31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– I am sure that all honourable members of this House are saddened to hear of the death of Sir Charles Adermann. He had been a colleague and friend of many honourable members and former honourable members from both sides of the House and was the father of our colleague Evan Adermann, the honourable member for Fisher and Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I move:
Sir Charles Adermann was born on 3 August 1896 at Vernon Siding in Queensland. At the young age of 28 he entered the service of his State as Chairman of the Queensland Peanut Marketing Board, a position he retired from in 1952. He served as Chairman of the Kingaroy Shire Council from 1939 to 1946. He was a man well known in his district and in his industry.
In the national Parliament, Sir Charles Adermann served with great distinction. He was elected to this House at 1 1 elections. In 1955 he was elected unopposed. He was Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party from 1964 to 1966. In 1950, he became Chairman of Committees of this House, holding the position until 1958. He served this House as Deputy Speaker on three occasions in that period.
In 1958 Sir Charles was appointed Minister for Primary Industry. Again he served the Parliament with the distinction he had brought to the position of Chairman of Committees. Over the nine years he held that portfolio, Sir Charles placed a distinctive stamp on Australian agriculture. He was liked and respected by all those with whom he came in contact. I had the honour to be Acting Minister for Primary Industry on two occasions when Sir Charles was overseas. I had first-hand experience of the command Sir Charles had of his portfolio.
Sir Charles was first and foremost a parliamentarian. His work as Chairman of Committees testifies to this. He also appreciated the need for contact with other parliaments. He attended three conferences of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. In 1965 he was delegation leader. Sir Charles’s efforts for the Government and the people of Australia were also recognised in 1 966 when he was appointed a member of Her Majesty’s Privy Council. In 1 970 Sir Charles was appointed a Knight Commander of the British Empire.
Charlie Adermann was a deceptively gentle man. He was a man of enormous courage and strength. He was a man of great tenacity. If he believed what he was doing was right he stuck to his guns. I recall the battles he fought 15 years ago to win support for an improved wool marketing scheme. He fought for the scheme repeatedly in Cabinet and elsewhere, and no matter how often he was defeated he kept fighting. There is no doubt that Sir Charles was ahead of his time in this matter, as in others. I think there is little doubt that if he had won the support of the industry at that time for changes in the wool marketing scheme, wool growers would have avoided much of the agony they suffered in later years, before we were able to get a wool marketing scheme on a sound basis, as it is today.
The words ‘reconstruction’ and ‘adjustment’ are commonly heard today in relation to the rural industries. In the minds of many people my name is associated with those words and the policies they represent, as is the name of my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). But what is often forgotten is that it was Charles Adermann who, shortly before he retired from the Ministry, pioneered these approaches. They were made to the dairy industry in the beginning; but, of course, they now apply virtually to all rural industries. Today the principles which he had begun to expound are widely applied and accepted as extremely significant and effective for our rural industries.
One of the most important things Sir Charles Adermann did was to enlarge the Commonwealth extension services grants- something which had a real impact on the development of agricultural techniques in this country. He was heavily involved in the tobacco and wheat industry stabilisation schemes, which gave a great degree of stability and certainty to those industries. As the Chairman of the Australian Agricultural Council, Charles Adermann was highly respected by Ministers of all political persuasions, and he conducted the business of the Council very effectively. I know that he was held in the highest regard and affection by the officers of his Department- officers who later served with me and whose respect for him was very evident.
All of us who were in the party with him remember him with a great deal of affection. When I became a member of this Parliament in 1957, Charlie Adermann was one of several ‘father figures’ of the party, who included Artie Fadden, John McEwen, Walter Cooper and Hugh Roberton- all of whom were Ministers. No doubt it was a good thing that, at a time when a bunch of brash young fellows was coming into the ranks of the party in this Parliament, we had the tremendous strength, the experience, and the steadying hand of these great Australians to guide us. All of them made a great contribution to the work of the Parliament and to the wellbeing, in particular, of the people of the country areas of Australia- and in the agricultural area, Charles Adermann made a special contribution which will be long remembered.
Sir Charles Adermann was a man with a deep religious faith and conviction. Honourable members will be pleased to know, I am sure, that the state funeral which will be accorded Sir Charles on Friday afternoon will be held at the Church of Christ in Kingaroy, the church with which he had a long, close and dedicated association. I think it is an indication of Sir Charles Adermann ‘s devotion that for 40 years, despite the very heavy demands on his time as a result of his public life, he conducted a Sunday morning radio broadcast for children- the only Sunday school many children in remote areas ever had. There are many thousands of people in Queensland who remember that program, and the voice of ‘Uncle John’, as Charles Adermann called himself for the purposes of the program, which he broadcast for the last time only five or six months ago. In his early days as the member for Maranoa, he had to travel from Canberra to Brisbane in a DC3, and then by bus for seven or eight hours to Kingaroy- surely demonstrating a resilience and dedication that are to be admired.
Mr Speaker, I believe that all honourable members will join me in extending sympathy to Lady Adermann, to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Mr Adermann), and to the other members of Sir Charles’s family. We feel a great sense of loss for a man who distinguished himself as a parliamentarian, a Minister and a dedicated member of my party.
– On behalf of the Opposition I join with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in expressing sympathy to the surviving members of the family of the late Sir Charles Frederick
Adermann. Sir Charles Frederick Adermann was a member of this Parliament for more than thirty years. He was elected as member for Maranoa in 1943, the year of a great landslide to the Labor Party. Charlie Adermann achieved signal distinction by being the only candidate to win a seat from a sitting Labor member. He represented the electorate of Fisher from 1949 to 1972, the full term of the coalition Government. He was closely associated with this significant period of our political history as a Minister and in later years as Deputy Leader of his party.
It provides an insight into the evolution of the Menzies Government to recall that Charlie Adermann succeeded the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) as Minister for Primary Industry. He was a selfeducated man, who gained most of his learning by correspondence. He was a successful farmer and for many years was acknowledged as Queensland’s most prominent peanut grower, a title which he shared in later years with another Country Party politician from Kingaroy. He was throughout his life a dedicated servant of his church, the Church of Christ, and played an important role in establishing it in Canberra. For almost 40 years, as the Deputy Prime Minister acknowledged, he conducted a radio Sunday school over a Queensland country radio station.
In his appearance and attitudes, Charlie Adermann had the unmistakable characteristics of rural Australia. His demeanour and his approach to life were conveyed most vividly by Don Whitington in his book, The Rulers. I quote from the book:
Adermann was a typical farmer, slow-spoken, soberly, almost shabbily dressed, with a rolling gait that looked as though he had spent years wrestling with a plough in difficult country. Cautious with a pale, sad face and lank, black hair, he was a friendly decent man, a teetotaller, and a nonsmoker, prominent in the Church of Christ. His activities may have been unspectacular, but he had a dogged application to duty, a patient tenacity, and a canny avoidance of pitfalls that ensured that neither he nor the Government should be embarrassed.
I rather feel that this brief word picture captures Charlie Adermann as he was known to the Parliament. For my part, I have many affectionate memories of the last Sir Charles Adermann. We shared electorate boundaries for many years. By and large our relationship, with our shared experiences on the border was a happy one but sometimes it was bruising as I recall from one extended debate before dairy farmers which, unbelievable as it may sound, lasted until 2 o’clock in the morning. It cannot be stressed too strongly that he was a conscientious and competent Minister, who never embarrassed in any way his
Government or his party. The same qualities were allied with a firm control to make him an extremely effective Chairman of Committees. He was certainly one of the most highly regarded parliamentarians to have held this post over the past 40 years.
There is one sidelight of Charlie Adermann ‘s relationship with the Labor Party that is not widely known. He was related to Rex Patterson, who was for many years the member for Dawson, Labor’s spokesman on primary industry and subsequently a Minister. Rex and Charlie had many stormy interludes from opposite sides of the House over primary industry policies before settling down for a quiet chat on the back bench. It seems incongruous in retrospect to recall that Rex Patterson in private conversation referred to his opposite number in the Government as Uncle Charlie’.
The Adermanns, of course, have become one of the more notable political families of Australia. Charlie Adermann was followed by his son, Evan Adermann, who has emulated his father’s achievement by rising to the ministerial ranks. It is a sad day for Evan Adermann, for his mother, Lady Mildred Adermann, and for the other members of the Adermann family. On behalf of the Australian Labor Party I extend to them my sincere sympathy and the sympathy of the members of my party. I acknowledge the important contribution of Sir Charles Frederick Adermann to his party, his government, his parliament, his electorate, his State and, most of all, his country.
– On my own behalf and on behalf of the officers of the Department of Primary Industry, I would like to support the remarks made by my colleague, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) in this House today. Charles Adermann was a long-time colleague of us all in this place. Indeed, I well recall the first occasion when I met him, when he contested the deputy leadership of my party against the late Senator Harrie Wade. He was a man of great depth and of considerable sincerity who honestly set about his tasks both as representative of his electorate and as a Minister. Certainly as Minister for Primary Industry and as Minister in charge of the Australian Agricultural Council he was noted for the considerable activity that he pursued and the breadth of his agricultural support measures. It was during his period that there was considerable addition to the range of support schemes adopted by the Federal Government, particularly towards securing a higher level of security for Australian farmers through stabilisation measures, production incentives, through increased emphasis on rural research and extension, through strong representations by Australia in overseas forums seeking lower trade barriers for agricultural products, and greater stability on world commodity markets- trends which have continued until this day.
The years 1959 to 1968 stand as a memorial to the work of Sir Charles Adermann as Minister for Primary Industry. His efforts will be long remembered and appreciated by all Australians concerned with agriculture. But he will also be remembered by his party and his parliamentary colleagues, as well as the public servants of his Department, as a hard working, imaginative Minister, and as a fair-minded, courteous and deeply religious human being. To my colleague Evan, to Lady Adermann, and to his family I should like to extend my deepest personal sympathy.
-I should like to endorse the remarks of the other speakers. Charlie Adermann was known to all of us who have served in the Parliament for 20 years or more as a very honourable, very decent, truthful man, who did not have even a streak of meanness in his makeup. I had an enormous regard for him. I honoured him. I know there are few nowadays, but he was one of the few people with whom one could discuss a confidence and know that it would never pass beyond him. It saddens me that only yesterday I spoke to his son, Evan, to inquire after him, and asked Evan to convey to his father my best wishes. Unfortunately, that cannot now be done.
He was not the sombre, humourless person that the Press tried to depict. He did have a lively sense of humour. He did not go around guffawing and laughing and playing pranks on people, but he did have a very good, healthy sense of humour. I can remember very well, as though it were yesterday, when he was Chairman of Committees. We were having divisions every few minutes. It was impossible to get a cup of tea without having to leave it and come into the House. So Eddie Ward and I decided we would try a new experiment and bring the cup of tea in with us, which we did. We sat at our benches drinking our tea, expecting to be thrown out. That was our idea of a joke- or mine, anyhow. But Charlie Adermann did not fall for it. He was a very wise, very clever and very shrewd person. He just let me sit there drinking my cup of tea, and in the end I was the joke of the House, not he.
– Hear, hear!
-The honourable member for Newcastle is entitled to say, ‘Hear, hear’, because it was intended to be a joke, but it certainly backfired on me. I remember the occasion when Sir Charles Adermann succeeded the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) as the Minister for Primary Industry. Eddie Ward again entered the scene to announce that the right honourable member for Lowe had to give up the job as Minister for Primary Industry because he had become eggbound. The member for Fisher, Sir Charles Adermann, took his place. The swearing in ceremony was really something to behold. Orders in those days- perhaps this is so even today- were that a Minister had to dress in striped pants and a black coat to be sworn in. Sir Charles did not have these garments and I am told- judging by the way he looked I believe itthat Joe Gullett loaned him some striped pants and John McEwen loaned him the black coat, and that he looked very much like an impoverished undertaker rather than a Minister.
Again, he laughed at himself over that incident. He thought that that was a great joke, especially since he did not have to go to the expense of buying another suit. I mention those things because there is a wrong impression about Sir Charles Adermann, namely, that he was a humourless, dour person who did not have a sense of humour. But he did have a sense of humour. He was a very human person, a good person. I join with other speakers in extending my sympathy to his family. No man ever earned greater respect in this Parliament than did Sir Charles Adermann.
– On behalf of the Liberal Party I join with the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and other speakers in paying tribute to the late Sir Charles Adermann. As would be appreciated by honourable members on both sides of the House, Charlie Adermann was a great rural leader, an outstanding parliamentarian over a period of some 30 years and a notable churchman. Beyond these things he was a man without enemies. Charlie Adermann was a gentle man who was respected by men and women of all political persuasions, not simply because of his ability but because of his integrity, his fairmindedness, his decency and the principles for which at all times he stood and for which he was prepared to fight in this House and in the country at large. On behalf of the Liberal Party I join with the Acting Prime Minister and other speakers in conveying to Lady Adermann, to our colleague Evan and to members of the Adermann family our deepest sympathy.
-I wish to pay a very warm and sincere tribute to a great Australian, the late Rt Hon. Sir Charles Adermann. I join the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and other speakers in that tribute. Few tributes have been more sincere than those paid today to Sir Charles; Few tributes, as the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said, have been more deserved because of his great character. He was a splendid parliamentarian and he served Australia, this Parliament and the electorates of Maranoa and Fisher with great credit and distinction to himself and to the benefit of those areas. I enjoyed a close lifelong friendship with Sir Charles and with his family. It was a very valued friendship and one which I was proud always to claim.
Before entering parliament Sir Charles served in local government as chairman of the Kingaroy Shire Council. He served agriculture in many ways, including as chairman of the Queensland Peanut Marketing Board. He spent the first six years of a long and distinguished parliamentary career as the member for Maranoa and when the electorate was divided he became the member for Fisher, which electorate included his home town, Kingaroy. That electorate is now very splendidly served by his son, the Hon. Evan Adermann, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. During a long period in Parliament as a back bencher, as Chairman of Committees and as a Minister he set a very fine example of parliamentary behaviour while promoting with great vigour, determination and effect the causes that he espoused. The fact that his behaviour in this place was exemplary in no way affected the results that he achieved. He set an example to every member of this Parliament in that direction, an example that I believe all honourable members could worthily strive to emulate.
As has been mentioned, he became Deputy Leader of the then Country Party, under the leadership of Sir John McEwen. He served in that position with great success over the years, to the advantage of the party and the nation. Many of the things that I could say have already been mentioned. I will not repeat them. I conclude by saying that Lady Adermann, the honourable Evan Adermann and other members of the family, can be very proud of Sir Charles Adermann ‘s outstanding record of public service and the fact that he always maintained the very highest standard of public spirited Christian citizenship. I extend to Lady Adermann, Evan Adermann and other members of the family my sincerest sympathy.
-It was only a few minutes before I came into the House that I heard of the death of Sir Charles Adermann. I served with him in Cabinet for a long time, probably longer than any of my colleagues here. In my opinion he was man of common sense, a man capable of reasoned and sensible judgments no matter whether they concerned the interests of rural people or sections of manufacturing industry. I got to like him tremendously, just as I developed a very great liking for his wife. I stayed at their family home at Kingaroy after Charles asked me if I would go there to try to explain to the farming community what I had done to improve the returns of milk and butter producers. I spent a couple of days with the Adermanns and the producers seemed to be satisfied. I will never forget Charles’s determination to teach me how to pick peanuts. It was a laborious job in those days. It was not done by mechanical means; it was done by hand. You picked up the whole plant, shook off the dirt and let others pick up the beans if they wished.
Later he asked me to go into the Brisbane Valley, I think near the Somerset Dam. He wanted the electrical facilities there to be provided for Brisbane. He also wanted me to speak to the people in that valley, which was a butter and milk area at that time, in order to convince them that the Government’s actions were right. I was fairly certain that they would be happy, because I lived by Charles’s philosophy: Give the people everything they want and they can never really grumble. In that year, when I was Minister for Primary Industry, other than in the sugar areas we won every rural electorate. I remember going to that valley with the late Senator Ted Maher- I learnt for the first time what it was like to drink rum and milk and I have never done so since.
When the Department of Primary Industry was first formed, I remember John McEwen first and then Charles coming to me and suggesting that I should give up the portfolio of Social Services and become the first Minister for Primary Industry. That staggered me at the time because my knowledge of primary industry then revolved around draft horses that we bred in very great numbers near Orange and at Rooty Hill near Sydney. But, I agreed, and became, to the amazement of everyone, the first Minister for Primary Industry. It was a very successful period but I was not happy when I was asked if I would give up that portfolio and become Minister for Labour and National Service.
There is one matter that I want to refer to. At that time we were forming the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of Trade out of the then Department of Commerce and Agriculture. On at least two occasions, during the absence of John McEwen, I participated in the work to establish the framework and structure of the two new departments- Trade and Primary Industry. Sir John Crawford was the driving force behind the creation of the departments. Later his role was taken over by Dr Westerman. I regretted Sir John’s departure. His ideas were more expansive so far as Trade was concerned. I think the system we were developing would have been much better if Sir John Crawford had completed it. I was helped by Charles when, as the Minister for Primary Industry, I was responsible for the first wheat agreement that was developed by a Liberal-Country Party government. When there were moments of anguish- for example at the final meetings at Parliament House, Sydney, and when, regrettably, my Permanent Head became very ill- I had to make the decisions myself. The wheat industry never had a better deal. In the negotiations I was helped by telephone advice given to me by Sir Charles Adermann. He was a loyal, charming person and a good man to work with. It is we who will be the losers because Sir Charles Adermann is no longer with us. Again I express my deepest sympathies to his charming wife and members of his family. They are a remarkable family and they deserve our respect.
-It is a privilege to speak in support of the motion and remarks of the Acting Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) and the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) and other honourable members who have spoken. I was privileged to be a friend of Sir Charles Adermann during a period of six parliaments from the time when I was elected to this Parliament in 1949. 1 endorse all the comments that have been made, particularly those of my old and distinguished friend from Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron). It is true that Sir Charles Adermann had a sense of humour. It was not the easiest sense of humour to detect, but I think that was deliberate. After all, he was a Queenslander and one of a group of the most robust members who have ever been elected to the House of Representatives.
He was a close personal friend of Sir Arthur Fadden and of other Queensland members who played a significant part in this Parliament from 1949 to 1972. On occasions he often found it necessary to tone down the sense of humour of those robust colleagues to whom I have referred. His integrity, faith, sense of responsibility and friendship were all qualities that most of us recall. Reference has been made to the rural activity in which he was engaged. It is only reasonable to point out to the House that there are very few rural activities which have produced a distinguished Minister of State in the Australian Parliament and a President of the United States of America.
-Sir Charles Adermann will live on as an outstanding example of the fact that one can be a gentleman, in every sense of the word, and a successful politician at the same time. It was a privilege to know Sir Charles. His passing will cause a wave of genuine sadness to pass across this nation.
– I endorse the messages and comments that have been made this afternoon in regard to the late Sir Charles Adermann. I have been a member of the National Country Party for a considerable time and had an association with Sir Charles in many ways. I am aware of the contribution that he made and the character that he showed to all of us. It is only eight or nine days ago that honourable members in this House joined in messages of condolence to another member of this Parliament who at the time of his death was a serving member. It is as well that we remind ourselves of the words of Cardinal Sir James Freeman at the service conducted for the late Frank Stewart. He said: ‘Courage and integrity are virtues that are not to be despised.’ Courage and virtue are also words that can be used to describe the late Sir Charles Adermann. In these days when perhaps democracy and our parliaments are under threat from many quarters in the world we should remind ourselves and our nation that there are men of character and virtue who have shown courage and integrity in this Parliament.
It has been said that he was a man of high principle. My leader, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), said that when Sir Charles had a conviction he stuck to it. I can remember Sir Charles making a speech in this House in which he was critical of something that the then Government had done. I was a little frightened on that occasion that some furniture would have to be replaced as he emphasised in more ways than one his feeling against the action of that Government. He was then, of course, a very prominent person in my party and the then Government. I can remember his saying: ‘If the Government does this sort of thing again I will have to consider my position’. These are the things that reveal him as a man of purpose, a man of courage, a man of integrity and a man of tremendous value not only to his party and to the Parliament but also to the country.
I saw him also at two conferences of the party in Queensland. Again he was a guiding figure. His wisdom and advice were obvious to all. I believe not only that we should join together in support of the motion of condolence that has been moved in this place this afternoon and express our sympathy to Lady Adermann and the family of the late Sir Charles Adermann but also that we should remind ourselves that it is our privilege and our responsibility to serve in the same manner and, I would hope, with the same high standard.
– I first met Charles Adermann about 13 or 14 years ago, but I knew a lot about him as a member of parliament and a Minister well before that. He left the Parliament before I became a member of it but I had a lot to do with him. It is really as an outstanding Queenslander that I want to remember him. I well recall his actions when certain discussions took place between the Liberal Party and the then Country Party in Queensland. At times those discussions got a little robust. People have spoken about Sir Charles being friendly. That was very true. They have also spoken about his being tough. I saw that characteristic on a number of occasions. I regarded him as a very shrewd person. He did not hesitate to pull up officials of the Liberal Party or the State parliamentary leaders if he thought they were getting a little over the fence, but he was even-handed. He had no hesitation in pulling up members of his own party, including the present State parliamentary leader, if he thought that the occasion demanded it. He was able to do so simply because he was respected by us all. He was a very fine Queenslander. I convey to Lady Adermann and to my friend the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs my sincere sympathy.
-I had the honour to serve with Charles Adermann. He was a very fine man. I am sure the House will share the sense of a sadness that I feel.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable members standing in their places.
-I thank the House.
-I inform the House that the Hon. Yitzhak Shamir, Speaker of the Knesset of
Israel, is within the precincts. I propose to provide him with a seat on the floor of the House.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
-I ask all honourable gentlemen to welcome the Speaker. I inform the House that Mr Shamir is leading a delegation from the Knesset of Israel. Members of the delegation are present in the Speaker’s Gallery. On behalf of honourable members I extend to them a warm welcome.
Honourable members- Hear, hear!
– 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 1978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield, Mr Burns, Dr Edwards, Mr Falconer, Mr Holding, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Charles Jones, Mr Lusher, Mr Lynch, Mr Martin, Mr Morris, Mr O’Keefe and Mr Scholes.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of his country does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Braithwaite, Mr N. A. Brown, Mr Haslem and Mr Yates.
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 programmes.
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 Dobie and Dr Klugman. Petitions received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will take action to require those Members who have not honoured their undertaking, to resign from the Parliament in order that the people of Australia can choose
Members who will represent the wishes of the electors and who will honor any undertakings they gave,
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Scholes and Mr Willis.
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 the sales tax as applied to articles handmade by artisans is unfair.
An artisan is a handcraftsman, or a handcraftswoman, who exercises a non agricultural activity, revolving around the transformation of materials with his own handwork or that of his family. On craft, above all, the accent must be on design, practicability and quality, where the craftsman must perforce pay highly for his raw materials and time must not be a conditioning factor in the making of an article.
This petition seeks the objective examination of the existing Sales Tax Acts in respect to persons seeking to earn their living by the labour of their hands alone.
Every day, skilled artisans are being forced out of their livelihood, not by the competition of machine made goods, not by high prices of materials, but by the injustice of antiquated Sales Tax Laws. The artisan, thus taxed out of his living, will then go onto unemployment benefits, or worse still, to prostituting his craft by sacrificing his professional integrity, forcing him to lower his standards of workmanship in order to conform to existing laws.
We therefore request that a Sales Tax exemption be created immediately for all hand crafted articles.
We also request that the current exemption limit of $1,400 and $1,000 respectively referred to in items100-(1) and l00-(2) of the Sales Tax (Exemption and Classifications) Act 1935-1967, be immediately raised to a realistic figure, in line with current living standards, and from then on to be periodically reviewed so as to keep pace with the Australian standard of living.
Your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Adermann.
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 childabuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Bradfield.
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 the killing of whales is no longer necessary since whale products can be produced by other means.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that legislation be introduced banning the importation into Australia of whale products.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Kevin Cairns.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we the undersigned wish to protest in the strongest possible terms the Government’s decision to abolish the twiceyearly 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 assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned residents of Australia respectfully showeth that:
The Commonwealth Government introduce an Assistance Benefit for Single Parent Fathers whose wives have either died or have been granted a divorce.
This benefit should be subject to the average minimum weekly earnings and be altered according to the number of children dependent upon the Single Parent Father.
The benefit should not be paid after each child leaves school.
This benefit should be paid at the same time as Single Parent Mothers receive benefits.
The benefit should cease if the father remarries.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lusher.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of Australia in Parliament assembled.
The petition of residents and workers in the Newtown area ofSydney:
Respectfully showeth that the people of this inner city area will be considerably disadvantaged with regard to noise from aircraft and increased traffic hazards, from road transport to and from the airport, by any new runway at Mascot as proposed in the MANS Enquiry.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your Honourable House will reject any such proposals.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
– It is my intention to issue a writ on Tuesday, 15 May, for the election of a member to serve for the electoral division of Grayndler in the State of New South Wales in place of the Hon. Francis Eugene Stewart, deceased. The dates in connection with the election will be fixed as follows: date of nomination, Friday, 1 June 1979; date of polling, Saturday, 23 June 1979; date of return of writ, on or before Friday, 27 July 1979.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House is of the opinion-
1 ) that the gagging of the debate on Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1978-79 on 3 May 1979 was for political purposes in relation to the Victorian State elections and was, in effect, an instance of political censorship in the Parliament on behalf of a political party or parties;
that immediate consideration should be given by the House to the establishment of a Procedure Committee as proposed by the honourable member for Corio in his General Business notice; and
that Standing Order 93 relating to the closure of the question and Standing Order 94 relating to the closure of a member should receive the immediate consideration of the Committee with a view to granting a discretionary power to the Chair as to whether or not those questions should be put.
-Does the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security recall the election promises in 1975 and 1977 that the real value of pensions will be preserved ‘ and that ‘the politics have been taken out of pension increases by linking them automatically with the consumer price index’? In view of these promises, how does the Minister justify the fall in the real value of age and invalid pensions and the unemployment benefit for single recipients caused by the refusal of the Government to maintain sixmonthly indexation? How does the Government justify the fall of 35 per cent over the last three years in the real value of allowances and supplementary assistance for orphans, invalids, the sick and the elderly? Finally, how does the Minister justify the fall of 28 per cent in the real value of the family allowance and the handicapped child allowance?
– I am indebted to the honourable member for his question because he has highlighted the real advances which have been made in that area under non-Labor governments. I am serious when I say that because, down through the years, most of the significant reforms in the social welfare area have been initiatives taken on this side of the House by Liberal and National Country Party governments. I am also indebted to the honourable member for giving me the opportunity to remind the House and the Australian public of the position when this Government came into office. When we came into office we were faced with an inflation rate of about 16 or 17 per cent. It was higher for the sixmonth period before the fall of the former Australian Labor Party Government. Had it not been for a sudden and disastrous downturn in the price of beef, the inflation rate in Australia would have been over 20 per cent during one period when the Australian Labor Party was in office.
The inflation rate is very significant for people who are on fixed incomes, particularly pensioners. Indeed, a high inflation rate is the greatest enemy of pensioners. The most significant advance which has been made by this Government in that regard has been to apply pressure on the inflation rate and to bring it down. The honourable member provided a service to the Parliament by raising his question. I indicate to him that the pensioners’ position will always be of prime concern to an Australian Government formed by the Liberal Party of Australia and the National Country Party of Australia. This Government took the rate of pension paid to beneficiaries out of politics by introducing the indexation of pensions.
-I address my question to the Minister for Defence, who yesterday in the House said that he would inquire into the matter of the Special Air Services Regiment being invited to attend a birthday function held for Mr Lang Hancock of Western Australia. Can the Minister inform the House whether there is any validity in the suggestions which were made yesterday by the shadow Minister for Defence?
– Last evening I wrote to the honourable member for Corio in these terms:
There is no substance in the suggestion that the Special Air Services Regiment is providing birthday entertainment for Mr Lang Hancock.
The Special Air Services Regiment is planning to conduct parachute training at Learmonth airfield on 10 June, 1979, as part of its participation in Exercise ‘LIONS DEN’ being held in this area in the period 4 to 29 June 1 979. 1 understand that a party travelling on an aircraft chartered by Mr Hancock is landing at Learmonth on 10 June.
– Ha, ha!
– I would like the honourable member for Prospect to say that to the SAS regiment. Its members would break his neck, and what a public benefaction that would be.
-Order! I ask the Minister to withdraw.
– I withdraw, Mr Speaker. They would charm the socks off him, and that would be just as revealing. The letter continues:
If the party is there when the training is being conducted they will see the parachuting activity.
So will anyone else who is present. The SAS Regiment does not provide entertainment for Mr Lang Hancock, for the honourable member for Prospect or, indeed, for the present incumbent for Moreton.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Is the Treasurer aware of the recent spate of bonus share issues which allow professional share traders to avoid tax on a large scale? As an illustration I refer to the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Ltd one-for-five bonus issue of 12 April and point out that if a professional trader bought a large enough parcel of shares before the bonus issue took place he would be in a position to wipe out in 24 hours his total tax liability for the year. Is the Treasurer aware of, and if so, what significance does he place on, the fact that 35,000 BHP shares were traded in Sydney on 10 April, and 160,000 on 1 1 April? What is his estimate of tax revenue lost to the Government by this method of avoidance and what steps will he take to end such a blatant avoidance scheme?
-I think the honourable member for Sydney knows, as does every honourable member of this House, the attitude and the record of this Government regarding blatant tax avoidance schemes. It is an attitude and approach which will continue without cessation and without any area being quarantined. But I think honourable members on this side, and I would hope honourable members on the other side, would also recognise that not every transaction which involves a person entering into an arrangement whereby the path followed results in a lesser as opposed to a greater amount of tax being paid constitutes a tax avoidance arrangement. lt is about time that some people on the other side of the House understood that if a person enters into an arrangement with a proper commercial objective, and implements it in a way that attracts the least amount of tax, that does not, in the minds of a great number of people in the community, constitute a tax avoidance scheme. That fairly simple and practical distinction ought to be borne in mind by all honourable members.
As to the specific circumstances which t,he honourable member raised in his question, I am not going to give a kerbside opinion as to whether or not they constitute a tax avoidance scheme. The honourable member ought to be aware of the traps into which a government of his persuasion fell when kerbside opinions were given about the legal effect of certain arrangements. I will look at what the honourable gentleman has said. His question draws attention to a greater buoyancy in the trading in shares of a great Australian company. I believe that that is a good thing.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Will the Minister give details of changes in the level of motor vehicle registrations following the decision in the 1978-79 Budget to reduce sales tax on passenger cars? Is the Minister prepared to say whether the beneficial effects of the sales tax cuts for the motor vehicle industry will continue?
– The mood in the automotive industry at present is certainly one of optimism and there are strong indications that 1979 will see further significant growth in motor vehicle sales. A comparison of the first quarter of 1979 with that for the previous year shows an increase of some 5.6 per cent in passenger vehicle registrations. There is a problem in the industry at present, but it is one of supply, not demand. Order books are in a very healthy state.
A significant factor which has influenced the growth in the market has been the decision taken by the Government in the last Budget to reduce sales tax on passenger motor vehicles by 1 5 per cent. The effectiveness of that decision can be gauged by the increase in employment which has taken place in the industry in recent months. I am informed that employment in the vehicle manufacturing sector has increased by some 3,000 people since June 1 978. If one takes into account the multiplier effect, it is likely that other sectors of the industry have also benefited from this increase in employment. The industry estimates that total industry employment has risen by some 8,000 people since last June. All of the indicators that are available to me indicate that this year will see a very solid performance in the industry at large. This reflects the increasing activity which has taken place throughout the Australian economy due to the policies that have been pursued by this Government.
-I ask the Treasurer whether he recalls this promise made by the Prime Minister in the 1975 election policy speech:
In the next Budget, we will make the first major move towards adoption of the stock valuation provisions of the Mathews report. We will introduce the report in full over three years.
Does the Treasurer also recall the reiteration of this undertaking by his predecessor in the 1976 Budget Speech? In view of these clear promises, will the Treasurer now completely deny reports that not only will the Government not fulfil its promise to complete the introduction of the full stock valuation adjustment in the next financial year but it also plans to remove the existing 50 per cent adjustment? Is this to become another addition to the long list of promises broken by the Fraser Government?
– The honourable member for Newcastle has been a member of this House long enough to know that at this time of the year there starts a process of speculation, innuendo, rumour and suggestion, a great amount of which is designed not to promote productive debate on economic or social issues in Australia but rather to cause unnecessary panic and distress in sections of the Australian community. I tell the honourable member for Newcastle that I have absolutely no intention of being drawn into comment on that speculation. I have indicated that before and I indicate it again. I do not intend, by responding to specific questions, bit by bit and suggestion by suggestion, to flesh out what will constitute the economic decisions of the Government in the forthcoming Budget.
– Is the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware of the serious concern that has been expressed by the general aviation industry at the recent price increase approved by the Prices Justification Tribunal for Avgas, amounting to 46.7 per cent for bulk Avgas at capital city airports and 58.7 per cent for drummed Avgas at capital city airports? Is the Minister aware that these increases are likely to be even greater at country airports and that the operators of piston engine aircraft, including the majority of commuter and charter operators, will be severely affected and in some cases wiped out? Does the Minister believe that such a massive increase in Avgas prices is justified? If not, can he intervene in the PJT decision, or review the decision, in order to have the price rise reduced?
– My attention has been drawn to the concern that has been expressed by the aviation industry in relation to the recent substantial increase in the price of Avgas. It is true that the impact of this decision by the Prices Justification Tribunal will be felt more in country areas than in the metropolitan areas; but, to a degree, the effect in the country areas will be softened by the policies of this Government in relation to the petrol freight subsidy scheme. In the report handed down by the PJT on 1 1 April on the inquiry in respect of the Shell company and other related companies, the PJT found that an increase of 6c a litre in the wholesale price of Avgas was justified. Subsequent to that report the PJT also found that a further increase of 4c a litre was justified as a result of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries increases in crude oil prices. Increases in Avgas prices have been higher than those found justified for most other petroleum products. In relation to this, the PJT explained in its report that Shell was importing this product and not refining it locally. The House will be interested to know that approximately 50 per cent of Avgas used in Australia is imported from Iran. At the Shell inquiry the PJT considered submissions made to it by all sections of the aviation industry, but it took the view that cost increases for this product should not be spread across the whole product range of the petroleum industry.
The honourable member also asked whether I can intervene in the decision of the PJT. I am not able to intervene in the decision of the PJT. No capacity is provided by the Prices Justification Act for the Minister to direct the PJT as to its decisions. I have no intention of suggesting that the Act be amended in this way. The fact of the matter is that market forces have resulted in increased costs of importing Avgas. The matter has been considered carefully by the PJT at a public inquiry and the findings, substantial though they may be, have been handed down publicly.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services. I refer to the appointment of Sir Colin Woods as the first Commissioner of the new Federal Police Force. Does the Government consider that there are no senior officers within all the various Australian and State police forces with the necessary knowledge, experience and competence to head the new force? Is the Minister concerned that despite Sir Colin ‘s eminent career in the United Kingdom he has never been to Australia, is not familiar with Australian conditions or police problems in Australia, and has had no experience of working within the delicate political framework of a State-Federal political system which we have in Australia? Is not this appointment a gross insult to police officers in Australia and to the Australian community? Does not the appointment represent a return to colonial attitudes which should belong to a past age?
– I can only assume that the honourable gentleman picks up his questions from members of one section of the media who interviewed me at lunch time. The short answer to the question is no, I do not agree. I think Australia is fortunate in securing the services of this highly eminent policeman to head up -
– Stop tugging your forelock.
-I suggest that the Minister ignore the interjection and proceed with his answer.
– Actually, I was tugging at my collar, not my forelock, Mr Speaker. I am sure that in the future the Australian people will be grateful to this Government for securing the services of this highly eminent policeman who is regarded internationally as one of the top six policemen in the world, not just the United Kingdom. I am very grateful that we have been able to secure his services. Sir Colin is the son of a policeman. He is a policeman’s policeman -
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! I ask honourable members on my left to cease their interjections and noise. It is not a very flattering performance.
– I think that being the son of a policeman is something to be proud of, and I hope that the son of the Leader of the Opposition feels an equal pride in him. Not only has Sir Colin long service in police forces in the United Kingdom, but he also served for six or seven years in the infantry in World War II.
Opposition members interjecting-
– Some honourable members opposite show their lack of concern for their nation by their lack of interest in people who serve in any capacity, whether it be in the Services or in the police. I wish to be identified, and I am pleased to be identified, with the appointment of this gentleman.
It is not surprising that I have received a question on this matter. I shall quote the views of Sir Robert Mark on Sir Colin. Sir Robert Mark came to Australia and upon his recommendation the Government decided to proceed with the establishment of the Federal Police Force. At page 129 of his autobiography, Sir Robert Mark said this -
– Which edition was that?
-Order! A question was asked from the left of the Chair. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to cease interjecting while an answer is being given to that question.
– Frankly, I cannot understand the attitude of the Opposition.
-Order! I ask the Minister to proceed with his answer and to ignore the interjections.
– I was about to quote what Sir Robert Mark wrote about Sir Colin. He wrote:
Perhaps the most significant change in personnel was the appointment of Colin Woods, assistant commissioner (Traffic), to the post of assistant commissioner (Crime). An experienced uniformed officer of outstanding managerial skill, great determination and the moral courage to do the job without any previous detective experience, he proved quickly and not surprisingly to be the most efficient and effective head of C department in living memory, before promotion to deputy commissioner four years later.
Sir Colin subsequently served as Deputy Commissioner to Sir Robert Mark. He would no doubt have been the Commissioner except for the legislation in the United Kingdom which prevents that sort of appointment. I have very great pleasure in being associated with the appointment.
– I direct my question to the Acting Minister for Health. In a recent statement did the Minister acknowledge the existence of a document which explores a wide range of matters relating to hospitals? Is a broad overview of the subject of hospital rationalisation being carried out? Would the Minister have any objections to- indeed would he welcome- an examination by the Expenditure Committee of this House of the productivity, efficiency and cost containment in hospitals whose operating costs are fully paid by the Commonwealth or shared on a 50-50 basis with the States?
– Recently I issued a statement which confirmed that on 2 March this year the Minister for Health forwarded a document to State Ministers for Health on a confidential basis. This document canvassed various matters in relation to hospital administration, in particular the finance aspect of hospital administration. This document has been the subject of discussion between officials of Commonwealth and State health administrations. The content of that document will subsequently be considered by Commonwealth and State Health Ministers. In relation to that part of the honourable member’s question which dealt specifically with a possible reference to the Expenditure Committee, I will discuss that matter with my colleague, the Minister for Health, and arrange for him to confer with the Chairman of the Expenditure Committee. In due course his decision will be relayed to the honourable member.
– Will the Treasurer confirm media reports that the Government has decided to maintain either the one and a half per cent surcharge on income tax or half and not full tax indexation? Has the Government given frequent commitments that it would implement both measures after 1 July this year; that is, abolition of the tax surcharge and introduction of full tax indexation? Would the retention of the surcharge mean that a worker on average weekly earnings of around $220 a week would pay an extra $3.73 in tax; a worker on $ 1 80 a week an extra $2.7 1 in tax; and a worker on $ 1 60 a week an extra $2.19 in tax? Would the failure to introduce full tax indexation mean that each of these workers would pay an extra $1.91 a week in tax? As the reports seem to confirm my frequent claims that the Government would have to impose additional direct and indirect taxes to meet a revenue shortfall of around $ 1,000m, will the Treasurer now outline to the House what tax increases are planned by the Government?
-I thought that the Leader of the Opposition, as well as the honourable member for Newcastle, had been here long enough to know that this time of the year is the happy season or the silly season for speculation and rumours. In respect of his question, as with the question from the honourable member for Newcastle, I have absolutely no intention of responding specifically to what he has asked of me. It ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition, a former Treasurer, to start to talk about the comparative taxation records of this side of the House and his party when it was in government, as it presided over the largest and most automatic increase in personal income tax collections in any three-year period that this country has known since Federation. It did that for one very simple reason: It believed that that was necessary to finance its expenditure programs because that was the platform and that was the approach on which his party went to the people. The Leader of the Opposition, in starting to talk about the comparative taxation performances of the two sides of the Parliament, is, to use the vernacular, on extremely sticky ground.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. Further to the question just put and the answer given concerning the price increase for Avgas, I ask: Does the Minister recognise that fuel costs for general aviation have risen by more than 70 per cent in six months and that such a precipitous rise may affect the very viability of aerial agricultural operators, outback mail and basic supply services and some charter and commuter operators? Does he also appreciate that this huge additional overhead will affect air ambulance, medical and other emergency services, and will increase operating costs for even a small twin-engined aircraft by some $12 to $15 an hour? Is it a fact that for many years the oil companies involved have kept the cost of Avgas down through crosssubsidisation and other internal measures? Will the Minister, in collaboration with his colleagues and the oil companies, endeavour to cushion the effects of the recent 47 per cent increase in fuel costs to Australia’s general aviation industry by similar measures?
– General aviation plays an extraordinarily important part in the provision of transport services throughout the great bulk of the physical area of this nation. Without question, the impact on general aviation of the findings of the Prices Justification Tribunal will be significant. We must remember that general aviation- through commuter services, charter operators and even privately-owned aeroplanes- is really the only satisfactory mode of transport in a great number of areas of Australia. That, combined with the aerial agricultural operations, the air ambulances and the other uses to which aviation is put, demonstrates the importance of the general aviation area to Australia as a whole. My colleague the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has just related to the House, in answer to a question, how the decision of the Prices Justification Tribunal was arrived at. I certainly will discuss the matter with him to see whether there is something that can be done by the Government in the face of this decision. I heard him say specifically that there is no room for intervention by him, as Minister, under the terms of the Act. Nevertheless, having regard to the seriousness of the situation and the impact, particularly on commuter operators, many of whom have already been to me expressing concern at their financial plight and their capacity to carry on under the impact of the fuel charge, I certainly will talk with him about it. One must recognise that the Prices Justification Tribunal has been set up to be the umpire in these matters, and I guess we have to accept the umpire’s decision.
-I direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister. I refer to the fact that in the past all exporters, large and small, have obtained a 10 per cent export market development grant, up to a ceiling. I also refer to the fact that a large proportion of Australian exporters are small businesses with very small export volumes. Is the Minister aware that a substantial number of exporters are now disqualified from any export market development grant because they are currently unable to pass the new threshold of $25,000 worth of exports a year? Are not participants in Government-sponsored promotions particularly prejudiced? Will the Minister review the legislation to determine whether market development assistance can be made available to the small exporters?
-The Export Market Development Grants Act has been before the House and certain amendments have been made to improve the operations and performance of the export market development grants scheme. In amending the Act provisions were brought down to provide that people had to be bona fide exporters of reasonable substance to be able to get the benefits of the grants provided. In the case of people who export goods, a minimum ceiling of $25,000 was imposed. I think it is fair to say about anybody who is exporting less than $25,000 worth of goods that it is hard to justify that the additional amount of money he might get by way of export grants will be very relevant. We also set a limit as far as the people who provide services for export earnings are concerned, such as contractors and consultants. In that case, $10,000 was put as the minimum amount of work needed to be undertaken. As far as the tourist industry is concerned, there was a minimum of $5,000. The various levels were all examined very closely in accordance with the Export Development Grants Board’s long experience of providing grants to assist industry and they were considered reasonable and appropriate in the circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is the report in today’s Press correct that Mr Fred Daly, a Minister in the Whitlam Government and a recently retired member of this House, has applied for the position of Principal Private Secretary to the Minister? Would Mr Daly have to resign from the five positions he now holds if his application were successful?
– I would not like to convey the impression that I am lacking in a sense of gravitas, but I have treated this question very importantly.
– A sense of what?
– -Dignitas as well, and one could tack on pietas. I received an application purporting to be from a former member of this House and a former member of the Executive Council. I treated it very seriously. I thought that it could have been a forgery. I did not want to go through the torment and the tempest of something rivalling the Zinoviev letter of some years ago, so I made inquiries about the application. I would have been grateful for your assistance, Mr Speaker, because, dealing with integrity, reliability and the handling of sensitive issues, the application contained phrases such as this:
I was trained in the ‘leak’ proof Labor Caucus
That had a ring of truth about it. Referring to ability to undertake research and prepare material, the applicant said that he was just the right man for the job. He went on to say:
The Minister can forget his dull, uninspiring speeches of the past -
He is perceptive- my material will make his contributions the best read in the nation. He might have to resign but he needn’t give a reason and when the hullabaloo dies down just rejoin the Ministry. Anyhow the publicity and excitement will be worth this temporary inconvenience.
I thought that that collocation of language could flow from only one mind and one pen. A further touch of verisimilitude was this statement:
I have admired the Minister from a distance -
Nobody else in this place has ever said that- in a strange kind of way, for a long time. In fact we share some interests together. Take horse racing for instance. I note he is having trouble with Jockeys who evidently haven ‘t read the classics. Well I could help him in that direction. I know a lot about Leichhardt I represented it for years whether it was Ludwig or not really doesn’t matter. I also knew the jockey that was on Lasseter’s Last Ride.
The following postscript was added:
I forgot to mention that I am experienced in guerilla warfare and underground engineering.
The letter was signed ‘F. M. Daly’. I am deeply convinced as to the truth of the matter, but, after considering the application, I think I will make a recommendation to the Prime Minister that Daly take the job of Minister for Defence and I will join Daly’s staff.
- Mr Speaker, have you given consideration to the antiquated administrative system that still governs the functioning of this House? I refer in particular to the hours of sitting that could be compacted into more sensible times for the benefit of members, the public and the staff, the outmoded methods of voting and the ad hoc process of dealing with legislation? Will you seek the formation of an allparty committee of the Parliament to discuss these questions with the object of initiating reforms that so many members agree are necessary but never occur?
– The honourable gentleman indicated to me yesterday that he proposed to ask a question along such lines. I have prepared a reply which I will give at the conclusion of Question Time.
Mr Kevin Cairns having addressed a question to the Treasurer-
– I rule the question out of order.
-Has the Minister for Industrial Relations seen a report in the Adelaide Advertiser of yesterday’s date describing a log of claims served on employers throughout Australia by the Federated Storemen and Packers Union and asking for $500 a week in wages, 24 public holidays, a 30hour week, 8 weeks leave, huge superannuation entitlements as described by the newspaper, 20 days compassionate leave and unlimited sick leave? Does he know that the Secretary of the union in South Australia, Mr George Apap, has stated publicly that these are not real claims, but are claims that have been imposed upon the union as a result of a quite stupid if I may be forgiven for describing it as such decision of the High Court of Australia many, many decades ago? Will he now take into account the expectations among members of the union which claims like this create, and consider mounting a test case before the High Court with a view to asking the present judges of the High Court to reverse the decision taken so many decades ago?
– I am aware of the issue of ambit claims to which the honourable gentleman’s question refers. It is a fact that an existing decision of the High Court requires unions, unless they are to make logs of claims excessively often, to put claims in those terms. I do agree with him that such logs of claims in the case of union members who are not versed in the legal technicalities can raise expectations to an unreal degree. In view of the high legal content of the honourable member’s question, I shall take up the issue he raises with my colleague the AttorneyGeneral and bring the honourable member’s suggestion to his attention.
-Can the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs inform the House whether he is considering a program to assist the establishment of youth work cooperatives for disadvantaged unemployed youth? If so, when does he expect to be in a position to announce his decision?
– The honourable gentleman obviously asked me this question out of his own interest in the concept of youth work cooperatives. I think the House knows certainly honourable members on the Government side of the House know that the honourable gentleman pioneered youth work co-operatives in Australia in his own electorate of Bradfield, and a very successful experiment it was. It was so successful that a number of honourable members on the Government side of the House have approached me to see whether the Government would support that kind of program. The difficulty of it is that, strictly speaking, it does not come within any of the existing manpower programs, particularly the National Employment and Training system subsidies. Nevertheless, the former Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations was able to assist the honourable member. Because of the interest shown in this particular kind of youth unemployment program I have asked my Department to consider the possibility of establishing it as a Government program, either as an adaptation of the NEAT assistance or as a program in its own right. It will be some time, at least several weeks, before the report from my Department is available to me, but as soon as it comes to hand I will look at it and advise the honourable gentleman.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Which Australian companies have acted as agents for Taiwanese fishing and commercial interests in submitting proposals to the Minister for access to Australia’s forthcoming 200-mile fishing zone? What reply has the Minister given to those Australian agents acting for the Taiwanese? Will he give an assurance to the House that no approval will be given to the Australian companies to act as agents for Taiwanese fishing companies which have had ships of their fleet apprehended for poaching in and polluting Australian territorial waters? Will he also give an assurance that penalties imposed on the offending captains are severe enough to act as a deterrent?
-I share the honourable gentleman’s concern at the intrusion into Australian waters by Taiwanese, and indeed other, fishing vessels. The 12-mile fishing zone embraces significant waters in the Great Barrier Reef. In that area off Australia in recent months there have been a number of Taiwanese vessels apprehended for clam fishing. With the destruction of the clams there has been an inevitable deprivation of clams in those waters off Australia. It is of great concern that the ecological patterns are being disturbed as a result and the protection we desire to apply to these waters is being breached. I am afraid that I cannot give the honourable gentleman the detail that he seeks at this time, but I will treat that part of his question as being on notice. I can assure him that the Government has certainly taken up the issue with all those companies which have applied for either joint fishing ventures with the Taiwanese or a project in some way associated with the Taiwanese, to ensure that they take up with their principals in Taiwan the Australian Government’s concern at the continued poaching in our waters by Taiwanese boats, which indeed occurs to a greater degree than that by any other nation’s boats.
I hope that as a result there will be a reduction in the number of intrusions in the future. Certainly we are ensuring that the penalties available under the legislation are adequate for the purpose. Of course, in most instances the boats are apprehended and a fine is imposed on the master and the sailors of the boat concerned. The present position is that there will be very real implications for any country which has been caught poaching, when the extended fishing zone to the 200-mile limit is declared. It will certainly be in our mind that any intrusions in the past should be taken into account in any future licensing applications associated with that extended fishing zone. I will treat the balance of the honourable member’s question as being on notice.
-I refer the Treasurer to criticism of the Government’s economic policies by the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union. Has the Treasurer had an opportunity of assessing the criticism, and could he comment to the House upon it?
– As the honourable member for Lilley attempted to point out during the course of his question, there is in circulation a publication called Australia Ripped Off.
– It is a good one.
-The Deputy Leader of the Opposition thinks that it is a good publication. I would like everybody to remember that interjection. Members of the Opposition by their interjections are associating themselves with that publication. I invite members of the Government parties and members of the public to get hold of a copy of this document which costs 60c. If that is a measure of the moderate leadership of the Australian Labor Party in this Parliament, then it is a very interesting commentary on just how far to the left the Labor Party is drifting in these matters. If we analyse the sheer obsession of the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union- and presumably members of the Opposition- with the level of foreign ownership we see a complete incapacity on their part to understand that companies employ people not out of thin air but out of profits. We also see a complete incapacity on the part of the Opposition to understand that high levels of taxation have a disincentive effect on both corporations and individuals. Most significantly of all, we see the complete hypocrisy on the part of that union- as the honourable member for Lilley indicated- in that the level of inflation in relation to its union dues over the past 3V4 years has been extremely high, whereas the record of this Government, so far as inflation is concerned, bears extraordinarily favourable consideration.
-The honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) has raised the question of sitting hours of this House and the arrangement of business in the chamber. He has proposed the establishment of an all-party committee to look into these matters. Presently the House meets from 2. 15 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 10.30 a.m. to I p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m. on Thursdays, giving total actual sitting hours of 22 hours 45 minutes for each three-day sitting week. During those three days, 7 hours 15 minutes are taken up with suspensions of sittings for meals. If the House were to meet from 1.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays, without suspending for meals, it would actually increase its sitting to 23 hours for a three-day sitting week. Some advantages of such arrangement are readily apparent.
The most significant benefit would be in the reduction of physical strain on honourable members and staff”. Instead of the House rising at 1 1 p.m. and honourable members and staff getting away from the building around midnight, it would be possible for them to leave earlier in the evening. Whilst it is recognised that there will be committee meetings and other Parliamentary duties which will keep some honourable members here, generally an earlier rising time must be to the physical benefit of most honourable members and staff. Along with the lesser pressure of excessive working hours on the staff and those serving members of parliament, savings in expenditure could also be expected. Less overtime might be performed by staff, not only those employed in Parliament House, but also Commonwealth car drivers, police officers and possibly in other areas such as the Government Printing Office. There may well be savings in the cost of operating the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms. In addition, reductions could be expected in the cost of electricity for lighting and other purposes in the building. For the House to meet during meal times, it would be essential that proper programming arrangements be introduced. Any new sitting arrangements would quickly break down if the opportunity was used for the calling of divisions or quorums, or for the moving of suspensions of standing orders designed to disrupt the proceedings during ordinary meal times. To achieve proper programming of business, it would be desirable to establish a business programming committee if such a suggestion as made were proceeded with.
Ideally, such a committee should consist of the Leader of the House, the Opposition manager of business, the Whips of the three parties with the Speaker as Chairman. Perhaps the committee could meet on Wednesday evenings and by discussion agree upon the time-tabling of business for the following week. The Leader of the House could advise the House each Thursday morning of the business to be dealt with the following week and of the times at which questions would be put on the various matters debated before the House. An opportunity would be available for honourable members to raise questions with the Leader in relation to the arrangements, along similar lines to the system operating so successfully in the United Kingdom House of Commons.
The adoption of these suggestions may improve the operating efficiency of the House. They are matters which could properly be looked at by an all-party committee. There are other matters such as voting methods which might also be looked at by such a committee. I will take up the suggestion made by the honourable member for Robertson in his question with the Leader of the House. I will suggest to the right honourable gentleman that we consider the setting up of such a committee to conduct an inquiry into the sittings and programming of the House this year.
– Pursuant to Section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947 I present the annual report of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30 June 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Australian delegation to the thirty-fifth session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
- Mr Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the answer to a question asked of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) concerning statistics relating to the Special Youth Employment Training Program and the answer to a question directed to me by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) concerning a Special Youth Employment Training Program in Commonwealth departments.
-Do I understand that the honourable gentleman now has answers to questions formerly treated as being on notice and he seeks to incorporate those answers in Hansard?
-That is right. In fact, I have written to each of the honourable gentlemen.
-Is leave granted?
– I have not seen it yet. The usual practice is that we should see it beforehand.
– It has been delivered to the office of the Leader of the Opposition.
The documents read as follows-
LETTER TO MR HAYDEN
Dear Mr Hayden,
I refer to the Question Without Notice which you addressed to the Prime Minister in the House on 2 May 1979 about a reduction in numbers in training under the National Employment and Training System ( NEAT).
The statistics which you quoted in your Question are substantially correct. However, the number of trainees under the Special Youth Employment Training Program (SYETP) at the end of January 1979 was 15,278, not 15,226.
I should like to point out that a number of factors have caused a decline in overall NEAT trainees during the second half of the 1978-79 financial year. In the first place the SYETP administrative guidelines were tightened in January on the recommendation of the National Training Council. These changes were made to ensure that the Program would be directed to young people in greatest need of assistance and to minimise employer abuse.
Secondly, the trainee statistics reflect a substantial reduction occasioned largely by the simultaneous exit of SYETP trainees under the 6-month and 4-month subsidy periods. You may remember that the subsidy period was reduced in the last Budget.
Finally, normal on-the-job and formal training NEAT statistics reflect the state of the labour market. Formal training can only be approved where a reasonable chance of employment exists after the training has been completed. Onthejob training may only be offered where the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) is unable to fill a vacancy with a person registered for employment who has the qualifications and/or skills required.
I have taken steps to reverse the decline. A national press campaign is being conducted in April and May aimed at stimulating employers to lodge SYETP vacancies with the CES and informing the community in general about the program and identifying the target group.
I myself made a Press Statement on 28 April explaining the Government’s concern and calling on employers to assist disadvantaged young people. A copy of my Statement is attached. The CES has also been instructed to actively promote the campaign with employers.
The last Budget appropriated $122 million for NEAT in the current financial year which provides for an estimated 1 10,000 trainees. This compares favourably with expenditure of $40m in 1975-76, $3 1.5m in 1976-77 and $84.8m in 1977-78. The numbers of trainees in 1975-76, 1976-77 and 1977-78 were 16,658, 34,252 and 106, 139 respectively.
Yours sincerely R. I. VINER
The Hon. Bill Hayden, M.P. Leader of the Opposition, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
LETTER TO MR YOUNG
Dear Mr Young,
I refer to the Question Without Notice you addressed to me on 2 May concerning the number of young persons placed under the Special Youth Employment Training Program (SYETP) in Commonwealth Departments and authorities and the areas in which they are receiving training.
In deciding on this special program the Government’s intention was that the trainees be placed in two intakes of 500 for which an amount of $0.5 m has been provided this financial year out of a total allocation of $2.0m. The first 500 trainees have all been recently placed for training and the break-up of numbers is as follows:
I do not have as yet a detailed breakdown of the placement of trainees in Departments and Authorities but, in general terms, the trainees have been placed for training in occupational areas appropriate to the acquisition of skills and experience that will be acceptable to private employers in the geographic areas concerned.
Of the 500 placements made, 186 trainees have commenced training and a further 189 will commence before 1 1 May. The remaining 125 trainees are due to commence over the next two weeks.
I anticipate that the second intake will be progressively placed and commence in training positions on and from 28 May 1979.
Yours sincerely R. I. VINER
Mr M.J. Young, M.P. Member for Port Adelaide Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
-I will look at the matter and give the honourable gentleman a reply.
-The Government Whip has advised that Mr Shipton has been discharged from the Legislation Committee to consider the Customs Amendment Bill and that Mr Donald Cameron has been nominated in his place.
-I have received a letter from the honourable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The Government’s failure to honour promises, protect the public interest and maintain a coherent set of policies in the field of broadcasting.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Government’s broadcasting policy is in a shambles. The performance of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) is a catalogue of unfulfilled promises, aborted initiatives and confused administration. By any measure the Minister’s administration is an unqualified failure. He ought to take the equivalent of the Chiltern Hundreds. He sought to harmonise two irreconcilable objectives firstly to satisfy the ambitions of the commercial radio stations and television channels and secondly to meet public expectations. Obviously, he is unable to do both and preferring not to accept a combination of the two he has settled for a combination of the former and a scuttling of the latter. The result is that quality in television and radio communication has been sacrificed on the altar of high profit. The Minister in the discharge of his duties is propelled by a sort of floor walker’s charm and a used car salesman’s promises. Accordingly he comes before the Parliament and periodically before the nation on television assuring the community that there will be a royal commission of inquiry into the Australian Broadcasting Commission. There has not been such an inquiry and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made it clear that there will not be. The Minister gave an undertaking more than 12 months ago that there would be an increase in the staff ceiling of the ABC. He certainly approved an increase in the staff ceiling numbers but there was no approval for an increased appropriation for salaries and wages. So effectively it was not possible to increase the ceiling. The Minister is a sort of Graeme Wood of Australian politics: He keeps running himself out by making false promises to the community.
The Government has a dismal record in this field. Especially dismal is the track record of the Minister. What is clear from a consideration of the record is that commercial opposition to what the Government had hoped to do in the area of public and access radio and television communication has balked the Government from carrying out, or certainly from sustaining, any real initiatives. This Government’s record is built on such depressing achievements as the closure of 3ZZ, a community radio station. Amplitude modulation public broadcasting stations are operating on less than 10 per cent of the power on which commercial radio stations and ABC radio stations are operating. Stations such as 2XX Canberra and 5UV Adelaide reach only part of the audience they are licensed to reach. Category C low powered community station licences continue in a state of suspense- presumably permanent suspense. There has been only a minuscule advance in the situation of public radio following the intiatives of the former Labor Government.
It is quite clear from an assessment of these factors that the Government is being restrained because of pressure which is coming from commercial interests in radio and television in the community. One of its more recent initiatives has been the establishment of an office of ethnic propaganda. I refer to the Special Broadcasting Service. This is a body of dubious function, manipulated by the Government and obviously designed to censor the sorts of news items which will go out to ethnic groups. It is little wonder that with this sort of system there is widespread discontent among ethnic groups in the community.
The Minister seems to be a devotee of the communications satellite. However, he has yet to give any fiscal justification for embarking on this sort of project. The only justification seems to be some marginal advantage which it is suggested will occur in terms of communications in rural areas. But, against that advantage, fiscal costs and benefits must be weighed up. The Department of Finance has expressed grave reservations about the fiscal justification of this undertaking. But more significantly, this undertaking, if proceeded with, would be a knockout blow to provincial television. It would leave some 24 television stations in this country stricken. I refer to regional television outlets such as Orange, Townsville, Ballarat, Bendigo, Tasmania, two metropolitan stations in Perth and two in Adelaide. In the meantime coalition members, especially members of the National Country Party, remain dumb and paralysed while regional and rural interests are about to be mowed over by this sort of proposition.
But let me move on further in this litany of failure of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The ABC has been crippled and demoralised. Its budget has been reduced by 23 per cent, its staff has been reduced by 1 7 per cent and the Australian content of its programs has gone down from 70 per cent to 58 per cent. A degree of waste and inefficiency has seeped into the ABC as a result of the confusion injected by the Minister’s administration- a degree of waste and efficiency which is intolerable; a level of waste and efficiency which represents wasted taxpayers ‘money.
I can think of no better example to illustrate this point than a recent case of which the Minister is well aware. I refer to a proposal that 13 one-hour historical documentaries be produced by the ABC. The ABC spent $75,000 on research and planning to work up this proposal. It attracted a half a million dollars from a coproduction partner, namely Film Australia. That amount, together with what was available, or at least believed to be available, from ABC sources, would have represented close to the total amount which was required for this project. Film Australia spent about $50,000 on research and planning in connection with this project. The upshot was that some $125,000 of taxpayers’ money was expended on this sort of research and planning for 13 one-hour historical documentaries. Yet, the project was cancelled. It was cancelled because of the severity of the Government’s fiscal administration of the ABC and because of the uncertainty of the administration of the Minister over the ABC.
The Minister has nothing to be proud of in terms of national pride and a commitment to encourage natural cultural development in the field of the arts. Already there has been a massive drop in Australian content on television screens. The programs shown in Sydney have only 40 per cent Australian content. Australia is something of a cultural junkyard when we contrast that percentage of local content with the fact that programs shown in the United States of America have 99 per cent national content, United Kingdom programs have 87 per cent national content and Western European programs have 67.5 per cent national content. No one can cavil at the proposition that the domestic television corporations cannot afford a greater level of Australian content in their programs. The latest profits of ATN Channel 7 were of the order of $3m. TCN Channel 9 has hidden profits. The total profits of the complex of which TCN is a part were about $ 10m, and the suggestion is that that station ‘s profits were of the order of $3m. TEN Channel 10 had profits of $3.25 m. The stations are earning such profits that they have more than ample opportunity to contribute to national inspiration and to lift the level of Australian content in their programs being screened.
Perhaps the best measure of the success of the Minister is the way in which the public regards the programs which are screened on television. For instance, 17 per cent of the public is satisfied with the quality of children’s television but 43 per cent are not satisfied. More than 50 per cent would prefer no advertisements to be screened during children’s television programs. Some 70 per cent of Australians want an increase in the Australian content of television programs and two out of three want less advertising. Overall, the impression is that of a national community which is disgusted with the content and the quality of television programs. Yet, under this Minister’s administration both quality and the level of Australian content have dropped.
The unfortunate fact is that the Minister has fudged and fumbled. He has failed to respond to the needs of the Australian public. He has had an excellent opportunity to do so, as has his Government. In 1976 the Green report on Australian broadcasting was produced and tabled in this Parliament. It is easily the best report that has been produced in the area of electronics communications. It contained recommendations on policies related to electronics communications in Australia. The report recommended the establishment of three essential bodies, namely, an independent broadcasting tribunal, a broadcasting information office and a broadcasting council. The broadcasting tribunal is falling apart and has very little credibility, if any, left in the community. The Minister sits to one side twiddling his thumbs and takes no action in respect of this serious defect. In the case of the broadcasting information office, which has an important role to play, there is absolutely no evidence that the Minister will proceed beyond the point of rhetorical references to what the Government might want to do one day. The Minister has had more than enough time to act on this proposition contained in the Green report which was tabled in this Parliament three years ago in 1976. Of course, what happened to the broadcasting council is clear evidence of what does go wrong, and how it does go wrong, in the administration of the Minister’s portfolio. Pressure from commercial interests in radio and television results in the complete reversal of commitments that he has undertaken- promises great, performances dismal. What happened with regard to the Broadcasting Council was that there was a proposal that there would be on it representatives of national, commercial and public broadcasting. The commercial broadcasters made it clear that they would not participate in such a council if representatives of public broadcasting were present. So rather than offend the commercial broadcasters, and in spite of the need to serve the community and broadcasting generally, the proposition appears to have been scrapped.
I mentioned a few minutes ago that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal flounders; and it flounders badly, especially on the issues of impartiality and competence. There could not be a more apposite quotation than that from Senator Puplick of the Liberal Party who, in response to the question ‘what’s wrong with the Broadcasting Tribunal, why should it be abandoned?’ on the ABC national program Nationwide, said:
That is clearly a severe condemnation of the administration of the Minister. Let us look at some of the problems of the Tribunal. There is provision for five members on the Tribunal. However, only four have ever been appointed, three of them representing the commercial industry and two of those three coming from the Consolidated Press network and having a clear orientation of favour in that direction. Only one- lonely, isolated and undermined by the Chairman of the Tribunal- has sought to fulfil the role of a consumers’ representative. The functioning of the Tribunal has been discouraging to anyone who has been hopeful that there would be a fairer, more impartial and effective overview of the way in which commercial radio and television function in this community and their responsibilities to the community would be fulfilled.
The Adelaide hearings, the first hearings, of the Tribunal were a prelude to the Sydney disaster; and the Sydney disaster seems almost certain to be a curtain raiser to the Melbourne fiasco. We have seen incredible proceedings, reading like a libretto from Gilbert and Sullivan. We saw people representing commercial interests appearing before the Tribunal and refusing to answer questions; terse promises of performance that satisfy no one of a fair and concerned mind; evasiveness on essential matters of principle which had been raised by members of the Tribunal; and the sorry spectacle of the Chairman as the comforting friend of the commercial sector, not the protector of the public interest.
There has been alleged intimidation by the commercial interests of one potential witness before the Tribunal. The Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations reportedly wrote to the Australian Film and Television School about a report that a member or members of the School intended to make a submission to the Tribunal in the hearings at Sydney. FACTS is alleged to have written to the School that FACTS ‘might now have to reconsider its relationship with the School ‘. This is corporate bluffing and bullying. This has been a most unsatisfactory situation.
The question is: What is to be done? The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has to be balanced and the Chairman must be removed and replaced by a retired judge with a sense of balance and fairness and a sense of consistency of practice in administering the affairs of the Tribunal. There ought to be on the Tribunal not just two representatives of the industry but also two representatives of consumers. There have to be clear procedural guidelines, which have to be followed consistently. Standards have to be applied with the renewal of licences. It might be a highly beneficial practice to renew licences for 12 months initially on the basis of quality standards being achieved, those standards being achieved not by the imposition of value judgment censorship by the Tribunal, politicians or anyone else, but by the public. The public should judge what the standards should be, and that can best be done by opinion rating- people’s regard for the performance. Finally, this should be supervised by a system of consistent ratings.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) made a quite extraordinary speech in which he made hardly any positive proposals for the development of broadcasting in Australia. He concentrated on wild and remarkable attacks on people, which I would have thought hardly became his office or the nature of the subject under discussion. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it seems to me that his approach is marked by ideology- an old-fashioned socialist ideology at that- and an antagonism towards commercial radio and television. If there was one thing that came through his remarks it was that he has an apparent dislike, almost hatred of commercial radio and television.
– To use the comment of one of my colleagues in the House, it seems to be an obsession. Much of what he said can easily be passed by as irrelevant to current broadcasting practice in this country and, I would have thought, to the sensible development of a philosophy for broadcasting in this country. The way in which he spoke reminded me of the way in which he and his colleagues governed when in office. They took a quite definite set against the development of commercial interest in the frequency modulation spectrum and decided that there would be no commercial FM broadcasting. The Government rejects that approach entirely and I think that there may be some questioning about that approach in the Opposition ranks today. We believe that Australia has a good broadcasting system. It may be fair to say that Australia has one of the best broadcasting systems in the world, because within it we combine elements of commercialism with a national service and with a non-profit public sector in a fashion which is unusual and which, I think it is fair to say from my experiences around the world, is admired throughout the Western world.
Might I spend a moment or two nailing some of the extraordinary propositions which the Leader of the Opposition put forward to show how little support his cause merits? For instance, he said that I advocated a royal commission into the Australian Broadcasting Commission. 1 did not advocate a royal commission into the ABC. What I advocated and what the Government believes in and asserts as a matter of definite policy is that there should be regular public inquiry into the ABC. I said that I would consider whether the best mechanism would be by way of a royal commission. I did not say that there should be a royal commission into the ABC. I have always said that there should be regular public inquiry into the ABC, as there is, quite properly, into other aspects of the broadcasting system. At the moment the Government is considering the nature and the timing of the inquiry into the ABC which it has decided will be held.
In the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition there was some interesting stuff about the communications satellite issue. I think that the people who live in rural and remote parts of Australia would be astonished to find that the Labor Party Opposition in this country is so careless about the communications needs of people in remote and rural areas. One can hardly believe this when one sees the Opposition sitting in this place with hardly any rural representation and obviously determined that the rural representation which it does enjoy in this House shall be reduced to nothing in the future. There is no question that when the people who live throughout the rural and remote parts of Australia consider the issue, they will see that there is only one political force in this country, that is, the force of the Government, which is considering seriously the ways in which proper, relevant and contemporary communications needs and services can be provided in such areas.
We have not Ye, made a decision about the task force recommendation, and there are matters to consider. Among those matters are matters of finance, such as those raised by the Leader of the Opposition. But in the midst of his remarks he stated that any decision to have a communications satellite for Australia would be a knockout blow to regional television. On behalf of the Government I have said- and my colleagues have repeated it again and again- that we will not be making decisions which will lead to the destruction of those commercial regional television interests which we as a government have developed and nurtured over the years. Their very existence is, I think, testimony of the desire of Liberal-National Country Party governments over many years to provide a sense of local and regional identity in broadcasting in this country. That is a cardinal aspect of our broadcasting policy and it will not be swept away by anything- be it satellite considerations or anything else.
The Leader of the Opposition stated also that the Australian Broadcasting Commission decided that its projected 13-part historical series on Australia would be cancelled and that, therefore, a considerable amount of money which had been expended would be wasted. I have been advised for some considerable time that whilst the costs in that project have escalated greatlymaking it a much greater project and potentially a much more significant project in the cultural life of this country and in the work of the ABC and its contribution to the cultural life of the country- the project has not been cancelled. The project is under consideration and certainly will be considered for the coming financial year and I understand, considered with a great deal of sympathy. So it is quite untrue to say that the project has been cancelled. What was originally a relatively modest project grew into a very much greater one. The time scale needed to consider these issues is considerable. That project is under consideration at the moment. So, once again, what the Leader of the Opposition said on this project merits no further attention.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to say that I as Minister- and therefore I take it the Government- have reversed my commitments. I find it fascinating that the Leader of the Opposition talked about that but did not give a single documented illustration of any commitment which I have made or the Government has made about broadcasting practice or policy which has been reversed. If he was meaning to say that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal has taken some time to implement some of the policies which we as a government approved in principle that would be fair comment and I would accept it. I would not necessarily feel greatly chastened by such a suggestion because these matters take time and the Broadcasting Tribunal must give proper time to and must, in its considerations, involve the broadcasters, interested members of the public and interested community groups in the process of decision-making about great matters, such as Australian content, children’s programs and advertising standards. These matters simply cannot be left wholly to broadcasters or, in other respects, wholly to parents.
There is no way in which any government in this country can say that it is careless of the needs of children and of the impact of television on our children. There is no way that we can wash our hands and say that it is simply up to the parents to guide their children and to ensure that the television set is switched on and off as appropriate to the children’s needs. It is that recognition which led the Government to accept the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal that a children’s television committee should be established in order to oversee the matter of children’s programs and, in particular, the provision of programs specially for children in what is to be set aside as a children ‘s hour. The Australian Children’s Television Committee was established many months ago and, I understand from all parties, has been working effectively and in the interests of the production by commercial television of appropriate programs which are produced with the interests of children at heartprograms, therefore, which can be relied upon by parents.
It is churlish to suggest that all this can be done overnight. The Children’s Television Committee was established quickly under the chairmanship of Dr Patricia Edgar, who had been a member of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board during the term of office of the Australian Labor Party. I understand that that Committee is working well and that it will be making definite recommendations on a range of important matters relating to children’s programs in the very near future. At the same time, those approaches are being met also by significant moves being made in commercial broadcasting. Money is being set aside for research and special people are being placed in charge of children’s program development. There is a great deal of interest and experimentation in how to satisfy the needs of children. I think that it is agreed all around the community that efforts made in the past simply have not been good enough. But, of course, Rome was not built in a day.
I refer to an other illustration of the odd approach of the Leader of the Opposition. He talked about the Broadcasting Tribunal in a general fashion. He used a great deal of personal invective and displayed a tendency to put people into boxes- to write them off as standing for this or that interest. I desire to see in the Broadcasting Tribunal people of quality who can play a part in such a significant body, but not necessarily people who represent this or that interest group. Indeed, I would have thought that the very way in which the Leader of the Opposition was reaching for the concept of appointing a judge or a retired judge as Chairman of the Tribunal is indicative of the sort of person he would want included in that body. But then we were told that we ought to have on the Tribunal two representatives of broadcasters and two representatives of consumer groups. I think that we ought to have people of quality. I instance the latest appointment to the Broadcasting Tribunal to underline the approach I have taken. I have obtained the Government’s approval of the proposition that Dr Robin Sharwood, a former professor of law at the Australian National University, should be appointed as an acting member of the Tribunal, in particular to sit on the 3CR inquiry in Melbourne. This is a most significant inquiry about which I will not speak at length at this stage because the matter in effect is sub judice, being at the moment under inquiry. The inquiry has been adjourned for some weeks.
It is fair to say, as I have said before, that it takes time for many of the vital matters which are under consideration by the Broadcasting Tribunal effectively to be implemented. The Tribunal is serious about the matter of accountability of broadcasters. It wants to find the right, sensible balance between the proper rights and interests of broadcasters to answer claims which might be made about their performance and the interests of the public in ensuring that this country has better television and that the publichas a proper voice. Only recently after the Sydney hearings I had discussions with the Broadcasting Tribunal about procedures in general. I make it quite clear that the Broadcasting and Television Act provides that the matter of procedures is for the Tribunal to determine. But I believed that it was important for me to have a talk with the Chairman and members of the Tribunal about the general nature of procedures relating to broadcasting licence renewal procedures. The Tribunal has sought legal advice and, I believe it is fair to say, it has modified some of the approaches which it adopted in the Sydney hearings in an attempt to ensure that there is fair play all round. I have said before in this House that these are vital matters, which should concern all Australians, on which I will seek the views of the Tribunal and interested members of the community. If it appears that further modification to the legislation is necessary later this year, I will have no hesitation in bringing forward that modification.
– It is scarcely worth spending much time replying to the rather vacuous defence by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) in response to the rather formidable indictment presented against him by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), but I want to say just a few words about what he said. First of all we had, as is usual from .this Minister, a few highfalutin abstractions. Then we had a piece of semantic indulgence on the difference between a royal commission and an inquiry, in which the Minister was guilty of what can only be described as a terminological inexactitude. On 2 June 1978 he said:
I believe that it may be that it is best to call it. to give it the status of a royal commission.
He now denies having said that and plays around with words as the best defence he can produce. Then he presented a semantic essay on the difference between cancellation and delay pending further consideration. I suggest that that is not much of a defence either. I suggest that this poor program under consideration is very unlikely to see the light of a television screen. We had, then, a few remarks on the communications satellite. They were as little down to earth as the satellite itself. Then there were some promises about children’s television after, there is no denying, three years of non-achievement in the field of children’s television. Finally, we had the statement of the Minister that he would like to see persons of quality on the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. It is the gravamen of our charge that in fact the Minister is incapable of getting his way in Cabinet. He may well want people of quality, but between the time that he makes these proposals and the time that they emerge from the Cabinet they are much changed, and that is true of many of the recommendations that he has made about personnel for boards and committees in this field.
The Minister responsible for broadcasting epitomises the mismatch between the actions and words of this Government. Outwardly we have this smooth, bland, vacuous visage; fine words on maintaining the integrity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission; fine words on public accountability; fine words on the need for quality in children’s television; fine words on community access through public broadcasting. But as this country is learning to its cost, the reality of liberalism is not its outward face, however smooth, but its dirty underbelly. The broadcasting field simply typifies this.
Behind the fine works of the Minister we find, first of all, a cowardly surrender to every exercise of private commercial muscle. Indeed, I sometimes think that Packer simply has to whistle and his jackals come to heel. Secondly, we find by this Minister an abject abandonment of the ABC at every troglodytic impulse from the National Country Party. Thirdly, we find the continual provision of junk food for the minds and bodies of our kids through commercial television. I will just quote an article by a writer in the Melbourne Age, one who simply tuned in to television and listened to typical programs available at any hour on children ‘s television. He went through a whole series of programs, but I will take just one quote from the article. This is what he said about children’s television:
A man named Shirley is butchering the language, a kid from ‘Eight is Enough’ is demanding to see an R-rated movie. Chokitos make you a better skateboarder, and the girl from the pasteurised Partridge Family has been elected Miss Dill Pickle.
There has been no improvement in that field despite the demands that have been made. There has been no improvement because the Broadcasting Tribunal has been incapable of making itself effective, as against the commercial television stations. In 1975 the Labor Government left this country with one of the great broadcasting institutions of the world. I refer to the ABC. In the Department of the Media we had created at last- after decades of neglect by Liberal-Country Party governments- an instrument for making a positive impact on standards and values in the broadcasting industry. We had undertaken a whole range of initiatives- the development of frequency modulation radio, which had been put aside for years because of commercial fears; the beginnings of ethnic broadcasting and the provision of much greater community access to the air waves through the development of public broadcasting. All of these promised a revitalisation, a reinvigoration, of broadcasting in this country, but under this regime most of this promise has been shattered. The ABC is no longer one of the great broadcasting institutions of the world.
– I am sure that we would have cheers for that position from the other side. The Broadcasting Tribunal has proved a useless instrument in making the media barons responsible and accountable to the public, and the Sydney hearings descended into chaos and impotence. Further developments in FM radio, public broadcasting and ethnic radio have been timid and cautious, retarded by a bureaucratic fear that they might prove spontaneous and uncontrollable, and by commercial fears that they might prove competitive. That is why we have moved so slowly in these fields.
Let me briefly, in the time left to me, examine in some detail the practice of liberalism, in contrast to its words. Firstly the Minister, on 21 March 1978, said:
I think that to have a good Australian society we need to have a good ABC- a good, strong viable ABC which encourages a critical approach … I have long been a supporter of, and an admirer of. and a defender of, the ABC against people on this or that side of politics, including of course at times people in my own party who believe that the ABC is a force … an unpleasant force, which is only doing damage.
What is the reality of that kind of fine verbal commitment? Under this Minister and his predecessor the ABC has been emasculated. In the brief space of 3 years a once great and proud c ganisation has been brought low and Mr Siu icy has proved a pretty pathetic defender of it. Honourable members need not take my word as to its deterioration. They may take the words of Professor Harding, an ex-Commissioner of the ABC, who writes:
It is no longer a great broadcasting organisation.
Mr Baillieu: Oh yes! He was pretty good!
-If that will not do, because he has some political taint, and the honourable member for LaTrobe (Mr Baillieu) is not prepared to accord objectivity to anyone outside his own narrow field, let me quote from the Advertiser, a fine newspaper which has not failed, in any election, to support the Liberals. In January 1979 the Advertiser media writer, in an authoritative survey, concluded:
The ABC is a national broadcasting service in decay: a priceless national asset going down the drain.
There is no doubt that this deterioration has been planned and orchestrated by the Government to reduce the ABC to a tame-cat organisation in a tame-cat society. The evidence for that proposition is overwhelming. Let me say a little about it.
The operation to emasculate the ABC has been carried out in three ways. Firstly, by needling it into compliance. That, of course, had begun even before the Whitlam Government fell- with that typical Nixon tirade during the latter part of 1 975. Then the hatchet man. Bland, was placed there for 6 months to try to cow the ABC: and now we have a quieter, more systematic, needling being continued. The second way of getting at the ABC has been by way of the composition of the Commission. That has aided the process of emasculation. Indeed we are told that Malcolm even tried Ibr a full spill so that he could do it quickly, rather than have to wait a few years until the commissioners’ terms ran out. Professor Harding said of the Commission today that it sees itself as an arm of Government policy and it is little more than a mirror image of the values oi the Fraser Government. Above all. the weapon of financial cuts has been used to paralyse the ABC, so that it has become preoccupied with sheer survival.
Next we can turn to the Tribunal. Here we have had fine statements from the Minister about public accountability. But in fact we got in the shambolic Sydney hearings the ending of any hope that that Tribunal could in fact carry out an effective public accounting role. One only needs to read the Press of the Government parties, or of any party, to find it described as a farce, a fraud, a facade, a ritual. For that, this Government is totally to blame because it produced the legislation in relation to the Tribunal. That legislation is inadequate. I suppose that the Government produced it because it thought that the commercial broadcasters might behave like good chaps, instead of the profiteers that they were.
– Would you throw it out?
– We would produce effective legislation so that a tribunal could effectively ensure public accountability. The Government was responsible too for the appointment of the Commissioners. It is generally known that those Commissioners are called ‘Janet and the 3 stooges’ by most of the media people with whom I have talked. That is a comment on the quality of the Commissioners. Finally, the monitoring capacity of the Tribunal is virtually non-existent. It cannot do its job without an effective monitoring capacity. But the Government has not provided legislation enabling it to monitor effectively. Neither has the Government provided the resources to enable it to perform an effective monitoring role.
There are three things that we can say of the Minister, and I am sorry that he is not here. He is either a hypocrite, a masochist or spineless. I do not believe that he is a hypocrite. I think that the man believes what he says. I do not know whether he is a masochist. I do not know whether he goes into Cabinet and says: ‘Look, here is another of these idealistic propositions of mine. Please stomp on it, jump on it. It gives me great pleasure for that to happen to it’. Or is he simply spineless, such that when he goes into Cabinet the old spine bends as the Country Party gets to work on him? If he is either spineless or masochistic he had better not go on being a Minister in this country.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Dr Jenkins)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I find myself in a situation which is rather extraordinary in that in the last few seconds we have been treated to a display of some of the most vitriolic, abusive and totally unnecessary personality politics that I have heard for a long time. It is about time that an intelligent man such as the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett)-
Government members- Ha, ha!
– No, I grant him that. I believe that he certainly is an intelligent man, but I think it about time that he determined what role he might play in this place in his time here. We have seen the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) come into this House proposing a matter of public importance which really has no substance whatsoever. I was fascinated by some of his claims. I was fascinated by his sudden newfound concern for regional and provincial television stations with a view to what will possibly happen to them with the emergence of a national satellite transmitter. He exhorted us and came back to his normal pessimism, gloom and almost manic depression in trying to predict the imminent death knell of the provincial television stations and the private broadcasting sector. Let us see how fond the private broadcasting sector is of the party that the Leader of the Opposition represents. Just recently, referring to the period when the Australian Labor Party was in office, the federal director of the Federation of Australian Radio Broadcasters said:
The outstanding characteristic of the system is the way it has been perverted for political ends. The only balance to be found is in the declining and debilitated commercial sector: all else is propaganda hostile to the philosophy of private enterprise. In a few more years, private commercial radio will be a spent force.
The same gentleman said further:
A great deal of the pressure for this expansion was generated in the early seventies. There were those in politics who had always been distrustful of the so-called ‘established’ media and it was from this feeling of distrust that the notion of public broadcasting was born. Public broadcasting was seen as an alternative, grass-roots system of radio which could combat and undermine the supposed influence of the suspect commercial sector.
The Leader of the Opposition again referred to public broadcasting. Let us see some of the underlying reasons. Again I will quote the people whom the Leader of the Opposition is supposedly protecting in his comments about the satellite. The committee of inquiry on the ALP and the media in its report said:
There are several ways in which the ALP can improve its communications performance . . .
Certainly, an improvement was needed. Two of the ways suggested were to encourage diversity in the number of media outlets available and to establish additional media outlets sympathetic to the ALP. It was very obvious that one of the ways in which the ALP planned to do this was to set up a public broadcasting movement which had a strong and vital anti-conservative element and which offered much hope of providing the sympathetic media outlets that the party felt it needed. They are not my words; they are the words of the people who, presumably, the Leader of the Opposition is trying to befriend.
It may be significant that this matter of publicimportance was brought on at this time. Next Saturday the ALP is conducting a national rural policy seminar in the city of Orange in my electorate. I think it is about time that it did so because it has said publicly that it is the oldest political party in Australia and has its roots in the bush and the strife of the shearers’ strikes in the early 1880s and 1890s. It has taken the party 70 years and more to decide that it needed to have its first national rural policy symposium. One of the things that it will be discussing at the symposium is satellite broadcasting. It has invited a number of people who should know what they are talking about to participate in that seminar. The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that people in country areas should not be given the opportunity of having further diversity in broadcasting, and that the people in the far outback of Australia should not be given radio or television broadcasting- many of them have none of that at the moment- and should not have the educational programs and opportunities that will come with the provision of” a national satellite transmitter.
Further comments were made in terms of this Government’s failure to achieve the objectives that it set out to achieve. I refute those comments entirely. One of the main objectives that this Government set out to achieve was to depoliticise the whole area of broadcasting. In 1 977 we saw the full implementation of the amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act that provided for the issuing and renewal of licences to be removed from the purview of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to that of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. The Labor Party did not do that because it could not afford to remove that power from its Minister. Furthermore, the Broadcasting Tribunal has been established and is operating. 1 admit that there have been some difficulties with its evolving operation. Public scrutiny is an essential procedure in any democracy. No democracy can exist if there is no public accountability. Standards must be maintained and promises of performance must be made and adhered to, but we must also ensure that this process of public accountability is not one which government can employ in the guise of public scrutiny when, in fact, they are creating a type of censorship. Great amounts of money, invested capital, employment and shareholders ‘ interests are tied up with those people who hold commercial broadcasting licences. When they see developing a situation of numerous so-called interest groups within the community putting up submissions and claims that bear no relevance whatsoever to the particular hearing in process, they naturally look at their position with some concern and so seek legal counsel.
One of the problems with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal hearings in Adelaide, and more particularly in Sydney, is that they have become a battle of lawyers. This results in unnecessary expense and is not, I believe, in accord with the original intentions of those persons who framed the Act, or of those who constituted the Tribunal. Furthermore, they have become an enormous waste of time. In many cases the issues raised are quite irrelevant. However, there has obviously been gross misunderstanding on the part of the community at large. I think that needs to be sorted out as a matter of priority. Either the Act is inadequate or the interpretation of that Act by various persons has been inadequate or at least the guidelines for the submission of evidence to the Tribunal have not been relayed clearly to the public at large. That, I believe, is in the hands of the Minister and the Tribunal. The Minister has already indicated that discussions are under way to see whether the procedures and guidelines under which the Tribunal operates can be streamlined and whether we can achieve both purposes; that is, to provide meaningful participation and scrutiny in the licence renewal process- but those submissions must be relevant to the licence hearing in question- and to find an alternative regular opportunity for the Tribunal to invite submissions on particular areas, or indeed the whole general area, of broadcasting policy.
I see that there needs to be two arms, one specifically relating to the licence hearing and the other to provide an opportunity for all members of the community who have had their submissions rejected. If they want to stand up and talk we should give them that opportunity, but not in the process of a specific licence renewal hearing. Why not follow the recommendations of the Green report and apply some of the same scrutiny requirements to the Australian Broadcasting Commission? The ABC, unlike the commercial broadcasters, utilises some $ 1 70m of taxpayers’ money and by comparison its ratings are very poor indeed. Why not apply some of the rigid criteria and close public scrutiny to the ABC so that the taxpayers’ interests and investment can be protected?
I wonder how important this whole matter of public importance is to the Opposition. Halfway through the Leader of the Opposition’s address only one Opposition front bencher, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and six other stalwarts were present. As soon as the next speaker rose to speak there was only one other Opposition member in the House with him.
– Look at the team you have about you.
– I am pleased to see that there are more members of the Opposition present to hear me than there were to hear the last speaker. I was interested to see that maybe the only member of the Opposition interested in this issue was Senator Button, who was in the gallery. I think this matter of public importance has been an absolute and total sham without any substance whatsoever.
-The discussion is concluded.
Motion (by Mr Peacock for Mr Sinclair) agreed to:
That the Legislation Committee considering the Customs Amendment Bill 1979 have power to meet during the sitting ofthe House on Wednesday 9 May 1979.
Debate resumed from 8 May, on motion by Mr Fife:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Hurford had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “the House declines to give the Bill a second reading until the Government gives the House a satisfactory explanation, inter alia, as to-
why the Government considered that the level of short-term assistance on the production and sale in Australia of pedestrian operated rotary cultivators which was recommended by the Industries Assistance Commission might not be adequate:
why the House was not informed that the Government had rejected the recommendations of the Commission relating to this matter; and
why the Minister in his second reading speech did not explain the reasons for deciding on a bounty which is double the rate recommended by the Commission’.
-This debate was adjourned by the Opposition last night at the invitation of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife). It was obvious at that stage in the debate that not only were Government speakers prepared wilfully to misrepresent the amending motion that we put before the House, but also that the Minister himself was confused, if not poorly briefed, and lacking in knowledge of the way the Bill would affect the company to which it applies. We hope today that with a bit more time on this matter the Minister can come back to us and perhaps answer some of the contentions that we have put by way of the amending motion. We have been concerned about this matter, and unless more evidence is produced we will persist with our amending motion. The erosive piece of information given to the House by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) which caused the Minister so much consternation was purely and simply some evidence given by Mr Norman Tinkler, the managing director of Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd, to the Industries Assistance Commission’s longer term inquiry into ‘Certain Engines and Rotary Cultivators’. This evidence was given on 7 March. I quote from the transcript of evidence before the IAC. Mr Tinkler stated:
The bounty or subsidy of $40.00 per kilowatt on pedestrian tillers on the face of it appears generous, but the limitation of $60,000 per annum does nothing to help me effectively compete in the market place with a suitable range of machines and hardly allows for much increase in production ofthe present machine.
The decision, therefore, does nothing for levels of employment or research and development, but makes one machine, the Bullfinch, profitable to continue in production, assuring the employment of about 10 people but losing the probability of substantial increased employment and giving indefinite encouragement to importers at the expense of Australian industry.
I think it is incredible that a simple quote like that should raise so many doubts in the mind of the Minister, patricularly since it is almost certain that the only manufacturer of rotary cultivators in Australia, that is Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd, would have made its views known to the Government and to the Minister in other ways- in other words, by direct representations. I think it is unbelievable that such a minor piece of legislation should be marked by such confusion. The extract from the evidence I have given also lays to rest the wilful misrepresentation by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) that when the Opposition was moving the motion, the Opposition was supposed to be criticising the Government’s moves to ensure more jobs. If I did unto the honourable member for Darling Downs what the honourable member for Darling Downs did unto the honourable member for Adelaide last night, I would now have to proceed in debate to accuse the honourable member of being an advocate of flower power, of being a greenie. The honourable member for Darling Downs wilfully misrepresented a speech by my colleague. He twisted the words of the honourable member for Adelaide, but I will not go into that. What the honourable member for Darling Downs tried to do was to divert the attention of the House from the point of our motion which related to a principle of government and public administration not necessarily the issue itself. Our comments were not being directed at the preservation of an industry or otherwise. The honourable member for Adelaide at page 1942 of Hansard of 8 May 1979 stated:
I repeat, the Opposition does not deny to the Government the right to reject the advice of the IAC. Nor does it take issue on the ground of the moneys involved.
The two points that the honourable member for Adelaide was making specifically in the motion that he moved were, firstly, that the Parliament should be informed when the Government rejects IAC or Temporary Assistance Authority advice, and should give reasons for so doing and, secondly, why did the Government decide on a bounty twice that recommended yet with the same upper limit. I cannot understand the reasons of the honourable member for Darling Downs in trying to misrepresent what we were saying. He quite obviously was not doing it for parish pump purposes. Werriwa is the sort of electorate where rotary hoes are used, not the Darling Downs. We were only pointing out that no reason for the decision had been given by the Minister. We believe that the Government should be open about such matters, and if it has good reasons for doing what it did, then it should give the reasons to the House. What we are trying to talk about are the principles of open government.
In his speech yesterday my colleague the honourable member for Adelaide set out quite clearly why the Opposition is moving an amendment. This may not be a Bill of national importance, but what we were and are so concerned about are the reasons for the Government’s actions in altering or rejecting a recommendation of the IAC and not giving its reasons. If the minister was inclined to give us only one page of departmental prose in his second reading speech, at least he could have given the reasons for doubling the rate of bounty, yet within the upper limit of the total subsidy. All that the Press release which came out from the Minister at the time said was that the level of the assistance recommended by the Commission might not be adequate. There was no explanation. But there is room for speculation. There is room for quite legitimate concern. Are we to assume that the formula was a device simply to present Howard Rotovator Pty Ltd with $60,000, or alternatively how much value will the $60,000 upper limit be to this firm?
Is it the Government’s independent judgment that the IAC, after its searching inquiry was wrong? Was the decision made purely and simply in terms of electoral or employment considerations? I do not suppose that we can expect to be told if it were the latter, but it would appear necessary for Howard’s own sake that the reason for the level of protection be stated by the Government. None of my remarks are directed to Howard Rotovator Pty Ltd by way of criticism. This firm is in the electorate of my colleague, the honourable member for Parramatta (Mr John Brown) and it is a very efficient firm. The criticism which the Opposition levels is directed at the Government and its continued avoidance of allowing decisions, hopefully based on economic and humane principles, to be subject to the openness of parliamentary scrutiny. It may well be that the Howard company has had such an excellent case to make to the Government that the Government has acted responsibly in the interests of the firm, or it may be that the Government wishes to cover up in some way its procrastinations in the past and its favourable treatment of Howards competitors by other measures. Or is it simply compensating Howards for the Government’s own delay? I think it can be said that there is a little bit more politics in this than meets the eye.
Howards used to have a factory at Moss Vale, which is in the seat of Macarthur, which I used to represent. 1 think the factory is still there, but I think it is in an almost closed-down condition. I am not sure of that. By and large this firm is lightly protected and export oriented. I believe it is a fact that duc to the Government’s delay over the last two years in reaching a decision on assistance early in 1978 the company had to retrench workers at its plants in Sydney. Brisbane. Moss Vale and Mackay.
In an article in the National Times for the week ending 9 December 1978, Mr Peter Robinson, an IAC commissioner, made some searching remarks on the way that the Howard company had been adversely affected by Government indecision and by erratic administration. This concerned by and large the motor for Howard rotary hoes. The motor is basically a 3!6 horsepower, 4 stroke engine. There is only one manufacturer of this kind of engine in Australia, and that is Norton Villiers Aust. Pty Ltd in Ballarat. This factory produces about 10,000 units a year in a market of about 160,000 units a year, Australia-wide. Most ofthe imports come from ANI-Perkins, the United States of America and Japan. A typical motor would be the Honda motor. In 1961, 1962 and 1966, Villiers went to the Tariff Board. The duty that was allotted to that company was 42 ]A per cent up to 1966; 65 percent up to 1973; and from that point on it was 49 per cent. In May 1973 there was a recommendation of a slowdown to 35 per cent protection, and a further recommendation that it should be reduced immediately from the 49 per cent to 45 per cent. The government of the day rejected this recommendation saying that the level of protection should remain at 49 per cent until 1978, and then it should be phased down to 45 per cent.
In August 1978 it was announced that there would be a by-election for the Victorian Parliament in Ballarat, because of the retirement of Mr Vance Dickie. On 8 October, the Federal Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) announced that the Government had sent a reference to the IAC covering both the engines made by Norton Villiers and the cultivators by Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd. The Minister then explained that although small industrial engines had only recently been reviewed by the Commission, a further inquiry was necessary because of the difficulties facing this industry, and the regional employment problems in the Ballarat area where the industry was concentrated. The Government’s somewhat one-eyed concern for employment effects in Ballarat was pointed out by witnesses who appeared before the inquiry. The fact is that small manufacturing operations using the kinds of engines produced by Norton Villiers are among the most common of rural industries. They make grain augers, spray equipment, pumping installations, painting devices and fruit growing equipment. They are established in almost every big country town and employ a lot of people. The high duties placed on engines of this type obviously represent a serious restriction on the possibility of expanding such decentralised manufacturing operations. The former honourable member for Wakefield, Mr Bert Kelly, used to take such a keen interest in explaining to the House the effects of high tariff protection on products which are used for secondary manufacture in this country: the cost of the motors is highly protected, therefore the cost of further manufactured goods represents quite an impost on the rest of the country.
It was pointed out that in many cases even such high duties did not lead to use of the Norton Villiers engines-only 10,000 Norton Villiers engines were used out of a total of 160,000 engines used in Australia. They were said to be made to designs at least 20 years old, and they employed cast iron technology. Mr Peter Robinson’s article states that, in some cases, the Ballarat engines weighed up to 50 per cent more than imported engines cast from aluminium or light alloys. In addition, the messy haphazard way in which the Government has administered tariff policy in recent years has meant that tariffs favour the import of complete items of equipment using such engines rather than designing and making them in Australia.
For example, the Australian Pump Manufacturers’ Association pointed out that complete engine-powered pumps could be imported with a tariff of 26 per cent, although the tariff on the engines- the most costly item in the pump- was 49 per cent. A similar problem for many years had been affecting Howard Rotavator. Rotary cultivators with such engines can be imported duty free from New Zealand, or at a maximum duty of 22Vi per cent from other sources. In June 1977 Howard’s managing director, Norman Tinkler, to whom I referred earlier wrote to the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. He warned that, unless entry of suitable engines could be obtained duty free under by-law, there would have to be serious retrenchment of employees. All through 1977 he battled with the Canberra bureaucracy, submitting as evidence to the IAC inquiry letters which he had received and which splendidly portrayed the bureaucraticmind.
In April 1978 he wrote to the Minister for Industry and Commerce seeking a reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority. He pointed out that import competition had forced a steady contraction of the company’s activities. He pointed out that the company had lost from employment a total of over 1 12 people and that in that year it would have to sell the Brisbane factory. He said that his company had an effective tariff of 9 per cent and was exporting more than 20 per cent of its production. It had reached a ‘crossroads’ where even the present level of activity could not be sustained. All of this occurred in 1977. In contrast to the immediate and favourable response that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs gave to the application for assistance by the highly protected Norton Villiers, this letter from the Howard company generated no response.
On 5 July 1978 Mr Tinkler wrote a letter to Sir John Crawford, chairman of the Study Group on Structural Adjustment. He enclosed a copy of the letter written to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, which stated in part:
Despite the urgency of my firm’s situation and the fact that I could not postpone indefinitely a management response to the decline in orders and production, I fear I am no nearer now to an outcome of my temporary assistance application than I was three months ago . . .
I do not wish to dispute the relevance of the official procedures by which requests for temporary assistance are resolved. I do, however, wish to argue as strongly as 1 am able the imperative that when official failure to deal expeditiously with such a request from an export industry causes it to release productive resources, that failure induces avolidable social and economic, as well as commercial costs.
Of course, as Mr Tinkler pointed out in his letter to Sir John Crawford, the standard bureaucratic answer to complaints of delay is that proper procedures for establishing a case on an industry basis have to be followed. However, in this case Howard Rotavator was the only Australian manufacturer of its products, just as Norton Villiers was the only local maker in its field. The Howard products at present have an effective protective rate of 9 per cent, and they compete on export markets. According to one witness at the inquiry, the Norton Villiers engines attract a protection rate which in monetary terms amounts to just under $200 a unit for products that range in price from $85 to $ 1 1 5. On the basis of 150 employees involved at Norton Villiers, this is equivalent to $ 1 3,239 per employee.
What I am trying to show is that two companies have been treated rather differently by government. One has approached government and received immediate attention to its request for protection. Howard Rotavator has also written to government, has made representations and given evidence before the IAC. It is only now, after some two years, that any sort of protection by way of bounty has been given to it by the Government. It is these matters that concern the Opposition so much. That is the reason why the Opposition has put forward the amendment moved on its behalf. Frankly, we believe that the Government needs to give more detailed reasons for its rejection of the IAC report. The IAC report recommended an upper limit of $60,000, but at $20 a unit. If the Government intends to double the amount of bounty to $40, the Opposition figures that it is quite sensible and reasonable to expect that the upper limit should also be doubled to $120,000. It feels that the Government needs to explain what economic rationale it adopts in treating one company in one way and another company in another when they are so clearly interdependent and linked.
-My remarks in this debate will be brief. I make it clear at the outset that I support the Government’s decision in relation to the bounty to be granted for the production of the products that are the subject of the Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Bill and that I reject the amendment moved by the Opposition. The contributions made in the debate by Opposition spokesmen concerning the Opposition’s amendment and the Government’s failure to give adequate explanation seem to me to ignore completely the Press statement that was put out by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) and the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) in February of this year when the Government’s decision on the matter was first announced. I believe also that the amendment is misleading because, in essence, the Government has not rejected the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendations, particularly insofar as it has continued the upper annual limit of bounty of $60,000, which amount was recommended by the IAC.
Far from opposing the proposition in this Bill that a bounty be accorded, I welcome it because I believe in a general sense that if we are to have in Australia, as we have to have, for manufacturing and other industries a reasonable level of protection to the extent that that is done through the public purse by way of bounty rather than in the more hidden way of tariffs or other assistance which is paid by the direct consumer of the products concerned rather than by the community as a whole, then 1 think that the bounty route is by far the more preferable to follow. If we as a nation take a decision that certain industries shall be maintained with adequate levels of assistance, it ought to be brought into the public light that that assistance is being accorded. Given that those decisions are generally taken in the national interest, the nation, broadly based through the taxpaying community, should bear the cost of that assistance rather than the consumer of the particular products.
In recent months we have seen several bounty Bills go through the House. I believe that that is a very desirable practice and I hope that it will be continued. It does, however, make the Government’s overall task of balancing its books, because of the very important concern it has for deficits, much more difficult. However, in the end I believe it is a more honest route to follow and one which, in terms of overall resource allocation throughout the community as a whole, is desirable. The Bill before the House is based on the recommendations of an IAC report. As has been said in the debate, a two-pronged reference was sent to the IAC and the Temporary Assistance Authority in October of last year. Each body was asked to produce a report on certain engines not exceeding 7.46 kilowatts, rotary cultivators, and tractors having a power of less than 15 kilowatts.
The short term report was required to be completed within 60 days of the date of reference, which was early in October, and the full IAC report was to be completed within 12 months. So, that final report will be coming up in October of this year. As we now know, the IAC recommended bounty assistance for certain rotary cultivators, hoes and tillers. Short term assistance for the other goods under reference was not recommended by the IAC. The main ‘other goods under reference’ were small, stationary, horizontal shaft engines of a type manufactured by Norton Villiers Australia Pty Ltd, a company located in the city of Ballarat in my electorate. Norton Villiers is the only remaining manufacturer of small stationary horizontal shaft engines in Australia.
I am very interested in some of the remarks made yesterday in this debate by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and those just concluded by the honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin). Both honourable members expressed their concern for the industry as a whole, although their concern and their remarks were directed mainly at Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd, the beneficiary of the bounty enshrined in this Bill. Certain remarks struck me as very odd and very disturbing. For example, I was astounded to hear the chief spokesman for the Opposition on the Bill, the honourable member for Adelaide, refer to this small engine firm in Ballarat as Norman Villiers. Apparently he did not know its name. However, I note that the name appears correctly in today’s Hansard. That gives some indication of how much work he put into this matter.
More particularly, I think the comments made by the honourable member for Werriwa are very disturbing. For example, I am astounded that the honourable member for Werriwa, who obviously had put a lot of work into his draft for today, did not know whether a Howard factory, which had been operating in Moss Vale, close to his present electorate and within the electorate he formerly represented, was still operating. That is another fair example to me of the real concern that the Opposition has about this matter.
The implication that I do want to lay at rest- it was mentioned specifically by the honourable member for Werriwa today and the honourable member for Adelaide last evening- is the implication that this matter was referred to the IAC and the ensuing decisions made by the Government with a view to giving special treatment to Norton Villiers in Ballarat. It is true that the matter was referred to the IAC and the TAA in October 1978, several weeks before the Ballarat by-election for the Victorian State Parliament, but it is entirely wrong to say that this was occasioned by virtue of that by-election.
If anyone had taken the care or trouble to investigate this matter he would have known that Norton Villiers has been in considerable difficulty in the production of its engines for several years. He would also have known that since I became the member for Ballarat, at the end of 1975, 1 have worked very hard indeed to inform the Government of the problems associated with that firm. As a result, successive Ministers for Industry and Commerce, the former Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, the permanent head of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs and the Chairman of the IAC have been to Ballarat at my request to look at Norton Villiers, to discuss its problems and to take a real interest in it. As a result of those activities it was decided, in October 1978, that this reference was worthwhile and necessary. The fact that the Government has now taken a decision which does not provide additional short term assistance to Norton Villiers to my mind completely gives the lie to the false and mischievous imputations and references made by speakers on the other side of the House.
Norton Villiers has a very long history. It has been established in Ballarat for approximately a quarter of a century. It was 100 per cent British owned by the Villiers Corporation of the United Kingdom until the beginning of 1978. Then the British interest was bought out by Australian interests. The honourable member for Adelaide claimed last night that special treatment had been accorded to Villiers Norton in the reference of the IAC because it was rumoured that the Australian owners were members of the Liberal Party in Ballarat. Let me assure the honourable member for Adelaide- it is very regrettable that these statements are made without research being done- that that rumour, to my knowledge, is not true.
As I have said, the IAC recommended no short term assistance for Norton Villiers engine production, mainly because it concluded that in the short term it seemed unlikely that activity and employment would not be lower than if the requested assistance of quotas plus bounties were granted. Other criticisms were made by the IAC on the basis of evidence given about the design and user acceptability of the engines. A great deal of emphasis seemed to be placed on the weight of the Norton Villiers engines, which are cast iron engines, compared with imported engines, many of which are made from alloys. It is a fact- this was not countermanded in the report- that Norton Villiers claims that there is little difference in weight in all makes of engines up to 7.5 kilowatts. The IAC also took the view that in the event that Norton Villiers ceased operations, the loss of employment could be offset by additional employment in user industries if engines were subsequently admitted free of duty. However, the Commission was unable to say how long such action would take or give the locations involved, other than to say that the locations would be in areas other than Ballarat.
In logic and in the overall national interest I cannot oppose the Government’s decision in relation to the engines manufactured by Norton Villiers if the evidence and the analysis on which that decision was based is sound. I would have to say, without unduly criticising the IAC or the content of the IAC report, that I believe, on a close reading of the report, that it has certain potential deficiencies. I regret that the IAC did not see fit to recommend some assistance for the company in the same way that Howards is being assisted, until such time as the full and final IAC report comes out in October of this year. As I have already said, it could be that a decision along these lines would not have provided Norton Villiers with the real assistance and market acceptability that it required. Certainly, the result in the present case is that Norton Villiers is now in a very critical position. It is possible that that would have been the case in any event. But it is a fact that three weeks ago 40 employees were retrenched from the company, bringing its work force down to, I think, fewer than 100 employees. The future of the company may be determined finally one way or the other within the next few months.
I and others in my electorate have been working very hard to save the company and to get it additional work in areas other than engine manufacture because the facilities of Norton Villiers in Ballarat include, amongst other things, the best machine room and machining facilities of any engineering operation of its size in Australia. What we would like to see and what may well prove the salvation of the company is firms with machining requirements looking at the facilities that Norton Villiers has to offer with a view to determining whether, on a no favours and full price and quality comparative basis, there is work that that company could do which it has not been doing in the past and which would assist companies in other areas.
I think that the IAC report and the Government’s decision highlight the problems of many manufacturing industries in non-metropolitan areas. I believe that everyone should accept that no government can or should insulate all companies or industries from changing market circumstances, changing technology and the like. It is up to the companies themselves to do so. But governments do have a responsibility in changing circumstances and where the decisions that they take as to the level of assistance or other measures relate directly to the activities of a particular company, to ensure that those changes or decisions are implemented in such a way that the economic and social dislocative effects, particularly in country areas, of rapid changes facing industries and companies, especially those in the manufacturing area, can be minimised without insulating for all time the companies from change. This is undesirable from everyone’s point of view.
I believe that many of the points that I have raised are matters for debate and comment within the bounds of the Crawford committee of inquiry. I am sure that the Government will give that report the very careful consideration that it deserves so that we can continue the process that was started when this government came to office three or four years ago of getting Australian industry back on its feet in a fully competitive and viable manner.
– I rise to speak briefly on this matter because for a number of years I had within my electorate of Mitchell the company of Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd.
– It is a good company, too.
– As the honourable member for Paterson said, it is a good company. It was established by Mr A. C. Howard on a property in Moss Vale in 1912. He was a former engineerfarmer from Gilgandra. In 1 922 he established a larger factory in the Northmead area. There he earned for himself amongst his employees and citizens of the district an enviable reputation as a man of honesty and integrity. Many of his older employees are now reaching retirement age but it is interesting to note that almost without exception they have been with the company for the whole of their working lives, such was the treatment that they received from Mr Howard and the high regard with which they held that company.
– He probably made and sold the first tractors in this country.
– The honourable member has supplied additional information. Indeed the company built the first tractors in this country. They were built to drive the machine invented and developed by Mr Howard-the rotavator. This company earns millions of export dollars for this country with an Australian invention that is manufactured by an Australian company.
In August 1976 Mr Tinkler, the present Managing Director, approached me with information concerning the difficulties his company was facing because the high protection being afforded to the Villiers company was forcing Howard to consider the purchase of an Australian manufactured engine for his small hand-guided implement. On examination of the facts it became obvious that the real difficulty arose through duty-free engines from Japan being imported into New Zealand and a unit being manufactured there and exported to Australia with no duty being applied to it. The trade agreements with New Zealand imposed difficulties on this fine Australian company. Consequently, it was seeking to have duty applied to imports from New Zealand or a reduction of the duty to the Australian manufacturer.
My friend and colleague the member for Ballarat ( Mr Short) has clearly enunciated to the House some of the difficulties that have been faced by Villiers. I sympathise with that company for the difficulties that it has gone through. In 1977 Howard was forced into a situation in which it was considering manufacturing in New Zealand or Malaysia. To some extent this has happened with this equipment, but Howard did not make decisions of this type before properly negotiating and discussing with the Government the difficulties it was facing and going through in the correct form and to the right authorities the areas of government, such as the Industries Assistance Commission, which would seek to assist it or would hear its cause. Howard has taken the Villiers engine that was produced in Australia and extensively tested it. Howard has examined it in such a way that it claims that that engine is not satisfactory for its purposes. I do not think that members of this House are in a position to judge those factors. It is a matter for commercial judgment and for engineers to determine. But the fact of the matter is that until this decision was taken Howard faced great difficulties with the continuation of its manufacturing business in Australia.
The Government must be given credit for thoroughly exploring this issue through its instrumentalities and for providing proper routes for industry through the Temporary Assistance Authority and the Industries Assistance Commission to examine in detail the difficulties that almost appear to be a conflict between my colleague and me in representing two Australian companies facing two sets of difficulties. The IAC, in its final presentation of a part report into certain engines not exceeding 7.46 kilowatts, has given guidance as to what should be done. The Government has taken up the recommendations of the IAC and has been seen to give support to Australian industry. The beneficiary in fact will be this fine Australian company, Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd of Australia. The comments made by the Opposition disappointed me. I should have thought that after a couple of telephone calls it could have clearly established the situation. A telephone call to Villiers and Howard would have clarified for the Opposition the reason for the introduction of this legislation and the reasons why a bounty should be applied to assist Australian industries in those circumstances. Obviously that has not been done.
I am greatly disappointed that Labor has moved an amendment that indicates it has neither the will nor the interest to involve itself closely with Australian industry. I am particularly disappointed when a company such as Howard Rotavator is involved. I want to inform the House that I will be talking with Mr Tinkler of Howard Rotavator this evening. This gentleman is most concerned about some of the statements that have been made in this place. I will be able to reassure him of the reasons behind the Government’s decision which he fully understands, supports and applauds. I will also be able to convey to him, I hope with a sense of some tragedy in my voice, the poor homework and the lack of detail that are obvious from the comments of members of the Opposition.
I would like to conclude my remarks by congratulating the Government for making this difficult decision. The Government has used legislation and agencies such as the Industries Assistance Commission and the Temporary Assistance Authority eventually to reach what I feel is the best conclusion. In fact, my colleague, the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short), tends to agree with me and in fact he supports the Government’s decision. I know that the prospects for Howard must now be brighter. I am delighted to see that. The reputation built for that company by old Mr Howard will be carried on and the company will continue to attract export dollars to Australia. This fine company has a good industrial record. The reputation of its employees for skill and expertise is recognised right throughout farming communities worldwide.
– The honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), who has just resumed his seat, said that he was disappointed at the attitude of the Opposition in this debate. I can understand his disappointment. Indeed, I am sincerely puzzled by the attitude of the Opposition and its performance in the debate. I do not seek to establish in the House motives for the Opposition’s attitude. I merely leave the matter on the basis that to say the least I am extremely puzzled. The Government’s aim, of course, with legislation of this kind, is to ensure as far as practicable the continuation of production and obviously the resultant maintenance of employment in the industry. We have a feel for this need. We understand the concerns of people who are employed in industries that seek assistance. We realise that unless businesses are productive and profitable employment will suffer. The honourable member for Werriwa (Mr Kerin) said that there was a great deal of confusion. He implied- indeed I think he said- that I was confused and that the Government was confused in relation to this matter.
The only people confused in this debate have been the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) and the honourable member for Werriwa. This confusion was evident in the speeches they made during the second reading debate on this Bill. Had it not been for the contributions made by the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh), the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short) and the honourable member for Mitchell there would have been no constructive content in this debate other than that contained in my second reading speech. I am indebted to those three honourable members for their informed and constructive contribution to this debate.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Mitchell say that the Managing Director of Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd is coming to Canberra tonight, presumably because of his concern at what happened last night and the comments that were made by the honourable member for Adelaide who led for the Opposition. I am sorry that the managing director has felt it necessary to visit Canberra, but as I indicated last night, on the basis of what the honourable member for Adelaide said, I felt that to act responsibly I had no alternative than to seek the adjournment of the debate so that all of these matters could be clarified. As I said a moment ago, the only people confused are the members of the Opposition who have participated in this debate. Therefore, I believe that it is necessary to clarify the reasons for the Government’s decision.
I can assure all honourable members that any gaps in the information previously provided to the Parliament were not intentional and the Government rejects outright any suggestion that the decision made was in any way improper. The background is that this decision was based on an interim report- I emphasise the words ‘interim report’- of the Industries Assistance Commission dated 6 December 1978. In that report the Commission stated that imports had caused serious damage to the pedestrian operated rotary cultivator industry. This damage had caused a loss of sales on the domestic market and indirectly a loss of sales on the export market. The Commission stated in its report that if short term assistance were not granted there was every possibility that production of these cultivators would cease. The Commission recommended that short term assistance- and I emphasise again for the benefit of honourable members opposite the words ‘short term assistance’- by means of a bounty was warranted in order to hold resources in what is considered to be a low cost and efficient industry, pending receipt of the Commission’s final report on the industry and a decision on that report by the Government. The date for the final IAC report on this matter is 6 October this year.
In the interim IAC report the Commission recommended that the bounty on each machine should be at the rate of $20 per kilowatt of engine power. After careful consideration of the Commission’s report the Government agreed with the Commission’s conclusions that resources should be encouraged to remain in this low cost industry pending receipt and consideration of the final IAC report.
The reasons why the Government on the advice of the IAC chose to offer a bounty to this industry rather than the more usual assistance by means of the customs tariff were twofold. First, one of the main sources of competition is New Zealand. The provisions or the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement prevent duties being imposed on New Zealand cultivators regardless of the level of duty applied to similar goods from other countries. Hence, a bounty is the only means of assisting Australian manufacturers against the New Zealand imports. The bounty has a second benefit in that it keeps the price to the consumer at a reasonable level. In this case the consumer is the small home or market gardener.
The major comments on this present bounty measure have been concerned with the level and amount of bounty being offered. The level recommended by the IAC was $20 per kilowatt of engine power of the prime mover. The requirement that the machine should have a minimum local content of 60 per cent is a normal precautionary measure. This would have resulted in a bounty of approximately $45 per unit for the major selling local cultivator. As this machine suffers significant price disabilities compared with imports, the Government was concerned that assistance at the recommended level could be insufficient to present the local producer from going out of business, with consequent loss of employment. Therefore, it was determined that additional assistance might be desirable.
Another factor in the decision was the knowledge that the local manufacturer’s viability in the past had depended to a great degree on the volume of production achieved, which depended again on a substantial volume of exports. As the Government had already decided that assistance would be by means of a bounty, it became relevant that in certain important export markets, such as the United States of America, any exports may be taxed by way of countervailing duties to the extent of any government subsidy paid on their production. Hence it became more essential to give meaningful assistance to the smaller volume of cultivators produced for the Australian market.
Another factor taken into account in the decision to increase the bounty offered was the effect of existing duties on components used in cultivators, particularly engines. One method of assisting cultivator manufacture would have been the elimination of the duty on engines, as requested by the local producer. However, the Government decided that the duty treatment of the engines used should not be changed and that the burden which the protection of this important component placed on the cultivator manufacturer had to be considered. In the light of all these factors the Government decided that the bounty should be set at a level of $40 per kilowatt of engine power, which is equivalent to about $90 per cultivator. The total amount of bounty offered by the Government in this Bill is restricted to $60,000, as suggested by the Industries Assistance Commission. This limitation also has been the subject of criticism, both within this House and in recent hearings by the IAC in its inquiry into long term assistance for the industry.
The rationale behind this limitation is that the bounty is intended to operate in the short term only- for the benefit of honourable members opposite I emphasise ‘in the short term only’- and that even at the higher level of bounty decided upon by the Government the local manufacturer’s domestic sales would have to be more than double and achieve the peak levels obtained for domestic sales in 1972-73 and 1973-74 if the limit were to be reached. I, like every other member of the Government, hope that it is reached. The Government is confident that the upper limit of the bounty will not interfere with the intention to retain resources in the industry until such time as the decision is made on the long term assistance needs of the industry.
The only Australian manufacturer of pedestrian-operated rotary cultivators which submitted evidence to the IAC was Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd. The company was contacted this morning by an officer of my Department and it has indicated very clearly, contrary to what the honourable member for Adelaide said last evening, that the bounty proposed by the Government will allow it to continue production at viable levels and is an acceptable form of assistance. I reaffirm the Government’s strong support of the measure which is now before the House forks consideration.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek your indulgence to explain that I am not calling for a division as I want the House to resolve itself into Committee straight away so that I may be given the opportunity to respond. As the Notice Paper is very full, we will take up time not in voting but in discussing and arguing.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
-At last the Government has been flushed out as to the reasons it has made the decisions which give rise to this Bill. The fact is that in spite of all the huffing and puffing of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife)- we might even call it blustering- the Government was caught with its pants down. In the Minister’s second reading speech we had merely two paragraphs which did not explain satisfactorily to anyone looking objectively at this Bill why the Government had arrived at the decisions at which it had arrived. I hope that this exercise in relation to this Bill will show the Minister that in future he should not accept from his Department a second reading speech which does not give members of this chamber adequate information upon which we can debate a measure of this sort.
The Minister has now made the clarifications that were required. I am grateful to him for taking the trouble to make the decision last night to adjourn the debate on this measure so that he could get the necessary advice. He has had the courtesy to do that. I thanked him for doing so last evening and I thank him again. I hope that he will concede that the information he gave to the House in his reply to the second reading debate should have been in his second reading speech at the start of the debate. In this Committee stage I will talk to those clauses which set a bounty rate. I remind honourable members that my objections at the second reading stage were that the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission had not been followed in decisions that were taken by the Government and reflected in this Bill. I should have referred to recommendations of the Temporary Assistance Authority.
-It was the IAC.
– It was the IAC. I thank the Minister. There was no explanation of why the recommendations, even though short term, were different from what is in the Bill. Indeed, the rate in the Bill is double that recommended in the IAC report. It is really quite irrelevant to tell us that this measure is short term.
The Opposition was not objecting to the decision itself or to the Government’s right to take a decision which is different from what had been recommended by the IAC. As would be clearly seen from the wording of the amendment I moved at the second reading stage, the Opposition was objecting to the fact that in the Minister’s second reading speech he had not told us that what he had decided upon was different from what was contained in the IAC report. We had to find that out for ourselves. I believe that on these occasions we have the right to be told that sort of thing. Then he did not tell us why he differed from the IAC report. Thirdly, he did not justify doubling the bounty recommended by the
IAC. He said that the gaps were not intentional. I accept his word that they were not intentional.
I had no choice but to ring the Minister’s office to find out all this additional information. I think that all honourable members, even honourable members on the other side of the chamber who have little goodwill for me, will recognise that we in the Opposition lead a busy life and that shadow Ministers who have the activities of three Ministers to oversee lead particularly busy lives. It is not my function to ring the Minister’s office or departments to gain this information; it is my function to flush out in this Parliament any deficiencies. I believe that by the exercise we have undertaken in respect of this Bill we have flushed out a deficiency. I believe that in future the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs will not make flimsy second reading speeches and that adequate information will be provided in those second reading speeches to justify the decisions which have been made and to explain why they have been made if they are different from the recommendations made by independent authorities.
Last night the honourable member for Darling Downs (Mr McVeigh) and today the honourable member for Ballarat (Mr Short) and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman) misrepresented, I believe wilfully, the position which we in the Opposition have taken. They did not have to listen to any speeches to get the position clear; all they had to do was to read the amendment we moved to the motion for the second reading of this Bill. A lot of their speeches was built on the assumption that we were against the bounty being paid to Howard Rotavator Pty Ltd. That conclusion cannot be drawn from anything that we said in our speeches or from the amendment we moved. We objected to the Minister bringing from the Government to this chamber insufficient information to justify its decisions. I repeat: Honourable members do not have to mishear what has been said in the debate or to misread the Hansard record of the debate; all they have to do is to look at the amendment we moved to the motion for the second reading of the Bill to get the gist of what we were doing.
If the honourable member for Mitchell is responsible for Mr Tinkler coming all the way from the honourable member’s electorate to this Parliament tonight, he is responsible for additional expense being incurred by Mr Tinkler’s company because the honourable member must have misrepresented me and misrepresented the position we have taken. In no way are we an adversary of the company receiving the bounty. We are a critic of the Government for not explaining its reasons for making the decisions it has made. As part of the wilful misrepresentationit is certainly a misrepresentation, if not wilful- the Minister repeated what it was suggested earlier I had said, namely, that the company concerned was dissatisfied with the amount it had received. He said that I had said that incorrectly. I repeat: In no way can I be accused of having said that incorrectly. What Mr Tinkler said at further Industries Assistance Commission inquiries is on record. He said that he did not complain about the amount of bounty per unit, but that he did quarrel with the Government about its putting a limit of $60,000 on the amount to be expended. I do not ask honourable members to rely upon anything I have said; I have indicated what is recorded in the transcript of proceedings when Mr Tinkler appeared before further IAC inquiries on this matter.
I end my speech as I began, by saying that all the huffing, puffing and blustering in the world will not avoid the crux of this matter, namely, the fact that the Government has not properly explained its decision to this chamber. Prior to the Minister closing the second reading debate on this Bill, the Government had not explained why it made the decision it did. It did not even take this chamber into its confidence when it should have owned up to rejecting independent advice from the IAC concerning the amount of bounty. I repeat: The Government did not explain sufficiently the reasons for making its decision. I hope that in future we will not have any more of those flimsy second reading speeches and that this chamber will be informed properly of the reasons why the Government reaches the decisions at which it arrives.
– First of all, on behalf of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), I want to make it clear that the honourable member did not invite Mr Tinkler to come to Canberra today. Indeed, Mr Tinkler heard ofthe debate last night and, on his own initiative, because of his concern and because of what was said by the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford), he decided to come here. The form of assistance provided under the Bounty (Rotary Cultivators) Bill is of immense importance to Mr Tinkler’s company. The honourable member for Adelaide said that last night I either misunderstood him or misrepresented what he said in relation to Mr Tinkler’s company. I repeat what I said in my remarks last night, namely, that the honourable member had indicated that the irony of the matter was that the company rejected the bounty rates as being insufficient. The honorable member for Adelaide has repeated that claim today and has referred to a transcript of the evidence given before the Industries Assistance Commission.
This afternoon I have done my best to impress upon the Opposition the fact that this Bill will provide temporary assistance. I think really, to be fair to the honourable member for Adelaide, he is still a little confused about that aspect because during the remarks he made a few minutes ago he referred, perhaps inadvertently, to the report from the Temporary Assistance Authority. We are not acting upon a report from the Temporary Assistance Authority; we are acting upon an interim report from the IAC. The comments made at the IAC hearing by a representative of the company concerned were made in relation to the long term. I have indicated already that the Government expects to receive the IAC report on the long term considerations on or by 6 October next. I repeat: Because of the concern I harboured last night in the light of what the honourable member for Adelaide had said, this morning I had inquiries made by an” officer of my Department. I have been assured by the company that the bounty proposed by the Government will allow it to continue production at viable levels and that it is an acceptable form of assistance. I am grateful to the honourable member for Adelaide for the compliment he passed me in relation to the advice I have given him and this chamber today. I hope that, as a result of his receiving that information and hearing what I have said now in relation to the short term as opposed to the long term, he now feels he is fully informed about the measure.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Fife)- by leave- read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 3 May, on motion by Mr Groom:
That the Bil! be now read a second time.
-The Government has sought again to amend the Atomic Energy Act. It now amends the Act almost every three months. On this occasion it has sought to amend the original Act, which was enacted in 1953, to empower the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to borrow money on the open money market. There are many other ancillary provisions of the Bill which deal only with meetings of the Commission, officers and employees’, rights of Public Servants, moneys payable to the Commission, estimates, audits and so on. The principal part is that which empowers the Commission to borrow. Perhaps I might read the provisions which will affect the prime Act. They are found at proposed new section 30, and read as follows:
Further on it states:
Finally, it provides:
These provisions would finance the development of the Ranger uranium deposit and the Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory. I suppose that it would be opportune to point out at this stage the view of the Opposition about uranium mining- that there should be no addition of uranium to the international fuel cycle until the unresolved problems of the nuclear industry have been resolved.
– They all have been.
– If the honourable member would just sit and listen for a while he might learn something. One of the problems that the Government has struck is that it cannot find a market for its uranium. We have now a silly situation in which, under the Ranger uranium consortium arrangement, the Government has the Atomic Energy Commission out seeking markets for its half of Ranger’s production. It is almost unbelievable that, the Ranger uranium consortium having been entered into with the Peko-EZ companies, the Government rather than the consortium is to seek a market for its share of the produce and the companies will do the same for the rest. The Government will be concluding safeguards agreements with other countries, and, of course, will be in a position to sell its uranium before Peko-EZ can do so. That could not in any way be conducive to a happy corporate marriage between the Atomic Energy Commission and Peko-EZ. I cannot understand how a government which believes that nuclear power is the saviour in regard to power generation for the Western world can still believe that there is a market for uranium when it has to do this to its own authority- as it has done.
Therefore the Opposition is critical, first, of the Government’s determination to develop Ranger and, secondly, of the crazy way in which the Government has gone about it. We have had, of course, other major objections to the Commission. The main one has been that the Commission was essentially created as a defence service establishment. It was established in the Cold War climate of the early 1950s so that it might involve itself in nuclear research, much of it with a military connotation, or weapons-related. For that reason, draconian security measures were introduced. The Bill was brought down at a time when there had been espionage scandals in the Northern Hemisphere- hence these repressive security provisions.
The Government has retained those provisions and has extended the role of the Commission to include the mining and production of uranium and the carrying out of other commercial activities. At the moment the Atomic Energy Commission undertakes a variety of functions. I cite some of them: Nuclear fuel cycle research and development; radioisotope preparation and distribution; regulatory and safety aspects of nuclear operations; participation in mineral development; de facto source of nuclear energy policy advice; where necessary, nuclear weapons research and advice; and a minor amount of nonnuclear energy research. So what we see here is. of course, a hotch-potch of an organisation in terms of the roles that it has to carry out. Some of those roles are conflicting in nature, particularly the regulatory role and that of sponsoring and developing, indeed, the concept of nuclearrelated energy and power. On this basis, the Opposition proposes an amendment of the second reading motion. Accordingly. I move:
The Opposition believes that that is a thoroughly appropriate amendment to this legislation and moves it in the clear knowledge that the Government has established a committee of review to review the activities of the Atomic Energy Commission. However, it is a committee that we believe has inadeqate terms of reference- terms which pre-determine the result to the review in the direction of the retention of the Atomic Energy Commission in a modified form as a national centre for energy research, and prevents the consideration of alternative forms of national energy research centres.
One of the problems about building an energy research and development agency around the Atomic Energy Commission is that, basically, the weight of 25 years of bureaucratic experience will direct the whole thrust of such an agency towards the nuclear area. For that reason, the Opposition suggests that we break up the Com: mission so that it will have a commercial function- a function to handle nuclear medicine, radioisotopes and such matters- and an independent regulatory authority responsible for environmental matters, including the Australian Safeguards Office which, even though it has a specific safeguards function, is an integral part of the Atomic Energy Commission in as much as it reports through the Chairman of the Commission.
We would propose to break it up further by forming a nuclear science authority which would do the kinds of things that the Atomic Energy Commission has done since its inception. It would be far better to have a nuclear science authority established in its own right than to attempt to submerge the present functions ofthe
Atomic Energy Commission within an energy research and development agency. If one were foolish enough to believe that the aims ofthe research and development agency would not be diluted by the force of 25 years of nuclear research and a career structure in the Atomic Energy Commission which would be heavily involved in this research and development agency, one would be very much mistaken. We believe that there ought to be a nuclear science authority. Those who committed their lives to the branch of nuclear research when it was something which was viewed by most people as a thoroughly important scientific endeavour transcending most other areas of scientific research are entitled to maintain their places in the career structure which has been established in the Commission. The nuclear science authority would do that, but again it would be separate and distinct from the energy research and development agency situation.
The other criticism we have of the Government’s review is that it would preclude thorough consideration of the commercial activities ofthe Commission, including the most appropriate administrative arrangements for those activities and their relationship to the Commission’s nuclear energy research activities and facilities. It would also exclude consideration of the nuclear regulatory and safeguards activities of the Commission and their relationship to the activities of the Australian Safeguards Office and other government agencies involved with nuclear regulatory and safeguard activities. We think that there is room for a firm decision by the Parliament in lieu of the review which has taken place. Many criticisms have been levied. The submission which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) presented to the review group listed the recent criticisms of the Commission as follows: Its conflicting functions in both promoting and regulating nuclear activities; its past failures in attempts to develop and innovate nuclear technologies; the questionable quality of its research; and the excessive secrecy which surrounds its work and its general lack of mission.
Some people in the Commission may feel offended by the general tenor of those remarks. They are not an attack upon personalities; they are an attack upon the general directions in which the Commission has operated. I shall deal with that in terms of the kinds of research efforts which we have had undertaken in recent times. In the mid-1960s the Commission abandoned research into high temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactors, what was then called the HTGCR. In the late 1960s there was abandonment of the illconceived Jervis Bay project, which was to build Australia’s first nuclear power generator. It was to be a unit of 500 megawatts which the Electricity Commission of New South Wales did not want feeding into its grid and which in the original days was to be fuelled by a natural uranium reactor. The natural uranium reactor was chosen because of the high by-product of plutonium which was produced from such a reactor. The plutonium by-product was the thin edge of the wedge for the acquisition by Australia of a nuclear weapons option. Some but not all of the people who were in the Atomic Energy Commission–
– Ha, ha!
– The clown on the other side of the House laughs. He was not here then, so it may be of some interest to him to listen to the history of this project. I was here then and I was involved in it. There were Ministers in the McMahon Government who wanted Australia to have a nuclear weapon and there were elements in the Atomic Energy Commission which were prepared to accommodate that view and to comply with it. The Jervis Bay project was built around that and it was to be the reason for the establishment of the Atomic Energy Commission in Australia. It was abandoned mainly because of attacks by the Labor Party at that time. At that stage we were the only sentries at the gate on this matter. We exposed it and the Gorton Government abandoned it. Research into uranium enrichment is being undertaken by the Commission. We are not certain as to the nature of the research effort and how successful it is. It is surrounded by excessive secrecy. It was supposedly to be in readiness for the development of Australia’s uranium reserves and a move into an enrichment plant of a design which was to be Australian in concept. We do not know whether that research is valuable but one thing is apparent. That is, that this country does not need nuclear power. Australia is a country with abundant reserves of coal and other fossil fuels and we are not in the position in which, unfortunately, some countries are of having a lack of reserves and resources and of having to take a decision to go to nuclear power. Fortunately when we had pressures applied to us to do so we resisted and rejected the nuclear option.
In this country electricity generation is not much of an issue. There is coal in Victoria- the biggest deposits of brown coal in the world- and all the way down the east coast of Australia. There is coal in Western Australia, albeit from a poor deposit but nevertheless sufficient to maintain that State’s power grid into the intermediate future. Perhaps the States which have some problems with power generation are South Australia and, to a lesser extent, Tasmania. But they can be provided with coal from the major coal producing States. If we can ship steaming coal competitively to Europe and Japan we can certainly ship it from Queensland and New South Wales to South Australia or Tasmania. On top of that we have natural gas. We could have a debate about whether we should burn natural gas in a power station but that is another issue. However, natural gas is available in this country. Australia is a gas-prone continent. So we do not really need electrical generation from nuclear power. When one looks at the research and development expenditure on energy in Australia one finds a complete distortion in favour of nuclear power. In fact, about 55 per cent of all Commonwealth expenditure on energy research and development goes into nuclear power through the Atomic Energy Commission. Translated into the total research effort- that is, Commonwealth and private- through universities, companies and other institutions, we find that the allocation for the Atomic Energy Commission takes 35 per cent of the total funds available for energy research and development in this country. Last year research into nuclear power was allocated somewhere between $12m and $15m. Coal research was allocated $8.25m, petroleum research was allocated about $2m and solar energy research was allocated about $3m.
Australia is short of liquid fuels. It is short generally of petroleum. If our research and development effort is to go anywhere it ought to go into petroleum in order to keep our cars running and our transport system running efficiently. It also ought to be going into solar energy. In a country with a very high level of insulation and with the prospect of technology being available, we could produce a system of solar power which is competitive with the ruling international prices for energy. At the Australian National University in this very city a program under Professor Kaneff is looking at a solar farm with parabolic reflectors which, when in production, will be competitive with oil for medium or modest power applications. It is not just a matter of low-grade heat or putting a flat plate reflector on one’s roof to heat the bath water. It does not have industrial and commercial applications. But what is the funding for that research? The funding is $3m. What is the funding for nuclear power? It is between $ 12m and $ 1 5m.
We do not need nuclear power; nevertheless the Government is going down the nuclear course. It is determined that that is the direction in which it will travel. We on this side of the House say that it is a waste of money and is irresponsible but we are not so silly as to say or to believe that 25 years of experience in nuclear power can be just thrown out. There are nuclear applications other than power generation, such as nuclear medicine, and the people who have committed themselves, their livelihood and their careers to this branch of research should not be thrown into the dustbin. We accept that. That is why we are talking about the establishment of a nuclear science authority. But the emphasis is on science, not energy. The enormous expenditures which are now moving into nuclear research and development in respect of energy would be abandoned under a Labor government.
– It is a pity you are not worried about energy.
– We are worried about the energy which Australia needs; that is, oil to keep the cars running- liquid fuels. The Government’s only energy policy is to beat the hell out of the Australian motorists with high petrol prices. Since this Government came to power the cost for the average motorist of filling the tank has risen by $5. That is the Government’s contribution. All it is interested in doing is looking after the companies in the Budget deficit.
I have referred to the conflict of the various roles that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has- its nuclear regulatory role, as a promoter of nuclear power, as a promoter of nuclear research, and now as a commercial activist in the uranium mining area. I just make the point that the United States, Britain, Canada and West Germany have broken up their atomic energy commissions into the kind of organisation which we propose in the amendments. They have split the responsibilities, so that there will be one body dealing with commercial activities, one dealing with research and development and one dealing with health regulation and these other matters. There is a case for having such a body. Even though we do not have nuclear power programs in this country there are many related matters which require a competent, independent, nuclear regulatory body, and not one modelled on the Australian Safeguards Office, which is still part of the Commission, which has Commission staff, and which reports to the chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission.
The Atomic Energy Act is an inappropriate vehicle for the commercial mining of uranium, or for any commercial mining, because under that Act any project can be declared a defence project. The declaration of any project as a defence project robs people of civil liberties connected with that project. They could be the people who work on the project, they could be the people who transport goods to the project, or the people who sell its products. Those people can be caught up under this defence label. There can be a denial of civil liberties and these repressive Draconian security provisions can come into play in normal commercial mining. So there is an overwhelming case for breaking up the Commission, but even more importantly, to have it abandon its activities in respect of uranium mining in Australia.
It is very interesting to note, of course, that the Government which has opposed Government intervention in the market place has stuck with the Commission concept. It has stuck with the concept because of the memorandum of understanding between the Atomic Energy Commission and Peko-EZ. But all the same the Government has run out on that spirit by having the Atomic Energy Commission seek to find its own markets overseas and let Peko-EZ rot. It has done that because it cannot sell uranium. Last week the Korean Prime Minister and Minister for Energy visited Australia with a delegation, which I was pleased to meet. Apparently this Nuclear Safeguards Agreement was enacted and signed, but it has still not been tabled. What a disgraceful situation that is. First of all, the Government would not table the model safeguards agreements. Now it will not table the final agreements. We do not know what is in the agreements. We on this side of the house believe the safeguards have been watered down to get contracts. We will see if we are right when the Government does the decent thing and tables the agreement. To date it has not done so, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) who puts on these Thespian performances at the dispatch box every day would do well to get in here and table the agreement and let us see what is in it, to see whether the Government has in fact stood by the commitments that the Prime Minister (Mr Fraser) gave in May 1977 in respect to safeguards.
-Is the $80,000 agreement with Korea?
– I do not know, but we would like to know. Obviously the honourable member does not know. If members of the Government do not know, what chance have members of the Opposition? The Government has failed to do anything about the repressive provisions in the Act. It will not table safeguards agreements. It has this hotch-potch of an institution, the Atomic Energy Commission, constantly amended. We have Bills in every couple of months to change it. It is still basically a defence-oriented research establishment. It is a completely inappropriate vehicle for uranium mining but the Government is apparently determined to try to give itself a hard edge. If the Government comes to any construction problems with this project, it calls up the defence powers of that Act and uses them against any Australian who objects to its construction, its operation, or the like. Every Australian should have the right to take whatever view he likes about such an institution, without the risk of being imprisoned or being subject to massive penalties.
We on this side of the house commend the amendment to the Parliament. We believe that if it is carried it will be the best thing for Australia in respect of the policy for commercial uranium mining, and also in terms of the breaking up and the re-establishment of the various sections of the Atomic Energy Commission into separate independent bodies.
-Is the amendment seconded?
-i second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-This is the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, which seeks to amend the Atomic Energy Act 1953. The principal Act was also amended in 1958, 1966, twice in 1973, 1974, 1976 and three times in 1978. It might be of interest to look at the original Act and in it the formation of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The Act then goes into the functions and the powers of the Commission. In spite of what the member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) had to say, the basic functions of the Act are: Firstly, exploration, mining, treatment and selling of uranium; secondly, the construction and operation of atomicpower stations; thirdly, the research and distribution of information on uranium and atomic energy. This Act was a widening of the Atomic Energy (Control of Material) Act 1946 and 1952, which was repealed. This shows that the early Menzies governments appreciated that atomic energy was the energy of the future, even in those days.
In the 1 970s there was the full recognition of the vast energy store Australia possessed, in the form of its great uranium deposits in the north. The recent history leading up to this amendment started with the Government’s announcement of its policy on the development of Ranger on 25
August 1977. This was detailed in the second reading speech by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). Then on 9 January 1 979 we had the historic Government agreement on the Ranger uranium project between the Commonwealth of Australia, Peko-Wallsend Operations Ltd, Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Ltd, and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. The purpose of this Bill is to amend the original Act of 1953 to provide the Australian Atomic Energy Commission with the necessary powers to borrow money in order to fulfil its obligations in connection with this Ranger agreement. This Bill also provides the opportunity to make some technical amendments which relate to the procedures, powers and operations of the Commission, and also to make drafting changes in line with current practice.
The original sections 25 to 30A inclusive are repealed, because they allowed borrowing only for temporary purposes on overdraft. This amendment allows borrowing from the Commonwealth or elsewhere, and also gives security for non-Commonwealth borrowings and allows for the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to guarantee repayment. This is a commercial arrangement for the commercial Ranger agreement. They are standard provisions in relation to borrowings by Commonwealth authorities. Further, there are clauses covering estimates, clause 30a- proper accounts, clause 30C- and audits, clause 30D- all necessary and desirable. Under clause 32 are exemptions from taxation, which are updated. This does not confer exemption from payroll tax on Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd as manager of the project. It would still be liable to payroll tax on that proportion of the payroll to be funded by the Commission. That is under the joint venture agreement. Similarly, in relation to other taxes which may be levied by the Northern Territory, the exemption for the Commission will not operate to confer exemption on Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd.
This amendment to the Atomic Energy Act is just one part of the implementation of the uranium export policy stated on 1 June 1978. The Government’s policy is based on Mr Justice Fox’s inquiry. It is a carefully regulated and controlled development, having full regard to the protection of the environment and of the welfare of the Aboriginals. Further, it takes into account the overall national interest and Australia’s obligation as a responsible member of the international community. It recognises that Australia must play an important role in the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and the strengthening of nuclear safeguards. The policy recognises Australia’s obligation as a country well endowed with energy resources to make those resources available to other countries, many of which have no alternative in the wake of the world energy crisis but to turn to nuclear energy as a means of supplying electricity to their peoples.
Honourable members, and particularly honourable members opposite, would do well to read the proceedings of the World Energy Conference held at Istanbul in 1977. I shall summarise some of the main conclusions. Whatever figures one likes to put on the growth of the world population, despite the most rigorous energy conservation measures and despite tremendous strides in efficiency, the world energy demand in just 40 years will at least triple and maybe quadruple. The Conference concluded that there may well be enough energy resources, at a price, and at the expense of depleting most of our hydrocarbons, for these 40 years or even longer. But, there is still enough for a finite time only. Of course, one snag is that these resources are unevenly distributed. This means a vast increase in international trade in fuels. The coal trade, with its large transport costs, will have to increase 10 times. Sun, wind and tide may well be used in this time but they can never have other than a marginal effect- 3 per cent to 5 per cent- in the overall situation.
With declining oil resources it was concluded that there will be tremendous substitution of fuels, particularly by means of coal and nuclear fuels. The most effective way of introducing substitute fuels into the energy economy is by conversion to electricity, which will increase sixfold. This cannot be met without nuclear power and breeder reactors. In the absence of a vast program of nuclear power development some more highly developed countries which are rich in other fuel resources may be able to maintain their economies at an acceptable level. However, the great brunt of this lack of nuclear development will fall upon the highly populated developing countries. The resultant effects on food and industrial production will be chaotic. The Conference went on to say that if major moves to solve the problems of energy substitution are delayed so that they coincide with a period of steeply increasing oil and gas prices, it will not be possible to generate the quantities of capital needed for the new energy systems and international trade in energy resources. That is one of the most important points that can be made in regard to the energy situation.
Besides the generation of capital, there will be the need to export capital to economically weak countries. Capital resources for electricity grids or pipelines will be inadequate in economically weak countries. This may mean economically strong countries with oil and gas resources will have to use more nuclear power to release oil and gas for simple low investment systems in developing countries. I hope the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) takes notice of that, since he is so concerned with those areas. Finally, the Conference concluded that enough information is available to make everyone aware of the energy crisis, and aware that definite action is required now, especially in the area of nuclear power. Those are the conclusions of the finest brains involved in the energy crisis. It does the Australian Labor Party little good to decry them. We must play our part now.
I suppose honourable members will be subjected now to the regular burst from the honourable member for Reid in which he will try to say that Harrisburg is reason for stopping nuclear energy whereas, in fact, it was the proof that the safety devices worked. The honourable member for Blaxland, wearing his Scottish tie, may be interested to know that the Scots people are one of the greatest users of nuclear energy, and they are working towards a breeder reactor. It is a pity that honourable members opposite have no concern for the standard of living of so many of the people of this world. The honourable member for Blaxland said that he does not know what goes on at Lucas Heights. Every member of this House has been invited to go there. The local Labor Party member went a few years ago. Even the strongest opponent, the honourable member for Reid, has been invited many times. He has not accepted the invitation to find out what goes on there. How can they really talk against the Commission?
In conclusion I point out that it can be seen that there is a massive and irrevocable commitment to nuclear power generation. Australia, with its uranium mining and export policies, is proceeding with purpose and determination in the implementation of its overall policy of uranium development.
-This is the first time that a major debate has arisen on nuclear industry in this House since the Harrisburg incident. A matter of public importance was moved by the Australian Labor Party at the time of the Harrisburg crisis but this is the first time this issue has been raised. The government of the day determines how debates are carried out in this House.
If one examines when the debates on nuclear industry are carried out in this House one finds that they take place on a Wednesday evening. Every debate has been put on on a Wednesday evening, when this chamber is off the air and when it is late at night. The Government knows that most newspapers have been put to bed; it knows that they will not get the news out and therefore both the media and the system as a whole are trying to stifle debate on the whole matter of nuclear industry.
If one looks at the situation, one will see that not many honourable members on the Government side are clamouring to speak in this debate. The honourable member for Hotham (Mr Roger Johnston) and the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) are regular speakers in support of the Government on this topic. Why do we not see the young lions of the LiberalNational Country Party Government debating this important matter which has such an impact on the future of this planet of the human race? The honourable member for Hotham said that we are not concerned about the living standard of the people of the world. In saying that he is referring particularly to those in the underdeveloped parts of the world. Page 56 of the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry deals with the underdeveloped nations of the world. It deals not with hysteria but with fact. What does the report say? It says:
The evidence also points to the conclusion that . . nuclear power is unlikely to contribute on a large scale to the energy needs of the less affluent countries. Nor does it appear that the further development of nuclear power in economically advanced countries will make any significant difference to the ability or the willingness of those countries to assist less affluent countries.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-I call the honourable member for Hotham and I warn the honourable member that his point of order had better be a genuine one.
– I suggest that we are debating an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act and that none of the points that the honourable member for Reid is raising deals with that matter at all.
-Order! The honourable member for Hotham was allowed a great deal of latitude in the contribution that he made in this debate.
– To ensure that no further interjections are made or points of order are taken during my speech, I make it quite clear to you, Mr
Deputy Speaker, and to the House that one cannot separate any aspect of the nuclear industry, whether it be uranium mining, the nuclear power industry or the nuclear weapons industry, or some other aspect of the industry. At page 1 85 of the first Ranger report, the third recommendation reads:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry.
I would go so far as to challenge the right of anybody, whether it be the Clerk of the House or whether it be you, Mr Deputy Speaker, to limit this debate, because we are dealing with the raising of money from the public to finance the mining of uranium at Ranger. I am saying quite clearly that the people of Australia have to understand that one cannot divorce uranium mining from the nuclear power industry or from the nuclear weapons industry. The greatest minds in the world now recognise this situation.
I support the amendment moved by the Opposition. I wish to concentrate on the first part of it, which reads:
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission should not be empowered to raise funds on the commercial market for uranium mining until such time as the unresolved problems associated with the nuclear industry have been satisfactorily resolved.
Honourable members had better forget any idea they may have that we are discussing a narrow concept of the Atomic Energy Act, because one cannot divorce the interrelationship of one aspect from the other. The Atomic Energy Act is a repressive piece of legislation. In 1953 the Atomic Energy Commission was set up for the primary purpose of ‘ensuring the provision of uranium or atomic energy for the defence of the Commonwealth’. The secondary purposes for the establishment of the Commission were to ensure the supply of uranium or atomic energy to governments of other countries and ‘any other purposes of the Commonwealth’.
Part 4 of the 1953 Act, which dealt with security, detailed a large number of restrictions on people, including access to and use of information, and the right of defensive action on the part of a person accused of trespassing, sabotage, breaking confidentiality and other unlawful activities under the Act. The Act was drafted in the cold war era, in a period of intense secretiveness and suspicion. It was a defence Act and it was intended to allow the supply of Australian uranium to Britain and to the United States of America for the purpose of making atomic weapons. In 1976 the Fox report criticised the Atomic Energy Act for being too restrictive on civil liberties, and, in particular, the curtailment of public access to information. The Fox reportits correct name is the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry report, as I mentioned earlierrecommended against the use ofthe Atomic Energy Act to grant authority to Ranger to mine uranium. I ask honourable members to refer to pages 248 to 252 of the second Ranger report. Mr Justice Fox and his colleagues in their opening remarks had this to say:
We strongly recommend against the use of that Act -
That is, the Atomic Energy Act, which we are discussing tonight-
On pages 248 to 252 of the report are set out the arguments as to why the Atomic Energy Act should not be used. In 1978 the Federal Government amended the Atomic Energy Act, making its purposes more directly related to the commercial aspect of uranium mining and export and imposing even more restrictive curtailments on civil liberties and trade union action. The oppressive provisions of this Act are binding on every member of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in this Parliament. We have a situation in relation the Atomic Energy Act where those people who support uranium mining and its export say that that is an important and progressive move. Of course, the honourable member for Hotham says that quite clearly, yet 25 years after the first drafting of the Act we are seeing the most reactionary legislation ever drafted in our history. The more the Act is used to protect commercial interests, the more repressive the Act becomes. I am stating clearly that it is a police state piece of legislation designed to oppress the people who oppose uranium mining in this country.
The 1978 amendments deny the ordinary industrial rights of workers and the unions associated with the mining, handling and transportation of uranium. The Act allows mining companies to determine the composition and application of the work force. The Act allows the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) to regulate entry to and order people from a mine site by declaring it a restricted area. This Act, which you supported, Mr Deputy Speaker denies basic civil rights to people who hinder uranium mining in any way. The Act allows the police to detain, search and arrest without warrant people suspected of interfering with the project. The Act allows a person to be convicted according to ‘the circumstances of the case, his conduct or his known character’. If honourable members wish to check on that provision they will find it in section 47 of the Act. A person does not have to be guilty; he only has to have a known character to be convicted under this police state piece of legislation.
The Act prohibits free speech and demonstrations against uranium mining. Now, in 1 979, a further amendment is being made to the Atomic Energy Act- an Act designed to make provision for the defence of the Commonwealth. That repressive Act is now being amended again for the explicit purpose of allowing the AtomicEnergy Commission to raise funds on the commercial market for the Ranger project. It is being used to give the Commission power to issue security to raise $24m as a first instalment of the Government’s commitment to the Ranger project. It is an amendment that will allow the real outlay on uranium mining to be obscured. It is an attempt to fiddle the figures so that the deficit will not look too bad in the eyes of the electorate. The amendment will give the Commission power to mediate private investment in the uranium industry. The Government is prepared to guarantee private investment in the unsafe and insecure uranium industry. The market for uranium is falling away. A paper prepared by the Legislative Research Service of the Parliamentary Library in respect of uranium mining requirements by 1985 reads as follows:
The overriding factors of the last few years have greatly lessened the chances of massive ( 10,000 to 20,000 tons) uranium exports by I98S.
Firstly, of course, there has been a truly enormous drop in world uranium demand because of ( I ) lower energy use (2 ) safety considerations, and -
I must say that this was prepared before the Harrisburg incident- . . (3) increased costs of nuclear power. For example between January and September of 1978, the United States Department of Energy reduced its domestic uranium demand estimates by a full third for the same year of 1978, and by a third for 1985.
The paper also sets out the reduced forecasts of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. In 1973-74 the Atomic Energy Commission expected that it would need 1 15,000 tonnes of uranium. It was the same figure in 1974-75. In 1975-76 it dropped to 100,000; in 1976-77 to 70,000; and in 1 977-78 to 54,000. Thus, since the firm plans for multiple Australian uranium mines were drawn up, the official estimates of world uranium demand have been cut to less than onehalf. The Atomic Energy Commission in its 1977-78 report estimated that Australia could sell 10,000 tonnes in 1985. The year before its estimate was 1 7,000 tonnes. Therefore in one year the Atomic Energy Commission’s estimate dropped from 17,000 to 10,000 tonnes. But that is not the belief. Further, the Atomic Energy Commission is now privately admitting that it will be lucky to sell 2,000 tonnes a year. In 1978 in the United States of America only two nuclear power reactors were ordered- five orders were cancelled and one was deferred. While ten were ordered in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development group, five were cancelled and two were deferred. That is the situation. I have a paper headed ‘Atomic Energy Commission Estimates from the last four years of future annual requirements of the Western World for uranium’. The figures are set out in thousands of tonnes. I seek permission of the House to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– In 1975 the estimate of the annual requirement of the Western World for uranium in 1980 was 55.5 thousand tonnes and that by 1990 it would be 157.5 thousand tonnes. But by 1978, only three years later, it was estimated that the requirement would be 29.8 thousand tonnes and that by 1990, it would be 79 thousand tonnes. These figures were prepared before Harrisburg. The whole basis of the nuclear power industry is taking a nosedive. I hope government members understand this. In the Sydney Morning Herald this morning a spokesman for the Tennessee Valley Authority in America, one of the biggest electric undertakings in the United States, said quite clearly that it now appeared that there would be a moratorium on any further nuclear power stations for at least 20 to 30 years. I believe that until these problems are resolved there should be a moratorium on uranium mining. The Government should be prepared to give this undertaking. It is tragic that the Government is prepared to provide security for investors in a very insecure industry. I have stated facts showing how insecure this industry is. This Act is being turned more and more towards the protection of commercial interests, those of the mining companies, but basically it remains a defence Act. We should not fail to realise the significance of a defence Act being used for commercial purposes.
I said earlier that we cannot divorce peaceful uses for atomic energy and nuclear war. I have already quoted from the third recommendation of the Fox report which says that you cannot divorce one from the other. I will quote now from the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM on Tuesday 8 May 1979 when it reported that the United States had admitted:
That among 13,500 nuclear scientists it has trained for other countries, 135 are in Pakistan, 94 in South Africa, 1,367 in India, and 358 in Israel, all nations with the bomb, or within a few years of it. They were trained under the American atoms for peace program, but as the Government’s general accounting office points out, it is difficult to draw the line between skills related to the making of nuclear weapons.
The basic point is this. Three nations have got the bomb through stealth. India has the bomb by stealth, South Africa has the bomb by stealth and Israel has the bomb by stealth. How many more will get the bomb by stealth if this Government continues to make our uranium available to the world nuclear fuel cycle?
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This Bill seeks to amend the Atomic Energy Act 1 953 and is known as the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1979. The purpose of the Bill is to enable the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to borrow moneys from the Commonwealth or elsewhere and to give security and issue securities in respect of borrowings other than from the Commonwealth to enable the Treasurer to guarantee repayment by the Commission of moneysborrowed other than from the Commonwealthand to provide that where securities are issued by the Commission, repayment is guaranteed by the Commonwealth. The Bill includes a number of technical amendments to provisions in Part II of the Act relating to the procedures, powers and operations of the Commission.
In June of last year the Atomic Energy Act was amended to enable the Commission to participate, on behalf of the Commonwealth, in a venture shared with Peko Mines Ltd and Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Ltd. The whole nub of this Act is that we are a partner in
Peko-EZ. Consequently we have to play our part in the financial responsibilities of that partnership. These agreements were signed on 9 January 1979 by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony). Parliament had decided that a certain proportion of the Commonwealth’s share of the cost of developing the Ranger uranium deposits would be raised by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission by way of borrowings. I have had the pleasure, as a member of the Government members trade and resources committee, to visit the Ranger development and to inspect the yellowcake deposits in the Northern Territory.
The provisions in respect of the Atomic Energy Act are totally inadequate to enable money to be borrowed on the semi-government market. Indeed, the provisions do not authorise the Treasurer to guarantee borrowings by the Commission. Without such guarantee the Commission is unable to borrow within the maximum rates agreed by the Australian Loan Council for semi-government borrowings. The Bill is designed to provide power for the Commission to issue public securities and to guarantee those securities. Division 3 of the Act concerning staff of the Commission is repealed by the Bill and replaced with staffing provisions to bring the Act into line with more recent provisions applying to the staff of statutory authorities of the Commonwealth. Clause 6, which is a quite lengthy clause, seeks to amend a number of financial provisions ofthe Act.
It has been most interesting to listen to the speeches of members of the Opposition. First of all, I would like to deal with the speech by the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating), who moved an amendment to the legislation. The amendment states in part:
The honourable member for Blaxland and the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), who also spoke for the Opposition in this debate, put up a rearguard action. The whole policy of the Opposition, since uranium mining and the export of yellowcake was brought to the fore in this assembly, has been to put up a rearguard action. The Opposition wants to stop the mining of uranium and the export of yellowcake. However, we on the Government side want to market this commodity because not only will it be of economic advantage to Australia but also it will be a cheap source of energy for the rest of the world.
It is true that Australia does not need nuclear power.
– Western Australia does.
-Western Australia might. That part of Australia, which is well represented in this place, is a remote area. The honourable member for Blaxland talked about our coal deposits. It is true that there is sufficient coal in the Bowen Basin in Queensland, the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and the brown coal deposits in Victoria to supply the power needs of this country. Honourable members on this side of the House are in agreement with him on this point. But that does not mean that we should not be mining, milling and marketing our yellowcake. The honourable member for Reid said that we did not have overseas markets for our yellowcake. We jolly well have, and he knows that we have. We can sell our yellowcake to the United States of America, Canada, South Africa and West Germany. Indeed, the other day in this building the Minister for Trade and Resources signed a contract with the Prime Minister of Korea for the export of 80,000 tonnes of yellowcake to Korea over the next 20 years.
– He was just distorting the facts.
– That is right. Certainly Australia is short of liquid fuel. Geologists have told the Government members trade and resources committee that any finds of liquid fuel in the future probably will be off-shore and that there was a limited possibility of finding it on land.
Nineteen oil drilling rigs were operating in Australia when the Labor Party took over the reins of government of this country. However, within 12 months the number was down to two. Who denuded the possibility of finding oil in this country? None other than members of the party that now makes up the Opposition.
– How many are here tonight?
– Not many members of the Opposition are listening to the debate. They make their speeches and then clear off because they know that they do not have a case to put. They talk about breaking up the Atomic Energy Commission. This Commission -
– Would you like a quorum?
– No. I will just carry on. Members of the Opposition talk about breaking up the Atomic Energy Commission. The Commission has been involved with the marketing of yellowcake ever since its discovery in this country. It has expertise and know-how in this area. In no way should the present Commission be split up. It is doing a splendid job and we know that it is exporting yellowcake. I believe that it would be a retrograde step to split up the Commission.
The Opposition is dead intent upon stopping this country from marketing one of its most valuable commodities. I cannot understand its attitude. In 1983 or 1984 Australia will be faced with a very serious balance of payments position because of our need to import oil from Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf. The export of yellowcake is one way in which we can look after our balance of payments position. The export of this resource can really be of economic advantage to this country. Therefore, I really cannot understand the position taken by the Opposition.
The honourable member for Reid talked about the crisis at Harrisburg in the United States. I respect his opinion on the uranium issue. I have followed him and he has followed me on many occasions when the subject of uranium has been debated in this place. The crisis at Harrisburg was of concern not only to the residents of the area around the power station but also to the whole nuclear industry throughout the world. However, with great technical skill and knowledge the problem was rectified without any loss of life or injury. The Harrisburg incident is an indication that the knowledge throughout the Western world of nuclear energy is extremely good. The cooling down of the reactor was watched by the eyes of the world and the technology that was used was shown to be of a very high standard. The successful operation indicated to the world, and in particular the countries which are relying on nuclear power for the energy needs of their people, that this is a quite safe means of generating energy.
Not long after the incident at Harrisburg a uranium enrichment plant was opened in France, which was an indication of the confidence of that nation in nuclear energy. The Sydney Morning Herald of 1 1 April 1979 contained a report of the opening of the plant. It stated:
The French Prime Minister, Mr Barre, formally opened a uranium enrichment plant at Tricastin, in southern France, yesterday.
Opponents of France’s nuclear energy program have stepped up their protests following the accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania.
But Mr Barre said that soaring oil prices left no alternative to nuclear power if France wished to remain an independent atomic power and an industrial exporting nation.
France has no choice ‘ he said while touring the plant. ‘ It ‘s either nuclear energy or economic recession and mass unemployment.’
That indicates that, despite the Harrisburg problem, that nation is prepared to go on with its nuclear plants.
– It is building 2 1 reactors now.
– That is right. The honourable member for Reid talked about the slowing down of the nuclear energy program in the United States of America. This is a lot of nonsense. The United States of America has 70 nuclear power stations in operation, 70 under construction at present and another 69 contracted for. That shows what the United States thinks of nuclear power and its safety. The honourable member for Reid said also that when yellowcake is exported there is no way we can be certain that it will be used for peaceful purposes; that is, for the provision of power for lighting and so on. For his information, I point out that all the major countries of the world have nuclear warheads and nuclear power. When the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was formulating our policy on the export of uranium he made it very clear that it was to be used for peaceful purposes. If it could be proved that is was being used for anything other than peaceful purposes, there is no doubt that the supply from this country would be cut off. Yellowcake uranium ore is one of our great assets. If the Opposition is going to endeavour continually to stop its marketing it will do this country a great disservice. It is high time that it woke up to this fact. No doubt some socialist countries would like to see the development of Australian uranium stepped right down for economic and other reasons.
– What about Russia and China?
– That is right. Russia would not like to see us developing our nuclear industry. I do not know about China. It was a great pleasure to be in that country recently and I know that it has nuclear warheads and is interested in the nuclear industry. I have said many times that this is an industry which this Government wants to get on with. It wants to mine uranium, mill it and get it away overseas to those countries that I have enumerated in this speech. Surely the Opposition should realise the value of this commodity and get on side instead of putting up obstruction and making every effort to restrict its development. It is remarkable that involved in these meetings which are held to object to the export of this wonderful uranium product are socialists of the Left. They do not want to see this country progress in any way. The same demonstrators appear in Sydney, in Brisbane and in other parts of Australia. Along with my colleagues on this side of the House, I support the Bill. We know that it is to the advantage of this country and that it will be passed without any problems.
-In a calm and rational way I would like to bring this debate back to the provisions of the Bill before the House and to talk about this proposal of the Government to widen the powers of the Atomic Energy Act, because it is the view of the Opposition that this Act is not the appropriate vehicle or umbrella for the purposes that the Government is seeking to attribute to it.
– Only some sections.
-Could I put my own case in my own quiet way? Having been involved with this matter for a long time and being the member for the area which contains Australia’s only atomic reactor, I have had the good fortune to be able to associate with many of the 1,200 people whose lives are bound up with the continuation of the atomic energy program in Australia. They include scientists, physicists, chemists and tradesmen. I am able to live side by side with them in an acceptable way with an attitude that they regard as being quite reasonable in this situation. That is not to say that I am going to be a lapdog or a lackey with regard to the mining interests of Australia or that I am going to be subservient to people who have a Ph.D. or other qualifications behind their names.
I think as history has transpired events have shown that this whole business of uranium and its development and utilisation are parts of an evolving process about which there is still a great deal yet to be known. I make no apology for the fact that I act as something of a watchdog for the atomic reactor at Lucas Heights. I was a member of the local council when its establishment there was first proposed. I expressed misgivings at the time. I was present representing the then Leader of the Opposition, Dr Evatt, on the occasion of the opening by the then Mr Robert Menzies in, I think, 1956. Since that time I have had a very close association with the place.
– For medical isotopes.
-I cannot hear the honourable member. The reject from Thatcherism has not been sufficiently Aus.tralianised to be easily understood.
– For medical isotopes.
-I am sorry, I missed the interjection and I will pass it by now.
– Medical isotopes are being produced, and you know it.
-Lucas Heights is involved with the production of isotopes which, of course, are an extremely valuable commodity rendering great benefit to the sick of this country and there is a contention that we cannot import all the sensitive and short-life isotopes without a facility of this kind. So nobody wants to disparage the merit of the reactor by any means. Over the years I have asked probably dozens, maybe hundreds, of questions on notice on this subject. I am currently involved in collating those questions and I hold the first edition in my hand. Their headings concern such matters as the radiation standards applying to the reactor, because there are great misgivings that it might have a danger element about it. The honourable member for Holt shakes his head, but there are very accomplished people who contend otherwise. I am not a proficient judge of the situation, but I am responsible enough, as a watchdog for my constituents, to look very carefully at these matters.
There are also questions concerning the health of workers and residents. Very serious contentions in this respect are being made by the Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draftsmen of Australia, who are professional people. The union representative, Mr Meyer, has been putting his case through the media recently and he is very well informed. He has been able to document his contention that there has been a very serious deterioration of the standards of safety in that plant. He has detailed them and if I had time tonight I would be able to detail them too. The establishment has to pull up its socks in that regard. There are also questions concerning radioactive waste being discharged into the Waronora River, which is in close proximity, and into the atmosphere.
The discharge into the river is of such consequence that the Australian Atomic Energy Commission has not yet been able apparently to meet the requirements of the Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board and, therefore, is unable to discharge its effluent into the sewer main of Sydney. As a consequence of that it is still going into the Woronora River. Some people, including scientists, physicists and chemists, contend that people who are subjected over a concentrated period to an incessant but low level radioactive element by way of utilising that water, swimming in it or even eating fish from it, can suffer deleterious effects. These are very serious things.
We now have on hand the question of the siting of the reactor. During a recent adjournment debate I mentioned that there is a movement of citizens without party affiliation who want to have the reactor relocated, not just out of the southern part of Sydney, where it is located now, but out of any city. A design cost study is going on now in respect of the new reactor. Of course, it is possible that we could have two reactors, the existing one and a new one, in what is now a metropolitan area because the development has converged on to that previously isolated and lonely place. That is a matter of some consequence because people do suffer anxieties about these issues. There are so many matters of this kind, which are real to an honourable member who represents people in the area which includes the Lucas Heights reactor. They would be real to any honourable member who happened to represent people in such an area.
– Move it to my electorate. I don’t mind.
-I am not saying that I mind, either. I am simply saying that if the honourable member had a reactor in his electorate he would hear precisely the same expressions of concern from his constituency. But God knows whether he would be as responsible in representing the people with those anxieties as I am. That is the point I am making. For ages and ages I have been trying to get information about safety plans, and about what will happen in respect of this reactor if something goes wrong. I think that my initial questions on this matter probably sparked off the interest of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in actually instituting a safety plan. I think that the Commission gets involved every time I ask another question about the issue. But until recently the staff at the reactor had no knowledge of their obligations and of their role in times of a disaster. Indeed, none of the people who live in proximity to the reactor as yet knows what his role will be in the event of such a disaster. Naturally, if there were a disaster, many state instrumentalities would be involved- the police, fire brigades and heavens knows what. The local regional paper, called the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader which is a very big paper with some one hundred and something thousand circulation -
– One hundred pages? Good heavens!
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I am only trying to put to the House a matter of serious concern! I think that we ought to regard seriously the fact that a responsible newspaper with a very large circulation has contended that recently the Holsworthy artillery range was responsible for jettisoning a shell or some explosive device which landed on the road in fairly close proximity to Australia’s only atomic reactor. If that is not a matter of very serious concern, God knows what is. Honourable members opposite might laugh about the matter. I would hate to have one of them represent me in the national Parliament when the well-being of the citizen is vulnerable to such threats. I have a question on the Notice Paper about this matter today because the contention has been made by a responsible paper. It has not been denied. I have been inundated by constituents who contend that they have seen the place where the missile landed and that it was too close to the reactor for them to feel at all placated. However, I did not mean to mention any of that.
The attitude of the Opposition to the Bill is that the Atomic Energy Commission should not be empowered to raise funds for uranium mining on the commercial market until such time as the unresolved problems associated with the nuclear industry have been resolved satisfactorily. The Opposition contends also that the Atomic Energy Act is an inappropriate legislative basis for nuclear energy research and development and for commercial activities and that it should be repealed and replaced by other legislation. In our amendment to the motion that this Bill be read a second time, we have enunciated a new concept of administration for the various matters concerned- commercial matters, mining matters and the like. We do not believe that one authority can competently handle all these matters.
The Bill seeks to enable the Commission to borrow from the Commonwealth and other sources. The amendments embodied in the Bill are designed to enable the Commission to issue securities in respect of borrowings other than from the Commonwealth and to exempt the Commission from the payment of tax under any law of the Commonwealth, a State or Territory. One wonders why that is necessary. Why cannot the Commonwealth raise the loans which are necessary to facilitate the new mining ventures in which the Government has become a partner at Ranger? Of course, we know the reason. Already the Government is embarrassed by the high level of borrowing it has undertaken. The Government’s borrowing has reached record levels. To defuse that situation, it is now staving off the borrowing role to various instrumentalities. It will not bear the odium; the Atomic Energy Commission is to go on the market.
The reasons for extending commercial powers to the Commission arise from the Government’s decision to use the Atomic Energy Act to mine the Ranger uranium deposit. That decision is contrary to the express findings and recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. Let me remind honourable members of the contents of the Fox report. We have been given no explanation why the Government has departed from the recommendations of His Honour Mr Justice Fox and the members of his Inquiry, who joined with him in the production of that very excellent document. Why did the Government disregard that report? It has no counterargument to what Mr Justice Fox said in that report. The Government eulogises him. It has made him a roving ambassador to speak authoritatively about atomic matters all around the world and in the United Nations. Yet the Government has ignored his advice. It has denied him. This is what is stated at page 248 of the second Fox report:
We strongly recommend against the use of that Act -
That is, the Atomic Energy Act 1 953 - for the grant of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium.
We are entitled to know why this Government is thumbing its nose at the recommendations of such an august inquiry. After all, this Bill is designed to strengthen the Atomic Energy Act, even though obviously that Act is the wrong vehicle. We are not the only ones saying that; His Honour Mr Justice Fox has said that in those clear, unequivocal, unambiguous terms and no honourable member from the Government’s side has said why the Government has disregarded Mr Justice Fox’s advice.
Section 41 of the Atomic Energy Act gives wide powers to the Commonwealth which are not appropriate for a commercial body. I do not want my constituents, who are decent people with a great economic investment in terms of a career in the Atomic Energy Commission, as scientists, physicists and specialists of various kinds, to get caught up in the politicalisation of this whole racket. I do not want them to get caught up in section 41 of that Act. That provision was enacted at a time when there was a need to secure Australian uranium for use by Great Britain and the United States of America in a nuclear weapons program. That is what it was about. Of course, that is not what the Act is to be used for now.
Why were the recommendations of Fox ignored? The Labor movement has strong attitudes about this matter. Under the extremely repressive provisions of the Atomic Energy Act and the associated Approved Defence Projects Protection Act, the Government has the power to deny ordinary industrial rights to the workers and unions involved in the mining, handling and transportation of uranium. That is fair enough in times of war if uranium is to be used for purposes of defence or purposes of aggression against an opponent. But it is not the kind of vehicle which is needed to suppress workers in times of peace. The civil rights of persons who hinder or oppose the project are not guaranteed. The mining companies can be allowed to determine the composition and the evaluation of the work force. The Army can be called in to ensure that operations are not stopped. Why is that necessary at Ranger, where we are supposed to be producing yellowcake for purely peaceful purposes? What the hell has that to do with the Army? It should not have any more to do with the Army than has any other kind of production, unless the Government is aiming to establish a police or militaristic state in this country. If the Government has to produce uranium without conducting proper investigation and inquiry, it should do so without the aid of the police and the military. We do not want the workers of this country to be in such an intimidatory situation as is provided for under the Atomic Energy Act.
The honourable member for Holt (Mr Yates) smiles, but I think that he would have regard for this sort of civil liberty and probably would genuinely want this question answered as would any decent Australian. So far it has not been answered, either in the second reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) or in the remarks of the honourable member for Patterson (Mr O’Keefe), with his brief from the mining companies, to which he often gives voice in this Parliament. People can be fined between $1,000 and $10,000, or jailed for six to 12 months, for hindering or obstructing the mining project. Because of the security provisions of the Act, workers can be denied full information on the materials handled and the dangers involved, as well as the results of health checks.
Some time ago I asked a question about that matter and received the following answer:
The Ranger project is a commercial undertaking for wholly peaceful purposes and with proper safeguards. As was made clear during the debate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Act 1978 in the Senate on 29 May 1978, the Government’s policy is that penal provisions enacted for defence purposes would not be applied to the Ranger project.
That answer was given to me by the Minister for National Development. He said that these provisions were not to be applied. Nevertheless, they happen to be in the Act. We do not believe it to be appropriate to utilise the Act for this purpose. Is it beyond the wit and capacity of this
Government to contrive and to initiate another Act? The Minister says that the provisions of the Act will not be invoked but, of course, we know that on many occasions promises of this kind have been broken.
The Opposition wants to act responsibly in this matter. Very recently the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), in a submission to the Australian Atomic Energy Commission Review of Research and Development Activities, put an alternative proposal which would no doubt be acceptable to the Atomic Energy Commission and to the workers of this country. It involves adopting a new approach to the whole question of mining and utilising uranium.
If one looks at the document which has been produced by the Parliamentary Library and which shows the role of the Atomic Energy Commission, one finds that, so far, that Commission has experienced a cavalcade of very serious disappointments. Reference is made to the bum steers that have been pursued by the Commission: The high temperature gas-cooled reactor which was terminated and which was referred to in the fourteenth report as virtually a lost cause; the liquid metal-fuelled reactor, a commitment that lasted for 2 years, after which it was terminated; the small reactors project which, again, continued for a few years but which became mainly of long term periodic interest only, with little promise of immediate application; the Cape Keraudren proposal, which was part of the Plowshare program put forward by Mr Daniel Ludwig and the like of Clutha; and the Jervis Bay reactor. They all happened to be white elephants. It seems to me that the Government ought to look very seriously at the alternative proposals that have been put by the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drummond)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
.- The basis of the Opposition ‘s -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put. ( Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Keating’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-Order! There is no substance to the point of order.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Mr McLeay)- by leaveproposed.
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I want to express my concern at the fact that the Government has used its numbers to gag this debate.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker- Mr P. H. Drummond )
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move:
We have reached the stage in this Parliament where the Standing Orders mean nothing. The honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) is sabotaging and subverting every principle of parliamentary government. We have turned it not into a forum for the honourable members of this side of the House; we have turned it into a farce-provoking procedure for the honourable member for Bendigo.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the honourable member for Wills be not further heard.
The House divided. (The Deputy Speaker-Mr P. H. Drummond)
Dean, A. G. Jones, Barry
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, Mr Deputy Speaker. I second the motion. In addressing the House on this matter, one has to condemn the actions of the Government and of the Government Whip, who continually abuses the processes of this Parliament.
– I move:
-Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat. I hope that I will be given a little bit of leeway. I do not know whether the honourable gentleman seconded the motion. If the honourable gentleman seconded the motion then it is permissible for the right honourable the Leader of the House to move that the question be now put.
-Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member for Melbourne has risen to second the motion which has been moved by the honourable member for Wills. It has not been read by the Chair and therefore it is not before the House.
-I think that the House at the moment is in a state where there have been a series of divisions and the honourable member for Wills has taken a course of action by moving the suspension of Standing Orders. It is quite permissible for him to do so. There is business before the House. The Leader of the House has moved that the question be now put. When I issue from the Chair the question that is before the Chair, that motion will be capable of being ‘ put. Perhaps we could return to the business of the House.
-Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. The motion moved by the Leader of the House is out of order because it is not within the Standing Orders of the House for a motion to be put.
-I have already ruled that the honourable member for Corio is perfectly right.
– The only action that can be taken is that the honourable member can be gagged by -
-Order! The honourable member for Corio is perfectly right. I am informed by the Clerk that there is no business before the House other than the motion of the honourable member for Wills that Standing Orders be suspended. The question is that Standing Orders be suspended.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. You are not entitled to put the question while the seconder is speaking or before the Chair puts it. It is contrary to the Standing Orders.
– The honourable gentleman will resume his seat. The question is that Standing Orders be suspended.
– The reason that this matter has been moved is the constant abuse -
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the honourable member be not further heard.
The House divided. (MrSpeaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I support the motion put by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant).
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Mr Bryant’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Order! It being past 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith.
Question resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 3 May, on motion by Mr Howard:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr 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 would like to suggest that it may suit the convenience of the House to have a general debate covering this Bill and the Income Tax (Mining Withholding Tax) Bill as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate. I suggest, therefore, Mr Speaker that you permit the subject matter of both Bills to be discussed in this debate.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering both measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– In June and July 1977 the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs sought from Mr Shann Turnbull, of Management and Investment Services Ltd of Sydney, a report concerning the impact of mining royalties. The report was delivered on 27 October 1977. A report on the economic development of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory was to be followed by a later report on how the money flow might be regulated to increase community self-sufficiency.
The 1977 report contained four basic conclusions. The first was that revenues accruing to committees without accountability would jeopardise traditional life in undesirable ways. The second conclusion was that in the longer term, however, those revenues would enable economic self-sufficiency and self-determination in cultural development and integration with little need of government services. In fact, Mr Turnbull suggested that as a result of this socio-economic development the Department of Aboriginal Affairs would not be needed. He suggested further that Territory-wide political and economic selfmanagement would be rapidly forced upon these Aboriginal communities in such a way that they would be led to set up new institutions administering these royalties, rents and so on, and that these revenues would at that stage in fact shield all Aboriginal cultures in the Territory from the intrusions of white society. Therefore, although he argued that initially there would be cultural damage, eventually there would be cultural security and cultural integration as a result of such revenues.
The third point I took from his conclusions was that the revenues would shield Aboriginal cultures from white society intrusions. The fourth point was that the Northern Territory economy as a whole would benefit from the royalties far more than they would from all other resource development combined. That was a very significant conclusion. It goes against the sort of so-called white backlash that we are hearing of increasingly from the Northern Territory. We are told: ‘You are going to create black millionaires and you are going to impoverish the whites of the Northern Territory’. Mr Turnbull argued the very reverse; that the cash flow channelled through Aboriginal communities for community purposes would be the major boost to the Northern Territory economy.
He said that the ownership reversion requirements in the mining lease arrangements and agreements would make the Northern Territory self-sufficient without the need for any State taxes so that the Northern Territory would become a business and retirement haven. He suggested that Aboriginal mining royalties would make the Northern Territory the most affluent part of Australia- that it would have no State taxes and that it would be a business, retirement and tax haven. He said that all Territory residents eventually would have sufficient income to live without work or welfare if they so chose. That, again, is a highly significant statement. He suggested that people would be able to exist- he was not talking only about Aboriginals but everybody in the Northern Territory- without doing any work at all if they so chose just on the proceeds of these royalties. He said that Aboriginal values and traditions would then be widely recognised and that whites who no longer were required to work would suffer cultural conflicts in that they would be faced with the failure, as it were, of the work ethic.
The report, however, recommended that some urgent steps be taken. These steps have not been taken in the interim by the Government. It recommended, for example, that an urgent education program should be undertaken to explain to land councils, Aboriginal councils and Aboriginal associations both the implications of the conclusions reached and the implications for them of the phasing out of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs over perhaps 10 or 15 years in favour of clans, tribes or whatever. He suggested that financial accountability to federal authorities should be replaced by social accountability to Aboriginal organisations which would take over those government functions. I believe that this is a very healthy suggestion. It is suggesting the replacement of the unwieldy and centralised bureaucracy which now allegedly administers Aboriginal affairs, to the great frustration of Aboriginals and their community, by selfmanagement, which is the policy of all major parties in this country but which, in this regard at least, has not been carried out. Nor do we see any steps towards it.
So far we have seen no evidence that any department is accepting responsibility for coordinating the education and advisory services for the design and setting up of information systems as checks and balances in selfmanagement, as the report recommends. There is no sign that the Government is assisting the recommended integration and institutional structuring of the Aboriginal political economy. The former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has influenced such organisation only in the direction of buying off key Aboriginal leaders in the Northern Land Council and allowing the same sort of buying off of the traditional leadership at Nabarlek to be done by mining interests. Far from phasing out the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, he has directed it to intervene illegally at Maningrida. He has given preference to mining firms in the acquisition of the traditional land of the Borroloola people. In obtaining the Ranger agreement by coercion he has instigated breaches of the law and of normal meeting procedures by the Northern Land Council. Mr Turnbull quotes Aboriginal attitudes to land, to community, to corroboree and to belief, which bind together the Aboriginal world. He shows how Aborigines and their culture are destroyed by white economy, white industries and white social customs introduced on a cold cash and contact basis.
The Opposition is not opposed to Aborigines agreeing to mining on their land as such. We agree with many of the reservations that Mr
Turnbull has expressed. Our reasons for opposing uranium mining have little to do with the Bill before us and were well spelt out in a previous debate this evening. The Bill before us proposes to tax royalties from the mining not only of uranium but also of aluminium, manganese, other ores and minerals generally. This will be done not only in the Northern Territory. I objected when this proposal was first announced and in this regard I wish to quote from a report on page 1 of the Northern Territory News of 2 1 July 1978. The report stated:
The Northern Land Council chairman believes the new Federal tax on Aboriginal mining royalties sets a precedent for taxation of compensation payments.
Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu said he wonders why Aborigines are the first people to have their compensation payments taxed.
The Shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Dr Everingham, today described yesterday’s announcement as an outrage.
He said the Government had decided that Aboriginals, whose lands were interfered with by mining companies, should benefit from a fixed royalty on profits from the mining operations.
The decision to tax those royalties is yet another blatant attempt by the Government to try to reduce its budget deficit with backdoor methods,’ Dr Everingham said.
Dr Everingham said: ‘As usual the Fraser Government is seeking to hit those people with the least muscle to fight back.
While Aboriginals are expected to pay tax on money which they were led to believe was tax free the government is busily handing out massive concessions to foreign mining companies. ‘
We still stand by those objections. Let us look at the miserable level of these royalties paid in recognition of the lack of any other adequate compensation for the conquest of Aboriginals and their displacement from their land, for their social disruption and, in many cases, for their despairing dependence on acquisitive white society, The demoralised and decimated Yirrkala people, whose territory at Gove has been occupied to provide us with saucepans, soft drink cans, milk bottle tops, aeroplanes and other aluminium products, get a magnificent 2’A per cent royalty. Thanks to the insistence of Anglican missionaries, the Groote Eylandt people get a princely Vh per cent. These sums are now to be taxed. For the first time 10-year-old agreements are to be subject to tax. The reason that this Bill has been brought in is that during those 10 years the taxation authorities have not been able to find out who they should tax for these royalties.
We heard during the previous debate this evening that the Peko-EZ organisation is not to be taxed at all except by way of payroll tax and State taxes. It is to be exempt from tax. But the Aboriginals who get royalties will not be exempt, although those royalties are going to non-profit Aboriginal organisations for the benefit of Aboriginal communities. After costly negotiations, which incidentally used up a great deal of such royalties that accrued to the Northern Land Council, and after months of delay caused by the mining companies, which were cheeky enough to blame these delays on the Aborigines, the Ranger royalties were set at a much higher level. I repeat that after very expensive legal negotiations they were set at 4’/4 per cent. This was after what I referred to previously as the illegal conduct of meetings, the breach of legal obligations to traditional owners by the Northern Land Council and the breach of obligations to the Oenpelli people and their communities.
It was said by Stephen Zorn, one of the major consultants in these negotiations for the Northern Land Council, that one of the reasons he was prepared to accede to what he described as miserably low royalties was that he had managed to have written into the Ranger agreement considerable amounts to be provided for environmental protection, which he estimated would bring the total to something like 9 ‘A per cent. Of course, environmental protection is not just for Aborigines and the royalties paid will still be far short of some of those paid in other countries. The minimum royalty paid to Indians in Canada for mining on their land is 5 per centhigher than any of the four rates that I have cited- and they also get other material benefits.
The Papua New Guineans at Bougainville objected to terms negotiated by Australia and some of them- illiterate people- laid down in front of bulldozers. I think that got them about 20 per cent. At the moment Papua New Guinea is not giving tax free status to mining companies, as we are doing with Peko-EZ. Papua New Guinea is putting on a 33% per cent company tax and also a super profits tax. This is a trend round the world that Australia is still resisting. Mind you, the firms in Papua New Guinea are still making profits. One is opening another copper mine. The Papua New Guinea Government has taxed any returns of more than 20 per cent of total funds employed and is taxing at 70 per cent all earnings made after the payment of company tax. Not content with whittling down royalties by comparison with the compensation paid to other dispossessed indigenous people round the world, the Government of Australia now wants to cut the net royalty after tax to 2.34 per cent at Gove, 3.276 per cent at Groote Eylandt, 3.976 per cent at Ranger and 4.209 per cent at Nabarlek. That would produce figures something like this: The $400,000 already paid to the Northern Land Council will not be taxed, but the Northern Land Council will be taxed on the $200,000 to be paid annually through the Ranger agreement, the $300,000 to be paid annually during the construction phase, the $150,000 to be paid annually for Northern Land Council costs during the construction phase, and the 4lA per cent royalty on the net production proceeds. The exact amount of that will vary according to what those proceeds are, and that will depend on how much uranium ore is sold and on the world price- the selling price.
If only 3,000 tonnes is mined annually, which is half the capacity planned for, at $30 per lb, that will work out- according to Mr Zorn’s figures- at $8.5m. At the other extreme, if 6,000 tonnes is mined annually, at $40 per lb, that will amount to $22.25m. The tax will vary accordingly between $544,000, or a bit over half a million dollars, and $ 1.424m yearly. At Nabarlek no tax will be payable on the $735,000 already paid, but tax will be payable on the amount of $800,000 in the first year and again in the second year, $900,000 in the third year, $500,000 in the fourth year plus any balance of the 4l/i per cent of the net uranium value produced.
There is a story about creating Aboriginal millionaires. In fact, even the highest estimate indicates that at most this will produce $600 per Aboriginal in the Northern Territory. This money is spread over the Northern Territory; it does not all go to the locals. That amount is substantially less than the Government now spends on Aboriginal affairs. I have no doubt that the amount spent on Aboriginal affairs will be whittled away further, as has happened in the past three years, depending upon how much the Aborigines get in royalties. It would be well within the capacity of existing budgets for the total amount which the Aborigines will receive in royalties- about $12 a week a head- to be cut out entirely from Aboriginal funding. If that amount is enough to feed the smallest Aboriginal, I think we are being a little bit niggardly. The Opposition rejects that miserly attitude. We also seek an assurance from the Government that the money will not be flung contemptuously to unprepared communities. If the Government is to force that tax on those people who mostly subsist below the poverty line, let those taxes be used to provide some backup expertise to advise the Aborigines on how to get the best long term result from that money.
Some of the money no doubt will be spent on plonk. Even though it will not be paid to individuals but to communities, some of it will be diverted, just as it is in every white administration, from the Parliament down to each government department. No doubt some of it will go on booze. Some of it will be spent on housing, some on cordials, coffee, cornflakes or cars, charter flights or beef cattle, fencing or fishing boats. Whatever it is spent on, I have no doubt that it will be spent as efficiently as the Department of Aboriginal Affairs has managed to spend it over the years. As much of it will benefit the Aborigines as does now when most of the money allocated to Aboriginal affairs goes to white bureaucrats. But eventually, slowly, it will effectively be administered for Aborigines by Aborigines.
Less of the money will pass directly into white people’s pockets. But as Mr Shann Turnbull pointed out- the businessman engaged by the Minister to talk about the impact of those royalties- it will not be long before the money is in the pockets of the white people anyway because all of those consumer goods and capital goods which I have mentioned will not be provided by Aborigines paying other Aborigines for the goods, but mainly by Aborigines paying white people for the goods. White people will get the money which passes through those Aboriginal communities. That will have a multiplier effect in creating prosperity, mainly for white people once it has passed the first spending stage.
As in most consumer societies, the rich rapidly will get richer in the Territory. If governments do not intervene the poor will not only get poorer but also more decimated, demoralised, depressed and desperate. Unfortunately the people who will determine some of that spending are not interested in seeing that Aborigines are protected from the profit-seeking of people who go there to sell plonk, to pressurise people into the consumer society and to buy some of the items which I mentioned, which they can live without, whether it be cordials, or cornflakes or the charter flights. Some of the money will be wasted. Let us be ready to help and to protect the Aborigines and to put some curbs on the exploiters.
We must be able to do better at Ranger than we did at Weipa, where the net effect has been mainly slow cultural genocide. We should learn from examples overseas. As the AM program reported on 27 November last, the American Indians have four-fifths of the uranium reserves, one-third of the low sulphur coal reserves and one-tenth of the oil and gas reserves in the
United States of America. They have not had adequate information about the impact on them of developing those resources. A Harvard study found that the Navajos, one of the most organised tribes, get $2.5 million a year from coal at Black Mesa, Arizona. They run the power generators, using the coal. But Arizona State collects from them $10 million a year in taxes. The Navajos get about one-quarter of what the State gets from their mine and their power generation. They control the roads and the rivers, but their land is polluted. They still suffer poverty and under-development. They lack the strength to fight for their legal rights to get what others get in the short or long term.
In the Melbourne Age of 8 January it is reported that on more than 40 reservations Indians own one-sixth of America’s energy resources, two million hectares of commercial forests, 16 million hectares of the poorer grazing land, which is in demand when beef prices rise, and one million hectares of crop land. But their average life span has risen to only 65.1 years, compared with America’s average of 70 years. Nearly half of them are out of work. Their rate of teenage suicides is 100 times the rate of suicide of white teenagers. Incomes on reservations average one-quarter of the national average. Over two-fifths of them are problem drinkers, compared with one in 17 nationwide. More than half, or twice the national average, drop out before finishing high school. Despite this, birth rates have stopped falling. Indians are becoming more politically active and successful in European pursuits. Dozens of tribes have instituted over 100 law suits which have had a high success rate in restoring dishonoured treaties, particularly with regard to land ownership.
We should not only conclude treaties of commitment to compensate conquered Aborigines, but also we should ensure that compensation paid is lasting in its effect and not a mere fireworks display for a part of one generation. Of the royalties that we leave them, 30 per cent will go to the Aboriginal Benefits Trust Account, 40 per cent to the land councils, which could become vehicles for self-determination if profitdominated administrations would help instead of harassing them, and 30 per cent to traditional communities through councils and associations which will need all the help, communication, interpreting and trans-cultural skills that we can muster, to plan, invest and provide wisely for the time in a generation or so, when the mines run out.
We oppose the Bill and we ask for a moral and financial commitment by the Government to its victims. The Northern Territory government, having blackmailed the Federal Government into getting a 1 Va per cent royalty on uranium, ought to do its share, as its economy receives a boost from Aborigines’ mineral royalties which it hopes, as Mr Shann Turnbull has predicted, will make it the richest, lowest taxed region in Australia. Far from resenting Aboriginal incomes, the Northern Territory Government should welcome them. There is no more widespread myth among know-it-all old hands in the Territory than the myth that illiterate Aborigines average bigger incomes than do unemployed whites. They see the odd gambling winners driving big cars and splashing money about, but they do not see so many of the losers who perhaps are forced to go bush to forage in order to survive. Nor do they see so many of the defeated, who give up trying to get into the work force for even the short time required to qualify for unemployment benefit. Some of them have not had work for even that long and are getting no benefit. Rather, they are living on the goodwill of their group.
The Territory built its wealth mainly, perhaps, on cattle, using Aborigines as slave labour and turning their abundant land into grazing leases. Now many of these grazing interests want to spurn station hands, evict their families and turn them into parasitic fringe dwellers, while the white get-up-and-go miners deface their land for perhaps a score of years and then withdraw, leaving pollution and plonk as their legacies to the ancient conservers of that land. I move:
We also intend to oppose the second Bill which is being considered in this cognate debate.
– I second the amendment. (Quorum formed).
Debate (on motion by Mr Braithwaite) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 6 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
If the Commission had not taken these losses into account the special grants recommended for payment would have been reduced as follows:1974-75, $24m to $16. 915m; 1975-76, $35.8m to $29. 178m; and 1976-77, $23.7m to $ 14.048m.
Special grants payable to a claimant State are in the nature of untied general revenue funds designed to supplement the State ‘s personal income tax sharing entitlements and are not conditional upon the State’s undertaking to spend the funds for any particular purpose. Accordingly, the application of these grants to special purposes within the State (including the Brisbane City Council’s transport undertaking) is entirely a matter for the Queensland Government to determine.
Investment in Company Securities (Question No. 3433)
asked the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Australian Design Rule 27A (Question No. 3450)
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1979:
Which vehicle models, tested by manufacturers and complying with the standards of the second stage of Australian Design Rule 27a, produce levels of exhaust emission which would enable them to be certified as meeting the proposed standards of the third stage of ADR 27a.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Details with regard to vehicles for which certification compliance approval is sought by individual manufacturers from the Australian Motor Vehicle Certification Board are provided to the Board on a strictly confidential basis for the purposes of certification to current standards only. The information which is provided is of commercial importance. It has been the consistent policy of the Board, which was established by State and Commonwealth Governments, not to disclose individual manufacturer details.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 4 April 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In coastal waters- 1971 Texaco Southampton; 1978 Mobil Australis, ESSO Gippsland.
In port- 1969 Leslie J. Thompson; 1973 British Bombadier, 1976 Cellana; 1978 P. J. Adams.
Only the fire on Cellana in 1976 was serious enough to warrant the matter being referred to a Court of Marine Inquiry.
Sydney: Gore Bay, Berrys Bay, Ballast Point
Melbourne: Gellibrand, Coode Island, Holden Dock
Port Adelaide: River Berths
Fremantle: Inner Harbour.
Most of the smaller ports in Australia have tanker berths in the main harbour or at the town quay and are therefore close to residential areas, industrial areas, or other vessels.
Australian experience has shown that these berths present no greater danger to persons or property than the terminals which they service.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
A total of thirtythree (33) consulting persons/firms were paid the amount of $179,629 during 1977-78 for professional services.
I have had a schedule prepared setting out details of the names, individual amounts paid and the specific purposes for each consultancy which is available for your inspection.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 27 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 27 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4) I understand that some vessels in the northwest Australia to Japan ore trade did slow steam in 1 978 and also that the speeds of a number of vessels have recently been increased.
As ore is bought on FOB basis, the purchaser makes his own shipping arrangements and the detailed information concerning voyage times requested is not available.
I am informed that the Australian National Line bulk carriers in the trade averaged 27.67 days for the round trip in 1978 which is similar to times they attained in 1977. The ANL vessels have not been slow steaming.
Slow steaming is a method by which the amount of cargo carried by a fleet can be reduced without having to lay up individual ships. The major benefit is in reduced fuel consumption and the commensurate reduction in running costs.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 3 April 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) Yes.
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 4 April 1 979:
Further to his answer to question No. 3 166(Hansard, 29 March 1979, page 1377), with respect to the non-Australian oil tankers inspected by his Depanment in Australian pons between August 1977 and December 1978, (a) at which port was each vessel inspected and (b) what was the deadweight tonnage of each vessel.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is contained in the following table:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 4 April 1979:
Further to his answer to question No. 3 166 ( Hansard, 29 March 1979, page 1377), on the non-Australian tankers inspected by his Department (a) what was the nation of registration of each vessel, (b) what was the nationality of the vessel ‘s owner in each case and (c) what was the last port of entry of each vessel prior to its entering an Australian port.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 4 April 1 979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 4 April 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Department of Transport: Staff (Question No. 3702)
asked the Minister for
Transport, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
How many (a) temporary and (b) permanent staff of his Department are currently located at the Qantas Office, 20 Macquarie Street, Parramatta, NSW.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are no Department of Transport staff either permanent or temporary located at the Qantas Office, 20 Macquarie Street, Parramatta, NSW.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice:
How many (a) temporary and (b) permanent staff are currently located at the Australian Taxation Office at 126 Church Street, Parramatta, NSW.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
As at 30 April 1979 there were (a) 5 temporary and (b) 856 permanent staff located at the Australian Taxation Office at 126 Church Street, Parramatta, NSW.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 1 May 1 979:
How many (a) temporary and (b) permanent staff are currently located at the Australian Electoral Office at 28 George Street, Parramatta, NSW.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
There are two temporary and two permanent staff currently located at the Australian Electoral Office at 28 George Street, Parramatta, NSW.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790509_reps_31_hor114/>.