measures will be taken to prevent a spillover into housing loan and overdraft rates?
-The answer to the first part of the question is ‘Yes’. The answer to the second part of the question is ‘Not necessarily’. The answer to the third part of the question is that I have already indicated that I will not guarantee the level of interest rates in any area of the Australian economy.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. He will recall that I previously brought to his attention a report that a young lady, after endeavouring to use an out of order telephone, was forcibly dragged from the booth and viciously assaulted. I now draw his attention to a case which occurred over the weekend and in which another young lady in a similar situation was viciously assaulted. Will the Minister once again call for a full report? Could research be undertaken into means by which the doors of telephone booths can be locked from the inside?
– One could imagine all sorts of happenings in telephone booths if the doors were able to be locked. I am always unhappy to hear about young ladies being dragged forcibly anywhere by anyone. I certainly did have my attention drawn by the honourable member to the case of that young lady. All I can say at this stage is that Telecom Australia has been providing these see-through booths in recent years and it may be that some consideration should be given to whether there should be a return to the old fashioned telephone booths which were not quite so see-through. I shall raise the matter with Telecom.
-I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications whether he is aware that five of Australia’s 1 1 largest metropolitan centres are exempt from the ownership provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act because of the definition of ‘metropolitan centres’ under section 90(1). Will the Minister now ensure that this anomaly is rectified in the present rewriting of the Broadcasting and Television Act so that all metropolitan centres with a population in excess of, say, 120,000- such as the Gold Coast in Queensland and the City of Wollongong in New South Wales- are subject to the same ownership provisions as the six capital cities?
– I thank the honourable member for his question and for drawing my attention to this important matter. As he rightly recognises, it is not the sort of thing which should be taken on the run in Question Time but rather it should be considered fully and properly in the context of any future amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act. I thank him for his question and indicate that that is the way in which it will be considered.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the announced access for Australian beef to the United States of America arising out of the multilateral trade negotiations and, further, the possibility of increased access to the Japanese and European Economic Community markets, does the Minister feel, firstly, that there will be adequate beef to supply the expanding overseas markets and, secondly, that there will be adequate beef to meet the local market requirements in Australia?
– I know that for many years the honourable gentleman has pioneered country slaughtering facilities in New South Wales and his concern rests not only in his responsibilities as a member of Parliament but also through his association with country abattoirs, particularly at Gunnedah. I know that people have said there will be problems in the degree to which, with added demand in world markets, the achievements of improved access will affect prices paid by Australian consumers and will lead to a position where there will be inadequate beef for the future. With respect to Australian consumers, it is true that, the number of hours that an Australian need work to purchase a pound of steak or a pound of sausages, is significantly less than the number required 10 or 1 S years ago, and that beef and all meat products are still comparatively cheap in world terms. However, the broader perspective of the honourable gentleman’s question relates to the long term availability of meat. It is true that the Australian herd is still being liquidated and that a significant number of females are still being killed at works throughout Australia. Nonetheless, I believe that the overall perspective is such that there will not be a move from wool production into beef, from grains into wool and now the reverse, and therefore there should be some stability in each of the major sectors of agriculture oriented to export.
From that I would conclude that there will be an adequacy of supply both for the domestic market and to satisfy the world markets to the degree to which a secured base for future exports has been attained in multilateral trade negotiations. Therefore, the long term prospect is that they are subject only to seasonal variation. There will be a capability of supply both for export markets and to satisfy domestic demand. Domestically, the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation is currently involved in a marketing exercise demonstrating to the housewife the extent to which there is in this country a quality and price of meat that is certainly more than competitive in terms of the Australian economy when compared with that of any other country. As a result I would hope that in spite of some of the fears that are being expressed, the average housewife will realise that the present price level is certainly not excessive, particularly if compared with price increases in many other commodities. Foodstuffs are abundant in Australia. They are of a quality which has helped most Australians to have the physique and general qualities of which Australians traditionally have been proud. I hope, therefore, that housewives do not now take meat from their families’ tables simply because of an immediate price increase. I believe that there is reason for Australian primary products, particularly meat, to continue to be eaten in abundance by all Australians. I hope that they can continue to do so.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the interim annual report of the Legal Aid Commission of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1978.
-by leave-On 20 March 1978, I announced the establishment of the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling, to be headed by Sir Sydney Frost. The report of the Inquiry was tabled in Parliament on 20 February 1979. I wish to outline the background to the Inquiry’s establishment and the Government’s response to the report. There is a natural community concern about an activity which threatens the extinction of any species, particularly when it is directed against a species as special and intelligent as the whale and where there is a fear that the continued existence of these special forms of wildlife are threatened by continued exploitation.
The harpooning of these mammals is offensive to many people who regard killing them as inconsistent with the ideals of mankind and without serving any valid economic purpose in mitigation. On the other hand, the livelihood of a number of Australians depended on whaling. A whaling station operated from Albany in Western Australia for many years. It was of longstanding importance to that region. Australia’s policy on whaling has been to maintain an active role on the International Whaling Commission to regulate strictly whaling activity within the rules of the Commission and to ensure the continuance of whales as a renewable marine resource.
Given these differences between the whaling industry and conservation considerations, and also the considerable debate as to what was happening to whale populations, the Government decided that the appropriate course was to commission an independent inquiry to examine every aspect of whaling. The Government has now completed consideration of the report and has accepted all the Inquiry’s recommendations. The Government is to prohibit all whaling within the impending 200-mile Australian fishing zone, including any extension of the zone to include a fishing zone off the Australian Antarctic Territory.
The Government upholds the central conclusion of the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling, namely, that Australia should pursue a policy of opposition to whaling and that this policy should be pursued both domestically and internationally through the International Whaling Commission and other organisations. The Government will continue to be an active member of, and to support, the International Whaling Commission and to support efforts to revise the 1 946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling. In particular we will seek the extension of the Commission’s charter to the conservation of all cetacea. Satisfactory substitutes are readily available for nearly all whale products. Therefore, the importation into Australia of all whale products and goods containing them are to be banned from 1 January 1981. Subject to normal budgetary considerations, government funding for research on whales will be continued at no less than present levels.
Arrangements will be initiated soon to implement the Government’s decision on the report. The Whaling Act 1960, which is basically concerned with the regulation of whaling, is to be repealed and appropriate protective legislation to succeed the Whaling Act is to be developed for discussion with the States. A little later, the administration of this protective legislation is to become the responsibility of the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster). The Government’s decision represents a change in policy from one of conservative utilisation of whale stocks controlled by international agreement to one committed to a vigorous and active policy of protection of whales. This change in attitude has been influenced by community concern not only in Australia but throughout the world for the need to preserve these unique creatures.
I am sure that this change of policy will be favourably received by most Australians. The Government’s deliberations have been immeasurably assisted by the hard work and dedication of many individuals and the conservation organisations, in particular Project Jonah. I would like to pay tribute to Sir Sydney Frost for the dedication and thoroughness with which he conducted the Inquiry. All who have read the report will agree that it is a well reasoned and comprehensive document. I present the following paper.
Motion (by Mr Sinclair) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition welcomes the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and supports him in the action that he has taken. It is excellent to see now that Australia is to prohibit all whaling within the impending 200-mile Australian fishing zone, including any extension of the zone to include a fishing zone off the Australian Antartic Territory. We will continue support for the International Whaling Commission and hopefully an end will come to all whaling. As the Prime Minister said, satisfactory substitutes are available for all whale products. It is good to see that from 1 January 1981 Australia will prohibit the importation of whale products and that funding for research into whales will continue.
I must say that this is a welcome change of attitude. I think it is true to say that it is due to community concern. I take this opportunity to congratulate those conservation groups that have fought such a good fight to win approval for what now appears to be a bipartisan attitude on whaling. Operation Jonah is to be congratulated, as are Friends of the Earth and other conservation groups. These are much maligned organisations. It is amazing how often -
– Get out!
– That interjection is quite typical of the honourable member. But as he has now seen, the view of such organisations was right and the Government’s view was wrong. It has taken some years for the Government to come round to the view that these groups were putting all along the Une. I am not saying they are right all the time. The honourable gentleman who interjected was one who accused these groups of being communists and fellow travellers. He vented all sorts of vicious spleen on them in the House. The Government is now agreeing with them on this issue, about which they were right. Finally, it has turned out that their view is the community view. They are to be congratulated.
From 1948 to 1974 the IWC presided over a continuing decline in the larger whale species such as blue whales, fins, seis and humpbacks. The humpback whales of Australian waters were virtually wiped out during the 1950s and 1960s. A similar fate had met the Australian right whales more than a century earlier. By 1972 the whale resource situation was so critical that the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment called for a 10-year total moratorium on commercial whaling. Under this weight of international opinion, the annual IWC meeting shortly afterwards agreed to set quotas for individual whale species for the first time, to differentiate between male and female sperm whales for biological reasons, and to implement an international observer scheme. But United States sponsored resolutions in favour of an absolute moratorium on whaling were narrowly rejected by the IWC in 1972, 1973 and 1974. Finally, in 1974 a new management procedure put forward by Australia as a compromise between pro-whaling and anti-whaling members was accepted by the IWC, plus immediate bans on commercial hunting of blue whales, humpbacks, right whales and bowheads. Briefly, the new approach to whale harvesting adhered much more closely to the idea of maximum sustainable yield for each species, that is, the aim of maximum harvesting without decline of whale stocks. The Australian amendment of 1974 not only provided a compromise acceptable at that time to the much polarised idea of the IWC but also it placed Australia at the forefront of IWC policy-making on whale stocks management. It was the official policy of the Whitlam Government to work towards a 10-year moratorium on whaling. Till now the Fraser Government has supported limited whaling under scientific management. We congratulate the Government on its change of view.
I would like to conclude my remarks by referring to the fate of the Cheynes Beach whaling station at Albany. I think Australia was surprised when on 31 July 1978 a decision was made to close down the whaling station towards the end of that year. The end of 1978 was set as the cut-off point for whaling. Previously the company had made a reasonable profit in most years and in spite of company publicity that sperm oil is an essential substance the end came when the traditional British buyers of sperm oil failed to place advance orders. Normally, 80 per cent of Australia’s sperm oil had been sent to the United Kingdom. Whilst the British Department of the Environment did not believe that whale species were endangered, a junior Defence Minister announced in June 1978 that the British armed forces would no longer use sperm oil. This and other possible bans apparently meant that buyers could not take the risk of building up stocks of Australian sperm oil. It is now widely accepted that jojoba oil can replace sperm oil in expensive applications such as cosmetics while synthetic oils suffice for the industrial applications.
I want to make a special case here today- I hope I am not getting in before the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond)- for the people of Albany. I think this House has a responsibility, when a decision is made on behalf of the Australian community to phase out an industry to provide the funds that are needed to establish new industries. I made this point before when I referred to Fraser Island. I think that a decision to phase out mining on Fraser Island should carry with it an undertaking to establish another industry. There are possibilities for commercial fishing in this area.
I would like to see the Prime Minister look seriously at the question of funding a whaling museum at Albany on the site of the old whaling station. I do not believe that such an undertaking would cost a great deal of money. Albany is one of the most attractive parts of Australia. It has the potential to become one of the great tourist spots of Western Australia. This year Western
Australia celebrates its 150th anniversary I suggest that this House on behalf of the Australian people could make a great gesture by providing funds for a whaling museum. We could also look at the possibility of establishing other industries at Albany. The Government has made a decision on behalf of the Australian community that we will not be involved in whaling anymore. So let us give the people of Albany something to take its place.
– With your indulgence, Mr Speaker, I think I ought to thank the Opposition for its support on this matter because that could not have been foreseen. In 1973, 1974 and 1975 when it could have been incumbent on the then Labor Government to end whaling that Government still vigorously pursued a policy of harvesting whales. To suggest that the policy of ending whaling had been the policy of the Australian Labor Party for long is to suggest a piece of mythology. I am very glad that the Australian Labor Party also supports the recommendations of Sir Sydney Frost and supports the decisions that the Government has now taken.
Debate (on motion by Mr Drummond) adjourned.
-! seek leave to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, I claim to have been misrepresented. Yesterday in the House I made an explanation about a wealth tax proposal which would net $ 1,500m. An article in this morning’s Melbourne Age refers to that explanation but leaves out a very significant part of it, namely, that that money would be used to give a very significant reduction in both income and indirect taxation. This was not reported in the Age. Accordingly I must say that that article misleads the people. The Melbourne Sun did accurately report what I had said. What I said was that Labor is not interested in higher taxation but a fairer sharing of the tax burden and that that could lead to a significant reduction in both income tax and indirect tax. This is reported in Hansard but not in the Press.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I present the Committee’s report entitled ‘Planning in the Australian Capital TerritoryProcedures, Processes and Community Involvement’, together with the transcript of evidence and extracts from the minutes of proceedings of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- In looking at the adequacy and public acceptability of planning procedures in the Australian Capital Territory the Committee concluded that the development and planning process in Canberra over the past two decades has generally met the needs of the national capital and seat of government functions. However, in view of the existence of a wellestablished community in Canberra, the Committee saw a growing need for the citizens of Canberra to be able to contribute more directly and effectively to the planning of their city and to be able to appeal against planning decisions which they consider adversely affect them.
The Committee heard evidence of many breaches of lease purpose clauses in Canberra and an apparent reluctance on the part of the Department of the Capital Territory to enforce these lease provisions. The Committee concluded that lease purpose clauses should be enforced and has recommended that substantial fines be imposed for breaches, with continued failure to comply, leading to the termination of the lease. The Committee also feels that the procedure for applying to vary lease purpose clauses should be modified. Finally, there should be a right of appeal by both applicants and third parties against decisions made on these applications.
It is a cause for some concern that the Commonwealth is not at present subject to development control under the City Area Leases Ordinance. The Committee has therefore recommended that government departments and instrumentalities be obliged to conform with statutory planning provisions and lease purpose clauses.
On the question of public participation the Committee believes that the local community can have a greater role in planning and development without affecting the national interest in Canberra, as the capital and seat of government. There should be much more scope than at present for those affected individuals, groups, organisations and institutions to put forward their views on land use intentions and to participate from the earliest practical stage of the planning process. The community should have the opportunity to have a part in establishing the goals that subsequent planning policies are designed to achieve.
The Committee believes that planning and development control should remain centrally coordinated and that the unified and generally consistent approach to planning, under a single statutory authority, should be retained. However, the planning system should be more accessible to the citizen.
To facilitate participation in planning the Committee has proposed a system of structure and development plans, with statutory force, and has set out in its report the steps for the preparation of these plans. The structure plan would be a series of statements of overall planning policy and provide a framework within which detailed development proposals are to be formulated. The development plans would be the official land-use plans for the Australian Capital Territory and would replace the existing plan of lay-out of the city of Canberra. The steps for the preparation of the plan would ensure community participation from the earliest stages and would preserve the Parliament’s role as guardian of national capital aspects and the Burley Griffin plan.
The Committee has also proposed a land use tribunal to hear appeals against decisions of the National Capital Development Commission and the Department of the Capital Territory in relation to permits for proposed works and applications for lease purpose clause changes or permits to carry on a profession, trade or occupation on a residential lease. The tribunal should not hear prosecutions for breach of lease purpose clauses. These should be dealt with by the courts.
As a result of its inquiry and following the recent referendum in the Territory on constitutional arrangements, the Committee believes there is a need for community organisations which can both represent the local community and act as a point of contact for planners and other government agencies. The Committee has therefore recommended that community councils be established on a voluntary basis.
The Committee believes that the proposed planning system will require examination of the environmental impact of urban development at a much earlier stage and with a wider perspective than generally occurs at present under the existing impact of proposals legislation. However, the Committee has said that there should be memorandums of understanding between the Minister for the Capital Territory and the Minister for Science and the Environment to ensure that the system of structure and development plans and the
Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act work in a comprehensive and complementary manner.
There has been a joint committee on the Australian Capital Territory in each Parliament since it was first appointed in 1957. The role of the Committee has evolved over this period with the growth and changing nature of Canberra itself. The Committee has at times worked as a quasiappeal body, hearing objections to particular planning proposals, because of our role in relation to the plan of lay-out of the city and Burley Griffin’s concept for Canberra. It is not entirely appropriate that a committee representing the national interest and Parliament should become involved in acrimonious disputes at the neighbourhood level simply because of the absence of any other mechanisms for the proper examination of grievances. The proposals in this report for the preparation of plans and for an appeal tribunal should assist in meeting this shortcoming in the system of government and administration in the Australian Capital Territory.
In preparing its proposals the Committee has tried to draw on the lessons of the past. At the same time we have necessarily had to try to formulate planning procedures that will overcome the difficulties that have emerged with Canberra’s growth, the community’s needs and the problems, aspirations and values of the capital and of the community in the future. We have not sought to be dogmatic, but rather to be as precise as we have felt each particular issue either permitted or required. The Committee has suggested adjustments to the existing planning system which we believe conserve its important strengths, remove or limit its shortcomings and make it more responsive to the needs and wishes of the community. The Committee has sought to propose a planning system which is both practical and responsive and which will accommodate future changes in community needs and wishes at the same time as it meets the inevitable demands of a national capital and a growing urban complex.
I would like to thank all those who have contributed to this inquiry. First of all, I would like to thank my fellow members of the Committee, the specialist advisers Dr Alan Fogg of the University of Queensland and Mr Bob Graham, the Hobart City Planner, and all those who gave evidence to the Committee at public hearings and in consultations. I would also like to thank Phil Bergin, Allan Kelly, Michele Purcell and Lyn Coutman of the Committee secretariat and Don Nairn and Terry Watson who worked on the secretariat for much of this inquiry.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide an assurance that it will not permit any exploration, testing or mining on or in the vicinity of the Great Barrier Reef.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I think I have created some sort of record. This speech will not be quite the same as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address but I hope that a number of honourable members will stay in the House to hear it. Australia possesses at least two of the great natural wonders of the world. They are Ayers Rock and the Great Barrier Reef. Whilst these are masterpieces on Australian property, it must never be forgotten that we are only the guardians for the whole world. We have the responsibility, nay the duty, to ensure that future generations both in Australia and in other parts of the world will be able to enjoy these unique creations for all time. This is why today I want to raise the question of the failure of the Fraser Government to use the power it has to fully protect the Great Barrier Reef from the predators who seek to exploit the Reef for their own selfish gains.
The debate about the reef began in earnest about a little over a decade ago when it was announced by the Queensland Government that it intended to give permission to a company to mine for limestone on the Ellison Reef. The Wild Life Preservation Society of Queensland, the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Queensland Littoral Society fought a considerable battle to prevent mining on that reef and as a result the Mining Warden at Innisfail, in his summing up of the hearing for the application to mine in December 1967, said:
On careful consideration of all the evidence adduced I recommend to the Honourable the Minister that in the public interest, and in the interest of probable preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, that the application should be refused.
Five months later, the Queensland Minister for Mines agreed with this recommendation. The arguments put forward by the miners at the time are in many ways similar to those being used now by the Queensland Government and the
Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to prepare the ground for oil drilling on or near the Great Barrier Reef.
Then it was claimed that there would be no damage to the Great Barrier Reef because all that was being mined was ‘dead’ coral. These statements were made by those who either did not know or were deliberately trying to confuse the Australian people as to the effect of limestone mining on the reef. I want to quote from Judith Wright’s book The Coral Battleground. She wrote:
Such ‘dead’ coral is an integral part of the reef life and forms breeding areas not only for algae and small marine organisms, but for fish themselves. Like the dead leaves under trees in the forest, it has an important pan in replenishing life; it is not an expendable ‘dead’ product, but teems with life of many kinds.
Later on she had this to say:
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest marine coral ecosystem of a very special kind. It is what is known as clinic ecosystem, in which hundreds of thousands of species interact in ways that are not only not yet understood, but probably beyond present scientific capacity to understand.
It is essential to understand these points, made over and over again by marine biologists of world status, to comprehend the not very subtle campaign now being waged to soften Australia up for the oil companies to drill for oil on the Great Barrier Reef.
The Queensland Minister for Mines, Mr Camm, is quite open about his Government’s position- he wants to mine the reef. After having said unequivocally in January 1976 that the Queensland Government would not allow mining on the Great Barrier Reef or between the mainland and the reef, he now is an ardent advocate of oil exploration on the reef. In an interview on the ABC’s Nationwide program on 21 February 1 979 he had this to say:
My endeavour as the Minister for Mines is to encourage oil exploration in Queensland on shore and off shore and there are plenty of areas off shore in Queensland which have never been explored for oil up till now.
We know from experience the attitude of the Queensland Government towards mining. Its members would mine the gold from their grandmothers ‘ teeth if they could make a quid out of it. What is so depressing is the attitude of the Fraser Government toward mining on the Great Barrier Reef.
There have been over recent years repeated assertions by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet members that there will be no mining of the reef. Yet no sooner do we hear one of these statements than another statement is made that is either misleading, evasive or equivocal regarding the Government’s intentions. On 16 January, the
Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) was quoted in the Australian Financial Review as saying at a National Party luncheon on the Gold Coast:
The attitude ofthe Government is that there won’t be any mining on the Great Barrier Reef. That’s been our attitude all along.
On the very same day, the Minister for Science and the Environment (Senator Webster), also a National Country Party member, put out a Press release which said:
There is insufficient information presently available to predict what effect oil exploration and production would have on the region around the Great Barrier Reef.
He went on to add:
There is clearly a need for research to determine what the possible effects would be of oil drilling in waters off the reef.
It is in our long term national interest to ensure we know what dangers may be presented to the complex ecosystems near the reef, and how these dangers could best be dealt with.
The Press release went on to say that ‘Senator Webster said that the Commonwealth had been examining what research would be necessary to determine the effects of oil drilling in the area’.
Is there any wonder that the community is totally confused about what the Fraser Government’s policy is? As the Melbourne Age put it so succinctly on 1 9 January 1 979 in its editorial:
There are two separate but related issues here. One is drilling on the Reef itself: The other drilling in the waters surrounding it. The 1970 Royal Commission was emphatic that there should be no drilling for oil on any reef, cay or island within what it called the Great Barrier Reef province. Any change in this position is unthinkable. The Great Barrier Reef belongs not only to Australia but to the world. It is part of what has been called ‘the world heritage ‘, and we are duty bound as such to do everything we can to preserve it. Any move in the reverse direction would stamp Australia as a mercenary and thoroughly irresponsible society.
As a result of this confusion, I asked the Prime Minister to give the Parliament an assurance that the Government had no intention of allowing exploration, drilling, testing or mining on or near the Great Barrier Reef. The Prime Minister’s reply makes it clear that the Government is considering giving oil companies permission to carry out exploration ‘near’ the reef. How near we don’t know. I make it clear to the Prime Minister that, if he believes that he can get away with this confidence trick by telling the Australian people that he will not permit drilling on the reef but only near it, then 1 fear that he is sadly mistaken. The word ‘near’ is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as ‘closely related . . . intimate . . close at hand . . .’. It is a vague term and is open to a wide variety of interpretations. We do not know what the Prime Minister means by ‘near’. Therefore we will provide him with our definition of ‘near’ so that he will have no doubts in his mind as to what we would find unacceptable. Any exploration drilling, testing, mining or whatever, within the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem is unacceptable to the Australian Labor Party.
The reef is 1,200 miles in length and 104,000 square miles in area- one-sixth of the size of Queensland. Throughout the area there are 2,500 reefs which total 4,300 to 5,000 square miles in area. Anyone with the remotest knowledge of the environment will know that one cannot interfere with one section of a complex system such as the Great Barrier Reef without affecting the rest of it. Judith Wright states:
To talk of the reef, then, is to talk of many hundreds of thousands of reefs; yet it is also to speak of what is now being increasingly recognised as an ecological unity. The marine flora and fauna change in composition of species from north to south and also from east to west, and no one knows how their colonisation really takes place, or its sources, because of the complexity of the currents that carry the replenishing plankton from place to place.
She pointed out that the reef cannot be isolated from other physical and environmental influences in its region. The mangrove forests along the mainland coast, tidal movements, water temperatures, estuaries and the weather all play a part in determining the growth and development of the Great Barrier Reef. There have been enough environmentally disastrous oil spills in different parts of the world to indicate to us here in Australia the potential danger to the Great Barrier Reef. I refer to such incidents as the Torrey Canyon disaster off the southern coast of England in 1967 and the Amoco Cadiz disaster off the coast of Brittany, France, last year. In 1970 Australia had its own disaster when the Oceanic Grandeur ran aground on Wednesday Island in the Torres Straits.
To suggest, as Mr Camm does, that oil is not damaging to the reef and may even encourage growth is simply nonsense. He has attempted to back up bis argument by using as an example an experiment done by an officer of his fisheries department in which oil was spilt over the reef and is claimed not to have damaged the reef. Mr Camm himself admits that the reef experiment was not very scientific. I would say that that is the understatement of the century. He says that he does not intend to use that as an argument to support his case but then proceeds to do exactly that. I ask for leave to have incorporated in Hansard that section of the oil spills report of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation which deals with effects of oil in the marine environmentparagraphs 1 8 to 2 7.
The document read as follows-
Damage to Marine Life
The most obvious environmental effect of oil is usually the coating of large numbers of seabirds, nearly all of which die. Treatment of the birds is expensive and usually unsuccessful. If oil arrives at breeding time, the effects can be devastating. Birds are particularly vulnerable because of their activity at the air/water interface. Surface-feeding fish together with surface-living plankton are similarly effected by oilblanketing. If a slick arrives on shore, it traps innumerable littoral organisms.
Bay have caused contamination of oysters with economic loss to growers.6 The N.S.W. Oyster Farmers’ Association told the Committee that the oyster industry in the Georges River could be wiped out if a major spill occurred.9 6.Transcript, 1978. p. 56
Damage to the Physical Environment
-I thank the House. On 20 June 1 975 the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act came into operation. It was designed to protect the Great Barrier Reef for all time from just the sort of exploitation from which it is under threat by the Queensland and Australian governments. Even this Government had expressed some months ago its intention of declaring the Capricorn Bunker group as part of the Park. This modest contribution to our heritage has yet to be proclaimed. The Australian Conservation Foundation has recommended that five areas in Australia should be declared world heritages under an international convention. First on this list is the Great Barrier Reef.
During our first 200 years of settlement, Australians have not had a particularly impressive record of conserving their heritage. However, during the past decade there has been a new awareness of the desecration of the past, and a determination has arisen amongst new generations of Australians that what is left will not be destroyed even if it means paying a high price for fuel. The Great Barrier Reef will not be destroyed; nor will it be placed at risk. I said in speeches in this House last year that if oil drilling on or near the Barrier Reef were permitted by this Government the Government would be in for the greatest environmental battle in history. For over 18 months we have waited for the Government to assure the nation that exploration, testing and drilling will not be countenanced on or near the reef. This it has refused to do.
On 10 January this year the President of the United States ordered environmental reviews of United States projects abroad. President Carter made it clear in his statement that he was concerned that actions by United States agencies could have detrimental effects on the global environment. I seek leave to have the statement by President Carter incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
In an action demonstrating the United States Government’s strong support for global environmental protection, President Carter has ordered all federal agencies to assess the environmental consequences of United States projects in the rest of the world.
Mr Carter, in taking the action, pointed out that a better understanding of the effects that United States actions may have on the world’s environment is important for the nation’s welfare, and for the welfare of present and future generations of mankind.
The White House said that there is a growing concern that Governments around the world are undertaking major initiatives without enough consideration of the environmental consequences. This, the White House added, can cause unintended danger to health, safety and the general environmental quality.
The White House said that under President Carter’s order, signed5 January, United States Government agencies taking actions that may have environmental effects abroad must now establish procedures for taking these into consideration before going ahead with the program. When appropriate, the White House said, information on these projected environmental effects will be made available to affected foreign nations.
The types of United States Government actions covered by the order are the following:
For the global commons, such as oceans, the atmosphere or antarctica, the order provides that environmental impact reports will be prepared for all major federal actions having significant environmental effect.
When the environments of foreign countries are significantly affected by United States Government actions, agencies will prepare reviews in the following situations:
When the nation affected is not participating with the United States and is not otherwise involved in the project (for example, a United States-financed dam in one country that cuts off water to another, innocent bystander country).
When the United States Government action provides a facility that is prohibited or strictly regulated in the United States to protect against radioactive hazards, for example, U.S. exports of nuclear reactors.
When the action provides products or facilities whose emissions or effluents create a serious public health risk, and,
When the action significantly affects natural or ecological resources of global importance that may in the future be designated by the President, or, in the case of resources protected by international agreement, by the Secretary of State.
Under the order, requiring implementation within eight months, nuclear reactors are subject to such environmental reviews but exports of nuclear fuel are not. The President has designated the Department of State as the agency to work with other relevant agencies in developing unified procedures for reviews of nuclear exports covered by the order. The White House said these procedures will provide for consideration of environmental issues without impairing United States reliability as a nuclear supplier.
The White House pointed out that only a minor fraction of the dollar volume of United States exports will require reviews under the order. The President’s Council on Environmental Quality said that most private export business will not be affected by the executive order because most exports do not require specific Federal Agency permits or licenses. Of the relatively few that do, most are exempted from mandatory environmental review.
The White House said the order strengthens the U.S. efforts to promote international measures to protect the environment. The White House statement pointed out: very recently Secretary Vance signed the new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement with Canada- A major element in our continuing cooperation with Canada in environmental protection. Earlier this year, in response to an administration initiative, the major shipping nations undertook stringent new obligations in the protection of the marine environment from oil pollution. The treaty embodying these obligations has been forwarded to the Senate for its action. We have made similar efforts- and progress- in the Draft Law of the Sea Treaty.
In negotiations now under way, the United States has been pressing strongly for protection of porpoises by all countries involved in Pacific tuna fishing. We are currently working on a number of other international programs in the environmental area, such as transboundary pollution with Canada and the European States, prevention of desertification with Mexico and implementation of Senate Resolution 49. International cooperation in environmental protection has proved increasingly effective, and the United States intends to continue its strong role in this sphere. Item.
-I thank the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) and I thank the House. I have waited a long time for an answer on this question. I regard it as the most important environmental issue in Australia today. I have therefore decided to write to the
President of the United States of America, to the United States Congress and to the respective committees of the Senate and the House of Representatives, asking them to take action and to ensure that American companies do not participate in oil exploration activities on the Great Barrier Reef. I point out that the four oil leases now held are all held by American companies. If that move is not successful, I shall ask my old friend Ralph Nader, with whom I travelled around Australia in 1972 when the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) and I brought him here on road safety issues, to take up the cudgels on our behalf. This is not a battle that we want; but, unless we see some positive action and some unequivocal statement by the Fraser Government which declares the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and which assures the Australian people that the reef will never be at risk, I am afraid the battle will begin.
-The issue raised in this matter of public importance, I believe, has become an emotive one throughout the nation. Some people are genuinely concerned and feel that the protection of the Great Barrier Reef is a matter in relation to which some statement needs to be made; but those people who work on the emotive aspect of the issue bring forward complaints of no substance. Of course, when we are talking about one of our two great national assets it is not hard to get an emotive reaction. The electorate of Dawson is vitally affected by the Barrier Reef because ofthe contribution that tourism now offers to its economy. The reef provides a form of protection for the coastline against the Pacific tidal movements; but, more importantly, as the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) has just mentioned, it is regarded as one of the two national assets that Australia possesses. I believe that the Government should make no move which would disadvantage the natural environment of the reef. It should certainly remain accessible as a great natural and national asset.
The reef is approximately 1,200 miles long. It consists of a series of reefs which do not form a constant barrier along the whole length of the coast. When we talk in terms of an area 1,200 miles long and stretching 100 miles from the shore we might imagine that, by simple mathematics, 1,200 multiplied by 100 gives the total area of the Great Barrier Reef. That is not the case. The reef consists of a multitude of reefssome small and some large- which form a barrier on the outer continental coast. In the area between the reef and the coast- that is, the off-shore area- one finds the normal types of situations which one would find anywhere around Australia, namely, sandy bottoms, muddy bottoms, mangroves and all the other environments which exist adjacent to the coast. It is very difficult for the Opposition, when dealing with a subject such as this, to be concise in indicating exactly what it means. In fact, the terms of the matter of public importance lend themselves to a multitude of interpretations. Throughout Australia it is acknowledged as an Australian asset: It is not a Queensland asset, or just an asset of the Dawson electorate. I question whether throughout the world it receives the same recognition and whether it is regarded as part of the world’s heritage, as the previous speaker suggested. Certainly, that is my opinion from an international point of view. By Australian standards, I believe that we want to see the reef preserved. Neither this Government nor the Queensland Government would do anything to disturb that desire.
The reef fosters all that is attractive in tourism. But even that advantage has its dangers and potential for danger. The reef offer Australians the opportunity to get out of a city environment and into the natural Australia. That is why the reef is regarded as one of Australia’s national assets; it is still in its natural state. Tourism on the islands has been carefully controlled through various leases. Even the most recent development, by Iwasaki, has been subject to a franchise agreement with public debate and debate by this Government and the Queensland Government about the potential of that development and the control that might need to be exercised on Mr Iwasaki. Any development in the Great Barrier Reef area has been conditioned to the needs of the natural environment and kept under the control of governments. Heaven forbid that it should be any other way.
The matter of public importance that we are discussing is concerned with the alleged failure of this Government to give a certain assurance. Later in my speech, I will deal with that assurance. The honourable member for Robertson uses the words ‘not permit’. Is such an assurance absolute and irrevocable? I do not believe that we in this generation have the right to put clamps on what future generations may wish to do. All that we can do in our lifetime is to preserve our natural assets so that they may be maintained for future generations. For goodness sake, let us not put hobbles or concrete boots on any industry that, with due reverence for the Reef and what it has to offer, seeks to promote some development opportunity. In this regard, I believe that we should not be speaking in terms of an irrevocable commitment by this Government which would affect the desires of people in the future.
I turn to the subject of exploration. The Opposition has interpreted ‘exploration’ to mean more than exploration for oil. I give the Opposition credit for this stand. The Reef could suffer from forms of exploration, quite apart from oil exploration. I refer to mining for limestone. But, with regard to oil exploration, without any great knowledge of what various types and grades of oil would do to sealife or to the Reef itself, is not the suggestion that oil exploration should be stopped a little premature? Might not research and scientific discoveries reveal that the type of oil that might be discovered on the Barrier Reef could be tolerated by and acceptable to marine life? Future developments will indicate what the position is.
The Opposition places itself in the same quandry with respect to its definition of the word vicinity’. The argument has been put that the word ‘vicinity’ conveys the meaning of ‘near’. What does the word ‘vicinity ‘ mean when we appreciate that the Reef stretches 100 miles from the shore and is not continuous and that other areas are the subject of exploration- I emphasise exploration, not exploitation- in the same way as the oil fields offshore from Great Britain have been explored and are now being exploited to the benefit of the British economy. Is this Government in one fell swoop to deny the opportunity to future generations in a world which is already suffering an energy shortage to investigate the possiblity of seeking oil from the Reef by giving an assurance now that oil exploration on the Great Barrier Reef will not be permitted?
The disagreement of the Opposition with multinational companies such as the Utah organisation mining coal or being involved in uranium development is already on record. Once again, by its action, the Opposition is seeking to put a halter on development that might occur. I do not believe that we in this generation can seek to fly in the face of what may be the interests of future generations in this respect. Even the most authoritative source on the Great Barrier Reef- I refer to the Great Barrier Marine Park Authority- in its 1977-78 report under the heading ‘Topical Issues: Oil and the Great Barrier Reef had this to say:
The issue of drilling for oil on the Great Barrier Reef received much discussion in the media during 1977-78. The Authority recommended at a meeting in July 1977 that the results of research on the effects of oil on coral reefs should be available before any decision is reached on whether or not to permit exploratory drilling.
Even the Authority did not dismiss the possibility that eventually drilling would be permitted. The report continues:
Media discussion on the oil drilling question continued, and on 8 May 1978 two members of the Authority made a strong and unambiguous stand on the issue. In their Press release Dr J. T. Baker and Sir Charles Barton -
I believe that Sir Charles Barton is the same person who represents the appropriate Queensland authority. He was is a former Co-ordinator General in Queensland. He is a man of some substance.
– A great Queenslander.
– Yes, he is a great Queenslander. The report continues: . . reaffirmed the Authority’s view that adequate research needs to be conducted before any decision on oil drilling can be made. This view is in accordance with the view of the Chairman of the joint Commonwealth-Queensland Royal Commission’s Report into Exploratory and Production Drilling for Petroleum in the area of the Great Barrier Reef.
Those who were responsible for this most authoritative report were not prepared to write off the possibility that drilling would eventually occur. They have hesitated to step in where the Opposition has come forward. Reading further into the report, we find that the main concern of the Authority lies with the oil tankers that make their trade routes in the Great Barrier Reef through the Whitsunday Passage. I ask: What concern has the Opposition expressed on this aspect to which the Authority has made specific reference? The Opposition might dedicate itself to a consideration of that question.
The terms of the matter of public importance proposed for discussion by the Opposition reveal that the Opposition is not prepared to be positive in what it has put forward; those terms are ambiguous. The Commonwealth Government already finances the Australian Institute of Marine Science. If a motion embodying the terms proposed for discussion today were ever to be agreed to by this House, our funding of that Institute would be a waste. The Institute has a 24 metre research vessel, the Lady Basten. The research work carried on by this vessel includes a study of mangroves, tidal effects and living masses in and around the Great Barrier Reef. I repeat that this work is done by the Institute which we finance. Why should we not wait a little longer until the findings of the Institute ‘s research are made available? We should realise that the Great Barrier Reef is more than one million years old. I hope that, as generations pass, it will continue to build as it has. Research of the Reef is not an easy or short term project.
The secrets that it has built up over millions of years will not easily be revealed.
Exploratory leases have already been issued. Although I have not looked at those leases in detail, I doubt that any of them would cover the area of the Great Barrier Reef or the various reefs themselves. Some of the leases have not been renewed. At the moment, this matter is in limbo. Perhaps that is the way it should be until such time as we know more about the Reef.
The Opposition has sought a certain assurance from the Government. Already some assurances have been given. I will read some of them to the House. I refer first to the assurance given by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 21 February 1979 in an answer to a question asked of him by the honourable member for Robertson about the Great Barrier Reef. The Prime Minister said:
The Commonwealth’s position is unequivocal. There will not be drilling on the Reef. I am informed that technical advice differs as to what might happen in the environment of the Reef but not on the Reef itself. Quite plainly honourable members will understand that if we are talking about the environment of the Reef but not the Reef itself we have to ask the question: Where does it begin; where does it end? Are we talking about one or two kilometres, 20 kilometres or 50 kilometres?
He went on to say:
But let me give a complete and unequivocal guarantee that this Government would not allow any drilling or any mining that would do anything to damage the Reef. If there were to be any doubt about that, activity would not take place.
That is a fairly good guarantee on that point. In a statement that he issued on 16 January, Senator Webster, the Minister for Science and the Environment, gave a similar assurance in these terms:
There is insufficient information presently available to predict what effect oil exploration and production would have on the region around the Great Barrier Reef.
The Minister for Science and the Environment, Senator Webster, said this today, following earlier reports by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, that there would be no drilling on the Reef itself.
Those words ‘. . . on the Reef itself are important The statement goes on:
The Minister said that the 1972 Commonwealth and Queensland Royal Commissions into drilling on the Reef had firmly recommended this. However, the Commissioners expressed differing views on exploration in waters off the Reef.
There is clearly a need for research to determine what the possible effects would be of oil drilling in waters off the Reef,’ he said.
That was Senator Webster’s comment. In relation to the comments of the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony), on Monday, 26 March, the Cairns Post- Cairns is in the division of Leichhardt and adjoins the Great Barrier Reef- reported: the Commonwealth Government would not allow oil drilling on the Great Barrier Reef … he and the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, expressed in the strongest terms that drilling would not be allowed on the reef. The Government, he said, believed the Great Barrier Reef was an integral part of Australia’s heritage and it had the responsibility to see that it was fully protected.
I believe that that is the attitude not only of this Government but also of the Queensland Government. When the honourable member for Robertson talks in terms of Queenslanders being prepared to mine gold from their grandmothers’ teeth, I think that he might reflect on where the wealth of Australia comes from today. It comes from Western Australia and from Queensland. Those States are responsible for a balance of payments and an export market which provide for the welfare and health requirements of southern Australia.
– And New South Wales.
– And New South Wales; sorry about that. If it were not for the mining and the risks those States have been prepared to take to date, Australia’s economy would be in a much worse situation. Again, I think it is important for the honourable member to consider carefully the statements made by Mr Camm. I know the Minister. I know his dedication to the electorate in which he lives, which happens to be within the division of Dawson. Mr Camm is as dedicated to the preservation of the reef in its present form as any other Minister in Australia.
– You cannot say that about Camm. He is an idiot.
– I ask the honourable member to withdraw that remark. He does not know what he is talking about, and I think the remark should be withdrawn.
-The remark was not heard by the Chair because of the disorderly behaviour in the chamber. If the honourable member for Parramatta, who is not occupying his proper place in the House, is prepared to withdraw he may do so.
– That is a pity because it was detrimental. I summarise by saying that the Government has already provided assurances that it will not allow any drilling or mining that will do anything to damage the reef, and I hope that the honourable member will take note of that. Any debate on this matter must take account of Commonwealth-State considerations of seas and submerged lands matters through the Premiers Conference. Progress is being made on the implementation of the principles of off-shore co-operation agreed at the 1977 Premiers Conference. The further development of an agreed basis for co-operation between Queensland and the Commonwealth which is taking place will ensure that the reef continues to be protected in the future.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– I move:
Customs TariffProposalsNos. 14and 15(1979).
Excise TariffProposals No. 3 (1979).
The Tariff proposals I have just tabled relate to proposed alterations to the Customs Tariff Act 1966 and the Excise Tariff Act 1921. The changes contained in Proposals No. 14 are of an administrative nature only. They are designed to facilitate the administration of tariff quotas which have been introduced from 1 March 1979 on imports of certain wool and wool blend fabrics. Quotas which have been introduced as imports have exceeded specified trigger levels for three consecutive months. The quota levels and rates of duty to apply were announced by the Government in November 1977 following a report by the Industries Assistance Commission.
Proposals No. 14 also contains a change to Schedule 2 to the Customs Tariff Act 1966. A new item has been inserted to provide for the duty free entry of goods, other than alcoholic liquors or tobacco products that, at the time they are entered for home consumption, are owned by certain authorities or bodies established for a purpose of the Commonwealth by or under an Act of the Commonwealth. Excise Tariff Proposals No. 3 contains the necessary complementary change to the Excise Tariff Act 1921. This action formalises the arrangements which operate at present permitting duty free importation of goods intended for the use of certain statutory authorities. This is an interim measure pending examination by the Government on the question of which, if any, authorities should receive exemption from payment of customs or excise duties.
Proposals No. 15 implements the Government’s decision on recommendations made by the Industries Assistance Commission in its reports on tyres, tyre cases, et cetera; and vegetable oils and fats; animal oils and fats, et cetera. The major effect of the decision in respect of tyres is that aircraft tyres and motor car cross-ply tyres will be dutiable at 25 per cent; motor car radial ply tyres and tyres for trucks, trailers and omnibuses will continue to be dutiable at a rate of 40 per cent until the end of this year, when the rate will phase to 35 per cent. From 1 January 1 98 1 the rate will be 30 per cent, phasing to the long term rate of 25 per cent from 1 January 1982.
The decision on vegetable and animal oils and fats means that most of the goods covered by the Commission’s inquiry will be duty free. Exceptions include polyunsaturated margarine which will be dutiable at 20 per cent; and epoxidised vegetable oils which will be dutiable at 25 per cent. The new duties operate from tomorrow. A comprehensive summary of the changes contained in Proposals No. 15 has been prepared and is being circulated to honourable members. I commend the Proposals to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 April, on motion by Mr Nixon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Morris had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: ‘whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that ( 1 ) the provision of financial assistance by section 96 interest bearing repayable grants is a repudiation of the Government’s 1977 Election promise to contribute to the cost of upgrading mainline rail links in the light of the clear impression then given that assistance would be by way of non-repayable grants, and (2) the provision of $3m to the States for 1978-79 under this Bill (a) is abysmally inadequate and an abrogation of Australian Government responsibility for the transportation of passengers and freight on routes of national significance, and (b) is wholly inconsistent with an effective approach to the upgrading of mainline railway networks as an essential part of a responsible National Energy Conservation Program.
-I was amazed to hear last evening the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) say what a great Minister the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is and how he cares about Tasmania. What a lot of nonsense. Let me quote from Hansard the Minister’s own words on how he feels about the Tasmanian railways:
Whether we like it or not- I do not like it- the Tasmanian Railways have to be part of the Australian national railway system.
The Minister said he did not like it. Let me refer also to clause 3 of the Bill, which provides for certain definitions, including the period of applicability of the Act, which is to be five yean from 1 July 1978 to 30 June 1983. It lists the States to which the Act will apply as New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. There is no mention whatsover of Tasmania. How ludicrous it is for the honourable member for Denison to say that the Minister for Transport cares about Tasmania. The Minister’s second reading speech was blinding in its lack of clarity and shattering in its evasion of the facts. The Bill itself is confirmation, yet again, of this Government’s failure to stand by the terms of its acknowledged commitments and election promises. In one short, sharp sentence we are told that payments to the States will be in the form of ‘an interest bearing repayable section 96 grant’. That statement contains two details of the payment. It is a constitutional provision by which payment will be made- that is, section 96 of the Australian Constitution, or the ‘strings’ clause as some may know it- and, secondly, the form in which the payment will be made, that is, an interest bearing repayable grant. On the first detail the Government is adopting an approach not unacceptable to this side of the House although perhaps it is at odds with the Government’s federalism policy.
It is understandable that when Premiers see section 96 written into Federal legislation the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up and they get hot under the collar. The reason is that section 96 lays down that financial assistance may be provided to any State ‘on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.’ This phrase grants the Commonwealth Government more latent power than perhaps any other section in the whole body of the Constitution. It is, and has been shown to be, a key in extending Federal assistance to new areas of State jurisdiction. The Minister said in his second reading speech that the railways research and development organisation would advise him and his State colleagues on such matters as priorities for scheduling projects and that this would be ‘an important step in furthering the national approach to national issues’. He was referring, of course, to the power inherent in section 96, which enables the Government to assist the States on its own terms and conditions. This naturally strikes fear into the hearts of all States rights conscious Premiers, not the least of whom is the Premier of Queensland. Notwithstanding that, I applaud the Minister for the concept of a national approach to what is rightly a national issue. I shall refer to that approach later in connection with projects in my home State.
I take this opportunity, however, to express my strong reservations about the willingness and ability of this Government to commit itself competently and responsibly to a national approach to anything, let alone main line upgrading. That leads me to comment on the second detail of payments to the States referred to by the Minister, that is, the interest bearing grant. That expression is an English teacher’s nightmare. It is a contradiction in terms, a paradox. The word grant’ must surely refer to a sum supplied gratis, or free of the need for repayment. How could such a payment then be repayable with interest? It is simply not a grant, but a loan. As for the interest on that loan, we are left in the dark. Perhaps the Minister might be so gracious as to inform the House ofthe amount of interest which will be imposed on these loans. Will it be in the order of 8 per cent or 10 per cent? I ask that not only on behalf of this Parliament but also on behalf of the Premiers of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. Surely they have a right to know also.
In order to excuse the form in which the Government is making the loan, the Minister points out that State Governments traditionally run their railways as much as possible on business lines and that they have provided capital from State sources on an interest bearing basis. That statement, apart from being unsound and misleading in fact, is also groundless in principle. The spurious principle that underpins the statement is this: If a State government provides a State instrumentality with repayable funds, then so too can the Federal Government provide funds on the same interest bearing basis to State governments. It is an absurd principle and a very poor excuse for providing loans- not grants- to the State governments. The point lost by the Minister is that State authorities have an ultimate responsibility to their State governments. It may surprise the Minister that State governments have independent and sovereign authority. On that point it would be in the best interest of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to take note of that constitutional fact and to stop badgering and heavying the New South Wales Government on its decision to allow a 37’/2 hour week to employees of the Electricity Commission of New South Wales.
More specifically, on the provision of loansnot grants- for the upgrading of main lines, why break the pattern of making non-repayable grants to the States, which pattern this Minister has followed in his allocations for urban public transport and roads? Surely, in the case of interstate main line connections, there is an even stronger argument for generous Commonwealth assistance than there is for urban public transport. Main line upgrading is- as the Minister himself acknowledged- a national issue, not just the isolated problem of a metropolitan authority or a State government. One area of the legislation in which I feel there should be greater co-operation with the States is clause 4(2) which entitles the Minister to declare lines other than inter-capital lines and main lines. The Minister says that ‘naturally’ he would be guided by his State colleagues but I say that in intergovernment relations nothing is natural and therefore nothing can be assumed. What prevents the Government from explicitly providing for State consultation in the terms ofthe Bill?
Of course, my main interests centre on activities in my own State and in my own electorate. In that regard I should like to address myself specifically to the Brisbane-Sydney rail link. It disturbs me greatly to find that this line is the most congested of all main lines in Australia. That is borne out by the Bureau of Transport Economics report on the Brisbane-Sydney link. The report states that the line ‘will become seriously congested in the mid-1980s unless upgrading action is taken’. The methodology applied to assess upgrading takes two aspects into consideration. Firstly, it takes into consideration the commercial viewpoint of the railway systems; that is, the balance between the cost of upgrading and financial benefit- increased revenue and diminished operating costs- and secondly, the viewpoint of the community, that is, the benefits, direct and indirect, accruing to the public from certain innovations from within the railway network. For example, the upgrading of main lines will result in certain economies, thus lowering costs for railway authorities. In turn, this is passed on to the consumer who, hopefully, makes greater use of the railways, thereby realising the social benefit of reduced usage of private road transport. That social benefit is realised in terms of both reduced carnage on Brisbane Sydney roads- which concerns me as a member ofthe Standing Committee on Road Safety- and in greater energy savings.
People must be attracted to using trains. The late arrival of passenger trains on the BrisbaneSydney route has prompted some people, perhaps unkindly, to call the rail link the ‘missing link’. I agree entirely with the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) that it was remiss of the Bureau of Transport Economics not to make greater reference in its report to the advantages of the replacement of the wooden bridges on that Une, which would save at least 30 minutes on the inter-city timetable. That is just one improvement which would add to the route’s attraction to travellers. Regarding the commercial attraction of upgrading the SydneyBrisbane line, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard tables 6.2 to 6.7 of the Bureau of Transport Economics report entitled Mainline Upgrading- Evaluation of a Range of Options for the Sydney-Brisbane rail link.
-Is leave granted?
– It would have been appreciated if the report could have been shown to a Minister beforehand, but in view of the source, yes.
The tables read as follows-
– I thank the House and I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). The most important conclusion to be drawn is that upgrading is completely justified on both commercial and resource allocation grounds. The specific suggestions in the report were for grade easements, introduction of central traffic control and extension of all crossing loops to 900 metres, at an estimated capital cost of $21.1 lm. The Bureau of Transport Economics study also pointed out that the optimal year for introducing these suggestions would be 1975-76 and that such introduction should be conducted over a three year period with expenditure spread equally over the three years. According to the report, the annual expenditure should be approximately $7m. Instead of the immediate action advocated by the Bureau of Transport Economics, we have a Bill which the Minister took over three years to produce, a speech which he took less than five minutes to present and a mere $3m to be shared by three States more than three years after the report was intended to take effect. I understand that the cost of upgrading the line in 1979 dollar terms is now well in excess of $20m annually. We should understand the background of this monumental inaction. The Bureau of Transport Economics report on the SydneyBrisbane link states: for the potential benefits to be realised it is essential that upgrading be undertaken simultaneously on both sides of the New South Wales-Queensland border and so close cooperation between the responsible railway authorities and State Governments is vital.
The report might just as well have said: ‘It is very worth while, but what a shame it is that it will never get off the ground’. Despite the fact that committing these resources would be a good idea, on both commercial and resource cost grounds, the undertaking will fail until such time as we overcome the obstacle to interstate cooperation; that is, until the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, resigns.
The New South Wales and Queensland governments view the Brisbane to Sydney link in different ways. That is fair enough. Perhaps the burden and benefits of the upgrading would be unequally shared because there are differences. But those differences must be effectively negotiated and resolved. Belligerence on one side will get us nowhere fast. Failure to upgrade the Acacia Ridge terminal is a good example not only of inaction caused by bickering but also of the need to look at the upgrading of terminals as well as of the main line. The report was rushed through in 1974 because changes to the Acacia Ridge freight terminal were so urgently needed. The Queensland Government refused to meet the cost of improvements, and the New South Wales Government would have derived considerable benefit without expenditure on its pan.
With that stalemate, the then Commonwealth Minister for Transport interceded and, in a spirit of compromise, suggested that Federal money would be made available immediately for the Acacia Ridge freight terminal, with the terminal then to be leased by the Federal authority to the State railways. The Premier of Queensland flatly and rudely rejected the offer. The legacy of the Premier’s stubborn and petulant refusal is a railway yard sadly deficient in the sort of technical innovations which have occurred in freight handling equipment in the last two decades. Improvements leading to increased freight traffic at Acacia Ridge would reduce congestion in the inner city area and provide a commercial stimulus to Queensland’s ailing railways. The particular project at Acacia Ridge and the general upgrading of the main line, which ought to go hand in hand, have instead been gathering dust, as my colleague put it, mainly because of one man’s ratbaggery and skulduggery. The Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) has done nothing to expedite these projects.
The amount of the loan provided by this Bill is miserable. The terms of the payment clearly make a mockery of the 1 977 election promises of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). The Prime Minister is never as full of hot air as when he is caught in the heat of an election campaign, and the graveyard of broken promises has taught us to view future election speeches by this Prime Minister with a mixture of derision and suspicion.
Western Australia, which for all its many shortcomings has shown more initiative in tackling its railway upgrading, has turned its back on so-called Federal Government assistance and is seeking $64m in overseas loans. This is approximately the amount that the Federal Government intends spending over five years among three States. Even if the paltry amount provided by the Bill were evenly distributed, the States collectively would be in line for an additional $ 1 1 m this year instead of receiving just the $3m appropriated. Like so many of this Government’s payments, this Bill has the classic ‘out’ clause. We are told that allocations in subsequent years will need to be determined in the light of program schedules and the overall budgetary situation. The only program schedule to which the Minister refers is this Government’s program for elections. The States must take heart from the possibility that next year they will receive a substantial increase on this year’s allocation. Need I remind honourable members that 1980 is an election year?
– Does that make any difference?
– I do not think so. With this Government that means temporary increases in allocations and more breakable promises. I commend the amendment to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr Cadman) adjourned.
-by leave- Last week, in reply to a question from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen, I indicated that I hoped to provide the House with some figures to illustrate the level of tax avoidance which has been practised in Australia in recent times. The figures I provide in this statement are indicative only and are not meant to be a definitive calculation of the total threat to revenue posed by tax avoidance. It is a matter of record that no government has been as active as this Government in closing tax avoidance loopholes. During 1978 the Government introduced five Bills to amend the Income Tax Assessment Act. There has also been major amendments to counter sales tax avoidance schemes. I have already foreshadowed further amendments to deal with schemes covering such things as expenses of discharging mortgages, variations of pre-paid interest and rent schemes, abuses of the trading stock provisions, abuses of the mortgage deduction for borrowing expenses and variations of the so-called Curran scheme. I anticipate that these amendments will be presented to the House shortly.
Tax avoidance undermines the basic equity of the taxation system. It allows a relatively small group of individuals to shift their tax burden to those who cannot enter into such schemes because of the size or nature of their incomes or to those who, while being able to do so, choose not to participate. The Government will continue to be uncompromising in its attack on artificial tax avoidance schemes. No area will be immune from that attack. A standing arrangement exists whereby the Commissioner of Taxation draws to my attention particular schemes of tax avoidance as soon as sufficient evidence of those schemes comes to his notice. On every occasion on which a scheme has been brought to my attention by the Commissioner in this way, action has been taken to eliminate the scheme. The Government will continue the practice of announcing its intention to take legislative action against particular schemes, with effect from the date of announcement.
It is, of course, impossible to quantify the total threat to revenue posed by tax avoidance schemes at any given time. However, it is possible, on the basis of claims made in taxation returns pursuant to particular tax avoidance arrangements, to gain some idea of the magnitude of tax avoidance, the resultant threat to revenue, and the erosion of the equity of the tax system which loss of revenue from those schemes represents. In this connection I have been informed by the Commissioner of Taxation that examination of tax returns for 1977-78 has revealed total claims for deductions from assessable income totalling approximately $1,41 lm under certain tax avoidance arrangements. On the quite realistic assumption that the average tax rate of those involved would normally be approximately 50c in the dollar, the amount of revenue at stake in respect of these claims alone is approximately $705m, of which approximately $253m would, if the claims were successful, be set off against tax on income for the year 1 977-78 and the balance of $452m against tax of subsequent years. The claims of which I speak arise out of schemes against which the Government has already taken action. The Commissioner of Taxation will be vigorously contesting all claims under these schemes. The total sum of approximately $1,41 lm includes claims for deductions totalling $94 lm under the so-called Curran scheme and its variants, and approximately $295m under trading stock schemes.
I interpolate here that that figure of $941 m in respect of the Curran scheme is relevant to the criticism made of the claim I made last year that the threat to revenue involved in that particular scheme was in the order of $500m. What I am saying is that on these claims alone revenue in the order of $450m is involved. One must also take into account the very large number of schemes in respect of which claims have not been made in tax returns for 1977-78 which are clearly involved in the total threat to revenue posed by that scheme.
I stress again that the figures I have used represent claims made under schemes against which, on the best advice available to the Government, the Parliament has effectively legislated or I have foreshadowed legislation. The figures do not, of course, measure in any way the total volume of revenue which would have been at risk if the Government had not acted as it did last year. Nor indeed do they measure- and in fact, it is impossible to measure- the potential revenue loss from schemes about which the Commissioner of Taxation has not yet received full information. I am conscious that a schemebyscheme approach such as that taken by the Government over the past 12 months adds to the bulk and complexity of the Income Tax Assessment Act. However, until an effective general anti-avoidance provision can be inserted in the Act and is demonstrated to be effective, the Government has absolutely no alternative but to continue a scheme-by-scheme approach. A considerable amount of work has been done on the feasibility of rewriting section 260 of the Act. Students of our taxation law and practice will be aware of the formidable nature of this task. I can only say that the results of that endeavour will be made known to the Parliament as soon as practicable. Honourable members will be aware of the recommendation of the Asprey Review Com.mittee on Taxation that an advisory committee on taxation be established. I see considerable merit in that proposal and intend putting certain recommendations to the Government in relation to it. In framing my own recommendations, I am seeking the views of a number of interested bodies, including those representing the legal and accounting professions.
Needless to say, the Government is anxious to ensure that, in the process of acting against tax avoidance schemes, there are no unintended inhibitions placed upon normal commercial transactions. I do not believe that this has occurred with the legislation which has been enacted to date. However, it is something which the Government has very much in mind when framing anti-avoidance legislation. The Government very much welcomes comment and constructive criticism on its taxation legislation. Where the legislation is of necessity very complex- and this is inescapable in the anti-avoidance area- there is a special need to have such comment and constructive criticism. I commend the statement to the House. I take the opportunity in advance of apologising to the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) if it is necessary for me to leave the House before he concludes his reply.
-by leave-The Opposition welcomes this statement by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) for the light that it throws on some aspects of tax avoidance in this country. The revelation that some $700m of tax revenue has been saved by some of the action taken by this Government in respect of tax avoidance is important knowledge for this Parliament and for the people of Australia to have because it starts to throw more specific light on the enormous extent of tax avoidance in this country and the extent to which it is a major problem for governments- indeed, for all of us who are paying taxes and are not capable of taking advantage of tax avoidance schemes, and who are therefore bearing a heavier brunt of tax than would otherwise be the case.
In welcoming this statement by the Treasurer, I take issue with a couple of points. The Treasurer’s claim that no government has been as active in closing tax avoidance loopholes as his government is certainly true, as it stands. I make two points about that statement. Firstly, the Labor Government, between 1972 and 1975, was not totally inactive in this area, as the Treasurer seems to have implied on a couple of occasions. At least, I have inferred that from his remarks. The fact is that, for instance, in 1 973 the Labor Government took major action against eliminating Norfolk Island as a tax haven. That action was well overdue and in large measure, it certainly stopped the exploitation of that area, although there have been some recent announcements which make it seem as though there may be again some tax avoidance occurring in respect of Norfolk Island. At that time it was certainly a major initiative in preventing tax avoidance occurring there. Also, the Labor Government acted in respect of previous year losses. Of course, it announced the intention to legislate against the Curran scheme although that legislation did not eventuate before the Government went out of office. It was almost a year later that it did go out of office but I remind the Treasurer and the House that on many occasions under the present Government there has been quite a long period between an announcement made by the Treasurer of an intention to legislate and that legislation coming forward. The fact that the Labor Government did not introduce the legislation against the Curran scheme in 1975 was not an unique occurrence, given what has followed.
The second point I make about the Treasurer’s claim is that it is a little like the Government of today announcing to the world that it has done more to legislate against drug abuse than any previous government in the history of this country. If it were to make that announcement, there would be the universal reaction that, of course, that is because the problem is much more acute now than it was under previous governments. I do not blame the Government for that but I do say that the analogy is a fairly relevant one. The reason why this Government has been forced to be so active in respect of tax avoidance is simply that tax avoidance has become much more rife since it has been in office.
For substantiation of that point, I refer to an article by Mr B. H. Pascoe, President of the Taxation Institute of Australia, in The Chartered Accountant in Australia, December 1978. On page 10 of the publication, he states:
During the past year or two -
This is written in December of 1 978: tax avoidance became a big business in Australia. It became a disease which, being allowed to go unchecked, reached epidemic proportions. It is, perhaps, not going too far to say that the tax paying community of Australia almost went mad in its rush to become a party to a tax avoidance scheme.
On the same page, he continues:
During an excessively long period, until April 7 this year -
That is, 1978:
The major point I wish to make from that quotation is that here we have the President of the Taxation Institute of Australia saying that tax avoidance became big business in Australia during the period of the Fraser government in the year or two prior to December 1978, which was when he wrote the article. That claim shows up when one looks at the figures for taxes paid by pay-as-you-earn taxpayers as compared with those paid by non-pay-as-you-earn taxpayers. Of course, it is the latter group who are able to take advantage of tax avoidance schemes. As I have mentioned, in the period 1976-77 to 1978-79, the projected income tax payments for payasyouearn taxpayers will increase by some 2 1 per cent and, for non-pay-as-you-earn taxpayers, they will increase by only 3 per cent. There may be all sorts of reasons for some variation in the rate of increase in the incomes of those two groups, although one would not have thought that there would have been a significantly lesser rate of increase in income for non-pay-as-you-earn taxpayers- that is, businessmen- than there would have been for wage and salary earners who are essentially pay-as-you-earn taxpayers. The fact that there is such a vast difference would seem to indicate that schemes are operating and methods are available which enable nonpayasyouearn taxpayers substantially to avoid tax despite all the action which this Government has taken.
I make the further point that, despite all the amendments, the Government has failed to act against various known tax avoidance devices. I wish to mention three. For instance, internal superannuation schemes are a system which has been mentioned in various places as a blatant tax avoidance device. In the Small Business Newsletter of April 1978, there is an article entitled ‘Internal Super Funds’. It begins:
Internally managed superannuation funds are a particularly attractive means of reducing or eliminating company tax.
The article goes on to explain how the scheme works and where one can have such a scheme installed for a cost of some $200, plus $8 per member of the superannuation fund. I am sure that those matters are known to the Taxation
Office but no action has been taken against such schemes by this Government.
In respect of foreign source income, last year the Treasurer announced that it was the intention of the Government to legislate to prevent the use of foreign tax havens; that is, companies, in particular, syphoning their income through places such as Hong Kong, the New Hebrides, Bermuda, Guernsey or other places so that they could have their income taxed at much lower rates than Australian company tax rates; when the income comes back to Australia, as the law still stands, it is not subject to any further tax. The Treasurer announced that that income would be subject to further tax to bring total tax on that income up to the equivalent of Australian company tax. But, under substantial pressure from businesses in Australia, the Treasurer backed off and decided not to go ahead with the closure of that tax avoidance device. To indicate the extent of income tax which is being avoided in this way, I refer briefly to an article in the Australian Financial Review of 19 July 1978, headed Change Hits Foreign Tax Havens’. This article was written at the time the Treasurer announced his intention to legislate, but he did not go ahead with that legislation. The article stated in its first paragraph:
About one-quarter of a sample of 1 20 top Australian listed companies have subsidiaries operating in Hong Kong or other tax havens.
The article went on to list various companies which have channelled income profit through Hong Kong and other places. Further on, the article stated:
Australian accountants in Hong Kong have generally confirmed with Chanticleer -
That is, the writer of the article- that the use of devices to divert profits to Hong Kong is rife.
The article went on to mention various companies, such as the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, the Comalco organisation, the Pioneer concrete organisation and Burns Philp and Co. Ltd, all of which made over $lm in company profits in Hong Kong in the year to which the article referred. The article provided various other amounts for that tax haven of Hong Kong and others. The fact that the Government backed off means that it knowingly backed off closing an important tax avoidance loophole. Therefore, the Government is not doing all that it could do to close off tax avoidance.
Probably a far more important area than the two I have mentioned already is the area of trusts. As I have mentioned previously, inter vivos trusts in respect of trading trusts, service trusts and family trusts, are tremendously important as a means of tax avoidance in this country. Although the Government has taken some action to reduce the effect of the use of trusts as a tax avoidance device, the fact remains that it has operated only on the periphery of those devices and has not legislated with any real intent to reduce or to eliminate those devices as a means of tax avoidance.
The National Times, in an article of 19 August 1978, pointed out that, on an income of $40,000 a year a man with a wife and three children would pay tax amounting to $16,000.80 if his business were owned by him. But if it were owned through a family trust, he would be able to allocate the income to all members of his family and reduce the tax payable to only $6,800. That gives honourable members an idea of the enormous amount of tax which can be avoided through income splitting via a family trust. The Government has not legislated effectively in this area. As I have mentioned previously, a memorandum from within the Taxation Office pointed out the enormous inequities which were being created by this failure to legislate. The memo described as cosmetic action which had been taken and said that what was happening was destroying equity within the tax system and was putting a much greater burden of taxation on the shoulders of wage and salary earners. The fact is that, although this Government has done a lot about tax avoidance, it had to do it because the threat to revenue was enormous. Since this Government has been in office tax avoidance has become a booming business and the Government has blatantly failed to legislate in respect of tax avoidance in very important areas.
The measures proposed by the Treasurer in respect of setting up an advisory committee meet with our approval. It is true that the establishment of such a committee was recommended by the Asprey Taxation Review Committee. It is a pity that the Treasurer has not implemented other recommendations made by the Asprey Committee; for instance, its recommendation in relation to family trusts. The Asprey Committee recommended all sorts of measures which could be taken, by which family trusts could be eliminated as a means of tax avoidance. But that recommendation of the Asprey Committee has not been adopted. However, the establishment of an advisory committee to assist the Treasurer in providing tax avoidance legislation which does not disrupt commercial transactions any more than is absolutely necessary is a sensible policy and we support it.
Finally, the Treasurer indicated in his statement that the Government is still working on trying to establish a workable section 260 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, which is the annihilation provision of that Act which, on the face of it, would seem to provide that all tax avoidance activity was illegal. But it has been interpreted by the High Court in such a way as to be virtually useless. We strongly support any measures which the Government can take to rewrite section 260. We have advocated such action in the past and we hope that the Government will be able to produce a workable provision in the very near future.
-The importance of railways in Australia is firmly established in our national policies by the introduction of the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill. Railways comprise one of the main three modes of transport for the movement of people and goods throughout Australia. In all, they account for about 18 to 20 per cent of freight on major routes. Last week the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in his statement to the House relating to the Australian Science and Technology Council, emphasised the need for scientific investigation and the upgrading of research in Australia. He said:
Our success with large-scale mining operations in remote regions, for example, has only been possible following development of our railway systems to a stage where as a result of technological advances in the design of rails and bearings, they are able to support the huge trains and heavily-laden trucks which carry minerals from the mines to the coast.
I think that in emphasising that point in a statement as significant as that one, which was made last week, the Prime Minister epitomised the importance to our mineral and primary development of our capacity as a nation to export our produce economically. One of the main factors in the use of raU by people seeking to export or to transport their goods between capital cities is the cost of using rail compared with other modes of transport. The other two main modes of transport which compete with rail are road and sea transport. For most goods, sea transport appears to be out of the question. For instance, the cost of moving a rail container from Sydney to Melbourne is approximately $ 145. The cost of loading and unloading a sea-borne container is $300. There is no way that, under present circumstances, the great challenges of sea transport can be taken up by those people who wish to use the sea as a form of transport. Therefore, we have within this country competition between road and rail.
Road services provide certainly a cheaper service and probably a better service than rail in that they are faster and they are point-to-point. A breakdown of the use ofthe Australian facilities indicates that rail moves about 20 per cent of our goods, road about 40 per cent and sea about 40 per cent also. But the sea-borne cargo is mainly bulk cargo, such as metals and minerals. In my view, we should seek to establish a situation in which rail will become more competitive with road and in which, when freight has to be moved for more than 100 miles, the competition is such that rail offers firm competition to road.
Scales and tables presented to this House by the spokesmen on this issue for the Opposition last night indicate clearly the reasons for the uncompetitive nature of many rail operations. I believe that, with the introduction of this legislation, for the first time in Australia we are establishing a national approach to railways. In the term of the previous Government a quasinational approach was made by that Government buying up railways from two States. That proved to be a most unsuccessful arrangement, particularly for the Commonwealth Government. But with the introduction of the legislation which is before us, a firm policy commitment has been made to adopt a national approach to the movement of goods and passengers by rail. Exciting prospects are in line for this nation if this policy is pursued actively by Federal and State governments and if the advantages are recognised by users.
A national rail program was first enunciated in a policy commitment made by the present Government before the general election of 1977. The commitment, embodied in this legislation, is a five-year program of upgrading, at a total cost of $70m. The policy speech stated:
A contribution of about $70m over five years, beginning 1978-79, will be made to a joint Commonwealth-State program for upgrading State railways which are part of the national mainline system.
Following that policy commitment and the reelection of the present Government, the Prime Minister wrote to the Premiers and the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) later had discussions with his State counterparts. Last year the Bureau of Transport Economics studies and the way in which a program of this type could be developed were discussed. I think it is interesting to note the way in which the program was developed by the authorities and by the State Ministers in the Australian Transport Advisory Council.
There have been two bases for the studies and these bases have been used as the criteria for resolving what upgrading should be done. Firstly, alternatives were assessed in commercial terms, that is, on the basis of their impact on railway finances. In this case, the trade-off between the capital cost of the upgrading and the return of increased revenue and reduced operating costs was calculated. Secondly, an evaluation was undertaken on the basis of optimal allocation of community resources in the transport sector. Using those two criteria, the Bureau of Transport Economics provided a series of reports that allowed the ATAC Ministers to come to a conclusion, and we have today before us the Bill.
The assistance provided by the 1978-79 Budget for planning and details which still have to be finalised is $3m. As I have said, the Bill proposes the spending of $70m over five years from 1978-79 to 1982-83. The program will cover Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. The Bill, in fact, proposes section 96 grants, which are interest bearing repayable grants. I will come later to the terminology which has been queried by members of the Opposition.
The main lines which will be involved in this upgrading and the establishment of a proper national railways program will be the line between Sydney and Brisbane, the line between Sydney and Melbourne and the line to Perth. The Bill provides for the declaration of further lines as main lines as they become identified or as the need arises. Separate agreements will be signed with each State on terms and conditions that are approved by the Government of each State and by the Commonwealth Government. The details and financial arrangements will vary from State to State, although they will follow the intention of the Bill. The project details will be set out in the agreements and these agreements will be brought before both Houses of Parliament within 1 5 days of signing for approval by both Houses. This allows protection for the Commonwealth Government and, should objections on a States’ rights basis be lodged they can be dealt with in this place or in the State parliaments.
The problem that has been identified by the Bureau of Transport Economics in five significant studies that it has undertaken is that lines in use today were designed for steam trains. We now have longer and larger trains drawn by more powerful locomotives. This mean that the rails and the systems designed for steam can no longer cope efficiently with the current-day uses.
The Sydney to Brisbane railway line, for instance, is in good condition for a speed of 1 1 5 kilometres an hour, but few sections will carry trains at that speed. Wooden trestle bridges on many sections of that railway line will not allow the rail to be used efficiently.
It is interesting to note that in this legislation the terminals and the depots are not included as part of the program. It could well be that, as the Bureau of Transport Economics points out, some limiting factors may be introduced at later stages in this program because of terminals not being up to a state of repair or a state of design that will allow the railways to continue to upgrade. Therefore, I think it is a matter of responsibility for State governments to show their commitment to this program by paying attention to their terminals with a view to carrying on reciprocal work on their improvement as the mainline upgrading is taking place.
The ATAC Ministers adopted priorities for different types of trains. In order of priority they are express passenger services, highest priority express freight trains, less important express freight trains which do not carry perishable goods, trains carrying steel and general goods, and empty trains returning trucks or wagons to place of origin. These priorities have been firmly established, and the travelling public is considered first of all. One only has to look at railway systems in Japan, the United Kingdom and Europe to see the importance given to the travelling public in the railway systems.
In Australia the movement of freight has become most important. In fact, most trains in Australia are fast freight trains carrying perishable goods and express freight trains carrying other types of goods rather than trains carrying passengers or other types of freight. Therefore, the use of railways for express trains is vital. That means a good quality track, a capacity for trains to pass each other, and a capacity for them to move quickly through signal systems and other ancillary services. The studies of the Bureau of Transport Economics identified a need for crossing loops which would allow longer and heavier trains to bypass each other with a minimum of difficulty and would allow a greater capacity for freight and a greater capacity for trains on the lines between Brisbane and Melbourne.
Centralised traffic control is also part of this program. I would predict that in some areas the program will include an updating and improvement to centralised traffic control, and perhaps in some instances will provide traffic control for the first time. A bogie exchange is another way in which this program can assist the movement of people and freight. The main sections of the line between Brisbane and Melbourne to receive attention would be the Telarah-Casino line and the line between Albury and Junee. These sections are the worst, and I think it is a matter of some regret that they are within the State of New South Wales.
The Opposition, in speaking to this Bill, raised a number of factors that I think are quite superfluous and, in fact, false arguments. In its amendment, it alleges that financial assistance under this Bill is not within the spirit of the commitment given at the last election. The original commitment given in the policy speech was for the Federal Government to provide $60m. That commitment has been upgraded to a commitment of $70m. I do not know what the Opposition means by the word ‘provide’. The fact that the State governments have not seen fit either by loan or through their own funds to pay any attention to the BTE reports would indicate that they have no intention of upgrading a national railway line or their links between the capital cities. Interest will be charged on funds given to State authorities, but the interest is applied because of the highly significant returns that will come from this upgrading process. In some instances the returns will be of the order of 30 per cent.
The Opposition has also raised factors concerning the efficiency of the New South Wales railway system under the present State government. I would strongly query those factors. I would strongly query whether there was any will to innovate or upgrade in that State at the moment. It seems to me that if one were to compare New South Wales with Western Australia one could see that the Western Australian Government has had the capacity not only to decrease its massive losses, such as other States are making, but also over a period of 15 years to improve the efficiency and the service of the railway lines in that State. The New South Wales Government has not made new commitments beyond those which were made by the previous Liberal Government. In fact the work that is being carried out on wagons and carriages is work that has been planned for many years. What we need to see from New South Wales is a new commitment and co-operation to expand the export and trading capacity of that State.
I express some disappointment with the drive of the legislation and the reports of the Bureau of Transport Economics. We have to think more widely than undertaking just a patch up job to improve the flow of freight between the major capital cities of Australia. I think we need to look at our long term objectives to find exactly what we want in the ultimate. For instance, do we intend to have a fast train system between Sydney and Melbourne, which is the major route? Do we intend to move freight and people at 125 miles an hour or 150 miles an hour? Perhaps one could say that by a constant process of upgrading one will inevitably achieve that. If that is our ultimate objective, we should examine the prospects and the costs of the design work that is being done at this stage. We should ensure that this work becomes part of a major national railway link between the capital cities.
I think there is a need for dual lines on such a system. I understand that the Albury-Junee section is a single track line. Certainly we need dual tracks between the important centres of Sydney and Melbourne. The factors of electrification must also be studied very carefully bearing in mind the strong rise in the cost of fuel. There may be a plan- I hope there is a plan- for long term development of railways in Australia. Railways will be vital for our export drive. They will be vital for the on-going prevention of rising costs. I would like the Minister for Transport to tell me what is being done to achieve some of the long term objectives of studies to upgrade main lines throughout Australia. A country of this size needs to have some sort of priorities. We should be aiming for fast rail links. I would like to draw attention to the trans-Australian study carried out by the Bureau of Transport Economics because it points out some of the long term prospects of a different type that really have not been given serious consideration at this stage.
Finally, I would like to say that those State governments which think the Commonwealth can continually dip into its pocket to fund the deficit of transport systems throughout Australia to the extent of $2m a day for every day of the year are mistaken. I think it is high time that the State governments adopted an efficient program of transport. They should consider the manning levels on their railways; they should consider the conflict of service they provide versus the economies of those services; and they should be offering some incentive payments. The level of dynamic management within the State governments, except in the case of Western Australia, is lacking.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Martin)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wonder whether I could have your indulgence to add to an answer that I gave in response to a question asked during Question Time today.
– I grant that indulgence. The Minister may proceed.
– The honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson) asked me a question about the replacement of the reactor at Lucas Heights. I said that there was a design for a new reactor under consideration. May I add to that by saying that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has been authorised to commence a design cost study for a new reactor. As well the honourable member asked about possible locations. I say to him that the consideration of possible sites for a new reactor will be included in the design cost study.
– The National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill 1979 provides for repayable grants to the States. The Opposition has moved an amendment and I seek leave to incorporate the amendment in Hansard.
The amendment read as follows-
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not declining to give the Bill a second reading, the House is of the opinion that-
1 ) the provision of financial assistance by section 96 interest bearing repayable grants is a repudiation of the Government’s 1977 Election promise to contribute to the cost of upgrading mainline rail links in the light of the clear impression then given that assistance would be by way of non-repayable grants, and
the provision of $3m to the States for 1978-79 under this Bill (a) is abysmally inadequate and an abrogation of Australian Government responsibility for the transportation of passengers and freight on routes of national significance, and ( b ) is wholly inconsistent with an effective approach to the upgrading of mainline railway networks as an essential pan of a responsible National Energy Conservation Program ‘.
-I thank the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). I would like to congratulate the honourable member for
Mitchell (Mr Cadman) who just spoke in the debate. Whilst I do not agree with all that he said at least I believe he made a contribution to transport in the latter part of his speech. It is pleasing to see that there are now some Government members who at least have some understanding and appreciation of transport requirements. I would strongly recommend that the honourable member do some further reading on the need for an interstate commission because that is the only instrument which can ever achieve the things which he is looking to do.
I turn now to a speech that was made last night- a most irresponsible speech- by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman). I have always been of the opinion that the honourable member is an irresponsible speaker and he confirmed that last night. I refer honourable members to page 1454 of Hansard at which the honourable member is reported as saying:
This is not a case of the Commonwealth Government taking a sledge hammer to the State governments. This is not a case of the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), as meek and gentle as he is, browbeating the Premiers into submission.
– Hear, hear!
-Good heavens-the irresponsible speaker has arrived. For your information, Sir -
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member will address the Chair.
-I beg your pardon, Mr Deputy Speaker. For the information of the honourable member for Denison, Mr Deputy Speaker, State Ministers for Transport on at least two occasions have walked out of meetings of the Australian Transport Advisory Council in the last three years. I never had the pleasure of Ministers walking out on me when I was the Minister for Transport. I think you must agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, that maybe I was a little more gentle or meek and mild than the present Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). The honourable member also made reference to the excellent deal made by the then Labor Government with respect to the transfer of the Tasmanian railways to the Australian National Railways. For the life of me I cannot understand the reckoning and the figures to which the honourable member referred on page 1454 of Hansard. I am certain that he must be mixed up in respect of the $70m that was made available to Tasmania.
– There is a misprint.
-It is not a misprint- I certainly listened to the honourable member.
– I raise a point of order. In fairness to the honourable member, there is a misprint in Hansard which has been reported to that office. The words: ‘that agreement’ appear in Hansard. The words should be: ‘the agreement’.
-Order! There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member can make a personal explanation later.
-The honourable member is reported later on page 1455 of Hansard as saying that great things are happening as far as the Tasmanian railway system is concerned. He talked about the rehabilitation that is taking place. This is all the result of the Labor Government’s decision and actions in initiating and accepting the transfer of the Tasmanian railways to the Australian National Railways. If the honourable member wants to read a bit more about this matter he should refer to a statement of the Department of Transport dated 1 1 July 1975 which sets out all the good things that the then Labor Government was doing for Tasmanian railways. Up to that point I think one could reasonably refer to the Tasmanian railway system as a scenic railway. It was one that went up and down hills at a maximum speed limit of about 25 miles an hour.
The Bill before the House is a further example of the Fraser Government’s breaking a promise. In supplementary statements to the 1 977 policy speech, the Prime Minister stated:
Interstate Railways. A contribution of about $70m over five years, beginning 1978-79, will be made to a joint Commonwealth-State program for upgrading State railways which are pan of the national mainline system.
Anyone reading that would come to one conclusion and one conclusion only- that that $70m was to be a grant and not this loan, which has to be repayed. If we take this amount into consideration and compare it with what the Labor Government did with regard to upgrading urban public transport, we will see that in a very short time, a matter of two years, by agreement with the State governments we made an appropriation of $138m towards the total upgrading program which was to cost $209m. That was a grant. It was not a repayable loan, as this money is.
In actual fact, this Bill is complete and total humbug. There is no need for the Bill to be before the House today or any other time. The
Government could have made this $70m available to the States through the Loan Council allocation. All it had to do was to increase the States loan allocation this year by $3m and whatever subsequent amounts would be necessary to get on with the job. This Bill is pure and simple window dressing and humbug of the worst possible type. To show how paltry it is I seek leave to incorporate a table in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson). This table sets out the financial position of Australia’s railways as a whole. I hope that the honourable member for Mitchell will look at it when it is printed in Hansard. He will find in it some interesting information. It discloses that from 1950 to 1976, which is the latest date for which figures are available, interest payments by Australia’s railways have increased from $25.48m to $ 123.9m, that the aggregate deficit of all the railways, some of which made a profit and some of which made substantial losses, has increased from $600,000 in 1 976 to $50 1m and that this year it is anticipated that the total railway deficit for Australia will be in excess of $600m. The debt of railways has increased from $732m in 1950 to $2,246m in 1976. All that this Bill does is add to that debt. It adds to the interest payments. It adds to the deficit of Australian railways. It may improve the facilities. But when we compare this amount of money with the $54m which the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) recently announced is to be made available to the New South Wales Department of Mail Roads for the construction of a bypass aroung Mittagong and Berrima, we can see just how paltry this allocation for railways really is. That $54m is for a very minor section of the national highway. It is an absolute and total disgrace that the Government should go on with this type of humbug in bringing in Bills of this type.
Quite apart from the financial side of the matter, one matter that concerns me from the national point of view is what we are doing with regard to transport in Australia. We are aware that there is a world fuel crisis. Governments do not know where they are going as far as fuel is concerned, but all sorts of statements have been made that by 1980 and certainly by the year 2000 the world is going to be in real trouble in this regard. From time to time, the responsible Minister makes statements in this place about the fuel position. From being an insignificant section of ministerial responsibility, it is now developing into one of major consequence. We have seen the way in which the Government has pushed up the price of oil in Australia. When the Labor Government was in office we were aware of this possibility. The late Rex Connor who, in my opinion, will go down in history as one of the great Ministers of this country because of his foresight with regard to minerals and energy, said to me: ‘We have to take Australia’s railways out of the control of oil. We have to move from oil to electrification’. As a result of discussions between the permanent head of his department, the permanent head of the Department of Transport, Mr Connor and me, we brought about a study undertaken by the consultants to the French national railways, Sofrerail. The report has been prepared and completed. I am pleased to say that the Australian Transport Advisory Council extended the terms of reference beyond what was originally planned, namely, a study of the electrification of the railway from Sydney to Melbourne with extensions going to Muswellbrook in the north and to Geelong in the south. That report is a clear indication that electricfication can be undertaken and that there is a need for it. I am pleased to say that that indication now covers the whole of Australia.
With the present world energy crisis and with Australia’s huge deposits of coal, whereby we can generate our own electricity and provide our own means of motivation for rail transport we should be getting on with the job instead of allocating such paltry amounts. Bodies such as Sofrerail or the Bureau of Transport Economics should be making very strong recommendations to the Government to get on with the job. I am confident that if the Labor Government had remained in office and had not been treated in the way that it was treated, the electrification of those lines would have been well and truly under way at this time. When we take into consideration the way we tackled the railway problem, including the construction of the Tarcoola to Alice Springs railway, the transfer of railways into a national railway system and the provision of rolling stock, we can see that the Labor Government was really aware of the problems of rail transport and transport generally. I am disappointed to find that the present Minister for Transport has not got on with the job of providing adequate and self-sufficient transport which is dependent on our own resources and not resources from overseas and instead has left us where we are at present with the railway system, in the form of diesel electric locomotives, being dependent on fuel oil.
I will give one example of the savings which can be achieved. Rail traffic on the line between Sydney and Albury every year uses 507,000 tons of distillate. Between Broadmeadow and Brisbane, or between Newcastle and Brisbane to put the matter in understandable terms instead of rail terms, 693,000 tons of distillate are used a year. That makes a total of 1,200,000 tons just from Brisbane to Albury. If we add to that the distillate used from Albury to Melbourne, from Melbourne to Adelaide and from Adelaide through to Perth we are talking of a large amount of oil. I have been informed that that amount of distillate requires the importation of oil because distillate comes from heavy crude and not from the light crude that Australia has. This means that about five million tons of heavy crude oil have to be imported into Australia to get the distillate that is necessary to operate the railway system between Brisbane and Albury. I feel that that in itself is an indication that the Government should be getting on with the job.
When we consider the importance of rail compared with road traffic we should take these few facts into consideration. Railway energy consumption is 280 British thermal units a ton mile. A 20 ton truck uses 1,200 BTUs a ton mile. A 7,000 ton bulk carrier uses 280 BTUs a ton mile and a 200,000 ton tanker uses 68 BTUs a ton mile. When we see the Government making available this son of paltry sum for rail improvement in comparison with $54m for the construction of a short distance of bypass road on the national highway, we can see that it is time that someone was reviewing the priorities of this Government with regard to things that should be done.
When replying to the comments of the honourable member for Mitchell, I made reference to the need for an interstate transport commission. If ever a country needed such a commission, it is this one. I say to the Minister and to the Government that it is time the Government set up such a commission and that the best man to be chairman of such a commission would be the former right honourable member for Werriwa, the honourable Gough Whitlam. I could not think of a better man, a man who is more transport oriented or a man who has more capacity and ability to preside over a commission such as that than Gough Whitlam.
I hope to see a transport commission set up. I believe that the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) is in favour of setting up such a commission. He did not object to the setting up of the Inter-State Commission which was set up by means of legislation which finally was passed by the Senate during the time that Labor was in government. I would like to see legislation setting up such a commission reintroduced and passed by both Houses of the Parliament. Such a commission would have the power to inquire into all forms of transport.
I honestly believe that no one in the rail transport industry or in the road transport industry really knows how much it costs to transport a tonne of” freight or to carry a passenger. At the present time we have in New South Wales a blockage of highways by the road transport hauliers, who consider that they have been badly treated. I am not saying that they have or have not been badly treated. I do not think anyone really knows what amount of road tax, what amount of fuel tax and what amount of maintenance tax should be spent on roads. How much is the local government ratepayer paying in excess of the amount he should be paying for roads? Perhaps he is not paying enough. These are the questions which no one can really answer today. Even the Bureau of Transport Economics cannot give the Minister the advice which is necessary, because a study has never been carried out.
In late 1975 a private shipping companyAssociated Steamships Pty Ltd- which was operating between Sydney, Melbourne and
Fremantle, said to the Minister at that time: ‘Unless you increase rail freight rates, these three ships will have to be taken off the service’. At the meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council held in August 1975 that was the subject of extensive discussion. All the railway commissioners said: ‘We are making a profit on the east-west operations; therefore there is no justification for increasing freight rates between the east coast and the west coast’. I do not have time to list all the freight rate increases which have taken place, but I point out that in the short period since that meeting rail freight rates have increased by in excess of 50 per cent. I firmly believe that, if ASP had continued its operations, freight rates would not have increased by that amount, especially when we consider that in the same period general freight rates on the Sydney to Melbourne operation have increased by only 35 per cent, freight charges in relation to wool have increased by 10 per cent and parcel freight rates have increased by 10 per cent. So I ask honourable members: Just what is taking place? If the competition provided by sea transport is removed, the railways will have an open go.
As I said a moment ago, a country the size of Australia, with the limited population that we have, cannot afford to have uneconomic modes of transport. As I said earlier, no one really knows the cost of shipping a tonne of freight by road, by rail or by sea. It is time that we did know. It could well be that on that east-west shipping operation involving ASP the most economic form of transport was discontinued because it could not compete with a highly subsidised rail system. I am not dedicated to road, rail, sea or air tranport. I believe that this country is entitled to the best and most economic form of transport, irrespective of what it is. But at present rail and sea transport have a responsibility to uphold. At the same time, we as a parliament have a responsibility to set up a commission to examine these matters. It is all right for some people to hate commissions; but the fact of the matter is that the Constitution of this country makes provision for the setting up of an interstate transport commission. We should accept that responsibility and set up that commission. We should put competent men in charge of it. In that context I referred to a former Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam. Nobody in this Parliament has a better understanding of transport matters than he has. He would make an excellent chairman of that commission.
There is a great need to get on with this job of developing that sort of commission so that at least we are in a position to know what it really costs to carry freight and people in this country. In this regard, we would have to get the cooperation of the States; but, if they did not cooperate, the Constitution gives us the power and the facilities to get on with the job of carrying out such a proposal.
I return to the subject matter of this Bill. If the Government had been really sincere and had wanted to help transport it would have made a $70m grant, not a $70m loan. There is a need to upgrade Australia’s rail systems. They are in a rundown condition. Only money provided by a Federal government will overcome the problems caused to railways by lack of attention over the years.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to make a brief personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-He may proceed.
– I have been innocently incorrectly represented in Hansard. I do not criticise the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) for quoting the relevant passage. I draw attention to page 1454 of yesterday’s Hansard, where I am reported as saying:
Under the agreement at that time, $70m was to be provided over a five-year program.
If one reads the previous sentence, it appears that that statement relates to the Whitlam Government’s transfer agreement in relation to the Tasmanian railways. I was referring to the provisions of the agreement to be made under the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill for the $70m. I am well aware that the amount in relation to the transfer ofthe Tasmanian railways was a higher amount than $70m and that it was made in one payment. I make that comment in good faith, because I have already indicated to Hansard this afternoon by note that there was an error and I have asked that it be corrected.
Mr CHARLES JONES (Newcastle)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman).
– (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Does the honourable member for Newcastle wish to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
-I listened to the remarks of the honourable member for Denison last night. I could not make head or tail of what he was saying. I quoted today what I understood he said. What is reported in Hansard is what I understood and believed he said.
-I compliment the previous speakers, particularly the honourable member for Denison (Mr Hodgman) and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), on their remarks. The honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) also made a very thoughtful speech. It is a shame that he had a disagreement with my friend, the honourable member for Denison. He should have realised that the honourable member for Denison has been involved in the railway situation in Tasmania and has, unfortunately, been disappointed with the winding down of the rail system in Tasmania. For that reason, at times he, like me, gets very disappointed, and we sometimes become a little emotional about the fact that we do not have a passenger train service in Tasmania. I agree with the honourable member for Newcastle when he says that it is regrettable that we do not have that network. The honourable member for Newcastle is very famous in Tasmania because he made the statement for which he is always remembered in Tasmania. He said that there are more votes in Newcastle than there are in Tasmania.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I did not say that there are more votes in Newcastle than there are in Tasmania. I said that there are more people in Newcastle than there are in Tasmania.
– (Hon. Ian Robinson)- There is no substance to the point of order.
-I beg the honourable member’s pardon. That is correct. I am very sorry about that mistake. It was just a very honest slip.
I am pleased to enter this debate on the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill. Of course, I support the Government. The Bill provides the legislative framework within which the Commonwealth will fulfil its 1977 election policy commitment. I notice that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), who is at the table, is smiling- I can understand that- at that particular remark. By means of this
Bill the Commonwealth will fulfil its 1977 election policy commitment to a joint Commonwealth-State program to upgrade State railways which are part of the main line network. Under this Bill the Commonwealth will be empowered to provide up to $70m to the States of New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia over the five years from 1978-79 to 1982-83. 1 should make it clear at the outset that the non-metropolitan railways in South Australia and the Tasmanian railway system will not participate in this program, as they are now the direct responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. I should add that, as far as Western Australia is concerned, separate arrangements were agreed to by the Loan Council to cover the $64m program for the State to upgrade the mainline railway.
Before returning to the provisions of the Bill I would like to make a brief comment on the Government’s approach to the program. Studies conducted by the Bureau of Transport Economics in the States showed that the deficiency, capacity and frequency of mainline railways could be improved. It is imperative that they be improved. We are talking about fuel. The honourable member for Newcastle went to great lengths to explain that there are going to be deficiencies in fuel and that we should look at alternatives. Of course, the rail systems of Australia are imperative and important. The honourable member for Mitchell went to great lengths to explain that fact. The railways are significant and very important. It is imperative that rail links be improved to enable people to travel by rail and transport cargo, rather than to use the precious commodity that we use at the momentpetrol. We should look at alternatives.
– I cannot understand the Tasmanian Government selling its railways.
-It is regrettable, but the control of the railways has gone now. Unfortunately we do not have that control.
– The Tasmanian Government did sell out of it.
-The honourable member for Mitchell has raised a very interesting question. I know that the honourable member for Newcastle would be interested. Last weekend there was a severe petrol shortage in Tasmania- a tanker is due today- and people in Hobart just could not buy petrol. As a consequence most of them stayed home and probably did a lot in their gardens, et cetera. The point I make is that Tasmania is an island, it is isolated and there should be alternatives. Unfortunately, without a rail system Tasmania has a problem. The only other way of travelling would be by plane.
– You closed the last one down yourself. You closed down the Tasman Limited.
-That is not true. The honourable member for Shortland -
– He hates Tasmania.
– I love Tasmania.
-He hates Tasmania.
– (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Order!
-I am sorry. I will come back to the Bill. This program represents a recognition of the concern which this Government has for the States.
– I raise a point of order. The Australian Labor Party Government did not close down the urban railway system of the Tasmanian railways. That is my point of order.
-There is no point of order.
-Unfortunately the rail system of Tasmania was wound down over a period. It is regrettable that we do not have that rail system now. I will continue my remarks on the Bill. Several times I have said that we should have an alternative. It is regrettable that we do not. This program represents a recognition of the concern which this Government has to work with the States to ensure that the railways are upgraded in order adequately to respond to the national transportation task. It is a significant task, a task that relies heavily on the persistence of the Federal Government to co-operate with State governments. If we are going to overcome this fuel crisis in the long term, there must be cooperation. Even at this point of time the fuel crisis is putting some of the motorcars, which we thought would never be superseded, off the road. Unfortunately today some people cannot afford to drive a V8. Some six-cylinder motor vehicles, because of the fact that fuel prices have risen so much, are being put off the road. I do not want to enter the argument about bringing the price of petrol up to world parity, but there are going to be shortages. For that reason we need alternatives. By bringing the price of domestic crude to world parity there has been an increase in the price of fuel to such a degree that consumers are unable to pay. They will have to look for alternatives. I have spoken about those alternatives many times. I have said that we should be looking towards the steam car. I believe there is a Mr Pritchard in Melbourne who needs assistance.
We as a government should assist anybody who can come up with ideas, innovations or alternatives.
I believe that a motor vehicle manufacturer is at the moment thinking about producing a motor car powered by liquefied petroleum gas or petrol. I believe that an engine that can be powered specifically by LPG should be manufactured. I believe it should be an option open to all Australians when they purchase a motor vehicle.
– Do they drive locos with LPG?
-The point I am making is that we need a railway system but we must also look for alternatives.
- (Hon. Ian Robinson)- I ask the honourable member to come back to the Bill.
-I am afraid I missed the point of the honourable member for Newcastle. The answer is that I do not know. Possibly somebody could look into the point that a locomotive could be driven by LPG. I do not know.
– He wants them driven by electricity, not LPG.
-Yes, and it was a very good point that the honourable member for Newcastle made. When we make a comparison of the number of motor vehicles, and the number of trucks on the road which are using oil and petrol, with trains- the trains are using oil- the trains do not use oil to the degree that vehicles and trucks do. We should look at the alternatives. One is the electrification of the railway line between Sydney and Melbourne. I would support a network of electrified trains. I believe we should be thinking about it and using money to explore that situation.
– We will all live to see nuclear powered trains.
-Again that is something about which we should be thinking. As a government we should be looking at the alternatives. We should be talking and working together constructively, not destructively. It is imperative that we look at every alternative. Many times in this House I have spoken about the use of LPG and about the diesel driven motor vehicles which we have. We have to look at every alternative source other than petrol. For that reason I support the Bill and hope we will be able to improve the Australian railway network.
– Do you support the amendment?
-No, I do not support the amendment. We must get our priorities correct. Certain things have been said today by the honourable member for Newcastle about the $56m spent on a particular by-way or by-pass. I can understand his being disgruntled about it, but we must realise that motor cars and trucks are using the roads today. Of course money must be spent to keep our roads up to a certain degree of safety. We know that. We also know that if energy is to be conserved we must look at the rail systems and make certain that they are kept up to a certain standard.
– Why does he attack Tasmania?
-I do not know. I cannot understand anyone attacking the honourable member for Denison because he really tries in this area- railways. He really does. The honourable member for Denison and I have disagreed on railways. He would like to see tracks laid so that trains can use the new bridge across the Derwent. I have said that we have a wonderful waterway there and we should have ferries. We very rarely disagree on transport generally, but on this occasion we are going to have one heck of a fight when the new bridge is constructed. I tell him now that trains are not going to cross that bridge but ferries are going to cross that beautiful waterway we have in Tasmania. There will be an argument between the honourable member for Denison and myself.
- (Hon. Ian Robinson) Order! The honourable member had better come back to the Bill before the House.
-I apologise for getting off the track- the rail track. There should be a dual purpose motor vehicle, driven by either LPG or petrol. It is unfortunate that we export most of our LPG to Japan. I really cannot understand that.
– I raise a point of order. The title of the Bill is the National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill. The only thing that the honourable member for Franklin has done is make a passing reference to the Bill. His speech has been almost completely and totally devoted to the motor car. There are no motor cars on the railways yet.
-Order! I have already drawn the honourable member’s attention to the fact that he should address himself to the Bill. I have asked the House to come to order as there are a number of interjections which are tending to take the speaker’s mind away from the purpose for which he sought the call.
-To get away from the Bill is the last thing I would try to do. I think the honourable member for Newcastle is very unfair. He knows very well what I am trying to do. I am trying to explain that if we are going to have a rail system- the system he would like- we must look for alternatives. People must realise that they have to travel by trains rather than use motor vehicles. I have mentioned that we have to look for the alternatives. I really think the honourable member for Newcastle is being quite unfair to me. Never mind.
Transportation by train provides an economic, suitable and comfortable way of getting from point A to point B. Fuel can be conserved, and therefore it is imperative- I have used that word many times in my speech- that the rail links between the capital cities of Australia be maintained at a level that will enable people to move comfortably and adequately by train from point A to point B and in a time that will not vary greatly from that of the ordinary motor vehicle. If we can improve the trains, if we can improve the tracks, if we can improve the train system itself, people will say: ‘We can travel by train just as comfortably as we can travel by motor vehicle’. The honourable member for Newcastle is a member of the Road Safety Committee, as I am, and he knows that every day 10 people die on Australian roads. Train accidents are very unusual, and when they do occur they hit the headlines. We are getting to the critical situation in Australia where every year 3,650 people die on the roads as a result of motor vehicle accidents. The first key point is safety and the second is the conservation of energy. We need a good rail system in every State in Australia.
– What about the reduced pollution?
-Pollution too, of course. The reduction of pollution is the third key point. I believe that under the heading of this Bill one can talk about fuel conservation, about energy conservation. The means for doing that may be broadened to differentiate between greater or lesser reliance on market forces on the one hand and greater or lesser reliance on public interventionist policies on the other hand. But before considering means of implementation, it is useful to dwell on some of the ambiguities surrounding the concept of conservation.
– Who wrote that?
-I wrote that.
– You did?
– Stop picking on him all the time.
-No, he is not. The honourable member for Newcastle puts me off the track every time. We are talking about rail tracks and I want to continue on this track for another five minutes. Somebody said to me: ‘Mr Goodluck, can you talk for 20 minutes on railways?’ I said Yes ‘, and I intend to do that.
– But you have gone off the track three times.
-Well, there you are. At first glance, it appears that energy conservation is both easy to define and incontestable as a social goal. In the sense in which it currently figures as a public issue of growing prominence, energy conservation addresses a host of attractive objectives. It signifies the reduction or elimination of waste, and that is a key point. We are wasting fuel in Australia. I am probably speaking tongue in cheek when I say that for years petrol in Australia was sold at such a low price that unfortunately it was wasted, and yet today we need it. Surely it is a great waste when we have railways which can transport people from point A to point B and thousands of people are driving motor cars that are using precious fuel when they could travel in the comfort of a railway carriage. That is important and significant. We have an incredible situation in Tasmania where because of the admitted slowness and the downgrading of the railway system, because of the 3-foot 6-inch gauge, because of the inability to get quickly from point A to point B, the rail system has been wound down, except for the transportation of goods. In Tasmania we have no alternative to the motor car. There is no rail system at all except for the transportation of goods. I think the honourable member for Denison and I were the last two people to travel on the Tasman Limited. It was a beautiful train ride- scenic, picturesque, absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately, we do not have that railway now, but with a little imagination and ingenuity we could have had a good link between the capital city of Hobart and the small town of Launceston in the north of the State, or perhaps I should say that large town.
– What have you got against Launceston? Why do you hate Launceston?
-I love Launceston. Admittedly, there are reasons for not having that rail link, but one should consider the repercussions of the inadequacy of fuel supplies in the long term. I have mentioned the situation last weekend in Hobart when the tanker did not come and there was absolute pandemonium because people could not buy petrol. That could happen at any time in Tasmania. In a place of 400,000 people which is isolated from the rest of Australia there is absolute pandemonium when it does not have any fuel. We must be able to offer an alternative. Throughout the world modern scientists are saying: ‘For goodness sake, conserve the energy sources that are an alternative to petrol. ‘ In the long term, we are going to be placed in a great predicament, with thousands of motor cars being driven by only one fuel, petrol, with no alternative available. It is about time that Australia woke up and started to look closely at the liquefied petroleum gas-driven motor car, the steam-driven motor car and the electricallydriven motor car. Unless we do that we will be in the predicament I mentioned where we will have plenty of motor cars and no fuel to drive them.
-Any discussion in this Parliament on a national rail network or legislation to provide funds for a national rail network is a farce. The railways have been and continue to be the poor relations of Australia’s transport. If this Parliament in the past had invested as much capital in the railway networks as it has in the air transport system, which is a competing and in some ways complementary system, the rail networks would be far more efficient and competent and better able to perform the functions that ought to be performed by the most efficient means of bulk transport available. In the area of bulk transport, the railways are the most efficient carriers, at least on land. If contracts let by public tender for the carriage of some goods are to be taken as a guide, the railways are probably the most efficient carriers of bulk goods available in Australia. Unfortunately, the railways have been and are the poor relations, and I am not referring here to the carriage of passengers. That is a liability which railways accept as a public service, not as a business operation, and it is a liability that should be met from public funds in order to provide a public service.
This Bill appropriates an amount of money which most likely will provide only a few spikes in a couple of worn-out parts of the MelbourneSydney line and a few other minor repairs. It certainly will not improve in any way the existing standards of tracks or track maintenance or the efficiency of the rail systems in Australia. Those systems have been neglected almost to the point of scandal. This Parliament did not even interest itself in the railways until the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) became the Minister for Transport. At that stage the Parliament at least recognised the national and long-term importance of railways, and sought to do something about it. Having spent more time working in a railway system than in this Parliament, I think it is fair for me to say that one of the tragedies of the 1950s, the 1960s and the early 1970s was the manner in which governments allowed railways to drift into a situation of almost total inefficiency because of the lack of available funds. They do not perform the function for which they are best fitted and they do not operate in a matter which best meets the needs of the Australian economy. That is simply because governments have sought the easy way out.
This is not an area where there is a great political return. In a State such as Victoria in recent years- in fact, over a long period of years- the expenditure of money has had more to do with political return than the needs of the State. The cost of neglect of railways in any State where there is an adequate railway system is that the roads are over-used because there is no alternative bulk transport network. The roads maintenance and construction programs of the State are exaggerated to levels beyond those which normally would apply, especially where main trunk railways systems exist but are not properly utilised. In Victoria over a 10-year period the same amount of money in cash terms was provided each year to the railways for increased capital works. One could imagine what that sum was worth at the end of the 10-year period. It was a very small amount of money. There was a total neglect of the system until it became rundown to the extent of being practically dangerous. A not dissimilar situation occurred in New South Wales. People were and are still operating high speed rail transport and goods systems, with equipment on basic tracks which are not suited to that type of operation.
I raise one minor point. In Victoria a peculiar financial device called the Railways Appropriation Act is enacted each year. If any Minister for Finance tried to introduce such legislation here, we would drum him out of the place. In 1958 funds were appropriated for the duplication of the Geelong-Mel bourne railway line. We are promised in the current election campaign that that line will be completed shortly. Those funds were provided 25 years ago and at that stage there was some 25 or 30 miles of track to be duplicated. I have some doubts whether it will in fact be completed. The rolling stock is approximately 60 years old. No responsible Minister travels on the trains in winter time; rather, he has an air-conditioned vehicle.
Unless a far more serious and constructive proposition with respect to railways is put not only before this Parliament but also before the State Parliaments the railways will continue to deteriorate. They will continue to be inefficient carriers of goods with the end result that the situation we see today in New South Wales, where there is a dispute between the State Government and the truck drivers over road tax and virtually over the state of the roads in New South Wales, caused by the very heavy use of those facilities for transport, will develop and grow in every State of Australia. Bulk transport needs the most efficient means of carriage. At one stage the Commonwealth Railways system was the world leader in the efficient utilisation of the facilities which were available. Commonwealth Railways was also a profitable organisation. It provided first-off services, services which were original and which performed a dual purpose. Not only did it generate business for itself but it did also relieve the roads of traffic by transporting bulk loaders across the Nullabor, for instance, at high speed, efficiently and more cheaply than they could be driven. It was an efficient, profitable service. Much of that initiative has gone because of lack of government support and because of a lack of support from this Parliament. That is the railway system which belongs to this Parliament.
As I have already said, the State systems have been neglected beyond imagination. We have before us a Bill to provide $3m this year for rail services. A proportion of that sum is to be spent on the upgrading of the Melbourne-Sydney line. That amount will not get to first base in that work. It is not up to the amount of money that must be made available. The Federal Government provided far more than that for a passenger terminal for airlines in Melbourne, a place where people go to board their transport. It does not perform any function other than to keep the rain off and to house a few people who operate small shops and the people who collect the tickets. That is about the only function that it performs. Railway passengers going on exactly the same journey do not have anything like those sorts of facilities. They are the sorts of priorities at which we are looking and which this Parliament has had in the past and still has. Australia’s internal national transport system is in a serious situation. There is an almost total lack of planning, a total lack of co-ordination and, if this Bill is any indication, a total lack of government acceptance of responsibility.
– It is perhaps inevitable when debating a Bill dealing with a matter of such importance that members on both sides of the House be brought to irresistable conclusions. From time to time there has been a quite unusual consensus as to the problem and the manner in which it might be resolved. The National Railway Network (Financial Assistance) Bill 1979 is designed to fulfil the Commonwealth Government’s undertaking to the States to engage in the upgrading of the national mainline network. To that end, the Commonwealth has undertaken to provide a sum of $70m over a five-year period to the States which operate their own railways. South Australia and Tasmania are specifically excluded from the provisions of the Bill as a consequence ofthe earlier taking over by the Commonwealth administration of the day and the railways within those States becoming Commonwealth railway systems.
The funds to be provided, under section 96, will be interest bearing repayable grants with terms and conditions that apply to normal semigovernment borrowings. It would appear, regrettably, at least to this point, that governments continue to avoid serious consideration of the fundamental question whether railway facilities essential to the nature of our country- with its vast distances and sparsity of population- should be free from the crippling yoke of interest payments which seriously limit their ability properly to service the community in the national interest. It may well be argued that the overall economy and well-being of Australia might best be served if the establishment of an essential basic infrastructure were funded on a straight-out nonrepayable grant basis. The intent of this Bill could well provide the basis for a rapid expansion in railway capacity, achieving simultaneously a very significant engagement of those presently unemployed with consequent savings for the Treasury. If” ever the fiduciary issue had an application, the proposal implicit in this Bill would best accommodate it. We could do again what we once did with the Transcontinental Railway.
A significant aspect of this Bill relates to the provision for lines other than those linking capital cities of participating States to be declared main railway lines in consideration of the national interest. This provision is quite essential to provide for the requirements of the State of Queensland in particular, where the main line north of Brisbane servicing a number of major provincial cities and their hinterlands extends for a distance in excess of the total distance from
Melbourne to Brisbane. The creation of a fast, efficient and economical service to the far North would support the concept of decentralisation more in Queensland than in any other State of Australia. This decentralisation is consistent with Commonwealth Government policies. In this respect it is noted that, whilst the States have an opportunity to nominate projects for inclusion in the schemes, there is to be no set formula for allocation of funds among the States; but, wisely, the moneys will be granted on a priority basis in the national interest. The Queensland Government has nominated for the inclusion in the scheme of the upgrading of the Acacia Ridge Rail Freight terminal and the Brisbane and Rockhampton terminals. Considerable emphasis has been placed in recent times on multi-mobile transport where by co-ordination the most effective utilisation might be achieved from our available resources. More recently a new factor has emerged in respect of the most effective modes to employ. Other speakers have alluded to it. I refer to the impending crisis in fuel oil availability. This crisis has highlighted the folly of past decisions and indecision as a result of which our railway systems, and for that matter our coastal shipping services, have been allowed to degenerate to a level where their role bears little resemblance to the proud role they played in establishing this country in its formative years. The lack of foresight has created a situation where road transport has become the major transporter of domestic commodities. The penalty attaching to this situation is that our road system is overtaxed by thundering behemoths gulping copious quantities of liquid fuel and placing ordinary road traffic, if not at acute risk, certainly in a state of utter consternation.
Our national inability to maintain roads capable of accommodating increasingly faster and heavier road transport may be appreciated from the anguished cries of State and local governments for additional finance to meet the requirements. Tragically, the requirements in this respect can never be met. Immediately upon the upgrading of roads vehicles of greater weight and speed appear in order to take advantage of the improved conditions, only again to reduce the roads to a state of disrepair. It has always been a futile struggle to provide from our limited resources the sufficient funds to meet the situation.
Railways offer the solution to the problems now confronting our nation. It has been established that no other form of transport can move a given weight of freight at a lower cost per kilometre. With the introduction of palletisation and roll-on-off transfer procedures, an efficient railway system would not suffer significantly from comparison with the road transport services which, of course, would remain a very vital complement to the multi-modal service. The upgrading of the national railway network is an objective which few people, if any, would fail to support. It goes without saying that what is desirable is not necessarily practical in monetary terms. Much of our railway track was laid over 50 to 75 years ago and has not been upgraded, other than in comparatively few instances. With the use of modern track laying techniques, substantial progress could be made, although it must be conceded that little prospect exists of upgrading tracks to the extent where present substantial track gradients would be removed. This undertaking would be too massive even to contemplate. To bring our railway lines to a constant gradient would leave great scars across our countryside, which would be a matter of concern, no doubt, to our environmentalists.
The introduction of central traffic control is essential to greater efficiency, and it is pleasing to note that this method is being introduced on several systems. It has a corollary, of course, in that it disturbs the staffing situation. It requires that people, often in remote areas, uproot themselves and be transferred to other activities in different centres. But it is an irresistible trend of progress; it cannot be resisted on that ground. The resultant faster movement of traffic as a result of central traffic control, with higher frequency and the need for the upgrading of looplines, has become imperative in achieving the full benefit of central traffic control. More looplines are required and they must be of greater length, to accommodate the longer trains presently in use and those which might be anticipated.
It is inevitable that as the demand for the service increases it will put great strains on the present system, looplines notwithstanding. A saturation point is reached where there is no longer profitability and costs escalate to a point where the system becomes counter-productive. In that respect there was a rather interesting observation in the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics on mainline upgrading. I shall quote from it later.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was drawing to the attention of the House the fact that increasing the volume of traffic on a rail system is not simply a matter of putting an increasing number of trains in one end and hoping they will arrive at the other end on schedule and without complications. Quite apart from the physical features of such an exercise there are extraordinary results on a cost-benefit basis. I wish to quote from a study of the Bureau of Transport Economics on mainline upgrading and, in particular, the evaluation of a range of options for the Sydney-Brisbane rail link. Under the heading of ‘Commercial and Resource Capacity’, the report states:
Whenever an additional train is scheduled it produces an increment of revenue and, at the same time, an increment of cost. At low traffic density relative to the line capacity the additional revenue is greater than the additional cost. However, as traffic increases the revenue from each additional train remains substantially constant while the costs increase because of the congestion effects on existing traffic. Thus the net revenue increment for each additional train decreases with increased total traffic and the point is eventually reached where an additional train adds nothing to total net revenue. This is denned as the commercial capacity of the line and defines that point at which the railway, as a commercial operator, would decline further traffic. Subsequent growth in the total freight would be diverted to the next preferred mode.
The strongest argument for the upgrading of railway lines is the great benefit that would accrue from the savings in oil fuel consumption. Australia- particularly Queensland, happily- is very favourably placed because of the huge coal resources to press on with the electrification of lines. This would lead to greater efficiency, reduction of pollution and, of course, fuel economies. As I have previously said, Australian railways virtually pioneered this country. With the turn of the wheel their time has come again. I mean not to be ungenerous when I say that concomitant with the decline of the railways as the most popular form of transportation, there has been a serious erosion in the morale of railway employees. Most of them have applied themselves with resolve under very difficult and often archaic conditions. It was inevitable that they should suffer the humility of being involved in what virtually became a Cinderella service.
I would suggest that State governments, in considering their priorities within the terms of this Bill, give thought to the provision of a new symbol, perhaps in the form of a high speed train which would catch the interest of the public and regenerate a pride of involvement within railway employees. I cite the Newcastle-Sydney situation as a classical one in which such a high speed train could be introduced. It is rather significant that the traffic by air between Newcastle and Sydney is at an extraordinarily high level. I understand that there is a commuter service leaving on the hour every hour from Newcastle to Sydney and, rather sadly for the operators involved, they must remain at risk as a consequence of the review of facilities at Kingsford-Smith airport which, in the end, could lead to the requirement for that service to operate from another airfield.
– There are two other services from Newcastle to Sydney, apart from the one you mentioned.
– As the honourable member for Paterson points out, there are sevices even in addition to the one I specifically mentioned. In such a situation it must be a very attractive proposition that the people of both Sydney and Newcastle who have occasion to visit the other centre can enjoy the comfort and the convenience of high speed travel between the two points.
Concurrent with the upgrading of the tracks must be an improvement in the conditions under which railway employees work. In speaking to this Bill the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris) delivered what I believe to be a well-prepared and objective assessment of the existing situation. However, I have one criticism to offer in that he apparently felt bound to adhere to the unfortunate practice in this place of spoiling a good argument with a political swipe. I refer particularly to his criticism of what certainly would appear to be the inadequacy of the funding this year under this Bill for a project which, on a national basis, would require some thousands of millions of dollars. It must be evident to all honourable members that whether one is managing a country, a corner store or a family budget there is a limit to financial capacity. Had the honourable member for Shortland suggested areas of present expenditure from which the Government might withdraw and thus provide the funds for an essential project, he would have rounded off his speech in a statesmanlike fashion.
The Government is to be commended for its good intentions in this Bill, but in so doing it cannot escape the responsibility of making the final determination as to how best the total resources of our nation should be employed. Such a determination clearly would not meet with the approbation of all. Conversely, if any government sets out to please everybody, it will please nobody. This Bill is a step in the right direction. It must command the support of all honourable members. I oppose the amendment from the Opposition and support the Bill.
– I apologise to those honourable members who spoke this afternoon in my absence. I was unavoidably away. I thank each member of the House for his contribution. Several matters have been raised. In the first place, the honourable member for Shortland (Mr
Morris), in leading for the Opposition, and the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) raised the question ofthe provision of assistance by way of section 96 interest bearing repayable grants as being a repudiation of the Government’s 1977 election promise. The fart is that the Government’s election policy statements gave no assurance on the form the assistance provided under the program would take. The aspect was a matter the Government wished to determine after consultation with the States. Consultation took place and a decision to offer repayable grants was made last December.
As illustrated by the honourable member for Shortland, projects being considered for assistance offer extremely high benefits. If the Government seeks to have the railways operate in a commercial manner then it must treat them as commercial undertakings. I reaffirm what I have just said by quoting from the policy statement. It states:
A contribution of about $70m over five years, beginning 1978-79, will be made to a joint Commonwealth-State program for upgrading State railways which are part of the national mainline system.
I think that clarifies the first point. The honourable member for Shortland, the honourable member for Newcastle and the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) made the point that they thought the provision of $3m in 1978-79 and $70m overall was inadequate. The $3m for 1978-79 was determined having regard to the time required to consult with the States on the program arrangements and to formalise arrangements, as well as taking into account the overall budgetary context. The fact is that the overall program must be looked at in the context of program objectives to implement strategic improvements to the national railway network, identified by studies, and not to substitute State funds for railway operations or maintenance. In this context the Government considers that $70m can make a significant impact on mainline railway productivity and efficiency. Again, the total program funding must also be assessed in the overall budgetary context.
Several speakers from both sides of the House raised the question as to how the $3m would be allocated in 1978-79. As I stated in my second reading speech, the development of machinery to provide a national assessment of program priorities is significant. The Australian Railway Research and Development Organisation Board, which includes the State railway commissioners and the Chairman of the Australian National
Railways Commission, will provide complementary advice to Commonwealth and State Ministers on program priorities. This arrangement was agreed to at the Australian Transport Advisory Council meeting on 23 February. The ARRDO board met on 14 March. It called for an official report and that report was agreed to by ARRDO I understand that it will be forwarded to Ministers in the next few days. Obviously, some program proposals from State Ministers will follow very quickly. I am therefore unable to comment on specific projects or on specific State allocations. But the fact is that the Government’s approach to the program has been one of cooperative federalism. The Commonwealth has not been arbitrarily imposing priorities on the States. The consultative process accounts for the time taken to implement the program. This is seen as being a preferable approach to the way in which the Opposition might approach the matter by bulldozing the States into programs.
Several speakers on both sides of the House raised the matter of the declaration or railway lines other than inter-capital lines and claimed that this lacked definition. That matter relates to clause 4 (2) of the Bill, which provides flexibility for the Commonwealth to respond to State arguments for lines other than inter-capital links to be incorporated in the program. As I indicated in my second reading speech, I will be guided by proposals from State colleagues in exercising authority under clause 4 (2) of the Bill. But one of the tests which must be applied to such proposals would be that of benefits accruing to intersystem traffic. Several speakers raised the matter of the energy efficiency of the railways. I do not think there is any dispute among honourable members about the fact that railways are more energy efficient than road transport for long haul bulk freight. The improvements to railway productivity and efficiency which will flow from the program will enable railways more effectively to perform their role in the national transport task and, as a corollary, to produce energy efficiencies.
The honourable member for Shortland raised the matter of ANRC accounts. Following the South Australian and Tasmanian transfers, the preparation of the accounts for ANRC has been somewhat complicated. The fact that accounts have not been produced has been the cause of considerable concern. Annual reports for 1975-76 and 1976-77 are now with the Government Printer. I anticipate that they will be available to the House by the end of April. I hope to table them when we resume sittings after the Easter recess. The honourable member for
Mitchell (Mr Cadman) raised several points. Firstly, he said that we needed a long term plan for the development of railways in Australia. I think he will agree with me when I remind him that the establishment of the Australian Railway Research and Development Organisation- ARRDO as we call it- can be seen as a contribution to this end, with the Commonwealth providing half of the establishment costs. The honourable member for Shortland then raised the point that the program made no provision for terminals. Terminals are not specifically excluded. Again, it is up to the States to put forward such projects. The Acacia Ridge freight terminal would be an example of that.
The honourable member for Newcastle claimed that the amount of $70m, which is provided for the program, was inadequate. He claimed that this was highlighted by the recent provision of $54m to New South Wales for the Mittagong-Berrima bypass. I might be getting confused, but I think that last night on the adjournment debate the honourable member for Newcastle talked about the Newcastle bypass, as distinct from the Mittagong bypass. I think he was comparing the two road programs.
– Last night I spoke about the fact that the Government was spending $54m on the Berrima-Mittagong bypass and only a lousy $10m on the Newcastle-Sydney road when the traffic density on the NewcastleSydney road is three times as great as it is on the Berrima-Mittagong road.
– That issue is unrelated to this Bill, Mr Deputy Speaker; therefore, I do not think I can comment on it. In the light of the controversy last night about whether matters related to or were outside this Bill, I feel I am not able to comment on the matter raised by the honourable member for Newcastle. Mr Deputy Speaker, the House rejects the amendment moved by the Opposition to the motion that this Bill be read a second time.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Nixon) read a third time.
– I do not wish to canvass the whole whaling argument again. Suffice to say that I believe that Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Ltd, operating out of Albany in Western Australia, was carrying on a legitimate business under an Australian licence and was subject to international control through the International Whaling Commission. I believe that, with careful management leading to increasing stocks, the harvesting of whales for man’s use is a legitimate endeavour. I content myself with the observation that the whaling industry in effect has been sacrificed to community sentiment as much as to an objective consideration of conserving whale stocks.
It is very significant that, as is revealed at pages 190 and 191 of the report of the inquiry into whales and whaling, the Australian National Opinion Polls survey reveals that Western Australia was the one State to show support for the continuation of whaling. Another survey showed strong opposition in Melbourne to whaling, moderate support in Perth and massive endorsement in Albany. The further people were from the realities of the situation, the more they opposed whaling. It would not be unreasonable to suppose that, had more whaling stations been situated on the eastern seaboard as major employers of labour in a number of towns, perhaps larger towns than Albany, the conclusions of the inquiry might have been different and the pressure to hold such an inquiry might have been less. So much of the argument has been irrationally protectionist rather than seeking the management of a natural resource in a responsible manner.
One aspect of the inquiry rankles me strongly. It is the decision of the Federal Government to award $25,000 to Project Jonah as compensation for costs in putting its case before the inquiry, and to award only $10,000 to Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Ltd. That company, which is still basically the same organisation, despite today some change in the shareholding, incurred expenses far in excess of that figure and it might reasonably have expected to receive the same amount as Project Jonah. The conservation movement on an issue such as this does not lack numerous supporters. Yet Cheynes Beach Whaling Co. Ltd found itself carrying the burden of the whole scientific-ethical case in favour of the whaling industry almost alone. It meant that a massive extra expense had to be met by a legitimate business enterprise. Very few medium sized firms have been placed in a position of having to justify their existence at such expense. I believe that the Government still has this matter under consideration, so I urge it in all fairness to treat Cheynes Beach with equity. The Prime Minister said in his statement today:
The Government ‘s decision represents a change in policy from one of conservative utilisation of whale stocks controlled by international agreement to one committed to a vigorous and active policy of protection.
I think that every member of this Parliament would be aware that, in the years that the whaling industry has been conducted in Australia, it has been conducted within my electorate. After receiving the report of Sir Sydney Frost the Government came to its decision without reference to me or, to the best of my knowledge, without reference to the party room. That saddens me a little because in our style of government we are encouraged not to express disagreement with the policy that might be espoused by the Government before we take our disagreement to the party room, where the matter can be thoroughly thrashed out.
The Government’s decision is a decision of some magnitude. It is a change, I believe, in our approach to conservation. It is a change in decision-making. I wonder what the Government’s attitude will be if the conservationists of the world turn their attention to, say, marlin fishing. The marlin is a beautiful wild creature of the deep ocean hunted by man for sport. What justification can there be for hunting and killing such a beautiful animal? I believe that whales served a great purpose in man’s endeavours and were of use to all men.
The Prime Minister’s statement refers to a vigorous and active policy of protection. I wonder whether the Government has taken into consideration the needs of some of the great whaling nations of the world that for many generations have used the whale as a food supply. The Prime Minister also mentioned that satisfactory substitutes were readily available for nearly all whale products. I note that he said ‘nearly all whale products’. I am not too sure for which ones there are no substitutes, but no oil which has been produced covers the range that sperm oil has the ability to cover. Within a certain pressure or temperature range another oil can do the job, but outside that range no other oil can do the job sperm oil does. It is used in spacecraft, high speed gear boxes, some surgical instruments and the like.
It is not my intention to prolong this debate. I would like to say in conclusion that the Government may do what it will and, according to the Prime Minister’s statement, have a total commitment to protect the whale so that present and future generations of Australians can have the opportunity of seeing these wonderful mammals in their natural habitat. I just wonder how many people have seen them in their natural habitat up to date. The Government may do as it will, but the realities of life have to be faced. If the whaling nations that are members of the International Whaling Commission believe that the whale stocks of the world are increasing and if they are unfairly denied their legitimate livelihood because of pressure from conservationists, we may well see the breakdown of the International Whaling Commission. Russia, Japan and others may withdraw. Where will that leave the International Whaling Commission? It will be just another conservationist body without any authority over the whalers of the world. Who then will monitor the whaling nations? I believe that Russia and Japan will still take a responsible attitude because they want to be in the business of whaling for ever. Other nations may not take the same attitude and then we may well see the demise of those wonderful mammals.
-I do not want to speak for too long, but I want to make a few remarks. First of all, I welcome enthusiastically the decision of the Government to prevent the export of whale products from Australia and essentially to prevent the re-emergence of any whaling industry in this country. However, I think there are a couple of deficiencies in the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) this morning to which I would like to refer briefly. The first deficiency is that apparently the Government is prepared to make no effort to overcome the problems which Albany has obviously had to face up to as a result of the closure of the Cheynes Beach whaling station. It is true that the closure was announced during the currency of the Inquiry into Whales and Whaling and cannot be seen as a direct consequence of either the Inquiry or the Government’s decision to close down or prevent whaling in this country.
I think it is worth referring to the debate which took place in this House in May last year on the Fisheries Amendment Bill. At that time the Opposition moved an amendment which said:
Whilst not opposing the second reading, the House calls upon the Government to alter the Frost Royal Commission terms of reference, requiring the Commission to submit positive proposals to guarantee increased marine resources employment in the Albany region, prior to declaring a moratorium on whaling.
I was one of those who contributed to that debate, and I made the point that it was terribly important for the Government to ensure that if a decision was made to close down the Cheynes Beach whaling station adequate arrangements must be made for the hundred or so workers and their families who would, as a consequence, be put out of work. I argued that case fairly strenuously, I thought, but at the end of the debate Mr Viner, who was acting for the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair), indicated, when he was referring to our amendment, that the terms of reference were wide enough. He said:
With regard to the particular matter referred to in the foreshadowed amendment relating to employment in the Albany region, I remind the Opposition that the terms of reference already require the judge to report on economic, employment and other effects on the Albany region should a cessation of whaling be recommended. I am quite sure that those terms of reference are adequate for the judge and that he will be able to direct his attention to the implications for employment of any cessation of whaling, if that should be recommended.
The point I make is that the Inquiry did not refer to the question of the employment consequences of the closure of Cheynes Beach. All the Inquiry directed its attention to was the question of compensation. I think, quite properly, the inquiry said that seeing that the Cheynes Beach closure was announced before the Inquiry had concluded it obviously had closed down as a result of market pressures working against the products of Cheynes Beach. In effect it was saying that whether or not the Inquiry had been set up and regardless of any Government decision which might flow from the Inquiry, Cheynes Beach would have closed down as a result of its inability either to sell sufficient whale products or alternatively to receive an adequate price.
It seems to me that compensation is one matter, but quite a separate matter is the making of appropriate arrangements for those people who are displaced from the whaling industry. I think it is a broader issue than simply the Government deciding to prevent the continuation or the reemergence of whaling in this country. I think the real point that has to be addressed is how now and in the future we should deal with the inevitable conflict which arises between certain conservation issues and the interests of the work force. Of course, the case is much stronger when for conservation reasons one decides to close down an industry than it is, say, when an industry is prevented from commencing. Nevertheless, I think the conflict exists and it will continue to exist in the future. We must work out ways in which we can deal with that conflict. It seems to me that we will be able to resolve these conservation-type issues only when we are able to deal adequately with that conflict. It is no good enforcing a point of view on conservation grounds on a work force which is enthusiastic about an industry which, for conservation reasons, will not be allowed to start or will be closed down. Therefore, in the interests of ensuring that the cause of conservation receives the support of the wider community, I think the Government should have looked at the question of providing encouragement to the Albany region so that the displaced workers could have found alternative employment. It seems to me that the Prime Minister’s statement disregards that question completly. As we said last May, the terms of reference did not adequately deal with that question. As a consequence, the inquiry did not at all deal with the question of providing alternative employment for the workers of Albany.
I think the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) will agree with me that the whaling industry was an important industry for Albany. I think the enthusiasm of the Albany residents for the continuation of whaling was more a reflection of their interest in the 100 or so jobs involved than it was an indication of their enthusiasm for the slaughter of whales. Whilst the honourable member can say that the support for the closure of the Cheynes Beach whaling station increased the further the people involved were removed from Albany, I think this really does not tell us anything except that the people of Albany were interested in retaining their jobs. So I do not think that we ought to be involved in a situation in which we appear to be picking on Albany particularly because the whaling industry happens to be located there. It is not Albany’s fault. It is not the fault of the 100 workers that the last remaining whaling station in Australia was located at Albany.
The decison to close the whaling station was clearly made as a result of community pressures throughout Australia and as a result of an assessment of world-wide scientific research which suggests that to continue to slaughter these great beasts is insupportable.
– How do you feel about the USSR and Japan?
– There is no question on that aspect. Of course whaling should cease throughout the world. But Australia would not have a leg to stand on if it argued against whaling by the Japanese or the Russians while it supported the maintenance of a whaling station on its shores. The point I am trying to make is that the people of Albany should not be singled out for harsh treatment in relation to this matter. We should accept on behalf of the whole community the decision to close down this station or, as events will occur, to prevent its reopening and to prevent the export of whale products in the future. It seems to me that, in recognition of the hardship which this decision has caused the people of Albany, this Government should have made adequate attempts to provide alternative employment. Many of the people engaged in the industry have worked in no other industry. Many of them are well past middle age and they have only a remote opportunity of finding anything like similar employment. It is probably unlikely that many of them will be able to get work at all. It seems to me that, without some effort by this Government, we will not be able to ensure that the people of Albany will be fairly treated.
The industry has been operating in Albany for a very long time. I do not think that just because the whaling station happened to be located in Albany and just because the Australian people as a whole support its closure Albany itself and alone should bear the adverse consequences of that decision. So, even at this late stage I urge the Government to reconsider this question and to take some initiative to provide alternative employment for the workers who were displaced from the whaling station. My comments do not relate to this important issue only. I think that in our future consideration of conservation issues we need to be able to demonstrate that, when we take decisions on conservation grounds, we will not pick on that minority of people who are directly involved. I think that conservation decisions are made because of community pressure as a whole and, therefore, the community as a whole ought to bear the burden of those decisions.
– I wish to make a brief comment on this subject. The Australian Labor Party is noted for its silence on the question of Fraser Island. Conservation-minded people advocated a certain course of action in respect of Fraser Island which was followed. I do not recall members of the Labor Party standing in this House and saying what should be done for the town of Maryborough. That, of course, is in direct contrast with the subject before the House.
– Do not be provocative.
– I do not intend to be provocative on this subject. I make the point that I disagree with the principle of suddenly announcing to the world that we will no longer harvest whales. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Japan are harvesting in excess of some 20,000 whales a year. All we are doing is saying: ‘We are no longer going to do it; we will leave it to you but we would like you to introduce extra controls’. I believe that by taking this stand we have given away our bargaining strength. If we really believe that whaling is a cruel and unnecessary means of feeding man, we should stand our ground and bargain at the International Whaling Commission on the basis that we will give it away as long as the others also give it away. The honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) is shaking his head. I know that the report portrays the whale as a mammal with a large brain and a lot of sense. But, for the life of me, I cannot imagine a whale being so sensible that it will know when the 200-mile limit comes up. Once a whale is outside that limit, it is liable to get a Soviet or Japanese harpoon right in its back. Are Australian waters simply the breeding and feeding ground for whales which ultimately will be killed and used to manufacture products for the rest of the world. This is how I see the situation at present.
There is mixed feeling throughout the community right now about the decision to cease whaling. Will we see conservationists mount a campaign against the sport of marlin, swordfish or large mackerel fiishing? Will the ‘Project Jonah’ people call themselves ‘Project Marlin ‘or Project Mackie’? Will they say suddenly: ‘Let us preserve the marlin, the mackerel or the swordfish’. Will a surprise announcement be made in Parliament that no longer will people be allowed to fish within the 200-mile limit of this country for marlin, swordfish or mackerel? I might be prepared to examine this matter if we could be sure that no other country intended to continue whaling. But nobody has convinced me that once fish leave our waters they will be given the same protection.
I make a final point. This decision has been partly justified on the grounds that substitutes have been found for most whale products. I know that you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are a man from the land. You have that appearance of dignity. Substitutes have been found for beef. I ask whether the Government is now going to say that beef cattle are as much a creation of God as is the whale and that, therefore, the Government is going to stop slaughtering beef cattle and allow those who produce synthetics to provide the market with its needs. I conclude on that remark because the Government Whip is now by my side. But I make those points very quickly. I repeat that I share some of the concern of the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond) insomuch as I am far from convinced that the decision we have reached in this Parliament is going to save the whale. The only sure thing is that when he leaves Australian shores he will be a lot fatter for the harpoons from the USSR and Japan.
Debate (on motion by Mr Innes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 November 1978, on motion by Mr Ellicott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have the indulgence of the House to raise a point of procedure on this legislation? Before the debate is resumed on this Bill, I suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill, the Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill and the motion to take note of the paper on Norfolk IslandGovernment policy- as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills and on the motion to take note of the paper at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you permit the subject matter of both Bills and the paper on Norfolk Island to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering each of these measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-This evening I present the Australian Labor Party’s policy on the future government of Norfolk Island. That policy is in direct conflict with the philosophy espoused in the policy speech which was delivered by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) on Norfolk Island and which was incorporated into Hansard on 1 1 May last year. That policy speech on Norfolk Island went so for as to suggest in one area to the Norfolk Island Council that the Government did not expect the Council to pay unemployment benefits. That is the Government’s real philosophy. It would never dare to implement that type of philosophy in mainland Australia where the Government’s opponents are too strong. But on Norfolk Island the weak and the unorganised are easy game for a predatory and unsympathetic government. Our policy is strongly opposed to that philosophy and its offspring, the Norfolk Island Bill 1978. Consequently we oppose the Bill. I will indicate the Opposition ‘s view on the other Bill at the appropriate time.
We do not propose to deny self-government to the people of Norfolk Island. We oppose the Bill only in its present form. On the contrary, we wish to make self-government for the island a reality. The Norfolk Island Bill before the House tonight does not give self-government to Norfolk Island. Any resemblance between this legislation and the priniciples of self-determination is entirely coincidental. The amendment which we will propose is based on the philosophy that the wishes of the Norfolk Islanders in regard to their future mode of government should be accommodated as far as possible as long as the interests of mainland Australia are not compromised. In line with this philosophy the proposed amendment provides for a greater control over machinery matters of government for the proposed Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly; control over a much wider number of matters of government; a reduction in the Australian Government’s powers in the Bill; the provision of social security and an industrial court for Norfolk Island; the extension of Australian taxation legislation to Norfolk Island; a Bill of Rights to be included in the Bill; and the proposed Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly to be elected by the fairest method to all concerned, in this instance proportional representation.
The Norfolk Island Bill was introduced with the stated intention of providing what the Minister termed ‘responsible government for the Island’. I ask: Responsible to whom? Is it to be responsible to the corporate tax evaders who still utilise the island to defraud the Australian people of their just dues? Is it to be responsible to the elderly and infirm on Norfolk Island who eke out their daily lives on $35 a week pocket money from the island Government? Is it to be responsible to the employers on the island who operate free of any industrial control? Is it to be responsible to the island workers who have no minimum wage, no workers’ compensation and no protection before the law in industrial matters? I say that the Liberal Government was responsible to its rich and powerful friends. What of the ordinary people of Norfolk Island and Australia? They should just look to the major effects of the Bill and see for themselves. The amendment proposed by the Opposition refers to the motion for the second reading and reads as follows:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to achieve the following purposes:
1 ) that the powers of the Administrator as proposed in the Bill be reduced by-
transferring to the Legislative Assembly the executive government of Norfolk Island, and abolishing the Executive Council;
enabling the Legislative Assembly to make Ordinances providing for matters specified in Schedule 2 to the Bill without the need for those Ordinances to be assented to;
transferring to the President of the Legislative Assembly the power to fix the dates of elections;
transferring to the Legislative Assembly and the President of the Legislative Assembly the power to convene meetings of the Assembly;
transferring to the Legislative Assembly the power to accept resignations of Presidents and Deputy Presidents of the Assembly;
placing a limit of 60 days upon the period within which the Administrator may consider proposed Ordinances;
enabling the Legislative Assembly to appeal to the Minister, and thence to the Parliament, against any action, opinion or decision of the Administrator; and
changing the title of the Administrator to one more suitable to the changed status of Norfolk Island;
that the powers of the Governor-General as proposed in the Bill be reduced by-
placing a limit of 90 days upon the period within which the Governor-General may consider proposed Ordinances; and
removing the power to disallow, or recommend amendments to, Ordinances made by the Legislative Assembly as proposed in sub-paragraph (l)(b) above or assented to by the Administrator;
that the powers of the Legislative Assembly as proposed in the Bill be expanded by vesting in the Legislative Assembly the sole power of appointing members of the Executive Council and terminating their appointment, in the event of there being an Executive Council;
The Opposition is opposed to there being an executive council in the first instance. Our amendment continues:
We find that the Government has refused to extend Australian taxation legislation to the island. The rort that has been going on for years for the rich in this country is to continue. The Government is not concerned with the corporate evasion of stamp duties on the island. It is not concerned at the family trusts which this country’s ruling class use to avoid estate and gift duties. Perhaps those gentlemen involved very close to the mark with family trusts on the island could explain why the Government is ignoring the tax evasion. Perhaps other gentlemen in the Cabinet with family trusts elsewhere could explain why the tax minimisation is to continue. Whatever we like to call it, it is evasion- a rose by any other name.
This monstrous rort is to continue. The Government is in possession of Australian Taxation Office reports which suggest that tax evasion in this country is of the order of $3 billion annually. I doubt whether that is enough money to wipe out completely the deficit with which we are confronted, having regard to the latest reports; but it would come very close to wiping it out. Here we have a case of a Royal Commission examining tax evasion by Australians using Norfolk Island as their base, and recommending that Australian taxation laws be extended to the island. However, the Government blithely ignores the Royal Commission’s recommendations, for the benefit of its real electorate, the Australian ruling class. Let me use the example to which I pointed in this Parliament less than 12 months ago, namely, that of $30m being passed into and out of the island on one day, of round robin transactions taking place. There is plenty of evidence in regard to that matter. The people involved are not doing that for the good of their health. Maybe I am wrong; perhaps they are doing it for that reason. The fact is that investigations have been conducted by taxation officers on Norfolk Island. I am advised that litigation is pending, not necessarily in relation to people who live on the island but in relation to their colleagues who live elsewhere.
The financial cake remains in the hands of the tax evaders. But does the Government throw any crumbs to the disadvantaged on Norfolk? No, not on your life. Australian social security legislation is not to be extended to the island either. Every other citizen is entitled to an age pension, to a family allowance, to unemployment benefit and to the full range of Australian social welfare benefits; but that is not the case for those Australian citizens who are unfortunate enough to live on Norfolk Island. The Government has entrusted the social security of the islanders to the people who, before November 1976, were paying a paltry $10 a week allowance to those islanders who could not support themselves. The merest concession to the islanders’ welfare has been made by the Government.
The islanders have said that pension payments must be as of right and that they should not be in the current untenable position whereby needy residents must go cap in hand to the administration and prove their need. That is a situation where payment is dependent on officialdom’s grace and favour. This situation is not satisfactory; it is not humane; and it is not benevolent. But this Government has never been noted for its benevolence to the needy, to the unemployed and to the young people who have to go to great lengths in trying to eke out an existence on the dole. Neither has the Norfolk Island Council been noted for its benevolence. It is currently considering a draft social services ordinance which is as generous as Malcolm Fraser. That is about as low as one can go. I assure the people of Norfolk Island and all Australians that the Australian Labor Party’s sympathies are with the Norfolk Island people in their plight.
I make it clear to the residents of Norfolk Island and to their representatives, who are here today and who were also here the other day, that the Labor Party’s plan for Australian taxation and social security legislation to be extended to the island poses no threat to them. Social security payments will be tied to the Norfolk Island cost of living, not to that of Australia. Levels of payments will be set, in keeping with island circumstances. Pensions will be paid as of right. No longer will the embarrassing and discredited grace and favour system apply. No longer will unemployed islanders have to leave the island to survive, as they do at the moment- no unemployment benefit being paid on the island. No longer will islanders have to listen to empty promises about raising pensions to a level which is at least equivalent to that of Australian pensions. The Australian taxation system also is not a threat to the island or to its way of life. The island will remain financially viable under Australian taxation laws. The Australian Labor
Party makes this promise to the people of Norfolk.
Our amendment asks that the question of Australian economic assistance to the island be examined in the light of the economic study of Norfolk Island being conducted by Professors Gates and Treadgold. We condemn the Government for bringing on the debate on this legislation and attempting to pass it before this most important and pioneering study has been completed. Norfolk’s economy has not been studied in detail previously. Now, with the report due within a month or so, the Government hops in blindfolded and feet first and brings on the debate on the Bills without the advantage of having examined all the possibilities in relation to Norfolk which will be dealt with by Professors Gates and Treadgold. We believe that it has brought on this debate in indecent haste. It seems to me to be putting the cart before the horse. If one is to determine what ought to be a needs concept and if one is to have the advantage of knowing what is available on the island for the purposes of establishing that concept as a matter of right, it seems to me that one should conduct an examination first.
Australian taxation laws are to be applied to catch the Australian tax evaders. They will be designed so as not to milk the ordinary Norfolk Islanders. I give this undertaking. It will not suprise me if many of the wealthy blow-ins who are now extolling the virtues of that beautiful little island and stirring the possum over independence leave quick smart, with nary a second glance back, when their cosy little tax haven is threatened. The rich will pay, and they must effectively pay. I believe that both Norfolk and Australia will benefit by this policy. The tax sharks will be flushed from their lairs and brought to book, and Norfolk will lose some of the parasites who prey on and exploit the island’s resources. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that. I say to the Norfolk Island people that taxation will not be a financial drain on the island. Taxation receipts will be used to the betterment of the island people. It seems to me that that is a fair and reasonable proposition.
I turn my attention to the mode of government that this disreputable Liberal Government is foisting on the Norfolk Islanders. Let there be no mistake about the fact that the Norfolk Island Bill is being foisted on the island. There has been sustained and widespread criticism of the Bill on Norfolk since it was published. The Island Council unanimously rejected it at one point in time. The United Nations Association of Australia has rejected it. The island’s people have rejected it.
Tonight, in its current form, the Australian Labor Party, the opposition party, rejects it also. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) last November called for public discussion on the Bill. I might have a few words to say about that in a few moments, when dealing with one of the clauses of the Bill. He said, as I indicated, that the Government would then ‘consider whether there is a need for any amendments’ and that public discussion would take place. The invited public discussion was forthcoming and it universally condemned the Bill.
One would have thought that in these circumstances there was indeed a need to make amendments to it. But were those amendments forthcoming? No, not until the last moment. I was handed a list of 1 17 amendments last night. The Clerks of the House were presented with those amendments this morning. I publicly commend the Clerks on the job that they have done in bringing this matter before the House under very difficult circumstances. The Bill stands almost as it did last November- a little dishevelled and now to be amended in some form. It is tattered at the edges but fundamentally unchanged. That lack of proper and substantial amendment is the reason why the representatives of the Norfolk Island Council have been here during the last week. They probably sat glumly in the Gallery the other day because of what they had been offered- promises found, for God’s sake, in a copy of a Norfolk Island newspaper last weekend. It seems to me that the Government has to get its priorities right. One of the two publications on Norfolk Island- the Norfolk Island News and the Norfolk Islander- published many of the amendments which were presented to me as spokesman for the Opposition and to the Clerks who had to deal with them this morning.
The Minister for Home Affairs, when speaking on Norfolk Island before the drafting of the Bills, told the island people that the Government’s objective had been:
This Bill does not provide self-government, or anything like it, for Norfolk Island. I have no need to remind the Norfolk people of that. They are united in their summation of the Bill as providing an insufficient measure of selfdetermination for the island. Really, the Bill is a sham.
The Minister offers Norfolk Island control over a large number of mostly minor and uninspiring matters. He even tells the islanders that the Administrator must assent to all ordinances that they make on these matters. However, this false dawn for self-government is exposed when the Minister says a few magic words- referring to clause 23 of the Bill- and out springs a Government veto. The illusion is shattered. No longer can Norfolk Island make ordinances, even about such harmless matters as cemeteries, advertising, hoardings, pests and noxious weeds as the Government slaps on the veto. Democracy for Norfolk Island is not forthcoming. Clause 23 is just as repressive as that. It gives the Governor-General, which in reality means the Australian Government, power to disallow any ordinance which the Administrator may have assented to in the previous six months. That is right, the new Norfolk Island Legislative Assembly can pass a law, the Administrator may assent to it, even the Minister may assent to it, but for up to six months later it can be nullified with just a stroke of the pen. First you give and then you take away.
But do not think Norfolk Island got off lightly with just one veto over all of its legislation. No, another veto springs out of clause 21 which allows the Government to inspect and reject any ordinance on any matter not found in schedule 2 of the Bill. Schedule 2 contains only innocuous matters. They are nearly all matters over which any shire council on the mainland has control. In fact, schedule 2 is so bland that it was described on the island as a list of the present local records, public utilities, public nuisances and public conveniences. If a matter is not in the schedule, and believe me, many of the normal powers of government are not, then the Government has a double veto over it.
The Labor Party says that this situation must be changed. Norfolk Island deserves to be given control over a wider range of matters. Over some of these matters, there is no earthly reason why the island Assembly cannot receive complete, rather than nominal, control. There are other matters in which the Australian Government has clear interests in the matters and should therefore have power of veto. However, Labor considers that a single power of veto is quite sufficient. There should be no retrospective veto; there should be no clause 23. This clause is the single most insulting and meddlesome interference by the Government in what should be the domestic affairs of Norfolk Island, and must be deleted. Schedule 2 to the Bill concerning matters over which the Norfolkers should have unimpeded control should be amended to include referendums, electoral law, the recruitment and management of the Norfolk Island Public Service and education.
Schedule 3, which contains matters over which the Australian Administrator, acting on ministerial instructions, will have a veto, should be expanded to include land use and zoning, mining, public hospitals and health, conservation and national parks, law enforcement and management of historical sites. The GovernorGeneral also has power under this Bill, in certain circumstances, to make an ordinance concerning the raising and expenditure of taxes on the island. This may be done without even presenting the proposed ordinance to the Legislative Assembly, much less obtaining its consent, despite the fact that under schedule 2 to the Bill - those supposedly devolved powers- the Assembly has control over the public moneys of the Territory. The circumstances where the Governor-General can interfere in the island’s government in this way are when:
No provision, or insufficient provision, has been made for the expenditure of moneys for the purposes of the government of the Territory.
In other words the Governor-General may intervene in a legislative dispute over money bills. Many members of the Australian electorate will remember with distaste how a previous Governor-General intervened in such a dispute in this country in November 1975. This Bill gives the Governor-General legal power to do on Norfolk Island what a Governor-General did illegally in Australia on 1 1 November.
But once again the Minister’s attitude is exposed. The Parliament should not allow the Governor-General to interfere in the island’s affairs in this manner. The Labor Party believes that this power should be deleted from the Bill. No definition of the Governor-General appears in the Bill. I think perhaps we can be satisfied that the Acts Interpretation Act applies and, if that is the case, the Minister may satisfy our opposition to that. If the Act applies and the Governor-General is defined as the GovernorinCouncil, acting with the advice with the Federal Executive Council, perhaps that solves the situation.
Labor believes that the role of the Administrator should be curtailed as well. He or she retains many small but important machinery powers which ought to be in the hands of the representatives of the people of Norfolk Island. If it were suggested by me that the GovernorGeneral should decide the date of Australian elections, both sides of this House would rise up in uproar. But the Administrator is to choose election dates on the island. This power should rest with the President of the Assembly, as with the Prime Minister in Australia. Similarly, the Administrator convenes all meetings of the Assembly and accepts the resignation of Presidents and Deputy Presidents. In normal circumstances the President of the Assembly should convene Assembly meetings. There should also be provision for a quorum of Assembly members to convene Assembly meetings in certain circumstances. The Assembly’s office-bearers should resign to the body that elected them- the Assembly- and not to an Australian official.
In this Bill, the Australian Government representative on the island retains the colonialist and anachronistic title of Administrator. We find this insulting to Norfolk Island on its new path to self-government. We suggest that the Government’s representative have a title more in keeping with his or her role as the Australian representative. In their consideration of ordinances, neither the Administrator nor the GovernorGeneral is bound to any time limit. This provides another way in which the Australian Government can interfere in the legislative program on the island. It may legally put off assent to an ordinance for years. The Labor Party believes that the Australian Government should be tied to a timetable in its consideration of proposed ordinances. It therefore recommends that the Administrator have 60 days and the GovernorGeneral 90 days in which to consider proposed legislation.
Although it is within the Administrator’s power to decide what in his opinion is within or outside schedules 2 and 3, as well as a number of other important matters, there is no provision in the Bill for an appeal by the Legislative Assembly over a decision of the Administrator. Such an appeal is recommended. It should be first to the Minister, thence to the Australian Parliament. Despite the fact that the Legislative Assembly will contain only nine members, the Bill proposes an executive council composed of Assembly members. The Council has the sole task of advising the Administrator, who convenes and presides at all its meetings, and may sack its members. Some amendments have been passed. It may well be that the Minister can now say that certain other procedures are in fact in the amendments. One could be excused for not being able to see them in the 117 amendments handed to the Opposition last evening.
The Executive Council has no defined Cabinet role. There is a likelihood that all or almost all Assembly members will have executive functions, that is, have responsibility for any of the matters contained in Schedules 2 and 3. The Assembly itself is to consist of only nine members. In these circumstances the need for an executive council and a three-tier system of Government is vanishingly small. Consequently Labor would amend the Bill to remove mention of the executive council. The Australian Labor Party believes in a Bill of Rights for all Australians. But it is necessary that there be a special provision for the people of Norfolk Island, as an Australian Bill of Rights would fail to take into account the special rights of the descendants of the Pitcairn Islanders who were given the island by Queen Victoria in 1865. These special rights are principally land rights. The Norfolk Islanders should also have the right to vote for representatives in this, our national Parliament. These people have been Australian citizens since 1913 but still have not a vote in the Parliament. The Labor Party believes that the island should be included in an appropriate Australian electorate. This should not be taken on the island to mean that the island people will lose their special relationship with the Minister. Under Labor there will be a Minister responsible for the territories, just as there is today.
There are also a number of drafting ambiguities in the Bill that should be corrected. One appears to allow the Australian Government to lend moneys to the island without receiving a request for those moneys from the Assembly. Perhaps we can get an explanation on that. Another implies that a money Bill must be recommended by the Administrator before being debated in the Assembly. This is similar, but quite excessive to, the requirements of section 56 of the Australian Constitution. The Labor Party agrees that money bills should receive the recommendation of the Administrator before being passed, but would allow those Bills to be debated in the Assembly before such recommendation. I defy anybody but a constitutional lawyer to explain what clause 18 (2) means. It reads:
An Ordinance shall not be made so as to affect the application of its own force in, or in relation to, the Territory of an Act or a provision of an Act.
Perhaps an aspirant to the High Court might be able to explain that to me. Why cannot legislation be drafted in language that ordinary people can understand? Another paragraph opens a loophole whereby normally ineligible people can stand for election as President or Deputy President of the Assembly.
The vital part of the Opposition’s proposed amendment to the Norfolk Island Bill would set up a conciliation and arbitration system for Norfolk Island constituted by visiting commissioners and judges of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. We see that as essential. At the present time, the private sector on Norfolk Island operates completely free of fetters in regard to workers’ compensation, sick leave, recreation leave, long service leave, minimum wages, margins, or conditions of termination. I imagine that the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd would like to be in that position, even though it goes back to the eighteenth century. This laissez-faire industrial system has resulted in exploitation of employees by business owners and managers on the island. Many of the business owners are not Pitcairn Islanders. Last year one hotel proprietor- I understand that his establishment is the Hibiscus- was paying his staff $70 a week for a six-day 48-hour week. Can anybody justify that? At the same time, workers on the island are held to ransom because if they have not got a job they will be moved off the island. Because of the Opposition’s concern for the people of Norfolk Island, I move:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted to achieve the following purposes:
1 ) that the powers of the Administrator as proposed in the Bill be reduced by-
transferring to the Legislative Assembly the executive government of Norfolk Island, and abolishing the Executive Council;
enabling the Legislative Assembly to make Ordinances providing for matters specified in Schedule 2 to the Bill without the need of those Ordinances to be assented to;
transferring to the President of the Legislative Assembly the power to fix the dates of elections;
transferring to the Legislative Assembly and the President of the Legislative Assembly the power to convene meetings of the Assembly;
transferring to the Legislative Assembly the power to accept resignations of Presidents and Deputy Presidents of the Assembly;
placing a limit of 60 days upon the period within which the Administrator may consider proposed Ordinances;
enabling the Legislative Assembly to appeal to the Minister, and thence to the Parliament, against any action, opinion or decision of the Administrator; and
changing the title of the Administrator to one more suitable to the changed status of Norfolk Island;
that the powers of the Governor-General as proposed in the Bill be reduced by-
placing a limit of 90 days upon the period within which the Governor-General may consider proposed Ordinances; and
removing the power to disallow, or recommend amendments to, Ordinances made by the Legislative Assembly as proposed in sub-paragraph (l)(b) above or assented to by the Administrator;
that the powers of the Legislative Assembly as proposed in the Bill be expanded by vesting in the Legislative Assembly the sole power of appointing members of the Executive Council and terminating their appointment, in the event of there being an Executive Council;
that matters specified in Schedule 2 to the Bill include referendums, electoral law, the recruitment and management of the Norfolk Island Public Service and education;
5 ) that matters specified in Schedule 3 to the Bill include land use and zoning, mining, public hospitals, conservation and national parks, law enforcement and management of historical sites;
that a Bill of Rights for Norfolk Islanders be included in the Bill, ensuring, in particular, the recognition of the island as the historical homeland of the Pitcairners and the protection of their remaining rights;
that the recommendation by the Administrator in respect of a money Bill be required before the Bill is passed by the Legislative Assembly;
that moneys shall not be lent to Norfolk Island by the Commonwealth except with the agreement of Norfolk Island;
that members of the Legislative Assembly be elected by a method of proportional representation, the whole of Norfolk Island constituting a single electoral division;
that the taxation and social security legislation of the Commonwealth be extended to Norfolk Island in full; and
that Norfolk Island be incorporated into an appropriate electoral division of the Commonwealth of Australia, and that Australian citizens resident on the island be enrolled in that electoral division.
That concludes my explanation of the Opposition’s policy towards Norfolk Island. If the Government has the welfare of the people of Norfolk Island in mind, it will accept the Opposition’s amendment. If, as I suspect, the Government’s sympathies are more with the exploiters of Norfolk Island, it will dismiss the amendment. I appeal to all honourable members with a conscience to vote for the Opposition’s amendment.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– It is really a great pity that tonight’s debate is not being broadcast because I believe that the people of Norfolk Island, who use the broadcasts of their local proceedings to inform themselves, would have gained a lot from the speech of the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes). Of course, if there were a change of government, he would be the Minister in charge of Norfolk Island. I think that those people from Norfolk Island who are in the House tonight will report upon that prospect in singularly clear terms.
It was interesting to hear the honourable member for Melbourne claim that the apparent problems facing Norfolk Island and its people at the moment are of the Government’s making. I wish to quote from the February 1978 report of the United Nations Association of Australia which dealt with the controversy that had arisen as a result of the report of Sir John Nimmo ‘s Royal Commission into Matters Relating to Norfolk Island. At page 4 of the report, it is stated:
The current state of conflict had its genesis in the decision of the Whitlam administration in 1975 to give Sir John Nimmo a Royal commission to recommend on the future status of Norfolk Island and its constitutional relationship with Australia and on other associated matters.
Since the Royal Commission’s report was presented in 1976, there has been a considerable amount of alarm from the people of Norfolk Island. One of the great causes for alarm which came through strongly to those of us who showed an interest in the island as a result of that report was that the island was going to become too closely integrated with Australia. That is really what was coming through. There has been some suggestion that the Norfolk Islanders wanted Norfolk Island to become independent of Australia, but I think that it is not misrepresenting the situation to say that that was fairly much a minority view. Yet tonight the Australian Labor Party is attempting to guarantee to the people of Norfolk Island that they will get exactly what they do not want.
– Did you ever ask them?
– Yes, I have been across to the island. I am not sure whether the honourable member has been there.
– You spent all your time with Mclntyre.
-While I was on the island, I did not speak with Councillor Mclntyre. In fact, I did not meet him until he came to Canberra. The First Schedule to the Bill defines the Territory of Norfolk Island as follows:
Norfolk Island and all other islands and rocks lying within the area bounded by the parallels 28 degrees 59 minutes and 29 degrees 9 minutes south latitude and the meridians 1 67 degrees 54 minutes and 168 degrees east longitude.
What does that mean to the people who live there and to the people of Australia? We are talking about a non-self-governing colony of Australia comprising some 1,600 people permanently resident on 3,500 hectares in a delightful location in the southern Pacific, approximately 1,400 kilometres east of the Australian mainland. It is a beautiful island for those people who have gone there, a tranquil island, an island of peace, an island that has not been disturbed by those things that are worrying Australia at the moment. They do not have Transport Workers’ Union strikes there. The people get on with the business of earning a living for themselves and their families. They get on with looking after the 20,000-odd tourists who go there every year. They do not back-bite one another. They do not spend all their time trying to make quick political points. They get on with looking after their own. It is an island of incredible history, and I am very pleased to see that in the amendment the Minister moved tonight the unusual step has been taken of including very long recitals in the Bill.
-Yes, I think that that is probably right. There are three pages of recitals setting out the history, and I will pick out just a few of them. The fourth recital states:
AND WHEREAS on 8 June 1856 persons who had previously inhabited Pitcairn Island settled on Norfolk Island:
That is what it is all about on Norfolk Island. It is an unique area settled by people with a history going right back to the beginning of the white man’s interest in the South Pacific. The people when one meets them have a quite different characteristic in the way that they look at life from that of many of us in Australia. One of the things that had to happen when the Government approached the Nimmo report was that it had to find a fine balance between its responsibilities to Australia and to a colony and its responsibility to people who are not articulate, who are not used to the sorts of things that unfortunately we have to get used to in this place. They are people who in many ways have found such an ideal life that it is very hard for others to get permission to live on Norfolk Island. We even have the spectacle of people wanting to work on Norfolk Island at the wage rates indicated by the honourable member for Melbourne. I am sure that, if any of the people at the Hibiscus Hotel really felt like going home because they were not being paid enough, there would be a queue of ten people waiting to take their jobs. It is not only the industrial conditions that honourable members opposite push down the throats of the people of Australia that make a good society. There is a good society on Norfolk Island, no matter what is said in this place by people who are hung upon doctrinaire matters. The final recitals in themselves are very interesting. They state:
AND WHEREAS Norfolk Island has been governed by the Commonwealth initially under the provisions ofthe Norfolk Island Aci 1913, and subsequently under the provisions ofthe Norfolk Island Act 1 957:
AND WHEREAS the residents of Norfolk Island include descendants ofthe settlers from Pitcairn Island:
AND WHEREAS the Parliament recognises the special relationship of the said descendants with Norfolk Island and their desire to preserve their traditions and culture:
What will happen if the Labor Party’s propositions become the laws on Norfolk Island? How will those connections and traditions and cultures, which are quite different from Australia ‘s be preserved? The Opposition waxes long in this place about what people are doing to our Aboriginals. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) gives very interesting speeches on that subject and is knowledgeable about it. But at the same time members of the Opposition say those things in this House they want to go across to Norfolk Island and impose on the residents what is the equivalent of the white man ‘s rule. I am not suggesting that there is anything racist in that attitude, but I am making an analogy with our Aboriginal problem. The recital goes on:
And whereas the Parliament considers it to be desirable and to be the wish of the people of Norfolk Island that Norfold Island achieve, over a period of time, internal selfgovernment as a Territory under the authority of the Commonwealth and, to that end, to provide, among other things, for the establishment of a representative Legislative Assembly and of other separate political and administrative institutions on Norfolk Island:
The main Bill we are discussing tonight is one of the landmarks of Australian history. The settlement of Norfolk Island goes right back to our very beginning. When the ships of the First Fleet finished at Sydney Cove they went across to Norfolk Island. We are talking about an area of only 3,500 hectares, with a small population, but those people who have gone there just walk on to that island and feel they are walking back into Australia’s history. I am saying that as an Australian. I am sure the people of Pitcairn Island think of it in terms of their history. Perhaps the Polynesian people who went there have other feelings towards it. But for an Australian there is a special feeling, a special relationship with the island and with the old convict settlement on the island. Without wishing to sound paternalistic, I think there is a whole group of reasons why we should deal with this fragile island and its fragile culture in a very special way. To develop politically doctrinaire ideas on Governors-General, Executive Councils, who should call elections and things like that seems to me to be quite insensitive to the work that is being done in Norfolk Island by the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) and by the Council itself.
The Bills that are before the House tonight are the result of an enormous amount of work by bureaucrats in Canberra and on the island, by the current Minister, who is a very sensitive man, by the councillors of the island and by the people of the island who have let their views be known right across Australia. They have had pressure campaigns, they have lobbied and they have had public relations consultants employed at their own cost to try to get the story over. We hear complaints about the amendments that have been foreshadowed tonight. The honourable member for Melbourne bellyached about there being 1 1 7 amendments, but when we look at the actual document we see that a very good proportion of those amendments- I think almost 100 of them- are in effect simply acceding to a request from the Norfolk Island Council that its legislation not be known as an ordinance but as something which it will choose. Therefore we are using a much better word in the Bill- the word enactment’. We cannot really take too much notice of the claims by members of the Opposition that massive last minute changes have been made in this Bill which muddy the water. In fact, the massive changes which have been made emanate from the Opposition itself. The foreshadowed amendments that we received from the Opposition before this debate began have apparently disappeared somewhere and it has a whole new group of amendments which are a mishmash of vague generalisations about what the Opposition wants to do.
Quickly running through the main parts of the legislation, I would like firstly to remind the House that this landmark legislation has been laying on the table of the House since last year to give people an opportunity to discuss it, to give the Minister a chance to go across to the island on a number of occasions and to give the councillors a chance to come over here to thrash out the matter, to explain and to try to come to some compromise. It is a piece of legislation which is fairly much in the form of what we would expect when we are progressing a Territory with a colonial status to a Territory with a self-governing status. It provides that the Australian taxation and social service benefits should not be extended to the island. That is a provision with which of course the Opposition would not agree. The Opposition would bring the island under our taxation umbrella and would extend the social services of Australia to the island. There is a system of social service benefits applying in the island at present. Although there has been some criticism of that system- I think the Government hopes that in some areas it will be beefed up a little- generally, the paternalistic views and customs of the people of the island to look after residents of the island according to their needs have been quite successful.
The legislation does not foreshadow that the people of Norfolk Island be brought into the
Australian political scene. There are to be no immediate steps to include Norfolk Island in an electorate of this Parliament. I must be very honest and say that the Nimmo committee report did suggest that Norfolk Island become part of the electorate of Canberra. It is with some regret that I report that the Minister has not been able to accede to my smiling request that perhaps in some ways that may have been a good idea for me because I could have spent some time going across to this very beautiful island and acquainting myself even further with it. I have said in this House that I think it would be a complete disaster for the island to become part of the Australian political scene and I stand by that statement, as much as I would like personally to represent the island and its people. I think I have a little more feeling for it than has been displayed tonight by members of the Opposition.
Part II of the Bill covers administration and such matters as the establishment of the body politic; Part III deals with the executive council; Part IV deals with the legislation-making processes; Part V sets out the provisions relating to the legislative assembly; and Part VI deals with finances and public accounts. Part VII goes on to provide for a judicial system and Part VIII ensures the continuation of the present law regarding employment and appointment of officers, et cetera. Transitional provisions are set out in Part IX of the Bill. I think we will see this Bill pass this House tonight and history will be made. The island itself has always had a troubled dealing with its colonial masters.if that is the way it should be put. On reading its history, I think that is the way it should be and I hope that that is the way it has been put until now. The island has been dealt with in many ways as a colony, even during this century. It will move into a situation of having a lot of say in its own affairs and feeling that its destiny is now being decided much more at home than in distant Canberra. I should think that on Bounty Day this year there will be a celebration second to none.
-The honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) paints a picture of a non-union island paradise.
– Hear, hear!
– I have no doubt that the honourable member for Swan will go back to his electorate and speak in that way also. What are we talking about? We say that we do not want the island to be too close to Australia. The residents of the island are alarmed at being too closely integrated into Australia. I can understand the people ‘s feelings about not wanting to be involved with governments at this level. It is very difficult for us who are here as part of this institution to get any kind of hearing. I am not surprised that the people of Norfolk Island do not expect to get one either.
Norfolk Island is absolutely dependent upon Australia, not for its finances or anything like that, but because the slightest change in Australian customs laws can destroy the Norfolk Island economy. I recall attending Cabinet meetings at which customs matters were raised and taking care that nothing happened inadvertently to destroy that very fragile economy. If our customs people sneeze they can give Norfolk Island pneumonia. Our customs laws are not the only things that can affect Norfolk Island. If we changed our air fare structure, that could destroy the island’s tourist industry. If we changed some of the rules about where our repatriation and other payments can be received, that could destroy the island’s economy. It would be interesting to have before us the number of residents of Norfolk Island who receive Australian social security benefits, repatriation benefits, and such like. Not many people in a community of 1,600 need to be involved before these matters become important to that community.
What we are discussing is not whether the island is to be more closely integrated into or to become a more remote part of the Australian scene, but how we can preserve the rights of the people of Norfolk Island, the environment of Norfolk Island and the security of Norfolk Island and still retain it as part of the Australian scene with the advantages which that bestows. The honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) talked about the Nimmo report as if it were a particular threat to the people of Norfolk Island. If we look at the front of the Nimmo report on Norfolk Island we will see who appointed that honourable and worthy gentleman to that task, and it would not take us long, if we sat and thought about it, to see why that was so.
For a long while Norfolk Island has been in the Australian scene but not of it. It has been the victim of chance legislation and attitudes but has had very little interest taken in it. My predecessor in the post of Minister for the Capital Territory, the Honourable Kep Enderby, visited the island and demonstrated an interest in it. I think that we have to give him principal credit for beginning the restoration scheme. As I became more familiar with the island- it would be presumptuous or conceited of me to say that I knew much at all about it before 1 became the Minister- I could see that here were the problems of any society in a microcosm. The honourable member for Canberra may talk how he will about suggestions that the world is better off if there are no unions and such like, but the fact is that, whether there are 1,600 people, 160,000 people or 16 million people, the problems of this society are just as complex as those of any other.
Norfolk Island required special consideration. It had been sitting there, remote, idyllic in many respects, and well managed by its own people and its administrators, but- I say this to my friends on Norfolk Island- under constant threat because any chance or inadvertent administrative action by Australia could almost put it out of business. I am just saying to the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) who has been interjecting- I am glad that he is here showing the interest which he normally shows in such a matter; he occasionally learns something from the debates here- that it is very easy for a government such as this to make an inadvertent decision which could ruin the livelihood of countless people. Norfolk Island is therefore fragile economically, socially and environmentally.
Sir John Nimmo was charged with the responsibility of answering those questions and finding solutions to those problems. The insecurity felt by the people on Norfolk Island arose from the implication of the predecessor of the present Minister for the Capital Territory that we would lay the report on the table and say: ‘There it is; you have the lot’. Although this is a document from which could be selected those things which suited the people in power at any time, I do not support the attacks which have been upon the report. I think it is a very good report. The inquiry was carried out by a very devoted Australian public official, and I think it is a very valuable document. At the time, serious thought was given to other ways in which the inquiry could be undertaken. We considered whether it was worth while asking the Commonwealth Grants Commission to do it, whether a parliamentary committee should be asked to do it, or whether it could be done from departmental resources. It was finally decided that the best way would be to appoint a person such as Sir John Nimmo as the Royal Commissioner.
The honourable member for Canberra talked about our party’s politically doctrinaire ideas of government. What does an executive council do if it does not reflect a substantial piece of political doctrine? 1 am sorry to say this to the Minister, but I have a deep feeling that he is not really sympathetic to local ideas for self-government, whether on Norfolk Island, in the Australian
Capital Territory or anywhere else. I do not think that he has gone nearly far enough. The honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) has explained the Opposition’s approach to this matter. We want to see democratic self-government. We have a faith in people. After all, we are here as members of a representative assembly elected by democratic processes. Australia has responsibilities and interests, and its standard quality of life ought to be freely available to all people who are benefited or disadvantaged by the laws and executive authority that stem from this institution. We have created on Norfolk Island an unduly complicated administrative system; but perhaps that can be discussed in the Committee stage. I do not think that we will give ourselves long enough to discuss this matter adequately at this stage. I wish that this debate had taken place some time ago and then been brought into the ring again.
There are enormous questions in relation to Norfolk Island, small as it and its population are. There is the question of government. Australia is not good at local government. Although there are 900-odd local government authorities in Australia, it is a hotchpotch system- much of it undemocratic, much of it under-serviced and much of it with no chance of being viable. We are not good at finding the answers to the questions posed by Norfolk Island. We are very reluctant to allow people to make major decisions for themselves. What is to be Norfolk Island ‘s relationship with the mainland? Norfolk Island is, of course, part of the Australian scence; it is part of Australia. Many of the people who live there enlisted in our armed Services during the war. People came from and went to the island and thousands of Australians visit it each year. We have to realise that it was one of the earliest parts of Australian geography. I think that it was only five or six weeks after the First Fleet arrived here that people were sent over to occupy the island. Therefore, it is part of the Australian scene. But tonight we are not accepting full responsibility for the people there. We accept legal responsibility for the piece of real estate, but we are not accepting responsibility for the people.
Then there is the question of law. It was my regret during my term of office- I guess that the present. Minister for the Capital Territory feels the same way- that the drafting facilities in this country are light on and we are unable to attend to all the legislative needs. Much of the law of Norfolk Island is archaic. It has been inherited from all over the place. We did not have the drafting facilities to make desirable changes to ordinances- changes which, if we had had the machinery available, I am certain the Assembly there would have liked to see.
What ought to be the size of the island ‘s population? We have agreed- I think that the island community has accepted it- that about 2,000 people is probably the maximum supportable population for Norfolk Island. That means, of course, that the island community continually has to make tough decisions. As families grow and the population grows, what should they do about it? If sons and daughters leave the island and settle on the mainland for a while, should the community let them come back? This is the sort of decision the people will have to make. I would not want to have to make that sort of decision. In many respects it is probably more heart-rending than the decisions that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) has to make about families who have settled here, have had children born here, and then, having exceeded their right of residency, are deported. This will be a very difficult decision for a community such as that on the island to make. Then, the question is about the economy, the trade. Any interference with their trade will put them out of business. I would be the last to allow that to happen if I could prevent it. While I am out of sympathy with the Minister’s political views on these matters, I would guess that his views and mine- as well as those of all honourable members, I suspect- would be that we must protect that part of Norfolk Island ‘s interest in the Australian scene.
The same applies for tourism. Of course, it is one of those places where it is necessary to have a fairly restricted view of the tourist trade. What does one do about the airfield? One of the problems we faced was how to establish an air service to Norfolk Island which is useful, economic and speedy. It was an interesting reflection upon the airline construction industry of the world that there was no adequate replacement for the DC4 aeroplane. Nowhere was there a suitable aeroplane. Perhaps aeroplanes are now coming onto the market which can comply with Australian regulations and can fly to Norfolk Island, find the place fog bound- it does not need to be a very big cloud to put it out of sight- and still have enough fuel in reserve to continue to New Caledonia, 400 miles away, or to Auckland, which is 600 miles away. These are continuous problems. They will only be resolved from the Australian end.
Of course, Norfolk Island may well make a decision to become a part of somebody else’s scene. I would not advise it. Little as I think of the capacity of this Government to govern people properly, who would want to live under the New Zealand Government? It is worse. That is about the only compliment I will pay this Government. We have these problems on our hands. What about the question of land? Of course, the first settlers from Pitcairn were granted the land. I looked up the title deeds and saw that they were granted in perpetuity for a peppercorn rent. Then the land started to be cut up. It is a most interesting study to look at the actual land structure- not so much the land forms but the structure of land ownership. There was one piece of land which was 38 feet wide and 1,100 feet long. Trying to rearrange subdivisions of the land was an enormously complicated social question. Norfolk Island has to depend on the mainland for communications in many ways. There are also the matters of social security, education and health.
I want to pay a compliment to the way in which that island has managed its own affairs. There is very little taxation. If honourable members refer to the reports they will find that philately, customs duty and the sale of liquor are the principal income earners. There was a surplus in 1975, and there is still a surplus. The Australian grant was originally, in 1975, $126,000. In the last report it still was. Of course, they are not the only funds expended on Norfolk Island by Australia. There was also the penny post. Do they still have that or has the Government made them change it? So, it was a remarkable administrative system. It maintained its own school, which was probably the only independent school in Australia. It received funds from no external source. What does one do with the children once they have reached, say, fourth form or tenth year? Where do they go; how are they supported? We put up appeals amongst ourselves to see if isolated children’s funds and things such as that should be available.
I think it is unduly mean to consider social security as being available only to people who happen to be inside Australia’s taxation system. I would say to my friends in Norfolk Island that I think they would be better off paying Australian income tax under a zonal allowance. Their incomes are not that great. I think they would have many more benefits out of it than they would have disadvantages. I do not think Australia ought to have a policy that a person is only an Australian if he pays taxes. That is not the way we treat people on the mainland. I think it is a materialistic concept which we ought not suffer. I think the Norfolk Island situation will be always under threat- not external, physical threat but, simply, administrative arrangements around the world could change it substantially. Therefore, I think the questions before the House and the answers put from this side of the House ought to be given long and serious consideration.
I want to see the people of Norfolk Island making the basic decisions for themselves, by themselves. I can see no reason why the general executive authority of the island should not lie substantially with them. I do not agree with the reserve powers that lie here with the GovernorGeneral in Council. I recognise that in any part of Australia, and in regard to anybody who is subject to the Australian law, there has to be something of that order. We will have to think of some new protective devices in that regard. I hope that the future of Norfolk Island is substantially secured as a result of the Parliament’s deliberations here. If a major piece of legislation has been brought into this Parliament and has stirred the interest of the honourable members, at least a few more protective glances will be thrown in its direction. I hope that the people of Norfolk Island will understand that both sides of this Parliament have an attitude to the island that means the preservation of its advantages and- from the point of view of the Opposition, anyhow- incorporation into Australia for the advantages of being Australian. I think it ought to be fundamental to our political system that anybody who is the subject of Australian law has the right to take a part in the election of the law makers.
If the people of the island do not wish to become involved with us substantially in the way in which the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem) seemed to see it- I can understand that being made a victim of the representation of the seat of Canberra could be a matter of concern to some people- then perhaps we could allow them to enrol voluntarily for the Australian system. Of course, they would still have to be a part of some electorate for the purpose of convenience. I do not see any great difficulties about it. I hope that we bring to these deliberations a little more consideration of the realities of the human beings at the other end of it. My two years’ association with the island were happy ones for myself and I appreciated the courtesy and the hospitality of the people on the island. I always received a fillip to my imagination on arriving at the island.
For many years- from 1825 to 1855- its background and history was dreadful in the extreme. No one should be able to step ashore on the island and see the works that have gone on in the past without having a great deal of respect for our forebears. When one looks at some of the buildings that were built and examines the plans of buildings that were there, as well as those which were projected, one should receive inspiration from the aspirations of people who, 12,000 miles from home, under extraordinary difficulties, built forever and built substantially. I think there is a lesson to a lot of us in what the Royal Engineers, the British Army and the rest of them did and set out to do, and in the way in which they went about doing things a century and a half ago. One of the mysteries of life is why, the more substantially established we become, the more affluent we become, the more difficult it is to embark upon such similar public works.
– It is because of unions.
-My friend from Canberra, for heaven’s sake! We could get a parrot to repeat that, but a parrot is an intelligent bird and would not be bothered. The facts are that our problem is not the unions; we have you.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity to join in this cognate debate on the Norfolk Island Bill, the Remuneration Tribunals Amendment Bill and the Norfolk Island- Government Policy- Paper. Although I have been requested to limit my remarks in the interests of saving time so that passage of this Bill may be facilitated, I feel more than an ordinary interest in the Bill for no more impressive reason than that I had the privilege to represent the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) on the inaugural East- West Airlines Ltd flight to Norfolk Island some little while ago. During my two-day stay there, I had the opportunity to appreciate the extraordinary qualities of the island, to enjoy the hospitality of the residents and, furthermore, to measure the intensity of view held on the island. Whilst I say ‘intensity’, I was not unimpressed with the diversity of view, all such views having a proper place in the considerations relating to the measures presently before the House.
I think it is generally accepted that Norfolk Island is quite unique in most respects. The Government has responded to that fact in accepting that these Australian citizens in this Australian Territory should not be treated as all other Australians. It could be said, in simple terms and with the weight of logic, that the Norfolk Islanders are either Australians or they are not Australians. I know that a counter view is expressed that in fact the Norfolk Islanders are Pitcairners. History to a considerable extent supports that contention. But I am not unaware that it was suggested- I believe, from memory, by an administrator of the island at the time- that if the
Norfolk Islanders’ title to Norfolk Island was based on their Pitcairn origin, more logically they should establish their claim on Pitcairn Island. I am sure that nobody would seriously propose that the Norfolk Islanders should adopt such a suggestion. But that does indicate clearly the diversity of opinion as to what strict entitlement actually exists.
I was not unimpressed on approaching Norfolk Island, not without some trepidation. Some half an hour out there is no assurance that the island will be clear for landing and one is not particularly impressed with an aircraft that is operating at its operational extremity, with alternative landing points of Auckland and Noumea. But happily the sun shone on the island, as the tourist brochures insist that it invariably does, and on our approach it was a stark reminder of the inroads of civilisation to find the grand Norfolk Island pines lopped to establish an approach or departure gradient for the aircraft. One is very aware that if the island develops with a tourist potential, as undoubtedly it could do, and there is a need or demand for the introduction of jet services, the inroads environmentally will be even more substantial. I am led to believe that the glorious St Barnabas Church could suffer some damage by the introduction of jet services. But established clearly on one’s first introduction to the island is the fact that the island is so unique in character that any significant intrusion of more sophisticated civilised societies- I mean no offence when using that term- could imperil the delicate nature of the society and the island.
I think that quite often some of the honourable members who speak to this matter in all conscience tend to fall into the trap of forming judgments and making assessments of places removed from the mainland of Australia against an Australian background rather than against the background of the society immediately concerned. Wherever it is, we tend to measure conditions and entitlements against those which exist in this country. In the first instance, such arguments are quite persuasive. But if the introduction of those alleged improvements result in the decay of the society which brings contentment, joy and stability to a community, we must seriously question whether we are working in the best interests of that community. In the legislation which is before us we have a clear indication of the Government’s desire to maintain Norfolk Island in its unique character. Clearly there are matters which must require attention. The tax haven situation is one which looms as a cloud rather than a mantle over Norfolk Island because it remains subject to the possible introduction of legislation to close off the taxation loopholes. I see this not as a threat to Norfolk Island. It is arguable whether the benefits to the Island of this tax haven machinery are as substantial as many people think. I am quite sure that the island from its own resources could offset any loss of revenue which might flow from the registration of companies and the peripheral activities which attach to those operations.
It is argued that social welfare benefits should be available to the islanders. Some discontent is expressed with what is described as the ‘grace and favour’ practices of looking after their own. I simply say that it would be a bold soul who would endeavour to sell that philosophy on the record which we, with our sophisticated society in Australia, have established in those fields. Certainly our motives cannot be questioned. It is quite laudible that we relieve the needy. But we find all too often that the more we set out to relieve the needy the more needy and the more numerous they become. Those people left to carry the burden attaching to that particular philosophy become so massively deterred that they find it is not worth the effort and they give the game away. Paradoxically, there is then nothing with which to relieve the needy. So, on my observation, Norfolk Island appears to have a reasonably balanced community, with its roots in history and a strong desire to remain there.
Why is there consternation among presumably quite a number of people on the island about the legislation which the Government proposes to enact? It must be accepted that in the breasts of all men lurks the desire at least to be independent and, as far as possible, to be master of ones own destiny. Concomitant with that is all the responsibilities which attach to total independence. I suggest that in this Bill we have set the stage for a progression towards self-government for the people of Norfolk Island. With all kindness, I think that perhaps the Norfolk Islanders may have erred in taking a most pessimistic view of what is proposed. Certainly, safeguards are contained in the legislation. There are some impediments to the unimpeded pursuit of the desire and objectives of those Norfolk Islanders who have views different form those of the Government. But that does not mean that this legislation cannot work. This Bill does not represent the final step towards Norfolk Island’s selfgovenment. If, on the enactment of this Bill, flaws are discovered in it, certainly the Australian Government will be amenable to holding further dialogue on the matter to determine whether the aspirations of the Norfolk Islanders cannot more properly be met.
I wonder whether this is not another Norfolk Island characteristic. I refer honourable members to the report of the Royal Commission into Matters Relating to Norfolk Island, headed by Mr Justice Nimmo. In 1866, Norfolk Island was subject to some threat, as it was seen at the time, in respect of the establishment of a Melanesian mission station. In writing to Governor Denison, the Reverend G. H. Nobbs, the island ‘s pastor at the time, said:
I trust yourself and our other influential friends will countenance my opposing so very undersirable an addition to our social circle as a hundred or two of heathens strong with the odour of unmitigated depravity.
I wonder whether some of our Norfolk Islanders regard the Federal Government as equally maladourous. I can assure those honourable members who hold such a view that, on my observation, that is certainly not the spirit of the Federal Government’s approach to the matter. I am quite confident in saying that the Norfolk Islanders will resolve their problems under the benign mantle- I hope I do not sound too condescending- of the Australian Government’s concern for their well being. The legislation ensures that the Assembly will be able to exercise its democratic function in making abundantly clear the wishes of Norfolk Islanders. Certainly that ambition may be denied by provisions within the Bill, but there is no reason to believe that it is the intention of any person involved to thwart the ambitions of the Norfolk Islanders.
If the Australian Government took the line of least resistance and cut that bond which unquestionably binds Norfolk Island with the mainland of Australia, whilst the Norfolk Islanders might experience the heady delight of independence, on the morning after would come the sober realisation that in many respects they had severed themselves from the sort of aid which the Australian Government can make available to them under a more mutually benign arrangement. I am quite sure that this legislation, when it is enacted, will meet very substantially the expectations of the Norfolk Islanders. If the transition seems to be too demanding I would suggest that there is no greater example of transition than that demonstrated by the Norfolk Islanders.
I again refer to the Nimmo report and I put very kindly one dramatic aspect that warrants presentation. It relates to that time when in 1800 Young, the second but last of the original Pitcairners, died and Adams was left as leader of a community of himself, 10 women and 20 children, the products of the preceding years of cohabitation on both Tahiti and Pitcairn Island. Adams, the sole adult male survivor of some 1 1 years of mutiny, piracy, attempted murder, murder, arson, suicide, theft, assault, battery, abduction, and probably carnal knowledge and rape, then became a devout student of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer, each of which had been salvaged from the Bounty. He proceeded to instruct his little community in strict Christian ways and deep abiding loyalty to the British Crown. His pastoral care, which continued for some 28 years, became a singularly influential factor in the subsequent history ofthe Pitcairners. I would strongly suggest that if the Norfolk Islanders, the Pitcairners as they were, demonstrate the capacity to adjust to change as was evidenced in that situation, they will handle this transition with the slightest of discomfort and the maximum of success. I support the Bill.
-The collection of measures being debated tonight raises the important issue of Australia’s attempts to decolonise its remaining external territories. Insofar as that is true, I think these issues are of very great importance and that the principles which we use to guide us in relation to Norfolk Island might need to be extended to our other external territories of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island.
The Opposition is firmly of the view that it is high time Australia took action to remove its colonial or near-colonial presence from Norfolk Island. At a time when the rest of the Pacific is emerging from colonial status it is quite anomalous for Australia still to be supporting what is essentially a colony but still a part of Australia. The Opposition takes the view that there are no half measures. We cannot avoid the question of Norfolk Island being part of Australia; yet at the same time we cannot be seen to be preventing the people who have lived there for so long from continuing to live in the way they have for so long. We are determined to ensure that they are allowed to exercise a real sense of selfgovernment.
So I think there are really two important principles on which the Australian Labor Party’s policy on Norfolk Island is based. Firstly, there is the clear acceptance by the Opposition that the principle of self-government should be firmly established on Norfolk Island. This can be achieved, we maintain, by giving real power to a democratically elected local assembly. We believe that the Government is, to some extent, on the right track in proposing a legislative assembly, but then it goes on to circumvent the powers of that legislative assembly to the extent that it does not really exercise self-government in any real sense. We believe that there is the ability to expand very greatly the areas in which the legislative assembly ought to have complete authority to act without the spectre of the Government’s veto hanging over its head.
The second principle on which we base the policy which we firmly establish is that the island is part of Australia and that we ought to ensure that, insofar as it is possible, the conditions on Norfolk Island are not inferior to the conditions on the Australian mainland. This raises the very vexed question of the extension of welfare provisions to the island and the concomitant extension of taxation laws. It is well known that the residents of Norfolk Island are totally opposed to the extension of these provisions to Norfolk Island, but my view and the view of the Opposition is that there is no real alternative but to take this course. In the first place, we cannot leave the young, the aged and the infirm to chance as they are at the moment. We must ensure for the island a social security and a health system no less adequate than the system that exists on the Australian mainland. In our view, this can be done only if we extend the Australian welfare system to the island. Once the fairly elaborate welfare system which exists in Australia is extended to Norfolk Island, then the unavoidable consequence is that we must also extend to the island the taxation laws which apply on the Australian mainland.
Another consequence is the question of representation of the people of the island in this Parliament. The Opposition is quite unequivocal that we ought to take up in some form or other the recommendation of Mr Justice Nimmo that the islanders ought to be represented in this Parliament. It is a matter of debate, I suppose, as to how this can be done most adequately. The Nimmo report suggests that Norfolk Island ought to be incorporated into the electorate of Canberra. We are not wedded to this view particularly, but we think that some provision ought to be made for the people of that island to be represented in this Parliament in some way. It should not be beyond our wit to work out a way in which their views can be adequately expressed in this Parliament without it disturbing the normal constitutional arrangements which exist in Australia.
I refer to an article by Grundy and Wettenhall which was published on 1 October 1977. They talk at some length on this question of representation in the national Parliament. They tend to dismiss the Nimmo recommendation of incorporating Norfolk Island into the electorate of Canberra on the basis that that would not necessarily secure the islanders any representation at all. They go on to argue some alternative arrangements which might be considered. They even go to the extent of suggesting that a special constituency ought to be established to provide for representation in this Parliament of the Norfolk Islanders. We are not dogmatic about this. This is obviously a matter that has to be thought about very carefully, but one thing which is unavoidable is that there must be some form of representation in this Parliament. It is not enough for us to say that because the people of Norfolk Island themselves do not particularly want to be represented in this Parliament they should not be. I do not think that that is the basis on which we should proceed at all. The question for Australia as a whole is whether we can continue to justify a situation in which people are Australians but do not have a voice in this Parliament. I think this is a matter of international responsibility for Australia and one on which we have got to act very quickly to ensure that the franchise is extended to these people.
I said in the beginning that I think the issues which we are considering here are of importance not only to Norfolk Island but to the other remaining external territories of Australia. The principles to which the Opposition is wedded on the question of Norfolk Island are equally applicable to Christmas Island. I think the situation in the case of Christmas Island is undeniably different. However, it is one which deserves probably even more urgent attention than the situation on Norfolk Island. Again we have a situation on Christmas Island where there are no welfare provisions for residents, except a very unsatisfactory ad hoc arrangement. There are aged and infirm people on Christmas Island whose standard of living would be quite unacceptable on the Australian mainland.
If we look at the wage structure on Christmas Island, the conditions pertaining there, particularly among the Asian work force, would be totally unacceptable on the Australian mainland. All of this has come about because the industrial laws of the Commonwealth as a whole do not extend to these island territories. It seems to me that we ought to ensure that some adequate form of industrial protection and regulation is provided in those external territories. I find it a quite shameful experience to discover, on visiting Christmas Island, which is part of Australia, that we support a situation in which wages paid to Asian employees are well below half the rate which would be paid to people performing the same work on the Australian mainland.
The Parliament is talking about crucial questions tonight. I do not think that the fact we are talking specifically about Norfolk Island obscures the fact that we also have to turn our attention to the other external territories. Therefore I am particularly concerned that the proper principles should underly our approach to Norfolk Island. Quite frankly, I am left with the conclusion that the Government has really tried to have two bob each way in relation to Norfolk Island. It has attempted to go some way to meet the self-government desires of the Norfolk Islanders and yet if falls well short of what I think is possible and, indeed, acceptable. We have not found it difficult, for instance, to extend a fair measure of self-government to the Northern Territory. Why cannot we extend the same sort of arrangements to the Territory of Norfolk Island? Again, we find that the Government baulks at the question of the extension of taxation and welfare provisions to Norfolk Island, still leaving it with a no-man’s land relationship with Australia. I do not think there should be any half measures as far as this matter is concerned.
In terms of our international reputation I think we have to move to a situation in which a real sense of self-government applies on the island. In addition, we have to recognise that Norfolk Island is a part of Australia. We have to provide the appropriate constitutional changes to allow representation in this Parliament of its residents. I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to the amendments which are proposed by the Opposition. Once the question of Norfolk Island has been dealt with, I urge the Government to move as quickly as possible to extend the principles of self-government and representation in this Parliament to the other external territories of Australia.
– I support the Bills now before the House. I am very pleased to note that Mr Bill Blucher, the Chairman of the Council of Norfolk Island, and Councillor Geoff Bennett are at present sitting in the Speaker’s Gallery. We acknowledged their presence in this chamber when they visited Canberra last week to have discussions on the final form of the legislation. It is pleasing that they have been able either to stay over or to return to be present during this debate. Can I also say how pleasing it is to see the Administrator of the island in the Gallery.
This is an important piece of legislation so far as this Parliament is concerned. It is particularly important so far as Norfolk Island is concerned. Over the last 12 to 18 months this Parliament has been involved in some unique constitutional development so far as parts ofthe Commonwealth of Australia that come under the designation of Territory’ are concerned. Last year we debated in this House legislation to give self-government to the Northern Territory and to move the Territory towards eventual statehood. I took part in that debate. I had a number of things to say about the legislation that was then before the House. Whilst I supported the general content of the legislation there were some areas about which I was concerned. I am very pleased to see that a number of matters raised by me and other members of the Government Members’ Federal Affairs Committee during the debate on selfgovernment for the Northern Territory have been taken into account in the drafting of this legislation which proposes to effect a degree of self-government to Norfolk Island.
There has been a lot of discussion here today about the whole question of the extent to which the Commonwealth is moving Norfolk Island to self-government. Perhaps the concern in the minds of some arises from the long history of administration of that island. It is a history which of necessity puts into the minds of those who want to see a greater degree of responsibility placed in the hands of the island people a doubt, a concern and almost a degree of cynicism about the commitments and promises made by governments here in Canberra and by this Parliament. The same doubts were raised when the Northern Territory was being granted self-government. I think it is interesting to note that since gaining self-government the people of the Northern Territory have got on with the job, demonstrated their willingness to take up the challenge of governing themselves, demonstrated a capacity to discharge the responsibility and given this Parliament and the Government here in Canberra the confidence that we should proceed along that road to a more complete degree of self-government. I have had the privilege of listening to some ofthe discussions that have taken place in the Norfolk Island Council and of talking to members of that Council and the people of the island. I am sure that they will rise to the challenge that this Parliament places before them, that they will respond to the opportunities that they have been seeking for so long and that any doubts that they might have now or might have had over recent weeks or months will soon be allayed by the realisation that they truly will have responsibility in a significant range of areas to manage their own affairs. If they discharge their responsibilities, as I am sure they will, effectively, sensitively and in response to the wishes of the people they represent, this Parliament and governments here in Canberra will have no doubt that we should continue the steady progress along the road upon which we are embarking tonight.
The system of self-government to be conferred on Norfolk Island is a unique one. As I mentioned a few moments ago, it is modelled on the manner in which we granted self-government to the Northern Territory. One of the unique things about self-government is the change that comes about in relationships. People who are governed by an administering authority very often have the responsibility of advising or requesting that ordinances be made. But the administering authority has the ultimate power to repeal those ordinances or to refuse to accept recommendations about their introduction or their change.
There are territories of the Commonwealth that have not wanted the power to legislate and I refer in particular to the people of Canberra. For a population in a territory to indicate that they do not want a capacity to legislate is quite a unique event, but the contrary is true in the case of the people of Norfolk Island, as it was true of the people of the Northern Territory. They are part of the Commonwealth of Australia but within that Commonwealth they are to be given legislative capacity. Technically it is possible for the Parliament that confers that legislative capacity at any time in the future to withdraw that power, as it has been possible for the Parliament of Westminster to withdraw the legislative power conferred upon the provinces that became the States of the Commonwealth and as it has been possible for the Parliament of Westminster to withdraw the power conferred upon this Parliament by the Act that established the Australian Constitution. But once a legislating body sets course down a road to confer a degree of selfgovernment upon a people or a territory there is a milestone along that road where the conferring parliament in practical and realistic terms loses the capacity to withdraw the power conferred. I feel sure that as time passes and as the people of Norfolk Island demonstrate their undoubted capacity to manage their affairs, they will have no concern or fear that the powers being conferred by this Bill, and those contemplated to be conferred in the future as this legislation is seen to operate effectively, will ever be withdrawn.
In the first instance, they would have specific authority in certain areas. They will not have as wide an authority in other areas and the Commonwealth will retain power in yet a third area. The situation is not dissimilar to what we have done in the Northern Territory. The practical reality, I feel sure, is that as the people of Norfolk Island demonstrate that they can handle the affairs of their island, they will be given increased authority. As a member of this Parliament I want to assure the people of Norfolk Island of this Parliament’s desire and the Go.rnment’s desire to give them real internal self-government. I believe that this legislation is sensible in the way in which it sets us travelling down that road. I must say that I was somewhat confused by the last speaker from the Opposition because in one breath he wanted to give them more self-government and in the next breath he wanted to retain this Parliament’s control over a wide range of their affairs.
There has been much talk about Norfolk Island being part of the Commonwealth of Australia, and it is and will remain so. Other territories - for example, the Northern Territory- are part of the Commonwealth and other islands are part of the Commonwealth. In all those islands and those territories, and indeed in our major capital cities in the States, there are communities which feel a distinctiveness. I think we need to place on record an indication that this Parliament, in particular the Government and especially the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott), understand the distinctive feeling that the people of Norfolk Island have, especially those who are the descendants of the Pitcairn Islanders. We should indicate that we understand that that distinctive feeling, that uniqueness, that sense of belonging to Norfolk Island, spreads across the whole of the community, even to the more recent arrivals to that island.
At a time when this Parliament is doing so much to enable ethnic communities in the mainland States to recognise their interests, concerns and aspirations and their sense of belonging to their communities, I would hope that the people of Norfolk Island will feel reassured that we understand their feeling of belonging to their island. But just as communities on the mainland and communities of other islands that are part of the Commonwealth feel that sense of belonging to their communities or to their islands, they are at the same time citizens of a commonwealththe Commonwealth of Australia. I hope that the Norfolk Islanders will not feel that in the manner in which this legislation is being introduced there is any denial by this Parliament of that sense of belonging to their island.
I want to touch on a matter that was referred to by the last speaker; and that relates to social security benefits. I am sure that the people of the island want to have the responsibility of determining their own future in as wide a range of matters of internal government as possible, but I believe that we have a responsibility to ensure that the people of the island are entitled to social security benefits as of right. I know that the Minister holds that view. I know that steps are being taken to use the consensus form of legislation, which is so dear to the hearts of the people of the island, to ensure that this comes about, because it is not only the Council that meets; it is the Island that meets. When the proposed new legislative assembly meets I am sure the meetings will be broadcast in a way that is far more intimate than the broadcasts of this Parliament. I hope that the representatives of the people in the new legislative assembly will recognise the concern of this Parliament to ensure that the people are entitled to social security benefits as of right and are not dependent on grace and favour payments.
One of the difficulties which the island people will face is that in addition to the group of Pitcairn Islanders, there are on the island people who have come from New Zealand, Australia and other parts of the world. Many of those people have carried with them portable pension rights from the countries of their origin or from the countries of their longest residence. But there are on the island a group of people who have not accrued those rights in some other country and it is proper that this Parliament and the Government here in Canberra should be concerned about the welfare and the security of those people. In conclusion, I again warmly support this legislation. I believe it is a milestone and that when its significance is realised by the island people they will take up the challenge and find that they have before them a very real responsibility to govern themselves.
Debate (on motion by Mr James) adjourned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to express my concern about the siting of the HIFAR atomic reactor at Lucas Heights. I am extremely concerned about the discharge into the Woronora River of effluent from that reactor. I am equally concerned about the possibility of seepage from the Lucas Heights establishment directly into the Georges River from creeks which run into the Georges River. I point out that the Georges River forms the southern boundary of my electorate of Banks. My residence is approximately 4 miles across country from the Lucas Heights establishment. Approximately 30,000 people in the electorate of Banks live within a 5-mile radius of the Lucas Heights reactor. The Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) has given assurances, as have previous Ministers responsible for minerals and energy, about the safety precautions which are taken in regard to this establishment; but what are those assurances worth, in view of the recent catastrophe in the United States of America?
The present Minister for National Development said today in this Parliament that there should be no public concern about the safety of the Atomic Energy Commission’s research reactor at Lucas Heights in Sydney. He also said that the safety of the Lucas Heights reactor had never been compromised. He went on to state:
Safety receives the highest priority of all the matters that are under consideration by the authorities who run the reactor. … no member of the public should be worried about the operations of the reactor.
Let me assure the public and the Minister that people are worried. People in my electorate are worried and people in adjoining electorates are worried. Why should they not be worried? As I have mentioned previously, within a 5-mile radius of this atomic reactor in the electorate of Banks 30,000 people could be directly affected if we had a catastrophe similar to that which occurred in the United States. In response to a question which was asked in the House, the present Minister for National Development stated at approximately 5 p.m. today:
That is at Lucas Heights. He continued: . . consideration of possible sites . . . will be included in the design cost study.
I would like the Minister for National Development to give me certain assurances. The assurances I seek are these: In regard to the consideration of possible sites to be included in this design cost study, can the Minister assure me and this House that the replacement for the HIFAR reactor will not be sited at Lucas Heights? The dangers of siting it there are immense.
At the time the reactor was built- some 20 years ago- the Lucas Heights area was almost a jungle. Today it is surrounded by Menai on the southern side of the Georges River and by Lugarno, Padstow Heights, Panania, East Hills and Revesby on the northern side, all of which are very populous areas. The people who live in my area are directly concerned, and they have reason for concern. I ask the Minister to come into this House tonight and to give honourable members an assurance that when the Government sites the new atomic reactor- it has announced that there will be a new one- it will site it in some area in the wastelands of Australia and not within the densely populated regions of the Sydney metropolitan area. Also, what will happen to the old reactor? How will it be disposed of? People are concerned, and rightly so. I ask the Minister to allay the concern, if he can.
-Over the past few years much has been said about the liquid fuel and energy shortage that besets the world. It is very evident to all responsible citizens that early action should be taken by this Government and other governments in Australia, as well as by responsible organisations, to ensure that petroleum fuels are conserved. It is true that Australia produces 70 per cent of its petroleum needs and that we import 30 per cent of our needs from the Persian Gulf countries, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. We face the years ahead with great concern for the liquid fuel situation, unless more oilfields are discovered in Australia. It is pleasing to note that since the present Government came to office oil exploration has been speeded up. However, we are a fortunate country in that we have great known quantities of fossil fuels. Indeed, millions of tonnes of high quality coal exist in the Bowen Basin in Queensland and in the area from Maitland, Singleton, and Muswellbrook, through the Hunter Valley, and over the range to Curlewis, Gunnedah, Boggabri and Moree. We should be making more use of this great asset and our attention must be focused in this direction.
Firstly, let us look at the millions of tonnes of distillate that is being used by farmers throughout Australia in the irrigation of their crops and pastures. Certainly, many farmers have electricity to drive their pumps at present; but thousands of others are using diesel engines and consequently consuming valuable distillate fuel. A huge saving in liquid fuel could be made in this area. Programs and conversion works have to be carried out for those farmers transferring to electricity. Possibly they should be helped financially to do so. The savings in this field would be very great indeed.
I turn now to our railways. Why could we not bring back steam trains for the haulage of goods from our great country areas, from our mines and from places of industry to the city and to the seaboard? Millions of tonnes of liquid fuel would be saved by the use of coal. Even restoring the use of coal to run goods trains only would represent a worthwhile saving. Indeed, when I visited China recently on an Australian parliamentary delegation, although China has plenty of petroleum fuels I witnessed the use of diesel trains in its cities, but in the country areas all of its goods were being hauled by splendid steam locomotives. I thought then that that was a lesson for us in Australia. Have all of our steam locomotives been sold for scrap? This is an interesting question. Huge goods trains carrying coal, steel, iron ore and other heavy commodities can be hauled by steam engines, with the saving of considerable fuel.
Certainly a start has been made by changing fleets of motor vehicles over to the use of natural and petroleum gas. No doubt this program will be stepped up in the near future. Service stations and bulk storage depots will have to be created throughout the country to service these vehicles. Indeed, we should also be speeding up the introduction of electric driven vehicles. I understand that quite a few buses are now being operated by the use of batteries. This conservation program should be commenced as soon as possible in order to preserve the liquid fuels in this country.
-The Council of the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in South Australia recently announced that, due to insufficient funds being made available by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, it is no longer able to provide legal aid to all Aborigines for all matters requiring legal assistance. The Council of the Movement considers that, at its present level of funding, it is inevitable that legal aid for Aborigines will become inferior by comparison with legal aid provided to non-Aborigines. The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement was founded in 1970 in response to a situation in which a majority of Aborigines appearing before the courts had no legal representation at all. This applied especially to those on minor charges. Unable to defend themselves they were gaoled in a disproportionately high number of instances. The Movement first applied to the Federal Government in 1972 for financial assistance to provide legal assistance to Aborigines and received a grant of $22,000.
When the Australian Labor Party came to power in December 1972, it further funded Aboriginal legal services throughout Australia on an expanded basis such that the Aboriginal legal services could provide legal assistance to all Aborigines in all matters where assistance was required. For the period from 1973 to 1978, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement in common with Aboriginal Legal Aid services throughout Australia provided free legal assistance to all Aboriginal applicants. During this period, thousands of Aboriginal people who had never had the facilities of a lawyer before were provided with legal assistance. The main reason why Aboriginal people in the past have not had legal representation is one of cost. For that reason, the assistance provided by the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has been free.
The need for free legal assistance has not changed. In a survey of the cases handled for Aboriginal clients in the first 1 8 months of operation of the movement’s Port Augusta office, which is around the corner from my office, 97.5 per cent of Aboriginal applicants for legal aid were unable to afford to pay for their lawyers. From 1973 onwards, more Aboriginal people began to know about the Movement and to utilise it. In addition the Movement expanded to offer similar services in country areas. This resulted in a surprisingly, steadily increasing demand which necessitated a proportional increase in the staff. In 1973 the Movement started with a full time staff of three and handled 415 cases. In the ensuing years it handled the following number of cases: 1974-75, 1,480 cases; 1975-76, 1,940 cases; 1976-77, 3,204 cases; and, in 1977-78, 2,500 cases.
The Aboriginal Legal Rights movement now has a staff of 24 with offices at Adelaide, Port Augusta, Murray Bridge and Ceduna, all in South Australia. However, by comparison with the rapid increase in the number of cases for which the Movement has provided legal assistance over the last five years and the necessary increase in staff to provide such assistance, the level of funding from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has not increased appreciably since 1976- 77 as is shown by the following figures: 1975-76, $367,500; 1976-77, $410,000; 1977- 78, $410,000 and in 1978-79, $412,750. So, there has been no appreciable increase over the past three years. As a result of inflation and increased legal costs, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has been effectively granted less money since 1976-77. In the last two years, the Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has been struggling hard to handle an increasing number of cases on a decreasing budget. Regular pleas have been made to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to provide additional finance but none has been forthcoming. The Executive Secretary of the Movement in South Australia, Mrs Ruby Hammond, has stated that the Movement now has no choice but to make judgments on which matters it can and cannot provide legal aid assistance. For the first time since 1972, the Movement is unable to assist all Aboriginal applicants. Mrs Hammond further said that the Council of the Movement will be considering in the near future establishing priorities for the provision of legal aid. However, any setting of priorities will mean that someone has to miss out on legal aid, which is a matter of great concern. She said:
We are extremely concerned about the serious cases which require the services of specialised or very experienced lawyers. We are just no longer able to pay for those cases for our clients.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I speak tonight about a subject that has been fairly widely reported but has not yet been discussed in this chamber. I refer to the tragedy which occurred off the Malaysian coast last Saturday. I refer to a newspaper article on this subject which states:
A total of 104 Vietnamese refugees drowned when their boat capsized as a Malaysian patrol boat towed it out to sea.
Refugee officials said the topheavy boat was crammed with 227 people.
The refugees had just completed a nightmare voyage from Vietnam during which 10 died of thirst.
A senior official was quoted as saying:
This is scandalous and the whole world should know what is happening.
Sadly, this is not the first tragedy of this kind. I wish to know just what exactly has gone wrong with modern day values. Why is it that this kind of thing can happen today? In this chamber, we talk of saving whales, forests and buildings, but we hear very little about the possibility of saving refugees.
Who are these refugees? They are almost treated as non-persons. I wish to know why it is that the world is turning its back on them. It seems to me that notwithstanding our own commendable record in this area, these people are being treated like expendable livestock. It has been said that up to 50,000 refugees have drowned, starved or died of thirst at sea. They live in a state of utter deprivation on board these boats. They are refused permission to land. They are towed out to sea. They are shoved from country to country and left to the mercy of nature. They are allowed to become political issues and are treated as such without regard to more humane considerations.
People seem to forget that refugees are people. Politicians, regrettably in some of the parliaments of this country, have advocated that Australia should also treat them harshly, tow them out to sea and let them become someone else’s responsibility. Thank heavens the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) has adopted a more responsible and humane position. Public reaction in Australia also has been hostile. I have often had it put to me that we should tow them out to sea because their bona fides are suspect, or for even more sinister and despicable reasons. When I ask these people whether they would prefer refugees to be drowned, shot or starved, they have no answer. When I ask them what they would do if they had to act as Minister for a day when this eventuality arose, they still have no answer. But still the callous debate goes on in this country and overseas.
I do not suggest that the Malaysian authorities set out to allow this tragedy to occur. What I do say is that this tragedy highlights the enormity of the human tragedy surrounding the refugee problem. It also highlights the fact that irresponsible and callous public opinion can lead to reckless and inhumane official action. I hope that we in Australia will think about what has happened because we may have to face this situation in the future. Certainly, we in Australia wish that this problem had not occurred. We wish that we did not have to respond to it. I bet that the refugees wish they did not have this problem. But there is a problem. In the past we have responded responsibly and we must continue to do so. We have recognised that the only way to take responsible action is to try to take action at the source, not at the destination. But sometimes this is not possible.
– We helped to create it.
– On a per capita basis we have a better record on refugee intake than any other country. In answer to the honourable member for Hunter, I for one am proud of that. We have recognised that, when boat people arrive, the options open to this country are limited. Although we would prefer the controlled refugee intake which is now occurring, we must be prepared also for the eventuality of the uncontrolled situation. Thankfully it may not occur because, for the first time in months, it appears that the refugee flow is slowing down. In a number of South East Asian countries, refugees are being resettled faster than new arrivals are replacing them. But if this uncontrolled situation does occur again, I hope that the recent tragedy in Malaysia will help Australians to understand that the refugee problem is a human problem of massive dimensions. I hope that it will help parliamentarians here to understand that, although this may be a sensitive political issue for them, it does require a bipartisan, non-political, humanitarian approach. I hope that the Australian public will understand that the Australian population itself has a substantial refugee composition from Europe. I speak of the Hungarians, the Poles and the Czechs. What is so different about the present refugees that allows them to be treated differently. I shudder to think!
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Tonight I walked into the Library of this Parliament and quite frankly I was shocked to see a publication entitled Australian Parks and Recreation. On the front page there was a photograph of the honourable member for Canberra (Mr Haslem).
-Before the honourable member proceeds, I hope that it is not his intention to reflect on a member of this House.
– I would never reflect on the honourable member, I can assure you of that, Mr Deputy Speaker. On the front page the honourable member for Canberra is shown squatting in a pair of shorts, a shirt and long socks. Opposite him is a very attractive young lady, with nothing on, nothing whatsoever.
– I take a point of order. The honourable member is misleading the House. I have seen the photograph, and the young lady is wearing a smile.
-Order! The honourable member for Hunter will resume his seat.
– Right across the centre, the headline states:
What did the MHR say to the nudist?
When one looks at the other page, it refers to the front cover. This is not a centrefold such as there is in Cleo, this is the front page. It states:
Front Cover Due to the current popularity of nude sun bathing, considerable pressure -
Pressure, Mr Deputy Speaker- is being placed on the resources of Canberra’s free beach. MHR John Haslem recently talked to nudists about the possible solutions to some of the problems they faced in using the area.
– Does he have some problems?
– I think he is doing all right. When one sees a publication of this type in the library which reflects on the integrity of an honourable member, I really think the Parliament should do something about it. If one looks at the publication very carefully, there is almost a joining together -
-Order! Before the honourable member proceeds, I draw his attention to the fact that he assured me that he was not going to reflect on a member of this House. The publication and its fitness to be in the Library is stated to be a reflection on the integrity of a member of this House. It seems to me that by inference the honourable member is making such a reflection.
– No, Mr Deputy Speaker, I can assure you that I am not reflecting on the honourable member; on the contrary. Some people sometimes think that he is a bit of a prude, a wowser; at other times they think that he is a bit of a libber. I think a publication of this nature reflects on a member of the House and should be laid on the table.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I ask the honourable member for Chifley whether he notified the honourable member for Canberra that he was going to make this speech. As I understand the relationship between members of this House, if one is going to make comments of this description, whether they are meant to be in jest or otherwise, one advises the member concerned. One would be very concerned if these matters were not said in jest, but if they are said in jest, then the honourable member for Canberra ought to be here to listen in case he wants to defend himself.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I can assure you that the honourable member for Canberra is aware that I have this publication. I can assure you that I am not in jest. On the contrary, I think that the honourable member should be protected. A publication such as this should not appear in the Library of the Parliament.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This morning at dawn at Rawalpindi Zulfikar Ali Bhutto died. I believe it is appropriate that in this House on this day some comment be made about that matter. Might I say that this afternoon I walked across King’s Hall and entered the Senate gallery and heard one of the finest bipartisan debates that I have ever heard in this Parliament. Six members of the Senate, three from each side, spoke with some feeling on the matter, and all credit to them. The sentiments conveyed by Senator Wriedt, Senator Missen, Senator Wheeldon, Senator Sim, Senator Sibraa and Senator Puplick were a credit to them and to the Parliament. One of those senators, Senator Sim, had actually met Prime Minister Bhutto, but all of them expressed the view that I wish to express tonight in this chamber. His execution is a tragedy for the Western world, a tragedy for parliamentary democracy wherever it exists and a tragedy for Pakistan.
I believe that the sentiments I express will be supported on both sides of this chamber and I hope that tomorrow in this House a formal motion of condolence will be moved with respect to the death of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. His career perhaps was more distinguished than most Australians realise. With the consent of my colleague and friend, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard two short biographical treatises on the late Mr Bhutto, one from Who’s Who and one from International Who’s Who.
The documents read as follows-
WHO’S WHO 1978
Bhutto, Zulfikar Ali, HPK 1964; politician and lawyer, Pakistan; Prime Minister of Pakistan, 1973-77 (President of Pakistan, Dec. 1971-73); Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, 1971-77; Founder and Chairman, Pakistan People’s Party, since 1967; b Larkana, S Jan. 1928; s of late Sir Shahnawaz (Can Bhutto; m; two s two d. Educ: Univ. of California, Berkeley (grad. Hons Pol. Sci.); Christ Church, Oxford (MA with dist. Jurisprudence). Called to Bar, Lincoln’s Inn, 19S3. Lear in Internat. Law, Univ. of Southampton, 1952; Legal Practice, West Pakistan High Court, Karachi, 1953-58; taught Constitutional Law, Sind Muslim Law Coll., Karachi, 1956-58. Elected Mem., Nat. Assembly of Pakistan for Larkana, 1962; Minister for Commerce, Pakistan, 1958-60; of Minority Affairs and Nat. Reconstruction and Information, 1960-62, also of Fuel, Power and Nat. Resources and of Kashmir Affairs, April 1960-62; and of Industries and Natural Resources, 1962-63; for Foreign Affairs and Atomic Energy, 1963-66; resigned from Govt, June 1966, returned to legal profession; imprisoned, Sept. 1968; released Feb. 1969; elected Mem., Nat. Assembly, Dec. 1970; Dep. Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Dec. 1971; Chief Martial Law Administrator, Dec. 197 l-April 1972. Sec-Gen., Pakistan Muslim League, 1964. Mem. Pakistan Delegn to Gen. Assembly, UN, 1957; Leader of various Delegns and Special Missions, including UN Conf. on Law of the Sea, Geneva, 1958, and UN General Assembly, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1965 and 1966. Hon. LLD Sind Univ., 1966. Hilal-i-Pakistan, 1964; holds foreign orders. Publications: The Myth of Independence, 1968; The Great Tragedy, 1971. Recreations: studies and big game. Address: Al-Murtaza, Larkana, Pakistan.
INTERNATIONAL WHO’S WHO
Bhutto, Zulfiqar Ali; Pakistani lawyer and politician b. 5 Jan. 1 928, Larkana; s. of the late Sir Shahnawaz Khan Bhutto; ed. Univ. of California (Berkeley), Christ Church, Oxford, and Lincoln’s Inn, London. Lecturer in Int. Law. Univ. of Southampton 52-53; Teacher of Constitutional Law, Sind
Muslim Law Coll., and private legal practice53-58; Minister for Commerce 58-60, of Minority Affairs, Nat. Reconstruction and Information Jan. 60-62, of Fuel, Power and Natural Resources, and Kashmir Affairs April 60-62, of Industries and Natural Resources 62-65, of Foreign Affairs 63-66; formed Pakistan People’s Party Dec. 67, elected leader 70; led popular movement against Pres. Ayub Khan 68; arrested Nov. 68, released Feb. 69; Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Dec. 71; Pres. of Pakistan 71-73, Minister of Foreign Affairs 71-77, of Defence 71-77, of Atomic Energy 72-77; Prime Minister 73-77, deposed in coup and imprisoned July 77, released July 77, detained again; Sentenced to death on murder charge March 78; Chair. Islamic Summit Conf., Lahore 74; mem. and leader Pakistan Dels to UN Gen. Assembly; several decorations. Pubis. The Myth of Independence 69, The Great Tragedy 71, The Third World: New Directions, c/o Military Council, Islamabad, Pakistan.
– I thank the honourable member for Corio and I thank the House. May I just say that something Senator Wheeldon said this afternoon impressed me immensely. In the opinion of Professor H. R. Trevor-Roper, of Oxford University, the late Mr Bhutto was one of the most distinguished students ever to pass through that university. He was at Christchurch, of course, and he went to Berkeley in California. He was called to the bar, was a member of Lincoln’s Inn and lectured in international law at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom before returning to Pakistan. What Senator Wheeldon said and what I want this House to hear is that when Mr Bhutto became Prime Minister of Pakistan the first official guest he invited to his country was his old professor, Professor Trevor-Roper. I know that my colleague opposite, the honourable member for Lalor who follows these matters, will recognise the validity of what Senator Wheeldon said. The first guest invited to Pakistan after Mr Bhutto became Prime Minister was a scholar.
From this distance it is impossible to make an accurate assessment of what has occurred. Some of the facts are indisputable. An elected Prime Minister was deposed by a military coup. He was imprisoned in July 1977, temporarily released and then re-imprisoned and held in custody for 20 months. He was convicted on what in Australian law would be a charge of aiding and abetting the commission of a crime, a very difficult charge to pin home on any occasion. When he went to the highest court in Pakistan, the situation was that of a bench of seven, which originally was nine, three judges were for acquittal, three were for conviction, and the casting vote of the Chief Justice went for conviction. One cannot ignore the real possibility in this case that today the world has witnessed a political, judicial murder. That is a matter of shame to people around the world who believe in parliamentary democracy.
-Order! It being 11 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
The following notices were given:
Mr Sinclair to present a Bill for an Act to make provision with Respect to the Redeployment and Retirement of Commonwealth Employees, and for related purposes.
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounty on the production of certain paper.
Mr Fife to present a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounty on the production of certain prime movers of rotary cultivators, hoes and tillers.
Mr Ellicott to move:
1 ) That, in accordance with the provisions of section 8 of the Parliament House Construction Authority Act 1979, the House of Representatives (a) declares the conducting of a Design Competition to be a declared stage in the design of Parliament House and (b) authorises commencement of work on that stage.
That a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of the resolution agreed to by the House of Representatives.
Mr Groom to move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
Royal Australian Navy Research laboratories (RANRL)-relocation to Pyrmont, NSW.
Mr Hurford to move:
That this House-
welcomesthe establishment of the Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System on 18 January 1979, and notes that it follows the initiative in this matter by the honourable member for Adelaide in the original notice for General Business Thursday No. 8 submitted by him to this House on 2 1 February 1978 and
is of the opinion (i) that the membership of the Committee is too closely involved with the Capital market to provide a completely detached analysis of its imperfections and (ii) that the terms of reference of the Committee (A) are couched in a way to justify claims of political overtones and (B) give insufficient attention to the social welfare implications of the financial system, particularly its impact on the housing market. (Amended Notice- Notice first given 2 1 February 1978)
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 23 August 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Certain Aboriginal Communities on Cape York Peninsula and Torres Strait Islands settlements are among remote areas to which it has not yet been practicable to extend the national telecommunications system.
At present, the network terminates at Thursday Island and messages sent from or to Aboriginal and Islander Communities in the area are passed on via the licensed radio telephone network operated by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement for its own business. The radio network licenses do not make it obligatory for the licensee to handle private messages and the manner in which third party messages are retransmitted is at the discretion of the licensee.
The Government has decided to extend the national telecommunications network to 1 3 of the Torres Strait Islands. It is expected that the extension of the network will be completed by about mid- 1 979.
Television: Channel 5A (Question No. 1913)
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 12 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 )I am aware of the problems that may arise from the use of the Channel 5A television frequency and that its use does not accord with international practice. However, its more extensive use in Australia in recent years has been due to the increasing demand for television services and the allocation of certain VHF frequencies for FM broadcasting.
The withdrawal of Channel 5A usage from the Australian television service, particularly if it is to be replaced by a UHF channel, must be planned on a very long time scale if Australian television viewers are to be protected from unnecessary cost penalties. However, VHF channels are now almost fully exploited, particularly in the major capital cities, and plans for further television development must inevitably turn to the UHF band to a greater extent.
The Ethnic Television Service to which the Government is committed will utilise the UHF band. There are also plans at an advanced stage for the introduction of translator stations in Sydney and Adelaide in the UHF band.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 14 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In response to the request for information regarding waiting time for patients with operable conditions, a survey has been undertaken of current lists. However, due to the nature of the system used, a survey as at each of the dates mentioned, is not possible. It should be pointed out that patients’ admission to public hospitals for any reason (including “operable conditions”), depends solely on the medical need of the patient, and is not affected in any way by the patient’s financial state or his request to be a “hospital” or a “private” patient.
There is no waiting time for any patient (including those with “operable conditions”) using the criteria of medical need as a yardstick- i.e. all patients who require admission within a limited period of time, based on medical criteria, are admitted within that time.
In most disciplines the hospitals keep a list of patients whose medical condition is not such as to warrant immediate admission or whose admission is planned for medical reasons for some months ahead.
At the Royal Melbourne Hospital, data for these patients is as follows:
As at 30 November 1978, the Alfred Hospital had 1320 patients on the waiting list. Of these, approximately 430 were excluded from the survey for one of the following reasons:
The vast majority of the remaining patients in the Alfred Hospital’s survey, after the above exclusions, were those waiting for specialist surgical admission. The average waiting time for these patients was 193 days. Results for other areas are as follows:
However, it should be borne in mind that no patient requiring medical treatment is denied a hospital bed, and the condition of patients is monitored through the outpatient clinics and by a constant review of the waiting list. In addition, many of the patients on the list have admission deferred on medical grounds, but still remain on the list. For example, on presenting for admission, the patient may be found to be suffering from a cold, or may be too overweight, or be otherwise unfit to undergo a particular operation at that time. These factors tend to lead to overstatement of actual waiting time in the survey undertaken.
As at 30 November 1978, the Prince Henry’s Hospital shows the following data:
Please note that “current” means within the last month (since early November 1 978).
Information from the St Vincent’s Hospital is not available as the Hospital considers that these questions are not answerable in their present form. Waiting time varies between specialties and depends in all cases on the urgency of the patient’s condition. The question relating to “private” patients is irrelevant because patients are admitted solely on medical grounds. ‘
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
With reference to Stage 2 of the points of understanding between the Commonwealth and State Governments regarding personal income tax sharing, as referred to in paragraph 29 of the Budget Paper Payments to or for the Stales, the Northern Territory and Local Government Authorities 1978-79, what was or will be (a) the estimated per capita yield from a 1 per cent surcharge for each of the States, (b) the estimated equalisation payment for an additional dollar of tax raised by a surcharge for each of the less populous States and (c) the estimated average revenue payment to each State for each $1 revenue raised in that State by the Commonwealth for the years (i) 1976-77, (ii) 1977-78 and (iii) 1978-79.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The per capita estimates are based on the estimated yields in each State for the years 1976-77 to 1978-79 of a hypothetical increase of one per cent in personal income tax, or the cost in each State of a one per cent rebate on personal income tax. (Under the Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Act 1978 each State is able to increase its share of income tax revenues by increasing the personal income tax paid by residents or to give residents of the State an income tax rebate at a cost to the State.)
The estimates of a one per cent increase/decrease in personal income tax may be read directly from Table 2 (that is, by taking one per cent of estimates in columns (2), (5) and (8)). These estimates were derived by dissecting personal income tax collections (excluding receipts from the health insurance levy) in 1 976-77 and 1 977-78 and estimated collections for 1978-79 by State on the basis of taxpayers’ residential post codes relating to preliminary income tax statistics for the 1 976-77 income year.
As collections include tax paid in respect of the current and previous years, the State of residence dissection for the 1976-77 income year may not reflect accurately the residential dissection of collections in that year. The 1976-77 dissection was also applied to 1977-78 and 1978-79 (estimated) collections in the absence of more recent data.
The estimated yields calculated in this way may not necessarily be an accurate representation of what would have been assessed as State tax. This is because, apart from the qualifications above, the basic statistics available to the Commissioner of Taxation as to the State of residence of each taxpayer that have been used in making the estimates are not classified in terms of the definition of State ‘residence’ contained in the Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Act 1978.
The State by State pattern of estimated Stage 1 tax sharing payments for each $ 1 of income tax collections reflects the equalisation assistance built into the tax sharing payments to compensate the less populous States for the higher cost of providing government services and the lower tax bases in those States.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 27 September 1978:
When will the Parliament receive an answer to Question No. 2074 appearing on the Notice Paper in my name in relation to a question which was first put on the Notice Paper on15 August 1978.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the answer provided by me to his Question No. 2074 (House of Representatives Hansard, 20 February 1979, page 86).
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 10 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
However, the honourable member will be aware from my letters to him of 26 January 1979 and 22 February 1979 that not all programs which have been announced propose the extension of services by conventional means.
In fact, an international communications satellite is to be utilised as part of the Government’s existing program to bring television services to remote communities in Australia. The use of INTELSAT IV will enable viewers in remote areas to receive simultaneously the national (ABC) television programs being shown in capital cities.
Briefly, the program provides for 56 stations to be established in 1979-80 and 1980-81 at a capital and operating cost of $8. 8m. A further 20 stations which will be the subject of a separate funding approval during 1980 are envisaged for 1 98 1 -82. Of the 56 stations scheduled for the first two years, there will be 41 earth stations receiving programs transmitted to the satellite via the OTC earth stations at Carnarvon and Moree.
In the honourable member’s own electorate, earth stations are scheduled for construction at Andamooka, Coober Pedy and Maree. Quorn and Hawker are also included in the program but will probably be served by conventional means.
The Eyre Peninsula is not part of the remote areas program but has been included in the on-going three-year capital works program. I have provided the honourable member with details of projects planned for the Eyre Peninsula separately.
However, programing via Intelsat as part of the remote areas television program should be progressively introduced from mid- 1980.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 8 November 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
On two occasions since the opening of the Clayton South Mail Centre in October 1978, a high volume of mail has resulted in some mail being returned to the Central Mail Exchange (CME) for processing. The first occasion was immediately after the opening of the Mail Centre. The second was in December 1978, when a power failure at the Mail Centre coincided with high mail volumes and mail was returned to the CME in an endeavour to meet service standards.
The following statistics show the delivery service performance in Victoria in the three months prior to establishment of the first regional mail centre in 1975, compared with three months in 1978:
(a) Capital and building costs associated with the decentralised network have been lower than those which would have been incurred had centralised operation continued.
A firm cost of the refit of the building is not yet known as this cost depends upon the final decisions as to the use to be made of the building.
Australian Broadcasting Commission (Question No. 2473)
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, on notice, on 1 1 October 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1)(i)No.
I have stated publicly that the Government does not believe that the election of members of staff to commissions is the most appropriate way, either to ensure an effective Commission or further the relationship between staff and management.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 21 February 1979:
In view of his earlier replies regarding the provision of 16 kilometres of free telephone line to subscribers to be connected to rural manual exchanges, in which he stated that Telecom had been requested to prepare a report on the implications of such a move, can he now state what arrangements have been decided between himself and Telecom.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Telecom Australia has now submitted a report to the Government on its rural line upgrading policy and some aspects of the free line entitlement for subscribers connected to rural manual exchanges. That report is presently being considered by the Government and an announcement will be made at an appropriate time.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
Were the safety and development tests carried out with radioactive materials at Maralinga, to which he referred in his answer to question No. 2828 (Hansard, 22 February 1 979, page 337), performed for civilian or military purposes.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I am advised that the tests were carried out for defence purposes.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
With reference to his reply to my question No. 2805 (Hansard, 20 February 1979, page 1 14), is it a fact that pensioners contributing to the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia, as a result of the 1 November 1978 health insurance changes, are now required to pay approximately $5 more (at the medical benefits fund monthly family rate) for 100 per cent cover for the scheduled fee plus extra cover.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
It is true that pensioners who contributed at the family scale to the ‘Extracover’ Table operated by the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited prior to I November 1978 are required to pay $5.63 per month more under Table ‘PZ’ operated since 1 November 1978.
However, this increase was connected in no way with the changes to the health insurance arrangements brought about by the Government, effective from 1 November 1 978.
As I explained in the answer to question No. 2805 the basic reason for the increase in contribution rates was to correct the adverse operating experience recorded by the organisation on the previous contribution/benefit structure under ‘Extracover’.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 April 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790404_reps_31_hor113/>.