31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 15 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives 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 Adermann, Mr Anthony, Mr Bryant, Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Fisher, Mr Katter, Mr Lynch, Mr Macphee, Mr Martyr and Mr Street.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the Parliament assembled in the House of Representatives, Canberra the humble petition of the undersigned members or organisations listed below and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the thorough nationwide investigations by the Working Party highlighted the need to establish the National Women ‘s Advisory Council.
That we believe the Council consistently and democratically demonstrates its wide representation of the interests of all Australian women, as shown by the Draft Plan of Action for the 1980 National Conference to be held in Canberra in preparation for Australia’s participation’ in the United Nations Decade for Women World Conference in Denmark, July 1980.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Parliament will continue its support of the National Women’s Advisory Council and its recommendations.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred and Mr Macphee.
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.
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, 11.2 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 1 980 to Government schools.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Cadman, Mr Carlton, Mr Les Johnson, Mr Keating, Mr Lusher, Mr Martin and Mr Morris.
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 limit to the capacity of Australia’s drug manufacturing industry in Australian hands.
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 Serum Laboratories, Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Trans Australia Airlines, Qantas, 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 and the Fawnmac group of drug companies would be contrary to the Nation’s interests. Fawnmac still makes a profit of about half the proposed sale price in a year and cost the Australian government several times the proposed sale price. It provides the Pharmaceutical Benefits pricing negotiators within the Health Department with inside information on drug manufacturing costs and so prevents collusive monopolistic pricing by major transnational drug firms. It complements the resources of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to make both Government owned drug firms more efficient and competitive by co-operation.
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 the Fawnmac group of companies.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Dr Everingham, Mr Charles Jones, Mr Kerin and Mr Morris.
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 price of LPG in Victoria has risen by $80 per tonne since November 1978 as a result of Federal Government policy thereby causing hardship to country consumers using LPG for cooking, heating and hot water and to decentralized industries using LPG for industrial purposes.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
that pending the establishment of a fair price in accordance with Clause 2 above and to provide some immediate relief to country consumers:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Corbett, Mr Malcolm Fraser and Mr Short.
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 Fife, Mr Graham and Mr Kerin.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Aldred.
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 does not have the support of the people;
That the change is causing and will continue to cause, widespread, serious and costly problems;
That the compulsory tactics being used to force the change are a violation of all democratic principles.
Your petitioners therefore pray:
That the Metric Conversion Act be repealed to ensure that the people are free to utilize whichever system they prefer and so enable the return to imperial weights and measures wherever the people so desire;
That weather reporting be as it was prior to the passing of the Metric Conversion Act;
That the Australian Government take urgent steps to cause the traditional mile units to be restored to our highways;
That the Australian Government request the State Governments to procure that the imperial and metric systems be taught together in schools.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the agreement between the Commonwealth and Japanese governments granting Japanese long line fishing boats access to Australia’s recently declared two hundred mile fishing zone for a fee of $ 1.4m will seriously imperil the world’s largest population of black marlin which inhabit the North Queensland waters and conseqently endanger the invaluable tourist and ancillary industries in that area which depend on big game fishing.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Federal Government will declare:
And asks that the Government undertake not to re-issue the licences to the Japanese fishermen next year when the terms of access are again reviewed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bryant and Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
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 a marked effect on Australia ‘s standing within the region.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Malcolm Fraser.
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 proposed re-development of the Brisbane International Airport as shown in the Statement of Evidence and Supporting Drawings presented to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works will cause undue hardship to large numbers of Southside Brisbane residents.
That as a result of this development, noise and air pollution in the Cannon Hill, Morningside, Balmoral, Norman Park and Bulimba areas will increase, adversely affecting private residences, schools, churches, clubs, businesses and sports.
That the approximate$100m allocated for the new Airport will be wasted, as the proposed new runway will be subject to noise abatement restrictions from its first day of operation.
That Brisbane residents, whose taxes will be used to transfer the noise problem from one area to another, seek a postponement of the initiation of any works until such time as proposals by Air Trafic Controllers and Air Pilots for a cross runway, which will reduce noise and increase safety, can be considered.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Humphreys.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia, and overseas students, respectfully showeth our deepest opposition to the introduction of discriminatory fees for overseas students.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that fee policy on overseas students be revoked in view of the following:
The matriculation students came to Australia under the impression that they would receive free education. However, this sudden imposition of fees will cause immense hardship to the students and their families. Many students will have to return to their home countries as they are unable to meet the fees. The student on returning home, will not be accepted by any local tertiary institutions as the Australian Higher School Certificate or the Matriculation Statements (HSC) equivalent are not recognised by their home governments. These students will be deprived of any chances of further education.
Those applicants to study in Australian in 1980 (e.g. students in Taylor’s College, Malaysia) are caught in the dilemma, either to bear the extra financial burden or to give up further education totally.
The majority of overseas students studying in Australia came from the developing countries. Most of them did not have the opportunity to seek any advanced education owing to the poor and extreme shortage of educational facilities in their home countries. These developing countries need trained and tertiary education person to help in meeting the challenge of technological development and to contribute to the economy of the countries. Australia, as a developed country, has a moral responsibility to assist the developing countries.
By the introduction of fees, it would mean only a few students from rich families would be able to come to study in Australia. Students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds would be deprived of the opportunity to obtain higher education. Thus making education a privilege, not a right.
Overseas students have made a tremendous contribution in promoting better understanding and friendship between the people of Australia and the developing countries. The overseas students have provided the Australian public with the opportunity to learn and study the customs, life-style and different cultures of these various developing countries. Further, overseas students have made valuable contributions towards research and development in their post-graduate studies.
Providing educational opportunities to overseas students is the most effective and positive form of aid to developing countries.
And your petitioners, in duty bound, will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That there has been an escalation of foreign ownership and control of Australian industries and resources to the detriment of the national interest. We view with deep concern that (i) over S3 per cent of the profits of all companies in Australia is payable overseas, (ii) that the Foreign Investment Review Board in the last 3 years has passed over 3,500 applications for the takeover of Australian companies and has rejected less than 25; (iii) that proposals for an effective resource tax on super profits made by foreign companies in Australia have been dropped; (iv) that foreign investment guidelines have been changed to favour foreign companies ahead of Australian owned companies for new ventures and takeover bids.
Your petitioners humbly pray that the Australian Government reverses policies which place Australian resources, particularly Australia’s mineral energy resources, under foreign ownership and control.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les Johnson.
Royal Commission on Human Relationships
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 because the Report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships and especially its recommendations:
Therefore the Parliament has a responsibility to the families of Australia not to adopt this controversial report and its recommendations.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Parliament will-
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will take no measures concerning the Royal Commission on Human Relationships Report that will further undermine and weaken marriage, child-care or the family which is the basic unit of our society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrJull.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of electors of the State of New South Wales respectfully showeth:
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1 977 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 Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Lucock.
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 there be no extension of Kingsford-Smith Airport, Sydney.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we 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 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 we the undersigned, having great concern at the way in which children are now being used in the production of pornography call upon the government to introduce immediate legislation:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will protect all children and immediately prohibit pornographic child-abuse materials, publications or films.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. byMrO’Keefe.
Post Office at Dean, Victoria
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of undersigned citizens of the Ballarat electorate respectfully showeth:
That the Dean Post Office should remain open and that the Road Side Delivery system continue to operate. We, the undersigned, being constituants of the Federal Electorate of Ballarat, do present this petition and in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Short.
-I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That, in view of the report by the Directorate for Social Affairs, Manpower and Education of the OECD on Youth Unemployment released on 27 September this year that ‘the outlook for a return to full employment over the next few years is much more gloomy in the light of recent increases in oil prices’, this Parliament determines that as a matter of urgency a Joint Committee should be established to inquire into the effect which the Government’s decision to go to world parity on oil pricing is having on employment opportunities in Australia.
– I give notice that, on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
1 ) That a Select Committee be appointed to examine:
– I address my question to the Treasurer. It concerns calculations by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research which show that for the period 1975-76 to 1979-80 the incidence of taxation on low and average income earners has substantially increased, while for above-average and especially high income earners the tax burden has declined. Does the Treasurer believe it is fair and equitable that a taxpayer with a dependent spouse and two children, who was earning $140 a week in 1975-76 and whose income increases in line with the rise of average weekly earnings of 45 per cent to 1979-80, should have his tax increased by 80 per cent while the tax for a similar taxpayer earning $500 a week in 1975-76 should have increased over the same period by only 33 per cent? Is the Treasurer concerned that the enormous increase in the crude oil levy in recent years has increased the tax burden on taxpayers in reverse to their capacity to pay and that the total tax burden on households has been calculated by the Institute to be regressive rather than progressive over much of the income scale? Do these facts indicate that when the Government claimed to be a low tax party it was talking about only high income earners?
– The present Government is concerned about policies which produce or would be likely to produce higher taxation and for that reason since it has been in office it has persistently followed a policy of trying to restrain its own expenditure because, unlike the Opposition, the Government does not believe that we can have high expenditure and low taxation. What the Opposition really believes in- the honourable member for Gellibrand, who is the economic spokesman for the Opposition, is the authority whom I quote- is expanding the public sector with greater public expenditure. If the Opposition were in government such a policy could be financed only if it were prepared to increase taxation. What this Government has done since it has been in office has been along the lines of making the taxation system fairer. As honourable members know, this Government has done more about tax avoidance than any of its predecessor governments since the end of the Second World War. We have simplified the taxation scales. I make no apology for the fact that this Government has set about giving relief to all sections of the taxpaying community. It is all very well for the honourable member for Gellibrand to cite statistics on percentage increases in taxation. The honourable member knows very well that in any system of progressive taxation the increases in percentage terms in the amounts of taxation paid by those people who are just over the tax free threshold are very large indeed simply because of the ordinary operation of the progressive taxation scale. The honourable member ought to bear in mind the overall amounts of tax that are involved as well as the percentage increases.
-Will the Minister for Primary Industry tell the House why, when fixing the boundary for fishing feasibility studies, 39 degrees 30 minutes south latitude was chosen as the boundary between Victoria and Tasmania instead of 39 degrees 12 minutes south? Will the choice of boundary affect the viability of the Tasmanian fishing industry?
– This matter came up at the Australian Fisheries Council meeting that was held recently. There was quite a deal of debate on this question between the Commonwealth and State
Ministers. The Tasmanian Minister raised the point that he believed the parallel of latitude chosen should be 39 degrees 12 minutes south which is the historical boundary between Tasmania and Victoria. He further claimed that it was improper of the Commonwealth to decide another boundary for the purposes of feasibility studies. The Victorian Minister believed that the boundary should be not 39 degrees 30 minutes south but 39 degrees 40 minutes south. He pointed out that the best way to get equal feasibility studies- that is, one out of Victoria and one out of Tasmania- was to adopt a line that might be described as the median line between the two States. In the end, we settled on 39 degrees 30 minutes south as a reasonable compromise between the two and because it provides an opportunity for a fair feasibility study to be carried out from Tasmania as well as from Victoria. The Ministers also agreed that when the feasibility studies are concluded we ought to set up a tripartite committee consisting of representatives of the Victorian, Tasmanian and Commonwealth governments to look at the long term effects of selecting boundaries of this nature and establishing fishing practices for many years ahead. I do not really believe that there will be any detrimental effect at all on the Tasmanian fishing industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is there abundant evidence of manufacturers giving generous handouts to supermarkets and large retailers to pay them for advertising the manufacturers’ products? Has this practice contributed to sharp increases in food prices? Did the Government become so worried about high food price margins and their effects on the rate of inflation that a reference was sent to the Prices Justification Tribunal in November 1978? Did the PJT report to the Minister by 3 1 August, as its annual report mentions it expected to do? If so, what are the Tribunal’s recommendations about processed food prices and margins? What action is the Government proposing to take about these recommendations?
– I am indebted to the honourable member for Hawker for his question. It is a fact that the Government sent to the Prices Justification Tribunal a reference in relation to the processed food industry. It will be recalled that at the time the reference was sent there was not provision in the Prices Justification Act to allow for the inquiry to be held in public. The Act, of course, has since been amended to permit this to happen, and when in the future it is necessary to send similar references to the Prices Justification Tribunal the inquires will be held in public. I have received the report referred to by the honourable member for Hawker, and it is under study at present. I expect that the report will be made public in the near future.
– In view of the provocative comments of the Premier of New South Wales about the role of the Commonwealth regarding the situation at the Caltex and Total oil refineries, can the Minister for Industrial Relations inform the House of the present position?
-The House will remember that this matter last came before a Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 4 October, when the Federal awards which covered the workers referred to by the honourable member were suspended to allow consultations to continue on the report of the joint working party which was established when the Federal awards were originally suspended in June this year. Together with the Government of New South Wales, we supported the application for a further extension of the suspension in the hope that the consultations could take place in a calm and stable environment. That suspension expires later this week, on 15 November, and a Full Bench will hear this matter later this afternoon- about 4.30, 1 expect- in Melbourne.
This afternoon’s hearing will determine an application by both the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments for a further extension of the suspension until 31 March next year so that the consultations which have already been started can be brought to a conclusion and so that a number of outstanding issues which have been raised during the talks can be clarified. I might say that these steps were agreed to at a meeting I had with the New South Wales Minister last week. We both agreed that significant progress had been made in this very complex question. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is being asked in those circumstances to allow further joint consultations to proceed. I understand that workers at the refineries have threatened to close them unless they are put back under a State award by 15 November, but I am hopeful that the joint application by the two governments later this afternoon will clear the way for these outstanding matters which are still unresolved to be dealt with speedily. We all have a responsibility to urge moderation and restraint in this very difficult case.
With reference to the other part of the honourable member’s question, I say that any allegations by Mr Wran or anybody else that the Federal Government has been slow in reaching a decision in this matter are absolutely without foundation. We have taken a very responsible attitude in this matter because we recognise that we have a wider responsibility than merely to the industry in New South Wales. The Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Federal unions have made extensive submissions to me in that regard, as well as the employers and the oil industry itself. Therefore, we have a responsibility to see that any legislation is effective in the longer term and in the national context. During the early periods of suspension the workers involved have been operating under the New South Wales Energy Authority Act. Under that Act the New South Wales Government has complete power to make any orders requiring the free flow of petrol. Of course, that situation will be maintained if the joint governments’ application to have the suspension of the awards extended to 3 1 March is granted. Incidentally, that Act also gives the New South Wales Government the capacity to deal with local industrial relations issues at the site.
-Did the Minister for Trade and Resources see reports of the sale by Consolidated Goldfields Australia Ltd of its 65 per cent interest in Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd to the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd and Mcllwraith McEachern Ltd? Is this purchase by Shell just another step in Shell’s acquisition of Australian coal enterprises? Does it represent a further domination of our national coal resources by the international oil majors? Is the Minister alarmed at this trend? If so, will the Government positively discriminate against international oil majors or their affiliates aggregating blocks of Australian coal? Does the Minister agree that the alternative would be to allow the international oil majors to dominate our future coal trade in the same way as they dominated the Middle East oil trade? Finally, will the Government refuse permission for this sale?
-I have seen the report in the Press this morning that the Shell Co. of Australia Ltd has made a bid to take over control of the Bellambi Coal Co. Ltd in New South Wales. This takeover bid will have to be presented to the Foreign Investment Review Board for consideration. When that Board gives its recommendation the Government will give consideration to it. Australia has very large deposits of coal. These deposits are coming to international attention. Enormous demands will be placed upon them. If we are to meet the demand expectations made of us there will have to be tremendous capital investment, not only in the development of mines but also in the infrastructure arrangements that will be needed to handle the sorts of tonnages we are talking of. I doubt very much whether it is possible within Australia to accumulate the capital to carry out this sort of development. Acknowledging that there will be difficulties with the capital requirements, we will have to look to overseas personnel, by way of both direct and indirect investment, to make these achievements possible. I would not like to think that we are going to lay down strict or arbitrary rules discriminating against people who might want to participate in the development of these resources, not only for our own benefit but also for the benefit of other people around the world who desperately need coal. We do have foreign investment guideline rules. The purpose of the Foreign Investment Review Board is to see that takeovers or investments conform to these guideline rules. In the case of Shell-Bellambi I expect that the Foreign Investment Review Board will make its recommendations accordingly.
– Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that there are only six weeks to Christmas? Can he inform the House whether this Government is taking any steps to ensure that the man in the street and Australia’s important and labourintensive retailing industry have a good Christmas?
-I think it goes without saying that Australians generally are more optimistic about their Christmas this year than they have been for a number of years. This is due to the effects and results of wise government management in bringing about economic recovery and greater enthusiasm for this country. As far as some of the less fortunate people in the community are concerned- such as pensioners- I am happy to inform the House that before Christmas the full age pension for a single person will increase by $4.70 a week, and for a married couple it will go up by $7.80 a week. Between now and Christmas all eligible pensioners will get an increase, totalling approximately $270m in 1979-80. Of course those people can look forward to a further increase in May next year as a result of the six-monthly indexation of pensions. The working man, the taxpayer on average weekly earnings, can also look forward to a tax cut of $4.45 a week on 1 December. That is certainly some encouragement to the working person and it shows that this Government wants to reduce taxation as much as possible.
There are other encouraging signs in the economy, particularly from the buoyant rural sector. The gross value of output of the rural industries has risen by 60 per cent in the last two years. It is estimated that our export earnings from rural products this year will be $7,400m- up from $6 billion in the previous year. It is likely that real income per farm has doubled in the last two years. Results of surveys that have recently been done in the manufacturing sector are also the most optimistic that we have seen for a number of years. In manufacturing and mining, investment projects are committed or are in the pipeline where feasibility studies have been carried out. In October this year it was estimated that approximately $ 1 6.3 billion worth of projects either was about to be commenced or would be commenced in the near future.
This is a tremendous outlook for this country. I believe that everybody can look forward to the 1980s and a much more optimistic future than they have seen for a long time. This sort of investment taking place means that there will be more job opportunities. I hope that school leavers will find opportunities to get jobs as a result of the improved economic circumstances, particularly in the rural and industrial sectors of this community.
– I refer the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to the clarion call he issued yesterday, calling on Australian women to procreate or perish. Is the Minister aware that family allowance rates have been frozen since 1976 while prices have risen by 48 per cent; that a family with four children is now $7 a week worse off than before the family allowance was introduced; that the maternity allowance has been abolished; that family allowance has been discontinued for students receiving the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowance; that the TEAS allowance would have to be increased by something like $10 a week to provide the same spending power as it did in 1975; and that an extra $ 1 7 a week would be required to restore a family on average weekly earnings to the living standard it enjoyed at the end of 1975? In view of these few- from many- examples of the alarming erosion of family living standards, combined with the abolition or watering down of many benefits, what incentives does the Minister offer to encourage the growth of families that he has espoused with such uncharacteristic vigour?
– In answer to the Leader of the Opposition’s rather snide introduction to the question, let me say that yesterday I was talking about the future population of Australia, the effect of the fertility trends which are now present in the population, the likely fertility trends in the future, the contribution that people born in Australia can make to population growth and also the contribution that immigration can make to population growth in Australia. It is a fact that in a number of Western countries we are seeing a decline in fertility to the extent that in some places a stagnant population level has been reached and in some other places a declining population level has been reached. This development has real implications for countries in that situation. For instance, if a country has a stagnant or declining population, it has an aging work force which is less resilient, less mobile and less retrainable; and so it is of immense importance not only to the governments of such countries but also to private industry within those countries to analyse and to forecast population and fertility trends. Some countries have initiated what are called natalist policies. It has been suggested to me that Australia should adopt pro-natalist policies. The evidence so far available to me suggests that pro-natalist policies do not have a long term effect, but I am not satisfied that that is necessarily the case. I am not certain at this stage whether economic inducements will persuade people to have more children. That is why I have asked the Australian Population and Immigration Council to have a look at matters of this kind. But I do think that the trends in fertility and the future population of Australia are something which is of the utmost concern for us all. To treat the matter in the rather cavalier and snide way in which the Leader of the Opposition has treated it does him no credit whatsoever.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education aware that, since 1974, the academic staff of the Department of External Studies at the University of Queensland had declined from 56 to 37 and, as a consequence, there has been a reduction in the number of subjects available to external students? I refer to my previous representation on this subject and ask the Minister: What action can be taken to ensure that the services of the Department of External Studies at that University are restored to provide an acceptable level of tertiary education to people in the Northern Territory and also outback Queensland?
-I know that the Minister for Education in another place will be aware of the representations of the honourable member on this matter. I will refer his latest query to the Minister and ensure that he gives the matter his most prompt attention.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that the National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended that the level of 0.12 parts per million of ozone in air should not be exceeded on more than one day a year in Australian cities, whilst lead should not exceed 1.5 micrograms per cubic metre of the air in Australian cities or 30 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood in Australians? Since the Federal Government is against proceeding with the third stage of Australian Design Rule 27a exhaust emission controls -
Government members- Hear, hear!
– Listen to the smoggers over there!
-The honourable gentleman will ask his question.
– Since the Federal Government is against proceeding with the third stage of ADR 27a exhaust emission controls in motor vehicles and the Prime Minister has stated the Commonwealth’s intention of pressing for a minimum lead level in petrol of 0.64 grams per litre, which is 50 per cent above the level now allowed in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, how does the Government expect to limit smog and lead pollution in Australian cities to the levels recommended by the Council?
-The National Health and Medical Research Council has recommended that the maximum permissible level of lead in air, averaged over a three-month period, should be 1.5 micrograms per cubic metre, as the honourable gentleman has suggested. So far as lead in blood is concerned, the Council is of the opinion that 30 micrograms of lead per 100 millilitres of blood is a level of concern. The Council has also recommended a geometric mean of 15 micrograms per 100 millilitres as being the level which would ensure protection for the majority of the population. However, I think the National Health and Medical Research Council basically recognised that there were a number of ways in which the minimum levels of lead could be contained. The Government is examining the impact of the recommendations made by the National Health and Medical Research Council upon its policy generally. In due course the Government will be giving consideration to the various responses from the departments concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the state of rampant political and social disorder in Iran and, in particular, to the holding as hostages of personnel of the United States Embassy in Tehran. I ask the Minister: What is the attitude of the Australian Government to the seizure of United States Embassy personnel and property in Tehran by the Iranian authorities? What precautions are being taken by the Government to ensure the safety of Australian officials and citizens in Iran?
-In regard to the first part of the honourable member’s question, the Government has made it perfectly clear that attempts to use either political or commercial blackmail as a tool of international relations are to be deplored. These views have been made clear in firm and unequivocal terms to the charge d’affaires of the Iranian Embassy in Canberra, who was asked to convey them to the Iranian authorities. The charge d ‘affaires was told that such behaviour is in total breach of international law and conventions to which Iran is a party, including, of course, the Vienna Convention. Although not mentioned in the question, the situation obviously has disturbing implications for the world oil supply. We were advised ahead of President Carter’s statement- as honourable members know- ordering the cessation of imports from Iran. One can well understand the concern that is being felt particularly in the United States, but it is a concern that is shared in this Parliament- I am sure on both sides- and throughout the Australian community.
So far as Australians in Iran are concerned, we naturally have a concern for their safety and welfare. At present the Australian community in Iran is a small one comprising 31 Australians who are registered with the Australian Embassy, all of whom are resident in Tehran. The number of Australia-based Embassy staff and two dependants totals 12. That makes a total of 43 Australians. At present, although the situation in Tehran remains tense, I am advised that the Australians are not in any special difficulties. However, all possible measures for their safeguard and security are being taken. Prospective Australian visitors to Iran are being advised that unless they have an essential purpose they should simply not proceed with the visit at present. In summary, as I said at the outset, the attitude of the Government towards the demonstrators who have occupied the United States Embassy and hold United States personnel hostage there is that any attempt to use political or commercial blackmail as a tool for international relations is to be condemned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that there is in existence in the Department of Defence, at the Russell Hill headquarters in Canberra, a very complex electronic data processing system which services the defence forces throughout Australia and overseas? Is it a fact that the electronic data processing system, amongst other vital purposes, is also used to document the strategic planning to be implemented in the event of a threat situation arising to Australia”? If anything should happen to immobilise the costly equipment and this electronic data processing system, what effect would this have on the defence of Australia? In view of the importance of this matter will the Minister give consideration to locating the EDP system underground for better security, as is done in the Department of Foreign Affairs?
– My friend may sleep well tonight. The situation is not as grim as he points out. The maintenance of the Defence Force does not rest substantially upon electronic means alone. They play a role, but to say that they play a dominant role is to take a grossly mistaken view of the situation.
– I refer the Minister for Health to a statement by Mr Kevin Stewart, the New South Wales Minister for Health, relating to a request for the provision of a dietetic service in the Bowral Hospital in my electorate. Mr Stewart alleges that the Commonwealth Government has decreed a no-growth policy in respect of many aspects of the public hospital system. He says that this has all but totally restricted the variation of staff establishments at the Bowral Hospital and other public hospitals and that it appears highly unlikely that any additional staff positions of any type can be approved for some time. Is the statement true? Are there any aspects of the public hospital system on which the Commonwealth Government has decreed a no-growth policy?
-The States, including New South Wales, have received sufficient resources to enable them to maintain services at existing levels during the course of the national inquiry into the hospital system of Australia. It seemed to be a reasonable proposition that in the course of that national inquiry there should be no overall growth in the hospital system or lessening in the services provided by the hospital system. The States generally agreed with that proposition. Indeed, I understand that some States have in fact been able to reduce the actual level of expenditure since the Budget was established. New South Wales will be receiving no less than $54,215,000 more than it received last year, or 14 per cent more than it spent from Commonwealth resources last year. New South Wales has received the highest percentage increase of any State from the Commonwealth Government.
The New South Wales Government, of course, is given the flexibility, as are all State governments, to allocate those resources within the system. Whilst there may be a diminishing degree of activity in certain hospitals in areas that may be over-bedded, the New South Wales Government has the flexibility to open additional units in other parts of metropolitan Sydney or elsewhere. The Westmead Hospital, of course, is coming on stream to provide the people of the western suburbs area of Sydney with additional beds and facilities. Some of the inner metropolitan area hospitals are having some of their resources reduced. But the Minister for Health in New South Wales has the flexibility, the authority and the prerogative to allocate those resources to meet his day-to-day administrative requirements. So, if he chooses not to open a particular unit at Bowral or anywhere else, that is his prerogative and his decision, and I suggest that he should take the blame for it.
-Is the Deputy Prime Minister aware that a pensioner with the maximum allowable earnings of $20 a week will pay $1.20 tax out of the recent pension increase? Can he advise why the limit on tax-free earnings for pensioners has been reduced from $20 to $17 a week?
– So that there can be no doubt about the situation, I say to the honourable member for Burke and to the House that a person who lives entirely upon the pension will not pay any tax. The honourable member for Burke, in shaking his head, misunderstands the situation. It is true -
– No. You misunderstand the question.
– If the honourable member would let me answer the rest of the question his excitement could be contained. It is true that through a combination of the operation of the tax-free threshold and the fact that the tax-free threshold will not increase this year- the Government makes no secret about that- a portion of income earned in addition to the pension will be liable for taxation. The honourable gentleman is correct to that extent in asking his question, but he is not correct in implying that somebody living totally on a pension will be liable for taxation.
-Can the Minister for Primary Industry advise the House of the action that the Australian Wool Corporation is taking to introduce centralised wool selling centres? Does the Australian Wool Corporation have the support of the Government in its plans to establish centralised wool selling?
-The Australian Wool Corporation has been looking at the whole process of wool selling to try to rationalise and to improve the efficiency of the operation. The matter raised by the honourable member is presently under study by the Australian Wool Corporation. I have no doubt that an appropriate announcement will be made when the Wool Corporation makes its decision.
– I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Deputy Leader of the Opposition from moving forthwith the following motion:
That a judicial inquiry be appointed to inquire into and report upon the obtaining of the evidence in relation to the prosecution in what is known as the Greek Conspiracy Case and, in particular:
The circumstances relating to the use by the Commonwealth Police of listening devices and the interception of telephone conversations;
b ) The propriety of the person or persons who authorised the use of such devices and interception procedures, including the authenticity of the evidence relied on to support such use and interception; and
Moneys that have been paid, or offered to be paid, to any person offering to give evidence and or offering to assist the police in any way in the gathering of evidence and /or prosecution and the person or persons who were consulted in the process of making the offer, or offers, and/or the payments.
The motion has been seconded. I make the point quickly- this is a matter of the gravest concernthat this Parliament passes laws that it expects everybody else to obey; yet in what is known as the Greek conspiracy case we now find admissions made by the police that they have broken the laws of the Commonwealth. In a nutshell the evidence that I can produce to the Parliament clearly shows that there have been three illegal telephone interceptions which have been admitted by the police. Fifteen tapes have been recorded by the use of listening devices. The Commonwealth has not passed any laws approving of the use of these devices. Finally, and most importantly, yesterday evidence was given to the effect that some $200,000 could be offered to an informant on the basis that he would be able to assist the Commonwealth in the prosecution of the case.
I make the point that the matter is of such importance that a judicial inquiry should be established immediately. All honourable members have constituents involved in this case. Not one of those constituents would expect us to remain quiet while the matter proceeds in the way in which it has. Millions of dollars have already been spent in the prosecution of a large number of people, many of whom have now been released from prosecution. But the issue is not the merits of the case now being decided by the magistrate, but the merits of the evidence that the Commonwealth has seen fit to put before the court and the manner in which the evidence was obtained. I refer particularly to the information which ostensibly was offered as being the basis on which authorisation should be obtained for the use of interception and listening devices. It will be proved to any Parliament -
-Order! I must interrupt the honourable gentleman. I ask him to resume his seat for a moment. I am concerned about this motion. The motion seeks to suspend Standing Orders to allow a substantive motion to be debated. The substantive motion to be debated is that a judicial inquiry be appointed to inquire into and report upon the obtaining of the evidence in relation to the prosecution in the Greek conspiracy case, et cetera. I am very concerned about the sub judice rule which this House applies to itself. I would like to ask for the honourable gentleman’s co-operation in not proceeding with this matter until I have had a chance to consider whether it infringes the sub judice rule. If the honourable gentleman is not prepared to co-operate in that way I will have no alternative but to rule the matter sub judice and allow him to raise it later if I come to the conclusion that it is not sub judice.
-I am anxious to cooperate, Mr Speaker, but I ask you to consider one matter that was raised previously in the Parliament. On 3 May 1978 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
I make the point that those examples now exist. Whilst I know that you want to rule on the question of sub judice, Mr Speaker, and I do not mind that, I put to you that the rights of citizens are involved. I am not asking this Parliament to decide the matter. I am asking that an inquiry be held to determine the propriety of what has happened in the process of the prosecution. I am quite happy to leave it for your consideration, Mr Speaker.
- Mr Speaker, with your leave, I join with you in your suggestion that you consider the question of the sub judice rule. I was prepared to listen to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said because I too was concerned about that point. As all honourable members know, the trial proceedings are in progress, and it would be a matter for the trial judge to consider whether evidence is properly obtained and is therefore admissible before the court. That point in itself brings home the question of sub judice which you have raised. As Minister representing the Attorney-General in this House, I will refer the matter to my colleague, Senator Durack, and seek his advice. In all the circumstances, I think it is appropriate for this House to do as you have suggested, Mr Speaker, and give you an opportunity to consider whether the sub judice rule applies to the motion.
-I have raised this matter of my own motion, so there is no point of order to which honourable gentlemen can speak. However, as a matter of indulgence I will call honourable members as though a point of order had been raised. I call the honourable member for Corio.
– I want to raise one matter. In considering the matter of -
– Stop mumbling.
– I am sorry; I have a weak voice. I raise one matter with which I will deal briefly. In considering whether the sub judice rule should apply, the matter of national interest and the fact that it is the Commonwealth presenting evidence on behalf of the Commonwealth and therefore this Parliament should be taken into consideration. The sub judice rule is mitigated by the fact that, where a matter of national interest and concern is involved, the sub judice rule should not prevent the Commonwealth Parliament from considering the matter.
- Mr Speaker, as seconder of the motion, I ask you, in considering the application of the sub judice rule, to consider the traditional view that Parliament is not merely a court but the highest court. It is on record- and this is the aspect of the matter I direct to your attentionthat the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), in making a statement to the Senate on 3 May 1978, said:
My advice is that no telephone tapping was undertaken by the Commonwealth Police.
Clearly, on the evidence available, that statement is not in accordance with the facts. As a Parliament, this House and the Senate are bound to accept the truthfulness of the Minister’s statement. We are now in a situation where it is perfectly clear, from facts that have been produced in other places, that that statement made to the Senate and therefore also to this House is clearly not true.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I submit that the honourable gentleman is really debating the issue in support of the motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition rather than speaking to the question of sub judice. The honourable gentleman ought not to proceed in that manner.
-I accept that submission. I will hear the remainder of the point of order, but the honourable gentleman must not debate the matter.
- Mr Speaker, I am not concerned to debate the matter. I put it that when you are considering the Parliament and its role as a court, as compared with the rights of the court, and the views expressed in respect of the sub judice rule, it is important for you to consider the fact that both the Senate and this House and their members have been grievously misled as a result of a statement made by the Minister. I would have thought that was a matter which comes within -
-Order! The honourable gentleman is dealing with the substance of the matter. I will not hear more on that point.
- Mr Speaker, I recognise that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports came from a State Parliament. Obviously he knows little about the Federal Constitution. I ask you, Sir, to take into consideration the fact that under our Constitution we separate the judicial, administrative and parliamentary powers. I think it is wise that the honourable member should learn a lesson because I have noticed that he intervenes frequently on matters that are totally irrelevant to the business of this House.
– I will consider the matter and inform the House.
– I present, pursuant to statute, the Supplementary Report of the AuditorGeneral for the year ended 30 June 1 979.
Motion (by Mr Viner)- by leave- agreed to:
– Pursuant to section 20 of the Coal Industry Act 1946,I present the annual report of the Joint Coal Board 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the Agreement on Fisheries between the Government of Australia and the Government of Japan.
Mr HOWARD (BennelongTreasurer)Pursuant to section 14 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936, section 140 of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 and the corresponding provisions of the Assessment Acts relating to sales tax, payroll tax, estate duty and gift duty, I present the fifty-eighth annual report of the Commissioner of Taxation dated 1 November 1979.I also present Taxation Statistics 1977-78 dated 1 November 1 979, the supplement to the fifty-seventh report of the Commissioner of Taxation. Honourable members will recall that it is the practice of the House to agree forthwith to a motion to print these papers so that they may be covered by parliamentary privilege. This course has the concurrence of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). If the motion to print is agreed to, the papers will be circulated immediately.
Ordered that the papers be printed.
– Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Funds Act 1947,I present the annual report of the Australian Military Forces Relief Trust Fund 1978.
Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Funds Act 1947, I present the report by the trustees of the Royal Australian Navy Relief Trust Fund 1978.
Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Funds Act 1947, I present the annual report of the Royal Australian Air Force Welfare Trust Fund 1978.
– Pursuant to section 58 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975,I present the annual report of the Administrative Review Council 1979.
– For the information of honourable members, I present the fifth annual report of the National Training Council 1 978.
– For the information of honourable members, I present papers and summary of discussions on the Sixth International Trade Law Seminar held in Canberra in April 1979.
– For the information of honourable members I present reports of the Committee on Nursing Personnel Survey entitled ‘Nursing Personnel- A National Survey’, volumes 1 and 2.
For the information of honourable members I present a report entitled ‘Health Promotion in Australia 1978-79’.
– For the information of honourable members I present the Department of Social Security annual report 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 I present a copy of the report of the Distribution Commissioners for Western Australia, together with the maps referred to therein and a copy of the suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners pursuant to sections 18a and 2 1 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act.
In accordance with the procedure outlined to this House on 3 April 1 979 1 present for the information of honourable members a paper prepared by the Australian Electoral Office which reconstructs the results of the 1974, 1975 and 1977 House of Representatives elections in terms of the proposals contained in the report of the Distribution Commissioners for Western Australia which I have just tabled.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Canberra College of Advanced Education Act 1967 1 present the report of the Council of the Canberra College of Advanced Education 1978.
– Pursuant to section 33 (2) of the Australian National University Act 1946 I present the annual report of the Australian National University 1978.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report entitled ‘Australian Students and Their Schools ‘.
– Pursuant to section 44 of the Australian Film Commission Act 1 975 I present the annual report of the Australian Film Commission 1978-79.
– For the information of honourable members I present a report entitled Towards a More Effective Commission- The Australian Film Commission in the 1980s’.
Copies of this report are available from the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 45 of the Pipeline Authority Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Pipeline Authority 1979.
-Pursuant to section 31 of the Atomic Energy Act 1953 I present the annual report of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission 1979.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report by the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council on radiological safety and future land use in the Monte Bello Islands.
– For the information of honourable members I present the report of the Department of Housing and Construction on Project Management and Other Options for Public Works’. The Public Works Committee referred the subject to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Expenditure and the report was prepared by the Department at the request of the Chairman of that Committee.
-Mr Speaker, with your indulgence, I want to draw your attention and the attention of the House to the unsatisfactory nature of the practice of presenting to Parliament reports which are supposedly available to members of the Parliament and, through Parliament, to members of the public but which are available only from the Parliamentary Library. One report presented in that way here today is of considerable interest to a broad spectrum of the public. We would presume that presenting the report here with the advice that copies will be available from the Parliamentary Library is a means by which the Government will avoid the responsibility of printing the report. It will expect the Parliament to print the report at its expense rather than at the Government’s expense. In the meantime, which could be a year, the report will not be available to the general public.
– I will take the matter into account.
– by leave- I wish to inform honourable members of a review of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation which I have initiated. The Defence Science and Technology Organisation, which is part of the Department of Defence, employs some 4,900 staff and has a budget of about $90m. It is the second largest government science organisation in Australia. This review is one of a series that this Government has initiated. Honourable members will be aware that four other large science organisations have recently undergone reviews. These are the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Meteorology, the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
The Defence Science and Technology Organisation enjoys a fine international reputation. The review will help the Government obtain the greatest value from this talent and help to ensure that Australia makes the best use of modern technology in its Defence Force. The review process will be in two parts. An external review will concentrate on defence science and technology work as science and an internal review will cover special defence aspects of the Organisation including its objectives and interactions with the rest of defence. The external review will cover the quality and research content of the work of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, its effectiveness in meeting program objectives and its relationships with industry and other science in Australia. The internal review will examine the objectives of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, its interaction with the Services and other elements of the Department, its management procedures and the value of its association with defence science overseas.
The external review will be conducted by three distinguished scientists external to the Defence Department. Its Chairman will be Dr A. L. G. Rees, C.B.E., F.A.A., formerly chief of the CSIRO Division of Chemical Physics. The other members will be Professor A. R. Billings, F.T.S., head of the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, the University of Western Australia, and Dr K. T. H. Farrer, O.B.E., F.T.S., Chief Scientist, Kraft Foods Ltd. Dr Farrer is Vice-President of the Australian Academy of
Technological Sciences and is a former president of the Australian Industrial Research Group.
The internal review will have as its Chairman Professor P. T. Fink, C.B.E., F.T.S. He is currently on a contract appointment as Chief Defence Scientist on loan from the University of New South Wales, where he was Dean of Engineering. He will be detached for full time duties as Chairman. The other members will be Air Vice Marshal J. C. Jordan, A.O. (retired), formerly Assistant Chief of Defence Force Staff, and Mr R. B. Finnegan, an assistant secretary in the Department of Defence. The reviews are to begin in the near future and then will require about six months to complete. The Government will consider the reports of both reviews together. While some of the review deliberations will be classified under security regulations, each review is to provide an unclassified version of its report for public release. I seek leave to incorporate the terms of reference of the reviews in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
This Review will report to the Minister through the Secretary to the Department and the Chief of Defence Force Staff whose statutory interests will be involved in the results of the Review.
The Review is to examine and make recommendations on:
There should be liaison with the External Review and any necessary co-ordination effected.
The review is (i) to examine:
the relationship of the Defence Science and Technology Organisation with industry and other nonDefence areas of science and technology, especially in regard to research and development.
There should be liaison with the Internal Review and any necessary co-ordination effected.
– I present the following paper:
Defence Science and Technology Organisation ReviewMinisterial Statement, 13 November 1979.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
-The Opposition welcomes the review. I point out, however, that there have been four similar reviews. Only one of them, that of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, has been debated by the Parliament at this stage. The reviews of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Bureau of Mineral Resources are in various stages of consideration but they certainly have not been brought to the Parliament for full debate. I hope that the results of this review will, if possible, be brought before the Parliament so that the Parliament can examine and discuss the recommendations that are made. This review is of far more significance than the others, even though they were of importance. Science technology, its availability and the competence of that area of defence are extremely important to any rational defence program, given the advances that are taking place in technology, electronics and other areas of offensive and defensive warfare.
I draw to the attention of the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) the fact that those persons who have been appointed to undertake the external review are all persons of scientific or technical background. It might be of assistance if a person with economic or marketing background were added. The Defence Force technology and science area and the terms of reference which the Minister had incorporated in Hansard relate to economic viability. One of the offsets of defence science has to be at least a consideration of marketing or the capacity to market the results of scientific investigation. Australia produces a very low amount of new technology in the defence areas but it has been very successful in limited areas in the past. Any restructuring or changes which take place in the science and technology areas should take into account the possibilities and probable need for some of the scientific research to be transferred into areas of economic and commercial activities where that research is of a nature which allows transferability. Some successes have been made in the past in this area but it should not be the basic criterion of defence science.
It is also important that any review should cover the area of adequacy of the available research and scientific backup given to the Defence Force in a situation of emergency. Defence science and technology has been one of the areas which has suffered most by staff cut backs in the defence area in the last two or three years. In fact, in the last two years one-third of the civilian staff reduction has been in that area, substantially as a result of the winding down of the Woomera rocket range and the activities at Salisbury. Nevertheless, the infrastructure which the agreement and the work we did with the British provided to defence was a valuable asset. The winding down creates a vacuum which is necessary for us to fill. The Opposition does not object to the review. It hopes that we will have the opportunity to see the results. I draw attention to the fact that in my opinion it will be a broader and far more significant review than those which have already been carried out.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– by leave- The Government has recently given consideration to the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries, known to us all as the Horton report. As a result of that consideration the Government has decided to initiate a review of the current level of library resources and facilities to identify the development that has taken place in each since 1976. An interdepartmental working group has been established to undertake the review. The working group will be representative of the Department of Home Affairs, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of Education, the Department of Social Security, the Department of Science and the Environment and the National Library of Australia. This general review will have regard to the library services currently available at educational institutions and the scope for public access to these and the special library resources and facilities which are available for handicapped persons and proposals for handling any improvements necessary in this field. In its review of services to the handicapped the working group will have the advantage of the work already done by the working party on library services for the handicapped to which I will refer later in this statement. In addition to these two areas, the working group will also take account of the growth in total library resources in the States since the Horton report was presented in 1 976.
The findings of the interdepartmental working group will enable me, in consultation with my relevant ministerial colleagues, to advise the Government as to what action it might take in the field of public libraries having regard to the recommendations of the Horton report and the Government’s federalism policy. Honourable members are aware that the Horton report contained a considerable number of recommendations which have far-reaching implications for all levels of government. Moreover, the recommendations envisage heavy expenditure by the Commonwealth and the States in the realisation of the objectives of the Committee’s report. In its consideration of the report, the Government has needed to weigh carefully the priorities proposed in the report with other expenditure priorities, particularly in the light of the Government’s policy of expenditure restraints.
Development of Library Services in the States
There are indications that there have been significant developments in public library services in several States since the release of the Horton report. Some major steps have been taken to improve library services and, in some cases, particular attention has been given to deficiencies noted in the Horton report. One major step in the development of library services in the States has been the consideration and, in some cases, the implementation of development programs extending over a period of years. In this regard, Tasmania has had under way a regional development program since 1965. South Australia has recently embarked on an eight year program while the New South Wales Library Council has a draft plan for development under consideration. A further indication of the development of public library services in the States is the steady increase in expenditure by State governments and local authorities on the provision of library services. In most States there is a continuing trend towards varying forms of regionalisation of public library services as being the most costeffective way of rationalising library resources and providing services as widely as possible. Western Australia is the latest State to establish a system of library regions, and the last of the six regions planned by Tasmania was established early this year.
Investigation and implementation of other cooperative library ventures such as joint schoolcollegecommunity libraries continues and recent developments indicate that the concept of the library as an information and referral centre for the community is gaining momentum. One initiative in this area is the scheme of the Library Board of Western Australia of appointing librarians as community information officers to be attached to local government authorities to establish community information centres within the public library system.
Considerable progress has been made in library automation systems. Of particular note are Technilib, which is an expanding co-operative venture established in 1975 to provide centralised computer-based technical services for municipal libraries in Victoria; and Oracle, the automation system of the Library Board of Queensland, the first stage of which is nearing completion. These systems draw heavily on the National Library’s Australian Machine Readable Cataloguing Record Service which makes available machine readable cataloguing records for Australian libraries. It is an example of the ways in which State and public libraries are making greater demands on the services of the National Library. Over the last four years the Library has tested and evaluated several on-line computer systems in order to identify the one which will enable it to increase the productivity of its own staff in cataloguing and other library processes, and also to serve as the basis for an on-line national bibliographical service. The Director-General of the National Library has recently advised me that the Library has now selected, and plans to introduce, a system that will improve the cost-effectiveness of its existing operations and services. This system will also be capable of providing a nation-wide on-line shared cataloguing service.
Library Services for the Handicapped
The Working Party on Library Services for the Handicapped has been asked to examine the special library resources and facilities which are available for handicapped persons and proposals for handling any improvements which may be considered necessary. In recent years a great deal of attention has been given to the needs of the handicapped in the field of library services. In 1977, on the initiative of the then Minister for Administrative Services and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), the National Library of Australia established the Working Party on Library Services for the Handicapped. The aim of the Working Party was to investigate and recommend on library services for the handicapped including the possibility of mounting a national conference or seminar of organisations interested in the subject. As a first step in the development of library services for the handicapped, in 1977 and 1978 the National Library conducted surveys of braille and talking book collections and of library services for the handicapped in Australia. This survey was completed in 1978 and subsequently the Library published the results of its survey.
In August 1978 the National Library, in association with the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped, sponsored the National Consultative Seminar on Library Services for the Handicapped. The seminar was important in two ways: Firstly, it provided the Working Party with an opportunity to ascertain at first hand the views of people and organisations directly concerned with Library services for the handicapped; and secondly, for the first time in Australia a wide cross-section of handicapped people, representative of libraries, voluntary agencies and government instrumentalities and others interested in the problems met and exchanged information and experiences. The National Seminar requested the National Library to assume the following responsibilities:
In April this year the Working Party on Library Services for the Handicapped presented its report to the Director-General of the National Library. The report which has been published by the Library contains 18 significant recommendations aimed at initiating the development of library services for the handicapped. The Council of the National Library has accepted in principle the recommendations made in the report. The recommendations identified by the Council as priorities are in the course of implementation.
I believe that there is every indication that there has been a continuing growth in the provision of public library services in the States over the last few years. The National Library has been a catalyst in the development of a range of services to public libraries. More recently it has developed ideas for improvements to library services for the handicapped and the application of computer technology to library operations. Within the States some attention has been paid to the development of the joint use library, and the library as an information and referral centre for the community. I believe that the findings of the Working Group on the matters that have been referred to it for examination will provide a useful basis upon which the Government can take an appropriate decision in the field of assistance to public libraries. I present the following paper:
Motion ( by Mr Street) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
– The statement of the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr Ellicott) is the latest episode in a dreary story of procrastination and prevarication. It is procrastination because the Horton report- the report of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries- has been available to the Government for more than 3% years. Nothing has been done by the Government. That is the procrastination. The latest episode of that procrastination is clearly explicit in the outline of the Government’s latest attitude towards the Horton report which was given to the House by the Minister a few seconds ago. It is prevarication because the Government has sought persistently to dissemble on this matter. It has sought to give the impression of action when in fact nothing has been occurring. Indeed the Government was determined that nothing should occur.
Let us be clear on some of the facts in relation to the Horton report. It was completed in February 1976. It was tabled in this Parliament in April of that year. Shortly after it was tabled an interdepartmental committee was set up to consider the proposals of the Horton report in the recommendations for action. It was 16 months later that the interdepartmental committee finally reported to the Government. That elapsing of time is significant because we find today that some of the essential recommendations of the Horton report have been put into a rather sluggish orbit again around another rather sluggish interdepartmental committee. On the basis of the previous timetable of action by an interdepartmental committee I expect that we can anticipate something like another 16 months before any recommendations come to the Government. The significance of that is simply that in 16 months’ time the next election will be safely out of the way. Once again we see, as we frequently do, that conservative governments, which are resistant to creative responses to the problems of the community, resort to the great graveyard of great creative ideas, an interdepartmental committee to review what has already been gone over once by another interdepartmental committee. Indeed, this question has been thoroughly explored by the Horton report which has been tabled in this Parliament. The Minister’s statement has to be recognised for what it is- the latest effort in stone walling. The Government trudges along determined to minimise action and to maximise the time taken to do as little as possible, or preferably nothing at all.
I repeat that in April 1976 the Horton report was tabled in this Parliament. It contained S3 recommendations. It was an extensive review of and a thoroughly credible report on the shortcomings of library services in this country. It proposed a program of action for a concerned government committed to shoring up what is certainly one of the most important resources available for any advanced, civilised, creative society, its library resources, the repository and the transmission mechanism available to an advanced and progressing community for the development of creative ideas, for the improvement of intellectual capital to be applied within a community not just in the narrow technical sense but in the creative area where people can reflect or are challenged in their basic assumptions about a society, about their relationships with people, about the philosophy of their society and how it should be serving a community, about the relationship within the world and, equally importantly, creative recreational reading which has a valuable contribution to make in any advanced society.
This Government’s record is one of three and a half years of steadfast neglect where this important matter is concerned. As the honourable member for Bonython (Dr Blewett) pointed out in a speech on 31 May 1979 in which he displayed considerable alarm at the attitude of this Government, it is significant that the Horton Report was introduced into this Parliament on April Fools Day 1976. As he reminded me a few minutes ago, it would have been equally appropriate for the Government to have deferred this statement to the Parliament until April Fools Day 1 980, the fourth annual celebration of the introduction of the report and the clear determination of the Government to do nothing about it.
Let us range quickly over the unhappy history of the Horton Report. Amongst many other things, the Horton Report said:
Too many areas of Australia are still without public library service and many public libraries are less than adequate being little more than minimal in terms of stock, staff and therefore performance.
One could quote extensively many more telling criticisms from the Horton Report of deficiencies in the library services of this community. That suffices to establish the priority that that report should have demanded from the Government in terms of response.
There were 53 recommendations. The Horton Report made a number of other telling points about the deficiencies in terms of socio-economic disadvantages in the community in the provision of library services, in terms of disadvantage of the ethnic groups, of handicapped people, of people suffering disabilities and, more especially, the disadvantages of people living in rural areas. Overall, it was a report about very uneven standards in the provision of library services in Australia. There is nothing uneven or inconsistent about the Government’s response to that demanding report. It has done nothing. It is determined to do nothing.
I repeat that the report was introduced on April Fools Day 1976. On 15 April 1976, it was referred to an interdepartmental committee. Six months later, the responsible Minister stated that the IDC was ‘expected to report shortly’. In February 1977, Senator Withers, who was then responsible for this area of administrative duty, said that a draft report was in the process of presentation. We can see that, although considerable time elapsed between each of these undertakings, and although we were encouraged in this dissembling manner on the part of the Government to believe action was under way, that we could expect some statement of commitment in the Parliament, nothing was done. It was the delaying tactic adopted by the Government.
In May 1977, after the first anniversary ofthe introduction ofthe Horton Report, we were then being exhorted by Senator Withers, then as a Minister, to wait for the Budget. As I mentioned earlier, after 1 6 months the IDC reported to the Government. As far as we are concerned, it is a phantom report. We know nothing of its recommendations. We know nothing of the range of matters explored by it. We know nothing of the concern it may have experienced or the urgings which it may have put one way or the other to the Government, but there was the IDC and, after 16 months, it did report. We had the biennial of the Horton Report in April 1978. On that occasion, the present Minister for Home Affairs said that, in spite of the earlier soothing comments of previous Ministers- like Senator Withers- in fact the Government had made no decision, no decision after two years, on what was one of the most comprehensive and professional reports that have been brought before this Parliament.
We find in the Minister’s statement today that in 1977 at least the National Library was prepared to become active. It set up a working party to investigate library services for handicapped people. It accepted the findings of the processes that it involved itself in in association with that working party. But the point is that the National Library is only a microcosm of the range of responsibilities and the extent of services available- and, more importantly and more extensively- that should be available in the community. So here again we see how the Government prefers to stand in setting concrete rather than to take positive action and to set some sort of creative pace in these important matters.
The Government received that IDC report. I think as a matter of courtesy- and given the fact that this is not such a controversial matter in the sense of a government standing or falling or, more extremely, the security of a country being at stake, or some paramountly confidential Cabinet matter was involved in the IDC finding- that that IDC report should be available to members of this Parliament and to members of the Australian community. It is not, and it will not be I expect because we know that this is an exercise in procrastination and prevarication, and that is why there has been resort once again to another IDC report.
The new IDC is charged with three essential tasks. The first, in relation to the general review, is concerned with library services currently available at educational institutions and the scope for public access to these. The second deals with the special library resources and facilities which are available to the handicapped. Finally, the working group will take account also of the growth in total library resources in the States since the Horton Report was presented in 1976. This area is offering one of the most persistently sustained growth employment opportunities for the Public Service available in the country because all that has been proposed by the Minister is that the IDC review matters already reviewed by another IDC, which in turn had reviewed matters which had been reviewed by one of the most comprehensive investigations of library services in the country. This is nonsense. No one can believe in such dissembling on the part of the Minister. What the Government is about is patently obvious. It is about one thing, that is avoiding responsibility in these matters. Interdepartmental committees are, as all honourable members of this House know, nothing more than great graveyards for great ideas. It gives the garrotte for imaginative, creative responses to the great needs of the community. It is three and a half years after the Horton Report and the need for reviews of reviews of public library services is still going strong in this country with a conservative government and a particularly conservative Minister determined to do nothing.
Let us look at some of the recommendations of the Horton Report which were brought forward. Under Planning and Co-ordination, the report stated:
A statutory body to be known as the Public Libraries and information Council be established to formulate advice to government on national policies for the development of library and information services for the public.
Where does the Minister stand on this point? Why has there not been some substantial commitment well before this to this very important proposal? We will go beyond the fourth annual celebration of the Horton Report tabling in this Parliament with still nothing done.
Under Special Areas, the report recommends:
Special consideration be given by the Commonwealth Government to the problems relating to library services faced by the responsible authorities in the Territories of Australia.
There has been no definition of exactly what the Government’s commitment is even in this relatively small area. Under the heading of Development of Regional Library Services, the report states:
The development of new regional library services should be encouraged by:
providing financial assistance within the proposed program-
Clearly that is an obligation to Federal Government. It has available to it the largest amounts of revenue collections within the community. If we take it on balance we find that there is a single minded tenderness on the part of the Government for the provision of support subsidies. It prefers the euphemism of incentives of various forms for the large corporate sector. But when it comes to people, when it comes to families, when it comes to things that people really need in this community, the Government is remarkably remiss. A sort of coldhearted indifference seeps through, whether it is in relation to family allowances or in relation to the provision of adequate library facilities in this country for the people who belong to Australian families and who want to improve themselves or who want to relax in some sort of creative and satisfying way. The proposed level of Federal funding is another recommendation which was dealt with by the report. It stated:
The Commonwealth Government adopt two major objectives in the program of assistance to public libraries:
to assist State and Local Governments to eliminate the serious inadequacies and inequalities of present services;
to initiate the development of more effective and responsive library and information services for the public.
The report talked about a 10-year program. It talked about an outlay of approximately $20m per annum. It can well be argued- it is a substantial argument to put forward- that in present fiscal conditions and with the monetary problems that the Government has herding in upon it, there are difficulties in responding in full measure to those proposals, but there can be no justification for making no response at all. There is no response at all from this Government not because of fiscal or monetary problems- the economic difficulties of the moment- but because it does not want to do anything in these areas. If the Government were considering a subsidy for the large corporate sector, there would be no problem but where it is considering assistance for the ordinary people of this community, it is coldly indifferent. Let us consider the following as an indication of the problems reported by Horton:
Aggregated statistics may however blur specific problems. Standards of service are very uneven throughout Australia, and many individuals and groups are poorly served or unserved. These groups range widely, including such disparate groups as migrants, children, local councillors, small businessmen, the physically handicapped and the institutionalised, and residents of growth centres in metropolitan areas. These variations are not revealed by statistical aggregates.
That is a serious socio-economic disadvantage for the community. Because it is the ordinary people who are disadvantaged by these matters, the Government does not care.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr Bourchier) agreed to:
That the question be now put.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, as Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, I present the 178th report of the Committee.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-The 178th report relates specifically to evidence taken in connection with items of expenditure from the Advance to the Minister for Finance in 1978-79. As honourable members are aware, after the close of each financial year the Minister for Finance submits to Parliament a statement of expenditure from the Advance to the Minister for Finance showing allocations to heads of expenditure made by him under section 36A of the Audit Act. It is a long standing practice of this Committee to report upon the use of the Advance during the Budget session. The Committee received explanations from departments on each item shown in the Minister’s statement. In all, we examined 106 departmental explanations and sought additional information from seven departments. Twenty further explanations were obtained from departments and authorities in respect of a submission from the Department of Foreign Affairs relating to an overseas imprest account. Four items were selected for further public examination. A submission was also obtained from Telecom Australia in relation to explanations from six departments concerning billing cycles.
A number of drawings from the Advance were for salaries and allowances which fell outside the ambit of section 5 of Appropriation Act (No. 1 ) which was first included in 1973-74 to reduce a very heavy use of the Advance to satisfy salary determinations. The introductory chapter of this report gives a more detailed explanation of the operation of this section which provides a special appropriation authorising the Minister for Finance, during a particular financial year, to issue out of Consolidated Revenue Fund such amounts:
Which become payable during that year in accordance with a law or an award, order or determination under a law.
In examining expenditure from the Advance to the Minister for Finance, the Committee sought to ascertain whether or not expenditure from the Advance to the Minister for Finance had been confined to urgent and unforeseen requirements for which provision could not have been made in the original and additional Estimates. The Committee also sought to ascertain whether or not the Departments concerned had maintained efficient administration in the expenditure under the item selected for inquiry. Evidence taken during this inquiry has shown there were cases of clerical error, administrative oversight, procedural weaknesses within departments and inadequate estimating. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have been discovered. We found that, generally, expenditure from the Advance was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Appropriation Acts. The policy of financial restraint imposed upon departments over the last few years has required them to apply greater care to ensure that their financial requirements are met within the approved appropriations. Whereas in previous years the Committee found evidence that some departments believed that the Advance to the Minister for Finance was a simple means of covering short falls in their estimating performance, there has been a marked improvement in departments’ estimating which has meant that less demands have been made from the Advance to the Minister for Finance, except in those cases which were urgent and unforeseen.
In the report the Committee has emphasised that departments or authorities which receive a reimbursement claim in respect of overseas transactions have a clear responsibility to make payment as soon as possible. The Committee expressed concern that debtor departments are frequently delaying reimbursement of claims because of a shortage of funds in the relevant appropriation. It is the Committee’s view that the payment of any account should not be delayed because of lack of funds and that departments should be encouraged to apply for funds from the Advance to the Minister for Finance for this purpose. The Committee believes that the Commonwealth should pay its bills promptly. Failure to do so could cause liquidity problems for others. On 9 November 1 974 the then Prime Minister issued instructions that the Commonwealth should as a matter of policy satisfy its creditors as quickly as possible. We believe that financial obligations should be settled by Commonwealth departments and authorities within the normal 30 day business cycle or earlier if incentive discounts are available for prompt settlement.
A detailed explanation on the development and use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance is provided in Chapter 1 of the Committee’s 173rd Report which was tabled at this time last year, while a report from the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations of August 1979 provides additional background. The Senate Committee in that report concluded that the current system for the use of the advance is satisfactory. However, it recommended that:
Expenditure from the Advance in addition to items already appropriated for, or new items, be permitted only in urgent and unforeseen ‘circumstances. The above criteria be set out in the finance regulations made under the Audit Act.
The Committee further recommended that:
The explanations accompanying the appropriation Bills, which are examined by Senate Estimates Committees, be accompanied by a separate section of each Department showing the funds which have already been provided from the Advance.
The Public Accounts Committee agrees with these recommendations. The Senate Committee also recommended that:
The amount appropriated to the Advance in Appropriation Acts (No. 1 and No. 2) be limited to 2.3 per cent ofthe total of the previous year’s general appropriation Acts. If the amount is exceeded, then the matter should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations and the House of Representatives Standing Committe on Expenditure.
The Public Accounts Committee would agree that the amount appropriated for the Advance to the Minister for Finance should be kept to a minimum. However, we have reservations about applying any arbitrary limit based on historical expenditure patterns as the Advance is specifically designed to finance urgent and unforeseen expenditure. The Senate Committee’s final recommendation is that:
A statement of approvals of expenditure from the Advance be published at the end of each calendar month and then tabled in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. The statement should indicate into which category each item of expenditure falls, i.e. whether it is expenditure to fund payments pending the issue of Governor-General’s Warrants, to make advances which will be repaid within the financial year, to make moneys available for supplementation of existing appropriations for specified purposes or to make moneys available for new services for which no specific appropriation has been made. The statement should show all expenditure which requires the creation of a new appropriation item, but only expenditure above $50,000 for the other categories.
The Public Accounts Committee supports the need for keeping the Parliament better informed. However, the Committee believes that the administrative arrangements to provide such a statement for parliamentary review purposes, may not prove to be cost-effective. Nevertheless, the recommendation should be seriously considered. The Public Accounts Committee has traditionally examined the Advance to the Minister for Finance in detail and intends to continue its long standing practice of reporting to both Houses of the Parliament during the Budget session on the use of the Advance. It is appropriate for matters relating to the Advance to the Minister for Finance to be referred to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
-I seek leave to speak for a few moments.
-Is leave granted?
– For a fleeting moment.
– It was a fleeting issue rather because the statement by the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) dealt with that section of the report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts that should have made some reference to what I sincerely believe to be an abuse of the Advance to the Minister for Finance, and that is the use of the fund to spend $ 10.2m, to begin with, on the purchase of two special purpose aircraft for use as Australia’s second international airline. I refer to the two VIP aircraft.
– Who bought them?
– Who bought them? They were bought for the Prime Minister of this country, who wants to be Australia’s Jimmy Carter. That is who bought them.
– Why do you lie?
– That is quite offensive. I ask the honourable member to withdraw that.
-The honourable member for Shortland indicates that a statement offensive to him was made. It escaped the notice of the Chair. If the honourable member for La Trobe is guilty of making such a statement, I ask him to withdraw.
-I said he lied. I withdraw that.
-Order! The honourable member compounds the mischief by repeating the term. He is asked simply to withdraw without qualification.
– I withdraw.
– The matter concerns a very large amount of public funds. It is a matter that is of great concern to the ordinary people of Australia, who cannot even afford to travel on ordinary airlines let alone to travel by VIP Boeing 707 aircraft. The matter has been raised a number of times in the Parliament. I was listening quietly hoping to hear some mention by the honourable member for Bradfield, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, of an examination of the use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance for the purchase of those aircraft. From what I could gather, no reference in respect of that was dealt with by the Committee. As a former member of the Public Accounts Committee- I spent some years on the Committee and I have a great deal of regard for the ‘ very valuable work carried out by the CommitteeI believe that the use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance for the purchase of those two flying hotels was an abuse of the Advance; that those two flying hotels, those 149- passenger aircraft, should not have been paid for out of the Advance to the Minister for Finance. What happened was that by using the Advance for that purpose, by putting that particular item of expenditure under that head, it prevented the Parliament, this chamber and the other place, from having the opportunity to deliberate and to vote separately on that particular issue. It was done for a very good reason. It was because Government senators- there was sufficient of them- would have thrown out that particular item of expenditure had it been put as a special Appropriation Bill, as it should have been put.
I was pleased- this reinforces the case I am putting- to hear the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee make reference to the fact that the Advance is for urgent and unforeseen circumstances. That is the purpose for which that fund is established. It is not to be used to conceal items of government expenditure that are opposed by the great majority of the community, items that can cause great controversy in the public mind. So whilst I support the reception of the report from the Public Accounts Committee I want to register my objection and the objection of the Opposition to the use of the Advance to the Minister for Finance for the purpose of purchasing two flying hotels.
-by leave-I simply want to put the record straight in view of the statement just made by the honourable member for Shortland (Mr Morris), who I suggest should know better. He said that two Boeing 707 aircraft had been bought as flying hotels for the Prime Minister of this country. I simply want to say in one sentence that that is entirely incorrect. The honourable member for Shortland knows it to be incorrect. He should not make remarks in this Parliament which are so untrue.
- Mr Speaker, on behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, I bring up the Committee’s report on proposals for variations of the plan of layout of the City of Canberra and its environs (68A Series) together with extracts of the minutes of proceedings.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-by leave-On behalf of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I present the report of the Committee on the 68A series of variations to the plan of Canberra. This report relates to the Committee’s report on the 67th series of variations. While the Gazette notice described the variation as a minor modification of a previously gazetted alignment between the Old Canberra Brickworks and the Royal Canberra Golf Club it generated considerable community interest. Nine objections to the proposed variation were lodged and 12 witnesses appeared before the Committee. The modification is to a road which was recommended by the Committee in its report on the 67th series of variations to the plan of Canberra. The committee has approved this variation but is concerned that little progress has been made with the recommendations in our report on the 67th series. That report recommended that proposals be presented by now which would provide for the development of Royal Canberra Golf Club to appropriate national and international standards. The Committee suggested the use of parts of the Yarralumla Nursery and Lees Paddock.
The Committee also suggested that detailed discussions be held on stage 2 of the West Yarralumla tourist road with Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, the Royal Canberra Golf Club and the Department of the Capital Territory as the authority responsible for the Yarralumla Nursery. The Committee considers that too little attention has been given to these recommendations and that this amounts to neglect of the findings of the Committee and the Parliament. The Committee must again express its concern at the delay. With this decision now having been made on stage 1 of the West Yarralumla tourist road steps should be taken to ensure that planning proceeds on stage 2 in accordance with the recommendations made by this Committee some six months ago. The Committee understands that the road dealt with in the variation which has now been approved is scheduled for construction in the financial year 1980-81. It therefore questions why this variation was brought to the Committee now, with an apparent degree of urgency, particularly as a limited number of parliamentary sitting days remain, and as the number of days for objections to be lodged was restricted as a result. I make the point again that this Committee expects the planning authorities to ensure that variations are put to us early in each parliamentary sitting period, that 2 1 days should be provided for objections and that ad hoc variations such as the one considered in this report should be avoided unless there are extenuating circumstances. The Committee is not satisfied that such circumstances existed in this case.
– I seek leave to make a statement on the report.
Leave not granted.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to present the report of the leader of the Australian Delegation to the Second Meeting of the Young Commonwealth Leaders held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, from 3 to 8 May 1979 and to make a short statement in connection with the report.
Leave not granted.
-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The grave concern of the Australian people arising from the Indonesian treatment of East Timorese.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places-
– I appreciate the fact that some of the Government members stood up in support of this discussion. At the present time there is no greater concern in Australia than in relation to the treatment of the East Timorese. I am mindful of the fact that today we have before the United Nations some further evidence which I think demonstrates the complete failure of the Australian Government to appreciate the sentiments of the Australian public. I was advised today of a report called ‘The Fourth Committee Resolution on Timor’. Fifty-five countries were in favour of the report, and 26 countries were against it, which number included Australia. The report contained two resolutions. One was to reaffirm the right of the Timorese people to selfdetermination, and the second resolution concerned the rendering of more assistance to enable international relief agencies to enter Timor. That is the majority decision of the United Nations. Australia is in the very doubtful and dreadful position of trying to convince the world that it is interested in the East Timorese by voting against that resolution. Let me make it clear that we were one of the few Western nations opposed to the resolution. New Zealand and the United States were also opposed to the resolution. But France, Britain and Canada abstained from voting and it will be of interest to honourable members that the former governing authority for that particular archipelago, the Netherlands, also abstained.
The real issue that is worrying the Australian people is the death and destruction that has continued to take place in East Timor since the 1975 Indonesian invasion. Apparently it has reached such tragic proportions that there is no parallel to be found in the world. Let me just read extracts from information that is obviously accurate. A document in my possession states that the International Committee of the Red Cross had a very hard and difficult struggle to be admitted to the area. The document continues:
As a matter of fact its programme, like the CRS-USAID programme, is coming much too late.
These sentiments have been expressed in the last few days. The document continues:
ICRC and CRS have different aproaches. CRS is trying to help about 200,000 people with food and medicines, while ICRC concentrates on 40,000 very severe cases of malnutrition spread over twelve districts and on a training program of local paramedical personnel.
This is the most dreadful part of the document to have to read:
Both parties face a hopeless task and are running against time. The rainy season, forthcoming in November, will make communication virtually impossible. This will last till March/April. All the inhabitants, with practically no exceptions, are suffering from malnutrition in various degrees. At least two hundred thousand, of all age groups, are severely affected. Some time ago a group of people with many years of experience in the field of emergency aid (Biafra, Sahel, Bangladesh, Indo China refugees) were shocked when they were visiting the area. They had never seen anything like it. In their experience there was nothing which could be compared to it.
That is, the devastation and destruction of people. If these agencies wish to remain in this area they are in a delicate situation. Apparently, if one created too much tension the authorities would ask one to leave. The authorities feel that they do not want the world to know about the tragedy of the situation. But the person who wrote this report makes this plea:
Just in behalf of the beneficiaries. A person could cry.
That is the position. It is of no use the Government’s saying: ‘We are going to support the Indonesian establishment in this situation’, when there is so much death and destruction of the people who were Australia’s friends and allies in the 1945 war. Let us put that on record. A lot of nonsense has been spoken about who is to blame for the troubles of East Timor. One notices that the authors of reports, such as those coming from the Australian Council for Overseas Aid, say that they feel that both governments are to blame. A recent report from the Australian Council for Overseas Aid states:
Successive Australian Governments (both the Labor Government before the invasion and the Liberal-NCP Government after the invasion) have chosen to conceal their extensive knowledge on developments in East Timor.
As a member of the Labor Government I want to put on record that when Labor was in office it knew nothing about this situation. No report was made to that Government. I have no doubt that at that time the Prime Minister and others would have known about it, but I want to make it clear- this must be very obvious to everybody in
Australia- that if we had known about an invasion of East Timor, such as that which took place in December, we would have taken very definite action indeed. All we have had from this Government is, firstly, de facto recognition in January 1978 and, secondly, de jure recognition. Now there is complete acquiescence in what the Indonesian Government is doing.
In fairness to President Suharto in Indonesia, it has been said that he did not approve of the invasion. There are many people in Indonesia who do not approve of the death and destruction that has taken place. I cannot say the same for the Indonesian military authorities. If we look at the evidence which we as Australians have to face up to, it runs in this son of chronological order. Australia was involved in East Timor in trying to defeat the Japanese. The Timorese did not really object to our being there. At the time they were part of a neutral country; Portugal itself was neutral. We have a moral obligation to assist the Timorese because we had to go into that area to fight the Japanese. My colleague, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), will be able to advise people directly of the assistance that was given at that time. Does it not follow that the East Timorese would be thinking that Australians could help them by providing the assistance that they desperately need now? We recognise that it might be deemed to be impossible for Australia to take any overt action to rectify the situation.
If we look at the United Nations resolution it is stated that the people of East Timor should have the right to self-determination. It should not be put aside just because we are too weak and supine to raise the issue. If a Labor Government did something wrong there is no excuse for that either. I assure honourable members that the Labor Government knew nothing about what was happening. But the tragedy of the situation is that we have all sorts of specious reasons advanced for what happened there some time ago. It is pretty clear that the death and destruction of these people has occurred relatively recently. The Government of the day, on behalf of the Australian people, should be standing up to speak for the Timorese on the basis of their future and their right to survival. I am told that it is nonsense to say that most of the people would have lost their lives in what has been called a civil war. That was said recently by one of the Ministers in giving the reason for what could well be the decimation of some 300,000 people out of a population of approximately 600,000.
I have been told- this can be verified- in respect of the civil war that in the military action which lasted about four weeks no more than 1,500 people lost their lives. That was in the period to September 1975. Honourable members will also be aware of Australian journalists who were murdered in October 1975. We cannot say to the Australian people that we do not know what happened. They were butchered on the basis that they would be reporting facts as they saw them. Again, in respect of the disappearance of Roger East from Dili, he was obviously murdered because he remained behind to cover a story. These are the sad facts. Australians have lost their lives innocently thinking that they could report the merits of the situation. Clearly, there was a coup in Portugal in April 1974. It was agreed then that all the Portuguese colonies would be given the right to selfdetermination. It follows that the people in East Timor are entitled to think that they would have the right to self-determination. Then we had the conflict between Fretilin and the Timorese Democratic Union which was an excuse for the Indonesians to take over the country. Those two organisations had virtually settled their differences. They did not want to destroy each other. Each of them was talking about how it would like to run an independent East Timor. But now we have evidence of what happened during the invasion of the country and of the dreadful death and destruction that took place.
In regard to the invasion, it is very significant that the present Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) was in the Bali Beach Hotel in September 1975. He has made an explanation as to what was said but it has been reported that he advised the Indonesian authorities that the Labor Government of the day would be made to fall. From the point of view of the Indonesians that is deemed to be on record. It is very significant that while the Australian people were in turmoil- the Government had been dismissed from office on 11 November and they were heading towards the December electionsmassive military aggression was being carried out by the Indonesians in East Timor. As honourable members will appreciate, the Australian Government was not certain what the situation would be. The Government had been installed by the Governor-General, and it was facing an election. At that time there was not much opportunity to relate directly to the problems of East Timor. What a great opportunity the Indonesians had to explore the situation, particularly with the prior knowledge that it was going to happen anyway.
One of the matters we put to the Government is that it must stand up to the issue of what is happening today in East Timor. What about sending an Australian parliamentary delegation there and let somebody in Australian public life report on the situation? Yesterday I spoke to a Catholic priest, who will remain nameless, who said that there was a real problem, that although the International Red Cross consists of 70 people, 67 of them must be Indonesians. So we do not have a free and unfettered Red Cross. From the point of view of the Labor Government, while it remained in office, and certainly until December, the International Red Cross was able to operate in East Timor and render succour and aid. It was only after the invasion in December 1975 that it had to leave.
One finds that throughout the whole term of this Government there has been great destruction of human life in East Timor. Prior to that there was very little. In the dreadful situation of today’s vote in the United Nations, we again acquiesced in the violence that took place in Timor against people who were looking to us for aid. I again make the point that the report of the Australian Council for Overseas Aid indicates that the Council sees a need for things to be done. Honourable members could find no more graphic descriptions of the need, which the report summarises in this way: all aid has gone to areas under Indonesian control only.
Indonesia is very reluctant to admit foreigners . . . all the aid has been sought and given for emergency relief, not for production and reconstruction.
That point was made yesterday. We need a longterm development plan for these people, but nothing has been done about this. There has been no thorough, independent assessment of the needs, no supervision of distribution, no implementation of autonomous programs, and no evaluation of the Indonesian Government’s aid program have occurred. All the grants have been made to the Indonesian Red Cross for its program. When honourable members look at the Council ‘s report they will see some horrifying descriptions of what is happening. It makes the point that people who are in very bad shape continue to come from the mountains, and continues:
The ABC Report from Asia reported on 1 July 1979 that 200,000 had come from the mountains and were suffering from malaria, asthmatic disorders and malnutrition.
Under the heading ‘Malnutrition is widespread’, the report continues:
A foreign government official who visited East Timor in April 1979 is reported to have said that he had never seen malnutrition to compare with that in East Timor.
Even in Dili, especially in the area known as Manoleuana people go hungry and are dying every day.
An increasing death toll ‘seems to be a general phenomenon over all the villages in East Timor’ . . .
People are not dying now by bullets but by starvation and illness’.
So this is not destruction which took place some time ago. Although it commenced some time ago, the real disaster appears to be the genocide of the whole East Timorese people. The Australian people would want us to say the very things this report says. They would want us to do the things that I know every member here would want to do. We will get no credit in this region if we are so weak that we lie down because somebody might offend an Asian official. It is very important from the point of view of our democracy, that we teach the lesson on aid, that we genuinely say: ‘We not only want to give you the aid but also want to guarantee that it goes to development programs. We want to see you survive ‘.
– And not left on the wharf.
-And not left on the wharf. So much evidence has been collated by worthwhile people who have no political interest except the charitable one of guaranteeing the survival of the East Timorese people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. I call the honourable member for Bradfield.
– I raise a point of order. Surely this debate demands that a Minister reply on behalf of the Government and not a junior back bencher.
-There is no point of order. I call the honourable member for Bradfield.
-This is a profound and very important debate. It is a matter of grave concern to the Australian people, as it should be, that any group of human beings anywhere in the world should be suffering deprivation and hunger at this time, whether in East Timor, Cambodia or Africa. The particular reference to East Timor is of relevance to Australia because East Timor is a neighbouring island and we have had an association with the people for at least 100 years. It is profoundly upsetting to me to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) trying on this occasion to make cheap political capital out of such an extremely sad human catastrophe. Let it never be forgotten that he was a Minister in the last Whitlam Government, which in 1974 virtually acquiesced in what ultimately took place when by military force the Indonesians took over the Portuguese half of Timor. That is a political fact with which the Timorese and we will have to live for a long time.
Today the Australian Government has no alternative but to see what we can do, with the best means at our disposal, to ensure that the people of Timor are given maximum support and assistance at this most difficult time. Various reports have been made, not the least of which was by Peter Rodgers, the Age correspondent, whose article received considerable coverage in the Australian media only a few days ago. He put some very interesting views which are worth repeating. For example, he said that claims that some 330,000 deaths had taken place were totally erroneous. Other people say that perhaps 100,000 people died. However, one thing is certain. People did die. What is equally certain is that we have a profound responsibility today to do what we can to help those who are still alive. That is the object of our policy. It is not to stand here complaining, and talking about the past, over which we now have no control. We had an opportunity to make our voice heard in Jakarta, as the previous Government did, it failed to do so. Anyone who wishes to dispute my words would do well to remember the meeting which took place in North Queensland- I believe it was in Townsville- between the President of Indonesia and the then Prime Minister of Australia. That was an occasion of infamy in the nation’s history so far as Timor is concerned.
Reference has been made to the U.N. Decolonisation Committee, whose report was brought down and debated in New York in the last 24 hours or so. It is true that the Timor resolution was carried by 55 votes in favour, with 26 against, including Australia. It is also true, and must be recorded and understood, that there were 42 abstentions. Some 29 countries did not participate at all in the vote. This represents an increase of 16 over the figure for the previous debate last year on this resolution. Are we going to participate year after year in a debate on this subject when, like it or not, the political fact today is that Timor is part of Indonesia? If we are going to help the people of Timor we must do so with the support of the Indonesian authorities, and that is what we have done. We have to be realistic. There are very pressing problems in Timor today. Whatever the future will hold for the people of Timor, we must not lose sight of the fact that when the Indonesian authorities took over Timor they were facing some fundamental administrative problems which have obviously had a major part to play in the capacity of any administration to get assistance to the people of that island.
For four centuries, the Portuguese Government did virtually nothing for Timor. Today, at least for the first time, an attempt is being made by the Indonesian Government to build the first macadamised road outside the port of Dili. It has built schools and health clinics. It is trying to do something for the people who are coming down from the mountains in a country which, at the best of times, found itself more or less on the poverty line. It is not a rich country by any stretch of the imagination. What it has been through in the last four years gives us every reason for concern. But it must be humanitarian concern based on our capacity today to decide what we can do to help the people of Timor. I believe that this Government has a good record in that respect. I now want to tell the House what the Government has done in recent years in this regard.
On 18 September and 2 November 1975 we announced contributions of $250,000 for assistance in East and West Timor. The balance of the money went to the International Red Cross for its West Timor fund and that was passed on to the Indonesian Red Cross. A statement to this effect was made in this House on 7 September 1976. A contribution of aid worth $250,000 to the Indonesian Red Cross was announced by the Prime Minister in October 1 976. A further contribution of $250,000 was made in September 1978. A contribution of oil and biscuits worth $200,000 to the IRC and the International Committee for the Red Cross as a joint relief operation was announced in August 1 979.
There have been reports in this House and elsewhere that some of that assistance was not used as effectively or as quickly as members would have liked. But one thing is clear, we have learnt from that experience and I am able to tell this House that in the last three days there have been two flights by Royal Australian Air Force aircraft into Dili carrying our aid directly to the Timorese people. They are not going through Jakarta or anywhere else. They are going straight from Australia to Timor. It could, of course, be asked why this was not done earlier. The reason is clear. The Indonesian Government, for reasons best known to itself, made its own decision as to how assistance should be given. It preferred organisations- either the International Red Cross, the Indonesian Red Cross, the Catholic relief organisations or the American relief organisations- to be the primary organisers of relief supplies. Unfortunately, as we have seen on many occasions in the past all over the world, provision of aid, the supply and the ultimate utilisation of that assistance is not necessarily done as expeditiously as we would all wish. Mistakes are made. But at least we can say to the House that from now onwards Australian assistance to Timor will go on Australian aircraft and will go straight to Timor and nowhere else. I am sure that on this basis we will see a pronounced and most definite improvement in the relationship between the delivery of Australian aid and the capacity of the people of Timor to enjoy it.
Let me get back to the question of Australian Government assistance. In addition to the assistance of $200,000 given in August this year, which I mentioned, we made a further contribution of corn valued at $625,000 to the IRC and the ICRC, again as a joint relief operation, in September 1979. A further contribution of oil and corn valued at $333,000 was made in November. On 6 November- last week- a further $2m worth of aid was announced as direct relief from the Australian Government. That totals nearly $4m which I believe is a very responsible figure considering the size of the problems of Timor, the difficulties of communicating with the Government and the people there and the fact that a relatively small population will be able to share in this assistance.
In addition, let us not ignore the tremendous support being given by voluntary relief organisations within Australia. We have, over the years, built up an admirable reputation as a nation of compassion and concern for those people elsewhere in the international community who need our support. For that reason, the Government has recently announced that from now onwards all assistance given to humanitarian relief appeals for Timor will attract tax deductibility on exactly the same basis as was given for donations in respect of Cambodia. This is a clear reflection of the fact that the Government appreciates that in situations like this it is not just a case of Government support but that it is truly a national effort. The point was made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen)- who I notice has not even bothered to stay in the House for the remainder of this debate although he put it on the agenda for todaythat it is believed that the Australian people are to be given every opportunity to demonstrate their concern for what has happened in Timor. Australians can demonstrate that as an affluent country they are prepared to do whatever they can to assist their neighbours, whoever they may be and under whatever political regime controls them. They are still human beings. They deserve our support and they will receive our support to the best of our nation’s capacity. This is a record of which we have every reason to be proud and it is certainly not one that we should view with any concern beyond the fact that we are doing our duty by these people, by Australia and by the world.
I want to make a few remarks on the question of family reunion. This was not brought up by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition but it is a matter of considerable significance and importance to a lot of people. We have received some 600 applications requesting family reunification from the Timorese who came to Australia in the early days after the Indonesian takeover. We have taken some people within that category. They are either in Australia or are still subject to being processed by the Australian Embassy in Indonesia when and if they apply. This is important because we are demonstrating in respect of family reunions for Timorese people- as we did with, for example, the similar problems in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and also the Middle East- that we are prepared to do our utmost on the basis of humanitarianism to bring together families which are disunited by events over which they had absolutely no control such as war and so forth. This demonstrates once again that this Government is doing all it can to maintain a humanitarian posture in this most difficult situation.
I want to make the point clear to this House that nothing will be gained from debate, whether it be in this House or in the media of Australia, if we are to believe that by making it difficult for the Indonesians we will somehow or other be able to help the people of Timor. That is an absolute nonsense. We have told the Indonesians time and time again that it is relevant to their relations with Australia, to their public position in Australia and to their acceptance by the people of Australia that they must be prepared at all times to work with us to ensure that people such as the Timorese are given the maximum support available. We are confident on the basis of the record which has been given to us by the Indonesian authorities that they are doing a very good job indeed in supporting what they know are major social and economic problems in Timor. They are well aware that the whole country has to be virtually rebuilt. They are well aware that when the Fretilin forces took to the hills many villages were destroyed, the crops were not grown and people today are starving. But their support for these people will depend not only on their own efforts but also on the efforts of nations such as Australia.
I want to end this debate with this major point: No nation has equalled our record of assistance to the Timorese people with the possible exception of the Indonesian Government. We are second to none in terms of humanitarian support for the Timorese.
-I agree with one aspect of the remarks of the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly), and that is that this is a profound and an important debate. It is a tragedy that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), who has just come back from overseas, is not to join in the debate. I have said before that all Australians carry a certain amount of guilt for the plight of the East Timorese people. The honourable member for Bradfield made an accusation about the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I were both Cabinet Ministers in the Labor Government. But only a select few Cabinet Ministers knew what was going on in East Timor at that stage. The fact is that we did not know what was going on, but as I have said clearly, all Australians carry some guilt about the East Timorese people.
But we should not try to shift the blame. After all, the invasion of East Timor by Indonesian Generals was made at a time when this Government was in control. Again, I am not trying to shift all the blame from one side to the other. I am saying clearly that we have to look at this issue with compassion. I am not saying: ‘You were the baddies and we were the goodies’. Let us get rid of that rubbish. Let us get right to the fact that there are people in East Timor who are dying of starvation and malnutrition. The people of East Timor suffered greatly for the people of this country. I went as a serviceman to West Timor in December 1941 and after being taken prisoner I spent about nine months there. But the people of West Timor collaborated with the Japanese. The people of East Timor were of the Christian faith and had a colonial background of about 400 years of Christian values, values that we understand. The 300 commando troops that moved into Portuguese East Timor, as it was then known, could never have survived had it not been for the support of the East Timorese. During the Japanese occupation about 50,000 East Timorese died both directly and indirectly in support of the Australian forces at that time. Yet in every theatre of war during the Second World War the loss of Australian servicemen totalled only 35,000. So, considering the debt we owe to the East Timorese, every parliamentarian should be ashamed of the role that Australia has played to date.
Most Australians were shocked by the recent courageous report by the Sydney Morning Herald journalist, Peter Rodgers, on the extent of human suffering in East Timor. They were shocked by the graphic description he gave and by the photographs on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald and, I think, on the front page of the Melbourne Age. They brought home the starvation that is going on in East Timor. People were shocked because less than 500 miles from Australian shores thousands of people are starving to death. According to Peter Rodgers’ report, over 100,000 people have died since the Indonesian military invaded and occupied East Timor. But Peter Rodgers appears to have underestimated the tragedy. According to Indonesian churches alone, about 200,000 people have died since that time. The sad thing about it is that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), when Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, implied that really most of the losses had occurred during the civil war between the Fretilin and the Democratic Union of Timor. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that about 1,500 lives have been lost during that civil war. The bulk of the deaths therefore have been caused directly by the Indonesian invasion.
I read some of the early reports of the Indonesian invasion. They gave a graphic description of the brutality and the murder that occurred during that invasion. The true and tragic situation, according to numerous reports from sources in East Timor not associated with Fretilin, is that many Timorese fled to the mountains in the face of indiscriminate killing and other forms of mistreatment by Indonesian troops. The people in the mountains are being starved as part of the Indonesian strategy of reducing the Fretilin resistance. What is shocking is that this story is known by the Australian Government. Evidence has been documented, even in the Parliamentary Library. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard just one of those reports, which is the latest report by the Foreign Affairs Group, dated 26 September 1979.
The document read as follows-
Research Request Received: East Timor- Notes on the humanitarian situation.
This Paper prepared by: Foreign Affairs Group.
Date: 26 September 1979
East Timor- Notes on the humanitarian situation
Although there continues to be a lack of detailed information on the situation in East Timor, a steady flow of reports from diverse sources- Indonesian as well as nonIndonesian offers further evidence that the Timorese people have suffered terribly as a direct or indirect result of Indonesia’s intervention, and that many thousands continue to be at risk. Indeed, according to a well-informed source, large sections of the population are in such a desparate plight, that, in spite of the fact that armed resistance to Indonesian forces no longer presents a serious impediment to relief operations, a further 20-40,000 Timorese will die, even with new relief coming from the recently-announced joint International Red Cross/Indonesian Red Cross mission. Information from a variety of sources (and none of them linked with Fretilin) supports the view that, although the military resistance might well be almost over, the vast majority of the Timorese people, including most of those who were initially not averse to the idea of “integration”, would favour an alternative to Indonesian rule if the options were presented to them.
In the unfolding of the grim human dramas in Indochina, reports on the situation in East Timor have barely rated a passing interest. While it is clear that the humanitarian consequences of Indonesia’s “integration” of the former Portuguese province might seem comparatively small in absolute terms, in relative terms the dimensions of the Timor tragedy, based on a wide range of experienced, wellinformed and impartial sources, appear difficult to surpass. Indeed, one particularly disturbing aspect of the Timor situation is the persistent refusal of those countries that normally champion human rights to examine, let alone accept, the steady flow of evidence that a tragedy of far greater proportions that was at first believed has been endured by the inhabitants of ah island only 3 SO miles from Australia. Thus no single nation has sought to bring any significant pressure to bear on Indonesia, the power largely responsible for what must be one of the most flagrant denials of human rights in the history of modern decolonization.
It is true that, in a recent statement by Mr Peacock announcing a further $200,000 of aid for East Timor, the Government acknowledged its recognition of the “genuine humanitarian problem which exists in East Timor. But it seems that the present level of relief, not to speak of the low level of interest in the human rights situation, does not match the magnitude of the problem. The attention the world has given to the Timor problem stands in conspicuous contrast to the interest evoked by the humanitarian situation in Indochina, which deservedly has become a focus of international concern, of all kinds of assistance, and of diplomatic activity by a large number of countries, both Western and Third World. In recent times abuses of human rights in relatively distant Uganda, Eritrea and the Central African Empire have been more extensively reported and responded to in the Australian press than reports at least as credible, that have come out of East Timor. Perhaps the most disturbing dimension of the Timor tragedy is that none of those countries who are in a position to exert some influence on Indonesia, has shown other than a sceptical and passive interest in reports of this disturbing contravention of human rights.
During the past 12 months press reports about East Timor have been few, but a number of interesting and credible accounts from private sources have been studied in the preparation of this paper. Most informants have sought assurances that their identities not be disclosed, reflecting their fears of possible reprisals involving relatives or the Timorese community in general. In the circumstances, it is not possible in a paper of this kind to document sources other than in a general way. From the continuing reports of maltreatment of the Timorese population by Indonesian authorities and the obstruction of the family reunion programme, the fears expressed by the Timorese appear to be justified. It is clear that a comprehensive and more widely acceptable account of what has happened in East Timor during the past three and a half years cannot be completed without the constituting of an enquiry of some kind with facilities to research and process the information available, as well as means to safeguard the identities of those prepared to supply it.
Reports from Indonesian sources and foreign visitors
Of course not all reports about East Timor are critical of Indonesia’s role and behaviour in the “integration” process. Indonesian officials and the Jakarta press consistently report that resistance to integration no longer exists and that the Timorese are now concentrating on the tasks of reconstruction and development. Earlier this year East Timor was visited by a group of provincial governors, at least some of whom were obviously taken aback by Timor’s desperate need for development assistance in one form or another, and some donations from provincial budgets were subsequently made. In March this year the annual meeting of military commanders (the Commander’s Call) was held at Dili (the first rime this meeting has been held outside Java) and the press dutifully reported favourably on conditions in the former Portuguese colony.
It is evident that the Indonesian authorities have launched a number of development projects, although some of them seem to be more related to military and security needs than to the immediate needs of the people. One area of emphasis is the teaching of Indonesian. According to a recent article in “Kompas”, there are now about nearly 200 Indonesian teachers in East Timor whose main task is to spread the knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia as quickly as possible. Extensive road repair and construction is also reportedly being carried out, mainly by Zikon (construction engineer) troops. But some of the projects, such as the traffic lights for Dili and consignments of colour television sets from Pertamina, seem designed more to serve the needs of the Indonesians than the basic survival requirements of the Timorese. There is no reason to doubt, as some travellers report, that at least on the surface, life appears to be returning to normal in the main towns. On the other hand, only some 5 % of the population is to be found in the main towns of East Timor. Most of the few foreign visitors to Dili seem to have been unduly influenced by the relative calm of the capital which, in some cases, seems to have distorted assessments of the overall situation, perhaps reflecting an ignorance of what Timor was like before the Indonesians invaded the territory and of the true course of events during the past 4 years. It seems that the few visitors to the territory have had only fleeting and controlled contact with the fringe of the Timorese population most of whom are now reportedly located in a number of displaced persons camps, some of which were initially based on the “strategic hamlets” set up by the Americans in Vietnam. Thus there has been a tendency among the few foreign visitors to Dili to accept the Indonesian explanation that the “displaced persons” are Timorese who ran into the mountains with Fretilin where they were held against their will, and that they subsequently responded to President Suharto’s offer of an amnesty and reported to receiving centres for registration and relief. It is often overlooked that it was the harsh treatment of the population by the invading forces, plus opposition to “integration”, that prompted many of the Timorese to seek refuge in the mountains in the first place. From an analysis of numerous reports from East Timor over the past 3 years it seems beyond doubt that most of the deaths since December 197S, and the present poor physical condition of the Timorese, are the grim consequences of the deliberate Indonesian strategy designed to starve Fretilin and its supporters into surrender. As one of the more perceptive observers put it; “The Indonesians tried to starve Fretilin into submission, and in the process succeeded in starving tens of thousands of Timorese to death”.
Reports from non-Indonesian sources
Nearly all of the many reports from non-Indonesian sources paint a grim picture of the humanitarian situation in the territory. They differ substantially from the reports of such sources as the representative of the New Zealand Red Cross and, for that matter, the occasional comments that come from Australian officials, but, in the writer’s opinion, most of the latter observations less accurately and frankly reflect the real situation in East Timor. In fairness to officials, given the present sensitive character of AustralianIndonesian relations, observations critical of Indonesia’s performance in the territory would present obvious difficulties. One of the most interesting and intriguing accounts is a report which was compiled by Indonesian Church officials who spent some time in Timor in the early part of this year. We have also received a detailed interview of Father de Rego, a Portuguese priest, who was repatriated to Portugal in July this year, after having spent the past 4 years or so in mountain areas. Information has also come from many Timorese sources, none of whom are members ofthe Fetilin movement. Unfortunately, for reasons mentioned earlier in thU paper, their identities cannot be divulged in a paper of this kind. Some of the sources, on which this account ofthe situation is based, among them the Indonesian Church officials and the Portuguese priest, are experienced, wellinformed, and politically impartial observers, whose observations are of great value. The Portuguese priest and some other Timorese sources would, I believe, be prepared to make themselves available for further questioning.
The report from Indonesian Church sources is the first document to contain demographic information on the effect of the fighting on East Timor’s population. It notes that the population of 688,771, which was recorded by the Diocese of Dili in 1974 had declined to 329,271 at the end of 1978, based on an assessment completed at that time by the Indonesian Defence and Security Authorities responsible for East Timor. This assessment shows a slight increase in the number of Roman Catholics and Protestants-for Catholics an increase from 220,314 in 1974 to 255,417 at the end of 1978, and for Protestants an increase from 2,550 to 4,354 during the same period. The population count of animists, on the other hand, indicates a drastic decline- from 460,112 in 1974 to 68,839 at the end of 1978. At first glance it is tempting to conclude that an increase in the number of Christians could not be reconciled with such a drastic fall in the total population of the territory. However, this change in the pattern of religious adherence is in fact consistent with reports from Church sources that the honors ofthe past three and a half years led to tens of thousands of Timorese turning to the Church for salvation. A similar upsurge in baptisms occurred during the Japanese occupation, and during other upheavals in the past two centuries. Under the Portuguese, the Church constituted a kind of buffer between the colonial administration and the ordinary people, to whom it offered some sanctuary in times of crisis.
A further explanation of this catastrophic decline in animist population since 1974 is the fact that this group, who make up the more primitive inhabitants of Timor, most of them residing in small mountain hamlets, suffered heavily from the Indonesian military operations, particularly the bombing raids to which their tinder-dry palapa and bamboo houses were so vulnerable. But the major cause of death was starvation and disease, because this element of East Timor’s population, as in the case of adjacent Indonesian communities, suffers from endemic malnutrition. These people form the majority of the victims of Indonesia’s policy of isolating the Timorese (who were without doctors and had few medicines) and starving them into submission. Finally, thousands were to die of starvation and disease in the “strategic hamlets” where the Indonesian authorities failed to provide adequate food supplies and urgently needed medical treatment. It might well be that the Indonesian military authorities have underestimated the Timorese population in areas where Fretilin remnants are still active, but, in view of the small size of the country, such an oversight could not be expected to exceed 50,000 people.
The authors of this report are not the only ones to refer to a sharp decline in East Timor’s population. A sensitivelyplaced Indonesian official spoke frankly about the Timor affair to U.N. officials in December last year and confided that the military authorities had spoken of a population assessment of “about 400,000 Timorese”. The Portuguese priest, Father de Rego, has made some interesting comments on this subject. The priest stated that about one-third of the population perished in the Laclubar/Turiscai district in which he spent most of the past three years.
The Indonesian authorities themselves have made few comments on the loss of life in East Timor. One rather facile comment was made in an interview reported in The Sydney Morning Herald on 10 September. In this article Jusuf Wanandi (a member of Indonesia’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies) claimed that only between 10 and 15 thousand Timorese had died over the past four years. The stated basis for his reckoning was that a recent Indonesian census had revealed that the Territory’s population was 15,000 less than the figure of 650,000 in 1974 according to the Portuguese census of that year (in fact no Portuguese census was taken at that time). The journalists who conducted the interview did not take up Wanandi on his crude arithmetic, but, even if these figures had been correct, the Indonesians had overlooked the fact that the population, following the demographic pattern, would have grown at the rate of about 1.8 per cent, leaving another 50,000 people unaccounted for!
The report from Church sources recorded some examples of population decline. It noted, for example, that the former mountain tourist centre of Maubisse had recorded a population of 9,607 in 1976, but by 1979 the figure had declined to 4,586. But perhaps of greater relevance to the present paper are the report s comments on the continuing, in some places accelerating, high death rate. For example, it noted that the head of one district reported that 164 of his people died during 1978, but 120 had died between January and mid-March in 1979. The report concluded that ‘an increasing death toll seems to be a general phenomenon all over the villages in East Timor’.
In a reference to the once prosperous coffee district of Ermera the report states: “In Ermera, the densely populated capital of a coffee producing district where the refugees’ coming back from the mountains were held, the death toll was so nigh that the people started to use the expression: ‘the more refugees, the more corpses’ “. It noted that 300 Timorese were said to die each month at this particular refugee camp. The continuing high death rate in the mountains is a subject of almost every report coming out of Timor. A recent report from an aid source stated that in ten or so centres some 75,000 people were in desperate straits. The aid official observed that 20,000 of the inmates were in a hopeless condition and would die, even if assistance came at once. Of the remainder, most would perish unless assistance was received as a matter of urgency.
The Indonesian Church Report and reports from other Church officials in East Timor make it clear that the various Indonesian authorities concerned with relief, including the Indonesian Red Cross, have failed to provide relief appropriate to the magnitude ofthe humanitarian situation in East Timor. In the first place, it is clear that the death toll continues to be extremely high, in spite of the fact that in most areas relief operations are no longer hampered by war conditions or insecurity. The Church Report noted that in spite of the Government subsidy of $US5 million and the availability of supplies in Dili, the “Indonesian Red Cross is unable to carry out an efficient program. Lack of transportation is the big bottle-neck. Unfortunately supplies stored in the godown of Dili promote manipulation, black market and the like. Medicines are sold in the shops for prices only very few can afford to pay”. The Report mentioned, as an example, the medical centre at a major refugee camp near Maubisse, which was almost without supplies, its main items being “300 pills of chloroquine tablets and 3 metres of band aid”. It was also reported that in March 1979 some 6,000 people in the same area waited for food for some five weeks and then received only five tonnes of corn. The report declared that “providing aid in small quantities and with long delays impresses as an irony. No wonder that people started complaining that the Indonesian authorities want them to die off by hunger and disease”. The same story of maladministration and corruption in the distribution of aid comes from many other sources, among them letters from East Timor and from others who have managed to leave the territory. The former Bishop of Timor, Bishop Ribeiro, who is now in Portugal, was in the past often critical of the humanitarian relief arrangements organised by the Indonesian occupying authorities. But efforts to arrange for relief supplies to be channelled through the more efficient Church organizations have met with opposition from the Indonesian military who are apparently anxious that this assistance should be identified as originating from Indonesian rather than Church sources.
A Report published by the Australian Council for Overseas Aid in July this year, also drew attention to the complete inadequacy of the basic relief arrangements for the vast number of displaced persons in East Timor. Some of the material on which the ACFOA Report is based has also been referred to in the preparation of this paper, but almost all reports from non-Indonesian sources contain similar criticisms. Nearly all of these reports reinforce the conclusion that Indonesia ‘s forced integration of East Timor has been devastating in terms of loss of life and other forms of human suffering, and that the Indonesian authorities, including the Indonesian Red Cross, have not been able to cope with its devastating humanitarian consequences.
The comments of Father de Rego who left Timor in June this year, provide a unique insight into the situation behind Fretilin lines in the three years after the Indonesian invasion. He said that hunger first became serious towards the end of 1 977, when the Indonesian armed forces intensified their operations against Fretilin. He reported that the Indonesian “search and destroy” operations forced the Timorese to flee from one area to another and thus food production behind Fretilin lines virtually came to an end. The Indonesian military authorities then began to force the Timorese into the centres based on the American “strategic hamlets”. But based on the evidence accumulated over the past 1 2 months, it is evident that the Indonesian authorities were unable to provide the basic food and medical needs of these hamlets which soon became centres of disease and death. In one or two of the hamlets (which are now known as centres for displaced persons) some attempts were made to improve living conditions, and the few foreign visitors to East Timor appear to have been directed to these centres, hence the favourable comments by some of them on Indonesia’s efforts to deal with the starving population of East Timor. Some foreign aid officials have also praised the local authorities for the arrangements they witnessed during their brief visits to the territory, but the visitors appear not to have witnessed the actual distribution of supplies in the areas most desperately in need.
There have been many reports on other aspects of the treatment of the Timorese population by Indonesian authorities. These included, during the past six months or so, several accounts of executions of surrendered Fretilin soldiers, reportedly by firing squads. According to one report, a party of some 200 soldiers were said to have been executed in the Baucau area. Other sources claim that many of the Fretilin soldiers and other persons have just disappeared. According to a letter in July this year, “many widows of the recently disappeared walk around in a very disturbed state, as though as skeletons “. There have been some six separate accounts of bizarre executions of captured Fretilin leaders, possibly including Alarico Fernandes, the former Fretilin Minister for Information and Internal Security, who surrendered to the Indonesians some 12 months ago. These sources claim that a number of captured Fretilin leaders were taken up in helicopters and then hurled to their deaths during flight. At least one of these reports comes from a member of 744 Battalion, some recently formed unit of Timorese troops, but officered by Indonesians. A letter from Timor five weeks ago reported the execution of the Lobato family, the father being a male nurse and the mother a former member of the Portuguese Red Cross. The children ranged between 12 and 18 years of age. There have been many reports that a large number of Timorese are incarcerated in prisons in various parts of East Timor, contradicting an official Indonesian denial that there are any prisoners at all. According to one source, there are in fact some 40 prisons throughout the territory. Father de Rego spent some time in a prison in Baucau, where he was interrogated, and which he said he shared with hundreds of East Timorese. There have also been several references to the use of a warehouse in Dih and an old walled cemetery for prisoners said to be of a political kind. Reports from Indonesia suggest that the authorities in East Timor have so far refused to allow the International Red Cross officials to examine this particular question.
In a sense, there is a suppressed refugee problem in East Timor. If the country had shared a common border with a third power Australia would have been drawn into a massive refugee problem on its own doorstep. Tens of thousands of Timorese would leave for Portugal, Australia or any other place if they were able to do so. It is clear that the Indonesian authorities are determined to prevent the kind of exodus that would attract international attention, and would lead to an undermining of the credibility of Jakarta’s version of the integration process, not to speak of other aspects of life under Indonesian rule. Thus, the family reunion program involving those Timorese with relatives in Australia is proceeding at a very slow pace. Only one or two full-blooded Timorese are among the 260 who have been permitted to leave the territory. The remainder are mostly Chinese or ‘ mestico ‘ ( mixed ) Chinese, many of whom appear to have bought their way out Most of the ethnic Timorese whose relatives fled to Australia in August 1975, were UDT officials who have become increasingly frustrated and critical of Indonesia’s performance in East Timor. The fact that they know a great deal about the true situation, and are in a position to reveal that ‘integration’ was very far from an act of free choice seems to be the main obstacle to their release. It might well be that the Indonesian authorities will not allow these officials to rejoin their families while there is some risk of a revival of interest in the fate of this unfortunate territory. According to recent reports from Timor those who have sought permission, via the ICRC, to leave the territory have found themselves being discriminated against in terms of food rations and employment. Meanwhile, the hopes of the Timorese women in Australia, some of whom are living in difficult circumstances, that they will ever be reunited with their husbands, are beginning to fade.
The re-admission or the International Red Cross to East Timor is an encouraging development but the effectiveness of the present arrangement, which involves a joint operation with the Indonesian Red Cross will be limited by its modest size and by the fact that the ICR component is very smallthere will only be three ICRC delegates among the 80 members of the team. The ICRC Mission will have at its disposal some 3,500 tonnes of food, plus clothing, blankets and some medical supplies, which are to be distributed among some 60,000 of the worst-affected Timorese during the course of six months. It seems that the Indonesian authorities are seeing to it that the Mission pays its way. For example, $A3,383,000 (or almost half of the total budget of $A6,966,000 for the operation) is to be spent on the hiring of helicopters for transport purposes. To complicate matters further, the ICRC is reportedly already encountering difficulty in raising funds for its modest Timor budget from the traditional national sources, many of whom are faced with heavy demands for other humanitarian relief operations, particularly in Indochina. There is also some doubt about whether the Mission will be granted access to areas such as Ermera where the humanitarian situation has been very grim, and reportedly continues to be serious. Another important question is whether the International Red Cross officials will be permitted to probe into the sensitive areas of family reunion, tracing and the question of political prisoners, traditional functions of the organisation. Whatever the dedication of the ICR officials and their Indonesian colleagues there is mounting evidence that the Timorese tragedy is of far greater magnitude and seriousness than most observers have hitherto been prepared to concede, and therefore the situation would seem to call for a much greater effort than the present mission will be in a position to mount.
This paper represents an attempt to survey and analyse the present situation in East Timor and recent developments, from a humanitarian rather than a political viewpoint. Although it is based on a careful study of the many reports that have come to the writer’s attention during the past 12 months, there are obvious difficulties in verifying the facts of the situation in East Timor. Nevertheless, there is an unmistakable pattern of continuity and corroboration in nearly all of the hundreds of accounts that have come out from East Timor in one form or another since the attack on Dili in December 1975. Based on this particular study, it is difficult not to conclude that the dimensions of the Timor tragedy are far more serious than even concerned observers of the situation have so far been prepared to concede. It is particularly disturbing that Indonesia’s efforts at humanitarian relief seem to have proceeded in marked contrast to the intensity of her military operations. The world’s conscience has been appropriately shocked by the ordeals of the “Boat People”, and by the reports of enormous loss of life and suffering in Kampuchea, yet scant attention has been given to the humanitarian consequences of Indonesia’s forced integration of East Timor which seems to be assuming the proportions of genocide. The case of East Timor presents, in relative terms, the most serious case of abuse of human rights, not to mention the right of self-determination, ever to have been inflicted on a people, in the crude guise of integration.
-I thank the House. The point I make is that Australian intelligence must have known of the tragedy that has been going on and that the Australian Government has been well aware of what has been occurring. I believe that all of us have to start thinking about why we are sweeping this matter under the carpet. Why are we sweeping it under the carpet? We are doing so because of our so-called relationship with Indonesia. Frankly, it is important that in the long term Australia should have a good relationship with Indonesia, but it should not be at the expense of the tragedy of the East Timorese. It is about time that we demanded that parliamentary delegations be allowed to go into East Timor. It is about time we were allowed to supervise the distribution of our aid and international aid. I know that since 1975 this Government has given about $3.9m in aid. That is good. The Government is starting to build up its aid. Of course we must recognise that $2m of that aid has been made available only since the Peter Rodgers’ report in the Sydney Morning Herald. This Government has somehow found a conscience because of the upsurge of public opinion on this matter. But we still do not know how that aid has been distributed. The Speaker of this House, Sir Billy Snedden, was reported in the Indonesian newspaper Sinar Harapan on 9 November as proposing that a parliamentary delegation go to East Timor to see how this aid was being distributed. Men and women of good will in both Houses of the Parliament are saying: Let us look at the matter in more detail’. Two senators, one from each side, have just gone to Kampuchea. They have made an impassioned plea for increased aid on behalf ofthe people of Kampuchea. Surely we want to see people from both sides of this Parliament go to East Timor and make sure that the aid is given where it is needed most. I give a warning. Food is important, but the most important need at present is medical aid. Our doctors and nurses need to fly to East Timor immediately; otherwise more East Timorese will die. I have read reports that at least 20,000 of them will die whether they get aid or not. Their condition has gone too far for them to be saved. It has been reported also that about 70,000 people are in the secondary stage and it may be possible to save them if the right medical treatment gets to them.
So I am asking the members of this Parliament to come together on this matter. I do not want us to approach it on party lines. It has gone too far now. We are now worrying about peoplepeople who have a tie with our country and to whom we really owe a great debt. So let us come together. Let us give support to the words of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) in reply to a question by me last week that the Government will look seriously at sending a parliamentary delegation to ensure that the food is being distributed properly. That is what I want to see. Let us not call each other names. Let us come together in support of the starving people in East
Timor and let us talk about this matter in the long term. If we act with compassion and strength of character the people of Indonesia will understand our actions. That is what it is all about. After all, it is people about whom we as parliamentarians should be concerned. It does not matter whether they be in Kampuchea, whether they be in East Timor or whether they be in any of the other countries to our near north. I am asking all honourable members to give their support to this matter of public importance.
-It seems at present that the world is faced with a great spectrum of human tragedy. Most of our news media- television and radio- coverage is devoted to some of the almost genocidal disasters that are occurring in various countries. However, there is something a little different about the situation in East Timor or, as the honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Connolly) pointed out a little while ago we should more correctly say in Indonesia. Whether we like it or not we must face up to the reality that East Timor is a part of Indonesia. There is something a little different about the situation in that country for two reasons. The first is that its people are very close to us. If we set aside Papua New Guinea they are, perhaps our nearest neighbours.
Over and above that is a second consideration. We should not sweep it under the carpet. If we do so we are doing a great and critical disservice to this nation. Let me make it clear that we do not shed one vestige of our attitude towards human rights. If there is any doubt in this House as to the attitude of the Parliament generally towards human rights, honourable members would do well to examine the report that was recently tabled by Senator John Wheeldon ‘s Committee. I pay tribute to Senator Wheeldon for his great sincerity and the sincerity of the other members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in producing a document which so exposed the question of human rights. I make it perfectly clear as a prelude to the comments I am about to make that we do not sacrifice one iota of our attitude towards the extreme sanctity of human rights for every single human being on this globe.
Let us keep in mind one critical feature of the situation in East Timor. Unless we are absolutely sure of our facts we should not make extreme claims in relation to the people of Indonesia. Let us not talk about 330,000 people being killed when we know damn well that that figure is ridiculous. Even if only 3,300 people have been killed that has not been as a result of the civil war. Wars will come and go. Honourable members should take a look at the tragedies in Lebanon, Vietnam and Kampuchea. We realise that we cannot do very much about the insanity that causes people to kill each other. If they are people of the same race how much more vicious is the war involved.
We should look beyond the war in East Timor and consider the aftermath. The aftermath has been examined with a prejudiced eye. It has been prejudiced in two directions. Some people say that the Indonesians are inviolate. They say that all who were killed were killed in the civil war and that people who have died since have died of some disease resulting from the civil war. This claim is as much rot as the other claim to which I have referred, namely that 330,000 people have been killed. I agree with one thing which the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) said; perhaps I agree with a lot that he said. He is a man who has given much of his life to this country but I suggest that at times he gets a little carried away and is inclined to do as, regrettably, some members of the Labor Party are inclined to do; that is, to expose the miseries of people and to exploit them to their own advantage. We well know that they stand condemned in this regard in relation to Aboriginals and pensioners, but I do not wish to get on to that subject.
I return to the matter of the East Timorese. For how long will the recriminations continue? For how long will there be a wrangle about who is responsible for what? For how long will the body count continue? I think that everybody would concede that Peter Rodgers did a splendid job. He came back with a realistic report of what is happening now. Let us look at what is happening now. In some respects this has some relation to the body count- the hundreds of thousands of people who are supposed to have perished in the course of the war. A civil war took place. We should look to the security of this country and not sweep the matter under the carpet. Two elements are involved. We should have an additional, more active and more living sympathy for these people because they are on our doorstep. But the very fact that they are on our doorstep brings in another critical consideration. We should not abandon our principles. We are not acting so as not to offend some Indonesian official as was stated in this place. It is not a matter of offending some Indonesian official; it is a matter of keeping our relationship with a country of tens of millions of people, which is now recognised as being very significant among those countries which are militarily capable in the world, never mind in South East Asia. It is of some importance for us to have an understanding of these people and a mutual respect, notwithstanding what has happened in East Timor.
Is East Timor to dominate the whole of our considerations? Is it to cause us to abandon our future, our security, our defence and our relations with the one country that could stand between us and what is an ever-growing threat in the north? How often did we hear honourable members opposite a few years ago say: ‘Huh, the domino theory.’
– As the honourable member for the Northern Territory says, we heard it continually. We got sick and tired of hearing it. The honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) came back from a visit to the area and confirmed that the domino theory was a threat. My goodness, how he proved to be right! There is the ever important consideration of the security of Australia and every person in this nation. Are we to accept these extreme condemnations of the Indonesian people? Let us examine the situation and bring some balance into it. Let us not for one moment abandon our genuine concern for these people.
It is interesting to note that it was not easy for the Indonesians when they took over Timor. Again I say that we must accept what has happened, as we have accepted the Soviet takeover and domination of countries such as Poland and the blocs that have come into existence. Timor is not a bloc; it is a composite country. There had been three centuries of colonial neglect in that area. As the honourable member for Bradfield pointed out, when the Indonesians took over there was no sealed road out of Dili. Roads are being constructed and sealed at the moment. More importantly, the honourable member for Bradfield pointed out that a constructive policy regarding health and education is now beginning. Honourable members should remember that prior to the takeover there was nothing but shambles in the area. The Indonesians had to face up not only to the three centuries of colonial neglect but also to what would happen after the civil war. Let us bring a little balance into the situation without condoning for one moment any persecution of these people.
We must stand firmly. I agree entirely with the honourable member for Reid when he says that there has to be a bipartisan approach. We have to close our ranks on this matter. We have to consider the reasonable claims, not the extreme ones from either side. Rather than talk we should act as the Government has acted. An additional $1,900,000, nearly $2m, was allocated to East Timor before the Rodgers report came out. The honourable member for Reid said that another $2m, was allocated to ease our conscience. What rot! That $2m was allocated because the joint Red Cross organisations had issued a report indicating a tremendous need. That need was not pointed out in the Rodgers report, even though I pay credit to it, but by the joint Red Cross organisations.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
-by leave-Earlier today a report was presented from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. It dealt with changes to the Australian Capital Territory. I want to express some concern at what has occurred because of an interpretation of a clause in the Parliament Act which controls the area generally known as the Parliamentary Triangle. At the time of the passage of the Act it was intended and thought to mean that no alterations to the physical structure of the Parliamentary Triangle, as it existed at that time, could be made. The interpretation placed on the clause in the Act is that no new structures can be erected in that area. It follows that this means that changes by the withdrawal of structures, removal of physical features or natural phenomena and other alterations can be made providing nothing new is intended. This is not what the Parliament intended.
I believe that the Parliament should not accept it as being the right of persons or planners to change the structure of that area. It is an area set aside specifically for Parliament. It should be protected and specifically dealt with by Parliament. I am aware that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory considers these things. All alterations to the Parliamentary Triangle- whether they be removals of physical or natural things or erections- should be subject to agreement by the Parliament. I raise this matter very briefly. I ask the Government to give consideration to the present terms. If they are deficient they should be altered in order to provide that any changes of any description proposed to the Parliamentary Triangle should come before the Parliament.
– by leave-I present the report of the Leader of the Australian Delegation to the second meeting of Young Commonwealth Leaders held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 3 May to 8 May 1979. I was fortunate to represent the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) and to lead the Australian delegation. The first meeting of Young Commonwealth Leaders was held two years earlier, in May 1977 in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. The Australian delegation on that occasion was led by my colleague, the honourable member for McMillan (Mr Simon). At that first meeting it was stressed that the broad topic of participation by young people must remain a priority concern of the Commonwealth Youth Program. The delegates at Ocho Rios and the 1978 Commonwealth Affairs Council meeting in Canada enthusiastically supported the proposal to hold a second young leaders meeting.
A second meeting was considered important not only to follow up the outcome of the Ocho Rios declaration by Commonwealth youth and to continue the emphasis of the Commonwealth Youth Program in preparing young people in the Commonwealth for participation in national decision making, but also to enhance the role of young leaders in the Commonwealth.
The venue for the second meeting was decided when the Sri Lankan Government offered to host the conference. Each Commonwealth government was invited to send up to three delegates chosen from among young parliamentarians and government members, leaders of youth wings of political parties, elected leaders of youth organisations, young trade union leaders and young government officials- all preferably under 35 years of age.
Australia was among the 28 Commonwealth countries which participated, and an observer from ESCAP- the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific- also attended. Particularly welcomed was the participation by ten young Ministers from Commonwealth governments and four young members of Commonwealth parliaments, whose responsibilities and interests lay in several fields, including youth affairs. The meeting recognised the practical wisdom and experience young ministers and members of parliament could contribute and the weight their participation would add to the effect which the outcome of the deliberations at
Colombo would have in the Commonwealth generally.
The first meeting in Ocho Rios had concerned itself with young peoples’ participation in the political, social and economic development of their own countries. This second meeting in Colombo focussed on the international problem of youth unemployment and the concept of the new international economic order. The aims of the meeting were: Firstly, to express the views of young leaders on the unemployment situation in their respective countries, highlighting the implications for both those unemployed, especially in the very real human terms, and for national economic development; secondly, to attempt to identify innovative measures designed to alleviate unemployment currently being implemented in some countries together with employment alternatives; thirdly, to review work being undertaken by the Commonwealth Youth Program on youth unemployment and to make recommendations; fourthly, to recommend further action to alleviate youth unemployment by young people and their organisations and by governments; fifthly, to consider the continuing responsibilities of the Commonwealth Youth Program in highlighting the unemployment situation amongst young people; sixthly, to stimulate discussion among young leaders on aspects of the new international economic order, to encourage them to mobilise opinion and action amongst young people in their respective countries; and seventhly, to endeavour to identify linkage between the current high incidence of youth unemployment and its possible amelioration with a new international economic order.
The format of the meeting revolved around the presentation of lead papers to plenary sessions. Further detailed discussion then took place in two commissions, one on youth unemployment and the other on the new international economic order and the general north-south dialogue. The lead papers, reports of the commissions and the final statement are all printed in the report which I presented. Those who read the report will appreciate that the conference was very successful in achieving its aims. Contained in the final statement are realistic, worthwhile recommendations, applicable to all participating Commonwealth countries. Noteworthy among the recommendations is the strong emphasis on the capacity of small business to provide employment opportunities and on job creation and selfemployment by youths.
In the Australian context, these emphases firstly fit well with present support of governments, both State and Federal, for small business and further possibilities for extensions of that support especially in the taxation area. Secondly they fit in well with self-employment schemes such as work co-operatives. With respect to the new international economic order, there is undoubtedly scope within Australia for a domestic education program to make our citizens aware of this international concept and ofthe reality of the interdependence of nations. Additionally, there is a further international role for Australia in promoting youth and sporting links between Commonwealth countries. I would like to pay tribute to the other member of the Australian delegation, Miss Sue Knowles, a member of the National Youth Advisory Group. Her contribution throughout the conference was recognised and appreciated by all the participants.
Miss Knowles, I am certain, would also like to join me in thanking for their guidance and assistance, Mr Andrew Mullin, second secretary, and Miss Jenny Rawson, third secretary of the Australian High Commission in Colombo. Both Mr Mullin and Miss Rawson sat in on several ofthe conference sessions and their presence added greatly to the value of the Australian contribution. The conference was an extremely rewarding experience for all who participated and it was certainly well organised and efficiently run. Full credit must be paid to the Commonwealth secretariat and the National Youth Service Council of Sri Lanka, which jointly made up the conference secretariat.
The third meeting of Young Commonwealth Leaders has been tentatively scheduled for May 1981 at Lusaka, Zambia. Australia is the third major financial contributor to the Commonwealth Youth Program, behind Great Britain and Canada, and I am strongly of the view that we should maintain out support to ensure that such meetings of young leaders can continue on a regular basis. I especially appreciate the presence in the Chamber of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs for the presentation of this report. Within the unique organisation of the Commonwealth these young leaders meetings provide ideal opportunities for young people of related nations to meet, to discuss and to decide together on matters of mutal concern to themselves and their countries. Such exchanges greatly benefit all who participate and individual friendships forged cannot help but advance the cause of peace and goodwill between men and Commonwealth nations.
Bill presented by Mr Viner.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to implement in substance the recommendations contained in the Interim Report of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into
Drugs. In the light of this interim report, the Government has concluded that the Australian Federal Police should be given all necessary powers for narcotics inquiries. Parliament recently conferred the power on officers of Customs to use listening devices under warrant of a judge. This power now needs to be transferred to members of the Australian Federal Police subject to the same safeguards and limits as now apply in relation to officers of Customs. This Bill therefore provides for amendments to the Customs Act to empower members of the Australian Federal Police, instead of officers of Customs, to use, under the warrant of a judge, listening devices in respect of narcotics offences.
The Government has given considerable thought to the safeguards and limitations to apply to the granting and exercise of the powers to be conferred by this amendment on members of the Australian Federal Police. These safeguards and limitations will be: A judge of the Federal Court or a Supreme Court must be satisfied by information on oath as to the justification for issue of a warrant; information obtained by use of the device may only be used for narcotics inquiries; there is a prohibition on communication except in strictly limited circumstances; these concern very serious criminal offences and security matters; the Commissioner will be required to report to the Minister not only on the use made of the information but also whether, and if so to whom, the information is communicated; the Minister may, under subsection 13 (6) of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979, call for a report of the Commissioner on the performance of the functions of the Australian Federal Police in so far as use of listening devices is involved. The Bill also amends the provisions enacted earlier this year for recovery of pecuniary penalties to enable a member of the Australian Federal Police, as well as an officer of Customs, to give expert evidence in the relevant proceedings.
– Without being too difficult, I move:
- (Hon. Ian Robinson)- I draw the attention of the House to the fact that it would not be competent for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to move a motion in those terms. Under Standing Orders there is no provision for action of this kind. There can be no debate on the motion. The question can be disposed of only as provided for by the Standing Orders.
Debate (on motion by Mr Ruddock) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to implement in substance the recommendations contained in the Interim Report of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs. In the light of this interim report, the Government has concluded that the Australian Federal Police should be given all necessary powers for narcotics inquiries. Parliament recently conferred the power on officers of Customs to intercept telecommunications and inspect telegrams under warrant of a judge. This power now needs to be transferred to members of the Australian Federal Police subject to the same safeguards and limits- as now apply in relation to officers of Customs. This Bill therefore provides for amendments to the Telecommunications (Interception) Act to empower members of the Australian Federal Police, instead of officers of Customs, to intercept telecommunications and inspect telegrams, under the warrant of a judge, for the purposes of investigations in respect of narcotics offences.
The Government has given considerable thought to the safeguards and limitations to apply to the granting and exercise of the powers to be conferred by this amendment on members of the Australian Federal Police. These safeguards and limitations will be as follows: A judge of the Federal Court or a supreme court must be satisfied by information on oath as to the justification for issue of a warrant; information obtained by the interception or inspection may only be used for narcotics inquiries; there is a prohibition on communication except in strictly limited circumstances; these concern very serious criminal offences and security matters; the Commissioner will be required to report to the Minister not only on the use made of the information but also whether, and if so to whom, the information is communicated; and the Minister may, under section 13 (6) of the Australian Federal
Police Act 1979 call for a report of the Commissioner on the performance of the functions of the Australian Federal Police in so far as the interception of telecommunications and inspections of telegrams is involved. I commend the Bill to the House.
Motion ( by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– (Hon. Ian Robinson) -The question is that the debate be adjourned and the adjourned debate be made an order ofthe day for the next day of sitting.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to address you as to whether the next day of sitting is the appropriate time to which to adjourn the debate. I wish to move that the debate be adjourned not until the next day of sitting but until such time as Parliament -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I do not know whether the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is speaking to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, raising a point of order, or what. I think he should identify the matter to which he is speaking.
-Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is speaking to the question before the House. The question before the House is that the debate be adjourned and the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-I suggest that the debate should be adjourned until another time. I wish to move that it be adjourned until such time as we receive a report as to the propriety or otherwise of all information obtained by the Commonwealth Police relating to the prosecution of a number of people of Greek origin who are involved in what is known as the Greek conspiracy case. I wish to so move pursuant to a Notice of Motion which was given this day.
-There is no provision for a motion within the terms proposed. The only course open to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, if he proposes a date other than the next day of sitting, is to move a specific date for the adjournment ofthe debate.
Motion (by Mr Lionel Bowen) proposed:
Omit ‘the next day of sitting’ and substitute ‘7 December 1979’.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) must know that it is the regular routine of the House to follow the practice which the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) who is at the table, has followed. Normally, if there was any need for a postponement, but not an indefinite one, it would be proper and right for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to consult with the Minister in charge of the Bill and arrange for a date suitable to the Opposition and the Government. It would have to be some time next week. The Bill would have to be dealt with before the House rose. At this time we cannot have legislation remaining on the books interminably. I therefore suggest to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition- a man of consummate good sense, a man who I believe respects the traditions of the Standing Orders and the practices of the Housethat he consult with the Minister. I am sure that he will find that to the maximum extent possible, the Minister will attempt to accommodate his wishes, but not to the extent of delaying for an unknown period a Bill which is of such great importance.
-The point of order raised by the right honourable member for Lowe is scarcely one that I can accept in the strict sense of a point of order, but I have allowed him to make his point. It is now for the House to determine its course of action.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to speak to the motion. I am quite sure that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) realises that the date that he proposes- 7 December- is quite unacceptable to the Government. He also knows that it is not expected that the House will be sitting on that day. The House will realise that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has put forward a quite spurious proposal. It is also apparent that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is intent upon trying to delay or to disrupt the proceedings of the Bills which I am now introducing. As has been pointed out by the right honourable member for Lowe (Sir William McMahon) the procedure which has been adopted by me and the question which has been put by you, Mr Deputy Speaker, are completely in accordance with the normal forms of the House. The adjournment will proceed as usual, providing an interim period when the Opposition can consider its stand on the Bill. It is, of course, at liberty then to move what it likes in respect of the Bill. As I have pointed out, the proposed date for the adjournment of this Bill- 7 December- is quite unacceptable to the Government.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Lionel Bowen’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Hon. Ian Robinson)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Viner, and read a first time.
– I move:
In consequence of the Government’s decision to implement in substance the recommendations contained in the interim report of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs and to give the Australian Federal Police all necessary powers for narcotics inquiries, certain consequential amendments need to be made to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979 provides that the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation or an officer authorised by him may communicate information relating to narcotics offences to officers of Customs and information relating to serious criminal offences to officers of police.
This Bill amends the principal Act to provide that information relating to narcotics offences may be communicated only to members or special members of the Australian Federal Police. For information relating to serious criminal offences the Bill replaces the reference to the Commonwealth Police Force with a reference to the Australian Federal Police. I commend the Bill to the House.
That the debate be now adjourned.
I indicate that the Opposition would prefer to move that the debate be adjourned to a specific date, but rather than move such a motion now and press for a division we will raise the matter of timing when the Bill comes on for debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to amend the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Act 1975 to enact the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) proposals which I tabled in this House on 25 October 1979. The majority ofthe changes to the coal export duty, as proposed by this Bill, were foreshadowed by my colleague the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in the Budget Speech on 21 August 1979. As mentioned by the Treasurer, from 1 November 1979 the revised export duty applicable to high quality coking coal is $ 1 per tonne if that coal is extracted from an underground mine, a new open-cut mine commencing production on or after 30 June 1 980 or a major extension commencing on or after 30 June 1980 to an existing open-cut mine.
In addition to the changes announced by the Treasurer this Bill proposes two further changes, with effect from 1 November 1979, to the application of the coal export duty. Firstly, certain coal which attracts a rate of duty as coking coal in terms of the definitions in the existing legislation is in fact salable only as steaming coal because of its high ash content. To remove this anomaly the Government has decided that coal which contains an ash content of more than 12 per cent on an air dried basis will be exempt from the payment of duty under the Act. Secondly, in recognition that open-cut mining technologies involving specialised high cost equipment are coming into use which make possible the excavation of coal at depths significantly greater than current technology, the Government has further decided that high quality coking coal extracted from existing open-cut mines at a depth greater than 60 metres will attract a rate of duty of $1 per tonne. The cost to the revenue of the changes in relation to steaming coal and coal extracted at a depth below 60 metres is estimated to be $50,000 in 1979-80, $2.5m in 1980-81 and $3.1min 1981-82.
Honourable members’ attention is invited to one aspect of significance in the Bill which relates to declarations by my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony). Clause 5 of the Bill enables the Minister for Trade and Resources to declare new coal mines or major extensions to existing coal mines for the purposes of the Act.
For the benefit of honourable members, the Government considers that a major extension to an existing mine should be of such magnitude that it would, in other circumstances, be regarded as a new mine. Therefore, to qualify as a major extension, the extension should result in a substantial and ongoing increase in production which will generally require significant additions to the whole operational chain. Clearly, there will be a variety of circumstances which must be taken into account in the judgments of the merits of a particular case. For this reason the Government believes that that judgment is of sufficient magnitude to warrant ministerial declaration. Clause 5 of the Bill further provides, in relation to major extensions, a power for the Minister for Trade and Resources to revoke an earlier declaration if he is satisfied that the conditions upon which the declaration was issued, no longer apply.
Consistent with the Government’s policy of expanding, wherever possible, the jurisdiction of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to administrative decisions, I will be introducing a further Bill which proposes amendments to the Customs Act 1 90 1 to provide a right to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of administrative decisions by the Minister for Trade and Resources, or a collector of Customs which affect the liability for duty of persons under the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Act 1975, as proposed to be amended.
Finally, although it has not been possible to remove the export duty in respect of coal in its entirety, the Government is of the view that the measures in the Bill now before the House will provide a significant measure of assistance to the industry. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Keating) adjourned.
Bill presented by Mr Fife, and read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to amend section 133 of the Customs Act 1901, consequential upon the proposed Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill 1979, to provide a right to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of administrative decisions by the Minister for Trade and Resources or a collector of Customs which affect the liability for duty of persons under the Customs
Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Act 1975 as proposed to be amended. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Debate (on motion by Mr Young) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 October, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the BUI be now read a second time.
– May I have the indulgence of the House to suggest that the House has a general debate covering this Bill, the Judiciary Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979, and the Evidence Amendment Bill 1979 as they are related measures. Separate questions will of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
– (Hon. Ian Robinson)- Is it the wish of the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the three measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
– In dealing with the three Bills, the first thing that the Opposition wants to say is that we do not oppose the Evidence Amendment Bill. The Bill deals with the judicial notice of signatures and the regulations and rules of court. The Opposition does not wish to say any more about it than that. The other Bill which we are not opposing is the Judiciary Amendment Bill (No. 2). Some of the provisions of this Bill have been taken from the High Court Procedure Act. They relate to a trial without jury and the power of the High Court of Australia to direct a trial with a jury. It deals with matters of procedure and evidence and matters of defect and error. There is only one substantive change being made by the Bill, and that is related to the situation of the High Court being equally divided in its decision on an appeal. It deals with the question of whether that decision would stand or whether the Chief Justice would be allowed to have a casting vote. The Bill provides that when the High Court is equally divided the appeal will not be upheld; the determination of the Federal or State courts will stand. The Opposition has no objection to that procedure being followed.
I now come to the High Court of Australia Bill. Whilst the Opposition will not formally oppose this Bill, it is not in agreement with the way in which the legislation is drafted. I immediately refer to clause 6 ofthe Bill, which reads:
Where there is a vacancy in an office of Justice, the Attorney-General shall, before an appointment is made to the vacant office, consult with the Attorneys-General of the States in relation to the appointment.
I acknowledge that all the Attorney-General has to do is to consult. But I read into that provision that the Attorney-General has to consult with and may be subject to the direction of the Attorneys-General of the States as to who should be appointed to the High Court. That is wrong; it should not be thought that our own AttorneyGeneral has not the capacity or the ability to determine who should be appointed to the High Court. Why should he think that his ability is in any way subservient to the collective wisdom of the other six Attorneys-General, particularly as the other six Attorneys-General would nominate six different people for the vacancy? It looks as though we are playing lotto or some sort of roulette. The person who fills the next vacancy on the High Court will depend on who is in favour with the Commonwealth and the States. I will look with interest to see whether the person who fills the next vacancy comes from South Australia or Tasmania. That seems to be the way in which the matter will be determined. I have no objection to that course being followed, but the issue concerning the Australian people is the issue of merit. The people of the greatest merit are those who are known in the profession. That matter does not have to be determined by a State Attorney-General. I just add that on one occasion the Attorney-General in Queensland had no legal training at all.
It is ridiculous to think that when this matter was raised at the Constitutional Convention in Perth there was some suggestion that there had to be some obligation in this regard. Just to get the matter off the agenda, the Labor Party said that the logical and courteous thing to do might be to consult with Attorneys-General. The Opposition does not want it put into the Bill that that is an obligation that has to be followed, for example, by a Labor Attorney-General. I do not see any value in an Attorney-General saying: ‘I am going to consult with you, but I have made up my mind as to the merits ofthe situation’. Why should he not say that? His decision would have been made on merit. An appointment has to be made from the profession, from people who are qualified and who have already made their mark in life. Obviously they will be senior counsel. They will not be people who will be dragged in without any other experience. The profession is the best guide as to who is well qualified to fill vacancies on the basis of standing, status and seniority. To include such a provision in the Bill weakens the whole situation. Accordingly, we are opposed to that provision, but we do not wish to divide on it because it is only a matter of consultation.
The other matter which is worthy of comment is Part II, Division 2, which provides for the seat of the High Court to be in Canberra. The Opposition recognises that. At the same time, we hope that the High Court will continue to sit outside Canberra on a regular basis. It is very important that the top court in Australia be seen to be identified with the people of Australia, including those in Tasmania, unless there is some doubt whether Bass Strait is included and there is not. The question we wish to raise in relation to the High Court in Canberra is that it seems to have got out of hand from the point of view of what I might call cost to the public. I know that this has nothing to do with the judiciary, but it has a lot to do with the National Capital Development Commission. I have looked at the High Court building. I notice that it will cost $42.5m whereas originally it was programmed to cost a mere $18m. I will not say too much, but it looks as though we are building some grandiose structure which does not seem to have much to do with justice but has a lot to do with image or status. It is a massive concrete structure with ramps, and encloses a lot of air- not hot air, just a lot of airwith a floor to ceiling height of approximately 85 feet. We are just fooling ourselves if we think that it will make an impression on people and that because we have this great structure, this Taj Mahal, people may be impressed by the terrors of the law, they should be impressed by the veracity of the law. I think that what is occurring is wrong. I should have thought that a more sensible operation of the contract could have kept the expenditure in line with the original estimate of about $ 1 8m. I suppose that to some extent the increase can be related to inflation, but not the entire amount.
There are only three court rooms in the High Court building, each containing all sorts of peculiar devices such as bullet-proof windows. I do not want to offer advice to anyone who has ideas of assassination, but I do not think that people will take long-distance shots through the High Court windows. I suppose that they would be interested in doing that somewhere else. I make the point that we should look at the extraordinary amount of money that has to be put into assisting our justices make worthwhile decisions, which of course they will write with pen and ink or get typed, and then look at the deprived circumstances from the point of view of health, hygiene and general welfare, in which we conduct our affairs on behalf of the nation. We have to make the laws in that environment, but when those laws have to be interpreted people will go to a building which is quite magnificent from the point of view of cost structure. I make that point because it seems that what we must have in the High Court has become a fixation. From the Opposition’s point of view, the value of the High Court is in its judgments, in the words that are said, and not in an image or status developed from a structure built at great cost. I refer to a couple of items of furniture, which I understand will be provided. It has been drawn to my attention that the worthy judges must have desks that cost over $3,000 each and a couple of book trolleys costing $2,000 each. I cannot find any furnishings that will cost less than $1,000. The conference table will cost $5,000. A lot of expenditure is being incurred which seems to be related to image and not to the intelligence which the judges have. The unemployed and other persons in Australia are concerned about extravagance and I think that a fair amount of money has gone into this structure.
The other matter I want to raise deals with administration and finance. Under clause 17, the High Court has power to do all things necessary in respect of its administration. That immediately raises the point: Where does Parliament stand and what are its powers in relation to administration? We do not want to interfere, but we have to question what is happening when it comes to public money. Is the High Court administering itself in a proper fashion? For example, the High Court can accept gifts. We would not expect it to take gifts from people who have matters before the Court. I think that that would be quite improper and could lead to some impropriety. Mr Speaker, did you wish me to stop?
-Never, but I do appreciate the courtesy of the honourable gentleman. I am ready to make a ruling on the sub judice question which arose earlier today during the debate on the motion moved by the honourable gentleman to suspend Standing Orders. I have ascertained that the honourable gentleman’s time will not expire until after 8 o’clock and I thought that it would be just as well to interrupt now. Is that suitable to the honourable gentleman?
-Yes, Mr Speaker.
-Is there a more convenient time to interrupt?
-No, I will probably take only another five minutes to finish my remarks.
-Thank you, Mr Speaker. The question is one of a conflict of interest, and I was making that point in regard to gifts to the High Court. One cannot say that because of a separation of powers the High Court should have complete freedom with money. That seems to be contrary to the reasoning of sections 81 and 83 of the Constitution. If there has to be some limitation in assessing the priority of expenditure, we make the point that there must be some accountability for that expenditure. Clause 36 of the Bill appears to raise difficulties in relation to the Constitution. It says that the Court cannot spend money except in accordance with estimates approved by the Minister. However, the estimates approved by the Minister might not be approved by the Parliament, and clauses 35 and 36 would come into conflict if this House varied the estimates approved by the Minister. If there has to be autonomy, there has to be accountability. On that basis we say that the High Court is publicly answerable to the Parliament for its expenditure. Whether this be via the Clerk of the High Court, which is the position being created by the Bill, or by the Chief Justice, it is obvious that these people would have to come before the Estimates Committee to explain the details of the expenditure. I think that I have made the points that I wished to make. In view of the time, I will conclude my remarks. The Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
-The House has a fundamental right and duty to consider any matter if it is thought to be in the public interest. However, in the case of a matter awaiting or under adjudication in a court of law, the House imposes a restriction upon itself to avoid setting itself up as an alternative forum to the court and to ensure that its proceedings are not permitted to interfere with the course of justice. Having no Standing Order of its own relating specifically to sub judice matters, the House is guided by the practice of the House of Commons and as applied by this House in the past.
The rule is clear that the application ofthe sub judice rule is subject always to the discretion of the Chair and the right of the House to legislate on any matter. In relation to the matters awaiting or under adjudication in all courts excercising criminal jurisdiction, the rule requires that these matters shall not be referred to in motions, debate or questions from the moment a charge is made. In relation to issues of national importance such as the national economy, public order or the essentials of life before, for example, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the rule is that these matters may be referred to unless such references would constitute a. real and substantial danger of prejudice to the proceedings.
In exercising the discretion I have referred to, the Chair must make a decision which takes into account the inherent right of the House to inquire into and debate a matter of public importance which is within the responsibility of Ministers and also the need to ensure that proceedings before a court are not prejudiced by comment in the House which might influence a jury or prejudice the position of parties and witnesses. As an example of the exercise of this discretion, I have ruled as not sub judice a matter before a court of appeal where I was of the opinion that the judges would not be influenced by any debate occurring in the House. I refer to Hansard of 4 June 1 976 at page 3048.
In this present matter, however, a different situation exists. As I am informed, the prosecutions are proceeding before the police magistrate who will determine the question of whether the defendants, or some of them, will be committed for trial before a judge and jury. In this situation I must be very careful that the House does not unwittingly risk injustice by comments it makes which might influence the jury. Therefore, I must in these circumstances apply a more stringent test. The motion proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) commences:
That a judicial inquiry be appointed to enquire into and report upon the obtaining of the evidence in relation to the prosecution in the Greek Conspiracy Case, and in particular . . .
Then follows three particular items of inquiry. The obtaining of the evidence in relation to the prosecution in the Greek conspiracy case is the prime inquiry and pervades each of the three items of particular inquiry. In relation to items (b) and (c) of the proposed motion, I have had no. doubt that debate on these matters would lead to risk of injustice. In relation to item (a), I was very concerned not to prevent debate on an issue of national importance such as the use by the Commonwealth Police of listening devices and the interception of telephone conversations. However, as that item is also directly covered by the introductory words and main thrust of the proposed motion, namely, ‘the Greek Conspiracy Case’, I have no alternative but to rule that a debate on that item would also lead to risk of injustice and it therefore falls within the sub judice rule of this House.
The matter before the chamber is at the stage where the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is in the process of” moving a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders in the terms announced by him and which is under consideration here. I have not as yet put the motion, nor has it been seconded. Therefore, my ruling that it cannot proceed ends the matter.
-Mr Speaker, may I have your indulgence to address you again on this matter of sub judice when the House resumes because the Opposition does intend to put matters before you?
– Yes, I would be willing to do that. I will return to the chair at an arranged time so that the honourable member may raise the matter.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– It has been a principle of our system of government that there are three sorts of power- the legislature, the Executive to administer the law of the nation and the judicial power. (Quorum formed). These Bills that I am about to address myself to are about our system of government and the separation of power. Liberty has long been dependent upon the independence of the functions that each of the areas of government have in our system and their effective separation. This legislation is about liberty and protecting that separation more effectively.
The Bills are the High Court of Australia Bill 1979, the Judiciary Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1979 and the Evidence Amendment Bill 1979. The legislative scheme is to effect the transfer of the seat of the High Court, the judicial arm of power under our Constitution, to Canberra and to perfect its independence from departmenttal control. The High Court Bill provides for the Court to manage its own affairs, to be responsible for its own building, its staff and its own financial arrangements. All staff, including its administrative head, the Clerk, will be free from the Public Service Act. The Bill also provides in clause 6 for the appointment of judges to the High Court to be made after consultation with the States to reflect more properly the Court’s national status and to enable it to discharge more completely its role as a federal supreme court for all Australia and all States. In other words, this legislation is about an effective separation of power of the Court from the legislature and, more particularly, the Executive.
It is this separation doctrine to which I wish to address my remarks. It is this doctrine as is pursued in the legislative scheme before us that I intend to defend in every respect, as does the Government. This separation is a fundamental tenet of our Constitution. It is very much dependent upon the practitioners iri the legislature, on the Bench and in the Administration. On the part of the judiciary in particular, it is dependent upon separation, upon independence and upon impartiality, and particularly impartiality. A basic feature of all legislative systems is that the persons who decide conflicts between contending parties should be, and should be seen to be, completely impartial and unbiased. There are a number of works which I would have liked to quote, but with the time that has been taken up already I might not be able to do so. It is on this basis that those who judge should avoid expressing opinions on topics which are likely to be the subject of disputes in courts and should not ally themselves with any group or sector in the community which could jeopardise their impartiality or appearance of impartiality. Only if the judiciary is known to be unbiased will the system continue to function. Hartley and Griffith, in Government and the Law, state:
Judges are, of course, expected to abstain from political activity. They are disqualified from membership of the House of Commons but if they are peers (including Lords of Appeal in Ordinary) they can, and do, play a part in the work of the House of Lords. Today they avoid becoming involved in party political controversy.
There are a number of related topics, including the subjects of making political appointments to the judiciary and the use of judges for nonjudicial functions to which, whilst topical, I do not intend on this occasion to address myself. What I do intend to discuss is the standard of conduct required of members of the judiciary, if they are to avoid the appearance of bias towards one or other party and the legislature is to have confidence in the doctrine of separate power for the judiciary, which this legislation is about. The winning of independence by the judiciary is generally accepted to have occurred when the Act of Settlement of 1702 altered the tenure of judges. Anson, in his The Law and Custom of the Constitution, states:
When the judges ceased to be removable at the Royal pleasure they lost a motive for regarding the Royal wishes in their administration of justice, and when at the same time they were made removable on the address of both Houses, they acquired a motive for carefulness lest their conduct on the Bench should fall under the scrutiny of the High Court of Parliament.
In the Australian Constitution, the provision in section 72 that a judge’s honorarium may not be diminished during his term of office may be seen as an additional protection of that independence of the judiciary. Another rule designed to protect the independence of the judiciary is the protection from legal process for acts done by judges in their judicial capacity. This was established in Scott v. Stansfield when Kelly, C. B., said:
It is essential to all courts that the judges who are appointed to administer the law be permitted to administer it under the protection of the law independently and freely without favour and without fear. This provision of the law is not for the protection or benefit of a malicious or corrupt judge, but for the benefit of the public, whose interest it is that the judges should be at liberty to exercise their powers with independence and without fear of consequence.
There are many factors which commentators on the subject of the separation doctrine concede led to the concept of judicial independence. There are various meanings of the term ‘separation’ which stress either functions performed by each branch or the overall allocation of power between each branch. A discussion of functions strictly can point to a certain apparent overlap. For the purpose of discussing the role of judges as independent and impartial in carrying out their duties, it is necessary to concentrate on the functions basically performed by the three branches and the extent to which there is interference with those functions in a practical sense rather than to stress the overall allocation of power and influence in decision-making. Thus, the fact that under the Australian Constitution the High Court may be asked to determine the constitutional validity of legislation passed by Parliament does not mean that the High Court will be usurping the role of Parliament or that Parliament is less independent or separated from the judiciary. Nor does the passage of legislation such as the Administrative Decisions (Judical Review) Act 1977, whereby Parliament decided that Executive decisions may be scrutinised by the judiciary, mean that the judiciary will usurp the role of the Executive. Such matters as these, in my view, do not detract from the independence of the judiciary.
These matters having been examined briefly, independence of the judiciary means two things. The judiciary must be free from any practical constraints or pressures imposed by other branches so that it can fulfil its functions without fear of reprisal. The traditional view ofthe gaining of independence by the judiciary supports this functional approach even if historically the developments were based on functions which were less clearly defined and even if other factors were also involved. The provisions in the High
Court of Australia Bill 1979, which we are now discussing, ensuring a greater degree of administrative independence for the High Court, are a good example of a practical approach towards this end. The other aspect of this functional approach is that if the judiciary is to be independent in carrying out its functions, the other branches must be free to do the same without interference from the judiciary until the time for judicial activity as envisaged by the law arises. Thus, independence is not only a right but also a duty if the system is to function properly. The making of public statements concerning matters on which other branches are engaged must therefore be avoided if the judiciary’s own independence is to be respected.
At the outset it was assumed that any system of solving conflicts by an independent body such as a court could function effectively only while it retained public confidence. The discussion of independence from the Executive and Parliament may suggest that these are the only threats to judicial independence and that public confidence can be maintained where the judiciary engages in political activity or public comment as long as the activity is seen to be a sign of independence from the government of the day. There are two reasons why this is not so. A partisan political approach in one area will reduce the confidence in the institution as a whole so that the public will believe that other issues may be prejudiced and that a balanced view of the law and facts may be lacking in all cases. The judiciary has tenure beyond the term of any government so that partisan activity against a government will lead to a belief that the judiciary will favour the views of an incoming government from the other side. Thus, partisan activity can lead to a weakening of independence when governments change.
One fairly recent event when the role of a member of the judiciary in dealing with the actions of the other branches of the government has been criticised was the advice given to Sir John Kerr by Sir Garfield Barwick about the dismissal of Mr Whitlam. Many eminent constitutionalists commented on such action disapprovingly. They included Professor Geoffrey Sawer, the late Professor D. P. O. Connell and Professor Colin Howard. Not all such eminent academics have taken that view. I refer honourable members interested in the subject to Associate Professor Cooray’s recent work entitled ‘Conventions, the Australian Constitution and the Future’. However, my reluctant duty tonight is to draw the attention of this House to a clear breach and a more recent breach of this doctrine. In the
National Times newspaper of the week ending 14 July this year clear and unambiguous political comments are quoted from the addresses of two judges to a conference of Labor lawyers in Adelaide in early July. Lest there be any doubt as to the nature of this conference, let me draw attention to some of the comments of the author, Mr Richard Acklands. He said:
The Labor lawyers spent their time considering strategies for change … it should not be forgotten that a gathering of Labor lawyers is really a parade ground for political aspirants to show off their plumage … the Labor lawyers event degenerated into a back-biting faction fight, Left versus Right, women versus the men . . .
The conference apparently could not agree on the formation of a national organisation of Labor lawyers. I have taken the opportunity to study the constitutions of the Society of Labor Lawyers in the Australian Capital Territory and New South Wales. Each of them in different ways restricts membership. In particular, they require members to have no political associations other than membership of the Australian Labor Party. The Australian Capital Territory Society clearly notes that at least four members of the executive of seven must hold current ALP membership cards. The relevant clause of the New South Wales body states:
Membership shall not be open to persons who are members of political parties other than the Australian Labor Party except those persons approved by the executive committee.
Clearly, these bodies are partisan political organisations engaged in day to day political comment as evidenced by many reported statements. However, my concern is at speeches to a partisan body by judges who have a responsibility to be impartial. His Honour Mr Justice Murphy’s involvement iri the Labor lawyers conference is reported as follows:
The law and its procedures in most respects are out of date, inefficient and often unjust. This is known by everyone except 90 per cent of the bar and 95 per cent of the judges.
Lionel Murphy’s words provided a well-received rallying call on the opening night of the Labor Lawyers Conference.
These words and the action of this judge of the High Court of Australia clearly endanger the system of separation of power, threaten our system of liberty and destroy confidence of the public in judicial impartiality. I am sorry that the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) whom I respect is laughing about those observations. A judge who has a prior involvement in partisan political activities and was a significant practitioner has a greater duty in my judgment to effect a real separation from political involvement when he accepts an appointment to the highest court of this land. I am not critical of appointments of skilled lawyers from the Parliament to the courts but the transition must be complete. The judiciary must appreciate this. It must also appreciate that failure to observe the separation doctrine can only endanger it. A judge cannot expect the Parliament to be silent and to defer to his position as a judge if he, by his associations and words, invites reply.
Mr Justice Murphy’s position was made even more untenable when his former parliamentary colleague, now Mr Justice McClelland of the New South Wales Industrial Commission, delivered the so-called captivating after dinner speech to the same gathering of Labor lawyers. It was reported that Diamond Jim was ‘dilating on judges and judgments, politicians and politics. His best lines were reserved for politics, the art for which he reserves his most intense fondness’. He followed this up with a speech recently on VIP aircraft which is a current political issue. If honourable members opposite are interested, I have a copy of the transcript. A number of other judges, each of whom has had an involvement in politics of the Left before appointment, saw fit to attend the same conference. The mere fact that these judges attended at all was most improper.
In order to put this matter in perspective, let me ask honourable members opposite what would be their response should the Chief Justice of Australia have been invited and accepted an invitation to give a keynote address to a convention of the Liberal Party or to a conference of Liberal Party lawyers so designated. I suggest that if such an event took place there would be pandemonium in this House. Independent commentators would have a field day. Yet months after the Labor lawyers conference the independent commentators have been silent. Where would perceived partisan judges be if they were confronted with the problems which recently were presented to the judges in Papua New Guinea? How could a judge who is still disposed to political involvement be seen as sufficiently independent to gaol Ministers of the Crown for alleged contempt of court as has recently occurred?
In summary, I make these general observations: It is inherent in the concept of a legal system which provides for conflicts to be resolved in a third party that the third party should be and be seen to be impartial. Loss of impartiality or its appearance occurs when a judge becomes too closely allied in the public mind with one party or point of view either as a supporter or as an opponent. The independence of the judiciary and the respect which is accorded to it in the community is not intended for the benefit of the judiciary but for the benefit of the public. Any loss of independence on the part of the judiciary will lead to a corresponding loss of respect in the community and the ultimate failure of our legal system.
– I enter this debate as a layman. Of the two previous speakers, one is a lawyer and the other a solicitor. I spent a good deal of my life in front of the High Court of Australia at least having to rely on their judgements. One of my cases which commenced in February 1963 was finished in July 1969. 1 faced a jury of twelve, the full Supreme Court, the full High Court, the Privy Council and returned to a jury of twelve. Out of my three cases in which I took legal action, two went to the High Court for the second time. One went to a jury for a third trial. It was only then that the defendant apologised and settled out of court. I know what it is like to sit in front of the judiciary. I have watched the judiciary, whether it be the Supreme Court of New South Wales or the High Court of Australia, treating the law as if it was a piece of elastic, determining the course of the precedents and stretching the law to suit its interpretation which suited their own personal view. Frankly, I have not received justice under the law or from the judiciary. I have received justice from people. I have received justice from a jury. Recently the Sydney Morning Herald crumbled after fighting a case against me for 4V4 years. When the case had to go before a jury of 12, it settled within half an hour of being in court, with an apology and substantial damages.
Court costs alone are astronomical. The costs on this occasion, before I even got into court before the jury of 12, were even greater than the fees that I had to pay my legal people for the whole legal costs occurring between 1963 and 1 969. 1 feel that it is important that more people should enter this High Court debate because we are discussing the High Court which is responsible for justice for the people. Real justice for the people in this country is just not on at present through the courts. The ordinary person cannot afford justice in this country.
– What about Iran?
– That is the truth and that is a fact. I am talking from personal experience.
– Go back to Russia.
– With arrogance the honourable member at the back said: ‘Go back to Russia’. I wish that the narrow minded, petty and degrading honourable member for Hotham (Mr Roger Johnston) would understand that I am fighting in my way for justice for people everywhere, no matter where they live. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Wherever injustice is brought about I will struggle for the individual. I am trying to express some views. What we really have to talk about and to think about is justice in the courts for people in our community. I see the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) sitting on the front bench opposite. I understand the problems and the long struggle that he will have if, in his own heart, he feels that he is innocent. I understand the long struggle one has to go through in the court process and the enormous effort that is required to prove oneself innocent to this country.
I happen to be a radical politician from the Left. A radical politician from the Left is under threat from the establishment and the status quo the whole time. His views are being distorted all the time and the only place that he has in which to rectify the situation and to protect his name with people is in the courts before a jury of ordinary people. Parliamentarians are considered to be people of some substance and some standing in the community. We can ask for the case to be heard before a jury of 12 but we have to keep in mind that under our system, we will be up for the jury costs. Even though one may call for the case to be heard before a jury of 12 just men, one has to pay these expenses before one is found innocent. The right honourable member for New England will understand that before his case is over. I sympathise with him. I am not gloating over his predicament because I have some understanding of the struggle that he will have to go through before it is all over.
– Aren’t you in front?
– The honourable member for North Sydney (Mr Graham) asked: ‘Aren’t you in front?’ It is true that in every libel action I have taken against the Press barons of this country, who are part of the establishment, a part of the power-elite, I have defeated them on every front. Three times already I have defeated them in major cases. If they try to libel me again they will finish up in court before a jury of 12 and I will fight for justice in my case. I do this because I have faith in people. The honourable member for Hotham told me to go to Russia. For Christ’s sake, it is about time the man grew up and really understood what our struggle in this country is all about.
There are three aspects I would like to raise regarding this High Court of Australia Bill. The first is the number of judges required to fulfil the function of the High Court with competence and without any real pressure on their responsibilities. The second is the autonomy of the High Court and its ability to perform its functions without bias. I stress with real emphasis that the High Court should make its decisions without bias. The third matter is the importance of the internationally recognised architecture of our national capital. This Bill deals with the new structure which is to be the home of the High Court here in Canberra. Chapter III, section 7 1 of the Australian Constitution states:
The High Court shall consist of a Chief Justice, and so many other justices, not less than two, as the Parliament prescribes.
The importance of matters and the range of those matters that come before the Court place a heavy burden on the judges of the High Court. In order that the judges are able to give proper and adequate attention to each of the matters coming before the Court, it is necessary that they are not overworked or overburdened. An insufficient number of judges leads to delays. As I pointed out it led to delays in the case I mentioned which was before the Supreme Court of New South Wales. I had to wait 4½ years before my case against a newspaper was brought before the court. That delay was caused by the pressure of the workload of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. However, we are dealing here with the High Court. If there is an appeal from the Supreme Court of New South Wales, or from the courts of any State, the case has to go to the High Court and there are further delays in the hearing of the case. This causes many cases to receive less than the full attention that they require. If the judges of the High Court are placed under too much stress their ability to perform their function and the competence of the court as a whole may be open to question.
The operations of the High Court are more complex now than they were when the Australian Constitution was drawn up. In recent years this Parliament has legislated to place a fixed retiring age on judges. I think that that is a wise decision on behalf of this Parliament. That decision reflects the change in the public expectation of judges. Judges need to understand and they need to be up to date with the changing attitudes in the community. I believe more and more that judges have to understand the changing attitudes of the community. They can do that by moving out into the community more and they should be encouraged to do that. We should now consider the range of judges that are appointed to service in the courts, their ability to deal with matters that range across a wide diversity of questions raised in our rapidly changing society.
At present there are seven judges on the High Court. Five judges generally sit on an appeal case. That places a strain on the Court. We should be looking at expanding the number of judges on the High Court. In my view that number should be lifted to at least nine in order for proper consideration to be given to cases.
Members of the High Court have very little opportunity for overseas leave or overseas travel. It seems to me that in this day and age when academics have sabbatical leave and can have interaction and travel overseas and work with people in foreign lands under similar systems, there is a logical argument that members of the High Court should be entitled to a similar opportunity. I also believe that parliamentarians have been better informed since they have had the opportunity to travel overseas, to have interrelationships with their parliamentary colleagues and to see the way that people live and work in other lands. When we are formulating the justice that we seek we do not have control or rights over aspects that are changing within our society. I mention as an example Mr Justice William O. Douglas of the United States Supreme Court. He was appointed by the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s. He was appointed during the ‘New Deal’ era. The remarkable fact about Mr Justice William O. Douglas was that he travelled widely throughout the community both within America and abroad. In 1954, I had the opportunity to listen to a lecture at Scot’s Church, Margaret Street, Sydney where he was the Dyason lecturer. His lecture was about contemporary South East Asia. It was a very informed address. He talked about people at the grass roots level. Here was a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States talking of the human problems that were going to confront us in South East Asia. He mentioned Vietnam. I think his views were a little astray on that subject but he understood broadly the human problems that were occurring.
That a man is able to do that demonstrates the breadth of his knowledge and of his perspective. This must be reflected in the judgments which he must make and the momentous decisions that he must make. I believe that we should be encouraging justices of the High Court of Australia to follow a similar example or at least give them that opportunity. They are provided with Commonwealth cars, they live within a restricted area of associates. People, even justices of the High Court are the product of their environment. My view is that judges of the High Court of Australia reflect the narrowness of the areas in which they live and travel, in the breadth of their associations and of their understanding of what is occurring in a changing Australia. We need to encourage them to alter this aspect of their life as a High Court judge.
I turn to my second proposition. In Part III of the Bill, clause 17 sub-clause (2) provides that the High Court has power:
I sought advice as to the meaning of these powers to be given to the High Court. I was told that we would have to ‘rely on the Court acting sensibly’ in relation to the acceptance of gifts of money, services, paintings and other objects of value. I was concerned that the impartial character of the High Court could be prejudiced by its ability to receive sums of money or gifts. I was told by one of the Government’s legal advisers that we would have to rely on the Court acting sensibly’.
This legislation places a great deal of temptation before High Court judges. I take the case of a painting given to the High Court and placed in the chambers of one of the judges. There must be some danger that one or more of the High Court judges could be favourably disposed towards such a donor. A substantial gift or donation to the High Court, it must be acknowledged, could prejudice the ability of the Court to act impartially in a matter in which that corporation was involved.
The purpose of the Bill now before the House is to provide the High Court with a measure of independence from departmental control that reflects the special position accorded the Court by the Australian Constitution. That is what the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) told the House in his second reading speech on behalf of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I question how much independence the Court is accorded from those people with wealth who make substantial gifts to it. May I reply to the remarks of the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) who preceded me in this debate? It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of persons who are appointed to State supreme courts and particularly to the High Court come from a select group and do not really represent a wide cross section of the Australian community.
– For a start, they must be lawyers.
– That is where the honourable member is wrong. Honourable members should note the arrogance of the lawyer who interjected. A person does not need to be a lawyer to be appointed a judge of the High Court. He may be an ordinary layman. The honourable member’s remark points to the arrogance of those associated with the law. To be a High Court justice under the Constitution, one does not need to be a lawyer. That point should be clarified so that the honourable member may understand the situation. As I said earlier, the law is treated as though it is a piece of elastic. The honourable member tried to speak about political appointments, and yet -
– Read clause 7 of the Bill.
– The honourable member should read the Australian Constitution, not the Bill. He talks about political appointments. He forgets that Sir Garfield Barwick was a Liberal- a conservative- Attorney-General in this House. Sir Garfield Barwick was Minister for Foreign Affairs and then appointed to the High Court. The honourable member would claim that that is all right and that Sir Garfield clearly has divorced himself from politics. I mention Sir John Spicer, a Minister for the Crown, who was appointed by a Liberal government to a high judicial position. My view is that the law is too selective as demonstrated by the people who have been appointed to the judiciary. I know one cannot determine, and be dogmatic in advance, how an appointee to the bench will act in that capacity. For example, Mr Justice Black was an appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States by a conservative administration. He turned out to be one of the greatest justices in the history of the United States Supreme Court. I believe that a great deal of hope exists for any member of our society. I would prefer to see a more open approach to such appointments. I do not like a narrow, selective approach. We should not delude ourselves into believing that justice comes from the legalisms associated with the High Court. The jury system is the major vehicle which will dispense justice in our society. In other words, we will get justice from our people, the ordinary people. At least that is my experience.
The last point that I make in the few moments remaining to me concerns the criticism made of Canberra in 1958 by Lord Holford. He claimed that, architecturally, Canberra did not have many buildings of international standard. Since that time, attempts have been made to rectify the situation. As a Minister in the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975, 1 was responsible for initiating work on the High Court. The High Court building at the moment looks externally like a factory without a smoke stack. I am not sure whether it meets international architectural standards. I do agree that we need a building of international architectural substance to house our High Court. We should be planning in the long term for a building of significance in its contribution to the beauty of this city and at the same time provide a place in which the ordinary Australian may obtain justice.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Armitage)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-First and foremost, I invite all honourable members to cast their minds back to the Founding Fathers decision to form the Commonwealth of Australia. I venture to suggest that had there not been agreement with respect to the establishment of the High Court of Australia there would have been no Commonwealth of Australia. As my learned and honourable colleague, the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), pointed out most effectively, the High Court of Australia is the judicial arm under which the Commonwealth Constitution operates. Therefore, anything that is done with respect to the High Court will have a very substantial effect on the constitutional future of Australia and, in particular, the federal system which is guaranteed by that Constitution.
For the very obvious reason of my voice affliction my comments will be comparatively brief, but I could not avoid the opportunity to rise in my place and to make a plea that whatever legislation we pass tonight will not in any way affect or weaken the accessibility of the High Court of Australia to the people of Australia. If the High Court of Australia becomes remote and inaccessible to all the people of Australia, then I believe that the constitutional framework of this country will be weakened and the federal system will be endangered.
This is not the plea of somebody from a small, outlying State. It is the plea of a lawyer who firmly believes that the High Court of Australia should be accessible to the people. I would oppose 100 per cent the introduction into this country of what has happened in the United States of America where the United States Supreme Court sits in great majesty in Washington and those who are rich enough go to Washington and have access to that Court but those who are not rich do not get to that Court. The United States Supreme Court has become inaccessible to the average American. That is notwithstanding the fact that judges of the United States Supreme Court are allocated to certain parts of the United States to deal with urgent matters. There was a recent case in the State of Nevada where a Mr Bishop was executed for murder. Honourable members who followed the legal proceedings in that matter will know that that man had access to two United States Supreme Court justices who were designated to deal with any urgent matters coming from that part of the United States in which Nevada is situated.
As I have mentioned on a previous occasion in this House, I had the honour- indeed, it was a very great honour- to serve as an associate to one of the most distinguished High Court judges this country has ever known. I was associate for a period of 12 months to His Honour the Right Honourable Sir Victor Windeyer, a very great judge of the High Court of Australia. Sir Victor Windeyer was on the Bench at the time when perhaps Australia’s greatest ever Chief Justice, Sir Owen Dixon, presided over the Court. It will be recalled by all honourable members that Sir Owen Dixon was regarded, I think universally, as the greatest lawyer in the English-speaking world at that time. Indeed, a famous story was told of a dinner in London when Sir Owen Dixon was being welcomed. I think it was Lord Pearce who made the welcoming address. He referred to Sir Owen Dixon as: ‘The greatest judge in the British Empire’. Mr Justice Harlan of the United States Supreme Court was at that dinner as a guest of honour. He begged to interrupt. He said: My Lord, I wish to correct your statement. Sir Owen Dixon is not just the greatest judge in the British Empire; he is the greatest judge in the English-speaking world ‘.
Sir Owen Dixon was quite adamant; I make this point because it is of considerable substance; that the High Court of Australia would continue to travel into each State of Australia and be accessible to the litigants of all parts of Australia with equal availability. That meant that despite his age and, in the last years of his term as Chief Justice, despite poor health, Sir Owen Dixon ensured that that Court went to Queensland, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. It travelled around the whole of Australia. I make the point- the honourable member for Prospect (Dr Klugman), for whom I have a regard, will appreciate that it is a very significant point- that the High Court of Australia belongs to the people of Australia. Whilst I do not wish to be a carping critic and to say that the construction of a home for the High Court of Australia on the side of Lake Burley Griffin is something that should not have been done, I am trying to say: Let the High Court of Australia have its home in Canberra, but let it keep in contact with the rest of the people of Australia. The effect of the legislation which we are passing tonight and which I know has been studied by lawyers on the Opposition side of the Parliament is as follows: Clause 14 of the High Court of Australia Bill, which will become an Act, provides:
On and after a date to be fixed by Proclamation, the seat ofthe High Court shall be at the seat of Government in the Australian Capital Territory.
Clause 15 provides:
Sittings of the High Court shall be held from time to time as required at the seat of the Court -
That means in Canberra-
But the Court may sit at other places within Australia and the external Territories.
I feel, and I have expressed the view, that perhaps that clause should read:
– Hear, hear!
– I am pleased to see that I have the support of my colleague the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding). I do not press for an amendment because I am assured that it is the wish of the High Court of Australia to continue to visit the States. But we know that there will be no more sittings in Melbourne or Sydney after the new High Court is opened in Canberra, except for the purpose of taking evidence, and those hearings will take place before a single justice of the High Court. No more appeals will be heard in Melbourne or Sydney once the new High Court building is opened here. What is the position as far as Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are concerned? I will not go into detail, except to say that I was mortified to hear the patronising comment in Hobart not very long ago by somebody who is intimately connected with the High Court. He said: ‘Do not worry. After we are based in Canberra we will still come down and visit you from time to time’. That would never have been said in the days of Sir Owen Dixon.
– Who said that?
– I will not be drawn, but I do say this: If the High Court is to be accessible to the people of Australia, one of two things will happen: Either it will continue to sit in the outlying States, or the government of the Commonwealth of Australia, whether it is Liberal or Labor, will have to pick up the tab for flying litigants, the witnesses, and the counsel to Canberra. Let me make it quite clear. If I am informed that this is not the wish-the High Court wants to hibernate in glory on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin or if it is a case of Mohammed not going to the mountain but of the mountain coming to Mohammed, then the Commonwealth Government must pick up the tab to ensure that the people of Australia, whether they live in Tasmania or north Queensland, will have the same right of access to the High Court of Australia.
– Like when King Richard the Lionheart went to Mohammed.
-The honourable member is quite right. My colleague, the honourable member for North Sydney, as usual, is in the chamber assisting me with his wise counsel. My friend, the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren), made the comment that the work of the High Court was more complex today than it was at the time of Federation. I wish that were true, but we all know that it is not true. Let us be quite frank. In recent years we have consistently cut away at the functions of the High Court of Australia. We have handed them over to the Federal Court of Australia. We have said that we will not press our High Court judges to the point of physical exhaustion. I just wonder whether we have clipped the fingernails back too far and whether we have now cut down to the knuckles. I can remember, as a snotty-nosed articled clerk, actually sitting in Hobart in the back of the Supreme Court. I saw the great lawyers of that generation- Sir Owen Dixon, Sir Wilfred Fullagar, Sir Frank Kitto, Sir Alan Taylor and Sir Douglas Menzies. Where are the snottynosed articled clerks of Australia going to go if they want to see the workings of the High Court after the new establishment on the Lake is built? If they do not have the fare to Canberra will they see them? I hope they will. I hope I have not been flippant on a matter about which, I can assure you, Mr Speaker, several High Court judges know that I feel strongly about. I can assure honourable members that I feel very strongly about this.
– They can come and hear you in Hobart.
-They have heard me in Hobart, and not to great advantage. There is an important part of the Bill, clause 46. I have already read clause 15 which says that the High Court shall sit in Canberra or may sit at other places.
Clause 46 states:
Subject to this section, the powers of the High Court under this Act may be exercised by the Justices or by a majority of them.
So, if four out of seven say that they are-not going to Tasmania, Western Australia or Queensland, that is it. In conclusion I make one plea. I have nothing against the new High Court building. I have nothing against the seat of the High Court being in Canberra. But let us ensure that it is on the understanding that the High Court will continue to visit the States of Australia, that it will be accessible to the people, and that it will be a living example of embodiment of the principle of federalism for which we stand. If the High Court decides that it will hibernate and that it will sit on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin and let everybody else come to it, it will be breaking faith not only with this Parliament but also with the Constitution. Members in this Parliament at that time will be well and truly entitled to rise to their feet and say: ‘When you made the seat of the High Court Canberra, this was never the intention’. With those qualifications I support the Bills.
Motion ( by Mr Bourchier) proposed:
That the question be now put.
-The question is: ‘That the Bill be now read a second time ‘.
– The question should be: ‘That the question be now put’. The honourable member for Bendigo gagged the debate.
– We may save a division.
– It is a matter of principle, Mr Speaker. I would like the right to speak if I could. If they are going to shut us up, we had better be shut up by resolution.
-The question is: ‘That the question be now put’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending appropriation announced.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Macphee) read a third time.
-I wish to make a brief personal explanation. I am glad that the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has returned to the chamber because it does concern an exchange that took place between him and me in the debate that has just passed.
-Does the honourable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented and does he wish to make a personal explanation?
-He may proceed.
-In the context of the debate I made a reference to a requirement that High Court judges have some legal training. The honourable member for Reid rebuked me for having made that remark and reflected upon my capacity as someone who has had some legal training, to make judgments. I would just like to refer him to section 5 of the Judiciary Act, which presently governs the position. It states:
The qualifications of a Justice of the High Court shall be as follows: He must be either or have been a Judge of the Supreme Court of a State, or be or have been a practising barrister or a solicitor of the High Court or of the Supreme Court of a State of not less than five years’ standing.
The present Bill also deals with the same matter in clause 7.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
-Does the honourable member claim to have been misrepresented?
-I do. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) implied that to be a High Court judge a person had to be a lawyer. I said that clearly that was wrong and that it was arrogant for a person of the legal profession to say such a thing. A person does not have to be a lawyer to be appointed as a High Court judge.
-It would help, though.
-I know that you, Mr Speaker, and all other members of the legal profession have a certain arrogance in claiming that to be the situation. The point which I made and which the honourable member for Dundas failed to mention, was that under the Constitution- I did not refer him to the Bill- a man does not have to be a lawyer to be appointed to the High Court. We are controlled by the Constitution. Mr Speaker, I wish you would tell the honourable member for Dundas to get down off his pedestal and that in the appointment of a High Court judge we are controlled by the Constitution, not by this legislation.
– The honourable gentleman will cease debating the matter. He has made his point.
Consideration resumed from 25 October, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 25 October, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner) read a third time.
Mr LIONEL BOWEN (KingsfordSmith) Mr Speaker, before the suspension of the sitting for dinner you gave a decision on a motion that the Opposition wished to move this morning seeking a judicial inquiry into how certain evidence had been obtained in what is known as the Greek conspiracy case. I appreciate your courtesy, Mr Speaker, in allowing me some time to consider your ruling that this matter falls within the sub judice rule. Might I advert to what you say by emphasising that you make the point that it is always in the discretion of the Chair to determine whether a matter is sub judice and that the House virtually has the right to determine the matter. In your discretion you have determined that in this particular case, as you say, the matter is before a magistrate and some of the defendants may be committed for trial before a judge and jury. You continue:
In this situation I must be very careful that the House does not unwittingly risk injustice by comments it makes which might influence the jury. Therefore, I must in these circumstances apply a more stringent test.
You go on to say that you are of the opinion that debate on these matters would lead to a risk of injustice. I make the point that I could ask the rhetorical question: Injustice to whom? We are anxious to raise the matter in order to debate not the evidence but the form in which it has been gathered. I think there is a distinction. You make the point, Mr Speaker, that you are anxious to guarantee debate in the Parliament. You refer to your own ruling of 4 June 1 976, which states:
For that reason my attitude towards the sub judice rule is not to interpret the sub judice rule in such a way as to stifle discussion in the national Parliament on issues of national importance.
I fully agree with that. The next question is your opinion that people may suffer an injustice. I am of the same opinion, for different reasons. I think the injustice will continue unless this Parliament appoints a judicial inquiry. I am not going to canvass the ruling too much. Our aim was not to debate matters which you feel might lead to an injustice, but to have appointed a judicial inquiry. Having a judicially qualified person to head such an inquiry would guarantee that there would be no further debate on matters which might lead to injustice. At the present time there are 2 1 people facing trial. Obviously these trials will take some time. Mr Speaker, I think that you would be impressed if I said that there are another 132 people yet to face trial. You will appreciate that if this Parliament is to be stifled for that length of time we will not have any discussion at all on this matter.
The real issue is ministerial propriety and accountability to this Parliament. That is the main thrust of the argument. It will be noticed that that is the way in which the situation is interpreted by the Opposition. In our view it is an abdication of ministerial responsibility and integrity. In other words, it is my view that at all times a parliament is entitled to move a substantive motion saying that Ministers A, B and C should be relieved of their commissions because of certain matters that we want to put before the Parliament. That would not affect a pending trial because the court would determine whether or not the evidence was admissible on its merits. From the point of view of looking after the national interest, for how long must we say that we cannot debate in the Parliament whether a Minister has performed his or her duty correctly, because court proceedings are pending? Such proceedings could go on for another two years.
A point of significance is that we have passed an Act of Parliament which says that this practice is not to be breached. There is clear evidence- I am not going to debate that now- that this has been broken by senior officers of the Commonwealth. The Opposition would say that obviously that occurred with the tacit or overt approval of a Minister. Another case involved telephone tapping which the Minister said did not take place. I am not going to debate that matter, but all these issues are involved. If we cannot discuss why these Ministers cannot be removed from office, it will lead to grave injustices. The Ministers are commissioned on the basis of their integrity, their loyalty and their ability. They immediately fail if they fail in respect of their integrity and ability. These Ministers are not put in a position of having to wait before the magistrate sends the matter to a jury. Mr Speaker, I would like you to look at the matter of discretion. In 1977, the Australian Law Journal, had this to say about sub judice:
. the classic test has been for over twenty years … the publication must have a ‘real and definite tendency to prejudice or embarrass pending procedures’ . . .
In my view my motion would not in any way prejudice or embarrass pending proceedings. It could be said that it would embarrass the prosecution. That is the only thing that could be read into it. There are safeguards in the motion I have proposed. I am not debating the matter, but I am suggesting that a judicial inquiry might say that if the proceedings are perfectly proper there is no embarrassment. If they are perfectly improper this Parliament has to take the necessary action and should not worry about a magistrate’s court. That is the significant point. The Parliament has to take action to uphold democracy and the rights of people.
We now come to another matter to which reference has been made in previous discussions; that is, the matter of sub judice. To rule that this motion is offensive to the sub judice rule is to suggest in many cases that the administration of justice is so fragile as to be unable to sustain any debate about it whatsoever. Judicial officers are not so feeble minded as to be unable to distinguish between comments made in evidence before the court and those made outside it. To suggest that the debate upon the items raised in the motion are sub judice is, in fact, essentially a slur against the ability and competence of a magistrate hearing the matter not to take into account extraneous comments. In any event, the substantive issue is not the subject of any debate under the terms of the motion. The question is- this is what we are about in this particular case- whether there is going to be an abuse which will in any way affect the proceedings or threaten the proceedings by way of interfering with justice. I wish to make a further point, and the article in the Australian Law Journal deals with this issue. The article reads:
The whole concept of course works on a basis of guesswork. One is almost never able to know with any degree of certainty whether debate or discussion is likely to prejudice an impartial hearing.
Mr Speaker, I read into what you have said that because you feel a matter may go before a jury we cannot discuss it. I would say that that would apply to most matters. It would be guesswork as to what matters will go before a jury, particularly if there is a criminal content. The article in the Australian Law Journal makes this point:
But, at least in our present society, judges do not give the appearance of being delicate hot-house plants, bound to wilt under any wind which blows their way. Juries may be more of an unknown quantity, but may it not be assumed that they comprise reasonably intelligent beings who can be relied upon to distinguish between out-of-court comment and the evidence in court upon which they have sworn to base their decisions? Indeed, if danger to partiality exists, it may be preferable to have some (limited) public discussion rather than that the tribunal be subjected only to gossip or private comment.
The final point of the article in the Australian Law Journal, which was talking about a House of Commons report, is this:
Surely the view that all debate on a matter before a court’ must be stifled because one can imagine the possibility of prejudice in some instances, is insensitive to the dangers and disadvantages involved in preventing free parliamentary debate, often for months at a time, on a subject of public importance.
Mr Speaker, I submit to you that in this case the debate would be stifled not for months at a time but perhaps for years at a time. Again the issue is not for us to debate. We say that we want an inquiry into the question of why the law was broken; the circumstances under which it was broken; the Ministers responsible for it; and the heads of department involved. They are not going to be subject to prosecution in a Court. I find myself in the gravest difficulty because people in my electorate have been subject to interference with their civil liberties. Under the ruling that you were obliged to give, Mr Speaker, nobody can do anything about such matters. I think that that is completely wrong. If any honourable member has a constituent who says: Why was the telephone in my surgery tapped?’, surely we can raise the matter. We should not be told that it is a matter that will have to wait until such time as the court determines the issue. Honourable members should bear in mind that strong evidence has been given to the Senate that no telephones were tapped. That is the information given to the Parliament. If information can be given that no telephones were tapped, then surely we can produce evidence that in fact there were. It is admitted that three telephones were tapped. This is the whole point.
I can see no injustice being done to anybody by appointing an inquiry. I can see Ministers being cleared of inferences of guilt which, at the present time, are pretty apparent from evidence given to a court. No government can sustain itself if we have to keep waiting for a magistrate to determine a matter on the evidence before him. The Ministers and the heads of department are not before the magistrate. The matter of propriety relating to the gathering of evidence is not before the magistrate. The evidence is before him, and he will admit it or reject it in his own discretion. That decision will be appealed against on a matter of law, and this Parliament will have nothing to do with it. But the matters which are our concern are: What happened in this case that the law was broken, and why is it that the Ministers were unable to fulfil their duties and their commissions?
Mr Speaker, I want to put to you in a forceful way that, in the exercise of your discretion, you would realise that there are many hundreds of people involved in this matter, all of whom are the victims of injustice. For them to read that this cannot be discussed in the Parliament will mean that this Parliament will become somewhat of an irrelevant institution in that regard. If we pass a law to protect them and we then fail to say that something will be done because there is an admitted breach of that law, I feel sure that the people will say that what we have done is irrelevant.
In a particular case in an area that I know very well- my own district- the information related to a doctor’s surgery. For the first time the relationship between a doctor and a patient was intruded upon, with neither the doctor nor the patient knowing about it. I am not arguing about that matter now, but this is the sort of problem about which I am talking. Should it have happened? Should a Minister have allowed it to happen? What were the circumstances we had in mind when we passed laws permitting that to happen? There are no such circumstances. This is the most serious point of view that the Opposition wishes to put forward. We have not debated the detail but will do so if we have to.
The purpose of the motion proposed today was not to debate the detail but to suggest that a judicial inquiry be appointed, and I emphasise that point. The motion sought the appointment of somebody judicially qualified to interpret the matters that you, Mr Speaker, now feel bound to say we cannot debate in case an injustice occurs. I note that you have considered the matter and that you will consider each case on its merits. However, I do not have to agree with you that there is no alternative but for you to say that there would be such a risk of an injustice that this falls within the sub judice rule. I make the point- I am not pleading for them- that the 2 1 accused would love to have the matter debated. I am not asking for that. I just want a judicial inquiry.
I put to you: What about the other 132 people in the queue? Must we wait until the whole matter has been dealt with before we can get to the real issue whether Ministers did their duty or not, whether the law was broken or not, who authorised the breach of the law, and who authorised the tendering of money in circumstances which could lead to what might be called the perversion of the course of justice? That is the serious matter about which we would like to have an inquiry.
I have commented at length and I appreciate your patience in listening to me, Mr Speaker. It is a matter of the gravest national importance. There could be no more serious case than this. It is costing millions of dollars and, if the accused are guilty, they will be found guilty by a jury on evidence we will have had nothing to do with. It will already have been tested.
We want to test the way the information was gathered. We want to test the integrity and ability of the Ministers and the accountability and responsibility to Parliament. It is no good saying that a highfalutin principle called responsibility is involved. It is not highfalutin. It is most important for a democracy to have Ministers directly accountable to the Parliament. If a lie is told, a Minister loses his job. If somebody’s rights are interfered with or infringed because of a Minister’s inaction or positive action, again he should lose his job. If responsible people holding high office in this nation are employed to protect the rights of citizens and fail to do so, they also should be subject to review. The Parliament does this all the time. Ministers can do it every day. I can think of nothing better to illustrate the point than to say that if tomorrow’s editorial writers suggest that there should be an inquiry regarding what happened, none of them would be in contempt of court. They would be astounded to think that they could not write editorials on what they felt had happened in evidence until such time as all cases were completed. I have made my points at length, Mr Speaker, and I ask that you reconsider your decision.
- Mr Speaker, this afternoon when this matter was raised by the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), I supported you in your statement that you intended to examine the application of the sub judice rule to the motion moved by him. I rise on this occasion to support you in the ruling you have made. If I may say so, I think it is a proper application of the sub judice rule, both in the public interest and in the interests of this Parliament and, furthermore, in the interests of justice as it is administered in the courts of this country. In contrast with what I recall the honourable gentleman saying this morning, he now wants to have this judicial inquiry in order to examine the responsibility and accountability of any Minister- I say ‘any Minister’ because none is specified by the honourable gentleman- in relation to the matters arising in what is known as the Greek conspiracy case and in particular in the committal proceedings that are now being heard before a police magistrate. That was not said this morning, but it is said now. It may well be that that is what was at the back of the honourable gentleman’s mind when he framed this motion with respect to paragraph (a), which states:
The circumstances relating to the use by the Commonwealth Police of listening devices and the interception of telephone conversations;
Paragraph (b) states:
The propriety of persons who authorise the use of such devices and interception procedures . . .
Obviously it is a very wide net that is sought to be cast by the terms of the motion. The central fact is, as you observed this morning, Mr Speaker, that the purpose of the judicial inquiry sought to be appointed was ‘to inquire into and report upon the obtaining of the evidence in relation to the prosecution in what is known as the Greek conspiracy case’, and several particulars were given. Quite clearly, the motion deals directly with a matter before the courts, and in this case a matter before the criminal courts. A reading of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice will tell the House that it is with respect to criminal proceedings in particular that the sub judice rule is so stringently applied by a Westminster parliament, and for a very good reason. While a criminal matter is before the court, the Parliament does not wish to debate any such matter in a way that will prejudice the position of any party before that court. In this case the police inspector, who was giving evidence with regard to the installation of listening devices, is a person involved in the proceedings with respect to whom a ruling could be made either adverse or beneficial to him. Therefore, if debate is allowed in this House with respect to any of the evidence given by the inspector, it can bear upon, and will bear upon, the proceedings in that court. Moreover, it will bear directly upon the weight to be given to the evidence of Inspector Thomas.
I think I should give the House some basic facts concerning this matter and when they are outlined the House will see very clearly that the sub judice rule has been properly applied by you, Mr Speaker. On 12 November 1979, Inspector Thomas of the Australian Federal Police admitted in evidence that he had caused the installation of listening devices at the premises of two defendants. Sub-section ( 1 ) of section 4 of the New South Wales Listening Devices Act makes it an offence to use a listening device to hear, record or listen to a private conversation. It is not an offence, however, if the device is used in accordance with an authorisation given by the Minister of the Commonwealth administering a Commonwealth Act relating to the Commonwealth Police Force. In other words, the authority derives from the provisions of New South Wales legislation under which the Commonwealth Minister is authorised to act.
– I raise a point of order.
-The Minister is speaking by indulgence and I do not wish him to be interrupted with points of order. I will hear this point of order, even though it is not really a point of order because there is nothing about which to take a point of order, but I hope that the honourable gentleman will make it relevant.
– Earlier when this matter was raised I sought to allude to one set of facts which I thought were relevant to the Parliament, but you accepted a point of order made by the Leader of the House (Mr Viner) that I should not allude to the facts of the case. Indeed, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), in addressing you on the sub judice point, was very careful not to address you in a way which would put before you the details of any of the matters which would subsequently become a matter of debate. Mr Speaker, you ruled in my case that I should not do that. It seems to me that, although the Minister is speaking with the leave of the House, he is now getting into the very area which you previously, and quite properly, indicated to the House should not be pursued. It seems a bit odd that, having given a ruling in respect of the sub judice rule, you are now virtually allowing the Minister to debate some of the material detail. I think that is a matter of concern because I am quite certain that if that had been the position the Deputy Leader of the Opposition may have chosen to put his case to you, Mr Speaker, in a more detailed way.
-I am interested to hear the honourable member for Melbourne Ports say that I was quite proper in drawing the attention of the honourable member to his dereliction. I do uphold the point that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports makes and I ask the Minister not to go into the detail of the matter.
– I appreciate the ruling, Mr Speaker. The point to which I was leading is directed to comments made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when he said a moment ago that there was clear evidence that the Act had been broken with a tacit or overt acquiescence of a Minister. That, of course, raises a presumption of law, particularly a presumption of committing an unlawful act. It is known that the former Minister for Administrative Services, the Right Honourable R. G. Withers, gave an authorisation for the use of listening devices for the purpose of dealing with matters such as those before the New South Wales court. I mention that because it brings home the very situation that the sub judice rule is intended to protect, that is, that there should not be any debate within this House which will presume the guilt of a person in a matter which is before a court. As I mentioned this afternoon, the question of the admissibility of the evidence of Inspector Thomas is a matter for the police magistrate who has heard it. It is not for this Parliament to debate. It is not for this Parliament to presume the ruling which the magistrate will make.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition asks whether as 21 people are facing trial, and as another 132 are yet to face trial, we are not to have any discussion for some time- for up to two years. The sub judice rule will prevent discussion of trial proceedings in respect of those 2 1 people and maybe another 1 32 people if they do go before the court, and for the very good reason that the sub judice rule is intended to protect the national interest- if I might put it this way- in the purity of the administration of justice, against it being subverted by comment within this Parliament. If the Opposition wishes to make some point about the responsibility or accountability of a Minister for an action taken under the provisions of an Act within that Minister’s responsibility, there may be ways in which that can be determined, but not in the manner sought which is to establish a judicial inquiry to inquire into the evidence obtained and now being used by the prosecution in the Greek conspiracy case. I might put it this way: If what was done by Inspector Thomas was lawful, then, of course, there is no need for Parliament to debate the matter because, a fortiori, the Minister who authorised the act, acted properly. If it was unlawful, then it is not for this Parliament to say, but it is for the judicial process of this land to make such a finding.
I would have thought that recent events would have made this Parliament very cautious about seeking to avoid the sub judice rule in a way which can taint the administration of justice. I will say no more on the matter, Mr Speaker, because of the clarity with which you expressed the sub judice rule this afternoon and the way in which with equal clarity you applied it to this proposed motion. You did comment on paragraph (a) in the motion which was moved. I think I have demonstrated to this House that a judicial inquiry into the circumstances related to the use of listening devices and the interception of telephone conversations by Commonwealth Police would in itself impede or hinder the administration of justice in the Greek conspiracy case now before a magistrate. It is a very important rule of any parliament which adopts the Westminster system that proceedings in parliament ought not to be allowed to taint, as I have said, the administration of justice. If at any time the Parliament does allow itself to debate a motion of this kind I think we are in grave danger of mixing what are two very important strands of the political system in this country. The Parliament has its place as a place for free speech and free debate in the interests of the democratic institutions of our country. But the courts of this country, in the administration of justice as we know it, have equal importance in our democratic processes. At times it does become a delicate balance, but I suggest that in a case of this kind it behoves this House to err- if it can be regarded as erring- on the side of caution while criminal proceedings are in train. Therefore, I suggest that there is nothing in the contribution made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition which ought to cause you, Mr Speaker, to overturn the ruling which you made this afternoon.
-Mr Speaker, as you yourself pointed out in your ruling, in this matter there seems to be two points at issue which go to the question of the prerogatives of Parliament. There is evidence, which I will not canvass but which has been alluded to, relating to the question of ministerial integrity in the handling of affairs for which Ministers have responsibility. Clearly that is a matter for determination by the Parliament. It is a fine point indeed when the Parliament has to determine that integrity in the course of its responsibilities at the same time as some of the issues which may be involved and which have to be determined by the Parliament are also being canvassed in criminal proceedings.
The first point I would make is that in respect of committal proceedings- perhaps I have a higher view of magistrates exercising their responsibilities in those matters- my own view would be that anything that was stated in this Parliament would not affect a magistrate making a determination on the basis of the evidence before him, any more than it would affect a justice of the Supreme Court or, indeed, even of a Full Court. You yourself, Mr Speaker, adverted to that matter in a previous ruling you gave. I suggest that you could well extend that view of judicial integrity to include a magistrate who is dealing with committal proceedings. I also point out that only last week in this Parliament issues were permitted to be canvassed- I do not know whether you Sir, were in the chair- in respect of matters which involve a member of this Parliament and which will be the subject of committal proceedings. On that occasion the view was put that the nature of committal proceedings is really a preliminary inquiry which will determine whether proceedings will subsequently take place in a superior court.
As there is evidence before this House on the question of ministerial integrity, I believe it is competent for this House- admittedly, Sir, I think it would involve some strong rulings from the Chair- to debate those questions of ministerial authority without in any way interfering with the facts which have to be determined by a magistrate sitting in a court and making a judgment on the full range of evidence that will be presented to him. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) is not concerned to canvass here the full range of evidence. I do not think that he is even concerned to canvass a significant part of it. What he is concerned to canvass are questions which are peculiar to the responsibilities and the authority of this Parliament, and that is the right and the duty of Ministers of the Crown to see that the functions of those who work within the framework of their jurisdictions are properly, legally and effectively carried out. It is also incumbent upon them to see that at no stage is the Parliament misled. There is evidence of that before us, and there being evidence of that before us -
– There is not. What is the evidence?
-There is; I am sorry. I do not want to transgress a previous ruling of the Speaker -
-The honourable member for La Trobe will return to his seat and cease interjecting.
– That being the reality, we are m a unique situation where the question of ministerial responsibility cannot be determined by this House and presumably cannot be determined in another place. Mr Speaker, the very nature of your ruling precludes any questions in respect of it because if the matter is sub judice for the purposes of the debate I suspect it will be sub judice for the purposes of questions without notice. So we are in a difficult area because, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, a large number of cases are yet to be determined. Presumably, if a Minister felt embarrassed by the circumstances in this particular case it would simply be a matter of seeing that cases were delayed or brought on at a particular point in time so that in fact the Parliament would never be able to deal with them.
In conclusion, I put to you, with great respect, Mr Speaker, that we have to keep quite separate the issues which are before us. They are clearly questions of ministerial responsibility. They are not issues that are before the magistrate. The issues which are before the magistrate involve a wide range of issues upon which the magistrate has to make a determination which will affect his consideration of the way in which a person being charged will be dealt with. Mr Speaker, may I extend your own example. I believe you have correctly held in the past that a full court of appeal would not be affected by debate. I doubt whether a single justice would be affected by any debate or anything that is said in this House. I equally put to you, Sir, with respect, the view that a magistrate sitting in committal proceedings would be no more affected. He is exercising a judicial role in the same way as a judge and I believe that in this situation, having regard to the particular circumstances of the case and having regard to the serious question of ministerial responsibility, you ought to find for the Parliament being able to deal with those issues of ministerial responsibility but being able to deal with them in a way which cannot and should not affect the rights of any person charged before the courts.
-I have listened to argument on this matter since making my ruling. There are a couple of points which I will reiterate and a couple of points to which I will refer. I reiterate firstly that the terms of the foreshadowed motion were that a judicial inquiry be appointed to inquire into and to report upon the obtaining of evidence in relation to the prosecution in the Greek conspiracy case. In particular, in points (a), (b) and (c) there is nowhere to be found any suggestion that the purpose of the motion relates to ministerial responsibility. So, when it is put to me in argument that the purpose of the motion is to examine Ministers and the issue of responsibility, I can only take that which is before me and not that which comes up in debate.
It was suggested to me earlier today that Parliament is the highest court, and that is correct. But the Parliament has established a form of judicial inquiry in relation to purported offences, and that judicial inquiry is through the courts. The Parliament, in the exercise of the sub judice rule, has always been unwilling to set itself up by debate as a parallel to the courts in the prosecution of an offence which is done within the rules of evidence and procedure.
I must say that, if I understand the Deputy Leader of the Opposition correctly, he and I have a different view. To me, the purpose of the sub judice rule is not solely to protect an accused. The purpose of the sub judice rule is to protect the process of justice. Perhaps I misunderstood the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. But I am not interested to learn whether or not a possible injustice can be to the prosecutor as distinct from the accused. I think it must be the purpose of this Parliament to uphold justice being performed, whatever the outcome of the courts is.
In relation to the points that have been made concerning the magistrate, my information is that the proceeding in question is a proceeding before a magistrate to determine whether there will be committal proceedings, in which case there will be trial by jury. It is certainly true that the justices of the Supreme Court benches are not fragile flowers as they themselves have said. They are capable of determining matters on the issues before them. But they constantly warn in their reports that there is a danger that juries may be influenced by what happens in the Parliament. That is why there is such stringent application of the rule in relation to criminal proceedings, which would go before a jury.
There are no other points which I need add. It is not my purpose to give advice but I only make this further comment: I will treat all possible motions on their merits and I will treat all questions on the merits of the question by applying to them the Standing Orders. I do not propose to change my ruling.
- Mr Speaker, you leave me no alternative but to move dissent from your ruling and I so do. I do so without reflecting on your sincerity or integrity. But I make the point very clearly that I think this is a case of the utmost national importance. I have had to listen to an explanation by a Minister which was completely wrong. He started to talk about the use of-
-I interrupt the honourable gentleman. If he wishes to move dissent from my ruling he should so so. He can then debate the matter.
-I have to put the motion in writing in the appropriate words if you will give me that indulgence.
The motion having been submitted in writing-
I have moved dissent from your ruling that the Greek conspiracy case falls within the sub judice rule. I had to listen to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) say that there was something radically wrong with the case that we had submitted. He said that this afternoon, when I was proposing to move a motion calling for a judicial inquiry, I never mentioned the question of ministerial accountability. I put it on record that I was reading out the motion when you, Mr Speaker, said to me: ‘I want you to stop. I think that this matter is sub judice’. The matter was stopped at your request. Do not let us have the nonsense that I did not do something earlier this afternoon that I did later. I feel that inadvertently you might have been swayed by it. In your final analysis you said that nowhere did I talk about the accountability of Ministers. Let me emphasise the point that I did not put it as bluntly as that but in paragraph (b) of the motion I referred to the propriety of persons who authorised the use of such devices. It was the propriety of conduct that related to Ministers. I mention that Mr Speaker, in case you felt that I was suddenly thinking of matters outside the ambit of that motion.
The point of the motion I have moved is not to discuss the merits of the matter ourselves but to say that evidence has been given in a court of law by one of the chief police officers that he infringed the Telecommunications (Interception) Act. It is that Act, not the use of listening devices, with which I am concerned.
– I take a point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said that a police witness infringed an Act. I point out that there is no such finding by any court. Nor am I advised of any such admission by the police inspector. Therefore, it is quite wrong for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to make that assertion.
– There is no point of order.
-I will be very definite about this. This afternoon in the witness box the man admitted that he broke the law and did not know it. He said that he was a lawyer but that he did not know the law. That is not a criticism of the man. I am talking about your ruling, Mr Speaker. The Government has passed laws to protect the rights of people. We say that they have been infringed on three occasions. A judicial inquiry could ascertain that. If in the process of ascertaining that it found that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) knew of it or the Minister responsible for the police knew of it, they should be removed from office.
-I must stop the honourable gentleman. The motion before the Chair is a motion of dissent from my ruling. I will not permit a debate on the merits of the matter.
-I was endeavouring at the outset to answer -
-I have given the honourable gentleman certain latitude.
-I turn to the question of what is sub judice and what is not. The issue in your mind, Mr Speaker, which I say is wrong, is that because the matter may go to a jury you feel that an injustice will be done if we debate it. You started to retract from the situation. I am not criticising you, Mr Speaker, but I am referring to the question of justice, not injustice. You referred earlier to the risk of injustice. I made the point quite strongly that the 21 accused persons feel that an injustice has been done by this matter not being debated.
-I am not prepared to allow the honourable gentleman to refer to whether 2 1 accused people want this matter debated. The honourable gentleman has taken one of the ultimate steps in the Parliament, that is to disagree with the Speaker’s ruling. I will confine him strictly to that matter.
-Many people’s liberties are at stake. Their civil rights have been infringed. I am not criticising you, Mr Speaker, but when you said that you were not talking about injustice you were not necessarily talking about the accused. You may have been talking about the justice of the prosecution. That is what I inferred from what you said. It relates to the question of what is sub judice. Is it not within the bounds of discussion in the Parliament that we can discuss the merits or legality of the prosecution? If Ministers act improperly they should be dealt with in the Parliament and not in any court of law. With respect, Mr Speaker, your ruling means that we cannot debate any one of these matters for some considerable time.
We are not here to talk about the evidence and whether people are guilty or not guilty. We are talking about the gathering of the evidence and whether there has been a breach of the law. Under your ruling, Mr Speaker, we cannot discuss it until such time as the defendants are dealt with. In our minds the defendants are not the defendants in the court. It is a matter of the Parliament’s being able to discuss laws. The Government has introduced today amendments to a number of Acts in which it proposes to give to the Commonwealth Police the power to use telephone interception devices. Do you mean to say, Mr Speaker, that when we have to discuss these Bills next week we will not be able to talk about any of these matters? The whole thrust of what we will say is that these powers should not be given to the police. I ask honourable members to consider the performance in the witness box of and the evidence given by the police. You cannot deny the fact, Mr Speaker, that if we are to discuss this legislation next week we are entitled to advert to an improper use of powers.
-I interrupt the honourable gentleman and indicate to him that when we come to debate the Bills next week I will rule on the debate then.
-You will do that, Mr Speaker, but at this stage we are dissenting from a ruling which, if you are consistent, will prevent us from debating the matter. That is the point I want to make. We are not here to pillory anybody who has already given evidence. We are here to find out how this injustice was carried out. If Ministers have an accountability and a responsibility, if they have already given information to the Parliament, then we are entitled to discuss it and not be caught on a very narrow and strict interpretation of the sub judice rule. Let me advert to something that happened earlier this year. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists called on the Government to act on reports that the Commonwealth Police had harassed Greek mental patients.
-Order! I will not permit the honourable gentleman to proceed along those lines.
-I will not go on with the matter except to say that the College called on the Government -
-I will not permit the honourable gentleman to proceed along that line. The motion is quite clear. It is a motion of dissent from my ruling.
-I persist with this matter. The College asked for a judicial report as to the conduct of the Commonwealth Police. We asked for a judicial inquiry. You said that that would infringe the sub judice rule. How could that infringe the. sub judice rule when a legally trained judge would ascertain whether or not the evidence would be published? We could infringe the sub judice rule if we debated the matter here but how could an inquiry by an impartial judge possibly do that? This is one of the few occasions on which an Opposition has looked at the merits of the case and said: ‘We do not want to decide it but prima facie there has been an absolute denial of natural justice to a number of people. Ministers are culpable’. You say, Mr Speaker, in your ruling that the matter is sub judice and we cannot discuss it. Because another 132 people have been accused the inference is that we will not be able to discuss the matter for another two years. It is because of that that we suggested that there should be a judicial inquiry. The judge heading that inquiry would interpret the sub judice rule. With respect to you, Mr Speaker, it would not be left to you to worry about it.
– Turn your powers over.
-It is not a question of turning powers over. The powers of Parliament have been ignored in this case. What about the rights of citizens? What about the laws that the Government has passed? The Government is going to amend these laws and suggest that we cannot debate the merits of them. The interjection does not give any merit to the Government ‘s case. What about the unfortunate people who have already suffered the injustice of rotten laws being used against them? The laws have been broken. The Government is so spineless that it will not uphold them.
– I take a point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is clearly transgressing your ruling in the matters which he is introducing into this debate. He is going far beyond the bounds of what is involved in the sub judice rule in relation to this case and the ruling that you have made.
-The Leader of the House is correct. I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to confine himself to the motion.
-I respect what you are saying, Mr Speaker. It is a question of what is sub judice. Am I going beyond the bounds of your ruling when I advert to when you said that it would prejudice a trial before a jury if I talked about the evidence that has been gathered in a fashion that was contrary to the law? In his interjection the Minister said that we are downgrading the Parliament by debating the matter. That was the inference of the interjection. I am talking about the rights of the citizens who are entitled to say that the Telecommunications (Interception) Act should be a protection for them. If it is breached we are entitled to have an inquiry. You, Mr Speaker, say that we are not entitled to such an inquiry because there is a case before the court.
-I must interrupt the honourable gentleman. I apologise for doing so. The honourable gentleman has attributed to me words and arguments which I have not used. I ask him to confine himself to the issue.
-I respect that you have not used them, Mr Speaker. I make the thrust of my remarks in relation to the lawful propriety of persons who authorised the use under a statute. If you feel now after my spelling it out that you have not used the words, I accept that. We are dealing with legal propriety, the legal authorisation for anything that is done. Again I state that we are not here to discuss the evidence; we are here to discuss how it came to be gathered and what was the authorisation for any breach of Commonwealth law. We do not want to discuss it, although there is plenty of prima facie evidence; we suggest that there should be a judicial inquiry. I can think of no more important matter in the nation today than to debate the setting up of an inquiry, not just the merits of the case in question. Substantial public interest is involved. Millions of dollars -
-The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the question before the House. It is not whether a judicial inquiry should be set up; it is whether my ruling be disagreed with.
-Your ruling, Mr Speaker, is on the question of sub judice. On 4 June 1976 you said that in matters of national importance you would give a fair breadth to the sub judice rule. I am talking about national importance. That is the position. I am not here just to argue on the merits of the particular case. I am concerned about the rights of people. Are laws of no value here at all? Do we pass them and allow them to be broken providing there is the protection of ministerial authority or responsibility? I have no doubt that national interest relates to public funds and the appropriation of those funds.
One of the other aspects in the case that ought to be discussed in relation to a judicial inquiry is: How could $200,000 be offered? How could that happen without ministerial authorisation or parliamentary appropriation? Again, we are not getting into the issue. Surely it is not sub judice. This has nothing to do with the evidence before the court. It may turn out that the credibility of the witness will be examined. He may have to admit all the other things he has done wrong. In the process of that cross-examination this point may come out. I know, Mr Speaker, that you are looking a bit worried about my emphasising the matter at length. This is a proper matter to discuss here. It has nothing to do with the sub judice rule. It is a matter of the utmost national importance. I will summarise the situation. The Opposition is on public notice, as is the Press and everybody in Australia, that the law has been broken by a Commonwealth officer. We are also on public notice that information given by a Minister was incorrect, untrue, and the Minister should have known it.
-The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the dissent from the ruling.
-The proposal that I am raising is not that we test these allegations but that we set up a judicial inquiry to see what the circumstances were, what was the propriety of the authorisation, what was the propriety of offering money. It is limited to that. Mr Speaker, you have ruled that the matter cannot be discussed because it is sub judice and it could affect the trial of 2 1 people that is going on before a magistrate. Not one tittle of evidence that we seek to have ascertained by a judicial inquiry would be evidence already given or likely to be given in the magistrate’s court. The evidence in the magistrate’s court is going to be on the detail of what happened between A, B, C and D. We want to know what happened in the departments? What did Ministers do? Who did they authorise or consult? That is the issue. Ministers are accountable to this Parliament. Mr Speaker, you saw a Minister lose his portfolio last year because of impropriety. That was the word used. This matter involves much more than the sort of impropriety involved then. This is a knowledge of an illegal act, not just impropriety. That is the point that we are making.
Mr Speaker, we note your concern about the sub judice rule. We emphasise the national importance of this matter. In this particular case some 1,200 people are likely to be involved. Millions of dollars are already involved. The Crown is duty bound to prosecute in a fair and reasonable manner. Although prima facie evidence is available, that has not been done and is not likely to be done. We say that this matter does not come within the sub judice rule. Accordingly I had no other alternative but to move dissent from your ruling. The case is not going to stop. Public discussion of this matter is not going to stop. The debate on the Bills to be dealt with next week will bring the whole matter into the forefront of what we are about in this country when we are talking about civil rights of people, their rights of privacy and their right to be protected against malicious prosecution.
-Is the motion seconded?
- Mr Speaker, this whole matter has been amply canvassed today. I move:
That the question be now put.
– You’re a mob of crooks. You’re a crook.
-The honourable member for Prospect will remain silent or I will deal with him immediately. I will not accept the motion. It is not possible to put that motion because I have not stated the question from the Chair.
- Mr Speaker, with great respect, I believe that you have erred in this matter in setting the sub judice ruling far to high having regard to all the circumstances of this case and having regard to the previous rulings, some of which you have addressed the minds of the House to. Mr Speaker, I might direct your attention to the statement made by Sir William Aston in a major statement on the sub judice rule. You will probably be aware of it but I think it timely to remind the House of it. He stated that the Speaker should be guided in his interpretation of a sub judice rule according to the following five points:
Within constitutional power-
The most recent trend in interpreting the sub judice rule has been to indicate that just because a matter is before a court not every matter concerning the case is therefore sub judice and unable to be brought forward in debate. Equally, it has been argued that in the final analysis the responsibility rests upon the Chair- that is you, Mr Speaker- and that in the event that the public interest is involved the public interest may prevail over the sub judice rule. Mr Speaker. I direct you also to the view expressed by the Chief Justice of New South Wales in 1937. Dealing with the question of contempt he said:
It is well settled that a person cannot be prevented by process of contempt from continuing to discuss publicly a matter which may fairly be regarded as one of public interest by reason merely of the fact that the matter in question has become the subject of litigation or that the person whose conduct is being publicly criticised had become a party to litigation, either as a plaintiff or defendant, and whether in relation to the matter which is under discussion or with respect to some other matter.
Let me extend that analogy. Mr Speaker, assume that tomorrow you pick up any one of Australia’s leading daily newspapers and read an editorial which expresses concern that there is now clear evidence that officers of the Commonwealth Police Force, who are subject to ministerial control, broke the law. The editorial may state: ‘There is clear evidence that a Minister, in an answer in the Senate, indicated that on the advice that she had, certain actions had not taken place and there is now clear evidence that those actions have taken place. There is a question of confidence involved. These are such grave and serious matters and involve matters of such public concern that there ought to be a judicial inquiry.’ Assuming that you have read that editorial, Mr Speaker, would it be seriously suggested that the editor of that newspaper would be arraigned for contempt of court? Of course it would not
If one looks at the substance of the motion moved by the Deputy Leader ofthe Opposition and reduces it to its simplest forms one sees that he has suggested that there has been a set of circumstances- he was prevented from elaborating upon them- which require a judicial inquiry- nothing more and nothing less. Because of the way the sub judice rule has been seen, not just by the Parliament-you, sir, have indicated the view of Parliament-but by the courts, where the standard is not altogether dissimilar from the standard of contempt, we are getting to an odd situation indeed if we say now that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition cannot advance argument in this Parliament that go to the reason why a judicial inquiry ought to be established, whatever the view of public interest is, because it infringes the sub judice rule. But if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is transmuted overnight so that he becomes a feature writer or editorial writer for any major newspaper in the country with a circulation of 350,000, he can say exactly those things and canvass those issues and nobody is going to say that there is any contempt of proceedings. Therefore, with respect to you, sir, I say that, if you look at the authorities, you have drawn the line too high on this occasion. With great respect, the issues that are involved in this matter go to the question of ministerial responsibility.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was concerned to say that there was a set of facts which so offended any right-thinking member of this Parliament that it was not just a matter for censure but for establishing how this occurred; and it ought to be a matter of judicial inquiry. Assuming the House accepted that argument, it would be a matter for the Government to determine the framework in which that inquiry took place. Once any such judicial inquiry got underway it would be protected by the sub judice rule. It is a fine question when we look at the issues which might affect one particular person facing a set of charges. All we have at the moment are committal proceedings. I do not want to reiterate the arguments that I have already addressed of my fear of a magistrate’s findings on those facts. But I believe it draws the line too high to say that because one aspect might be affected- it might be a minor aspect in terms of ail the evidence that might exist in the particular case; and I do not know whether it will be affected in all these cases or how relevant it is- which goes to other issues which are matters of great concern to the public and matters of great public interest this Parliament cannot deal with it.
Admittedly, Sir, you must make a judgment on all of these matters on the facts before you. A large number of people will be committed, presumably over a long period. Officers of the law are duty bound to administer and to keep the law. They are subject to ministerial control and direction. That is the issue with which the Parliament has to be concerned. Somebody else has been charged with effectively cheating social welfare benefits and it is suggested that the overwhelming public interest is in ensuring that we deal not with the former matter because it is more important that we concentrate on the latter. It is important further to ensure that proceedings which deal with the judgment of the issues in respect of the latter are not infringed. There is a body of opinion which says that the mere fact that a matter is before a court means that the Chair should determine that public interest shall prevail. I believe that the course followed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is a responsible one. I believe that you, Sir, have erred in setting the standard at a level which is inappropriate and too high having regard to the number of people who are going to be charged, the nature of the charges, and to the fact that at best we are merely dealing with committal proceedings.
It may be months or years before the matter comes before a jury. Sir, you have your own practical experience to guide you on that fact. The fact that a matter may come before a jury at a point six months or nine months from now should not preclude this Parliament from being able to debate a motion which, in essence, says that the issues of public interest here are of such paramount importance that there ought to be a judicial inquiry. For those reasons, I respectfully submit that you ought to reconsider your decision.
– On behalf of the Government, I, as would be judged from what I have said earlier today and this evening, oppose this motion. The Government accepts your ruling, Mr Speaker, because it believes that it is correct and that you have correctly applied the ruling in a situation which is well recognised both in the House of Commons and in this House. To summarise the practice of this House, I repeat some of the words which you used earlier in the day in making your ruling. This House, having no Standing Order of its own relating specifically to sub judice matters, is guided by the practice of the House of Commons. The practice of this House may be stated- I will not go through all the particulars of the application of the sub judice rule but only where it is relevant- in the following terms: firstly, the application of the sub judice is subject always to the discretion of the Chair and the right of the House to legislate on any matter but, as to the latter, that is not the situation before the House. The next- and this is a most important statement of practice- is that matters awaiting or under adjudication in all courts exercising criminal jurisdiction shall not be referred to in motions, debate or questions from the moment a charge is made.
Quite clearly, from the terms of the motion itself and from what has been said on behalf of the Opposition in debate, the matter into which a judicial inquiry is sought to be held is a matter awaiting or under adjudication or concerning directly a matter awaiting or under adjudication in a court exercising criminal jurisdiction. It goes to evidence which is before that court of criminal jurisdiction, the admissibility of the evidence, and the lawfulness of the conduct of the witness giving the evidence. One of the points that has been constantly asserted on behalf of the Opposition is that there has been a breach of the law by a particular witness. That is an assertion. It is also an assumption. It is not a matter established as a matter of law. Before there can be a breach of the law -
-I ask the Minister to remain relevant to the question, that is, dissent from my ruling.
– I submit that this is an important point. It is one that has been constantly referred to by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) in particular both in support of this motion to dissent from your ruling and in his argument that the sub judice rule should not be applied. An example was sought to be given by reference to an editorial which stated that there had been a breach of the law in evidence given in criminal proceedings. It has been stated in argument that the newspaper in which that editorial appeared could not be the subject of any proceedings. That, of course, is an assumption built upon an assumption. It may well be, Mr Speaker, that an editorial of that kind, made in the course of criminal proceedings, could and would be the subject of contempt proceedings. I state those matters in argument in order to establish that the assertions made by the Opposition are not necessarily correct and therefore ought not to be relied upon by this House to support a dissent from your ruling.
I have referred to two of the particular rules of practice by this House. Other particular rules of practice refer to matters awaiting or under adjudication in a civil court. That is not the case here. Another rule is that current matters before a royal commission shall not be referred to. That is not the case here. Then there is sought to be used in aid by the Opposition in dissenting from your ruling the argument that this matter is an issue of national importance. I would argue that this is a confusion of rules of practice. In this situation the primary rule of practice is the one to which I have already referred, that is that matters awaiting or under adjudication in all courts exercising criminal jurisdiction shall not be referred to in motions, debate or questions from the moment a charge is made. The example which you gave, Mr Speaker, earlier this day with regard to an issue of national importance such as the national economy, public order and the essentials of life- by way of example I recall that you referred to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- which matters may be referred to unless such references would substitute a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the proceedings. I think the House can immediately see the primacy of that rule relating to criminal jurisdiction in contrast to the earlier rule of practice. It is one which is clearly set out in Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice and, as I have said, is one which is followed by the House of Commons.
Because this House does not have any standing order of its own relating to the sub judice rule, the practice of this House is to follow the practice of the House of Commons. I submit that nothing that has been said by either the mover or the seconder of this dissent motion detracts from the correctness of your statement of the principles of the sub judice rule. Mr Speaker, if one thing struck me more than any other in your statement, it was when you said that the criminal court is a judicial inquiry into the matters which are the subject of the Opposition’s motion. Therefore what the Opposition is really seeking to do is to establish a parallel judicial inquiry into the very matters which are now before a court of criminal jurisdiction. It is for those reasons, shortly stated, that the Government supports your ruling and opposes this motion of dissent.
-There are dangers in the sub judice rule being read too widely. The only way in which Mr Speaker’s ruling can be changed is by carrying the motion moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). We must keep some balance between the need to preserve and protect the rights of a defendant to a fair trial and the need, no less grave, to maintain the right of the Parliament to scrutinise and attack the conduct of Ministers where their conduct has some bearing on a legal proceeding. Let me illustrate the way in which such a danger could arise. A Minister could breach the law in some way which was directly relevant to his ministerial office. He would be open to political attack but would also be potentially a subject of prosecution. In such a case the Parliament could be silenced if a private prosecution a la Sankey was initiated. If this became common practice we could have every major Minister excluded from political criticism in this forum because the sub judice rule could be applied in respect of a series of private prosecutions against Ministers. A ministry which was in serious trouble might have several Ministers deeply involved in matters which were before the courts- not personally but, for example, as in this case, the so-called Greek conspiracy case. We would have the absurdity then that the greater the mess the Government was in the less it would be possible for the matters in which it was involved to be ventilated in this House.
Mr Speaker, I think the happiest way out of this motion would be for you to reconsider the ruling that was given earlier. Even if the debate were adjourned briefly, that would enable the matter to be resolved gracefully. I believe that where there is a possibility of a grave interference with the right of the subject so far as his trial is concerned, the sub judice rule is very important. But there is also the right of this Parliament to be heard in a free and untrammelled way. I think the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) who is at the table, was very selective in his reading of page 427 of Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice. What he failed to point out with regard to what May said about the sub judice rule on page 427 was: in exercising its discretion the Chair should not allow reference to such matters if it appears that there is a real and substantial danger of prejudice to the proceedings.
In my submission not one word was said by the Minister that suggested that if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were able to proceed with his motion there would be that grave danger that the prosecutions would be aborted, for example, or that the people charged would be prejudiced so far as a fair trial was concerned. I urge the House to consider very carefully the consequences if, every time there is an opportunity, we limit the possibilities for this House to act. So recently, for example, we had the debate on the Australian Security Intelligence Organization Bill. It was a matter of saying: ‘We give away our powers somewhere else’. I am concerned that we may find that the Parliament says: ‘We give away our chance to ventilate important matters that involve policy matters, not just the liberty and freedom of individuals who may or may not be charged’. We are not concerned in this case with what the accused are doing. That is a matter for the court. What we are concerned with is what the Ministers are doing.
The Ministers are not before the court. The Ministers are not on trial in a juridical sense but they are on trial -
-The honourable gentleman will remain relevant to the subject.
-Mr Speaker, I believe that what I am saying is completely relevant.
-I do not believe that it is relevant. The honourable gentleman will discuss the question of dissent from my ruling.
-The question involved in your ruling and the reason for the dissent from your ruling is the argument that your ruling on sub judice effectively gelds the House. It prevents the House from carrying out its constitutional responsibility to ventilate matters of public policy where the activities of Ministers and people acting under ministerial direction are concerned. That is the issue. I believe, with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), that in drawing the sub judice rule so wide you have effectively diminished the power of this Parliament to carry out its responsibilities.
-Mr Speaker, I wish to speak for only two minutes.
Motion (by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the question be now put.
– I will not speak for two minutes at all. It is merely-
-Perhaps the Minister will permit the two minutes to the honourable member for Port Adelaide. I call the honourable member for Port Adelaide.
-Thank you for that, Mr Speaker. I point out that as the Standing Orders are silent under the system we have of electing the Speaker of this Parliament- to which you have drawn attention on many occasionsobviously your ruling must depend upon the majority which elected you to that position. I say that because that is the system which applies. I think it is important for us to move the motion because it is important to-
-Does the honourable gentleman in what he says suggest that my ruling is conditioned by the wishes of the majority?
– No, I am saying it will be carried because you are elected by the majority. I am also saying that it is extremely important that we place on record the matters which have been raised by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen). Paramount in the argument which has been laid before the Parliament tonight must be the point raised by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) that we are being restricted in this Parliament in expressing opinions in matters on which we can express opinions quite freely outside the Parliament. Obviously the newspapers, the radio stations and the television stations tomorrow morning will be commenting on the matters which we are told by your ruling we are not to discuss in the Parliament. Your ruling depends very much on the way in which the foreshadowed motion has been framed. You said that there was not mention of ministerial responsibility. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the person in the chair listening to the debate would need a keen eye and a keen ear to make sure that people taking part in the debate did not breach the sub judice rule, as we could come to understand it, endorse it and enforce it within this Parliament. But the Greek conspiracy case is used as a very loose term. It does not merely apply to the people who are before the courts. It encompasses the Government’s attitude to the Greek community in Sydney. The relationship between the Ministers has been raised-
– I raise a point of order.
-The honourable gentleman should remain relevant to the point.
– That was the point of order I was about to make, Mr Speaker.
-The honourable gentleman should remain relevant to the motion.
- Mr Speaker, you based your ruling on the observation that there was no mention of ministerial responsibility in the foreshadowed motion. But I am suggesting to you that the Greek conspiracy case refers, in the Opposition’s view, to the relationship between the Government and the Greek community. We would also raise the relationship between the Department of Social Security and the police and the actions that were taken. What evidence is being held by the police against people who have not been charged? What authority has been given by the Ministers?
-The honourable gentleman is digressing from the motion before the Chair. The motion before the Chair is a motion of dissent from my ruling. It does not permit an explanation of what was intended to be meant by the motion which was moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
-But, Mr Speaker, what I am saying here in front of you in the House of Representatives tonight is that if I walk outside the door what I say can be printed. We should be the last to apply the sub judice rule, not the first. Parliament ought to be able to discuss these matters. It would seem to be an incredible station. Each of the members of the Opposition who have spoken have raised this point. We are to be silenced on the question of ministerial responsibility in a case about which the ethnic communities of this country are deeply alarmed. It cannot be that you, Mr Speaker, would rule us out of order on the sub judice rule merely because of the way the motion is framed. Obviously you would see that the Opposition is concerned with the way in which the Government has handled this whole case. It may be that if the motion were rewritten it will be acceptable to you. But it seems to me to be terribly important and paramount in the whole argument that the people outside this Parliament should be getting what they expect of us, and that is a thorough investigation into the way in which this Government deals with the civil liberties of the people in this country. That is what is inherent in this argument.
-The honourable gentleman is transgressing. I will not permit him to go any further.
– If we do not proceed with a debate on this subject we are doing the Australian people a grave disservice.
-The honourable gentleman will resume his seat.
- Mr Speaker -
Motion ( by Mr Viner) proposed:
That the question be now put.
The question having been put and a division having been called for-
- Mr Speaker, under this dissent motion can you not reject the gag being applied when the Leader of the Opposition is about to speak? It is within your power to do that.
-Unfortunately it is not.
– I understand that it is, Mr Speaker. You can reject a Minister’s putting the gag on such an important motion as this.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the ruling be dissented from.
The House divided. (Mr Speaker-Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-Order! It being past 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday’s Press report of a document that was leaked from the Liberal Party regarding its preparation for an election makes very interesting reading. Everybody in Australia should have a very close look at that report. The first comment I wish to make is that it was not prepared for next year’s election; it was obviously prepared for this year’s election. Together with all the other announcements that have been made by the Government, there is no doubt that had there not been a Sinclair affair this year we would have been faced with another election. Thanks to the right honourable member for New England (Mr Sinclair) we have avoided a Federal election this year. The document also shows that, amongst the problems the Government has to avoid or explain over the next 12 months, there is the problem of the self-indulgence of the Government. What an extraordinary feature it is of a campaign report by the Liberal Party that one of the matters it has to explain to the members who serve in this Parliament, as well as to the other operatives in the Liberal Party throughout Australia, and to the Australian people, is that the Government has not been self-indulgent, that there is a misunderstanding about some of the accusations that have been made against this Government. It is not true that the Government spent $30m on Boeing aircraft for the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It is not true that Ministers have had all these trips overseas. It is not true that thousands of dollars hve been spent on the Lodge, in self-indulgence by the Prime Minister. We are told in the document leaked from the Liberal Party headquarters that members have to tell the public that none of these things is true. I hope that the people will see through it. The document told us that they have to explain what a good job the Liberal Party has done on taxation. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), in line with the instructions given by the campaign committee, told us this afternoon that the new tax cuts that will take place from 1 December represent a windfall for taxpayers. The people of Australia know that the Government is giving back to them in December what it took from them 18 months ago. There is absolutely no tax cut. If a 10 per cent wage increase is achieved during the year as a result of the 10 per cent inflation rate in Australia, wage earners will pay more tax in Australia in 1978-79 than they paid in previous years.
On the other hand, Liberal Party members are instructed that, if the Labor Party looks like being a team for moderation, if it looks as though it is winning over the middle ground, they must try to destroy it. They must kick the old trade union or communist can again. Out go the instructions to the Liberal Party robots how they are to conduct themselves over the next 12 months. What an extraordinary set of circumstances it is that these people cannot think for themselves about what the issues will be. They have been told that they must explain the Government’s position on health insurance in Australia. How will someone on the other side of this Parliament explain away to honourable members inside the Parliament, in the first instance, what a mess the Government has made of health insurance? If honourable members look at the double page advertisement in the Melbourne Age this morning they will get some idea of the ramifications of what the government has done to the health system in this country. An appeal is being made to those who have to pay less for their health insurance to join a separate private fund and to leave the chronically ill and aged in funds where they will have to pay very high premiums. Go out and explain that to the Australian public!
I have a suggestion for the director of the Liberal Party when he is running next year’s election campaign. He needs a far more intelligent government to sell than the one we have at the moment. He had better change the produce before he lays down the criteria for selling it. He had better do a bit more market research on some of the dummies he has on the front bench and the way they are handling this country before he lays down instructions how the Government is going to be sold at the next election. Some of the fundamentals with which he is dealing in saying how the Government will be sold on some of the issues that he puts forward are pitfalls for the Government. I give this assurance. One thing about which I will keep reminding the Government in this House, and reminding the people outside, is this Government’s selfindulgence. During the period in which the Government has been telling the people of Australia to tighten their belts, a former Treasurer has been flogging off land on the Mornington Peninsula and the Prime Minister has been spending millions of dollars to look after himself- money he took from the pensioners. There is no way the Government will be given the mercy of not discussing these issues in the lead-up to the 1980 election. It should get Tony Eggleton, the Liberal Party director, to write a new list of instructions because the old ones are not going to wear.
-On Thursday and Friday, 1 and 2 November 1979, the
Australian Army conducted a war surgery seminar at the School of Army Health in Healesville, Victoria, which is in my electorate. This seminar was the culmination of many months of effort by working parties of specialist surgeons from all States of Australia. The aim was to formulate Australian Army policy for emergency surgery in the field. I briefly draw the attention of the House to this seminar because it highlights one of the many aspects ofthe Defence forces of our country which do not often surface in debate in this place, or indeed in debate conducted by the commentators on defence policy in Australia. We tend to concentrate on major defence purchase items such as the tactical fighter force or the possibility of a replacement for our aircraft carrier. Matters which concern the ability of our Defence Forces to function and to be resupplied and sustained are not often mentioned.
I think this matter is worth mentioning because the seminar was the product of many months of work on a very important subject. The aim was to rewrite the manual on field surgery, which badly needed doing. In fact, until this stage the Australian Army has been using the manual on field surgery of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces, a manual which was not particularly relevant to Australian conditions. The background to the seminar is that some months ago many surgeons throughout Australia were approached by the Director of Medical Services of the Army, Brigadier James, and invited to participate in a series of working parties leading up to the seminar. I mention that almost all of the surgeons in academia and in private practice who were invited to participate accepted the invitation. They participated in the working parties and in the seminar at no cost to the taxpayer. They donated their services. In a profession which is often attacked- and I have indulged in some criticism of the medical profession myself- I think that is a contribution which ought to be noted by this House. In fact, this House ought to query why it does not vote funds for that sort of purpose.
Nonetheless, a number of leading surgeons donated their services for this exercise. Some 44 civilians took part in the working parties and in the seminar, and 38 military personnel, comprising regular Army and reserve Army personnel, also took part. As I have mentioned, the civilian personnel paid their own transport costs to Healesville from wherever they came in Australia. Many of them stayed in private accommodation and paid their own expenses. No doubt they were attracted, at least in part, by the importance of the seminar and the benefits they could obtain from discussions with their professional colleagues. Nonetheless, we ought to give some acknowledgment to the contribution they have made.
One of the important matters that became obvious to me- I attended for a short while at the School of Army Health during the two-day seminar- was the need for standardisation of medical procedures in the field. One of the problems that can arise with respect to medical services, and surgical services in particular, is that if a soldier is wounded in the field he may be transferred through several different field hospitals and base hospitals before being returned to Australia for final treatment. In those circumstances, it is most necessary that he be treated in the same way at each stage. When he comes to a base hospital after having emergency surgery in the field, the surgeon at the base hospital ought to know the procedures that have been used in the field so that he can conduct the next stage of the necessary surgical procedures. It is for that reason that a standard manual is necessary for the armed services. It is all very well for individual surgeons to have their pet methods and their particular specialities in the way of treatment. When people are being treated under such circumstances there needs to be knowledge throughout the medical profession as to how field surgery will be performed. I think this Parliament owes a debt to the surgeons who have contributed to this seminar.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I direct the attention of the House, both in sorrow and in anger, to the problem of securing adequate media coverage for the operations of Parliament and its members. As a working member of the Australian Journalists Association I have sympathy and understanding about the difficulties of rendering both justice and mercy to members of parliament. I freely admit that no media outlet could devote adequate space to the activities of 124 members of the House of Representatives and 64 senators and expect to stay in business. Nevertheless, I think that many membersperhaps most- are victims of selective trivialisation in which the small number of media reports on our activities often put undue stress on superficialities. Let me illustrate by reference to my own experience.
Between February 1978 when I took my seat in this place and 25 October 1 979 I had made a total of 112 speeches and had received answers to 193 questions. Very few indeed were reported and almost invariably the ones reported were those on the least significant issues. If 1 80 serious questions are ignored and 13 relatively trivial ones are extensively reported it is hardly surprising if we are widely regarded as lightweights. I think it was Mungo Maccallum who wrote somewhere that politicians in Australia occupied a place in public esteem somewhere between drug pushers and child molesters. The media appears singularly reluctant or ill-equipped to deal with complex issues unless they involve personal confrontations or controversy- for example, when allegations of impropriety are made. To illustrate this point I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard an article I wrote on this subject for the Canberra Times on 8 October 1 978 headed: ‘How can we get the media to look beyond the trivialities?’
The article read as follows-
Politicians are not held in high regard in Australia. There are several possible explanations.
One is that the most important things in Australia are products. This is the most materialist country in the world. The eclipse of Mr Gough Whitlam by Mr Malcolm Fraser represented the primacy of products over ideas. (It is no coincidence that the Prime Minister’s favourite reading is Ayn Rand and motor-bike magazines.) Politicians are on the threshold of the world of ideas. In a profoundly nonideological community, there are dangers in dipping your toe too far in.
A second explanation is that politics is a process which necessarily involves confrontation, and Australians feel dis.tincly uncomfortable about serious confrontation, especially over issues involving ideas.
Our society is marked by a prevailing blandness. We are undoubtedly the world’s most stable and loveable people. We are certainly not the most interesting.
Much of Australian life is marked by an “avoidance syndrome” in which we back off from problems, evading rather than resolving them. The political process, and elections in particular, are institutionalised forms of confrontation and viewed with great distaste by most citizens.
A third explanation is that politicians are the victims of “selective trivialisation”- that the small number of media reports on our activities often put undue stress on trivialities.
By putting undue emphasis on minor matters, the impression is created that we devote our lives to trivia.
Let me demonstrate this.
This is a horrifying example of the failure of governments composed of non-specialists to understand and adequately supervise projects involving complex technical matters. I spent weeks preparing the speech, and checked its details with highly qualified engineers.
I was due to deliver it on September 13. However, at dinner in the Parliamentary dining room (bream in Hollandaise sauce), I swallowed a fishbone, failed to retrieve it by conventional means and was rushed to hospital where I was given a general anaesthetic and kept for the night.
I woke to find a reporter bending over my bed. “ Were you talking when you swallowed the bone ‘ “? “Yes”, I confessed. “What about”?, he said.
I was so forgetful from the anaesthetic that I had to check up later. I had been talking about pre-selections, a topic which is guaranteed to make any politician lose concentration on his food.
Next day I was amazed by the media coverage of my fishbone incident. I made page 1 or 2 in most newspapers and one TV station made the sensational if ambiguous newsflash: “Barry Jones chokes on fishbone”.
In deference to the fishbone, my West Gate Bridge speech was adjourned to September 20.I prepared copies of my 90- minute speech, together with summaries of the main points, distributed them to the Press and offered to brief journalists on the more alarming factors in my case.
Compared to the fishbone incident, the West Gate Bridge was virtually ignored. I came to the conclusion that the Victorian Parliament was not an appropriate place to raise highly complex technical issues and it was a major factor in my decision to go national.
When I outlined my case on West Gate in a grievance day debate in the House of Representatives (May 11, 1978. Hansard pp. 2,231-33) in a brief speech, it received far more coverage than my marathon effort in Victoria.
The original speech raised very serious issues about the way in which major decisions on bridge design were made without adequate examination, raised important questions on safety and indicated the Victorian Government’s abject failure to grasp the significance of the Bridge Authority’s arbitrary rejection of the Fairhurst scheme.
However, the issues were ignored by the media. The then Minister of Transport, Mr Rafferty, made the shrewd judgment that the best way to tackle the issue was to ignore it and say, ‘I don’t understand what this is all about. Does anyone?’
Actually, the story was a ‘beat-up’ of an unanswered Question on Notice-probably the least significant of a long series.
It was published in all States during a week in which I had made two major speeches- in my own judgment anywayon the Budget and on the Telecom dispute. Both tackled the problems of the post industrial revolution and looked for solutions to job displacement caused by technological change.
Not one word of either was reported by any newspaper. However, the ‘taped-music’ story provoked indignant letters from people throughout Australia who demanded to know why, in a time of economic hardship and worsening unemployment, the only issue that worried the Member for Lalor involved taped music in planes.
If my correspondents had relied on newspapers for their news it was a reasonable judgment- but it gave a completely misleading impression of what I was doing in Parliament.
We all respond to immediate problems which are close at hand rather than tackling difficult long-term and long-range problems. We also put far too much emphasis on personal factors- A challenges B in a ballot, C calls D a liar, E punches F on the nose, G issues a writ against H- and tend to ignore the underlying conflict of value systems which leads to personal antagonism or rivalry.
News coverage tends very often to be in inverse proportion to the importance of the subject matter.
Since 1970I have been writing and talking to anyone who will listen about the implications of the post-industrial revolution- a comprehensive concept including automation, the growth of the information sector of the economy, the impact of miniaturisation in which machines increase their capacity while reducing in size, energy use and cost.
In my six years as a Parliamentarian I have worked more on this subject than any other. I have churned out speeches and papers which have been totally ignored except in the past few weeks, when the Telecom dispute began to alert people to the social implications of job displacement by the new technology’.
All this effort has produced a very small responseperhaps because the implications of post-industrialism are so vast that people feel overwhelmed by it.
However, a five-minute speech on the disappearance of archives relating to the execution of large numbers of PapuaNew Guineans (perhaps as many as 100) by the Australian Army during World War II created a furore.
Acres of newsprint were devoted to the subject, my motives were called in question everywhere and I received more hate mail than at any time since the Ryan hanging in 1967.
I had obviously violated the ‘avoidance syndrome’ and brought out from under the carpet a subject which many people thought should be kept there. Punishment is a cherished part of the Australian way of life- a concept that Australians understand and warm to.
Obviously, no media outlet can devote adequate space to the activities of 124 MHRs and 64 Senators and expect to stay in business. But selective trivialisation can give a completely distorted impression of what we are on about.
I am confident that if I gave two speeches on the same day- one to advance alternative ways of resolving Australia’s unemployment problem and the other to say that I had found a contraceptive in a pie served in the Parliamentary Refreshment Rooms- I have a fair idea which speech would be reported and which ignored.
-This raises the whole problem of directing public attention to the highest common multiple through media which, almost inescapably, is aimed at the lowest common denominator. What is more serious is that many major issues are ignored and this failure has damaging effects on the quality of information and informed debate in the community at large. The Australian Financial Review has a very high reputation as a newspaper of record which employs very able journalists and presents a wide coverage of foreign and local news. But as my own experience suggests, it has its blind spots. There are certain issues that it simply will not touch and a number of people, including me, whom it will not report. To the Australian Financial Review I am a non-person, well down its memory hole. The Australian Financial Review exhibits a complete lack of interest in the possible social impact of technological job displacement. It prints, at length, enthusiastic endorsements of the new technology both in feature articles and editorials, denouncing its unidentified critics as Luddites and at the same time ignoring the possibility that a cogent and literate argument can be put against the doctrine of technological determinism. I have written letters to the editor of the Australian Financial Review several times, without any being printed. None has received the courtesy of a reply. I have faithfully sent copies of all my major papers and speeches on the impact of technology on the Australian work force- dating back to 1971- to the Australian Financial Review, without reply. But surely to report only one half of a debate is to create, consciously or unconsciously, the impression that there is only one intellectually respectable position to take, for example, on the adoption of labour displacing high technology. I think that is an indefensible position. Imagine a tariff debate for example, which suppressed the protectionist case and failed to put the other side.
On 3 1 October I wrote a 17 paragraph letterfor publication- to the editor of the Australian Financial Review. I conceded that the letter was a piece of special pleading but pointed out that the Australian Financial Review had completely ignored the 20 or so speeches I had made in this House on the subject of post-industrialism and the post-service economy, numerous papers for seminars and my 64-page submission to the Myers Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia- CITCA- which was the only one made by any of Australia’s 796 members of parliament. Not one word of this work has ever appeared in the Australian Financial Review. I seek leave to incorporate my letter in Hansard.
The letter read as follows- 31 October 1979
To the Editor,
G.P.O. Sydney 200 1 NSW
If this letter reads like a piece of special pleading- you are absolutely correct, but it serves to illustrate the total lack of interest shown by the Australian Financial Review in the possible social impact of technological job-displacement.
Since my election in December 1977 I have made 20 closely reasoned speeches in the House of Representatives in which I have examined the changing nature of the workforce, the declining industrial base of our economy and rising information base, threats to service employment from a widening gap between cost of labour and cost of technology the ‘productive’ sector v. the ‘convivial’ sector, mounting evidence of discontinuity with past economic history, a comparison between ‘time saving employment’ and ‘time absorbing employment’.
In July 1979 I made a 64 page submission to the Myers Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change in Australia- and of Australia’s 796 Members of Parliament (Commonwealth, State and Territorial) I was the only one to do so.
I sent a copy, without acknowledgement, to the Australian Financial Review.
I have prepared papers on technological unemployment for seminars in every State except Tasmania- and have bombarded newspapers, yourselves included- with appropriate press releases.
Not one word about my work has ever darkened the pages of the Australian Financial Review.
The Australian Press, with a few honourable exceptions, has shown the most monumental lack of interest in, or even curiosity about, the impact of high technology on employment. Much of the Press has exhibited a ‘gee whiz’ enthusiasm for technological hardware and software- not unrelated to the advertising which it generates. Characteristically, the media is interested in the ‘how’ and ‘what’ questions but it ignores the ‘Who/Whom?’ question which Lenin described as the basis of all political debate: ‘Who does what to whom?’ (I refrain from using Lenin’s actual verb). The socalled serious Press has shown an astonishing degree of gullibility in accepting the views of the ‘technological determinists’- credulous public servants, incurious journalists and vigorous salesmen- almost without question.
Your columns gave an enthusiastic endorsement, ‘Sharing the wealth of the microelectronic revolution ‘(24 Feb. 1979) to the anonymous 24 page paper prepared for the U.K.. Central Policy Review Staff entitled ‘Social and Economic Implications of Microelectronics’ which contained precisely three sentences (in paragraphs 16 and 17) predicting job rises in unspecified public service categories following computerisation- but with no statistical base. The paper was accepted with the innocence of a child waiting for the tooth fairy. (In May 1979 I tracked down the paper’s author who admitted having written the paper under political pressure and disclaimed personal support for its views. Reference to the Australian Financial Review’s enthusiastic support was greeted with incredulity and hilarity).
On the other hand your columns have totally ignored the major French report L’information de la Societe (1978) written by Simon Nora, Inspector-General of Finances, and Alain Mine, Inspector of Finances, which comprises one volume of tightly reasoned argument and eight volumes of documentation, including an impressive statistical base. Has this been ignored because it takes a sceptical position about the job creation potential of high technology?
Nora told me in Paris in June this year that he thought my work was probably the most important analysis in the English speaking world so far and that if my ideas were adopted ‘Australia will make the transition to the new era of high technology with less trauma and social dislocation than any other nation’.
That does not, of course, mean that the Australian Financial Review will take any interest in my work!
I am also concerned that you so faithfully and uncritically promote the orthodox Keynesian position that output and employment are necessarily in direct relationship and that if production and consumption increase, employment must automatically follow.
There are major exceptions to this and I have proposed what I have immodestly called ‘ Jones ‘ Law ‘:
In the supply of products or general economic services on a massive scale employment does not necessarily have a direct relationship to demand: the relationship may be in inverse proportion and that as demand goes up relative demand for employment does down ‘.
There are many examples of this: the motor fuel industry, chemical production, energy generation, much retailing, printing, motor industry, and vast areas of clerical work.
Perhaps the Australian Financial Review is, being merciful in ignoring my productions and that if there is a conspiracy of silence I would be well advised to join it. It is possible that Iam:
If I am wrong then I ought to be exposed and eliminated from public life. If I am right, even in part, then you ought to take the issues raised seriously. I suspect that your paper is not hostile to new ideas- merely indifferent and that it reflects, all too accurately, Australia’s intellectual wasteland.
-I sent the letter by priority paid mail, and it did not appear. Some days later I sent a moderately worded telegram to the editor asking whether he intended to print the letter. Later that day I received a telephone message. The letter had been rejected because it was too long. One could go further and say that the whole topic had been regarded as too complex and too critical of an established position taken by the newspaper and its writers. But I believe that the Australian Financial Review betrays its reputation as a newspaper of record with a moral obligation to scrutinise important contemporary issues in depth. It has failed to do so. There are few things more discouraging to parliamentarians than to find that the quantity and quality of reporting is often in inverse relation to the seriousness of the matters debated.
-Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-While I was investment editor for the Australian Financial Review I assure the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) that we gave as little attention to his boring exploits on PickaBox as the present editor is no doubt giving to the honourable member’s boring exploits in this House. The point I wanted to raise here, however, is a very positive one relating to the personal income tax sharing arrangements under which councils in Australia have received a substantial increase in the amounts of money to be made available to them on an untied basis from the Federal Government. I would like to point out- I am certain the House is well aware of this, but I would like to stress it- that in New South Wales, for example, there has been a 176 per cent increase in untied grants made available to councils from Federal sources as a result of this Government’s policies since it came to office. This enormous rise in grants is something that the Opposition pretends has not happened. I hope that when the Opposition is considering what tactics will be used by the Government at the next election campaign it keeps in mind that the Government will be stressing such positive achievements as this 176 per cent increase in money to councils which they can use exactly as they like for the benefit of their ratepayers.
This enourmous increase has been an immense factor in the reduction of rates which were such a burden to ratepayers throughout Australia under the massive mad days of Whitlam inflation. Those days fortunately are gone but there is no doubt that this Federal Government allocation out of the personal taxation collections has had a magnificent impact on councils with, however, one reservation. That reservation unfortunately is that some councils are not getting their fair share of this Federal money as a result of decisions taken by the State authorities. Two councils in my electorate, the Wollongong City Council and the Shoalhaven City Council, have had increases in the Federal money made available to them far below the average rise of 1 76 per cent. Wollongong has had only a 128 per cent increase and Shoalhaven a 138 per cent increase. Surely there are no councils in the State with needs much greater than these two. Wollongong, of course, is a difficult area with immense industrial activity and, of course, a high unemployment rate. Surely that is an area to which the State authorities should have given close attention. Shoalhaven is a rapidly growing area with immense pressures for the provision of services.
It astounds me that when I pointed out that the State had failed to pass on this magnificent increase to those two councils the State Minister involved, Mr Harry Jensen, accused me of endeavouring to confuse the thinking of the people. That is a most extraordinary criticism. He complains that the Federal Government insists that consideration be given to the needs of councils. I am stressing that that is exactly what I agree with too. It seems to me, however, that the State authorities are not giving proper attention to the needs of at least two councils in my electorate. I regard it as extraordinary that the State Minister concerned with this area should endeavour to cloud this issue by pretending that in fact it is not his fault, or it is not the fault of the State Government, or it is not the fault of the States Grants Commission -
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2.15 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 2 1 March 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In so far as the question does not refer to the possible activities of ASIO, there have been no official or unofficial contacts between Ministers and officials of the Australian Government and the South African Department of National Security since November 1 975.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 28 March 1979:
What taxation revenue was forgone or is anticipated to be forgone as a result of taxation measures to encourage the ( a) exploration and (b) development of petroleum resources in (i) 1975-76, (ii) 1976-77, (iii) 1977-78 and (iv) 1978-79.
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The revenue forgone in the years from 1975-76 to 1978-79 as a result of the special deductions for expenditure on prospecting andmining for petroleum were estimated as follows: 1975-76-$19m; 1976-77-$22m; 1977-78-$13m; 1978-79-$ 16m.
These amounts related to the deduction of capital expenditure allowable under the special mining provisions, but not the ordinary provisions, of the income tax law. Revenue was also forgone to the extent that certain deductions for the cost of plant were allowed over shorter periods of time than is the case with the general run of taxpayers. As indicated in the parts of the statements attached to the Budget Speeches that relate to Industry Assistance through the Taxation System, concessions of this latter kind, while allowing no greater total deduction over the life of the plant than would otherwise be available, permit a deferment of tax that is a cost to the Budget.
The deductions in question are similar to those allowable under the provisions of the income tax law applying to general mining. To put the figures in perspective, it should be noted that the net tax assessed to companies coded to the industry Mining- Metallic and fuel minerals and services to mining, which includes oil producers, was $370m in respect of the 1975-76 income year and $564m for the 1976-77 income year.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 30 May 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
Parliament House, Canberra (extensions);
The National Library;
Certain buildings of the James Cook University of North Queensland;
Certain buildings of the Canberra College of Advanced Education;
The Reserve Bank Building, Canberra; and
Electricity House, Canberra.
In respect of Melrose High School, while asbestos was specified to be used, another material was substituted for asbestos during construction.
The other buildings to which the honourable member referred, namely the New South Wales Art Gallery and Sydney University’s Indoor Swimming Pool, are not within the area of responsibility of the Commonwealth.
Woden Valley High School;
Watson High School;
Certain buildings of the University of Newcastle.
See also answer to part (4) below.
The asbestos is in the form of sprayed limpet asbestos.
The condition of this asbestos is being examined by the Department of Housing and Construction, which will recommend appropriate action if any. Furthermore, that Department is checking to determine if asbestos has been used anywhere else in Parliament House.
All structural roof members had asbestos sprayed on in a 25 mm thick layer of adhesive mixture. A similar spray application was also used 38 mm thick behind all metal-backed Fire Hydrant cupboards. A recent inspection of the area in question revealed that although the general state of repair of the applied fibre is very good, over the years, mainly due to traffic by maintenance workers, a reasonable amount of fibre has been dislodged and has accumulated on horizontal surfaces such as walkways, ducts and the surface of the suspended ceilings. Tests are being conducted by the Department of Housing and Construction, which will recommend appropriate action.
In the Facilities Block of University Hall, asbestos was introduced at the time of construction, in 1966. In the top floor, chrysotile and amosite were used, and in the ground floor, chrysotile. The asbestos fibre, in a matrix of man-made mineral fibre, was sprayed onto the ceilings.
The building is in good condition, but there is some deterioration of the sprayed ceiling.
In the Humanities I building, asbestos was introduced at the time of construction, in 1966. In the top floor, chrysotile was used, and in the ground floor, amosite. The asbestos fibre, in a matrix of man-made mineral fibre, was sprayed onto the ceiling. The building is in good condition, but there is some deterioration of the sprayed ceiling.
In the lecture theatre on the Pimlico Campus, asbestos was introduced at the time of construction, in 1 962. It is chrysotile asbestos which, in very small quantities, is embedded in a vermiculite material, which was sprayed onto the ceiling. The ceiling is stable and in good repair.
At the request of the James Cook University, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC) nominated an expert in the field who examined all buildings. He advised, on 15 June 1979, that there is no health hazard. However, the University Council has resolved to implement certain measures which were recommended as a normal maintenance routine to ensure no future hazard. During maintenance work on asbestos material all precautions required by State Acts will be observed.
Those areas where the asbestos covering had been disturbed were sprayed with a clear lacquer to seal the asbestos. This work was carried out in July 1979, in accordance with the relevant codes of practice, standards and technical directives.
Inspections and tests by the Capital Territory Health Commission indicate that the occupied areas on all the floors of Electricity House are free from asbestos contamination and it is therefore considered safe.
Asbestos cement sheets have been used at times in the construction of school buildings in the Australian Capital Territory, but as stated previously the asbestos fibres in installed asbestos cement sheets and roofing do not create a health risk.
The condition of these three buildings is good. Investigations carried out have indicated that the levels of airborne asbestos dust were below recommended maximum levels. However, to ensure that there is no health hazard from airborne asbestos fibre, all exposed asbestos ceiling finishes were sprayed, during 1978, to seal and bind the surface. A gravimetric dust sampling kit has been purchased by the University so that regular tests can be made to check the level of airborne asbestos dust.
The Subcommittee has now met on three occasions, 30 April 1979, 27 August 1979 and 29 October 1979 and its inquiry is still continuing. It has prepared the following documents:
These documents were adopted by the National Health and Medical Research Council at its 88th Session on 25 and 26 October 1979.
The Department of Housing and Construction has advised that it does not have a complete record of the installation of asbestos based products in government buildings built by that Department.
Some information is available from contract construction documents, but this is not always reliable since design changes are often made during construction. An extensive investigation based on detailed inspection of all buildings constructed over the last 20 years would be essential to obtain reliable information.
Since many thousands of buildings are involved, it would require a massive use of resources to complete such a survey in a reasonable time and, in most cases, it could require the expensive dismantling of walling, flooring and fixtures to identify concealed installations used for the lagging of pipes or for the fire protection of steelwork.
The Department of Housing and Construction, however, is planning to progressively identify the more significant installations of asbestos based products in Commonwealth buildings (particularly in exposed situations); and, as far as possible, this will be arranged in conjunction with normal building maintenance inspections.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 4 June 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
and (3) The available figures on tax avoidance in respect of the 1977-78 income year were obtained from a survey of individuals and companies identified as having been participants in schemes. This information, which is incomplete, relates to the period to 30 June 1979 and includes information in respect of unassessed returns. The incomplete figures show that taxpayers who made claims for deductions in the various categories are as follows:
As regards category (c) the information is in respect of all schemes involving pre-payments of interest, rent or other outgoings. Comparable figures for claims involving expenses of leasing live-stock- category (d)- are not available. An occupation/industry classification of these returns is not available.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, 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 National Development’s answer to House of Representatives Question No. 4328 (Hansard, 6 November 1979).
asked the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, 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 National Development’s answer to House of Representatives Question No. 4328 (Hansard, 6 November 1979).
Science and the Environment: Motor Vehicle Fuel Consumption (Question No. 4329)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The Minister for Science and the Environment has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
I refer the honourable member to the Minister for National Development’s answer to House of Representatives Question No. 4328 (Hansard, 6 November 1979, page 2657).
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 7 June 1979:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable member’s question:
asked the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 23 August 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In view of its high cost of production and safety problems, hydrogen can only be considered as a long-term alternative to liquid fuels and under the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Program has been allocated a lower priority than alternative fuels such as oil from coal and shale, ethanol and methanol. Some work, however, is to be funded in 1979-80 through the program into the hydride storage of hydrogen and on hydrogen powered vehicles.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 November 1979, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1979/19791113_reps_31_hor116/>.