31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled: The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the plan to obliterate the traditional weights and measures of this country is causing and will cause widespread inconvenience, confusion, expense and distress.
That there is no certainty that any significant benefits or indeed any benefits at all will follow the use of the new weights and measures.
That the traditional weights and measures are eminently satisfactory.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed, and that the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional and familiar units to be restored to those areas where the greatest inconvenience and distress are occurring, that is to say, in meteorology, in road distances, in sport, in the building and allied trades, in the printing trade, and in retail trade.
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 Aldred, Mr Bourchier, Mr N. A. Brown, Mr Burns, Mr Falconer, Mr Fisher, Mr Howe, Mr Jarman, Mr Barry Jones, Mr Scholes, Mr Shipton, Mr Simon and Mr Yates.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives, of the Australian Parliament assembled. The Petition of certain citizens of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
Dismay at the reduction in the total expenditure on education proposed for 1980 and in particular to Government Schools.
Government School bear the burden of these cuts, 1 1.2 per cent while non-Government school will receive an increase of 3.4 per cent.
We call on the Government to again examine the proposals as set out in the guidelines for Education expenditure 1980 and to immediately restore and increase substantially in real terms the allocation of funds for education expenditure in 1980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baume, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Kerin, Dr Klugman, Mr Lucock, Mr MacKenzie, Mr Morris, Mr Neil and Mr Sinclair.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That although artistically the Red Army Choir may be a great choir, it is nonetheless a propaganda unit of the Red Army, the army which is the instrument of the Communist dictatorship, bent on world domination along with the destruction of the Christian faith.
Your petitioners humbly pray that entry into Australia shall be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we have heard the expressed intentions of one entrepreneur to bring the Red Army Choir to Australia, and declare, that regardless of its artistic merits or demerits, the Red Army Choir is as much a unit of the Red Army as a division of tanks or artillery. It is but a propaganda unit to glorify the Soviet regime in song and music.
Your petitioners humbly pray that just as entry into Australian ports is denied to Soviet warships, so too will entry be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe and Mr Yates.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Red Army Choir is a military propaganda unit glorifying the Soviet regime which is still hostile to the democratic way of life. The Red Army is the main instrument in keeping formally free people under subjugation, and its presence enables blatant violations of Human Rights to be perpetrated. The support, therefore, of such instruments of a totalitarian regime can only harm the development of free and liberal thought under it.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Australian Government assert its support for the aspirations of subjugated people by denying entry into this country to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Jarman.
To the Honourable the Speaker and the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we have heard the expressed intentions of one entrepreneur to bring the Red Army Choir to Australia, and declare, that regardless of its artistic merits or demerits, the Red Army Choir is a military propaganda, glorifying the Soviet Regime which is still hostile to the democratic way of life. The Red Army is the symbol of the power that is keeping formerly free people under subjugation, and its presence enables blatant violation of Human Rights to be perpetrated.
Your petitioners humbly pray that just as entry into Australian ports is denied to Soviet warships; so too, will entry be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byDr Klugman.
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 a grave threat to the life of refugees from the various States of Indo-China arises from the policies of the Government of Vietnam.
That, as a result of these policies, many thousands of refugees are fleeing their homes and risking starvation and drowning. Because of the failure of the rich nations of the world to provide more than token assistance, the resources of the nations of first refuge, especially Malaysia and Thailand, are being stretched beyond reasonable limits.
As a wealthy nation within the region most affected, Australia is able to play a major part in the rescue as well as resettlement of these refugees.
It should be possible for Australia to: establish and maintain on the Australian mainland basic transit camps for the housing and processing of 200,000 refugees each year; mobilise the Defence Force to search for, rescue and transport to Australia those refugees who have been able to leave the Indo-China States; accept the offer of those church groups which propose to resettle some thousands of refugees in Australia.
The adoption of such a humane policy would have marked effect on Australia ‘s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred, Mr Jacobi, Mr Jarman and Mr Porter.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the electors of the State of N.S.W. respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1977 should immediately be repealed because:
It provides unfettered power to Ministers to suspend, stand-down and dismiss Commonwealth Government employees and places them in a markedly disadvantageous position as compared with all other Australian workers.
Its use places Commonwealth Government employees in direct conflict with the Government as it circumvents the arbitration tribunals and denies appeal rights.
Its use will exacerbate industrial disputes and inflame industrial relations in the Commonwealth area of employment.
The International Labour Organisation has condemned the Provisons of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Baume, Mr Hunt and Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government increase its allocation for Pre-School education immediately to enable the provision of adequate pre-school services in S.A.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Giles, Mr Porter and Mr Wallis.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That, as it is clear that unemployment is a long term problem in Australia, the Government should extend to the unemployed the same assistance as is given to any other disadvantaged member of the community. There is an urgent need to alleviate the financial hardship and emotional stress that the unemployed are suffering.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Howe, Mr Neil and Mr West
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That restoration of provisions of the Social Security Act that applied prior to the 1 978-79 Budget is of vital concern to offset the rising cost of goods and services.
The reason advanced by the Government for yearly payments ‘that the lower level of inflation made twice-yearly payments inappropriate ‘ is not valid.
Great injury will be caused to 920,000 aged, invalid, widows and supporting parents, who rely solely on the pension or whose income, other than the pension, is $6 or less per week. Once-a-year payments strike a cruel blow to their expectation and make a mockery of a solemn election pledge.
Accordingly, your petitioners call upon their legislators to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris and Mr Shipton.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council has not been democratically elected by the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is not representative of the women of Australia;
That the National Women’s Advisory Council is a discriminatory and sexist imposition on Australian women as Australian men do not have a National Men’s Advisory Council imposed on them.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the National Women’s Advisory Council be abolished to ensure that Australian women have equal opportunity with Australian men of having issues of concern to them considered, debated and voted on by their Parliamentary representatives without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative ‘Advisory Council ‘.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr O’Keefe and Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we oppose the increase in marine radio licence fees for the following reasons:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the government will reconsider the increased licence fee and also consider a reduction for pensioners. by Mr Baume.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This petition of citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take urgent steps to concur with the wishes of a majority of the electors at every polling place in Australia at the 1967 referendum by resumption from the States of the major traditional Aboriginal land areas and reserves and former reserves as at 31 March 1978, to become federal Crown land pending prompt determination of freehold title for Land Trusts and eventually for defined community co-operatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Graham.
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:
There is a definite limit to the quantity of Australia’s mineral resources.
Accordingly our resources should be managed and developed under Australian ownership and control.
Publicly owned trading enterprises and corporations have been established and operated for the benefit of Australians since Federation.
The Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, Australian Wheat Board, were all designed to operate to the benefit of our Nation as a whole under public ownership.
The Fraser government’s irresponsible proposals to sell off our Nation’s interest in the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, and to dispose of other successful statutory corporations such as Trans Australia Airlines, would be contrary to the Nation’s interests.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House of Representatives will reject outright proposals of the Fraser government to sell the Ranger Uranium Mine, the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, and other publicly owned enterprises.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Morris.
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 there are Australian Aboriginal children living under conditions of inadequate nutrition in a background of poor housing, hygiene, and overcrowding that amounts to ‘a ThirdWorld enclave in the midst of affluence’ (see also the Report from the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs ‘Aboriginal Health ‘ 1 979); that such a state of affairs is intolerable in our country; that only an effort on an unprecedented scale could create conditions that would give these children the rights set out in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will make generous funding available for the specific purposes of: making a real improvement in the health, housing, education, employment and welfare of the Aboriginal people, doing so with due regard for the needs, hopes and aspirations of the Aboriginal people themselves; providing increased help, encouragement and opportunity for Aboriginal people to train as nursing aides and in other paramedical roles, and as fully qualified nurses, doctors and social workers; providing increased health education for Aboriginal people in ways that are acceptable to them. by Mr Ruddock.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of undersigned Aboriginal people living in New South Wales respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore pray that the Aboriginal Legal Service Limited of New South Wales be adequately funded to meet the demands of all Aboriginal people living in New South Wales, now and in the future.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Ruddock.
Petition to the Honourable the Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled; petition.
The humble petition of the undersigned residents of the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales showeth; that we are distressed and concerned by the refusal by Australia post to issue a commemorative stamp upon the 50th anniversary of the association of Apex clubs.
Your petitioners therefore pray that your honourable House will do all in its power to have the Commonwealth Government take immediate action to guarantee the reconsideration of the application.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrWallis.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence be requested to conduct an urgent inquiry into-
the advisability of hiring a Hong Kong based, wholly-foreign-owned company to carry out surveillance functions involving protection and security of remote areas of Australian sovereign territory and coastline;
the reasons why Australian companies, competent to perform this nationally important function, were rejected; and
the dangers that could arise through the lack of legal accountability to the Australian Government of such foreign-owned companies carrying out this function.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That, in the opinion of this House, recognising that in Western Australia there are 68 registered unemployed young persons for every available vacancy, in South Australia 62, in Queensland 5 1, in Tasmania and the Northern Territory 45, in Victoria 32 and in New South Wales 3 1 , the Federal Government should provide financial assistance to State and local government for youth job creation, training and retraining schemes.
– Does the Minister for Health recall that in a Press statement of 20 July this year he stated that the reintroduction of Medibank in its original form would cost an extra $400m, that in a speech on 22 August, as recorded at page 450 of Hansard, he stated that it would cost an extra $500m, and that the Prime Minister stated on 1 1 September, as recorded at page 936 of Hansard, that it would cost an extra $600m? When can we expect the bidding to stop? Could he and the Prime Minister provide us with material to support each of the estimates?
– When we were trying to calculate what the reintroduction of Medibank might cost we had to take into account some doubtful quantities. For instance, if it was reintroduced by a Labor government the sky could be the limit because undoubtedly it would fail to introduce the sorts of checks and brakes that we have introduced into the health insurance system to reduce the rate of acceleration of health costs. When I became Minister for Health-
– No one was more shocked than we were.
-Order! The question was asked in silence. I ask honourable members on my left to listen to the reply in silence and not continually to interject.
-When I became Minister for Health I found that the Hayden Medibank scheme had resulted in an explosion of health costs in Australia and that the rate of acceleration of health costs was about 36 per cent per annum.
– The year before Medibank.
-One of the great problems that the Government has had has been in reducing the rate of acceleration in health costs.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! I called upon honourable members on my left, especially those on the front bench, to cease interjecting. I now repeat that request. The national Parliament should not be treated in that way.
– Perhaps the Minister could tell the truth. The novelty would overwhelm the House.
-Order! I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw that remark.
– I obviously withdraw it, but what the Minister is saying is patently dishonest. It is quite wrong.
-The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw it without qualification.
– Yes, I withdraw it without qualification.
– When the Fraser Government came to office the rise in health costs in Australia had reached the highest rate of acceleration in Australia’s history. The rate of acceleration was of the order of 36 per cent per annum. Through the responsible measures that we have taken, we have reduced the rate of acceleration or the rate of inflation in the area of health costs to about 10 per cent per annum. The people of Australia are today paying a very high cost indeed for the three years when the Labor Government released all the brakes and withdrew all the stops that were inherent in the former system to keep health costs within reasonable limits. There is no doubt that the medical profession and the providers of health care gained most from the rather irresponsible actions that were taken by that Government. For instance, doctors’ fees rose by about 94 per cent during the term of office of that Government. I do not know whether health costs would increase by $400m, $500m or $700m with the reintroduction of a universal health insurance system, perhaps on a staged basis.
During the Budget debate the honourable member for Prospect indicated in this House that one might suggest that one might not recommend the re-introduction of a Medibank system. I just do not have his exact words but he indicated some reservation about a Medibank scheme. The Leader of the Opposition does not quite know how far he can go and still show a sense of responsibility, because he is trying to look more responsible than the former Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Whitlam. The Leader of the Opposition is being very cagey indeed. Just look at him. He does not know whether his Party will embrace a universal health insurance scheme. He says that such a scheme would be introduced by stages. So how on earth can we cost it? I conclude with a quote from the Leader of the Opposition who is being so vocal. On 27 February 1975 he said:
I was saying that, if the Oppositon as a government were to dismantle Medibank, a severe tax would be imposed on Australians. With the advent of Medibank, medical insurance will no longer involve contributions. It will be freefree of contributions.
He went on to say:
Medical cover will be free for all Australians.
He went on further to say:
Cover for public ward treatment will be free.
That was the sort of propaganda in which he engaged in 1975. We have all learnt the lesson. Nobody in the community now would agree that there is such a thing as free health care. The Australian people will pay for health care by one means or another. They will pay for it by increased levies, taxes and premiums or by direct payments, or by a combinaton of those means. If we do return to the sort of universal health insurance scheme that was inherent in Medibank the Australian people will pay dearly and the medical profession, the providers of health care, will be the greatest winners in the community.
– I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Can you direct the back benchers on the Government side that if they are going to hand down notes for Ministers to read, they do it without holding up Question Time.
-There is no point of order.
– I refer the Minister for Defence to reference in the Auditor-General’s annual report to the current procurement of patrol frigates for the Navy. What are Australia’s financial arrangements with the United States of America about those and other defence purchases?
– I think it ought to be observed in the Auditor-General’s references to the patrol frigate program that he makes no criticism of any maladministration and he offers no criticism of any blemish of financial management or conduct. As I read that gentleman’s reference to the patrol frigate program, he is concerned with the fact that the Auditor-General or one of his officers cannot conduct an audit within the United States of America. I should point out that the ships are being purchased pursuant to what is described as the foreign military sales program of the United States. That program is constantly subject to scrutiny by United States AuditorGeneral officers and to other processes of scrutiny peculiar to the United States which we do not have in Australia. I inform the House that the building and the cost of the ships are, as a consequence, constantly subject to American oversight and superintendence. I point out to the House that in the very beginning of the project officers of the Royal Australian Navy were taken into the shipbuilding yards of the United States of America. They report regularly to Australian authorities.
The last observation I would make is this: I find it a breathtaking notion that the AuditorGeneral of this country should be put in a position where he could place an officer of his department within the department of a foreign state. This seems to me to take the principle of extra-territorial power to a hitherto undisclosed end. I wonder how this country would feel, for example, if the United Kingdom or Brazil wished to put an auditor into the departments of this country in order to oversee the Ikara project. I can assure the House that there is very vigorous observation of the entire project in the United States of America, and, as will meet the convenience of the House, in the near future I will disclose what is the latest position regarding the cost of those ships.
– I ask the Minister for Health: Has the Austraiian Council on Hospital Standards refused to accredit the Woden Valley Hospital, which is situated in the electorate of the honourable member for Canberra? Was this because of inadequate arrangements for delineation of medical privileges of visiting medical staff and the inadequate provision for the review of professional standards? Does this mean that private patients are being treated in this hospital by doctors not necessarily competent for the work that they perform?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is yes, regrettably the Woden Valley Hospital did not pass the test being applied by the body that was carrying out accreditation in the Australian Capital Territory. This is a matter of great concern to the Capital Territory Health Commission and to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I have had discussions with the Chairman of the Commission and I would want to see the Capital Territory Health Commission take whatever action was necessary in order to bring the Capital Territory hospitals up to the standards that have been laid down by the Australian Hospital Association and the body that has joined it in carrying out accreditation examinations. The matter went further, of course. The honourable member mentioned the question of delineation and the review of professional standards. The review also suggested that the hospitals were not governed by separate boards of management. It also was critical of the fact that there was one medical committee rather than medical committees for each hospital. So this has awakened my interest in the structure of the system in the Capital Territory.
It may be necessary to give consideration to the restructuring of the Capital Territory Health Commission itself. It may be necessary to look at re-establishing a hospital board system for each hospital. But clearly, there is a whole range of criteria that need to be examined in order to bring these hospitals up to the accreditation standard, the standard that no doubt the honourable member would want to see them reach. I am as concerned as the honourable member to ensure that the Capital Territory hospitals do reach the standards that have been set by the body that is carrying out the accreditation of hospitals in Australia because it could be that in the nottoodistant future we will cost share only those hospitals that have fulfilled accreditation. That being the case, it places a great degree of urgency upon the Capital Territory Health Commission to ensure that the hospitals in the Australian Capital Territory actually reach the standards that have been set by the accreditation body.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware of recent reports which state that Australia’s defence policies are not meeting the strategic demands of the north west region of Western Australia? Has the Minister examined these reports and will he inform the House as to their validity?
– My attention was drawn to a statement made by a member of the Western Australian Government addressing some learned society in Perth. He expressed a view with which the Government and I disagree. It is no disrespect to that honourable gentleman when I express the view that I regret that he has made such a harsh and so inaccurate an assessment. I recall that it was this Government that commissioned HMAS Stirling 18 to 20 months ago after successive governments for 60-odd years had dithered over the project. It was this Government which upgraded Learmonth field, and it was this Government which acquired the Yampi training ground. The proposed new patrol boat base at Darwin has, I believe, already been considered by the Public Works Committee, and further consideration is being given to the establishment of another patrol boat base between Darwin and HMAS Stirling. I would observe to my honourable friend that in the course of the last 18 months to two years there have been no fewer than eight or nine substantial exercises in the Western Australian region. Finally may I say that possibly no other country in the world has such a clear need for mobility in establishing its defence structure and infrastructure. The Government- I take all partisanship out of this- and the country are attending to that in a very proper fashion. It is some 40 years ago, almost to the day, when the Maginot Line mentality was shown to be so weak and frail. I am sorry that someone is seeking to revive it.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health and I do so as a result of his rhetorical concern to keep down health costs. Has the Auditor-General, in his report tabled yesterday, made nine specific criticisms of unsatisfactory matters in the payment of Commonwealth medical benefits since 1 November 1978 and a number of shortcomings in checks on the daily bed payments of private hospitals? In view of the fact that $593m and $75m respectively are involved in these areas of expenditure, will the Minister order an urgent review of his Department’s methods to prevent both private hospitals and health insurance funds from further ripping off the taxpayer?
– The Government will take very seriously the recommendations of the AuditorGeneral and his observations, criticisms and comments. As Minister for Health I will be directing my attention to those areas where the Auditor-General thinks there could have been a deficiency. But just let me remind the honourable gentleman that prior to my becoming Minister for Health there were no such things as medical committees of inquiry with the States, although provision was made for them and the legislation was introduced by the former Government. It was not until the Fraser Government came into office that adequate provision was made for the establishment of these committees of inquiry in each State to ensure that we would reduce the level of over-servicing by certain medical practitioners in the community. No real effort had been made to come to grips with the question of fraud that was occurring in the community in the whole medical area.
We had Commonwealth and State agreements with the hospitals that were so open ended that one could drive a double decker bus through practically every syllable of the agreements. We renegotiated those agreements with the States and tightened them up, and for the first time entered into budgeting arrangements with the States. As a consequence we are achieving a more efficient approach with the States in the establishment of costings of estimates of the administration of the hospitals. Indeed it is no wonder that the honourable member for Bonython is concerned about inefficiencies, extravagances and costs in the hospitals area because he happens to come from a State where a public accounts committee set to work and established that in South Australia, under the reign of a government of his own political persuasion, there were the most inefficient and incredible extravagances and wastages in the hospital systems. When the Public Accounts Committee brought this to light- the honourable member for Sturt brought this to my attention- I can assure honourable members that it played a very big part in the Government’s decision to set up an inquiry into the administration of hospitals throughout Australia. That inquiry has now commenced. I have no doubt that there are inefficiencies within the system. Just as we are attempting to overcome the inefficiencies within the hospitals system, if there are inefficiencies in the way in which I administer the Department of Health I will seek to overcome them.
-Is the Minister for Trade and Resources aware of the long-standing concern of the Australian tanning industry at the restrictions placed by Japan on imports of Australian leather? Is it correct that Japan has agreed to allow leather from the United States of America into its market but that no similar arrangement applies to Australia?
-I am aware that the tanning industry in Australia has been very upset at the very strict restrictions imposed by Japan on leather imports. It has been applying them for many years. However, earlier this year negotiations between Japan and the United States of America resulted in limited access to United States tanners. Since May this year officers of the Department of Trade and Resources have been trying to reach an agreement with Japan so that our tanners might get some access to that market. Up to date we have not been able to come to any settlement with Japan but I would like to have it registered that I would consider it very undesirable if United States tanners were to be given a preferred position over Australian tanners. For that reason we are continuing with our negotiations in the hope that we can be given similar treatment.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Is Greenslopes Repatriation General Hospital the main repatriation hospital in Queensland? Is it a fact that, based on staff levels all over Australia, departmental staff in Queensland should be increased by about 350 people? Is the Minister aware that the nursing staff at the hospital is sometimes over 30 per cent below the normal staffing level due to short time absences? Has the specialist medical staff association complained about the progressively deteriorating standard of medical care and said that many sections of the hospital were unable to provide adequate patient care? Have specialist staff members voted unanimously to protest strongly against restrictive policies which place the lives of their patients at risk?
-Questions have been asked about staffing at Greenslopes Repatriation General Hospital. Apparently on Friday a special committee went to look into this matter. It was led by the honourable member for Prospect and included a previous member of this House, whom I never knew to be interested in repatriation until then; the very optimistic Labor candidate for the seat of Moreton, which is the seat of my colleague, the Minister for Defence; and a member of the Hospital Employees Federation of Australia. No doubt resulting from that visit we will get an expert report. I hope that the committee took the opportunity to talk, as I do, to some of the veterans who use Greenslopes Hospital, and to hear the very high tributes from those people.
It is very misleading to make the sort of comparisons that the honourable member has made. For instance, he is not taking into account variations in both treatment and staffing patterns. For instance, the Queensland hospital has a very much lower trainee content in staff than has either Concord Repatriation General Hospital or Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital. Special units, which are more staff intensive, are a significant feature of both Heidelberg and Concord hospitals. If one discounts the trainee nurses, Greenslopes Hospital is not disadvantaged in relation to patient staffing ratios at Concord. Heidelberg has a higher proportion of inpatient days and a higher density of surgical cases. The comparison that the honourable member made does not take into account a number of those factors. He also raised a question about alleged inadequacies of relief ratios in repatriation hospitals raised by the HEFA. The Public Service Board examined those representations. It carried out an in-depth study of Heidelberg. It concluded that relief ratios in our repatriation general hospitals were appropriate and it advised the Federation of this on 26 October 1978. Of course, if there are problems about staff limitations at Greenslopes- none has been demonstrated to me- the cause could be the very high community patient intake at Greenslopes. Would the honourable member have us remedy that by reducing the community intake, which I think is working very well. It has advantaged the standards and the range of treatment in our repatriation general hospitals and this has been very much appreciated by the veteran community itself.
-I refer the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to a Press report that his Department is alleged to have made a confidential labour force projection showing increases in unemployment of up to 50,000 annually until 1983. Will the Minister inform the House whether his Department has made any such projection? Should this be the case, will the report remain classified and confidential or will it be presented to the House for the information of honourable members?
– I thank the honourable gentleman for his question because it is important to show immediately that that Press report is false. There is no such confidential document within my Department. No such projection was made by my Department. I presume that the author of the article was referring to a labour force projection, which is not a confidential document. It is a technical working document produced within the Department and updated from time to time. In fact, I was not aware of its existence until I made some inquiries this morning in response to that article and saw the document. The document is entitled, ‘Labour Force Projections 1978 to 2003’. The document uses population estimates drawn from the Australian Statistician’s publication ‘Projections of the Population of Australia 1978 to 2001’ and labour force participation rates from the Australian Statistician’s publication ‘The Labour Force’. From these figures tables are produced which project the labour force under various assumptions, including constant participation rates as of August 1978 and projected participation rates from long term trends and immigration assumptions. That is the nature of the document. Nowhere does it mention unemployment.
I think it is rather offensive to any Minister and to any member of the House to be accused, as this Press report does, of suppressing a confidential report. I think the House will be aware that the Press report is totally false. The author has deduced some figures from his own arithmetic. One of the figures that he referred to is an annual labour force growth of a round 1 10,000. If anybody cares to look at the statistics he will see that there is no such round figure. In fact, up to 1983 all the figures are below 100,000. Therefore it is quite apparent- the honourable gentleman who asked the question will, I think, appreciate this point- that the author has used the figure of 1 10,000 as a figure of convenience in order to produce a particular and desired result.
-I refer the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs to the statement in September of last year by the then Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, in which he said that if jobs were created at the rate of 130,000 a year unemployment could be down to 4.5 per cent of the total work force by 1983. Does the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs still adhere to that departmental advice?
– The statement by my colleague the former Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations was a most informative and important statement. He has been much maligned for making it. It was made as the result of a decision by the Government. At the time the Government thought that the Australian people should be informed of the situation concerning employment and unemployment. I take nothing away from the statement made by him.
– By whom has he been maligned?
– He has been maligned by members of the Opposition and they know it. Nothing can take away from the statistical fact that since the peak unemployment figure was given by the Australian Statistician in January, unemployment has fallen by some 76,000 people. Nothing can take away from the fact that each of the monthly unemployment figures for the last three months has been less than each of the unemployment figures for the same months last year. That shows not only that we have halted the continually worsening trend in unemployment but also that we have begun to reverse it. That is also borne out by the employment growth over the last 12 months. Over 60,000 new jobs have been created in civilian employment, particularly in the private sector. We know, as the Opposition refuses to recognise, that only through policies of investment and development within the private sector will we get economic growth and, through economic growth, employment growth.
– Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs confirm reports that the Council of European Communities has approved a mandate to enable the negotiation of a nuclear safeguards agreement between Australia and Euratom?
– I certainly can confirm the details in the honourable member’s question.
The Government is, of course, gratified that the Council of European Communities yesterday adopted a mandate enabling the European Commission to negotiate a nuclear safeguards agreement with Australia on behalf of the European Atomic Energy Community; that is, Euratom. Clearly, we look forward to the early commencement of negotiations. It is no exaggeration to say that this is a development of major significance. Apart from the complexity of formulating a single negotiating mandate among nine countries on a very complicated subject there have been unresolved questions on the European side about the respective competence of Euratom on the one hand and the individual member states on the other in nuclear safeguards matters.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has oft spoken with pessimism about how the Government would go about this form of negotiation. He has indicated that in his view it probably would not even get a mandate. Once again, he has been proved wrong. The Government has consistently emphasised the importance of concluding a nuclear safeguards agreement with Euratom as soon as possible. An agreement is necessary to open the way for the export of Australian uranium to meet the energy needs of the European Community. The Government has always considered that an agreement with Euratom is the most practical means of meeting Australia’s nuclear safeguards requirements for the export of uranium to the European Community. I am pleased to say, therefore, that the mandate has been granted. I am pleased that the adoption of the mandate follows messages that I sent only a few weeks ago to all foreign ministers of the Community. It also follows the visit of a mission of officials to Community capitals in July.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Australian Government been informed of a Vietnamese proposal for the neutralisation of Kampuchea? If so, will he give the House details and inform it of the Australian Government’s reaction? What is the Government’s attitude to the proposals by Senator Edward Kennedy for an international conference on Indo-China designed to bring about a process of Vietnamese military withdrawal from Kampuchea and Laos, to be followed by an easing of the present economic isolation of Vietnam, an isolation which has created such a high degree of dependence on the Soviet Union?
-It would depend upon which particular viewpoint was being put forward with regard to an international conference on Vietnam over and above the call by Senator Edward Kennedy. That call has been followed by other calls for international conferences. It would be a delinquent Foreign Minister who said that Australia would not support a conference which would bring about a political solution to the problems of Indo-China. Quite clearly, if a conference was constructed in such a manner that parties directly to the dispute and others who are more marginally but nevertheless importantly engaged were prepared to attend such a conference, then Australia naturally would be interested in either participating or at least giving support if the conference showed signs of a political solution.
What flows, however, and is implicit in the latter part of the honourable member’s question, and is implicit in a number of statements of members opposite- interestingly enough, not so much in the statement of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, more the statements of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate- is that there is a trend or tendency to have a bias towards Vietnam in discussions of Indo-Chinese questions concerning the conflict between Vietnam and China. Reflected in this bias is the attitude that the West has isolated Vietnam. This is just not correct. The American Assistant Secretary of State, Mr Holbrooke- even if the Leader of the Opposition does not read the more detailed and literate journals and some of the more popular journals that have been circulating in this country- has said in a couple of interviews how close the United States was to normalising relations with Vietnam in the early part of October last year. Intensive negotiations had been held between officials of the Carter Administration and Vietnamese officials. It was very close indeed.
It was Vietnam which chose to execute an agreement with the Soviet Union. It was Vietnam which chose, notwithstanding the proximity of normalisation with the United States, to invade Kampuchea. Whatever the determinant, it was Vietnam which took that decision. There was no pressure applied from the West for Vietnam to opt further into the Soviet camp or, in fact, to invade Kampuchea. For those who peddle the line that this was brought about by a form of isolation, I say to them that they are ignoring the facts. So, succinctly, the answer to the question is this: We would be most interested in a form of political settlement in Indo-China. If it were to be brought about by means of a conference we would do what we could to ensure the success of that conference but we would want to know in participating that people were well aware of the background to the current events in Indo-China and did not allude to specious material and thereby draw the wrong conclusion.
-Can the Minister for Primary Industry advise whether there has been any progress in discussions between the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland Government and the sugar industry on the McKinnon inquiry into domestic sugar pricing?
-I know that the honourable gentleman and others in sugar producing areas have been anxious to know the details of the new Commonwealth-Queensland sugar agreement. The old agreement was terminated on 1 July but an extension of time was granted to allow adequate consideration of the report of the inquiry into domestic pricing of sugar. That report included not only an immediate recommendation, which of course was implemented by the Government, but also consideration of the formula by which future price adjustments could be made.
An agreement has now been reached between the Commonwealth and Queensland and I intend to make an announcement on that today. This will enable a formula variation of the domestic sugar price, taking into account an element related to export pricing and also cost movements within the Australian economy. I believe that the formula is in the interests not only of cane growers, sugar producers and members of the sugar industry, but also of sugar consumers. It is an agreement which blends most of the requirements that have been put to the Government by those involved in the industry. I am sure that it will enable the continuation of the very effective and happy arrangement that has seen the growth of the sugar industry in Queensland. Of course, it will also enable the maintenance of the importance of the domestic market as well as export markets in ensuring the profitability of the industry.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to his speech last Monday evening in which he stated that the Australian manufacturing sector had been forced to adjust to a slow growth of domestic demand as a consequence of the Government’s deliberate actions. Is it a fact that employment in manufacturing industry has declined by 57,700 people in the last three years? Does the Minister acknowledge that his admission cannot be reconciled with the Prime Minister’s frequent assertions that the Government has acted to reduce unemployment?
-I thought it was well known to the Opposition that manufacturing exports were up by 30 per cent this year. That in itself is a sufficient answer to the question. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is seeking to create a difference between the Prime Minister and me on this issue. There is no difference at all. Indeed, there is no difference between my views and those of the Government on this matter. My ministerial colleagues have already drawn attention to the conclusions drawn from the Crawford report, which have been adopted by the Cabinet. They have made perfectly clear the thrust of that report, which has been accepted, including the recommendation that after three years there will be some liberalisation of trade relations. This is innate in the recommendations and in the Government’s policy.
The Government has no intention of ejecting people from their jobs overnight. What I was seeking to do in my lecture on Monday night was to paint quite clearly the picture of complementarity that will be necessary in Australia ‘s trading relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations for their development and for ours. One would be deaf, dumb, blind and mentally deficient if one did not take account of the industrial revolution that is taking place in countries of North Asia and in some of the countries of South East Asia. I have referred to the minimum of 10 per cent growth since 1960 in Korea and in Taiwan and the 30 per cent increase in imports from this country in many Asian countries. That was set out in detail in my speech. I suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that he align himself with the major elements in his party who are looking at this question. Then we might be able to determine whether on the other side of the House we have two sides of the same coin, or two coins.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Transport. It is not a Dorothy Dix question. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to the increasing number of 75-foot long vehicles carrying 20,000 litres of liquefied petroleum gas which are now passing through our main cities, in particular through the main shopping centre of Dandenong? In view of a minor accident in Dandenong and in view of the disaster that happened in Spain last year, what steps has he taken to authorise and order city bypass safety routing? What discussions has he had with the State transport ministers on this matter, which involves road safety and public safety?
-Naturally enough, with increased use of liquefied petroleum gas there will be increased movements of bulk LPG on our roads. In fact, following the Spanish disaster last year, the Australian Transport Advisory Council held a meeting on this question and moved to re-, vise the code applying to the transportation of dangerous goods. That code has been revised and circulated for public comment. That is where the matter lies at the moment. I should point out to the honourable member that the special routing that obviously he desires for trucks going through Dandenong is a matter for the State. I will draw the attention of the State Minister for Transport to the honourable member’s concern in that area. Regulation in respect of these vehicles also is a matter for the States. Some difficulty has been recognised by the industry at large about the different approaches being taken by some States. As a result ATAC has agreed that I, as the Federal Minister, should organise a national seminar to try to get the industry and the States to agree on the sorts of regulations that ought to apply to the carriage of LPG. The question of the use of LPG in motor vehicles is really a separate matter. The Safety Standards Association has been involved in looking at this matter and is well on the way to developing uniform nationwide regulations for LPG powered vehicles. The honourable member has raised a very important matter. I assure him that every consideration is being given to the problems associated with it.
For the information of honourable members I present on my own behalf and on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Industry Inquiry’s report of August 1979.
- Mr Speaker, I seek your indulgence to correct an answer I gave in this House some weeks ago.
-The right honourable gentleman may proceed.
– On 28 August, in answering a question asked by the honourable member for Forrest (Mr Drummond), I inadvertently gave the incorrect date for the financial year of the International Wool Secretariat. I indicated at that stage that the financial year was from 1 April to 30 March, which are the common dates for businesses in the northern hemisphere. In fact, that was not correct. The International Wool Secretariat apparently adheres to the Australian financial year of 1 July to 30 June. I correct that answer accordingly.
-I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. During Question Time the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) suggested that the Opposition- he looked specifically at me as I am the spokesman for this side of the House on employment- had maligned the then Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, for the statement that he made to Parliament on 14 September last year. I know of no statement made by me or any other member of the Opposition that in any way maligned or criticised the Minister for the statement he made. We thought it was a very honest and constructive statement on unemployment. We have no evidence to suggest that he was not sacked and replaced by Pluto because he made that statement.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now debating the matter. He will resume his seat.
-I have received advice from the Opposition Whip that he has nominated Mr L. B. McLeay to be a member of the Standing Committee on Expenditure in place of Dr Klugman.
– by leave- I move:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, leave be granted to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works to meet during the sittings of the House on 16, 17 and 18 October 1979.
I might just explain that section 12 (5) of the Public Works Committee Act 1 969 states:
The Committee shall not meet or transact business on a sitting day of either House of the Parliament during the time of the sitting, except by leave of that House.
On 29 August the following work was referred to the Public Works Committee for examination and report to the Parliament: Redevelopment of Brisbane International Airport, QueenslandInitial Works of Phase 1. In order that this reference may be dealt with as expeditiously as possible as required under the Public Works Committee Act, I seek the approval of the House for the Committee to conduct its inquiry into the above reference at the Commonwealth Government Centre, Brisbane, on 16, 17 and 18 October 1979. A similar motion is to be moved today in the Senate.
– I suggest that an amendment to the Public Works Committee Act should be considered. A good number of other Committees have permanent authority to sit while the House is sitting. I am sure that my friends on the Public Works Committee would be better able to carry out their duties if we did not have to wait for such a motion to come before the House. It has become almost standard practice with some other committees that they can meet at any time they like.
-I am sure that the Minister will take that suggestion into account.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-I have received letters from both the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and the honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) proposing that definite matters of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion today. As required by Standing Order 107, I have selected the matter which in my opinion is the most urgent and important and that is, that proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, namely:
The political control of ethnic public broadcasting and television services by the Government.
I therefore call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– The Government established the Special Broadcasting Service in 1977 to control ethnic public radio and television services. That action was the single greatest and most blatant act of politicising public radio and television services ever witnessed in the community. The Special Broadcasting Service has no independence. It lacks effective machinery for consultation with the ethnic community. It is effectively regulated by co-ordinators who reportedly are more concerned with attempting to preserve ethnic community innocence than developing ethnic radio and television services as sound instruments of information. It has a surprisingly large ambit of authority under the Broadcasting and Television Act going well beyond that directly related to ethnic radio and television and, most surprisingly of all, is administered not by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications but rather by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
Under the Act the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs controls the Special Broadcasting Service in a way which is in flagrant conflict with any notion of independence for that Service. To have him in charge of such a sensitive area of communication, one with such enormous potential for political interference, is gravely disturbing. To have this Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) exercising such authority is as reassuring as having Bluebeard for a babysitter or holding a promissory note from Alfred Zion. The Government wove a political door mat when it created the Special Broadcasting Service. It was to be a vehicle for the Government’s wishes. It was to promote the political interests of the Government. It has done exactly that. It is mute on issues of principle. It is servile on matters of political moment. It is, I repeat, nothing more nor less than a vehicle for political patronage in the hands of the Government.
There is enormous ethnic resentment about the way in which the Service conducts ethnic television and radio communication in the community. There is a general feeling that the ethnic community is being manipulated by the Government or, at least, that that is the intention of the Government. There is enormous objection to the way in which the Government is seeking to censor the sorts of programs that ethnic communities would prefer to have presented. Generally there is a feeling that the lowest common denominator will prevail and that there will be enormous dilution of the issues of great moment nationally and internationally which ethnic communities have as much right to hear about as do other groups in the community. The distinction is that the restrictions which are imposed by the Special Broadcasting Service on programs through radio and television to the ethnic community, are much greater than the sorts of restraints that generally apply in the community. There can be no fair justification in a free and democratic society such as ours for that sort of restraint. The only justification which occurs to one- it occurs readily, given the nature of this Government, given the way in which it seeks to manipulate and at times even to corrupt the political processes for its own ends- is political manipulation and patronage.
It is this matter of political patronage which is particularly galling to so many people in the ethnic community. For instance, they feel that in many cases co-ordinators are really agents for the Government and that the sole purpose of having a coordinator go about his or her task is to try to throttle back the form of free expression through these media which is available through other media to the rest of the community. There cannot be any disputation about the degree of hostility and the very high level of resentment that the ethnic community holds towards the Special Broadcasting Service.
Let me quote for the record the comments made by certain people. Before I do that, I merely remind honourable members that any member of this Parliament who maintains a regular contact with the ethnic community experiences this display of anger, of hostility, of resentment towards the Government at the way in which the Special Broadcasting Service is being administered. Members of the ethnic community- this would be the case with the rest of Australia if subjected to a similar experienceresent the efforts by the Government to try to condition them to accept political propaganda which is slanted in a way that tends to favour the Government and they resent the enormous dilution of essential facts which should become commonplace information through any public broadcast or television service in a free and democratic society. The Italian Weekly Tutto Press Sport wrote: all of you people of ethnic television should commit mass suicide and free us from this shameful thing, harmful to mind and body.
The Greek publication Nea Patris said this:
Ethnic television is, unfortunately, following the same steps as the failed ethnic radio, which has become notorious among Greeks for the poor quality of its programs . . and for its servility to priests.
Some time ago Nation Review reported on the same sort of matter in the following terms:
Tony Bonnici, Chairman of the Victorian Ethnic Communities’ Council Media Committee described the proposal as ‘television for government propaganda, not for ethnic communities’.
He was talking about the Special Broadcasting Service. The article continued: ‘We saw it before with ethnic radio’, he said. ‘The Government set up the Special Broadcasting Service, which resulted in an emasculated radio service with no participation by ethnic groups in programming. ‘
Antoine Said Pullicino, the news editor of the Maltese program on radio station 2EA, said that it is not the policy of the Government ‘to entrust programs to a group within a community, but that programs were to be the responsibility of coordinators selected for this work’. They are the filters for the Government to make sure that there is a sort of purity of thought. So in its own way the Government imposes an intellectual chastity belt on the ethnic community of this country. Yet it has the gall to talk about a free society, about a pluralistic community and about our multi-culturalism. What it is trying to do is to impose conformity by limiting the range of information which is available to a substantial part and a very important part of our community. Susan Molloy, the ethnic affairs reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald, had this to say in a report earlier this year:
Included among the claims against ethnic radio were: assault and stabbings had occurred within the Turkish community after a program which pushed an extreme right wing point of view;
This is important because there is a substantial pattern of consistent evidence that, although the Government has laid down criteria that there should be an avoidance of discussion of matters of a political nature which may lead to tension, the interpretation and application of these guidelines is exclusively in terms of something which may be somewhat to the Left to clearly to the Left. There is a great deal of evidence, however, that quite rabidly right wing and provocatively right wing statements, news and points of view appear from time to time under the aegis of the SBS. Let me return to the article. These things occurred in the Turkish community after the extremely right wing view had been pushed. The article continued: the Greek programs favoured the Greek Orthodox Church at the expense of air time for the Greek Orthodox community;
German broadcasters had no previous radio experience and were divorced from their listening audience.
On and on it goes. An editorial in the Age in March of this year stated:
The Victorian Ethnic Communities’ Council has boycotted the SBS, claiming it has not worked in the interests of migrants since it was set up at the beginning of last year.
There are sheaves and sheaves of complaints about the SBS which have been published in the various printed media in this country and most especially in ethnic language newspapers serving ethnic communities. The extent of dissatisfaction with the SBS is enormous because of the political corruption which is a wholehearted part of the process of that concept. The Government pretends that it does not exist. It is the cause of considerable alienation within the ethnic community. It can be described in no other way than as political jobbery, political patronage, political corruption at the hands of the Government. I said before that the program co-ordinators operate as a sort of filter process. At the second annual seminar of Ethnic Broadcasters Incorporated George Kokoti said:
Didn’t Goebbels also know what was good for the German people? Didn’t he also produce acceptable programs? Didn’t he know what was good for their future development?
That is pretty savage stuff. That is trenchant criticism. It sums up what the ethnic community feels towards the Special Broadcasting Service in the hands of the Government. As I said before, the service is mute on issues of principle. It is servile on matters of political moment. It is a complete captive of the Government. Let us not stop there. Let us see what Mr Galbally had to say about the Special Broadcasting Service in a document which is a review to the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) dated 6 July this year. On page 13 of his report following his investigation into ethnic communications services, he said:
The issue of censorship has featured as one of particular concern, especially in relation to news programming.
He went on to state: while blatant propaganda is undesirable, ethnic communities are as capable as the rest of the community of digesting and evaluating different points of view. The objectives should be balance not censorship.
Given Mr Galbally’s role as a happy spear carrier for the Government since 1975, and earlier I believe- understandably he is embarrassed to confess to his earlier spear carrying role- that is severe criticism, and it completely underscores the justification for the concern of the Opposition about the corruption of the Special Broadcasting Service which is fed into the actual transmission of radio and television programs to the ethnic community. That is all done at the hands and at the behest of the Government. At page 23 of Mr Galbally’s report he said:
The SBS has been criticised for alleged incompetence and, more particularly, for its perceived insensitivity to the needs and interests of ethnic communities. It has been strongly argued that the SBS should not control the permanent service unless: its structure is changed to allow greater ethnic input -
That is the very thing about which ethnic people complain and which the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) denies- the two SEBAC and NEBAC are regarded as being virtually and completely out of touch with ethnic communities;
Surely we do not need Galbally to confirm this; it is such an extensively based criticism amongst ethnic people in the community. Mr Galbally continued: the legislation is changed to increase its public accountability and reduce the scope for ministerial intervention.
That is the nub of the problem. Incredibly there is no independence for this organisation. Unlike the Australian Broadcasting Commission it is directly under the control and has to respond to the behest and to deflect to the whims of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. As I said, it is not a very reassuring accommodation to be in the hands of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I ask that this document be incorporated in Hansard.
– You did not show it to me before. What is it?
– It is Mr Galbally’s report to the Prime Minister.
– Why did you not follow the normal practice and show it to me before?
– Well, I must say that I apologise. I always allow documents to be incorporated. If the Minister does not intend to allow me to incorporate this document I will not quibble about it.
– I did not say I would not.
– I ask the Minister whether he will or whether he will not.
– I have not seen it.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! Before the Leader of the Opposition -
– Let me go on.
– I do not want to waste time on this floor walker from Macy ‘s.
-If the document that the Leader of the Opposition seeks to have incorporated is of a substantial nature- from here it appears to be so- some difficulty may be presented to Hansard in having it incorporated. It is accepted, conditional on that requirement.
– But there is evidence of more recent political patronage. Enterprise Colorvideo Productions Pty Ltd, whose speciality is recycling old Australia Day messages for the Prime Minister, had a fine display of gratitude from the Prime Minister by his introducing Mr John Walker to the SBS as a most competent person to promote or produce ethnic television programs. If that were to happen from this side of the House, in the view of members of the Government it would be clear evidence of corruption. It is no less so having happened at the behest of the Prime Minister,
But the most recent of all instances of this sort of political patronage that goes on in relation to the SBS and generally in relation to ethnic television and radio programs concerns Mr Petro Georgiou, Senior Adviser to and personal confidant of the Prime Minister. The Public Service Board has been used to prop up a front for the Prime Minister to justify Mr Georgiou ‘s appointment as secretary to this inquiry conducted by Mr Galbally. What are Mr Georgiou ‘s qualifications? He was a tutor in political philosophy at Melbourne University- not even a lance corporal in the academic pecking order. He is reputedly a protege of Tony Staley. So I guess that he could be described as the fag’s fag or the prefect’s fag’s fag. But in any case, he does not have any qualifications for this job, absolutely none at all, in the field of television and radio.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! I think the Leader of the Opposition might withdraw that expression as it relates to the Minister.
– You are denying that he is a fag?
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will withdraw.
– I withdraw; there are more important things to say. Mr Georgiou is a passionately committed political person. There is nothing wrong with that, but let us not go on with the hypocrisy of trying to pretend that he is not. His demeanor in the House on occasions while Opposition members are speaking and his general fierce commitment to the political position of the Government establishes that beyond any doubt.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– We have been treated to a fairly characteristic display by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) this afternoon. I do not intend to go into every particular misrepresentation in which he has involved himself, but I simply point out that most of what purported to be statements of fact in his speech were far from it. For instance, his statements about relationships between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and people which might or might not have procured jobs or contracts for them are quite wrong, and are known to be wrong, and I do not think they need any more attention from me here.
I believe that the Australian Labor Party has been overcome by fits of anxiety ever since its disaster in South Australia last Saturday. I believe also that the Labor Party is jealous about the paucity of its showing in matters relating to ethnic affairs in contrast with what we have done since we came to office. We have done things in a variety of areas which were hardly dreamt of in Labor’s time. We have devoted the attention of government to ethnic affairs to an extent which no other government has ever devoted itself in the history of Australia. I am also, in a sense, rather delighted that the Leader of the Opposition has taken this opportunity to expose himself and to expose the Opposition for what it is; to expose the Opposition for its utter and complete hypocrisy when one looks at its actual performance in office. One does not only have to look at Labor in the federal sphere: Look at Mr Wran’s appointment of Mr Ducker to a $45,000 a year Public Service Board position, at the very height of the Public Service. If that does not come within the sort of definition of politicisation that the Leader of the Opposition has been advancing today, well nothing does. But I say that appointments by this Liberal-National Country Party Government are a far cry from political jobbery and what the Leader of the Opposition described this afternoon as political corruption.
I believe that the Opposition has been seeking to stir up trouble among ethnic communities to cover up the fact that it has performed so little in this area by contrast with the performance of the present Government. For instance, I believe the Opposition has been effectively taken to task by the Australian Greek Welfare Society, which is hardly a front for the Liberal Party. In a media release last week, when the Opposition sought to stir issues along, the Australian Greek Welfare
Society said that it was concerned at several matters which had become confused in the debate following Mr Petro Georgiou ‘s appointment as Secretary to the Ethnic Television Review Panel. The Society said: . . as to the question of Mr Georgiou himself we do not believe or accept that he will engender political partisanship or political control into the area of ethnic television. To our knowledge Mr Georgiou has a competent understanding of the nature and problems of ethnic communities in Australian society and we believe that by virtue of academic background and involvement on the Prime Minister’s staff in recent years he has gained sensitivity and understanding with respect to problems of public administration.
The Society anticipates that Mr Georgiou will make significant contributions to the work of the Ethnic Television Review Panel to which he is secretary. There can be no doubt about that, and I can personally affirm that from my own long acquaintance with the man. I am absolutely delighted that he has taken on this new position. No man in public life in Australia has done more within the bureaucratic area to encourage the development of services for migrants in this country. Mr Georgiou, with his migrant background and brilliant academic and professional career, knows all about the sorts of issues involved. He has studied them in an academic context. He has had experience of government and administration at the highest level and is an utterly appropriate person for this temporary, I repeat, temporary, appointment. He is not even being appointed to a permanent position within the Public Service. It is a temporary appointment which meets with the full satisfaction of the Chairman of the Ethnic Television Review Panel, Mr Frank Galbally, and it is one which the Australian Greek Welfare Society has greeted.
It is welcomed not only by the Greeks; the President of the Australian Lebanese Association of Victoria has said that his Association strongly supports the appointment. It has full faith in the Panel and looks forward to ethnic television. The Italians, another great ethnic group within Australia, also welcome Mr Georgiou ‘s appointment. Mr Vaccrai, the VicePresident of the Italian Community Service Fund, endorses the appointment of Mr Georgiou as the Ethnic Television Review Panel Secretary and says that it is pleasing to see that a wellqualified migrant is in such an important position. These feelings have been made known to the Government by people of this variety of ethnic backgrounds. If I might go on to mention one more; the President of the Australian Yugoslav Welfare Society has also said that that Society fully supports the appointment. It very much appreciates the genuine endeavour of the Government to help establish a strong ethnic broadcasting service which will greatly contribute to better understanding, cohesion and friendship between Australian people. So what the Opposition is up to is exposed for what it is- an attempt, because of the inadequacy of its performance in these areas and its electoral disaster last Saturday, to avoid the fact that it did so little when it was in office.
Let us look a little more at how Labor did when it was in office. When the Prime Minister made some comment in this House the other day about the way in which the last Labor Government, the Whitlam Labor Government- we all know that after the recent conference nothing has changed about Labor; the leopard does not change its spots and Labor would do it all again- made appointments to the highest positions within the Public Service in Australia, one Opposition member interjected: ‘They did it very well, too’. Let us look at what Labor did when it sought to develop ethnic broadcasting in Australia. Labor did not do it as this present Government does, at arm ‘s length from government. Oh, no. Labor set it in the heartland of politics with full ministerial and departmental control. So much for the idea that we are politicising ethnic broadcasting in Australia. Labor gave it full ministerial control and full political control by a department of State. Stations 2EA and 3EA were set up and operated through the Department. If that was not enough, Mr Deputy Speaker, do you know what else Labor did? It appointed a bloke out of the Prime Minister’s very office to head that great department of State, the Department of the Media, so that it would complete what it chooses to call the process of political corruption, jobbery and jobs for the boys. The Labor Government appointed a Mr Spigelman from outside the Public Servicefrom a position in the office of the Prime Minister- as head of the Department of Media so that, in their terms, they could politicise not only ethnic broadcasting but also, perhaps, the whole of the media of this country. That is the track record of the Labor Government in office. So much for the hypocrisy of the Labor Party and its pathetic cants and hypocrisy in this House this afternoon.
The Labor Party did not stop at that particular gentleman. It appointed other members of the Prime Minister’s staff to high positions in the Public Service. As I have said, this Government has appointed, from the Prime Minister’s office, someone to a temporary advisory position within the Public Service. The Labor Government appointed to permanent office at the very top of the Public Service, at least three people who had had a close association with the Prime Minister’s office. There was Mr Menadue who had been a senior member of Mr Whitlam ‘s staff. There were two other members of the Prime Minister’s office, Dr Wilenski and Mr Spigelman, who became heads of department. I say nothing against the particular person. I am simply pointing to the hypocrisy of the performance of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. I am interested to see that the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) nodded when I said that. The Australian Labor Party indeed turned political control of broadcasting, when it was in office, into an art form. Who would doubt that it would do it all again? We can be sure that the disasters of three years of Labor Government would be repeated all over again in this country. All recent major decisions of the Australian Labor Party make that obvious.
I have made an assertion that the Labor Government did so little compared with what this Government is doing in office. This is borne out by the figures. When the Australian Labor Party was responsible for the Budget in 1975-76 it set aside about $330,000 for ethnic broadcasting in Australia. When we came into office one of our first acts was to nearly double that figure. In the next Budget the figure went up to about $570,000, and in the Budget after that we more than doubled the allocation for ethnic broadcasting in Australia; we sent it up to about $1.38m. We then have a figure of $4.7m in the 1979 Budget Estimates- not doubled, not trebled, but many times the allocation. Therefore, is it unfair for me to suggest that the emphasis which the present Government gives to ethnic broadcasting is many times more intense and many times more important than that which was given by the previous Government?
The Government is setting up and encouraging a variety of approaches to ethnic broadcasting. We are not suggesting that there is only one way that this can be done. Of course, we have carried on the official stations which were established by the Labor Government, that is, the 3EA and the 2EA stations. We have also, through this independent authority called the Special Broadcasting Service, which operates at arm ‘s length from government, which operates with independence in its day to day operations under an Act of Parliament- unlike anything which was done by the Labor Government- and the Labor Party has the hypocrisy to talk about political control -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! I have been reluctant to interrupt the Minister. The Minister may recall that Mr Speaker indicated to the House that he would like the language of the House to be appropriate to its status. I would request the Minister to express himself perhaps in a softer term.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the language of hypocrisy is appropriate to the status of the Leader of the Opposition because his whole case today was full of it. I am establishing that case on the facts.
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, it is, of course, the practice for people who become exuberant to use the term hypocrisy’ as applied to political statements and policies of the opposite side of the House, but I submit that it is not in order when it is applied to an individual. The Minister has specifically named the Leader of the Opposition as being hypocritical. I ask that that be withdrawn.
– On the point of order, the position is that the Chair is required to request the non-use of that term, along with others. In itself it is not regarded as a strictly unparliamentary term and, therefore, I cannot insist upon a withdrawal. But in view of Mr Speaker’s request I would ask the Minister to express himself in terms consistent with that request.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I will do so. I go on to point out that this Government has not only set aside large amounts of Budget funds in order to make it clear that we are prepared to put our money where our mouth is in terms of support for ethnic communities in Australia but also it has set up a variety of approaches which encourage a variety of broadcasting by ethnic people and ethnic communities, through the official stations, through public broadcasting stations, and through efforts that are assisted by the Special Broadcasting Service. I emphasise that this is all done not by the Government, not by department officials, but by independent people in independent authorities. In the very important question of the development of ethnic television, I would emphasise that no final decisions have been made. We have ensured that ethnic communities, and indeed the wide Australian community, will have every opportunity to make their views known. We have set up a research secretariat to service the review panel in order to ensure that over the course of time the Government will be properly advised about those views. This is in marked contrast to the political approach which was used by the present Opposition when it was in Government.
We have had an odd sneer directed towards the Chairman of the Ethnic Television Review Panel. He is a great Australian. He was a lifetime supporter of the Australian Labor Party until he saw the evils of that Party in office. He has been prepared to turn his efforts towards the service of the Australian people and, in particular, to ethnic communities within Australia. He should only be congratulated for that. We shall listen to the views of the Committee, and as a government will consider them in a balanced and fair fashion to ensure that this progress is maintained.
-Order! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I may say that there is not much to reply to in the speech of the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley). The first point to be made is my surprise that he is replying at all. So far as the Special Broadcasting Service is concerned the Minister is only an interested bystander. It is not his area. The Special Broadcasting Service has been taken away from him, much to his resentment, and it is in the hands of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) who is not gracing the table today. It is the views of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that we would have preferred to hear on this subject.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications concentrated very heavily on the issue of jobs for the boys’ in replying to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. In defence of the appointment of Mr Georgiou to this extraordinarily sensitive, political position, the Minister has read out letters or telegrams of support. It is notorious- I am sure the Minister will not deny it- that the Government has been very active in the last few days drumming up support from ethnic groups in the community and asking them to send messages of support. I ask the Minister whether that is not a fact, and whether it is also a fact that other groups, such as the Ecumenical Migration Centre in Melbourne, have refused to send messages of support to Mr Georgiou.
About 400,000 permanent residents of Australia have little or no fluency in English. Their need for news, information and entertainment, cannot be met without specialised services in their own language. Between 1949 and 1972 successive Liberal governments- 23 years of them- did nothing whatever to provide media services for migrants or migrant access to the media. It was always dismissed as impossible, undesirable, too expensive and not a proper role for government. The Whitlam Government between 1972 and 1975 set up three stations to provide ethnic radio services, 2EA, 3EA and 3ZZ. Essentially, opportunities were given to the ethnic communities themselves to provide their own programs and generate their own audiences, subject to many broad guidelines. But it was not subject to the heavy hand of government interference; while I concede that it was done initially within a certain administrative framework, there was no interference, under successive Ministers for the media, to direct them to push a particular political line.
With the election of 1975 came the Fraser Government, with its growing recognition that there were many potential votes in migrant communities. It was decided to politicise ethnic radio. Ethnic community access radio station 3ZZ, which had allowed a wide variety of viewpoints to be expressed, was destroyed and 3EA and 2EA were highly and narrowly politicised. In November 1977 the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill was passed by the Parliament. It set up- in Part IIIA- the Special Broadcasting Service, SBS. The Australian Labor Party opposed this because the SBS plan proposed a system in which programs made under government auspices would then be dished out to migrant audiences rather than ethnic communities being given an opportunity to express their own views. In addition to the radio stations 2EA and 3EA there was a 13-week pilot program on Australian Broadcasting Commission television, which began in April 1979. It ran for three hours each Sunday morning and was launched by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) with the ominous prophesy: ‘I will be taking a close, personal interest in this initiative’. He meant it, too. The SBS is a perfect vehicle for a variety of purposes. It is a Trojan horse within the ABC capable of having important media areas transferred to it, capable of channelling public moneys into private profit and politically ‘safe’ under direct ministerial control.
The SBS has been created to oversee the development and management of ethnic radio and television by the appointment of politically safe appointees both to the SBS and to the advisory bodies which are supposed to inform the SBS and by a policy of ‘non-political broadcasting’that is, broadcasting that supports the status quo- and most disturbingly by continued ministerial interference and involvement in the affairs of ethnic broadcasting and the Prime Minister’s close, personal interest’. The end result has been a propaganda machine which now costs the Australian taxpayer in excess of $6m- a machine used solely to reinforce conservative policy and as an area of personal political patronage by the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues.
It is an initiative that the Third Reich would have been justifiably proud of, and that parallel is not lost upon the ethnic communities. In a paper given at the second annual seminar qf Ethnic Broadcasters Incorporated last year one prominent ethnic broadcaster, Mr George Kokoti, the Secretary of Ethnic Broadcasters Incorporated, aired his. concern over the SBS and this Government’s ethnic broadcasting policy in the following terms:
Didn’t Goebbels also know what was good for the German people? Didn’t he also produce acceptable programs? Didn’t he know what was good for the future of their development?
He added that that was what frightened him. Such discontent among ethnic communities about the SBS and the Government’s policy on ethnic broadcasting is displayed each week in the many foreign language newspapers that Australia now enjoys.
How does the Prime Minister justify the incident that occurred during the ethnic television program on the morning of Sunday, 8 July when a Ustasha flag and a map of the Nazi puppet World War II state of Croatia were shown in a program purportedly about Yugoslavia? That program when originally received by the SBS was one concerned with all of the republics of modern Yugoslavia. The program was heavily edited to concentrate on Croatia. Its soundtrack was dubbed and ‘Croatia’ was constantly referred to rather than ‘Yugoslavia’. This program suggested the heavy influence of right wing extremists who wield power and exert great influence in the New South Wales branch of the Liberal Party. The ethnic community’s reaction to such blatant propaganda was clearly evidenced in the ethnic Press following that program of 8 July.
On the other hand, to give an example on the other side, we have been informed that a statement issued by Mr Dom Mintoff, the Labor Prime Minister of Malta, was to have been broadcast but, as reported in the Nation Review of 18 January 1979, a senior SBS official felt that the statement by Dom Mintoff would have to undergo a ‘filtering process’ because it was inflammatory ‘ and could not be allowed to go to air without going through that filtering process. In sharp contrast to that filtering process which leftist viewpoints or program material must endure is the freedom allowed the Vietnamese program on 3EA. It has been described as: . . one of the tools which extremist elements within the Vietnamese community are using- that program has been used to send out the names and addresses of the (pro postwar Vietnam) Union of Vietnamese in Australia.
In other words, it has been used to identify them and to do so in a way that may lead to discrimination against them. Such actions engender political confrontation and, in fact, have led to actual acts of violence by way of demonstrations. Yet the Government and the management of the SBS have not acted to provide an even hand in the treatment of Vietnamese issues. Right wing broadcasters do not find any difficulty in gaining air time on the SBS- run radio stations, 2EA and 3EA. It is very striking that even the American magazine Variety referred in its 28 January 1979 issue to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications as: . . defending an apparent challenge for control of ethnic broadcasting by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Michael MacKellar, whose hard-line tactics haven’t endeared him to immigrant communities.
The Prime Minister, of course, has taken a very keen interest. The SBS is prone to the continued whim not so much of the Minister who ought to be responsible but of the Prime Minister and his Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Telephone calls from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs have disrupted meetings which the Executive Director of the SBS has held with his officers over the nature of the ethnic television service. The Prime Minister was not above calling the SBS’s Sydney headquarters last week to ensure that nothing was on file that would incriminate him in the appointment of his senior advisor, Mr Petro Georgiou, to the position of Secretary to the Ethnic Television Review Panel. It is striking that many of the people associated with ethnic broadcasting and many of those appointed by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to the advisory bodies, the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council and the State Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council, are very prominent members of the Liberal Party. I refer to Mr Inchehara, an unsuccessful pre-selection candidate for the New South Wales Liberal Party’s Senate ticket who is on NEBAC. A number of other politically safe appointees are on these councils.
I conclude by quoting the words of Mr Myles Wright, the former Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and a man not known for his radical leanings, who described the setting up of the Special Broadcasting Service as ‘the most sinister development in the Australian media’. In the Melbourne Age of 3
January 1978 he warned that Greeks ought to beware of members of parliament bearing gifts. He commented:
The new service is not an independent statutory authority in any sense that is generally understood. Its chief executive is to be appointed not by the members of the Authority but by the government.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarsOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) today sank to even lower depths than he usually does in this House with one of the most disgraceful speeches ever delivered. His off-sider, the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones), has contributed nothing more than to contradict completely and utterly what the Leader of the Opposition said. The honourable member for Lalor said that his major complaint about ethnic radio was nonpolitical broadcasting. Those were the words he used. They give the complete lie to the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition about alleged political interference. In fact, what these Opposition members are complaining about is the fact that ethnic radio is unbiased.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The honourable member is completely misquoting what I said.
-Order! There is no point of order.
– Indeed, if one reads the words of the Leader of the Opposition as they are printed one will see that he gave the point away. He said that ethnic radio was mute on issues of principle and that it was servile. He knows full well that ethnic broadcasting has changed from the left line arguments and the left line programs that used to occur under the Australian Labor Party to an unbiased and reasonable system of political broadcasting. What members of the Opposition call being mute on issues of principle and what they call being servile is, in fact, being independent and ensuring that responsible guidelines are adhered to so that we do not have, for example, racial inflammation on the radio, improper political attacks and the types of scurrilous abuses of privilege that we have heard today from the Leader of the Opposition.
He defamed and attacked unmercifully the coordinators of ethnic radio, nearly all of whom were originally volunteers. Because the station managers had a backbreaking task, coordinators were appointed to assist them. Most of the coordinators came from the volunteer ranks of ethnic radio. They are people in public positions doing a job as best they can. Not one of them was named by the Leader of the Opposition as a person who is a pawn or as a person who is corrupt. The coordinators en masse were attacked under parliamentary privilege as being people who lent themselves to the most disgraceful form of political corruption that one could imagine, namely, the use of the broadcasting system to politically propagandise to the community, particularly the ethnic community.
Not one name was mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition and not one complaint was brought forward by him other than to rely upon extreme statements in editorials in ethnic newspapers. He cited one newspaper that called for the coordinators to commit mass suicide. What sort of warped mind wrote that? What sort of a person would rely upon that in the Parliament of Australia in support of any argument? The Leader of the Opposition then referred to another person who apparently was talking about a Greek radio program being servile to priests. Whoever wrote that article obviously has some interest in the matter or has some complaint of a religious character. What sort of an argument is that to bring into the Australian Parliament in support of a claim of political corruption? Not one example of political corruption was raised.
The honourable member for Lalor raised some extremely weak matters that he claimed were evidence of political interference. The fact is that ethnic broadcasting is under the control of a new system- the Special Broadcasting Service- that was set up to ensure that broadcasting is not biased and that, in particular, it does not allow disputes to arise in the Australian community on ethnic grounds. That is the most important activity that the Service could have. The Leader of the Opposition has suddenly discovered that his own Party is in very bad odour with ethnic communities throughout Australia. He has been reading the editorials in the ethnic newspapers that have attacked his shadow Minister, the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass), as being a reasonable person but totally disinterested in the interests of migrant communities and as someone who knows nothing about migrant issues. The newspapers in fact have been quite kind to the shadow Minister. They have said that he is a decent person but he knows and cares nothing about the interests of migrants. Numbers of editorials have asked for him to be stood down.
The Leader of the Opposition has had to bail him out. He started off recently by peddling a pail of poison at a Press conference on 10 September. He opened that ethnic Press conference with statements that were completely and utterly false. Firstly, he gave the wrong figures for immigration for last year. Secondly, he confused the figures for net and gross immigration. Thirdly, he included the refugee intake figures among the immigration intake figures. He gave such an appalling performance that the ethnic newspapers just wrote him off. I notice that he has skulked out of the House. He is not even prepared to stay in the House and listen to what is happening. Indeed, he was not in the House during most of the diatribe by the honourable member for Lalor. Having set an abysmal tone for himself at the Press conference on 10 September he now comes into the House clutching at straws.
The facts are very simple. Formerly there were an immense number of complaints about the way in which ethnic radio operated under the political system of departmental control- a departmental head was appointed by the Labor Party. There were endless complaints about what was occurring and the Government set up the Special Broadcasting Service to make sure that ethnic broadcasting was conducted properly and in an unbiased fashion.
The next point to remember is that there are many different groups of ethnic communities in Australia having diverse opinions on issues. It is not unfair to say- to use a neutral term- that in some respects they are factionalised. It is a most dangerous thing to foster factionalism amongst ethnic communities. It is a most dangerous thing to foster ethnic discord and it is a most dangerous thing to set one group of Australian against another group particularly among groups of Australians who have come from other countries and who get upset about particular issues. The Leader of the Opposition should be exercising a responsible role by trying to ensure that there is national cohesion and that the ethnic radio broadcasting system works as an organ in Australia to assist in developing our multicultural policy- developing Australia as a wholeand to provide an outlet for persons to emphasise their own cultural background which is what ethnic radio broadcasting enables them to do.
The Leader of the Opposition is mischief making in the most disgraceful fashion. He is attempting to obtain cheap political capital within the various ethnic communities. He is attempting to stir up trouble within the various ethnic communities. He is attempting to open splits and factions and to set ethnic communities one against the other. That action is completely and utterly contrary to Australia’s national interests and should be condemned. It is the worst possible way to approach multiculturalism and ethnic matters in the Australian community. The Leader of the Opposition is an incompetent troublemaker who knows little about the problem. This has all come about because in the last few weeks in trying to bail out his shadow Minister he has gone around to a number of ethnic communities and has listened to a few handfuls of complaints probably from some Labor Party persons complaining about what the honourable member for Lalor called non-political broadcasting and complaining about the fact that ethnic radio broadcasting is now reasonable and unbiased and is not being used as a left wing agency for a former Labor Government. The Leader of the Opposition has come into the House with a diatribe against the co-ordinators which is based upon malice and upon one or two vicious complaints. He did not name any persons who made any of the complaints. He has made vague generalisations. The Leader of the Opposition said that if we go around to the ethnic communities we will hear this, that or the other. But he has not given us the name of one person who made a complaint. The Leader of the Opposition made a scurrilous attack on Mr Georgiou. The fact is that Mr Georgiou is about 30 or more years of age. He was born in Greece. He came to Australia with his parents who worked hard, as he did, and he is an outstanding example of a migrant succeeding in Australia.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications ( Mr Staley) quite adequately exposed the way in which Labor supporters politicised ethnic radio when Labor was in government. Let us look at what Labor would do in the future. The Labor Party’s policy, which was brought down in Adelaide when the Left strangled the Party and took over, would abolish the Special Broadcasting Services. It would set up a new national television channel. It would not have only the Australian Broadcasting Commission channel or commercial channels. It would have a new channel for its own propaganda and this would go along with a new national newspaper. Nobody knows the reason for the new national television channel or the newspaper. Labor will dictate all the broadcasting times for political advertising on radio and television. Labor would dole it out and ration it out to political parties.
This discussion today is the most hypocritical that has ever been brought before the House. It is based upon complete mischief making. It was a Labor Government that politicised ethnic radio and its supporters are the ones who would do it all again if they had the chance but they never will.
– Order! I ask the honourable gentleman, in debate, not to use such unparliamentary terms as hypocritical.
- Mr Speaker, I do apologise but -
– There is no need to apologise. I just ask the honourable gentleman and all honourable members to eliminate from their speeches any unparliamentary expressions such as that. It has been used in the past on many occasions by all honourable members and I emphasise that I am not particularly criticising the honourable member for St George. I just want the level of debate in the House to be lifted.
-All I want to say on that, Mr Speaker, is that the matter was canvassed earlier when Mr Deputy Speaker was in the chair and although he asked honourable members to moderate their language he pointed out that it was not actually an unparliamentary term. I did not wish to be unparliamentary. However, the point I was making was that -
-The honourable gentleman need not continue with the debate.
– Labor supporters were attacking the Government.
– Yes, I understand all that.
– And they had been actually doing worse themselves.
– I understand.
– And they would do it all again.
Mr BARRY JONES (Lalor)-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
-The honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation. He may proceed.
-The honourable member for St George (Mr Neil) claimed that I had said that the guidelines for ethnic broadcasting were non-political and that therefore I was in conflict with what had been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) who said that ethnic broadcasting was political. There was no difference between the position of the Leader of the Opposition and me. What I said was that non-political guidelines had the effect of eliminating political debate where a variety of points of view could be put but the viewpoints actually expressed tended to be conservative or supportive only of the status quo.
Mr NEIL (St George)-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– I call the honourable member for St George.
– I did not say that the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) had said that the guidelines were non-political. I said that he complained about non-political broadcasting. In fact, that is what it is- non-political.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition) - I claim to have been misrepresented by the honourable member for St George, ‘ Maureece ‘ Neil.
– If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation he may proceed.
– In the course of his rather volatile comments the honourable member for St George -
-Order! The honourable gentleman should make clear in what way he has been misrepresented.
– The honourable member for St George claimed that the figures I quoted in a Press statement which I released on 10 September in relation to net migrant intakes were wrong. I referred to a net intake of 44,000 immigrants plus 13,000 refugees.
– That is wrong.
-Those figures may well be wrong but I will tell the honourable gentleman the source. On that day a member of my staff spoke with Mr Waddell in the policy section of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I was present when the information was supplied. The staff member said that Mr Waddell provided the figures related to the 1978-79 financial year net population gain. He said that they were estimates and that the actual figure was likely to be even less when the total departures were known. He said that there was a net intake of 57,000 people including 13,000 refugees. It is a matter of simple arithmetic- a monumental challenge to the honourable member for St George, I know- to take 13,000 from 57,000 leaving a net immigration intake of 44,000. I will not waste my time arguing as to whether the figures are right or wrong. I merely say that we regarded our source as authoritative. If it is asserted by the Government that these figures are wrong that is consistent with a series of experiences we have had with official government statistics in relation to other departments.
-Order! The honourable gentleman is now arguing the issue.
Mr NEIL (St George)-I claim to have been misrepresented.
– If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation he may proceed.
– I did not say that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) had misrepresented the net political gain figures. I said that he had got the immigration figures wrong. He tried to say that the net political gain figures were the immigration figures. In so doing, he was in error at his ethnic Press conference.
- Mr Speaker, could I make one comment about that?
-This will have to be the last bid.
Mr HAYDEN (Oxley-Leader of the Opposition)- In relation to the matter which the honourable member for St George raised and to which I responded, may we take it as a sort of ditto’ comment in my explanation of a Press statement released by the Minister of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) on 1 1 September, taking the very same line that the honourable member for St George took. In both cases they were misleading.
-Order! The discussion is now concluded.
– I move:
That unless otherwise ordered, the following sessional orders to provide for the operation of estimates committees be adopted:
Committal and consideration in estimates committee:
1 ) After the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, or a Member deputed by him, on the motion for the second reading of the Main Appropriation Bill for a year, the proposed expenditures for the departments and services contained in the Schedule to that Bill may be referred to an estimates committee. Such referral (which shall not affect the second reading debate on the Bill) shall be on motion, moved by a Minister, of which notice has been given. A committee may be ordered to report by a specified date.
There shall be 2 estimates committees, to be known as Estimates Committee A and Estimates Committee B, which shall not vote on, but shall examine and report upon proposed expenditures for the Parliament, Advance to the Minister for Finance and each Department of State; such report may contain a resolution or expression of opinion of the committee but shall not vary the amount of a proposed expenditure.
Leader of the Opposition, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the Opposition Whip or the Deputy Whip and every nomination of a member of the committee shall be forthwith notified in writing to the Speaker.
The Chairman of an estimates committee shall be-
The Chairman of Committees, a Deputy Chairman of Committees or any member of the committee shall take the Chair temporarily whenever requested so to do by the Chairman of the Committee during a sitting of that committee.
Participation by other Members:
Proceedings in estimates committee:
Consideration of proposed expenditures in an estimates committee shall follow, as far as possible, the procedures observed in a committee of the whole with the following exceptions’.
Time limits on report:
For each committee report 3 hours
Each question before the Chair-
Ministers Periods not specified
Any other Member 10 minutes.
Report from estimates committee and further consideration:
I mention that there has been a suggestion that this matter might well be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. The whole question has been under discussion for a while. Before I take up that suggestion, I advert to the fact that through you, Sir, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and a number of members on both sides of the House, concern has been expressed as to the best way by which the Budget debate, Appropriation BUI (No. 1 ), can proceed in this House as well as the debate on the Estimates that flows from it. In order to ensure that there is no duplication of the procedures in the other chamber we have looked at a way by which a formula can be developed not dissimilar to that which is applicable to the legislation committees. As all honourable members know, these committees have provided an additional facility for the members of this chamber to examine legislation in a more dispassionate way than perhaps is possible in the Committee of the Whole within this chamber.
Obviously there are difficulties in devising any new formula. It is for that reason that I have moved this motion. It is not thought that in its present form it is the ultimate way by which the procedure can be established. However, it was thought that it would enable an extension of time for the examination of departmental estimates. It is certainly seen as giving an opportunity to members of the House to participate in acrossthetable debate with the appropriate Minister and those responsible in the several departments, and thereby scrutinise the estimates figures to a greater degree than is possible in a debate of the Committee of the Whole in this chamber. It was felt that the procedure would be a worthwhile extension of the Sessional Orders, perhaps not in the form that ultimately might be accepted by the Standing Orders Committee of the House but in a way which would enable some testing of the ground.
I understand that the Opposition has some reservations about the motion. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) will be speaking about those in a moment. As the Opposition has reservations, the Government is prepared to accept the first part of the motion which I understand the honourable member for Port Adelaide will move. That will enable the consideration of the motions in respect of this matter by the Standing Orders Committee. I foreshadow that it would be the Government’s intention not to refer specific matters to the Committee but to give it a broad reference so that the whole question of the Sessional Orders can be considered rather than only the three specific matters to which I understand the Opposition’s amendment to my motion is addressed. What I want to say to members in this House is that we are, as everybody knows, fairly well down the list of speakers in the Budget debate. It is quite obvious that if there is any delay it is unlikely that this procedure can be implemented this session. I have difficulties in programming to ensure that this chamber completes the Estimates debate in time for the legislation to reach the Senate to enable that House to meet its deadlines. While the Government was prepared to defer the Budget debate yesterday and again today so that there could be some consideration of this issue, I hope that it will be possible to have a fairly early deliberation of these matters by the Standing Orders Committee and a recommendation as to whether Estimates committees are to be adopted by this House for this session.
From the Government’s point of view there are obviously disadvantages in allowing a duplication of the debate. One area in which I believe there is some disagreement with the Opposition is whether, if Estimates committees are to scrutinise the estimates of the individual departments, that consideration should be followed by another debate of a similar character in this chamber. We are quite prepared to allow the debate in the Estimates committees and some reporting back to this chamber. In the motion before the House there is provision for a period of three hours for each committee to report. That is a time limit which we believe is not unreasonable. Together with the time that we are prepared to make available for the Estimates committees this will almost double the normal time allowed for scrutinising the Estimates in the Committee of the Whole. Therefore we are not prepared to allow any extension of that time. Similarly, we are concerned about the extent to which the Committees should meet other than during sitting hours. If that took place we would not be extending the facilities of the chamber in the way that is partly the objective of members of this place. We look towards the committees meeting during the sittings of the House. If it would help the Opposition to agree to this well phrased and much needed parliamentary reform, perhaps some flexibility to meet outside sitting hours could be given to the committees. That flexibility must be subject to the availability of the people who would need to be present for the committee consideration to proceed.
I now refer to the final area with which, I understand, the Opposition has difficulties; that is, the number of committees to be constituted. All of us must be conscious of the difficulties of those people who service the Parliament and the committees in being available in sufficient numbers to make a committee discussion worth while. The availability of the Hansard staff and your own officers, Mr Speaker, is such that I do not believe that it would be practical to constitute more than two additional committees without extending the staff who are available. Whilst we might look forward to other times and other circumstances we have a further limitation in that there are only a few committee rooms to provide an adequate forum for this purpose. We believe that it is necessary that we also take that matter into account.
It is the intention of this motion that those in the Press Gallery and the Parliament can attend the committee hearings to the degree to which accommodation is available. The intention is that two committees of the Parliament will pursue their Estimates inquiries at the same time as the House itself is meeting. There will be three forums under way at any one time. We believe that would provide a reasonable extension of the opportunities available to private members of this House. The three-hour reporting procedure of each committee would enable adequate scrutiny by the Parliament as a whole, in the normal forum of the Committee of the Whole, of the reports and of the proceedings that have been undertaken by the two committees.
I intimate to the chamber that whilst the Government is prepared for the motion and for the sessional orders that I have formally moved to be referred to the Standing Orders Committee, I will be proposing an amendment to that which I understand the honourable member for Port Adelaide is about to move which will only mean a reference to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration of the sessional orders and not for the specific reporting. In other words, in the form of words being distributed, we will be moving for the deletion of all words after ‘and report as to’. There will be a reference only of that first part.
– I think the Opposition can accommodate this motion without too many problems. I want to say a few words on this but I think I should move the amendment in the following form:
That all words after ‘That’ (first occurring) be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst endorsing the principle of estimates committees, the House is of the opinion that the manner of their implementation should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee.’
In that way we can -
-I should apologise for interrupting. I had prior knowledge of what the honourable gentleman was about to put, since it has been circulated, and I had made a suggestion to the Leader of the House.
– I suggest that in the amendment as circulated we put a full stop after ‘Committee’ and not go further.
– Would it then read ‘should be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. ‘?
– Yes. My suggestion would be that honourable members attending the Standing Orders Committee would face no restrictions on the matters they raised in the Standing Orders Committee. Therefore we have deleted the three points in the amendment as circulated. In fact, when we get to the Standing Orders Committee, people of talent, like myself, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) and others serving on it, may have other ideas.
The Opposition is very enthusiastic about the idea of Estimates committees. We have never expressed another point of view. The Government has been a little sloppy in the way in which it has presented this proposition to us. At the end of the autumn session the Opposition was told that their establishment was likely. When the House assembled for the Budget debate we were told that the idea had been dropped by the Government and that we should no longer concern ourselves with the operation. Subsequently, the meeting of our parliamentary party did not continue to discuss these matters. Then just last week we were told that it was likely that the Government- by virtue of some pressure that had been put on it by some very prominent members of its backbench- would look at adopting the concept of these Estimates committees again.
The Opposition is quite happy to consider these Estimates committees but I must say the homework has not been done in relation to how they will operate. We are dealing with 27 departments. Our members have raised the question of how to deal with 27 departments in 360 minutes of debating time when the reports come before the House. If each department is allocated equal time one can see that there will be a very restricted amount of time available. Obviously that will not occur, but in the case of the more controversial departments, areas about which honourable members may have quite a bit to say, there will be great restriction on debate in the House.
The other feature is that with two committees dealing with a great number of departments there will be rapid movement of members from the House and from their offices to the Estimates committees from time to time. The Opposition does not feel it will prove convenient to have only two committees. The other problem that we may face- although we do not forecast it- relates to the type of legislation that will be before the House when the committees are meeting. It is unlikely that the Opposition will agree to an Estimates committee meeting while Bills of the type that are before the House today for instance, are being debated. We would have to have some notice of what legislation was to be debated in the House while the Estimates committees were meeting. I think that we should look at those matters, discuss them at the Standing Orders Committee and thrash them out. If the Government’s representatives attend the Standing Orders Committee in a compromising state of mind, perhaps we can get the committees moving this year.
It would be to the Opposition’s benefit more than the benefit of the Government to have these committees operating. We are wondering how the Government got all that money to buy those two VIP aircraft. We would like to question the bureaucracy as to how it worked all that out. I think that parliamentarians’ breaking through the bureaucracy is one of the real tests of a good Parliament. The House of Representatives really has not been able to do it. Those who served on the Committee on the Committee System in the House would know that Sir Magnus Cormack, who is now retired pointed out that the Senate was doing the job of the House of Representatives in looking at these Estimates; we really have the responsibility but we gave it to the Senate and we should take it back upon our shoulders. I think that is right. I do not think that what we are talking about today goes as far as the Committee on the Committee Systems would like us to go. Nevertheless, we are anxious for the Estimates Committees to be established but we do think that there are some points that have to be thrashed out in order that both parties to the Parliament- the Government and the Opposition- are satisfied as to their operation.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
– There is a matter which I would like to clarify with the honourable member for Port Adelaide. An amendment which includes three points has been circulated. My understanding is that the honourable gentleman stopped at the word ‘Committee’ when moving the amendment.
– The Leader of the House indicated that was his preference and it does not worry us so long as it is understood that there is no restriction on the debate of the Standing Orders Committee. We are not merely talking about the motion that is now on the Notice Paper; we are talking about any ideas we may have about the operations of the Estimates Committees.
-I wanted to clarify that point. As that is all that is moved we will be able to take that amendment and then the Minister’s motion. The honourable member for Bonython having reserved his right to speak, I call the honourable member for Moore.
-As one who has worked for these Estimates committees for quite some time now, I concede readily that their birth has followed a protracted and sometimes difficult gestation, but nonetheless, the Government has got the committees to the point where I think there is need for trial and error. If we do not proceed with the committees now, there will not be time to operate them this session. Frankly, I thought the proposal bent over backwards to consider the position of the Opposition -
– It was never referred to the Opposition. It is a Government proposition.
– It was put forward and fostered by Government members, certainly, but during the last session of Parliament, when we were developing the idea, we had discussions with individual members of the Opposition. I think it is unreasonable to suggest that the Government has not been careful to be considerate of the position of the Opposition, although matters became protracted at the end and I concede that that may have given the Opposition some difficulty. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) raised two or three points that are worrying him. Firstly, I will refer to the report stage. I put it to him that the report stage provides quite considerable opportunity for anything that is considered important by the committees. Presumably the report stage will be occupied in considering motions carried in the Committee, motions putting recommendations to the Government. By that means the report stage would concentrate on those things that are important and are considered to be of current moment. The honourable member for Port Adelaide suggested that we ought to have more than two committees. He cited the logistic difficulty of getting backwards and forwards between the committees and being on hand at the right time.
– Changing the personnel.
– Changing the personnel. I concede that that is a problem. It is an insurmountable problem. There is no way in which six committees and the House could sit at the one time. With the numbers that the Opposition has at the moment, if the House plus six committees were to sit at the one time the Opposition would be hard pressed to man those committees. I really believe that the system of having a limited number of committees will suit the Opposition as presently constituted. If we are to consider a series of committees sitting one after another we will consider only a semantic difference because the membership of the proposed committees can be changed. There is no way in which we can overcome the logistical difficulty of getting backwards and forwards. It is an insurmountable problem.
The honourable member for Port Adelaide raised the question of the type of legislation that would be before the House when the committees were sitting. I cannot see any way in which that matter can be determined in a sessional order because it cannot be defined. The Government made it clear to me that it would not have legislation committees sitting while the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill was being debated in the House because of the importance of that Bill and because it was an issue that divided the two sides of the House.
– What about a pig levy Bill?
– I do not think that it would matter very much if a pig levy Bill were being debated in the House at the same time. We considered adopting a procedure whereby the members of the committee would be paired from the House. We did not do that in order to ensure that matters important to the House and matters that the Opposition considers to be important to the House could receive the consideration of all members of the Opposition. Use of the procedure of calling quorums can bring about the adjournment of the committee. It is in the Opposition’s hands. There is no way in which the Opposition can be bullied in that regard. We have bent over backwards to try to be fair to the Opposition in this matter. Most of the Government supporters who are considering the matter have had some experience in opposition, so we are reasonably familiar with -
– I hope you will get still more shortly.
-That is most unlikely. Until that point the honourable member for Port Adelaide was being realistic, but that was an unrealistic interjection. Given the shortness of time, I put it to the Opposition that there are two practical solutions. Either it should do its level best to have the matter considered and decided upon today by the Standing Orders Committee so that the Estimates committees can proceed- there is not a lot of the day left- or, alternatively, it should agree to let the committees go ahead and to have a reference to the Standing Orders Committee at the same time. After all, the whole Estimates committee procedure is on trial. I am certain there will be changes to the procedure. We do not know what they will be doing until we have given the committees a go.
– ln my brief period in this House I have strongly supported the establishment of Estimates committees, although I am afraid that I have had no consultation on this matter with members from the other side. Certainly, all of us here would believe that virtually any change in the process for the handling by this House of the Estimates would be some improvement.
The Opposition is clearly unhappy about both the substance of the proposals that have been presented and the manner in which they have been brought forward. Two critical points of substance have already been made- the problem of the logistics of the two committees and the problem of the amount of time for discussion at the report stage. I think the honourable member for
Moore (Mr Hyde) made a considered response to those problems. There is a great danger that these committees, as they are conceived at the moment, will emerge as very superficial committees. I do not think that sufficient consideration has been given to the problems inherent in them. We may get simply a superficial palliative. I worry about this because there is already growing disillusionment about the workings of the legislation committees of this House. It seems to me that if we are to succeed in reform we will need a thoroughly worked out plan so that the system works reasonably well from the start. I think that the legislation committees are in danger of just dying in this House because of the way in which they have been used.
The other problem is the manner in which these proposals have been brought forward. I do not think that the manner in which these proposals were initiated give us very much confidence about reform. I understand that the proposals evolved from a so-called reform committee on the Government side and that now, in a somewhat attenuated form, they have been bestowed on the Parliament by the Executive. I say quite clearly- and this is a chance to protest about this procedure- that that is not the way in which to reform this Parliament. This institution cannot be reformed at the behest of the Government parties alone. This institution cannot be reformed simply by the Executive bestowing upon the Parliament what reforms the Executive will accept. If reforms are to be accepted and acceptable to the Parliament they must meet not just the needs of the Executive, not just the needs of the Liberal Party and certainly not just the needs of the Labor Party, but the needs of the whole Parliament. It seems to me that it would be wise in future to determine any reform through the appropriate all-party committees of this House or, if need be, to create an all-party committee to do that. I believe that unless we concern ourselves with the manner in which we develop these reforms they will fail, as I fear the legislation committee proposals are beginning to fail in this House.
– I and many other members of this House certainly support reform and moves to improve the way in which we conduct the business of this House. Having been a member of the House of Representatives Standing Orders Committee over some period, I have some doubts about the proposals that have been put forward. The only way in which they can be resolved is by having discussion on them. I think that the suggestion that has been made is a particularly good one. I know that there has been a great deal of discussion on them so far. I think the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) would be the happiest man in Australia if we were able to work out a way in which to get the business through more quickly than we have done in the past so that such pressures would not be put on him at different times.
Many doubts arise in my mind. One of the things that I have in mind in particular is the matter of streamlining the conduct of business so that we can still carry on without duplication. The honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) asked what legislation would be debated in the House while the committees were meeting. He also asked what opportunity members of this House who were not members of the committees would have to make some comment on the Estimates at a later stage without the danger of duplication arising. There are many such questions. As the Leader of the House knows, I made one suggestion in relation to the Budget debate. I believe that circumstances have developed to the point where the Budget debate in this House could commence on the Wednesday evening following the presentation of the Budget by the Treasurer. I do not think that there is any necessity to delay the debate for one full week. It appears to me that in the current situation the only people who do not talk about the Budget in the week following its presentation are the members of this Parliament. A great deal of discussion has taken place in recent months about the place of the Executive and the place of the back bench member. These are things that we have to safeguard. I am not quite sure that they will be safeguarded by the proposals that have been put forward. I believe that this matter is something that the Parliament can refer to the Standing Orders Committee, if you Mr Speaker, are successful in getting it together to meet. Given the experience of that Committee and the knowledge of its members, I believe that something will come from that, I support the suggestion that has been put forward.
-I think the method of this matter being brought before the Parliament and the presumption that clearly it is the Opposition’s position in Parliament to accept such bones as are offered by the Government, is unacceptable to members of the Opposition and should be unacceptable to the Parliament. Proposals have been before this House for over three years for changes in the method of operation of this Parliament. These were prepared as a result of a very extensive examination by an all-party committee from both Houses of the Parliament. In fact, there is an undertaking from the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair), which is in excess of three years old, that opportunity would be given for debate of that report in this House. A number of those proposals would facilitate the business of the House to a far greater extent than is possible at the moment. They would also enable greater and more detailed consideration of matters which come before the House and which do not come before the House because of the limitations which we experience at the moment through business, the work load and other commitments.
Firstly, the Opposition is concerned that reform cannot come by being imposed by one part of the total House. Secondly, there is, at least in the remarks by the Leader of the House, a suggestion that the major purpose of these committees is to shorten the time for debate in the House so that less time would be required to be devoted to what is, in fact, the major substance of this session of the Parliament. Three hours to consider in the House the reports from the Estimates committees sounds a lot until one considers that there are 27 departments of State represented by Ministers whose estimates will come before the committees. Honourable members may wish to make some contribution in this House to matters which arise from deliberations of the committee. The time available in the House for members to speak is 1 80 minutes. The time that is available to the Opposition is half the total time, that is 90 minutes. But there is provision in the proposed Standing Orders for the Government to take an additional proportion, that is over half the time available, because Ministers have unlimited opportunities to speak and they can speak on unlimited occasions.
Now, in the three-hour report stage from one committee there will be either 13 or 14 ministerial departments involved. That gives each of those Ministers- 13 in one instance and 14 in the other if they are divided roughly in halfunlimited opportunities to speak. I am not sugesting that that will happen, but if one Minister gets up and speaks for 20 minutes the Opposition has lost 10 minutes of a very restricted speaking time. If a debate does develop during the report stage because of a controversy about the estimates of a minister’s department, we can expect that a considerable proportion of the three-hour period will be taken up by the minister responding to those matters in the House. Every time a Minister stands up, the time that he speaks in excess of the time allowed for an ordinary member, will come out of the time available to the Opposition.
The Senate has adopted a committee system. It appears to me not to be valid to suggest that the House of Representatives is incapable of manning more than two committees but the Senate is. It would seem that the resources of this Parliament are inordinately distributed in favour of the Senate if that is, in fact, the case. The Senate does not meet during periods when Estimates committees are meeting, but, in fact, adjourns. More than two committees could meet during a period when Estimate committees are in operation. Because of the limited numbers who are required to man one of these committees it should be possible for them to meet on days when the House does not normally sit. So it is quite feasible- it should be acceptable to the majority of honourable members in the House who should be making the decision- that the number of committees be increased beyond two and sittings could take place at times when the House does not sit. The time savings involved for the Government by such a procedure are considerable. I think the problems that this House has had with what is a very desirable measure result from reform which is forced on the House because of the lack of adequate machinery for it to take place as a parliamentary function as opposed to a party function.
One of the substantive recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System and one of the obvious needs- I am not sure whether it is still on the Notice Paper but it has been at various times in the last three years- is for this House to adopt a procedures committee which can carry out an on-going job of examining the manner in which this House conducts its business. It can make recommendations to this House for change. The Standing Orders Committee, for all its prestige, is not a vehicle which can carry out on-going examinations of the procedures of the House and certainly it is hardly a body which could be expected to be the initiator of reform. An examination of the personnel and structure of that Committee will indicate the difficulties which exist in having it meet on any regular basis and certainly one can see the difficulties which exist in examining proposals which would be considered to be of a reformist nature. By its very nature it is a status quo committee. I believe that the role of the Standing Orders Committee is to examine the Standing Orders of the Parliament to see whether they are defective, to recommend changes, to consider their implementation and to recommend to the Parliament on those changes.
– They have done precious little over the last 30 years.
– They will do precious little over the next 30 years because the body itself is structured in a manner which makes it impossible to work. The interjection by the honourable member for Perth indicates that he has not listened to what I just said. I am suggesting that the Parliament needs a body that can carry out that function. It needs a procedures committee manned from both sides of the Parliament and by people who are able to contribute on a regular basis to an examination of the Parliament. How often can the Prime Minister or the Leader of the House or other members put half a day into attending a Standing Orders Committee meeting? It is not a practical proposition. They are not elected by the Parliament. They are members of this Committee by virtue of the structure of the Committee as set out in the Standing Orders.
Examination of this question would have been facilitated a great deal had the Government or the Government parties, at the time when the proposal was first mooted, referred the question to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration and report to the House. That was not done. Three weeks ago we were informed that the proposal had been dropped. We now have a situation in which we are told that there is not adequate time for proper consideration. That is because of the way in which the matter was introduced into the Parliament and the way in which it has been handled. There has been a failure by the Parliament- I say the Parliament collectively- to deal with the proposals that the Parliament ordered to be brought forward and which have been reported to the Parliament. These could have provided the House with vehicles to examine our own procedures adequately.
-I have looked at the recommendations with a good deal of interest. I will make one or two comments that I would like the House to consider. I am of the view that although this proposed procedure may lead to a saving of time- we will be able to get through more work by operating under a different process- I am not at all sure that it will represent the same type of work that we have been able to achieve in the past. I am rather of the view that it may operate in circumstances such as exist at the moment in this House. I am not at all sure that it would be that effective in a House with a more equal distribution of the electorates between the left and right hand sides of it.
Therefore, I feel that the process of the House going into a Committee of the Whole ought to be retained and then perhaps an Estimates committee could function in addition to the House itself while in session as the Committee of the Whole.
I did not realise that the intention of the proposal was to keep the House in operation at the same time that these Estimates committees were functioning in addition to, and outside of it. I wonder whether a process of this description would be consistent with the constitutional assessment of the proper functions of the House of Representatives as such. It seems to me that after many years we have come to accept, for example, reports to the House from the AuditorGeneral, reports relating to the great civil service departments and reports from the Public Works Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. I do not believe that we can fairly claim that those reports are subsequently thoroughly debated by the House. I had hoped that some of the references for these extra committees would include matters of that description.
It seems to me that over the years the House of Representatives has been in fact sitting for a diminishing number of hours. If one goes back to the 1950s and the 1960s when perhaps the House was made up of more robust people, one sees that it was the custom to sit into the early hours of the dawn; a custom that was, I might add, practised by those who sit on the other side of the House as well as on this side of it. Whilst in recent times we have achieved what is generally regarded as a more rational system- thanks to the Leader of the House in the last Government- the fact of the matter is that the Parliament’s sitting time has diminished. I express the view that if both of these Estimates committees are to function while the House is carrying on with the discussion of other legislation, the House ought to be assured that this is in fact a proper conduct for it. I am a little concerned that this procedure might tend to divert public attention away from the work of this House.
Quite obviously those Estimates committees are not likely, for example, to be broadcast. If I remember correctly, going back a few years, the original decision by the House to institute broadcasting was for the benefit of the general public of Australia. Some people might feel that the long suffering public have been hardened by that great misery that was inflicted upon them, but it was undoubtedly the view of the Prime Minister of the day that it was in the interest of the general public that the work of the Federal Parliament should be brought to their notice. I am a little concerned with the aspect that the Estimates committees are not likely to function in a manner that will attract attention to their work. It is clear from the motion of the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) that they shall not vary the amount of a proposed expenditure. It seems to me that the process of moving that the Budget allocations be reduced by one shilling, or 10c, which is the customary process under the Westminster system, cannot be followed by these committees and would be exclusive to the subsequent operations of the House. I would be grateful to the Minister, when he replies to these matters, if he could make some comment upon what I have said.
-If I could just cheer the honourable gentleman on-
– You always cheer me.
– Yes, that is right. As a matter of fact, whenever the Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) follows my advice he ends up being on the right track. Firstly, I think we should get on with the business of this Parliament. Secondly, I think it is important that the Standing Orders Committee look at this matter. Thirdly, I think it is important that we adopt the principle that was initiated by the Right Honourable Sir John Gorton when he was Prime Minister- those matters which concern the Parliament are subject to free and open votes and discussions in this place. I take it that honourable members opposite may well have taken the point that was made from this side of the House that whilst it is gratifying that the parties on the other side of the House have had some influence upon the Executive, it is less than gratifying that we were not consulted. In fact, matters were decreed and proceeded with without consultation with the serfs over here. It is important that we all participate in these matters, because we are all concerned with the Parliament. The reign of terror by Government members opposite will be of short duration. They have to get used to the fact that they will not be able to run the show in the way they like for much longer.
I do not see any great difficulties with the technical side of the proposal. I am not convinced that there is room for only two committees to meet. One of the oddities of this Parliament is that seven committee rooms are provided for the Senate and yet the House of Representatives has only three. I do not know whether that is a reflection that the House of Representatives is much more subservient to the Treasury. I think there is room for even four committees to meet at once. In my view there is no reason why the chamber ought not be used. If we let the Premiers and people like that in here it ought to be possible for us to use it on occasions such as this.
– Don’t you understand that the House is going to be in session?
-Not always. It is possible for us to meet, perhaps, on a Friday morning or a time such as that. I think we have to recognise that. Estimates committees ought to be as important as any of the Standing or Select committees of the Parliament.
– That will be good- meeting on Friday mornings!
– I am always astonished by my friends on both sides of the House who find it very difficult to be round here on Friday mornings because they have to get back to their electorates.
– Some of us have a long way to go.
– Oh, yes, but if one lets it be known that there is an overseas tour of six or seven weeks’ duration it is remarkable how many members can be away from their electorates for those six or seven Fridays. I am not convinced that the attendance by the honourable member for Perth in his electorate- or that outer western town he comes from- is all that essential. I am sure that the actual structure of the Committees is important. We all ought to be able to participate. I am not convinced that it is impossible for these committees, if necessary, to be broadcast. That could at least be tried as an experiment. A number of radio programs have an attraction for a lot of people when they consist of discussions of small groups around a table involving themselves in a subject. There are a number of weaknesses in the way in which we are proceeding. We would not feel so greatly in need of debate on the Estimates in this chamber if more policy statements were brought down by Ministers and if we had more general debate on them.
I agree with my friend, the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes), when he says that the Standing Orders Committee has disabilities because the people on it are busy doing other things. I sympathise with the Leader of the House, the Minister for Primary Industry, who has to extract himself from dealing with the problems of his office as Minister and to apply himself continually to the management of this House. His position is difficult. So I think it is time that we restructured the whole operation. I take it that very shortly the members of the Standing Orders Committee will be able to sit down, to bring their collective monumental intellects to bear on this problem and sort out the situation. Let us hope that it is sorted out by the end of this evening and that we can be in business tomorrow. Under my guidance we might really make some progress.
-As the representative of the outback town of Perth I wish to respond to a couple of points that were made. I think the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) said that the operation of Estimates committees in the way which is proposed would mean, to use his own words, that the Parliament would not be seen to be functioning in a manner which attracts attention to its work. He put that in a way which suggested that there was great virtue in having the proceedings in the Parliament broadcast. I would have thought that the one thing that had come out of having the proceedings of this House broadcast to the Australian public is that they would all unanimously agree that this chamber was desperately in need of reform. I think they would want to see the Parliament become more than a mere talking shop, more than a place of eternal warfare; I think they would want to see the Parliament function in a more constructive manner. I think that all honourable members who serve on parliamentary committees, which admittedly are out of the glare of publicity, would agree that committees function in a much more rational and constructive way than does the Parliament. Committees move positively towards given ends. They operate in a bipartisan manner. I do not see great disadvantage arising from us operating elsewhere than in this chamber where the proceedings are broadcast.
I was a little disappointed with the comments made by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). He seemed to suggest that we were shoving these committees down the throats of members of the Opposition. I would have thought that the legislation committees and the Estimates committees in fact worked to the benefit not just of the Parliament but basically of the Opposition, because they provide the Opposition with a vehicle- a vehicle which at present it does not have- by which to scrutinise the estimates of the Government departments. I do not really think it matters whether the initiative comes from this side of the House or from the other side of the House as long as it comes from private members of this Parliament who wish to see the Parliament operating in a more constructive manner and having slightly more power than it seems to have at the present time.
If the Standing Orders Committee is to work better certainly some changes may need to be made to its personnel. I have not devoted my mind to that issue. All I can say is that the other committees of the Parliament which have been in existence for a very long time- I should perhaps exclude the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure which recently brought down a very significant report recommending reforms for this chamber- have never brought forward anything which has really been acted upon by this Parliament. Let us be grateful for the reforms that are being put forward and let us act on them. I do not see as being a big problem the fact that only two committees have been proposed. We have many members in this chamber. Because the personnel on those committees will be interchangeable, it will allow members with interests in particular departments to put their expertise to work. We have an advantage over the Senate in that regard; it has only half the number of members that we have.
I think it is very important that we recognise that the major function of the House of Representatives is one of scrutiny of the activities of the Government. To date the estimates debate has achieved anything but an examination of the estimates of the various government departments. If we can move towards the situation where the estimates are analysed critically, that will be terrific. I think that we should give it a go. After all this is the chamber in which most of the Ministers sit. Therefore we can subject them to scrutiny, put them on their nettle, and ask them the questions which we want to put to them. I think it is sensible that this chamber rather than the other chamber has prime responsibility for considering the estimates of Government departments.
I admit that there are many deficiencies, but in coming forward with these proposals we recognise that unless there is a spirit of co-operation on both sides of the chamber none of these reforms will work anyhow. Conceding the points that the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) made in answer to some of the objections, all I can say is that I think the reforms are worthwhile. They are a step in the right direction. They might not work, but then they might. We will not know unless they are given a go. I think it would be taking a great risk not to accept the challenge that has been put before us.
– I want to make only four brief comments. The first is that I think honourable members need to realise that the draft sessional orders were made available to all honourable members before the House adjourned for the winter recess. Any suggestion that they have been imposed on members of the House is so much nonsense. I have not received correspondence from anyone, be he on the Government or the Opposition side, in relation to those sessional orders. They were available for earlier discussion with members of the Government members back bench committee or, indeed, with any one of us if that had been desired.
I see that my friend and colleague the honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) has returned. The second point concerns the concept of the House’s sitting at the same time as the Estimates Committees. We felt that the Budget debate could be extended. The general objective was that the Budget debate would run at the same time as the Estimates Committees were deliberating within the precincts of the Parliament but not in this chamber. I am hopeful, if we can come to an agreement, that it might still be possible to provide for a reasonable extension of the Budget debate. The continuation of the Budget debate surely will in no way prejudice the normal sort of examination one would expect to come out of these new Estimates Committees.
The third point is that I hope that the Parliament might be agreeable to the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) and the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) sitting in on the Standing Orders Committee’s discussion on the Estimates Committees as each of them seems to have a particular interest. It would be one way by which the Standing Orders Committee might be able more effectively to represent the views of the members of this chamber. Mr Speaker, I hope that you might be able to exercise your indulgence to that purport.
Amendment agreed to.
Original motion, as amended, agreed to.
-For the information of honourable members in the chamber- I notice that almost the full complement of the Standing Orders Committee is present- I propose to convene a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee at 5. 1 5 p.m. I also indicate that I will issue an invitation to the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) and the honourable member for Moore (Mr Hyde) to attend as my guests the Standing Orders Committee meeting in my chambers.
Debate resumed from 18 September, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Lionel Bowen had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after “That” be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: “the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted to provide-
that annual reports be presented to Parliament on the general operation of the Act and in particular the exercise of Special Powers under Part III, Division 2 of the Bill;
that regular periodic judicial audit be conducted into the Australian Security Intelligence Organization to ensure-
that it complies with its charter and the law;
that it does not unjustifiably infringe civil liberties; and
that it operates effectively and efficiently;
that the responsible Minister be fully informed by the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization with respect to any matter, other than the contents of files relating to particular individuals, on which he has sought information and advice;
that the Leader of the Opposition be fully and regularly briefed on all aspects of the operation of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, including the exercise of its Special Powers under Part III, Division 2 of the Bill;
the proper financial accountability of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, including the auditing of its accounts by the Auditor-General, as recommended by the Hope Report; (0 the redefinition of the concept of ‘security’, and in particular the element of ‘subversion ‘, in order to narrow its scope and limit the possibility of its misapplication;
the restriction of the circumstances in which, and the dmes for which, warrants may be issued under Part III, Division 2 of the Bill;
that the security appeals system be given retrospective operation as recommended in the Hope Report;
that no person be denied notification of the existence of an adverse security assessment made about that person, and
the communication of information purporting to identify an Australian Security Intelligence Organization employee or agent to be penalised only when such information would endanger the safety of such person or itself be seriously prejudicial to security”.
-Before the debate is resumed on the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill 1979, I remind the House that it has been agreed that a general debate be allowed covering this Bill, the Telecommunications (Interception) Bill 1979 (No. 2), the Telecommunications Amendment Bill 1979 and the Customs Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979.
-Last evening, prior to the debate being interrupted, I indicated generally my strong support for this Bill and the associated legislation. I indicated that the Bill does give effect substantially to the second and fourth reports of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security headed by Mr Justice Hope. I indicated that the purpose of the legislation was to place the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in a new structure and that its powers and functions had been redefined as a result of that inquiry. I also pointed out that a major security appeals tribunal is to be established and that the Bill also deals with the staffing of ASIO. In supporting the legislation, I indicated why there was a need for a balanced approach- an approach which recognised the importance of obtaining intelligence and security information and balancing that against the needs of the community to have information in relation to the Organisation, but not so as to hamper the Organisation’s work and effort. The Opposition has indicated that it does not oppose the concept of having a security organisation. Of course it has never done so. A Labor government was responsible, in part, for the formation of this organisation. Labor governments have been responsible for maintaining the Organisation and for the appointment of its personnel. But the fact of the matter is that some members of the Opposition have had a phobia about the Organisation. This was demonstrated most clearly by the speech yesterday of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), and perhaps to a lesser degree by the speech of the honourable member for Hughes (Mr Les Johnson). It has been indicated that the Opposition does not oppose the existence of ASIO. I suppose it is my term when I say it, but it seems clear to me that what the Opposition wants to do is gut the Organisation and make sure that it is not an effective security organisation. In fact, the honourable member for Reid said of the amendments that the Opposition has forshadowed: ‘If we don’t get our way in relation to these amendments, we will oppose the Bill all the way’. That was a decision of Caucus.
The honourable member for Reid speaks with an obsession about this Organisation. It is the same sort of obsession as honourable members opposite have indicated they have about the result of the elections held recently in South Australia. I do not think that we ought be carried away by the obsessions of members of the Opposition in relation to those matters or in relation to this Organisation. But I do want to indicate what I think their amendments will do. I can do that best by paraphrasing each of the amendments so that honourable members can get an overall picture of what the Opposition is attempting to do. It wants firstly to ensure that annual reports are presented to the Parliament. I assume that the Opposition would not be satisfied with an annual report that just listed the name of the DirectorGeneral and said that the organisation had functioned; it would want information about the nature of the organisation, what it is doing and the way in which it exercises its special powers, particularly the powers that are designed to assist it in collecting information.
The Opposition wants a regular, periodic judicial audit to be conducted to ensure that ASIO is operating in accordance with its charter, that it does not infringe civil liberties unjustifiably and that it is operating effectively and efficiently. Who would believe that we could have those sorts of inquiries continually without hampering the effectiveness of the organisation. I am not saying that it is not appropriate to have an inquiry when one knows that there is something wrong with an organisation, but if one is looking over the organisation’s shoulder all the time, if one does not trust it in what it is doing, if one has a phobia about the way in which it is operating, one would want to have regular, periodic judicial reviews. Just imagine what it would do to the personnel working in that sort of organisation if they had somebody looking over their shoulder all the time. Like so many of the bureaucrats we have in our country today, they would be stifled of initiative, lose all their drive and lack the enthusiasm to want to bring any of their skills and abilities to assist in their task because they would not know who was going to report on them, dob them in, have an inquiry about them and be critical of their actions. If one wants that, if one wants the security organisation to be populated by people who are looking over their shoulder all the time to see who is watching them in that sense, then one will have an impotent organisation.
The Opposition wants the responsible Minister to be fully informed by the Director-General of the Organisation in respect of any matter except the content of files of particular individuals. I refer honourable members to a statement on ASIO that was issued by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) at the beginning of this week. It was issued in response to an editorial in a Western Australian newspaper which picked up this point that the Opposition was suggesting. The Opposition wants to be able to get people into this House so that it can ask detailed questions about the operation of ASIO and say: ‘Well, you ‘ve got the information; you have to tell the House; you have to be responsible to Parliament’. That is what it will say. The Opposition is seeking to involve the responsible Minister directly in the operations of the Organisation, to have him in a position in which he is giving instructions as to the matters that ought to be dealt with and the way in which the Organisation ought to operate. The Attorney-General posed this question in relation to that suggestion.
Does anyone really want the Minister to be able to tell the Director-General whether he should collect information on a particular individual or to whom information on a particular individual should be communicated or what advice should he given by the Director-General to a Minister or Department.
Really, if anybody wanted ASIO to be used as a political organisation by the party which happens to be in office at a particular time he would seek to give it that power. Similarly, the Opposition ‘s requirements go on. It wants the Leader of the Opposition to be fully briefed on all aspects of the Organisation, including all the exercises of its special power. Again, it wants detail, it wants information which is more publicly available and which can be passed out, perhaps in the way in which information provided the other day to the Leader of the Opposition in relation to programs of development for rural electorates was passed out. The Leader of the Opposition was given certain information and then questions were handed out amongst honourable members opposite in an orchestrated way so that the information could be used in some way allegedly to embarrass the Government.
– lt was a fizzer.
-Of course it was a fizzer. But is that the son of thing that we want in relation to this body? I suggest that it is not. The Opposition wants proper financial accountability of the Organisation, including auditing of its accounts by the Auditor-General. The fact of the matter is that with that sort of accounting one then has an organisation that has to be paraded in the way in which other government departments are paraded through the Auditor-General’s reports. 1 have looked at Auditor-General’s reports and occasionally important matters of substance are revealed in those reports. But what it really means is that the Opposition wants to be able to get to detail about the way in which the Organisation is functioning. Who will that detail assist? Will it help the Opposition? Not in my view. Will it help the public? Not in my view. Will it help those who have no wish to protect our country and what we are about? In my view it is most likely to harm Australia ‘s interests. It will be of more advantage to Russian security organisationsthe KGB or something of that nature- for them to know how much money is going into ASIO, where it is spent and what are its priorities. If one has obsessions about this Organisation, I suppose one would want to see that sort of information because one would not be concerned about our overall security. The Opposition wants to bring out all of this information, as its amendments have suggested. There are some people in the Opposition who have such a phobia about this legislation that in my view they are prepared to put those phobias above this nation’s security.
If one goes on one will see that there are proposals to narrow the definitions of ‘security’ and subversion’ and to narrow the scope of the inquiries that the Organisation might be able to make. The Opposition wishes to restrict the Organisation’s special powers. The Opposition, along with one of my colleagues on this side of the House, wants to ensure that all persons who are the subject of a security report will be notified of the existence of any adverse assessment about them. I find this to be the most remarkable of all the Opposition’s proposals. What the Opposition is saying is that if ASIO identifies a spy in the Commonwealth Public Service- someone who is in a fairly senior position and whose existence one does not wish to disclose for a whole lot of security reasons, such as wishing to see who his other contacts are- one ought to tell him that he has had an adverse security report, warn him that he had been found out and give him the opportunity to appeal. That is absolute nonsense, but it is typical of the proposals that the Opposition has put forward in order to destroy the effectiveness of an organisation that ought to be acting in the nation ‘s interests.
– In matters of security it is undesirable that official spokesmen for government, responsible in this area, should make comment that creates unnecessary disturbance in the public mind. Accordingly, I was disappointed to read in the statement to the House by the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), representing the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), this comment:
Australia faces a number of serious threats to its internal security including persistent efforts on the part of hostile intelligence agencies to obtain intelligence from within Australia.
It is true that that sort of activity is persistently under way and that there are some groups that receive special attention. But it is also fair to say that a more balanced way of putting that would be to say that the level of such activity is probably at the lowest that it has been for a very long time, that there is sound reason for Australians to rest secure in the sense that Australia is, in a comparative way, relatively free of subversive threat. I stress that point because if we are going to have bipartisanship on this matter to a much greater degree than has been experienced in the past, and if there is going to be sensible dispassionate debate on an extremely important matter, it is absolutely essential that what appear to be assessments based on official cataloguing of the situation are given in a proper, responsible and informed way.
I repeat the comment I made that the level of the security problem in this country is an informed one, a proper one, and it is put in an appropriately restrained way. There is no dispute from this side of the House about the need for a security service. The Labor Government established the Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation. But having said that we are committed to the functioning of security services, it does not follow ipso facto that we wish to extend immunity to security services from any form of criticism. There must be criticism of all the functioning bodies serving a democratic system and, although a degree of secrecy must be respected for our security agencies, that secrecy must be kept at the minimal practical level. To go beyond that is to encroach upon people ‘s freedom.
The emotionalism which has been associated with so much of the objection to constructive critics in the past in my view has been couched out of concern to protect our security agency from any sort of criticism rather than a genuine concern about establishing or maintaining the minimal level of secrecy consistent with the democratic rights of the community and, on the other hand, an appropriately effective functioning of a security service.
Let me justify that statement. In the past there have been clear, substantial and justified grounds for concern about the way in which ASIO has functioned, and justification for criticism of that organisation. The published and unpublished- I stress the unpublished partreports of Mr Justice Hope are a disturbing documentation of a security service that had been in disarray, a security service that lived on a reputation that was undeserved in the 1960s and early 1970s. Speaking for the Opposition, we believe that Mr Justice Woodward has done much to rectify those deficiencies. We accept that the Bill moves in a more liberal direction than was the case in the past, but it still has a fair way to go-
Let me give to honourable members some of the evidence of the cause of that concern. In the past- Mr Justice Hope established this- ASIO was a badly demoralised organisation. It was badly administered- unbelievably so. There was a disturbingly inferior quality of personnel within its ranks- extensively so. Recruitment unbelievably proceeded on a nepotic basis and on club contact. I mean that literally. They were serious deficiencies in the financial administration and in the distribution of funds within ASIO. It is clear that there was an obsessive preoccupation with dissent in Australia during the 1960s when Vietnam was such a divisive issue, an obsessive pre-occupation that led to neglect of other important responsibilities.
Again, in the published reports of Mr Justice Hope it is clear that ASIO had been engaging in illegal activities. It is obvious that in some cases the Minister responsible for ASIO had been making available security files to at least one government backbencher in an effort to embarrass members of the Opposition or people in the community. Records were in a chaotic condition, and most disturbingly of all ASIO had what we might call rather loosely its own dirty tricks department, a special projects section which, among other things, was responsible for leaking stories to friendly journalists or other sources which could use it to put across the point of view that ASIO wanted bruited about in the community.
The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) was expressing some concern about the Opposition’s request that there should be more access to information coming from security services. Let me quote from the fourth report of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. Volume 1, at pages 6 and 7. In paragraph 1 8 Mr Justice Hope says:
I received submissions and information papers in some numbers from ASIO. But I must say that those submitted in the early part of my inquiry, on examination, proved to be of neither the quality nor reliability one might have wished.
That is disturbing, and that completely confounds the smug confidence of many conservatives from the coalition parties in the 1960s and 1970s about the alleged excellence of service of ASIO. It was not good enough, and given the area where this service had to operate it destroys an enormous degree of confidence in an important institution serving our society. In paragraph 20 Mr Justice Hope says:
I am bound to record that I found ASIO’s files in such disorder that, in the time that has been available to me, I have, been quite unable to establish the truth or otherwise of many of the particulars of matters alleged in evidence, or raised with ASIO as the result of other inquiries.
That is a devasting criticism. At page 111 at paragraph 208 he says:
Thus intelligence assessment is no simple or routine activity but a highly skilled and subtle task. I must report that I saw little evidenc in ASIO that the qualities of mind and expertise needed were recognised, or available in any large measure.
There are many other quotes like that in the Hope report and they are devastating. They destroy the credibility of ASIO in that period up until the point when this inquiry was completed, the report formulated and presented to government, and those parts of it to the public, and action subsequently taken by the Government. I repeat that we have a great deal of confidence in Mr Justice Woodward and what he can do, but what about after Mr Justice Woodward? Can we be convinced that the standards will continue? Those are the sorts of things that do worry us. It is not obsessive to be concerned in this matter. One has only to reflect on the spectacular activities of the Central Intelligence Agency- harmful and illegal- or the tactics of blackmail, physical threat, public smearing and so on by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, especially in relation to the late Martin Luther King, to feel that there is a justifiable case for making ASIO or any security institution accountable to the maximum which is practical within our society, and consistent with the needs of secrecy for its operation. Those needs of secrecy are at a much lower level than has been put by many of the conservative spokesmen in both Houses of this Parliament.
Accountability by ASIO must be improved in the Bill. This can be achieved by maximising ministerial responsibility, guaranteeing bipartisanship by increasing access by the Leader of the Opposition to security matters; periodic judicial audits of ASIO’s operations; a proper and independent system of financial accountability; annual parliamentary reports and a so-called sunset clause which would guarantee periodic legislative initiative to continue the operations of ASIO. As the Bill is now framed there is no adequate ministerial supervision and control of ASIO. Two competing principles are involved. How far should ministerial responsibility extend without undue political interference in the operations of ASIO? How far does the need for professional autonomy to guarantee efficiency extend before ASIO becomes monolithic and uncontrollable?
In recent years an imbalance between the two has seen two disturbing examples of what can occur in this country. A former Queensland police commissioner resigned after complaining of political interference, and a former South Australian police commissioner was dismissed for withholding security information because he said he owed a duty higher than loyalty to the government of the day. This Bill does nothing to ensure a proper balance between adequate ministerial control and undue ministerial interference, despite the fact that the thrust of the Hope Report was that ASIO had in the past transgressed its charter and acted illegally. There can be no doubt that the potential for political abuse of ASIO is great.
Ordinary justice demands that the public must be protected against the misuse of information gathered by ASIO for sinister and often petty political vendettas. That these sorts of abuses can happen is best illustrated by the behaviour of none other than the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who, as Minister for the Army in 1966, publicly used for political advantage information on the political activities of a woman in order to discredit the opposition of her son- a high school cadet- to the war in Vietnam. Nowadays the Prime Minister embraces an almost paranoid obsession about security, particularly his own personal security, that was utterly lacking in his cavalier attitude to the manipulation of security records 1 3 years ago.
In my view, this is all the more reason why the legislation now before the House must clearly delineate between the responsibility of ASIO to the government of the day and the responsibility of that Government to the Parliament. In our view, the Hope report gives far too much residual power to the Director-General of ASIO. There should be explicit provisions governing the relationship between the responsible Minister, the Attorney-General, and the head of internal security. It is the Attorney-General, not the Director-General, who is accountable to the people through the Parliament. His responsibilities, therefore, must be maximised, not restricted. Restrictions to safeguard against political misuse of intelligence information should be clearly laid down.
Whilst the Attorney-General ought to know of the existence of individual files, their contents should be withheld unless the Director-General of ASIO considers the Minister’s access is wholly in the interest of national security. The Opposition strongly opposes clause 8 (2) (c) for its restrictions on the power of the Attorney-General to give specific directions ‘concerning the nature of the advice that should be given by ASIO to a Minister, Department or authority of the Commonwealth’. This, in our view, is an unwise, if not dangerous, limitation on the general power of ministerial direction. We see it as the means by which the Director-General of ASIO could justify the withholding of information which should not be withheld.
The issue of bipartisanship in the operations of security is not insignificant. It would be assisted if the Government were not to treat all such matters as its own private preserve. In the original Bill, the only access to security matters by the Leader of the Opposition was one of consultation by the Prime Minister before the appointment of the Director-General of ASIO. This does nothing to provide a deterrent to political interference, deterrence that would come from the Leader of the Opposition knowing, in detail, what our security organisations are doing. The Hope report observed:
If there is to be a bi-partisan approach it is necessary that the Opposition Party or Parties should be informed about security matters, and the appropriate way to do this is by consultation between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and by reports by the Director-General of Security to the Leader of the Opposition. This practice is regarded as basic in various parts of the democratic world and should be regarded as basic in Australia.
So far the Government has accepted only two of our amendments. One provides that the Director-General’s annual report to the Minister should also go to the Leader of the Opposition. The other provides that the Director-General should consult regularly with the Leader of the Opposition to keep him informed on security matters. Yet there is no legislative guarantee that these regular briefings are a balanced account of security situations. There is no guarantee for specific details to be given to the Opposition Leader of the exercise of ASIO ‘s special powers.
In our view, the principal Bill should also allow the Leader of the Opposition to be told, on request, of the existence of any ASIO file or record on a particular person. He should also be informed promptly of the details of the issuing of any warrant to ASIO to exercise its special powers, such as the opening of mail or the tapping of telephones. These provisions are not excessive. They would in no way hinder the proper operation of security in matters that are properly the concern of security. But their guarantee by legislation would help prevent improper or overzealous use of ASIO ‘s powers, and they would go a long way towards ensuring that the cloak of security is not abused for political advantage.
The Opposition strongly supports the concept of the periodic judicial audit of ASIO. The Hope inquiry itself is undoubtedly the best example of the value of such an audit. We want to see incorporated in the principal Bill a provision establishing a triennial inspection, by a judge, of all ASIO records, dossiers and files to ensure that ASIO- complies with its charter; does not unjustifiably infringe civil liberties; and, operates effectively and efficiently. The report of each such inspection should go to the AttorneyGeneral and then to the Parliament. Similarly, the Opposition is insisting that ASIO should be accountable for all expenditure of funds.
The principal Bill makes no provision for a proper independent system of financial accountability, despite the fact that security has been one of the real growth areas during the present Government’s term of office. Last year ASIO’s budget jumped by 27 per cent to just under $13m. This financial year it goes up by another 11 per cent to $ 14.3 m. Nowhere is the Parliament told how this money is spent. A single line entry appears in the Budget with no explanatory breakdown of any sort.
For the last 30 years ASIO’s accounts have been audited illegally in the sense that the auditing system did not comply with any specific exemption under the Audit Act. In March this year, the Government corrected this anomaly. Yet the Parliament is still told nothing of what ASIO and its growing empire does with its burgeoning budget, not even in the most general terms. Even Mr Justice Hope found that ASIO’s financial procedures are capable of some improvement, though we are not told why. We believe the legislation must include a provision for inspection and audit by the Auditor-General of all ASIO accounts and subsequent report to the responsible Minister.
This legislation gives a degree of privacy to ASIO which the Government refuses to give the ordinary citizens of Australia. Clause 18 of the principal Bill would probably prevent disclosure of even the most monstrous breaches of propriety and the law within ASIO. Does the Organisation need that sort of so-called protection? The Australian Journalists’ Association has described this clause as:
Senator Missen, a Liberal Party senator with a regard for civil liberties, described it in this Parliament as: ‘A totally intimidatory provision.’ This attempt to impose a total proscription on information about ASIO would raise an enormous barrier against actions of conscience or a sense of higher duty among ASIO employees. It would create an intolerable atmosphere for those people, described so eloquently by the present Prime Minister in 1975, who see an over-riding duty to their country rather than to the government of the day.
Clause 92 of the principal Bill seeks to ban the disclosure of the name of any ASIO officer with language so wide-ranging that it becomes ludicrous. If a student, a trade unionist or a member of a political party discovered the identity of an undercover ASIO agent they would commit an offence by warning their fellow members or colleagues, even if they did it on the basis that their personal privacy was endangered. Yet, under the D-notice system, the Government expects the major arms of the media to observe voluntary censorship.
It would be intolerable for the principal Bill to pass into law without major improvement of the appeals system it provides. Once this Bill becomes law, a person subject to an adverse or qualified security assessment must be told about it and may appeal to the Security Assessment Tribunal for a review. But there is no retrospective right of appeal. What about the 344,000 Public Service applicants who, according to Mr Justice Hope’s report were subject to ASIO checks over the last five years? They neither know the result, nor have the right to appeal against them. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have the rest of my statement incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
Yet at the same time, clause 65 gives the Attorney-General free rein to send assessments to the review tribunal irrespective of whether they were made after or before the commencement of the Act. He merely has to satisfy himself that it’s desirable to do so ‘by reason of special circumstances.’ We believe that unfavourable assessments made before the start of this Act should be notified to the persons concerned and they should then have access to the Commonwealth Ombudsman who could decide whether a formal appeal should go to the Security Assessment Tribunal.
All of this, of course, applies only to Commonwealth employees.
But they are not the only people affected by unfavourable reports by ASIO. Large amounts of such information is passed on to State Special Branches who undoubtedly use it at times to the disadvantage of people in the general community. Those people have no appeal rights, and no rights even to know. The Attorney-General has conceded the problem but done nothing about it. The legislation is also too narrow in its definition of the information that may be given to a person affected by an ASIO report. The Bill talks about information ‘intended or likely to be used by the State’. What it should deal with, in fairness, is information capable of being used by the State.
There is also provision in clause 59 for ASIO itself, through the Director-General, to decide whether certain documents or information will go before the Tribunal on security grounds. That sort of decision should not be left with the Director-General, no matter what his eminence and integrity. He should make his case to the Tribunal and let that body make the judgment. The existing provision is a charter for the cover-up of maladministration or corruption, or at least the appearance of it. And that is to nobody’s benefit.
The extreme powers conferred by this Act should not be used as a matter of routine operation by ASIO. There should be provisions to see that they are not and such provisions should start with more realistic definitions. Clause 5 ( 1 ) (a) defines subversion as activities that are ultimately likely to lead to violence for the purpose of overthrowing a constitutional government. The Senate spent three hours debating the word ultimately’ and found no agreed position. Security agencies have frequently demonstrated an obsession and misunderstanding about some political ideas that amounts to paranoia. That state of mind should not be a justification for Draconian actions. The word ‘ultimately’, as used here, confuses a commitment to ideology with a commitment to action. Judgments should not start with ideas, but with reasonable apprehensions that there may, in fact, be acts of violence. Clause 5 ( 1 ) (b) is so wide that it could include legitimate demonstrations and industrial bans. Clause 5 ( 1 (c) goes further still. It defines subversion as: activities directed to promoting violence or hatred between different groups of persons . . . so as to endanger the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.
We might as well ban football matches, especially at this time of the year. Yet these sorts of definitions, sometimes bordering on the nonsensical can be the starting-point for extreme action - surveillance, telephone taps, searches, mail inspection, and so on. The legislation talks about ‘emergency situations’ where the actions may be authorised by the Director-General of ASIO rather than the Attorney-General. Yet there is no definition of emergency situations.
If we are to recognise the official use of powers such as are provided here, there must be stronger safeguards.
Unless they are there, we will never be able to convince the Australian people that ASIO truly represents their interest, collectively and, in so many important cases, individually.
– These legislative measures that we are debating tonight involving our Australian Security Intelligence Organisation should be received and debated with two predominant and priority considerations. Those are, firstly, to what extent does this nation require the services of such an organisation and, secondly, to what extent do our responsibilities as a national government demand that we protect and secure the rights of the citizens of Australia? No one can deny the existence of subversive elements within our own Austraiian society. Their existence was highlighted by that extreme act of the bombing at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney last year. The bombing created a feeling of great indignation and disgust within the community. The citizens in the street would not appreciate the great depths of subversive elements which, like icebergs, generally remain submerged and out of the view of the general public. Other instances throughout the world such as the assassination of Mr Neave, a member of the British Parliament, in the Westminster Palace grounds and the death of Lord Mountbatten more recently in Ireland give us in Australia no reason for complacency in this matter.
To protect the rights of those people who call themselves Australians and who in the majority are law-abiding citizens, there must be some form of security organisation even if the socalled rights- the civil rights- of those few subversive elements have to be denied them. If telephone tapping and intelligence gathering are to be regarded as denying civil rights to those few, it must be remembered once again that in our society it is only the guilty who have to worry about being denied their liberties which normal and good living Australians will retain and enjoy. For instance, who is to be protected- the drug pusher and the pedlar or the intended victim? Do we allow the creation of an addict with the resultant anguish of a parent? Of course we as parliamentarians are here to protect the innocent, not to encourage vice by a lack of action.
I and the party I represent, the National Country Party, have no doubt that an organisation such as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is necessary. Every democracy services and preserves that democracy by providing security organisations such as the Central Intelligence Agency in the United States of America and other similar organisations in developed nations. I have read through the legislation not only because I was to enter into this debate but also because of the many comments from no doubt well meaning and concerned people regarding the legislation.
The legislation is clear in its intent and it has built into it many checks and balances which arc designed to prevent abuse of any power under the legislation. For instance, clause 7 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill sets out the terms and conditions for the appointment of the Director-General. Appointments are made on the approval of the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition and they will have in mind the overall good of the Organisation and also the Australian people. Clause 9 provides a sunset clause on the appointment of a Director-General and termination can be made at an earlier date by the Governor-General in certain situations. The use of the special powers under Division 2 of the legislation referring to and defining the examination, listening device, premises and record, requires references to the Minister. Revocation of a warrant can also be made by the Minister and the grounds on which a search warrant can be issued are fairly clearly set out within Division 2.
Surely, even beyond all of these powers the government of the day, whichever political philosophy it has, must have the final control or veto if such circumstances arise in the administration or functioning of the security services that require them to be amended, altered, deleted or perhaps even to terminate the legislation at any time. I believe that this is the ultimate control that this Parliament has over the affairs of any organisation and surely this is the greatest safeguard of all. The balance within the Bill between having some government control but yet retaining the independence of the Organisation from outside, and particularly from political influence, is extremely important and it is also exceptionally delicate. We need no more episodes such as Attorney-General Murphy’s raid on the ASIO headquarters which took place in the Labor Government years. The Organisation has to be independent of that type of political influence. The Labor Party’s tied vote in the 197 1 Launceston Conference on a motion to reject ASIO shows the necessity for independence.
– They wanted to abolish it. didn’t they?
– That was exactly the motion. Certainly, such a raid reveals the necessity for ASIO’s independence. However, ASIO has to be responsible. The ASIO Bill introduced into the Senate in March of this year has been carefully debated in that House and amended in certain respects as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has said. 185 pages of Hansard reporting on the debate in the Senate indicate the awareness of the importance and delicacy of the Bill and the necessity for a non-party political approach to the subject in the interests not only of ASIO but also the Australian community. The approach should be one of national importance, not parochial in nature.
Australians of today are a vastly different mix from what they were before the Second World War. The post-war immigration program means that the average Australian today has an ethnic origin of groups and nations all over the world and not the predominant British group as he formerly did. That means two things. Firstly, because of today’s population mix we as a nation have closer ties with all these other countries. All these countries do not have the same political or democratic outlook that we have as a nation. The standards and culture vary greatly among these nations. Consequently, there is an increasing need for a more efficient and independent security organisation to weld these people into our society and to protect them. Secondly, this new Austraiian population deserves protection and these people should have the same rights and should be encouraged to express their aspirations as all Australians do without fear of recrimination from outside influences. We have to be able to protect their rights and guarantee to secure them against previous allegiances, as we should for all Australians against the challenges of the few who would want to interfere with and disrupt our way of life.
What is the degree of civil liberties each of us must sacrifice to insure against the intrusion of the few who would want to subvert? In other democratic nations- or supposedly democratic nations- the degree of sacrifice is far greater than phone tap or search warrant powers. It comprises identification cards, fingerprints, photographs and on-the-spot arrest. None of these is contemplated within our present ASIO Bill although I am firmly of the belief that all Australians should be possessed of some form of identification or social security number, as is the situation in the United States, in order to prevent the abuses under our Government’s welfare and national health programs, but that is not related to the security of our country.
It is hope arising above expectations to expect Australia irrespective of its political leadership or democratic consequences to remain aloof from world affairs, the consequences of world trade and our own defence requirements throughout the world. Two hundred years ago we were separated by nine months sailing from the centre of the commercial world. Today, we are within three hours flying time from South East Asia- a new commercial centre- or 12 hours from Europe, and only one second away by telephone or television transmission from anywhere round the world. Our security must be updated to meet the present conditions. It must also be able to work with the special branch squads in the various States. It must have the utmost cooperation with other intelligence agencies and be free, as has been mentioned in this House, from political influence. We should hope that the type of political influence that we witnessed in South Australia will not arise in this Organisation.
In spite of the necessity for an effective security and intelligence organisation working in conjunction with State authorities and international organisations, I can appreciate the fears of some, particularly in comparing the activities of our own Organisation with the activities of security organisations in communist and totalitarian countries. If there is an argument it is whether the legislation strikes a reasonable balance between the maintenance of national security and the protection of personal privacy and individual rights. The powers that the legislation gives ASIO for the tapping of telephones and intercepting mail are not, in themselves, great causes for concern. Distasteful as the powers may be, there is a strong case to be made for their inclusion in the legislation if the nation is to keep up its guard against espionage, sabotage, subversion and terrorism. The problem is how to devise a method of control that does not undermine the effectiveness of the powers and at the same time ensures that they will not be abused. The question is the degree to which people believe that ASIO will be made accountable for its actions. In its present form, as amended by the Senate, does the Bill carry this through? Is its accountability sufficient?
As I mentioned previously, the Bill provides accountability to the Minister, the Prime Minister and also the Leader of the Opposition but, in some instances, if it appears that security may be breached the reports may not be as full a record of the activities of ASIO as some people would want or expect in order to form the accounting judgments that may be necessary. For example, the number of warrants issued for telephone taps and mail interceptions need not be supplied although, at the time, they require the Minister’s approval. The absence of this information may lessen the value of a report that is made. No one doubts the integrity and sincerity of the present Director-General, Mr Justice Woodward, but some powers of his office which the Minister cannot override may require some final check or audit.
An independent judicial review has been suggested. Perhaps its reappointment within the same time span of seven years, as is suggested for a review of the Director-General, would facilitate such a review, and an alteration to the Act if the review proved that that was warranted. However, I come back to the final power of the government at any time to amend, add to, delete from or suspend the Act to correct any actions inconsistent with the spirit of the legislation now before us. In this regard perhaps clause 89 regarding the termination of employment of officers should be read to assume that that action at any time is a term or condition of employment. On the other hand, a government of the day, irrespective of its political persuasion, can by action or inaction frustrate the functioning of a department, an authority, or a commission. Whilst I have read the Bill with the lack of specialised knowledge that a lawyer would have, I feel that the appropriation of funds and staff ceilings protects the continuance and functioning of ASIO free from that frustration. However, I would like the Minister’s comments and assurances on these points as well as confirmation of the final power of the Parliament to be accounted to through changes in the legislation at any time if necessary.
I close in congratulating the Royal Commission under Mr Justice Hope for its deliberations and findings, the governments which initiated the inquiry and accepted the Commission’s reports, and those who have, in the public interest, examined the implications and voiced their fears and concerns. This is a process designed to ensure that public examination is made before the final legislation is enacted by the Parliament. It is in the interests of the people of Australia that this Parliament serves.
Debate (on motion by Mr Humphreys) adjourned.
– by leave- The Government earlier this year decided that there should be a review of the organisation and lines of control of the Federal Narcotics Bureau and its relations with other arms of government. I had proposed to ask the head of my Department to seek the assistance of the Public Service Board in this review, but I was aware that the Federal Narcotics Bureau falls also within the terms of reference of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs and that the Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Williams, therefore, could be making recommendations in relation to it. The Royal Commission report is not expected until towards the end of the year. Rather than wait until then, I raised with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) the question whether we might seek Mr Justice Williams’ views on matters relating to the organisation and control of the Narcotics Bureau ahead of his final report. The Government raised the matter formally with His Excellency the Governor-General and with the Royal Commissioner with the result that Mr Justice Williams agreed that he would provide an interim report dealing with these matters.
The interim report was received by His Excellency yesterday. Because it is an interim report and the subject will be fully covered in the final Royal Commission report, and because the Royal Commissioner has included in the interim report a number of matters of confidential evidence and observations which ordinarily would not be made public, Mr Justice Williams has preferred that this interim report be treated as confidential. The Government proposes to abide by this indication of the Royal Commissioner’s wishes. I simply inform the House therefore that the interim report has been received. It will be made available to those immediately concerned with the review of the Bureau and the recommendations of the Royal Commission will be taken fully into account by the Government in any decisions that are made. The Royal Commission’s final report, including whatever recommendations there may be relating to the Narcotics Bureau, will be tabled in the Parliament when received and will be open to debate in this House. The Government appreciates very much the assistance and co-operation that it has had from Mr Justice Williams in this matter.
-by leave-The Opposition has been content to facilitate the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) making this statement to the Parliament even though he has not followed the normal procedure of allowing the statement to be in the hands of the Opposition for a couple of hours. We are concerned about the Federal Narcotics Bureau. We are glad that the Government has been considering the Bureau’s position. There has been a great amount of unease in the community concerning the Bureau’s relationship with the Federal police and the various State police forces and whether it is controlled by the correct government department. Many other questions relating to the Bureau have exercised the minds of those of us in the Opposition who have responsibility in this area. The subject of drugs and drug trafficking has exercised the minds of all Opposition members. We are concerned that there has not yet been a report on the allegations that information went from the Bureau to drug traffickers. The Minister and the House will remember that such allegations were made in June at the time that the murder of Mr and Mrs Douglas Wilson was discovered. We know that a special committee was set up to investigate these allegations. It was stated at the time that the Committee would report hastily to the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I take this opportunity of saying to the Minister that we hope that that report will be made public shortly.
We are also concerned that new allegations are being made about the Federal Narcotics Bureau. I refer to a recent report in the weekly journal, the Bulletin, that telephone tapping has been taking place illegally. These matters need to be raised in the Parliament to show what unease there is in our minds and, we believe, in the minds of the community concerning the Federal Narcotics Bureau. We are glad that the Government has been re-examining the position of the Bureau. We think it wise that the Government used the services of the Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Williams. As the Minister said in his statement, the Royal Commission is applying itself to the Federal Narcotics Bureau. The Commission is not due to report until the end of this year. It would have been extremely unwise if the Government had made decisions without the views of Mr Justice Williams in this sensitive area being made known. So an interim report was sought.
The Opposition accepts the Minister’s assurance that Mr Justice Williams has asked for this section of his report to be treated as confidential. It is understandable that this should be so. The Minister has promised me that he will make an Opposition spokesman or Opposition spokesmen in this area aware, in confidence, of some of the developments. I am glad of this and grateful to him. I hope that information will be made available in this way to the Opposition so that it can be well informed of developments. I repeat that we accept that this interim report from Mr Justice Williams is of a confidential nature. We accept that it will be part of a fuller report which will be made public at a later date. We also accept that it is of great importance that the Government should be making immediate decisions in this area. The Opposition will be watching developments with keen interest.
Mr FIFE (Farrer- Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs)- by leave- I wish to clarify a point so that there is no misunderstanding. In the context of keeping the Opposition briefed on developments in this area generally, an arrangement has been made between the Government and the Opposition. I think it is in the national interest. It is a very good arrangement. But I would not want the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) to feel that I am free to make this document available to him. Mr Justice Williams has asked that it be kept strictly confidential. There will be a full report later that will contain all of Mr Justice Williams’ recommendations. That report ultimately will be tabled in this Parliament and will be available for the information of honourable members. Opportunity will be afforded by the Government for a full debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
-This afternoon during a debate on a matter of public importance the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) sought leave to incorporate in Hansard a lengthy document. Leave was granted conditional on the incorporation presenting no problem to Hansard. 1 have since been advised by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that the Government Printer considers the document not to be of a quality acceptable for printing. Leave to incorporate the document is therefore now withdrawn.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the contributions to this debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden); the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen); the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones); and the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) have been heralded by many Australians. These honourable members, to mention only a few, have shown that they are true and honourable Australians who are genuinely concerned for the welfare of all Australian citizens. Australia is very fortunate in that it is by most standards a free country. The price of freedom, as is said, is eternal vigilance. It is for that very purpose that we have a national security agency. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation should never lose sight of that essential fact. It owes its very being to liberty and it is there to protect liberty, not to threaten it. Legislation relating to Australia’s security always poses moral and practical problems.
As a member of Parliament I find myself twixt the devil and the deep blue sea. Should I behave as a member of a national parliament and accordingly hand over enormous powers to the agency which is charged with the task of enforcing and ensuring our national security, or should I behave as a representative of my constituency and in that respect place my priority on the protection of those individuals in the community on the basis of national security? The issue can be summed up with this question: Where does national security end and infringement of basic civil liberties begin? We must begin with terminology and define explicitly what we mean by security. It must not be so elastic or rubbery that it encompasses what are at present quite legal forms of dissent and industrial disputation. As honourable members have already said in this House and as honourable senators have said in the other place, if the Parliament is to deal responsibly with these matters it must adopt a bipartisan approach and act with some regard for consensus. Certainly, in reading the record of the Senate debate on the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill, I see that the form of argument is conciliatory. That is indeed refreshing. The Government’s belated procedure of keeping the Leader of the Opposition briefed in security matters is an example of the recognition of the need for compromise on security matters.
Following previous speakers, I should like to add my warm congratulations to Mr Justice Woodward for the excellent manner in which he is performing his duty as Director-General of ASIO. Under his direction many sound reforms have been introduced to provide a more effective and responsible security agency. There is a great deal of unanimity between the Opposition and the Government on the subject of the DirectorGeneral. The Bill before us today constitutes for the most part the Government’s response to the recommendations of Mr Justice Hope. In a variety of ways, the Government’s Bills do not accord with Mr Justice Hope’s proposals. This legislation is an imperfect and distorted reflection of the Hope report. The changes are so far reaching that it has been necessary to repeal the Menzies Government’s Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1956. It is proper, then, that every honourable member wishing to express an opinion on this very important issue be given the right of expression in this House. It is both a right and a duty.
Particular areas which are covered by this bill and which are most important to me are those which effect the checks and balances mechanisms within ASIO. They are ASIO ‘s values which allow us to go to sleep at night reassured in the knowledge that every measure that could be adopted to safeguard our liberties has been taken. At the same time, they have been taken without impairing or jeopardising the effectiveness of a responsible security organisation. If correspondence that I and many other honourable members have received has been any indication, the procedure for telephone tapping, the issuance of warrants for tapping, opening mail, installing listening devices, the supply of information for the responsible Minister, the scrutiny of ASIO’s finances, the guidelines for security assessments and the notifications of adverse assessments are problems about which many in the community have expressed grave apprehension. Time permitting, I shall touch briefly on most of these areas.
On 3 April this year, after a very lengthy and sometimes passionate second reading debate, the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) in his reply said that he was considering whether the Minister in charge of ASIO should provide to Parliament from time to time some statement in relation to some of the matters contained in the report and thereby give the Parliament an opportunity to discuss the Organisation. He said:
I am inclined to believe that the Government could underline such a statement.
He went on to say:
I consider that it is a reasonable proposition that Parliament should have that opportunity.
We know that the Senate is not characterised by the cut and thrust that goes on in the proceedings of this chamber, but even for that chamber, such a concession is remarkable. I sincerely hope that that commitment will not be left to die or languish in the Senate. I hope that some measure of the conciliation that was evident in the Minister’s reply in the Senate filters through to this House and to his colleagues in the ministry.
Regarding the Opposition’s persistent call for a judicial audit, I note from the Minister’s reply that he feels that it would be inappropriate for such a proposal to be included as an application in legislation. The Minister did not close the door to that suggestion. In fact, he left the whole subject wide open for consideration and implementation on an ad hoc basis. I am sure that the Opposition would cease baying like hounds at the Government’s heels if we were given a verbal commitment that judicial audits should be conducted without breaking into any legislative commitment. I am also sure that we are sufficiently generous and accommodating to at least be grateful for such an assurance. A verbal commitment from even the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) would go some way towards reaching consensus. The reason for persistence in this regard is obvious. The Bill proceeds on the basis that the personal integrity and bona fides of two men- the Attorney-General and the Director-General of ASIO- are sufficient to assure our continuance in the security process. If the Minister and heads of departments were infallible and immortal, perhaps this trust would be adequate. Senator Evans said of the Attorney-General:
The greatest threat that most of us feel when Senator Durack is on his feet is that he will fall asleep before he finishes his sentence.
Very simply, the Attorney-General is not made of the stuff of which despots and storm-troopers are composed. As I have said before, I have great regard for the fine work His Honour Mr Justice Woodward has carried out since his appointment by the Labor Government. But the fact is that Directors-General and Attorneys-General do move on because of either death, dismissal or defeat. The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) knows that effect of life only too well. Each of the three previous Attorneys-General has fallen for one of those three reasons. As my Leader the honourable member for Oxley (Mr Hayden) asked in his speech earlier today: What happens after His Honour Mr Justice Woodward retires? Who takes over as head of ASIO then? Blind trust in two fallible individuals, no matter who they are, does not encourage us to sleep more soundly and securely. Checks, if they are to work properly and are to be seen to work, must be institutionalised. The Opposition’s amendments simply achieve that measure of accountability.
I have already referred to the need for regular reports to the Parliament. That notion commends itself. The former Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, established that the principle of parliamentary accountability was workable. In 1973 as Attorney-General he disclosed that in the previous 10 years ASIO had conducted an average of approximately 100 telephone taps. That disclosure did not precipitate anarchy, nor was
Australia’s security cover blown as a result Our spies were not left out in the cold. Neither would our security be damaged now if ASIO revealed to the Parliament the numbers and the kinds of warrants issued for taps, listening devices, mail interceptions and so on. Indeed, I am reminded of what an American friend said in reply to my comment that the Watergate affair and subsequent Central Intelligence Agency revelations must have severely affected the conscience of American society. He said that shocking as the revelations were, people were comforted by the fact that only in precious few countries could the truth be exposed in such a way. This fact fortified Americans’ confidence in their system of institutional checks and balances. So too should the Australian judiciary be involved in our security network.
The investigations by Mr Justice Hope and in South Australia by Mr Justice White and Mrs Justice Mitchell provided salutary lessons in the value of a judicial audit or a review of our security processes. I should like now to refer to Justice Mitchell’s report on the dismissal of Special Branch Commissioner Salisbury as an example of the sensitivities which exist in the area of security. She quotes Salisbury as saying:
As I see it, the duty of the police is solely to the law. It is the Crown and not to any politically elected government or to any politician or to anyone else for that matter.
Justice Mitchell sums up her own views by saying:
That statement in so far that it seems to divorce duty to the Crown from a duty to the politically elected government suggests an absence of understanding of the constitutional system of South Australia or for that matter to the United Kingdom.
That must also hold true for ASIO and its relations with this Parliament. We are able to say, Yes ASIO is accountable’, only if we can be assured that the line of accountability can be traced unfalteringly from Director-General to Attorney-General to Parliament. As we have indicated, the Opposition believes it to be discreet and wise to limit the Attorney-General’s power of access to files so that he or she knows of them, not about them. The details of files open the way for political abuse and we draw the line clearly at that point. The details of files clearly should not be disclosed to a politician, be he the Attorney-General or the Prime Minister. The final guarantee of accountability is desirous of maintaining a financial audit as was suggested in the Hope report.
The revelations which surfaced in the Senate in the debate on this Bill and which concerned the apparent free-wheeling and unrestrained expenditure of ASIO must convince us of the obligation to rewrite the rules, not to formalise this illegality as the Government did in the last session. It is precisely the lack of accountability for financial matters and the apparent bottomless pit from which it drew its funds that enticed the CIA to put into effect some of its more harebrained schemes. There is a direct correlation between finances and the sort of activities in which the security agency becomes involved. A financial accountability therefore is vitally important in ensuring that a security agency stays within the bounds of a democratic society.
– I was anxious to speak on this legislation because I and the people of my electorate are very strongly opposed to allowing the powers of a political police force to bug telephones and to put bugging devices in the homes or offices or anywhere else where this police force considers it can obtain information that may be beneficial to it. This legislation contemplates unprecedented steps in the annals of Australia. I am fearful of the infringements to the civil rights, liberties and freedoms of the Australian people that have been upheld since federation. One only has to attend an Anzac Day commemoration each year. We are then reminded of those who died in two world wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War and who died for freedom, liberty and our way of life. This legislation virtually contemplates a way of life that Australians have died for in two world wars, the Korean war and the Vietnam war. Australians, many of whom fought in these wars to overthrow fascist regimes and to protect the rights and freedoms of the individual, are now being placed in an insidious position of having to look at the prospect of a new form of fascism in their own backyards of clean, respected Australia.
We must admit that secret police forces exist in many nations of the world. They exist to protect the interests of the ruling elite and not the majority of the people. I would have liked to have spoken more strongly about certain countries that I visited in South East Asia recently but due to the fact that I was a guest it would have been improper for me to censure the governments of the nations which I visited. I am certainly hopeful that Australia will never curtail the freedoms or liberties of the people as has been done in some of the countries in South East Asia. It is my view that capitalism, based on exploitation of the masses and motivated by personal greed, cannot survive without a secret police force and that is why we have these secret organisations. One only has to remind himself of the program which concerned the Bolivian tin miners shown on television a few weeks ago.
– Shameful. I cannot understand why more protests are not reaching members of this Parliament appealing to them and to the Australian Broadcasting Commission to show this program three or four more times, displaying the living standards of the Bolivian tin miners who are told at the point of a gun to get back in the mines and mine the tin ore. I obtained a transcript of that program. One man 34 years of age and another 28 years of age had been examined by doctors. They were told they were dying because they had tuberculosis and miner’s silicosis. They were asked what they intended to do and they said that they would go back to work in the mine. The television interviewer asked: ‘But you are dying with silicosis and T.B. ‘ and one man said: ‘Yes I know but if I don’t go back to work my wife and children will have nothing to eat’. Through you, Mr Deputy Speaker, I ask the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) whether my memory of what was said during that television program is correct.
– It is absolutely right. Expectation of life averaged 34.
– Expectation of life averaged 34 years. Thank you. Why? Because that country has laws similar to those this Government intends to inflict on the Australian people by this ASIO legislation. I hope that the miners of this country will not fall to that level of standard of living. The honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) represents coal miners. Our coal miners have been able to a degree to avoid silicosis and dusted lungs through the activities of sympathetic government and militant trade unionism.
-Don’t forget the Hunter Valley, Bert.
– No. I am proud to represent the Hunter Valley. The honourable member for Paterson will be speaking more strongly in favour of the miners when his electorate is enveloped by the development of the coal mines in the upper Hunter Valley in his electorate. Honourable members should watch his change of attitude. His sympathies will change from the old cockey to the coal miner as the coal resources in the Hunter Valley are developed. Unfortunately the experience of democratic societies of security organisations has not been good. Let us look at the Central Intelligence Agency in America, the kindred body of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I think it was mentioned only once in this Parliament or in the Australian Press, when ASIO was under debate here some time ago, that the ASIO headquarters in Melbourne was visited by, I think, Richard Helms, the head of the CIA in the United States. Let me develop further my argument on the activities of the CIA in the United States. Philip Agee said in his book Inside the Company that the CIA operations mainly consist of” control, guidance and support of individuals and organisations in the battle against communism. Who would know better than Philip Agee who was a senior officer in the CIA and who defected? I regret that the Labor Government in Britain caused him to leave Britain; it would not give him amnesty.
Both the CIA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under J. Edgar Hoover, were obsessed with the battle against communism. Robert Francis Kennedy, when AttorneyGeneral of the United States in the early 1960s, saw communism as a threat to the United States- but not in the United States. After nearly 20 years this is still the case. That view is spreading to Australia, more so now than before. It is sad to note that the FBI hierarchy did not share Kennedy’s view. In 1959 the FBI office in New York City had over 400 agents working on communism and only four agents actively working on organised crime. I ask you, Mr Deputy Speaker, in all the fairness for which you are noted: Which was the greater evil to society? The CIA activities at home included the following: Political surveillance of hundreds of thousands of citizens and hundreds of organisations which have never been charged with any violation of law; selective investigations and prosecutions directed at political enemies; campaigns of preventative action designed to disrupt and destroy groups or individuals through forgery; false accusations; fostering dissension; extensive use of plainly illegal methods, such as unauthorised wire tapping and bugging, burglaries, mail opening, even assault and violence; the creation of a police apparatus of dossiers; undercover agents, informers and spies. This is what the CIA did in the United States.
I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, from practical experience, that the most dangerous part of law enforcement is the handling of informants and phizgigs. They will turn on you like a snake. They will without scruple betray every one and any one. This is one matter I am particularly concerned about. I would like this Parliament to know how much ASIO pays to informants. It is very difficult to find out. Nobody and no organisation in the United States was immune from the CIA: Not labour unions, not youth and student groups, not the media, not the professionals- the journalists, the lawyers and doctors- not the business organisations, not the politicians nor the political parties. Let us look at its activities abroad: It engaged in covert actions, the training of paramilitary organisations, attempted assassinations and other forms of violence. Always its motivations stemmed from its obsession with communism.
The CIA, like the FBI, was, and probably still is, obsessed with communism. Remember the many attempts on the life of Fidel Castro, the man who led his people out of the clutches of capitalism and American imperialism. Cuba today has made huge strides forward. Today the people have education, health care and adequate diet. Big steps have been made in improving housing. I remember that years ago I got up in this Parliament and defended Fidel Castro after I visited Cuba in 1962. I stand by my remarks today. He is one of the greatest men this century, for what he has done for Cuba. I entirely accept responsibility for that statement. Look at Marshall Baillieu who was reared on frogs legs in aspic. Yes, a Baillieu, of course. He would not know what to do if he was deprived of the luxuries on which he was reared. Oh, a Baillieu.
– But Castro is a non-aligned communist.
-Castro is a what?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The House will come to order. I ask the honourable member for Hunter to come back to the Bill.
-The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs well knows that the United States drove him into the arms of communism. The Minister well knows that there were 650,000 permanently unemployed in little Cuba, which had a population of six million. The Minister knows that rents and telephone charges in Cuba were the highest in the world. The Minister knows -
– No, I have never been there.
-No? I think that the Minister is honourable enough to know but not honourable enough to admit it. Farmers had to pay 65 per cent to 70 per cent of their income in rent to landlords in Cuba and could not afford to send their children for medical attention. The learned people on the government side who read selectively should read Anatomy of a Revolution by
Huberman and Sweezy. It gives the mortality rate between 7 and 12 years of age in little Cuba. Before the revolution hook-worms were found to be slithering from the mouths and noses of little children. Hook-worms cannot live on a dead body but they were found slithering from their noses. Government members laugh and are hypocritical about this but these are facts. If they are honourable let them seek to deny those facts printed in that book by Huberman and Sweezy. Castro will do me. If I could do as much for Australia as Castro has done for Cuba I would feel, if I left this Parliament, that I had served the Parliament very well.
One should look at the Americans’ activitiestheir covert actions. They were obsessed with communism. The Senate Committee of Inquiry under Senator Frank Church- even the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) would concede in private that this is true- within the last two years established beyond doubt the many attempts by the CIA to take the life of Fidel Castro. It is the kindred body of ASIO. Fidel Castro led his people out of the clutches of capitalism. Cuba is the only country in the Caribbean to have attained these goals. Still today over ISO million persons in other countries are deprived of these benefits. That is the bogey of communism. The people of Cuba have Castro to thank- the man the CIA wanted to exterminate. The CIA began planning his assassination as early as 19S9. 1 did not go to Cuba until 1962. In February 1961 the CIA kindred body to ASIO sent a box of Castro’s favorite cigars which was contaminated and delivered by a CIA agent to Cuba. This fact was established, on sworn evidence, by the Frank Church Committee of Inquiry in the United States. This was done with the aim of taking Castro’s life. Later a skin diving suit impregnated with poisonous fungus was prepared by the CIA as a gift to Castro. Later still, poison pills and a ball point with a deadly needle were used in the CIA’s endeavours to destroy the people’s leader in Cuba. We all remember the incident involving the shipload of sugar in the Panama Canal which was found to be impregnated with arsenic and which Cuba was shipping to another communist country, namely, China. Was the CIA responsible? I believe it was. Honourable members opposite can laugh if they like, but let them stand up and deny the facts that I am disclosing to the national Parliament and placing on the record of this Parliament. I do not want to leave this Parliament with my character stained by people saying that I was not prepared to stand up and tell the truth.
-Is that all the honourable member can say? He is only a log of wood. He ought to leave the Parliament. In 1963 the CIA used a well known underworld figure- an American hoodlum named Giancana- in an effort to assassinate Castro in Cuba. Fortunately it was not successful. I do not deny that every country has the right to protect its own existence. An intelligence gathering agency is necessary for this purpose, provided that is what it is used for. It is absolutely necessary that the Government be supplied with correct information for the proper defence and protection of the country. Some aspects of the CIA’s intelligence attempts are cited in an article by Harry Howe Ransom entitled ‘CLA: A Modern Frankenstein’. That article tells us of some of the CIA’s failures in the intelligence field. It reads:
The first nuclear bomb test by USSR in 1949, was unexpected, the North Korean attack across the 38th parallel, in June 19S0 was a surprise, as was the later Chinese communist intervention; and the Bay of Pigs expedition by the CIA against Cuba in 1961 was an intelligence failure, in both senses of the word.
There have been similar failures by ASIO in Australia. The article continues:
In 1968, American intelligence lost the Soviet Army in Central Europe for two weeks, and President Johnson learned that Russian tanks had invaded Czechoslovakia, not from the CIA, but from the Soviet Ambassador in Washington.
In the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, there was a real test of the system. Here all the best technology and human skills had been focussed on a known trouble spot. American intelligence failed -
ASIO would fail also, despite the deprivation of the freedom of the people which is provided for in the legislation now before the Parliament - and the war came as a surprise to unprepared Washington.
More recently we have seen United States intelligence fail yet again. Only this year Washington was unprepared for the internal turmoil in Iran. I am reminded by one of my colleagues that Jean Seberg, the actress, committed suicide in France this month after years of CIA persecution. Given that 80 per cent of the information that goes into finished intelligence reports is from sources such as scientific and technical journals, political speeches and other public documents- I emphasise that it comes from all public documents- it is not surprising that ASIO stuffed it up. Why then is there the need for secrecy? A certain amount of secrecy is in the nation’s interest, but total secrecy is just not on.
What do we know of ASIO’s activities? How well has it learned from its big sister, the CIA? We know that it is the policy of the CIA to help local services, which in this case is ASIO. This has been confirmed by the testimonies of Victor
Marchetti and Phillip Agee, both of whom are former CIA agents. Christopher Boyce testified at his trial that he became a spy for the Russians because he was outraged at the CIA’s activities against the Whitlam Government in 1974 and 1975. We know that ASIO activities involve having surveillance teams for following persons in the streets, observation posts to observe the comings and goings in buildings, multiple forms of photography, access to statistics, police files and information on airline, rail and shipping passengers. What do we know of its interception of mails and its telephone tapping activities?
Due to the limit of time I must cut my remarks short. I remind you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that before you came into the Parliament- no one would be more mindful of this than the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) if I can jog his active brain- Edward Ward when sitting on the front bench reminded the House in the presence of Sir Robert Menzies that Sir Anthony Eden wrote in his memoirs, which can be found in the Parliamentary Library, that he had received a letter from Sir Robert Menzies after visiting Nasser during the Suez crisis and that Sir Robert Menzies wrote:
Egypt is not only a dictatorship but it has all the earmarks of a police state. The tapping of telephone lines, the installation of microphones, the creation of a vast body of security police- all these things are commonplace.
As I have said, how times have changed. Now we are virtually creating a police state by this legislation, as Menzies accused the Nasser Government of doing at that time. The honourable member for Moreton will remember that the late Edward Ward M.P. sitting on the front bench in this chamber made this undenied allegation.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– If I may concentrate more on the position in this country -
Motion ( by Mr Hodges ) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original Question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Proposed Reference to Select Committee
– I move:
I outlined, at some greater length, in my second reading speech last night, the reasons why I take the view that this Bill should be referred to a select committee. I do not intend to take the time of the House tonight reiterating those views. However, I do wish to say that it is my very firm view that on a Bill of this magnitude, which does encompass some quite wide sweeping changes to the security organisation in Australia, it should be open to the public to put views before the Parliament before the Bill becomes law. It is for that very reason that I move this motion that a select committee be set up, because that is the only mechanism that allows people to put their views to the Parliament in a formal way and to have those views properly taken into account. It is true, as has been reiterated at some length during the second reading speech, that an extensive royal commission under Mr Justice Hope was held and that people certainly had there -
-Order! The honourable member for Wilmot will resume his seat. The House will come to order. The honourable member for Wilmot has a right to address the House in silence. I ask honourable members to remain silent. Those not intending to remain in the chamber will effect their departure and other will resume their seats.
– I was saying that it is true that members of the public had the opportunity to put forward views to the Hope Royal Commission, but it should be remembered that at the time that people were putting forward those views they were commenting on the Australian Intelligence Security Organisation as it existed in the past. Opportunity has not been given to the public to put forward views on the provisions that are contained in this Bill. I believe very firmly that people should have the opportunity to put forward views, not on the method by which ASIO acted in the past but on the provisions specifically contained in this Bill.
In my second reading speech last night I said that I do not claim to have any legal expertise. I am not legally trained and for that reason I have not expressed a view on the provisions that are contained in the Bill. I do think that we, as a Parliament, have an obligation to allow those people who have views on the various provisions of the Bill to put forward their views and to have those views properly taken into account in a formal way by the Parliament It is for that reason that I put this motion forward.
– I formally second the motion.
-The Opposition supports the motion moved by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), for very obvious reasons. This is an extremely difficult Bill. It is an important piece of legislation dealing with the civil liberties, the protection and the security of the citizens of this country. Let me remind the House that we are not setting up a new organisation. The Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation is already in existence. There are two Acts which it is proposed to repeal under this Bill. I am prepared to agree that certain improvements are being brought in under this legislation. Honourable members on this side of the House, whilst they can see lots of objections to the Bill as it stands, still accept the proposition that there should be an Australian Security and Intelligence Organisation. Secondly, and just as importantly, they accept that the functions of that organisation and its method of working should be quite clearly defined. What honourable members in the Opposition do worry about is how it will protect Australia from people who are dangerous to its security.
As soon as one starts talking about security one gets into a difficult position because what one person, a group of people or even the Government may consider to be a threat to the security of the country need not necessarily be accepted by others as a threat to the security of this country. One of the things that worries me most about this security intelligence organisation is that I have significant doubts about the intelligence of some of its members. When I talk about intelligence I am using the word not in the sense in which it is used in the Organisation but in the sense in which it is normally used in conversation. I do not consider that people generally connected with security intelligence organisations are politically literate. It is one of my greatest worries that the sort of people who are put in charge of security intelligence organisations, or who gravitate into prominent positions within those organisations, have a very narrow view as to what kind of political actions ought to be allowed in a country and what kind of actions are well within the limits with which a democracy can easily deal.
If one accepts the proposition that there are totalitarian countries in the world which are trying to undermine the security of this country, the most important aspect of the difference between them and us is that totalitarianism. If we cannot avoid the totalitarianism which they embrace and use continuously there is not much point in defending our kind of security. That is the important point. If in fact we behave as Russian or Vietnamese or right wing dictatorships behave, we are not behaving any differently and the whole reason for opposing such regimes disappears. It certainly disappears as far as I am concerned.
I turn to the particular points of this legislation that this proposed committee ought to look at. We would like the committee to consider the definitions or the redefinitions of the concept of security and the element of subversion in order to narrow their scope and to limit the possibility of their misapplication. They are among the most important points of the legislation. In otherwords, the proposed committee should define the aim of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and state exactly what it should be looking for, what exactly is subversion. It should determine when a perfectly legitimate point of view, though possibly considered to be extreme by some members of the community, is subversive. Just because it is extreme does not make it subversive. It does not pose a threat to the security of this country.
The important aspect of the whole aim of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation legislation is that it should make clear that the aim of that Organisation is not to protect a particular government, a particular political party or even the two, three or four main political parties in the mainstream of Australian life. That is not the aim or should not be the aim of an Australian security intelligence organisation. I disagree with nearly all, if not all, of the political organisations with which, I assume, ASIO normally deals. I do not think that people have considered me for a long time to be extreme in my point of view. Just because one disagrees with organisations or individuals does not mean that they should be barred from employment or have their telephone tapped and conversations listened into. Before any of those actions are allowed there needs to be a clear cut danger to Australia. If we define security and subversion in a sense so broad that it encompasses anything which would involve a change in the way of life in this country, it is much too broad.
What argument would we then have against, for example, the Soviet Union? I suppose that these days it is one of the outstanding examples of a totalitarian country. What reason could we possibly have then for opposing the activities of its type of security intelligence organisation, the KGB. It exists because the Russians do not allow any sort of opposition. They try to prevent any sort of opposition which they consider is in disagreement with the form of government which they have at present. They consider any threat to their form of government to be subversive. They consider that anybody who says anything against the Soviet state inside the Soviet Union is spreading malicious propaganda against the state and is a threat to their security.
It is terribly important for all of us to realise that the distinction between democratic countries and non-democatic countries is relatively narrow. The most important differentiation between democratic countries and undemocratic and totalitarian countries is that in democratic countries people have a right to disagree with the governments in those countries and the right to organise to remove those governments. I agree that it is unfortunate that there are people in this world- as a number of people have pointed out in this debate- who do not accept what we consider to be the political process. In other words, they are not prepared to rely on persuasion, propaganda, rational argument, voting, meetings, marches or whatever else is considered to be part of the democratic way of life. Some of them believe in assassination, hijacking or whatever other alternatives are being used by terrorist organisations all over the world.
Australia has been extremely lucky as we have not had a significant number of those sorts of episodes. As far as I know, with the exception of the Hilton bombing- we are not 100 per cent sure what happened there, but assuming that the Hilton bombing was some type of terrorist attackvery few, if any, terrorist attacks have happened in Australia. For example, there is no evidence that the so-called left wing extremists have ever done anything terribly dangerous in this country. I am not aware of anything particularly dangerous that they have done. I am not aware that they have ever been really accused, with any sort of backing up of hard facts of having done anything. As far as I know, generally speaking the same is true of the right wing. Of course I know, as all honourable members know, that groups, especially in some of the migrant communities, are still carrying on feuds which existed in the countries whence they came. It is deplorable. I suppose that as long as those sorts of organisations and people exist who are prepared to use force or terrorism of other kinds we have to have an organisation to keep tab on them to make sure that they do not use terrorism and injure innocent people in this country. But I do not think anybody in Australia would believe that either left wing or right wing- the Ustasha is commonly mentioned- is a threat to Australian society.
They behave in an unpleasant and sometimes dangerous way, if one believes what has been said about them. But they are not a threat to society as a whole. Therefore it is important that we define very clearly the questions of security and subversion. For our security organisation to act effectively we have to have bipartisan support in the broadest sense as far as political life in this country is concerned. There ought to be a report to this House by the Director-General of ASIO. I think I heard the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) tonight or last night on a PM program supporting that sort of general proposition; that there ought to be reports to the Parliament. Obviously they cannot be specific.
– I did not mention Parliament; I said to the Government, not to the Parliament.
– To the Government and the Leader of the Opposition. I am not sure that that is the best way of doing it but that is the sort of question that ought to be raised before a committee such as that proposed by the honourable member for Wilmot. I am not sure that one ought to impose the burden of informing just one person in this House. Obviously if the whole House is to be informed it would get less information. The important thing is that it ought to be plain to the people who run our intelligence organisations that they are under parliamentary supervision, that the people in general believe in the democratic process, that we do not want ASIO to interfere with what we consider to be legal though perhaps extremely unpopular political movements and that we have to protect the civil liberties of individuals in this society although they may be people who hold the most unpopular views. It is very easy for a society to protect people and be keen on their point of view if they are in the mainstream of society because everybody agrees with them. What distinguishes a democratic society from an undemocratic society is the protection of the right to disagree- to disagree with the vast majority of the people. Some people may be way out but provided they are not obvious risks, in the sense of being terrorists using dangerous weapons, they must not be interfered with. I have concentrated on this aspect of ASIO because I think it is a more important one as far as this Parliament is concerned. At this stage I have ignored ASIO’s work, if any, related to foreign spying in this country.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Mr Deputy Speaker -
Motion (by Mr Hodges) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the Bill be referred to a select committee.
The House divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed Reference to Legislation Committee
– by leave- Pursuant to notice given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden), I move:
This is the most important legislation that any parliament could have before it. It is on that basis that the Opposition has moved that it be referred to a legislation committee for consideration. For an intelligence organisation in this country to be effective it is essential that the legislation covering it be drafted on a bipartisan basis. I am very disappointed that the motion to refer the Bill to a select committee was not carried even though three supporters of the Government voted for it. Nevertheless, they also voted for the gagging of the debate. They created the impression that the debate in the Parliament on the merits of this legislation is a sham. The whole thrust of the Opposition ‘s case is based on the rights of the people in this country. This legislation means that those rights can be seriously interfered with. The privacy and liberty of people can be interfered with. Certainly their prospects of promotion can be affected.
There is a lot of case history to show that the activities of intelligence agencies in Australia have not fulfilled the functions that we hoped they would fulfil. When this legislation was debated in the Senate our colleagues moved that it be referred to the appropriate committee. I regret to say that even though so-called small ‘1’ Liberals, such as Senator Missen and Senator Puplick, indicated that they might support such a motion they voted against the motion when it was put. We make one further plea to the Government. If we in this Parliament are serious about democracy -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The level of conversation is far too high. If honourable members do not accede to my request to be silent I will be left with no alternative but to deal with them.
– The House seems to be treating this matter in a rather facetious fashion. This is the most important piece of legislation that I can imagine. Most of us have been inundated by communications from people who want to put before us the reasons why they think the legislation should not be passed at all or why it should be improved. One of the ways to do that would be to set up a parliamentary committee at which evidence could be taken as to the way in which this Bill has been drafted.
– Hear, hear!
-Despite the fact that we often get some encouragement from honourable members who say ‘hear, hear! ‘ we get very little action. Let us look seriously at what the legislation really means. It means that the Director-General can keep from the responsible Minister the intelligence information that he has in his possession. It also enables the tapping of telephones, the interception of mail and the use of listening devices. None of the information gathered needs be made available. We do not think that people are entitled to have their rights interfered with unless there is a good and valid reason so to do. Let us not hide from the tragic track record of events in South Australia. After a long lapse of time there was a judicial audit of that State ‘s intelligence organisation and Mr Justice White clearly indicated that there had been a failure to understand what intelligence organisations are supposed to do. The whole idea of subversion is based upon terrorism and violence.
– That is not the whole idea.
-It is the whole idea. I do not know why the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs says that it is not. I refer honourable members to page 58 of the Hope report.
– That is part of it.
-It does not matter what the Minister thinks it is a part of. If I used the definition which the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs has used of what we are about it would mean that files could be used on other issues. That is the thrust of what we are about. It is the use of intelligence to prevent the overthrow by violence of a government or the destruction of people for no reason at all other than to instil fear. That is the definition. In this Bill there are all sorts of intrusions into people’s rights. As evidenced by the report of Mr Justice White, files were collected on people simply because they went to a meeting suggesting that peace might break out in the world or they went to a communist book shop or they belonged to the Australian Labor Party. There were files on all these people. It was the greatest misapplication of intelligence that one could find. But there are serious situations.
Recently in New South Wales there was a defamation case involving somebody who used to be an employee of this Parliament. In that case counsel for the defence- a newspaper- asked the plaintiff about a security report. That particular case is very significant. This took place within the last 18 months. So in the last 18 months, in the New South Wales courts of justice, we had a learned Queen’s Counsel asking a plaintiff whether there was a security report about a person. That shows there was a definite leak from the security sources to that particular Queen’s Counsel. That is a very significant case. This brings me to the point that in 1966 again a file was used in this House concerning the question of a young fellow’s mother having a security file. The Prime Minister at the time was the late Mr Harold Holt who admitted that the then Minister for the Army had access to the file. The Minister for the Army on that particular occasion is now the Prime Minister of this country. It is a very significant factor because as we know one can create within the intelligence organisation a socalled elite which does not think it should be subject to any surveillance, any order or any check. The members of this elite can promote themselves into all sorts of advantageous positions throughout the length and breadth of this country, and in fact they have done so. If one looks at some of the senior appointments in the public sector of this country one finds that many of the appointees have had some sort of intelligence association in the past. The Opposition is aware of the situation. It is not good to think that the Government is creating an old boy network on the basis that it is doing something about intelligence.
The report of Mr Justice White gives, for the first time, an independent analysis of what was happening when this organisation or its equivalent was endeavouring to function. Mr Justice White made the point that a significant proportion of the files related to political, trade union and other such matters. He made the further point that they had nothing to do with security at all. When we look at the problems in Australia now we can see reasons why there ought to be security files kept on what is called the extreme right. The members of this House who attend functions as officials in public life know the particular extreme right organisations that are likely to demonstrate and the sort of violence that they want to exhibit. Unfortunately, they think that by so doing they can overthrow the government in some other country. Nevertheless, it means again- tragically- that we cannot invite the heads of some governments from other countries to come to Australia. We are unable to do so because we cannot guarantee their security.
– The Labor Party could not guarantee security when a head of state was invited. You were in government then, not us.
-The same position applies now. The right honourable member would not be able to go to some functions in his electorate because he would be involved, from a security point of view. At a recent function which I attended 400 State police were trying to protect some government Ministers. This was a function that was to celebrate a national day. This is happening now. Why is it that the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) does not want to talk about this legislation? He was good enough to talk about it in relation to the customs narcotic legislation. He was prepared to say. ‘This is fair. This is reasonable’. All that the Opposition is suggesting now is that we have another look at this.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. It is obvious that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not hear what I said because he is totally misrepresenting my approach and, incidentally, making it difficult for me to try to support him later.
-Order! There is no point of order.
-When similar legislation, namely, the customs narcotic legislation was before the House, the Government was prepared to have a legislation committee hearing. It was a very effective hearing and members such as the right honourable member for Lowe made constructive contributions towards amending that legislation. I am trying to suggest that we do the same with this Bill. If this Parliament is going to be involved in a bipartisan situation then it is important that we have a look at the defects of this legislation. I do not think that any honourable member opposite is prepared to have files collected on himself or his wife or relatives without having some reason given eventually- not immediately- as to why that file was collected. Honourable members opposite would want an assurance that information so collected would not be used. We know that, as human beings, if there are people spying on our activities then that information can be used in all sorts of ways that have nothing to do with intelligence collection but which could have everything to do with a person’s privacy. But the tragic part of this situation is that the Government whilst tending to adopt a stance of bipartisanship did not really accept any of the amendments. One sees this when one looks at the 30 hours of debate which took place in the Senate. In the Senate it objected to the matter going to a select committee. The matter has come into this House now. It has been an on and off debate. One never knows when it will start. There has been no continuity of debate. It has been dragged around. There has been some loose sort of arrangement that anybody can get into the debate on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Bill as and when there is nothing else for the Government to do. We have had a specious motion moved by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) suggesting that the Bill go to a select committee. He has been hoping to goodness that the motion will never be carried because he voted for the gag. What sort of genuineness are we getting in the debate? There are no votes in support of this legislation as it is. There are a lot of votes against it. Opposition members are being inundated with representations from people in Government members’ electorates saying what they think is wrong. Many people have clearly indicated to us that in their view their mail has been interfered with or they feel that a listening device has been used.
– No one has said that to me.
-No, because you live in an area where nobody wants to talk to you. That is your problem. Plenty of people understand the problems of telephone tapping. Everyone knows that warrants have been issued. That is the significant part. Those of us who have been in government know- the Minister knows this as well- that warrants are issued. We have no objection to the fact that warrants are issued but we want an accountability at a later stage showing why this was done. Why not let the Parliament know how many warrants were issued? Why not let responsible Ministers know in the first instance whether there ought to be a warrant? The whole thrust of the Opposition’s propositions in both this legislation and similar legislation is to guarantee that there has been some justification, some accountability, for what has happened. Never again do we want to see anybody getting from a file information which he can misuse or abuse. That is in the interests of all of us. Government members know it has happened in this Parliament.
I have cited a recent case where this happened in the New South Wales Supreme Court. I cannot understand how in that matter, in these modern times, our intelligence organisation allowed that information out. Opposition members who have had some experience in government are well aware of the pussyfooting that went on when trying to help people who may have had some previous association in what was deemed to be intelligence gathering. As the White report clearly shows, those people had been improperly trained or indoctrinated as to their functions. Is it little wonder, when one remembers the Hilton bomb outrage that there has been no question of trying to ascertain how we could ever possibly have prevented it. I submit this is still the present problem.
We have a new head of ASIO. Opposition members are delighted to have met him. We thank the Lord that we appointed him because that is the important situation. But it is obvious, is it not, that if we can select the person whom everybody now says is the right person to be the head of intelligence in this country, we ought to be able to be involved in what is happening with the people whom he has underneath him.
When we suggest, for example, a judicial audit, we hear all sorts of arguments. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) was in a frenzy this afternoon, suggesting that if a judge came in to do a judicial audit all of the people in intelligence would freeze and be unable to act because people would be looking over their shoulders. Does he seriously suggest that people will be afraid of the truth? Is he afraid that decent people will not want to be accountable for their functions? If it is good enough to have an Auditor-General looking over their shoulders to see whether they are misappropriating the dollars, is it not equally as important, if not more important to have a judicial audit, say every three to five years, to see that we are not maligned or that our wives are not maligned or that when we apply for a promotion in the Public Service it is not denied on some issue because a report has been made against us?
– It would be a political witch hunt.
-I do not think it would be a witch hunt because we would have a judicial audit, not a political audit. If we left it to the Government it would be a witch hunt, we accept that. The tragedy of this legislation is that we read in the Press that the Attorney-General has said: ‘I do not care what you say about it. The party has made a decision; this legislation is going through’. It is a party room decision and all the so-called radicals, the back benchers who have views to express, have been silenced by their party. That is the important point that we want to make. That is why members on the Government side are voting en bloc. They have been directed to do it.
– You have never done anything else.
-We always express our views. That is more than the Minister does. The point is that we express them.
– You are bound to vote according to Caucus.
-The Government is a one man band. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs should be the last to make such interjections at present. He is not travelling too well in the Press at present. The Press cannot distinguish between him and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). But somebody is getting a bigger salary than he is. Government supporters need to start to speak for themselves.
– You have to vote according to Caucus, don ‘t you? Admit it.
-I do not have to vote according to anything. I can stand up and make a speech.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The House will come to order.
-This is a little bit away from the point but these interjections are very helpful. These are the sorts of things that could come up in a legislation committee. We would love to get the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs and the Prime Minister in a legislation committee and see whether the Minister ever disagrees with the Prime Minister. That would be an occasion.
– Do you disagree with your own Caucus?
-The Minister is worried only about his promotion.
-Order! The House will come to order.
– You tell me when you have been prepared to vote against your own Caucus.
-I will debate any matter -
– No, you answer the question.
-The Government has silenced its back bench. It has used the power of the Prime Minister to silence all the lackeys behind the front bench.
– Tell me when you have voted against your own caucus.
-I would be grateful -
-Order! Interjections are out of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition should address the Chair.
-I am trying to, but I have to answer interjections. The point I am trying to make to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, whom I respect, is that if a legislation committee were to discuss all of the matters that we have been endeavouring to mention in the course of this debate- a debate, I might add, that has been gagged- we would have some intelligent discussion. Which one of the honourable members opposite wishes to argue the definition of subversion in a debate such as this? That definition is given in clause 5 of the Bill. Why will they not sit across the table and discuss what is meant by subversion as it is drafted in the legislation? Is it not important that when we look at the definition of subversion, for example, we look at the words used by His Honour Mr Justice Hope on page 34 of his report?
Should honourable members opposite not see whether one of them could not improve on the definition in clause 5? Why is it that when we look at clause 8 honourable members opposite do not say: * We do not want a situation where intelligence information may not be given to the Minister’? That is the position. Information collected by the Director-General can be withheld and a Minister not told. That is stated in clause 8 of the Bill. Again, the question of information cannot be the subject of appeal because a security assessment can be denied if the AttorneyGeneral says so. So we have a Catch 22 situation. An adverse security assessment can be made against us and if we are not told that it exists what chance do we have of appealing? These are the sorts of things which concern us. We think that as fair minded small ‘1’ liberals, honourable members opposite would understand that people have rights.
– Are there no exceptions?
-There are exceptions. If only the honourable member would look at the spirit of the matter before us. Mr Deputy Speaker, the interjections keep flowing and my time is running out. The Opposition has put forward a number of propositions which we think in no way show political bias. I cannot see how anybody in the Parliament can object to a judicial audit. I cannot see how anybody should not want accountability, whether it be in respect of warrants issued or financial accountability. For the life of me, I cannot see how honourable members opposite do not want to talk about the definition of subversion. It is for those reasons that at this very late hour we ask honourable members opposite to think again and to object to their high powered bosses telling them to vote to push this legislation through. They should look at it on the basis of intelligent discussion.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion. These Bills, having been -
– He is seconding the motion.
-Order! The House will come to order. The honourable member for Lalor has seconded the motion. I now call him if he wishes to speak next.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, the Bills before trie House have not been adequately debated because the House and the Senate lack the raw material on which they can form a proper judgment. The central issue is the relative priority to be given to the power of two institutions: First, the democratic Parliament, the method of operation of which is open and subject to intensive scrutiny by the Press and by the public; and secondly, a bureaucratic secret organisation the method of operation of which is unknown and is not subject to any scrutiny at all. Members of such committees as the Public Accounts Committee are well aware of the ease with which the government departments simply put the word ‘secret’ or ‘confidential’ on files which involve material and which ought to be open to scrutiny by instruments of this Parliament. It is a very common practice. Once we say that it is secret censorship is applied to it and people say: ‘Well, that is the end of it. We do not need to scrutinise it any further’. Like all forms of censorship, the central assumptions on which it is based are unspoken, rarely examined and absolutely taken for granted. People are inclined to parrot the words: reasons of State ‘.
I was interested to hear the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) speak last night. What worried me about his speech was that I could imagine an opposite number in the Supreme Soviet in Moscow saying exactly the same thing about the KGB. I could imagine such a person saying: ‘Our entire social structure is tied up with the KGB. Its reasons of operation must not be subject to scrutiny. If it says that what it does is right, we have to accept that on face value’. I think that is a terrible thing. We are inclined to argue that everything that happens in a security organisation must be taken on trust. Such organisations do not have an impressive record. I believe that a legislation committee is the most appropriate forum for this case to be examined.
I draw the attention of the House to some matters which were raised in the Hope report and which ought to be subject to scrutiny in this House, I refer to the question of the appropriate criteria to be applied in security matters. Mr Justice Hope stated in paragraph 266 of his fourth report, volume I:
For organizational reasons it may be necessary, and it is appropriate, that criteria for security checking purposes should be formulated.
Formulated by whom? By the organisation itself or by a democratic and responsible community? The report continues:
Investigators need guidance as to what it is they are investigating, and consistency of approach is important.
From where do they get the guidance? Do they get it from within the organisation itself or from us? The report continues:
Three qualifications must, however, be borne in mind. First, the criteria must be constantly under review.
Reviwed by whom? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? We should remember the old Roman slogan: ‘Who guards the guardians?’ They have to be subject to some kind of review by somebody other than themselves. The report continues, referring to the criteria:
Secondly, they should normally be applied by, but should not bind, the Director-General. Thirdly, they should reflect security, and not other, considerations.
Then we come to the very important part. This is the difference between an organisation that is essentially frozen inside its castle and an organisation which is not frozen, such as this Parliament, which is subject to democratic pressures. Paragraph 267 states:
The criteria should not be determined once and for all. We do not live in a static society, whose institutions, moral standards, political views and social habits do not change. The criteria must be reconsidered as the society changes.
Again I interpolate, who does the considering? An organisation that is not part of the society and not subject to the social control of the society or a political institution such as this one which is part of the society. The report continues:
The need for constant review involves a necessity for the person carrying out that task to have access to the fullest information and advice about an ever-changing scene.
He then goes on, and I must say I disagree with this statement by Mr Justice Hope:
The person having that access is the DG, and it is his responsibility to determine the criteria his organization should apply.
I would have thought that the case the judge put forward argued to the contrary. Perhaps it might be taken that we might have a Director-General who has a comparatively short term and when a new one comes in he too is better able to reflect changing community views outside. In paragraph 268 he states:
But, in making security assessments, the DG is concerned with human beings, who are so infinitely various in all respects that a rigid system of criteria to establish loyalty and reliability, allowing no exceptions, must be unjust.
I now move forward to paragraph 270. It states:
It has been said that in security cases the nation must be given the benefit of any doubt.
I am sure that a number of honourable members would agree with that.
This is language derived from an adversary system where the evidence of one side has to be weighed against evidence the other side puts forward.
Paragraph 271 states:
The system of vetting, whether by ASIO or by a review tribunal, is an inquisitorial procedure rather than an adversary procedure, and requires a flexibility of investigation and judgement which would deny the general application of such a rule. It may well be appropriate to a case where access to the nation’s closest secrets is being considered; it may not be appropriate in a case of less vital secrets. These are only examples, and are not intended to indicate the areas for the application or non-application of such a rule. The criteria must be formulated or applied in a way that safeguards the interests of the nation yet at the same time satisfies the requirements of humanity and legitimate interests of the citizens of a free society.
I think that we, as the representatives of society, ought to be prepared to stand up for society as against the institution which says: ‘No, we have divorced ourselves from society. We operate in ways that are not subject to scrutiny and we do not intend to submit ourselves to scrutiny ‘.
This is a critical issue, an issue above party politics. I would like, for a few moments, to divorce myself from taking a completely partisan point of view as a member of the Labor Party. Despite the vicissitudes of South Australia last week- that does not matter; I can use the case hypothetically- if the boot is on the other foot and we are sitting on the Government side after the next federal election, I would take exactly the same position. I think it would be outrageous if the Leader of the Opposition of that day were not involved in discussions or if his views were not taken into account. I do not say that because I am a member of the Opposition and honourable members opposite are members of the Government. I would take exactly the same position if I were on the Government side.
I believe this issue is so important because it involves raising the question of how far this Parliament is prepared to pass a self-denying ordinance against itself; to limit its own power and to say: ‘Here is an area that we will not move into. We will leave it to the professionals behind their own barbed wire fence’. No doubt it will be put that this matter involves a question of trust. I must say my prejudice is to put rather more trust in this organisation about which I know something rather than put trust in that unknown organisation about which, for a variety of reasons, I am permitted to know virtually nothing. What little I do know does not impress me as to its seriousness or competence. The question we need to debate with ourselves and with our own consciences is this: Are we prepared to trust open political processes, and trust that those open political processes will ultimately reach correct conclusions about this society, or are we only prepared to trust unseen, uncheckable and unverifiable operations conducted behind closed doors, behind a screen? Are we prepared to say that if we open that door, and if we let the light in, suddenly that organisation will collapse too.
– Or even if you turned the lights on.
-Or even if we turn the lights on, to coin a phrase. This is blind faith indeed. It is sufficient reason to overturn accepted norms as to the security of mail, the security of telephones and other elements that we take for granted in private life because the secrecy experts have decided that it is necessary that, for reasons of State it has to be and we simply have to accept it; ASIO has its reasons and they must not be questioned? All over the world there are secret service organisations- the Central Intelligence Agency, the KGB, UBDA and other organisations- which all say exactly the same thing. ‘What we are doing must not be questioned’. They are exempt from any form of democratic scrutiny. Except for my religious beliefs, on which I have to make an exception, I am not prepared to accept on trust what I cannot see, what I cannot test and what I cannot verify. As I say, I make an exception in the case of the deity; I am not prepared to make an exception in the case of ASIO. I do not believe it is possessed of infallible judgment. I refuse to hand over my judgment, finite though it is, and the collective judgment of this Parliament, finite and imperfect as it is, to another organisation made up of human beings, even if it claims to be perfect and even if it says that the reasons that it operates in such a way are essential for national security.
I think this is a desperately serious issue. I hope that the House will give very serious consideration to the proposition that was put so ably by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). I hope that honourable members will be prepared to cross the floor on what is clearly an issue of conscience. If we do believe in the democratic system- we all know it has been under very great threat in recent years- I hope we will not do something that weakens the strength of democratic institutions by our own act. I ask the House to support the motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– I stated most of the ideas and thoughts I had in my mind relating to these proposals in the House yesterday but they bear emphasising here tonight. I must say that I made strong representations to the Government in this House for this Bill to be referred to a parliamentary committee. It should have the right, in a very general way, to look at the legislation to see whether there could be an accommodation between Government and Opposition in order to improve the substance of the Bill. I did that for these reasons. I believe in the security system. I have been involved with it longer than any other member of this House, and certainly in a more detailed way. I knew in great detail the 1949 letter or statement made by the late Mr Chifley and the late Dr Evatt. I answered the Labor Party in 1954 on behalf of the Government. I had a detailed knowledge of ASIO, both as Foreign Minister and as Prime Minister. My knowledge is intimate and related to fact. It is not built upon imagination or what might be given to me by other people.
The reason for my wishing to have this Bill referred to a legislation committee can be very easily explained. I spoke to the Hope Commission and informed it of the problems I had experienced when I was the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister. I recommended that certain things be done and that certain recommendations be made by the Commission. I will sum up my feelings by referring to the words of Mr Justice Hope, which reflect exactly how I felt at the time and what I hoped would be the way in which he would report.
Firstly, I refer to the statement that he made when he implied that ASIO may have exceeded its powers and engaged in activities irrelevant to its functions and that it may have impinged upon an individual’s right of privacy. My attitude to the Bill and my attitude to the law is that we want a security system that is well nigh perfect but, equally, we want to protect the rights of individuals- their civil rights, their right of freedom and their right to live their own lives provided they live within the law. I speak in particular of people of the kind that I see in my electorate. I speak of the small man. I do not like using that expression but I cannot think of a better one. I speak of the migrant who does not like to feel that he has to go somewhere and complain about the administration of the law relating to security. I want to make certain that those individuals will be protected. I want some means to exist by which there can be an oversight of ASIO’s operations so as to protect the rights of those individuals and do it well.
The second point that was made by Mr Justice Hope was that ASIO had been guilty in the past of departure from its basic functions. I knew that. I have mentioned cases in the House. When I was Prime Minister I had actually to parade the senior man at ASIO because he was not making any reports. We in the Parliament, we in the Government and I as Prime Minister did not know what the Organisation was doing. I have said that previously. I believe that there should be some kind of accountability. One other matter to which Mr Justice Hope referred was also a worry to me. I feel that unless there is a turnover of personnel in an organisation there can be a hardening of the arteries mentally of those who are there. They can become stultified in their thinking. Their brains may not work fluently and freely. They may not be able to adjust easily to change. I refer again to the words of Mr Justice Hope, who expressed my views perfectly. Referring to the general level of political sophistication outside ASIO he emphasised that he saw little evidence that the qualities of mind and expertise needed in intelligence assessments were recognised in any large measure.
The matters to which I have referred are the basis of my worries. My disposition is to ensure that there is some outside authority that is able to conduct surveillance of and have access to the records and is able to report in a very general way. I had hoped that this Bill would be referred to a legislation committee for one reason, that is, the protection of the right of the individual against the might of the state and to give the person who is not totally able to look after himself because of various restraints, including lack of financial resources, confidence in the fact that he will be protected in an indirect way.
The second matter that I want to refer to relates to the three powers of the Director-General that cannot be countermanded or affected in any way by the responsible Minister. The first relates to justification for the collection of intelligence relating to individuals. I do not believe that any Minister or anyone else should have the right to interfere in that regard, provided ASIO acts within the law. But the other two matters- that is, the communication of intelligence relating to individuals and the nature and advice to be given to a Minister- are matters that should not fall within the sole jurisdiction of the DirectorGeneral. I believe that in these cases there should be an authority that scrutinises the exercising of those two powers to see whether they have been exercised in fairness and in justice. In fact, I would have liked to have seen those powers changed considerably.
I turn now to the two definitions of ‘subversion’, which I believe are too wide. They need to be redefined. They should be more precise. I believe that the responsibility for drafting the definition should be taken away for the moment from the Parliamentary Counsel and submitted to an independent senior counsel, either in New South Wales or Victoria, to draft clauses which would bring these powers within the total concept of the Bill and ensure that there is justice and that there is proper control of the exercising of these powers.
Naturally I wanted this Bill to be referred to a legislation committee. In that regard I would have liked to have seen the use of words much the same as those used by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) in the amendment he moved to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, that is, that there should be periodical judicial audits- again I emphasise that they should be only by a justice of the Federal Court- to ensure that the work of the Organisation complies with its charter and the law, that it does not unjustifiably infringe civil liberties, which is the most important matter of them all, and that it operates effectively and efficiently. Having gone past that and having read what is contained in the list of amendments to be moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I had to recoil. The amendments are an attempt to redraft the Bill in its entirety.
The Australian Labor Party had an opportunity to make amendments to the Act and to have more comprehensive legislation if it had wanted to do so. Neither the late Mr Chifley nor the late Dr Evatt relied on anything more than one scrap of paper that gave total power to the senior officer of ASIO. He reported to no one. He reported neither to the Prime Minister nor to any responsible authority. In the 1954 legislation the late Dr Evatt made only one recommendation relating to improvement. I understand that there was a hell of a muck up in the period from 1973 to 1975 when the Labor Party was in government. I do not like to blame the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) and other members of the Opposition for it, but someone was responsible for it and there were disastrous results. We know very well from some of the events that occurred that one has to be very careful about the amount of information that we permit to be conveyed about the extent of the operations of particular individuals. We have had in the Senate an Attorney-General who actually made a raid without a warrant on the ASIO offices. It was something that was totally improper, totally wrong. It served no useful purpose and was done for no understandable reason.
When I look at the proposed amendments I am alarmed because I believe that if we were to adopt even a quarter of them we would destroy the secrecy of ASIO and its power to operate successfully. I could not under any circumstances agree with the general tenor of the amendments to be moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. So, to end fairly quickly, I would like to see the Bill referred to a legislation committee but I would not like to see it be referred there when it appears that the amendments are designed to be obstruction rather than a wholehearted and worthy attempt to make improvements of the kind I have mentioned. For that reason, I assure the Opposition that I will not cross the floor of the House. I do not want to deprive the Opposition of any great degree of pleasure by thinking that Iwill. I will not. I have expressed my very deep feelings. I hope I have expressed them succinctly and with persuasion. I will not cross the floor of the House but I will for long believe that the Government should refer the Bill to a legislation committee. There is no reason why it should not. Time is not of essence. We can wait another two or three weeks. We have waited a couple of years. Why should we not wait another two weeks. I would give that opportunity but that power is not available to me. I have expressed my views and content myself with that.
Motion ( by Mr Hodges ) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided: (Mr Deputy Speaker- Hon. Ian Robinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - The question now before the House is: ‘That the original motion be agreed to’. All those of that opinion say ‘ aye ‘.
Opposition members- Aye.
– To the contrary no’.
Government members- No.
-There being a dissentient voice, the motion is not carried. The House will now resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole.
– What is going on? I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. You do not have the right to refuse us a division. We want to divide. My point of order is that there was more than one dissenting voice from the motion. Therefore the motion has to go to a division.
-As I understand it, the Standing Orders provide that a dissenting voice results in the motion not being carried. However, I will seek the advice of the Clerk.
– The question before the House was that the matter be referred to a legislation committee.
– I have given a response to the honourable member’s point of order. I draw attention to Standing Order 222, paragraph (b), which reads:
The House refers the bill (not being an Appropriation or Supply Bill) to a legislation committee. Such referral shall be on motion moved by any member, of which notice has been given, and shall be carried without any dissentient voice. A committee may be ordered to report by a specified date.
The significant point is that the motion must be carried without dissent.
– I seek to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent a motion being put for -
– I think you are a KGB man.
– The honourable member for Gwydir stood in this House and said that he would defend the right of people to throw bombs in this place and that he would guarantee their liberty. The honourable member should not kid himself. That is the sort of person the honourable member for Gwydir is. I seek to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable the House to vote on a motion that this Bill be referred to a legislation committee.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. The Standing Orders set down the position clearly and firmly. I suggest that the matter has already been concluded under the Standing Orders. Even though the motion proposed by the honourable member for Corio requires the suspension of Standing Orders it covers the same matter that we have just dealt with and it seems to me to be quite pointless for the chamber to consider exactly the same issue in a different form. I admit that by suspending Standing Orders a motion could be moved. I point out to the honourable member that the procedures of the House are prescribed. The House has already concluded that it does not want this measure sent to a legislation committee. I suggest that there is little point in our proceeding on that basis. It would be far preferable were we to get on with consideration of the legislation in the Committee of the Whole.
-The House will come to order until the motion proposed by the honourable member for Corio is put in writing and is received by the Chair.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I speak on a point of order?
-No. There is no opportunity for taking a point of order because there is no business before the House.
The honourable member for Corio having submitted his motion in writing-
Suspension of Standing Orders
I will not take up the time of the House by debating this motion, but I would point out that significant inroads into the liberties of Australian citizens are involved in this legislation. It is an appropriate piece of legislation to be considered in the manner in which a legislation committee could consider it. The consideration that will be given to it in the House will be of a confrontation type between members debating for political points when in fact we have before the House legislation which in many cases involves the denial of civil liberties and the destruction of persons * careers and their whole life styles on hearsay evidence without the requirement to give any proof whatsoever of the accuracy of charges. In this legislation there is no protection against the irresponsible or improper use of security facilities. It would be far better for all concerned if the clauses of the legislation- the policy has already been determined- were considered in the atmosphere of a legislation committee where the actual wording and import of the clauses could be discussed adequately as opposed to the political input or political advantages that some people may see in pursuing this type of approach.
The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) is trying to interject. He would not understand what I am talking about, despite his oath as a lawyer. He has no respect for the civil rights of persons and no respect for the legal rights of citizens in a democratic society. This Government is adopting legislation which is the same as that which covers the KGB and the way in which it has operated in the past.
– You are talking about another motion.
-I may be talking about another motion but what I am saying is that this Government is denying us the opportunity of having a bipartisan examination in an area where confrontation does not exist at present.
– Why can’t we have a bipartisan debate in this House?
– We cannot have bipartisan debate in this House and we all know it. The facts of the situation are that the Government has decided that no consideration of the rights of the individual in this society will be given and that no alterations will be granted. It is not prepared to expose legislation which, to say the least, is unsatisfactory, to scrutiny in a legislation committee which was set up for the very purpose of examining legislation where its details are in dispute. There are numbers of members on the Government side of the House who are dissatisfied with this legislation. They would appreciate the opportunity of considering the actual clauses of the Bill in circumstances where they are not placed in the position of having to dispute with their Government the clauses that they feel should be altered in the interests of civil rights and the rights of the Australian community.
The rights of people should stand above petty party politics, but in this House it is quite obvious tonight that honourable members opposite are not prepared to give even basic consideration to those rights. I appeal to those members in this House to see the security operations of this country as being an important and a serious function of government which should be above party politics and which should be seen to operate as necessary within the national interest. The only way in which that can occur is for the Bill, which establishes the limits within which the security organisations in this country operate, to be drafted to ensure that it meets the objections of those people who believe that security can be misused and to ensure that the clauses do what I think the Government would suggest they should do.
There are too many cases of abuses of security on the record. We proposed that a judicial audit of the Organisation be carried out. The right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) has said that this would be a proper function. Surely Government members do not dispute that a judge would be an appropriate person to carry out that audit. I certainly do not think that a politician would dispute that. But apparently we are not even going to have the opportunity for proper consideration under circumstances which would prevail in a legislation committee. The Government’s decision to refuse to refer the matter to a legislation committee is a decision to politicise the debate on this Bill to the exclusion of the benefit of the security organisation, the people of Australia and this Parliament.
- (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Order! The honourable member for Corio has moved a motion -
– No, Mr Deputy Speaker; the seconder is entitled to speak.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio has moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
-Mr Deputy Speaker, on a point of order, I object.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, you are not entitled to read the motion. The Standing Orders are clear that the motion cannot be put from the Chair until it is seconded.
-Order! The honourable member for Corio will resume his seat. If he has a little patience he will understand the reason for my referring to his motion. The honourable member for Corio has moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the motion to refer the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill to a legislation committee being determined on a majority vote. I just draw the attention of the honourable member to the fact that we are operating under Sessional Orders and I ask him whether he is prepared to amend his motion to read ‘that so much of the Sessional Orders be suspended ‘, et cetera.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, when you gave your ruling you said ‘the Standing Orders’. I followed your ruling. I will change my motion in accordance with your redefinition.
-Is the motion seconded?
– Yes, I second the motion. My reason for seconding the motion is just to identify the members of the Government who do not want this legislation dealt with in a legislation committee. We have had a debate wherein a number of Government members- the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr), the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Burns) and the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon)- got up and said that they wanted to have this matter discussed in a committee on the basis that they felt that there ought to be some further consideration of the legislation. We are going to put Government members to the test so that they can be counted on the basis of whether they really meant what they said, whether they really believe that the Bill ought to be drafted on a proper basis. It is for that reason that the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) was perfectly entitled to move his motion, rather than allow Government members the opportunity to hide behind the fact that there was one dissentient voice.
As this is deemed to be legislation which Government members think they can improve, we now put them to the test as to whether they ever really intended that the Bill should go to a legislation committee. In divisions in the Senate Government members opposed a motion to send the Bill to a Senate select committee. They opposed the motion of their own member for Wilmot to send the legislation to a select committee.
– (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I require the question to be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Proposed Reference to Legislation Committee Debate resumed.
-The real seriousness of this legislation has already been canvassed. It is not a matter that can be hastened through. If I can use the words of the right honourable member for Lowe, it would not matter if it took another two or three weeks to debate this legislation. It has been up in the Senate for that length of time. From the point of view of what it is all about it has got dust all over it, but there has been no improvement to it. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) has been interjecting- for which I do not admonish him- and saying that the legislation can be improved in the Committee debate. But we have had not one amendment moved by honourable members on the Government side. We have had five or six of them getting up and saying that they object to the legislation, that they do not approve of the way it is drafted. The Leader of the House is now saying that the legislation can be improved in the Committee stages. Yet not one member of the Government has had the initiative, the understanding or the courage to move an amendment to the legislation. Where are we going from the point of view of the Government?
From the point of view of what this Government is about this whole thing is a sham. We have been inundated with people suggesting that their rights are going to be infringed and all the evidence points strongly to that fact. The evidence is very clear. The right honourable member for Lowe has said, and all of us who have been in government know, that mistakes are made on many occasions and they can affect the rights of people. It is no excuse to say that somebody’s telephone was intercepted by mistake. It is no excuse to say that somebody’s mail was intercepted by mistake. There should be some justification, accountability and surveillance. The whole issue has that sort of thrust. The point is well made: Any honourable member on the Government side could be in Opposition in the future. Would they want that information used against them in a fashion that could well affect their political career or affect the future of the promotion of people with whom they are associated?
We acknowledge that this is a very dangerous piece of legislation, but the whole thrust of what we are about is the drafting of the legislation, the words used. Nobody objects to an intelligence organisation, but everybody wants a guarantee that it will operate in accordance with its charter and that the charter is drafted in the way that he wants it. Do not tell me that we could not agree around the table on a definition of what we think is subversion. Do not tell me that we could not agree around the table that Ministers should have information and not have it withheld from them on the discretion of the Director-General. Do not tell me that we could not agree on whether there should be an appeal against an adverse security assessment. Surely the person who has that barrier against him should be told about it; otherwise there is no point in having an appeal. Is it not intelligent- even for the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) to understand- to have a judicial review? One would then be relying on the merits of the judiciary- not on some pimp or minor individual but a justice of the Federal Court- to look at what has happened. In this way one would get complete accountability and a much more effective intelligence organisation.
This legislation is not good enough as it is. Everybody in the country could improve on this legislation from the point of view of his rights. Why is it that we are inundated with people who want to talk to us about this Bill? Why is it that people know from their own experience that at times their telephone has been intercepted, or a listening device has been used? It is because evidence has come out and has been used in courts of law, with surprising results. How did that information get out? It is because of the human element. It is because somebody wants to betray somebody else.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is an extraordinary proposition that has been put forward. The House should understand that the proposition is that this legislation should be referred to a legislation committee instead of being considered in a committee of the whole House. In other words, we are concerned not only with the rights of people, but in this case also with the rights of members of Parliament. Because of its very nature, a legislation committee is concerned with the ability of a limited number of members of Parliament to intervene and to speak-
– Thirteen to 19 only.
-Thirteen to 19 members compared with 124 members in this place. Legislation committees were developed for matters of convenience so that the House would not be held up in the operation of its business. What the Government proposes is that the attention of the whole House shall be directed to the Committee stage of this legislation. It shall not be confined-
Honourable members interjecting-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Lilley will resume his seat. The level of conversation and disorderliness is too high. I ask honourable members to remain silent.
– I take a point of order. Why do we have legislation committees if there is any truth in the argument -
-Order! There is no point of order. The honourable member for Fadden will resume his seat.
-For the benefit of this House let me read some of the Sessional Orders in relation to legislation committees. Sessional order 6 reads:
As many legislation committees as may be necessary for the consideration of bills shall be appointed. Each committee shall consist of not less than 1 3 Members and not more than 1 9 Members, excluding the Chairman.
The Opposition proposes that a committee, an indirect body, appointed by this House shall have preference over a Committee of the Whole of this House. What an extraordinary sense of democracy. All that that will do is deny the effective right of the 106 members of this House to be able to participate in the debate. In the ‘Participation by other members’ part of the Sessional Orders with respect to legislation committeespoint one reads:
Members of the House, not being members of the committee, may participate, at the discretion of the Chairman, in the proceedings of the committee, but shall not vote or move any motion other than an amendment to the bill or be counted for the purpose of a quorum.
In other words, in a legislative committee, each person other than the 13 to 19 shall have less rights than they have in this House. I ask honourable members merely to reflect on the facts. There is something else that rather fascinates me about the Opposition. Over a number of years -
– You had better step down from the Expenditure Committee.
-If you raise your voice I will be able to hear you. Over a number of years the argument has been put forward that the indirect method of election in other organisations, including employer organisations, industrial organisations and union organisations, was not the best method of participation. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has made many speeches in this House as to the vice of the indirect method of participation. Yet the Opposition is proposing just that, an indirect method of participation via the legislation committees in preference to a committee of 124 members of this House. I would say that common sense, a sense of history and also a sense of the rights of members to participate, would indicate that the motion moved by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes) deserves to be rejected.
– I have heard some specious nonsense from the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) in my time, but that one beats everything. If legislation committees are not about this kind of legislation, what are they about? The whole objective of the legislation committee was to put the legislation on the table and have it examined, comma by comma, phrase by phrase and clause by clause, and the only way so far in which we have designed to do that is to have it around the table in the way suggested by the honourable member for Corio (Mr Scholes). It is true that the actual official count can only include 1 9 members. Is the honourable member for Lilley going to vote against a gag when the 15th or 20th member of this House stands up to speak? How often are that many people able to participate in a debate in this place? How many of the 120-odd members of this House will be able to participate in the Committee stage?
To have deliberative discussions we need to sit down and discuss matters, just as we do in the case of legislation committees. This is the only way in which we should approach the matter. I thought that the motion moved by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Burr) provided the right procedure to deal with this matter. There ought to be no need to tell this House of the kind of injustices that can be visited upon citizens as a result of the secret security service. As the honourable member for Lilley said today, the recommendations of the security service are not executive instruments, but many of its recommendations to departments and Ministers have the force of administrative power. Such recommendations have affected thousands of people. Hundreds of people have had their naturalisation suspended, held up or denied because of reports from faceless people in the security service.
I believe we are discussing one of the fundamental issues of democratic society. In this situation I do not believe there is any other way of dealing with the legislation but through a legislation committee. Therefore we ought to support the motion. The Leader of the House (Mr Sinclair) made the point that the House had decided on the matter. The House did not decide. When the House agreed to establish legislation committees it decided that one dissentient voice could prevent a Bill being referred to a legislation committee. That perhaps is fair enough in ordinary circumstances, but it is idiotic to describe one voice as the House. It is true that some of us here might consider ourselves the whole House. The matter can be decided by not even a majority of the House. It takes only a small proportion, perhaps one person, to stop this Bill being referred to a legislation committee. Tonight we are discussing a number of issues but the real one is: Do we want this issue considered in depth, in detail and carefully?
– No, it is not. That is not the question.
-Of course it is the question.
– It will be debated here.
-The right honourable gentleman will have his say, as often as he likes perhaps. The right honourable gentleman can talk his head off because he does not use it for much else. The facts are that we have a very limited chance to participate in debate. In the way we conduct our committees there is very limited opportunity for one to put a point of view- put three or four sentences on an issue- and for somebody else to put the opposing view. If the procedure in committees were changed so that we could have give and take for five, six or seven hours I would be happy to agree to that, but that is not the way the matter will be handled.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The time for the debate has expired.
That the motion (Mr Scholes’s) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Uranium Mining: Employment- Unemployment in Warilla Area
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday at Question Time the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) answered a question from the Deputy Government Whip and in doing so I think he deliberately misled this House. We have become used to the sort of deception which this -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member is required to withdraw that expression.
-I withdraw. We have become used to this sort of behaviour from this Minister. He is contemptible and unscrupulous.
-Order! The honourable member again offends. I must ask him not only to withdraw but also to contain himself in his manner of expression.
-I withdraw, but I maintain, for the edification of the House I shall state my reasons for doing so, that the Minister did mislead this House and in doing so -
-Order! The honourable member cannot lay a charge of that nature unless he does so through the proper forms of the House, and this is not such an occasion.
-I am about to sustain the argument, Mr Deputy Speaker.
-The agrument may not be put in this form.
– But if you require me to withdraw, I withdraw.
-I warn the honourable member that he has offended in rapid succession on three occasions and the Chair cannot tolerate such persistence. I ask him to contain himself.
– The Minister, in doing what he did yesterday, greatly besmirched the integrity of a leading public figure in Western Australia- I refer, of course, to the Secretary of the Western Australian Trades and Labour Council- as well as other senior members of the
Australian Council of Trade Unions. In answer to a question the Minister said:
In the course of the Government’s making its decisions in August 1977–
This is in relation to the mining of uranium- and subsequently, my colleagues -
He listed several Ministers- and I held discussions with Mr Hawke, Mr John Ducker, Mr Bill Kelty and Mr Peter Cook.
In fact, no meeting on this matter took place with the ACTU until well after August 1977. Indeed, when it did take place it took place at the instigation of the ACTU, not at the instigation of the Minister. That is the first way in which, I think, the Minister distorted the truth. The fact is that there were no consultations prior to the Government ‘s making its decisions because the first meeting that took place did not take place prior to August 1977. In fact, it took place in April 1978. A second meeting took place in November 1978. I assert again that those meetings took place not at the instigation of this Government, not for the purposes of consultation, but at the pressing of the ACTU in order that it could put to the Government the decisions that the ACTU took at its Sydney congress in September 1 977. It is quite wrong for the Minister to suggest that those meetings were initiated by the Government.
The second way in which I think the Minister distorted the truth was that he said that Mr Hawke, Mr Ducker and Mr Kelty had all supported the decision of the Government. In fact, he said that quite clearly they were satisfied, as the Government was satisfied, that it was completely safe to mine uranium in Australia. At those meetings at no time did any of the individuals mentioned support the Government’s decisions, nor did any of them agree with the Government that it was completely safe to mine uranium in Australia. Is it reasonable for a Minister to put words dishonestly into the mouths of people of great integrity and great honour, which is in fact what this Minister has done? The Minister has these aide memoire which came out of those two meetings and I challenge him to table it to establish whether Kelty, Ducker and Hawke, or for that matter Cook, agreed or disagreed with the Government on the question of the mining of uranium. None of them did. None of them agreed with the Minister at any stage.
The third point is that the Minister went on to say that at some later stage Peter Cook had confided privately with Mr Hawke that he agreed with uranium mining. At no stage did Mr
Hawke or anyone else say that Mr Cook had supported the Government’s decision in relation to uranium mining.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-Last night the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) alleged that there was no growth in employment in the Warilla Commonwealth Employment Service area. Last night I challenged the facts that the honourable member presented. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard tonight statistics which reveal that there has been a dramatic decline in unemployment in the Warilla CES area so far this year. I point out to the House that in January 1979 a total of 2,636 people were unemployed in Warilla and that on the July official statistics this figure had fallen by 690. The July official statistics also demonstrated that there had been a fall of 1 53 in the figures for July of the previous year. It is not simply a seasonal fall. It is a clear indication, particularly in the male employment figures, of a significant and magnificant, I suggest, reduction in unemployment as a result of the increasing job opportunities in the area. I seek leave to incorporate this document in Hansard. It has already been accepted by the honourable member for Adelaide (MrHurford).
The table read as follows-
– No one would deny that there is a serious unemployment problem in the Warilla area. I think all of us recognise that. But we also recognise that the only way in which to resolve it is to increase the number of private enterprise jobs. I am certainly concerned about the level of unemployment, but what I find to be the most significant feature of this Government’s policies is that they are creating more private enterprise jobs. Private enterprise provides three-quarters of the jobs in this nation. Under the Labor Government, despite huge job creation schemes financed by the taxpayers, the number of people unemployed rose because the number of jobs actually fell. Under this Government the number of people in work has gone up. It has gone up in the Warilla area and throughout Australia because the Government’s policies are working. The policies of the Opposition when it was in government failed.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 28 September 1978:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable members ‘s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 7 March 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Uranium: Effects on Health (Question No. 3501)
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 March 1979:
Has the Australian Atomic Energy Commission or any other Federal agency established a trans-uranium register of persons who have come into contact with uranium or its radio-active products so that the long term effect on health can be monitored: if not, why not
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The following answer replaces that published in Hansard on 21 August 1979:
No. A transuranium register would include persons coming in contact with transuranic elements such as plutonium but exclude those in contact with uranium. In view of the limited work done in Australia with plutonium, the Government does not see the need to establish a transuranic register. Such work as is done, is mostly undertaken by the Austraiian Atomic Energy Commission which keeps comprehensive records of all employees who may be exposed to radiation or radioactive contamination.
The Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores, 1975, prepared by my Department is at present being adopted for inclusion in the Environmental Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978 which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Science and the Environment The Code recommends continued health surveillance including pre-employment, continuing and post-employment medical examinations. Section 5.9.2 provides that on termination of employment all medical records of an employee shall be transferred to the central health authority and kept for 50 years.
Discussions on all aspects of the Code are at present being held with the States.
To extend this type of recording to such other areas as: agricultural and industrial applications of radioactive materials. laboratories and educational institutions using radioactive materials. hospitals and clinics, involved in nuclear medicine (including both staff and patients).
Commonwealth and State Government departments and establishments involved in nuclear activities such as the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, Australian Radiation Laboratory, and State Health Departments would be a massive undertaking.
The Australian Radiation Laboratory has provided for many years a film badge service for all users of radioactive materials so that effective controls can be maintained.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 4 April 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
(a) I am advised that the Kilo-King is basically an accelerometer. By registering and recording excessive acceleration or braking it identifies driving patterns which do not assist in minimising fuel consumption. It is probably most suitable for fleet owners.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 5 April 1 979:
What was the value of (a) marker crude price, (b) international freight, (c) wharfage, (d) insurance, (e) loss, (f) quality differential, (g) compensation for credit terms and
domestic freight used in the determination of the import parity price, effective from (i) 1 July 1978 and (ii) 1 January 1979, for oil produced from each Australian field.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The formula used in determining import parity was outlined in a press release I made on 4 July 1 978. The details of the calculations are not made public nor are they given to the industry.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 5 April 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) The Commonwealth’s 10 Point Plan for assistance to Tasmania included consideration of assistance to the State in the establishment of a pilot industrial estate in the Launceston area as suggested by Sir Bede Callaghan. The State Government considered a number of alternative sites and proposals for the development of such an estate. The site chosen by the State was at Legana, near Launceston, and proposals for its joint funding were put to the Commonwealth through the Commonwealth/State Officials Committee on the Callaghan Report.
The Commonwealth has offered the State a loan of $200,000 to cover approximately half of the estimated costs of roadworks, water supply, stormwater drainage, sewerage, electrical power distribution, landscaping and survey costs associated with the estate. The Commonwealth’s offer, which is subject to an equal contribution being made by the State, is under consideration by the State Government
The Premier was reported recently as saying that work on the estate would begin during the next few weeks.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 1 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 2 May 1979:
How many errors similar to the case of a Mrs L. Myers of 13/5 Iwunda Road, Lalor Park, who received a telephone account for $718.16 which was reduced by $630.00 as she had been overcharged 7,000 meter registrations owing to a clerical error emanating from incorrect meter readings being recorded on her telephone service 624 8836 during the February accounting period have been made by Telecom and what are the full details of those errors.
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cases similar to that of Mrs L. Myers, where a large overcharge for metered calls was included in her telephone bill are rare. No record is available as to the exact number in this category but advice from Telecom Australia indicates that the total adjustments made in respect of all metered call complaints amount to 0.5 per cent of the total bill renditions across Australia.
The reason why such cases rarely occur is due to the automatic checks which are applied to successive meter readings by Telecom Australia ‘s computer to ensure that each reading is compatible with the calling pattern previously established by the customer. Doubtful readings are referred for verification and billing is suspended until confirmatory advice or a replacement meter reading is input to the computer system.
In certain circumstances, however, such as where new connections are involved and a calling pattern has not yet been established, should an incorrect meter reading be recorded in respect of that service, special manual action must be brought into effect to have billing deferred. Where, through human failure, this special deferral action is not taken, the bill based on the incorrect reading is released to the customer. This is what happened in Mrs Myers’ case and, as happens in such cases, the excess charges were withdrawn and the amount of the bill reduced.
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 8 May 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 May 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 May 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member ‘s question is as follows:
No statistical information on the electoral turnout for the 1965 elections is available. At the 1969 elections, turnout was 63 per cent and at the 1 979 elections, under 50 per cent.
The 1969 elections were contested by the Progress Party, National Alliance of Liberals, United Nationalist Party, People ‘s Nation Party and All People ‘s Republican Party.
The 1979 elections were contested by the People’s National Party, Popular Front Party, United National Convention, Action Congress Party, Third Force Party and Social Democratic Front.
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The 1968 elections were contested by the United National Independence Party and the African National Congress. In December 1 972, Zambia became a one-party state. The subsequent 1973 and 1978 elections were contested by Zambia’s solelegal political party, the United National Independence Party.
Energy Research Grants (Question No. 4075)
asked the Minister for National
Development, upon notice, on 30 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 30 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 6 June 1 979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Queensland Report 83 and ‘Oil Shale’- Geological Survey of NSW, Mineral Industry of NSW Summary Report Series, 30. Copies of these publications are available from the State Mines Departments which also maintain registers of mineral tenements in their respective States. The choice of extraction and processing equipment is a matter for commercial judgement based on both economic and technical factors.
asked the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows: ( 1 ), (2) and (3) The information required is contained in the following tables:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable member to the Minister for Administrative Service’s reply to Question No. 4299 (Hansard, 1 1 September 1979, page 972).
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 21 August 1979:
-The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 1 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 September 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19790919_reps_31_hor115/>.