31st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr SPEAKER (Rt Hon. Sir Billy Snedden) took the chair at 2. 1 5 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows and copies will be referred to the appropriate Ministers:
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives 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 N. A. Brown, Mr Burns, Mr Hunt, Mr Jarman, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Killen, Mr Lloyd, Mr Martyr, Mr Peacock and Mr Thomson.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of Parliament assembled in the House of Representatives, Canberra. The humble petition of the undersigned 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,
Petitions received. by Mr Baillieu and Mr Jarman. Petitions received.
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 anti-social activities of certain organisations, in the main purporting to be religious and under foreign control, are causing increasing mental, physical and/or social distress to citizens throughout the Commonwealth of Australia.
Such adverse effects include drastic personality changes, alienation and severance from persons’ families and normal society, dispossession under undue influence of persons’ worldly assets, abandonment of socially useful occupations or career education, mental disorientation, and a common requirement to surrender their labour with little or no pay, working unduly long hours fund-raising for the exclusive benefit of the organisations’ leaderships.
Furthermore, a disturbing number of our country’s youth have died prematurely in unsatisfactorily explained circumstances or have become so mentally or physically debilitated as to require hospitalisation or treatment following their involvement with the subject organisations commonly, but erroneously, described as ‘religious’ cults.
All evidence points to the fact that the subject organisations are commercial enterprises which, for the purpose of evading tax and other business obligations, have falsely assumed the status of ‘religions’ in order to take advantage of the blanket protections provided by Section 116 of the Australian Constitution.
It is your petitioners’ sincere belief that proliferation of such organisations unchecked with their personalitydisorientating and family-divisive practices and effects, represents a serious threat to the health, welfare, and peace of the whole community.
Notwithstanding the decision of the combined Australian Attorneys-General at their October 1979 meeting, that no special action should be taken by Government/s to curb undesirable activities of religious cults and that these should be dealt with under existing laws, such laws as would provide protection against the aforementioned malpractices do not appear to exist.
For this reason, the Government should proceed with all haste to investigate the widely-alleged malpractices of the subject organisations which include the Hare Krishnas, the Unification Church (Moonies), and such other groups as are the subject of complaints, preparatory to introducing appropriate legislation to curtail the said malpractices to ensure citizens’ continuing enjoyment of peace and harmony.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petitions received. by Mr Kevin Cairns and Mr Killen. Petitions received.
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 there is an urgent need to ensure that the living standard of pensioners will not decline, as indeed, the present level of cash benefits in real terms requires upward adjustment beyond indexation related to the movement of the Consumer Price Index, by this and other means your petitioners urge that action be taken to:
Taxation relief for pensioners and others on low income by:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Howe and Mr Leo McLeay. Petitions received.
To the Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament in Canberra assembled. The petition of certain citizens respectfully showeth-
That the right to work without discrimination on any ground including, inter alia, discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and/or sex is a fundamental human right;
That it is both the duty and the responsibility of society to fully support those denied work and therefore those who are unemployed as a result of society’s inability to provide full paid employment should be guaranteed an adequate income without discrimination on any ground, including inter alia discrimination on grounds of race, ethnic origin, marital status and /or sex.
Your petitioners therefore humbly prayThat appropriate and adequate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in Commonwealth employment, in employment of persons by statutory bodies and quasi-governmental organisations, in employment of individuals under federal awards, and in employment of all persons in areas over which Commonwealth and Australian Capital Territory equal opportunity legislation should have jurisdiction; and
That appropriate laws be formulated and passed to outlaw discrimination in the provision of unemployed benefits to all persons without regard to race, ethnic origin, marital status and /or sex.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Baume. Petition received.
To the Right Honourable, the Speaker and the Honourable Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we are deeply concerned that the present and projected rate of non-European immigration will result in Australia suffering the same type of racial and cultural friction being experienced by some other countries;
And that in view of the widespread opposition to nonEuropean immigration with its far-reaching implications concerning the future of Australia and its institutions;
And because the people of every nation have the natural right to determine which migrants they shall accept;
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House will agree to electors having the opportunity to express their view on the present immigration policy at a national referendum to be held in conjunction with the next elections.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hodges.
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,
Petition received. by Mr Hodges. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that Parliament will:
Reform income tax laws to allow the joint income of husband and wife to be equally divided between them for taxation purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr McLean. Petition received.
To the Right 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 proportion of pensionable people within our community is increasing at a significant rate. The number of people over 65 years old will rise from approximately 8.5 per cent of the population as it was in 1970 to over l0 per cent by 1 990 and about 1 6 per cent by the year 2020.
That technological change is accelerating the trend towards earlier retirement from the workforce.
That the above factors make incentives for self-provision in retirement years a matter of great urgency if future generations of Australians are to be spared the crippling taxation which would be necessary to fund such provisions from social welfare.
That Australia is in urgent need of locally raised investment capital for national development and that life insurance and superannuation funds are important mobilisers of such capital.
Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that the Government will forthwith take the steps necessary to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Mr Shack. Petition received.
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 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 Short. Petition received.
To the Right Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. This humble petition of the sportsmen and women and citizens of Australia respectively showeth that:
Valuing the Olympic movement as an historic expression of all that is worthwhile in human endeavour and conscious of the important role competitive sport plays in maintaining health and the spirit of achievement in everyday life.
Honouring the high principles consistently pursued by the International Games Administration of keeping the movement free from religious, racial and political considerations.
Realising that the Olympic movement owes its resilience and very existence to the citizens of the nations from whom spring the participants in the contests and that the survival of this movement is the cherished hope of all communities.
We the undersigned sportsmen and women and citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectfully pray that the Australian government do all in its power to ensure the participation of a full Australian contingent in the XXII Olympic Games to be held in Moscow, USSR, from 1 9th July to 3rd August, 1980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr Les Johnson. Petition received.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of electors of the State of N.S.W. respectfully showeth-
That the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1 977 should immediately be repealed:
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 Labor Organisation has condemned the Provisions of the Act as being incompatible with the rights of organised labour in a free society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray,
Petition received. by Mr MacKenzie. Petition received.
– I inform the House that the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) left Australia on 16 March to visit the Middle East. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon) will act as Minister for Trade and Resources until Mr Anthony’s return on 3 April. I also inform the House that the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) left Australia on 8 March to hold discussions in a number of countries preparatory to visiting Geneva to attend a conference on alternative sites for international sporting events. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr Macphee) will act as Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory until Mr Ellicott ‘s return. I also inform the House that the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) left Australia on 14 March to visit the United States of America and Canada for discussions on energy matters. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) will act as Minister for National Development and Energy and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Dame Margaret Guilfoyle) will act as Vice-President of the Executive Council.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That this House notes with regret the treatment of Mr Leon Laidely in last week ‘s settlement of the petrol dispute, and further notes the overbearing and unreasonable attitude of Amoco to a self-employed independent operator.
-Has the Prime Minister made a formal offer to the United States of America of home port faculties at the HMAS
Stirling base near Perth? Is any such offer contingent on the provision of American funds to upgrade the base facilities? If so, to what extent? Is the offer of permanent base facilities in Australia to any other country a dramatic change in defence policy and not an extension of existing arrangements? Will the Prime Minister, therefore, make a full statement to the House on the terms of the offer and any other offers and their implications for Australia?
-When I was in the United States the question of home porting or base porting of elements of the United States naval forces in Australia was amongst the options that were discussed. The difference between home porting and base porting is whether or not families are going to be moved and whether or not there will therefore be a requirement for housing for members of the Services involved. The United States said that this was one of the options that it would want to consider and was in fact considering because it is seeking to expand considerably its capacity to deploy forces into the Indian Ocean area- into the northern parts of the Indian Ocean and into South West Asia. Consistent with the Government’s policies of seeking to provide what assistance it can in that United States objective, which as we understand it is also a free world objective and therefore one in which Australia itself has a considerable interest, we indicated that we would want to provide what assistance we could in pursuit of that objective.
The House has already been advised of the offer of staging facilities and support facilities of different kinds if that is what the United States wants to put to us in relation to these matters. The matter was left on the basis that the United States was still considering its own options because it has been looking for facilities for access in other countries- in Africa and much closer to the region. There is the option, going beyond that, of access in the Philippines where it has considerable facilities, as the honourable gentleman would know, or the question of the Australian offer.
The question was left on the basis that the United States would consider it, and that it would come and speak with us at the appropriate time when it had made up its mind. The offer was put on the basis that if this were to be done considerable investment would probably be required for the kinds of facilities needed for the major elements that might be involved and that, therefore, would involve United States expenditure. But we have also, as the Minister for Defence has announced, indicated that we are prepared to consider a proper participation in that expenditure if a proposal from the United States is in fact made in a formal way. So at the moment it is a matter of options being considered. We are waiting for advice from the United States as to whether it is an offer which it wishes to pick up. Then, of course, there would be much detail that would need examination and consultation between the United States and Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that Austria has granted official status to a Palestine Liberation Organisation representative in Vienna? Does this mean that Austria is granting full diplomatic recognition to the PLO? Can the Minister assure the House that the Australian Government will grant no such recognition to this organisation? Has the Minister expressed his concern in this matter to the Austrian Ambassador to Australia?
-I have not expressed that concern to the Austrian Ambassador and I will not do so because it must be acknowledged that on a matter such as this the Austrian Government should be free to take whatever decision it wishes in regard to its own policy towards the Middle East. I do note that it has taken its policy a step further in increasing its links with the Palestine Liberation Organisation by recognising the PLO’s representative to international organisations in Vienna as the PLO’s representative in Austria and to the Austrian Government. That having been said, I would like to assure the honourable member that Australia’s views on the PLO are, of course, well known. We have never given any specific recognition to the PLO and we will not do so while it maintains its absolute denial of Israel ‘s right to exist.
Our policy towards the Middle East remains, if I may state it very succinctly, that it is essential to devise a peace which satisfies all interested parties and which puts an end to terrorism. We therefore base our policies on the need for negotiations starting from the principles of Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognised boundaries must be accepted. The legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to a homeland alongside Israel and the corresponding responsibility that they live peacefully with all their neighbours must also be recognised. That policy is clear and unequivocal. It is, therefore, different from that of the Austrian Government.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. Is the House to understand from his answer to the question asked by the honourable member for Corio that the right honourable gentleman has asked the United States Government to provide funds for the construction of facilities at Cockburn Sound in Western Australia to enable the servicing of nuclear units of the United States Navy? What is the Government’s estimate of the amount the United States would be required to contribute in order to make the project acceptable to the Australian Government? Has the United States Government made a financial offer? Has the Australian Government offered to accept the permanent stationing of United States personnel at the base in return for an American financial commitment? If so, who will command the base and will that command include all military personnel?
-The honourable gentleman, I think, is under some kind of misapprehension. There is no question of a base being provided to the United States. It is a question of whether the United States might wish to use a base facility which is already in existence but which could need expansion if the United States wished to use it. It is a base already in existence. Therefore, it is under Australian command, and nothing could alter that in any way.
The honourable gentleman has jumped ahead of the proposition. An offer has been made to the United States. It is a matter it is considering. It expressed a good deal of pleasure when we indicated that we would be prepared to consider the matter. The matter now rests with the United States. We have not yet reached the stage of talking about dollars and cents. It is a question of this Government being prepared and willing to offer additional support to a United States defence effort which we believe is materially in an Australian interest and not just in a United States or free world interest. I would hope that all honourable gentlemen would lend their firm and ardent support to that.
-Is the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that there are approximately 100 small publishers in Australia who each produce about 500 books a year and that most of these books weigh more than 500 grams when packed for postage? Is he also aware that to post such books to an address within the same State the cost is $1.40, to a near State the cost is $2.70, and to a distant State the cost is $3.10; yet to post such books to any country overseas there is a flat rate of $2? Will the Minister consider taking the appropriate action to provide a standard postage rate for books comparable to the world rate, for the benefit of not only the publisher but also the purchaser?
– I thank the honourable member for his question. Australia Post considered this question some time ago. It had decided, even before then, that Australia would not have a special book postage rate such as exists in some countries which believe that there is a case for a special postage rate for books. I think a case can be made out for such a rate and I will ask Australia Post to have another look at the matter.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Is the Government concerned that 94 per cent of the Australian pharmaceuticals industry is in foreign hands? Is this an industry which the Government wants to encourage, particularly to achieve exports to Asia and to build research and development jobs on our higher standard of education? Does the Minister agree that such expansion requires Australian ownership and that foreign controlled firms are likely to source Asian needs from elsewhere, thus reducing Australian employment potential? If so, will the Minister bring these factors to the attention of the Foreign Investment Review Board, the Reserve Bank and any other institutions making recommendations to government on the attempts of the foreign-controlled Glaxo Australia Pty Ltd to take over the South Australian-based F.H. Faulding and Co. Ltd, thus reducing further Australian ownership in this industry? Indeed, for Australia’s sake, will the Government use its powers to prevent this takeover?
– The honourable gentleman and the House can certainly be assured that the Government seeks to develop a viable manufacturing industry in the pharmaceutical area. I think we have made that clear before. As for the definitive questions which the honourable gentleman has asked, he can be well assured that considerations as to overseas ownership and the particular needs of the industry at present will certainly be probed very thoroughly indeed by the Foreign Investment Review Board. The honourable gentleman is very much aware that these matters are before the Board at present. I do not believe that this would be an appropriate forum in which to canvass those issues ahead of the Foreign Investment Review Board’s bringing an appropriate recommendation to the Federal Treasurer who has jurisdiction in these matters. But I give the honourable gentleman an assurance that the concerns that he has expressed and the issues to which he has drawn attention will certainly come before the Foreign Investment Review Board and then before the Government before a decision is taken.
-I ask the Prime Minister: In light of the statement by Mr Justice Staples as reported in the media, has the Prime Minister given consideration to that gentleman ‘s future?
– I was interested to listen to AM this morning. But the substantive answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is no.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Is the pharmaceutical company, Fawnmac, at present owned by the Australian people, being sold by the Government by tender under the control of the Minister’s Department? Is it a fact that one offer has been submitted by the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories jointly with the South Australian-based F. H. Faulding and Co. Ltd, and that there are other offers from overseas owned and controlled companies which would like the Australian companies out of the way? Is it a fact that the close association of CSL, Faulding and Fawnmac would provide that wider and stronger base on which to build a larger Australian pharmaceuticals industry employing many more Australians? Is it a fact that the takeover of Faulding by Glaxo Australia Pty Ltd would prevent this from happening? Will the Minister, particularly as he is a South Australian, do what he can to prevent the takeover of Faulding and to ensure that the Fawnmac sale, if Fawnmac must be sold, will be made in such a way that the Australian pharmaceutical industry will be strengthened?
-The answer to the first part of the honourable gentleman’s question is yes. As to the rest of the question, I can only say that these tenders are currently being assessed and it would be thoroughly inappropriate to discuss them at this stage.
-Has the Treasurer studied the United States economic measures, including measures to conserve crude oil, recently announced by President Carter? Can the Treasurer inform the House of the significance of these changes for the Australian economy?
– I have had an opportunity to study the economic measures that were announced a few days ago by President Carter. Let me say at the outset that the Government welcomes the very strong anti-inflationary position taken by the President when announcing those measures. It is perhaps worth reminding the House of what the President said in his address. He stated:
The actions I have outlined involve costs. They involve pain. But the cost of acting is far less than the cost of not acting. The temporary pain of sacrifice and discipline is far less- for all of us together-than the still worse permanent pain of rising inflation. For all of us, but especially for the most needy, inflation is indeed the most cruel tax of all. ,
Amongst the measures that have been announced by the President is the imposition of what is called a conservation fee of about 10c a gallon on imports of crude oil by the United States. It may be of interest to the Houseparticularly the honourable member for Blaxland and others- to know that the effect of this particular fee will be that by the middle of May petrol in the United States will cost 34c a litre, which of course is only a touch different from the price of petrol in Australia. Indeed, if one reads the speech made by the President and sees the measures he introduced one is reminded very forcibly of the importance to the United States Government of an effective conservation policy, and that realistic pricing is central to that conservation policy. The Government, for its part, can only welcome measures which are designed to strengthen the United States dollar in world currency markets and which are designed to bring about a control of the growth of inflation in the United States. There are obvious consequences for the world economy from any slowdown in the level of economic activity in the United States, but the Government is satisfied that the priorities of the Carter Administration in terms of fighting inflation are the right priorities. For that reason we warmly welcome the measures that have been announced. It will of course be a matter for determination by the Congress whether the fiscal package- particularly the reductions in government spending which have been announced by the President- is in fact passed into law by the Congress.
-I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Is it a fact that Australia Post plans to discontinue early in April the security service now provided for the safe custody of returned union ballot papers where a lockable ballot box or bag is utilised? Is it a fact that cost reduction is being advanced as the reason for the change? Will the Minister ensure that the highest degree of security in the handling of mail entrusted to Australia Post relates to ballots in general- and in particular court controlled ballots- that the level of security is maintained and that lockable boxes or bags are provided for that purpose?
-The level of security in the handling of all mail is, of course, of the utmost importance. I do not know the details of the matter raised by the honourable member but I will make inquiries and let him know about them as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Is it correct that the Government’s hard line in the wool dispute is based on century-old conflicts between squatters and the middleman and the struggle between the auction system and private treaty sales, and not on the unacceptable nature of Mr Justice Staples’ decision?
-That assertion by Mr Justice Staples- I think that was where it first came from- is not quite correct. It might not hurt for the House to be reminded that the Full Bench considered the decision of Mr Justice Staples to grant storemen and packers increases of between $12.50 and $15.90 a week. It was the Full Bench of the Commission which rejected the decision. The Full Bench found that Mr Justice Staples had not properly applied the indexation principles and had ignored work value increases awarded to other industries. It was on that basis that the Full Bench made its decision. As a result of the appeal, which of course the Government supported, and the subsequent decision of the Full Bench there has been a long and costly dispute.
I think it would be reasonable enough to say that I suspect that many honourable gentlemen in this House would have been gently surprised at Mr Justice Staples’ actions. They do break a convention that is probably nearly a century or 80 years old in relation to the Arbitration Commission and criticism of the Full Bench or of decisions of the Commission by a member of the Commission. But that, I think, is a matter for the Commission itself.
-Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I have always understood that we may not reflect on the judiciary except by way of a substantive motion. Does that apply only to judges who have been appointed by Liberal governments?
– The point of order is wrongly taken and I overrule it. I do not think that the national Parliament can forgo discussion of any matter of such national importance. I would not permit- indeed it would be against the Standing Orders- any imputation against the character or conduct of a judge; but criticism of a judgment, in temperate terms, is acceptable.
– I was only saying that I think many honourable gentlemen will be a little surprised at the nature of the criticism. It does break a very old convention that members of the Commission do not criticise decisions of the Commission; but I think that that is a matter for the Commission itself.
– Can the Foreign Minister tell me how many American military forces personnel are in Saudi Arabia and what they are there for?
-I will be very happy to relay the honourable member’s question to the Ambassador of the United States, whom he does not frequent as much as he does certain other ambassadors, and obtain a reply from the Ambassador.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Transport by reminding him of my previous representations to the former Minister for Transport, and even to a former Labor Prime Minister, on the subject of the Alice Springs to Darwin standard gauge railway. Has the Minister seen recent reports of this matter having been discussed in Canberra by the Northern Territory Chief Minister? What stage has been reached in any consideration of or planning for the construction of this vital defence and development link between northern Australia and the south?
– I did not quite hear the first part of the honourable member’s question, except that it related to a statement by the former Leader of the Opposition concerning the extension of the standard gauge railway from Darwin to Alice Springs. I know that the honourable member has a very keen interest in the extension of this railway because he has had several discussions with me in relation to it. I am certain that, equally, he would have had a number with my predecessor, the honourable member for Gippsland, who is now the Minister for Primary Industry.
A joint study is being undertaken of the feasibility of constructing a standard gauge railway from Alice Springs to Darwin and I expect to have that report before the end of March. The terms of reference require the study to take into account not only the economic aspects but also defence considerations and the social impact. I know that the study team has in fact had discussions with the Department of Defence on the issue. I expect that the Northern Territory Minister and I will receive a report from the study team, as I have said, before the end of March. I have no doubt that the Government will give urgent and serious consideration to the report once it comes to hand. I have also had representations from the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory and a number of other members of the Northern Territory Government, expressing very strong support, for economic, defence and social reasons, and a wish to ensure that this railway connection goes ahead.
-Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware of Press reports that Syria is near to civil war as violence is spreading throughout that country? Is he also aware of Press reports of the redeployment of 26,000 men of the Syrian army in the Lebanon? As the Lebanon has been involved in wars since 1974 and indications are that it could be on the verge of collapse if help is not forthcoming, when will the Minister be making a statement on policy on this troubled area of the Middle East?
– I am due to open a seminar on the Middle East to be held in this city in the course of the next couple of weeks. Therefore I am preparing a statement of some detail. Beyond that, I am hopeful of making a statement on foreign policy to the Parliament during this session. The points made by the honourable member in regard to the tragic situation in the Lebanon are well taken and, of course, have been reflected in statements by the Government previously.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs.
It refers to section 45d of the Trade Practices Act. Was the New South Wales petroleum distributor, Mr Leon Laidely, consulted in the recent agreement which resulted in supplies of petroleum products being withheld from him? Has the Government given further consideration to the operation of section 45d of the Trade Practices Act having regard to the present position of Mr Laidely?
-The purpose of the Trade Practices Act is to improve competition and efficiency in the Australian economy. Section 45D was inserted in the Act to deal with the situation of secondary boycotts which can be extremely damaging to individuals, companies and consumers in the economy. The Government considered this matter again this morning and on the facts as presently known it seems that the rights of a person have been sacrificed by an arrangement by big business and big unions, though we are waiting for a statement of fact on the situation.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. I draw to the attention of the House the fact that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has said that it would appear that the rights of individuals have been sacrificed following a conference which was convened by Mr Justice Moore of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It was to settle a strike involving a State instrumentality because the Federal Government opted out of its responsibility. I think it is a reflection on Mr Justice Moore to make that observation, and accordingly the Minister should be asked to withdraw it.
-The words used are temperate in form, are a criticism and can be taken as a criticism. I will not allow the national Parliament to be muted on an issue, provided the criticisms go to whether it was right or wrong, and are not in intemperate language.
-As is well known, Mr Laidely was not consulted- or so it seems- at all in this matter. I understand -
– He would not be.
– Well, he was a party principal. How would you help Mr Laidely? You would just throw him to the wolves.
-Order! The Minister will not respond to an interjection. He will answer the question through the Chair.
-Mr Speaker, I take your advice. I want to add that I am inquiring and the Government is interested in whether it is true that other oil companies have in practice ceased the supply of petroleum products, either to Mr Laidely or others, and whether other oil companies are withholding supplies from him or anyone else. Cabinet has decided to ask the chief executives of oil companies urgently for advice and information about these matters. All of this shows the value and the need for section 45 D in the trade practices legislation. Let me refer to a letter written to Mr Laidely by the New South Wales branch manager of Amoco Australia Ltd and dated 14 March. The final sentence states:
In the interests of industrial peace and due to circumstances beyond its control, Amoco is unable to supply your Company with petroleum products.
I ask for leave to incorporate the text of that letter in Hansard.
The letter read as follows-
AMOCO AUSTRALIA LIMITED
14 March 1980.
Leon Laidley Pty Ltd, Ingleburn Road, Leppington, N.S.W.2171.
I refer to our previous correspondence regarding Amoco ‘s inability to supply your Company with petroleum products. As you know, our drivers went on strike on 15 February 1 980 in protest over delivery by your Company of petrol to a Service Station at Canley Heights operated by Mr Tony Molluso.
Our drivers returned to work on 19 February after we agreed not to supply your Company with petroleum products and they remained at work until 25 February when they again went on strike following the commencement by you of proceedings under Section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. After that the industry-wide situation became worse when drivers from all oil companies operating in NSW stopped work on Friday 7 March 1980, and there have been stoppages in all other states. On Saturday 8 March 1980 representatives of oil companies including Amoco, the TWU, and the NSW Government, attended a private conference with Sir John Moore at which recommendations were made. It was agreed not to disclose the terms of Sir John’s recommendation. On Tuesday 1 1 March 1980, a further conference called by Sir John Moore attended by the above parties as well as the ACTU commenced in Canberra. Agreement was reached at this meeting which has resulted in the decision by all drivers today to return to work.
In the interests of industrial peace and due to circumstances beyond its control, Amoco is unable to supply your Company with petroleum products.
I. MARKOVITCH N.S.W. Branch Manager.
– My question to the Prime Minister follows questions which he answered earlier concerning proposed offers of naval base facilities at Cockburn Sound for the United States Navy. Does the Prime Minister recognise that by providing permanent base facilities at Cockburn Sound for nuclear missile-bearing vessels of the United States Navy he will convert the region, including the city of Perth, into a potential prime nuclear target in the event of superpower military conflict? Will he reconsider the rather open and uncritical attitude of his Government, and, more specifically, of himself, to this matter? Should it be mutually decided that the United States Navy will use Australian naval base facilities at Cockburn Sound, will the Prime Minister ensure that stringent conditions will be imposed clearly limiting the nature of the use of such facilities and excluding their use by nuclear missile-bearing vessels?
-The honourable gentleman again jumps ahead of the facts of the situation. The Government has expressed a willingness to make Australian bases and facilities available to assist the United States in carrying out operations or patrolling which we believe to be not only in the interests of the United States but also in the interests of independent-minded nations such as Australia. On that basis we made the offer. I have explained that the United States is examining a number of options, of which the use of Australian facilities happens to be one. If it says that it wants to take up that offer our defence people and those from the United States will obviously get down to the task of working out the precise arrangements, agreements, conditions and the matters involving status of forces and all the rest.
– But you naturally make some exclusions, surely?
-The honourable gentleman would be well advised to wait for the answer. I think it is only fair to say that the consistent thrust of the tenor of the questions asked by the Leader of the Opposition and other members of the Australian Labor Party is that we should not provide support to somebody who is a defence ally of this country, the United States. They question in a highly critical way the fact that an offer has been made and cast doubts over it. Quite plainly the support of the Australian Labor Party for a defence alliance with the United States would seem to be less strong than it was when that Party was, in fact, in government. It then supported those arrangements.
The fact that the honourable gentleman raised the question of nuclear weapons on United States ships illustrates that he is again ahead of the proposition. If the United States wished to consult with us over these particular matters and if it wished to use our bases, the nature of the ships, weaponry and whatever protections were needed would be fully and well understood. It has been accepted for some time that ships that are nuclear powered do come into our harbours. That is accepted without question, I believe, by most members of this House. If the honourable gentleman now wants to question that, let him question that. But I think the honourable gentleman, for a change, could show some fullblooded support for those who are on our side of the international argument.
-Has the Minister for Industrial Relations received from Sir John Moore the information requested by the Minister yesterday relating to the Amoco-Laidely case? If the information has been received, what is the Government’s reaction?
– The information was received shortly before Question Time; so there has been a limited time in which to assess the information. But I can say that the Government is seriously concerned at its contents and will be immediately considering its implications.
-I refer the Prime Minister to his proposal presented at the 1979 Premiers Conference for a reference of industrial relations powers from the States to the Federal Government. I also refer to the fact that a referendum proposal to bring all industrial law under the one jurisdiction obtained over 50 per cent of the vote of the Australian people in 1946. Accordingly, I ask: Is it not a fact that approval is more likely to be obtained from the Australian people at a referendum than by having to deal with what one would call reactionary Premiers? Will the right honourable gentleman consult with the Opposition for the purpose of drafting a suitable amendment to section 5 1 (xxxv) of the Constitution and put it to the Australian people by way of referendum at the general election to be held this year?
-The honourable gentleman comes to a conclusion in these matters that may not be fully shared by honourable members on this side of the House or by the wider Australian community, and that conclusion is that the solution to industrial disputes rests with an overriding and overwhelming Commonwealth power. It ought to be understood that the agreement between the Premiers and the Commonwealth and the examination that is being undertaken by Industrial Relations Ministers as a result of that recognise that there are problems of jurisdiction, problems of leapfrogging, problems of rivalry between the jurisdictions, and problems of registration of unions between the State and Commonwealth spheres. The agreement recognises that there are problems but it does not make the easy assumption that the solution is that all power must reside in one place. That is left open for examination.
Mr Wran has put the view that there should be a referendum but he has not done much to try to determine the terms of the referendum. His view is that there just should be a referendum to take any responsibility away from Mr Wran. But that was not a view that was shared by all the other Labour Ministers who were present at a meeting held on Thursday and Friday of last week and who issued a joint statement to the effect that what he said was premature and, as I understand it, ill-advised. It is interesting to note that Mr Wran’s representative, I think, was not present at that meeting. If there were a sincerity in New South Wales about working out a solution to these problems so that constructive proposals could be put to the Premiers Conference, as I had suggested and asked and put again to Mr Wran and other Premiers last week, I would have thought that Mr Wran’s representative would have been present at that Labour Ministers conference because that was the very purpose of my letter last week to him, namely, so that there could be greater energy and greater stimulus put behind the efforts to get some rationalisation into the industrial relations system. The absence of the representative from New South Wales was noteworthy and that in itself was an abdication of responsibility. Obviously, the honourable gentleman has an interest in achieving full and total power for the Commonwealth in industrial relations matters. That does not necessarily mean that industrial relations disputes will cease or that they will be more easily resolved. What makes more sense is achieving co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth because straight out conflict between the States and the Commonwealth rarely achieves a solution to anything, as I would have thought the honourable gentleman had learnt on earlier occasions.
I say all this against the background of the unfortunate circumstances of the Transport Workers Union dispute last week when quite plainly and openly Mr Wran had the power to do everything that he needed to do. Under his Energy Act of 1976 he has the power to direct TWU drivers to work; he has the power to control the retail petrol outlets; he has a power- a total power, virtually- in relation to any energy matters if he wishes to use it. But he has never yet adequately used that particular power. When through a looming shortage of petrol in New South Wales last week it became necessary to freeze available supplies in the retail outlets in New South Wales one would have thought that those able to buy petrol would have been people who had been determined on a list of priorities by the State Government and by national disaster authorities. But no, it was revealed by the media last week that the priorities were actually determined by the Transport Workers Union itself. What greater evidence can there be of a total and absolute abdication of responsibility by Mr Wran and his Government in industrial relations matters. That is not a good basis on which to say that he wants none of it; let the Commonwealth have it all.
It is time that Mr Wran began to exert and to apply some of his own powers to the resolution of the problems in New South Wales, to exert an influence in those particular matters, to pick up his responsibilities and to use the powers which he has taken to himself and the New South Wales Parliament to protect the people of New South Wales. He should do those things instead of joining in arrangements which appear to have been treading on the little people- small business people such as Mr Laidely- and unquestioningly accepting those arrangements between the powerful companies on the one hand and the powerful unions on the other at the total expense of small business people, the citizens of Australia. It is to protect the average person and the small business people of this country that we need the protections of the Trade Practices Act and of industrial law. I believe that it is time Mr Wran started to recognise some of these realities.
-Can the Minister for Primary Industry advise the House of the latest situation with regard to the wool industry in the light of the continuing storemen and packers dispute which is now in its eleventh week and which is seriously damaging the reputation of Australia as a reliable supplier of export goods?
– The seriousness of this dispute should not be ignored either by the Parliament or by the people. What is fundamental in this dispute is the fact that the Storemen and Packers Union, unlike almost any other union in the history of Australia- with only one exception, I think- has denied a Full Bench decision. I think we enter a new era in industrial relations when that sort of thing occurs. So the seriousness of the situation ought not to be misunderstood. That is the first point to make.
As to the state of the industry itself, I should point out that over 60 per cent of wool exports is handled through the stores in Melbourne and Sydney which are the two centres at which the strike has been taking place. Some 327,000 bales of wool has been locked into those two centres since the dispute began 1 1 weeks ago. Another 700,000 bales has been held out from auction because sales have been forced to be cancelled in Sydney, Newcastle, Goulburn, Canberra, Melbourne, Geelong, Albury, Portland, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart, Launceston, Fremantle and Albany. So the seriousness of the effect of this strike on the wool growers again ought not to be ignored.
– Will this decision stop the export of the Prime Minister’s wool to Russia?
– I know that the honourable member has never had any sympathy for the wool growers of Australia. He snowed that when he was Minister for Transport. The wool growers of Australia are carrying the load of this strike. The sympathy of this House ought to be extended to them because they have shown great fortitude in making sure that blackmail has no success.
Opposition members interjecting-
-Order! The Minister will resume his seat. The honourable member for Newcastle and the honourable member for Wills have continually interjected today. On most occasions I have ignored them.
– I have interjected only once.
– I warn the honourable member for Newcastle that if he interjects again I will name him. The two honourable gentlemen have been interjecting constantly. Mostly I have ignored the interjections so that they will not be recorded in Hansard. But I will not allow persistent interjection.
-The wool growers of Australia are carrying the load of this strike. I think it ought to be recognised that they are supporting the efforts of the conciliation and arbitration system and are trying to get some sense into the Storemen and Packers Union. Last week when I was away I read with interest a report that the Leader of the Opposition would at some time deplore strikes that he thought were not in the best interests of the people concerned. I am waiting for him to say something about this strike. There is no word to show that he has said anything about this wool strike. The Leader of the Opposition, along with all those who sit behind him, is in the same position as always- having two bob each way or nothing on nothing.
– With reference to the Treasurer’s answer to a question asked earlier today, will he explain how, in the absence of United States Congress approval of oil price deregulation provisions, a levy of $4.60 a barrel on imported oilthat is, on approximately half of the total United States consumption- will increase the price of petrol in the United States from the present low level of about 22 Australian cents a litre to 34c a litre?
– I point out to the honourable member for Cunningham, firstly, that I am not responsible for getting measures through the United States Congress. I am advised that the measure is to be given effect to in two stages. If the honourable gentleman reads the President’s speech- I would be happy to supply him with a copy of it; it contains some very good paragraphs- he will find that the measure is first to be instituted by means of a conservation fee which will in time, as I understand it, be replaced by a form of taxation which will have the same effect upon the price when it replaces the conservation fee.
I took advice on this matter this morning. I am advised that this will have the effect of increasing the price from the existing level to about 34c a litre- in case the honourable gentleman did not hear clearly in the first place, I repeat: 34c a litre- by about the middle of May. As honourable gentlemen on this side of the House will know and as the broader Australian community will know, as things stand at the moment Australia has the cheapest petrol in the industrialised world with the exception of the United States and Canada. Of course, members of the Opposition do not like having it pointed out to them that other countries are recognising the reality of the crude oil conservation policy that this Government has introduced and followed with conspicuous success over the past two or three years.
-I understand that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports intends to lodge a request for detailed information relating to the administration of the parliamentary departments.
-Yes, Mr Speaker. I seek information relating to the operation of the Department of the Parliamentary Library.
-The honourable gentleman should hand in his request to the Clerk. If it is in order I will have it printed in Hansard. In due course I will reply and that reply will be printed in Hansard. I should point out to the House that this is the first occasion on which the new system which I have adopted to enable members to ask detailed questions of the Speaker has been put into effect.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947 I present the annual report of the Australian Egg Board 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 14 ( 1) of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 I present the sixth supplement to the twenty-fifth report of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Board on the operation of the Act for the period 1 July 1972 to 30 September 1972 dealing with the final actuarial examination of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund.
– Pursuant to section 16 (2) of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973 I present the seventh report of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Authority dealing with the general administration and working of that Act and of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948- other than Part 3 of the Act- for the year ended 30 June 1979.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to ask the Minister for Defence whether he would give consideration to tabling the so-called Bonnett report which was presented to the Parliament, but was not tabled, on a previous occasion. There are petitions and innumerable requests seeking the report and if the report were tabled that would enable those requests to be met.
– The Minister has heard that request.
-Pursuant to section 29 of the Air Navigation Act 1920 I present a report on the working and administration of the Department of Transport 1978-79.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the Commonwealth Police Act 1 957 1 present the Commonwealth Police Force Annual Report 1978-79. Although that Act was repealed on 19 October 1979, it seems appropriate for me to table for the information of honourable members the annual report on policing matters in the Commonwealth sphere in order to preserve their continuity. The next report will be that of the Australian Federal Police to be tabled after June this year, in accordance with the requirements of section 67 of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979.
-Mr Speaker, during Question Time I directed a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in regard to the number of United States military forces now in Saudi Arabia. The Minister in his answer referred me to the United States Ambassador. However, he then implied that I would have better associations with ambassadors other than the United States Ambassador. Mr Speaker, I find that a personal reflection on me and I object to it.
I do not say I am proud of any of my associations with any ambassador. However, I directed the question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is responsible for giving information to members of this House. I therefore ask that in the future the Minister give me the facts and not a shallow answer or a personal reflection on my character.
- Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented.
– If the honourable gentleman wishes to make a personal explanation he may proceed.
-It is quite clear from the remarks of the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) that there is something between him and his conscience that has been jogged. If I was responsible for that I will accept the responsibility.
- Mr Speaker, I take a point of order. That in no way is a personal explanation. I ask you to reprimand the Minister appropriately.
– I think the House will make its own judgment.
-Mr Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented and wish to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable gentleman may proceed.
-The Moorabbin Standard dated Wednesday, 12 March, carried the front page headline ‘Red Rag Waved at Migrants’. This was over a story about a letter I wrote to some of my constituents. I doubt whether anybody but a communist could have read that into it. The article stated that there was alarm that a member of parliament could get names and addresses from a government department. It quoted a migrant as saying:
The only logical way my ethnic origin could have been traced is through the Bureau of Census and Statistics. Is this a proper use of these documents?
I have close relations with all ethnic communities and this information was obtained from a member of the Latvian community. I resent the implication that I obtained information illegally, and on behalf of myself and all the government servants who were libelled I say that the article was false and mischievous.
-On 20 February last Mr President and I informed the Parliament that a tender had been let to a firm of consultants to identify areas where the use of information technology in relation to the Parliament’s information systems and services would be feasible and cost effective. Honourable members will recall that the first stage of the study is to produce an overall plan. The overall plan is expected to outline improved means of meeting current information needs but also to propose information systems and services appropriate to the new Parliament House.
To accomplish this first task in the most effective manner it will be necessary for the consultants to consider the requirements of senators and members. Accordingly, all members will be circularised today and asked either to complete a short questionnaire or, if they would prefer it, to attend for personal interview with the consultants. As this study has the most far reaching implications for the Parliament in the future I ask honourable members to devote a few minutes of their rime to indicating their needs and expectations for information services by either completing the written questionnaire or attending an interview.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– Notices of intention to present at the next sitting a Trade Practices Amendment Bill 1980 and a Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1980 have been given by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
Suspension of Standing Orders
-I seek leave to move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent:
1 ) the presentation together forthwith of the Trade Practices Amendment Bill 1980 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1980 [No. 2], notice of presentation of which has been given for the next sitting; and
the consideration of both Bills through all stages together.
– The honourable member advised me of his intention to move in this way. The Government is quite happy to grant leave and for the matter to be debated forthwith as proposed by the honourable member.
– Leave having been granted, I call upon the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to move the suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion ( by Mr Lionel Bowen ) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent:
the presentation together forthwith of the Trade Practices Amendment Bill 1980 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill 1980 [No. 2], notice of presentation of which has been given for the next sitting; and
the consideration of both Bills through all stages together.
Bills presented by Mr Lionel Bowen, and read a first time.
-Is it intended that the Bills be considered together? If so, is it intended that the second reading speech apply to both Bills or will there be separate second reading speeches?
– By arrangement, the Bills will be considered together and there will be a single second reading speech.
– I will permit that course to be adopted.
– I move:
Let me indicate clearly to the House what the two Bills are about. The amendment to the Trade Practices Act provides for the removal from that Act a section now infamously known as section 45D. The Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill provides, as an amendment to the Act, for the insertion of a Division 5 A which seeks to give facilities to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to resolve disputes between organisations and third parties. The Opposition finds it necessary to introduce these Bills because the Government has failed miserably to deal with its obligations in respect of industrial relations. In recent weeks we have had a series of industrial actions, both in New South Wales and elsewhere, which have virtually brought this nation to a standstill.
What has happened in New South Wales in the last week has affected the whole nation. The spectacle of what we saw on television and in the Press and what we heard on the radio in statements made by the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) clearly indicated the weakness of the Government’s industrial relations legislation. We had the position last week of New South Wales industry- its commercial activities and its normal domestic activities- being brought to a standstill because nobody could get adequate fuel supplies. When it was suggested that the Commonwealth Government ought to do something about it the Minister for Industrial Relations said: ‘It has nothing to do with me. It is a matter for the State of New South Wales’. The Prime Minister on a television program again said: ‘It has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the State of New South Wales’. In Question Time today, in answering a series of organised questions, the Prime Minister again said: ‘It has everything to do with the State of New South Wales’.
Let us put on record the fact that this dispute has been settled only because of the initiative of Premier Wran in New South Wales. It was settled because Premier Wran organised a conference between the disputants and Mr Justice Moore, who happens to be the President of the
Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Commonwealth Government did not even attend the conference. It did not even want to attend it. What son of legislation do we have in this nation when it can bring the country to a standstill and when the Prime Minister and his Minister can say: ‘It has nothing to do with me. It is a matter for the State of New South Wales’. This is not the first dispute that has arisen under section 45 D of the Act. I am reminded of what a National Times article stated. It reads:
In very similar circumstances in 1978, Leo Gorman, a bulk-fuel operator in Seymour, Victoria, took action under 45d when Esso drivers refused to deliver fuel to him. The ensuing strike throttled Victoria’s petrol supplies.
When the men went back to work, Esso refused to supply Gorman with fuel, and Gorman took out a writ. The article continued:
During a private conversation with Gorman, Arbitration Court President Sir John Moore appealed to the businessman ‘s sense of national interest. Gorman eventually withdrew his court application under 45 d.
It is not the first time that this situation has arisen. We have been talking about Premier Wran. Perhaps we could have been talking about Premier Hamer. Does this situation not show the great weakness in the Government’s industrial relations policy? Deliberately the Government introduced into this Parliament as an amendment to the Trade Practices Act new section 45D. The section talks about secondary boycotts and people hindering the supply of goods. We accept that in industrial matters there can be a hindrance to the supply of goods, but is it not obvious that the way in which to solve industrial disputes is in the industrial court? The present dispute has still not been resolved from the point of view of the complainant. It has been resolved temporarily from the point of view of the nation, thanks to Mr Justice Moore. We are put in the situation that the dispute is still continuing in the Federal Court by way of private litigation and the Government cannot do anything about it. It does not intend to intervene in that case. It will be duty bound by whatever decision is made by the court, by any appellant court or by the High Court of Australia, should the case go that far.
Can honourable members imagine there being any industrial peace or sanity in this nation if we had to wait for the decisions of a judicial court which was bound strictly by the rules of evidence, whose decisions were subject to appeal, and when the appeal decision was eventually subject to a High Court appeal if leave were granted for that? Let us look at industrial relations from the point of view of commonsense and sanity. I suggest that it could well take six to nine months to complete the legal cycle. Does the Government seriously suggest that by introducing into this Parliament legislation of the sort that the Minister for Industrial Relations mentioned today, we will improve the method of competition, even if we put everybody out of business in the process? Why is it that the present Government has introduced so much punitive industrial legislation? Why have we had so much industrial trouble since the Fraser ideology of industrial relationships was introduced into industrial law in this country.
The Industrial Relations Bureau and the legislation which related to it contain a punitive concept which has caused nothing but industrial trouble. The same situation applies to section 45d. We have had nothing but industrial trouble because a plaintiff, well-meaning or otherwise, can take action in the court against unions. The Act itself envisages that that can happen. The Swanson Committee, which suggested the amendments to the Trade Practices Act, never suggested that these matters should go to a judicial court. It suggested that matters of interpretation relating to these matters ought to be dealt with by an independent deliberative tribunal. That recommendation was not followed. Can honourable members see where the trade unions as such have any rights at all under the Trades Practices Act? The Act provides for nothing but penalties. A penalty of $250,000 can be imposed because of an industrial action or a penalty of $50,000 can be imposed on people because of industrial action. There is no room for conciliation and arbitration within the ambit of the Trade Practices Act.
In recent weeks Mr Justice Moore, as the de facto Prime Minister of this country, had to step in because he was asked by a State Premier whether he could solve the problem. The Prime Minister could not do anything about it except appear on a television program and state that it had nothing to do with him. Today he repeated in this House that it had nothing to do with him. I ask honourable members to bear in mind that the reason for the litigation in the Federal Court is directly related to a Federal Act of parliament. The Trade Practices Act is a Federal Act of parliament introduced by this Government. Despite what the Prime Minister said today- I attribute his remarks to his ignorance of the situation- the people involved in the dispute are operating under Federal awards; that is, the tanker drivers are operating under a Federal award which relates to the oil industry. It was an award brought in by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It is very obvious that, if people feel that their remuneration or their security of employment will be affected under any Federal concept, they will take industrial action. Is it not ridiculous that when industrial action is taken by people operating under Federal awards, operating within the ambit of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, those people are not able to get that matter resolved because an individual has taken action under another Federal Act in the Federal Court which cannot solve any industrial troubles whatsoever. Does that not prove the difficulty of what these people are about at present? How do they establish the fact that there is a reason for the union to take action? It is not very hard to look at the facts.
Today, we are looking at the fact that the Prime Minister is now threatening Amoco on the basis that it has not done justice to the person concerned. The Minister for Industrial Relations said that he was also concerned until he had an interview with Amoco as to the reasons behind the dispute. Again, today in Question Time, he was perhaps even a little more concerned because he had heard something of the details of the settlement. I suggest that the settlement would be very much the same as that made with Mr Gorman in Victoria. On the last occasion, His Honour, Sir John Moore, had to appeal to the businessmen’s sense of national interest and got Mr Gorman to withdraw his action. The same would have to apply in the present case to get Mr Laidely to withdraw his action. Why would we be saying these things unless we were taking into account the terms of remuneration and conditions and security of employment of these men? Is not that the real issue in this case?
What happened is this: As I say, the award applying to oil tanker drivers is a Federal award. That award clearly sets out that the men are to work a 3 5 -hour week over a 9-day fortnight. They have superannuation, long service and sick leave. They enjoy a number of conditions applying in the Federal sphere. But these conditions do not apply in the State sphere. Why? It is because there is no particular State oil award. There is a general State award for transport drivers. It operates this way in New South Wales because of legislation passed by a previous Liberal Government. Under that award, the men were deemed to be employees whereas in fact they were independent contractors. So the people working for Laidely work a 40-hour week, lA.days a fortnight. They do not have sick leave ‘an$ they do not have superannuation rights. So there we see the distinction between people having the same terms and conditions of employment but getting different rewards.
Does this not come to the real crux of what this is all about? Was not the security of the tanker drivers being affected? They say that it was. There was an agreement which has not been highlighted in this Parliament- I hope that the Minister will advert to it later- whereby oil tanker drivers, that is, those operating under federal awards, who were supplying oil to service stations, would be able to continue to supply those service stations despite the fact that those stations might have changed ownership or might have closed down and re-opened. There was no objection to Mr Laidely supplying fuel to other areas of New South Wales. There was no objection at all to Mr Laidely supplying oil to the rural areas. But there would be an objection to Mr Laidely opening up a service station which was formerly supplied by the oil tanker drivers and then suggesting that those oil tanker drivers were no longer able to supply him; he was going to be supplied by his independent contractor. If that was the way it could be done, it could be done that way all over Australia and there would be no work at all for the oil tanker drivers. That is what happened in this case.
In all fairness to Mr Laidely, he is a small businessman and might not have understood the nature of what he was about to unleash by taking legal action. We know that he would have been advised to take such legal action. But I think that even Mr Laidely would agree that there would be no future if nobody could trade on a daytoday basis in the normal trade and business commerce sense; if there were continual strikes and stoppages and people losing their livelihood. He would not want that. But the crux of the matter is that Mr Laidely stepped over the boundary of the agreement. The agreement was that if Mr Laidely was to open up a service station which had formerly been supplied that station had to be supplied by oil carters operating under the Federal award. That is where the dispute arose. Mr Laidely then took action under section 45d of the Trade Practices Act to remove the whole matter to the Federal Court, which is not an industrial tribunal, and there was an immediate stoppage. Therefore, the whole of New South Wales is paralysed by this matter we have before us today.
Section 45d has no right at all to be in the Trade Practices Act. Bearing that in mind, I again refer to what the Swanson Committee had to say in this regard. Section 45d does not settle industrial disputes: It simply works on the assumption that industrial action of a particular type is unjustifiable, even though the issue behind it can be an industrial issue. So there cannot be any conciliation and arbitration when section 45 d disputes are being dealt with. That section goes against the whole concept of conciliation and arbitration. Industrial tribunals have been created to deal with industrial disputes as they arise and to make rules governing how the parties will behave in the future. It was due to the wisdom and understanding of His Honour, Mr Justice Moore, that we have had a settlement of this dispute. If people dare to break that settlement, there will be another major industrial action. There will be a national stoppage. But the policy of this Government, extraordinary as it is, seems to be to have continual confrontation with the trade union movement- strike after strike, confrontation after confrontation. But does that settle anything? Is there any wisdom in such an attitude?
What were the merits of this dispute? Courts of law cannot deal with industrial disputes. Section 45 D does not allow any adjudication of the issue on the merits of the case. It simply says that a particular type of industrial action must be decided against a union. That is as limited as it can be. Let me remind you, Mr Speaker, of the boilermakers’ case where the High Court clearly said that it was a basic constitutional principle that judicial and non-judicial industrial arbitration functions should not be mixed. Yet we have this position at present. In one court we have a judicial approach to an industrial action which cannot solve that industrial action whereas in another area, where we should be able to have that industrial action solved, we have no jurisdiction because it is alleged that the person concerned is a private person not operating under the Federal law. And that is the weakness. I remind you, Mr Speaker, of section 5 1 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which states:
In determining an industrial dispute, the Commission shall provide, so far as possible, and so far as the Commission thinks proper, for uniformity throughout an industry carried on by employers in relation to hours of work, holidays and general conditions in that industry.
How do we get uniformity in the industry when there are oil tanker drivers operating under a Federal award and under a good set of conditions while independent contractors who are deemed to be employees under a State Act are operating under greatly inferior conditions? If such a situation were to be extended, it would affect the security of employment of those oil tanker drivers operating under Federal awards.
So, section 45D will not solve any industrial dispute. It cannot do so and the penalties in that section show clearly that it is aimed more at punitive retaliatory action than at any permanent settlement of a dispute.
One might ask: What is so horrendous about a secondary boycott that makes it so different from all other types of industrial action? We could well ask the Government whether action in relation to the Olympic Games was not in fact a secondary boycott of the Soviet Union. But it is not going to solve any problems in what we are about. Trade sanctions are also a form of secondary boycott. But the question is not whether there is something necessarily wrong with a secondary boycott but whether the person engaged in the secondary boycott is or is not justified in taking action. It would be infantile to suggest that the answer is always no. Where we have, as I have clearly indicated, a suggestion that Mr Laidely has jumped the fence, the boundary of agreement and opened up a service station in dispute, we can see the context, the genesis of an industrial action, an industrial dispute. Where we can see two different sets of conditions applying for the same type of work carried out, we can see the genesis of an industrial dispute. If security of employment is affected if the union does not take action we can surely see that this is a matter that should have been dealt with under Federal law.
The whole idea of the industrial sections of the Constitution is the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any State. If a State is incapable of handling a matter there ought to be some Federal jurisdiction. The problem in this case is that there is no Federal jurisdiction to solve the industrial problems arising from differences between a Federal award and a State law. I asked the Prime Minister today whether he would agree to the Australian people having a referendum about the matter and he virtually said no. Why he is so afraid of the Australian people solving the matter I do not know. When the question was last put to a referendum in 1946 it was carried by a majority of the Australian people. It was not carried by a majority of the States because we had some reactionary premiers. We still have them. They would object to settlement of any dispute.
Bear in mind that when we are talking about trade unionists in this country we are talking about three million working Australians- people who have to support their families, pay off their homes, buy food, pay the rent and carry on their businesses. Would they lightly abandon their responsibilities because of an accusation that they have done something wrong? The issue here is an industrial dispute, and it can be solved only by conciliation and arbitration. It cannot be solved, as you would know well, Mr Speaker, after months of deliberation- let us hope not a period of years- by a court handing down a decision. What are we to do in the interim while waiting for the court to hand down the decision? Imagine how unlikely it is that we would get industrial peace in such a situation?
Section 45D is bad law. It is bad law made by a bad government which had no concept of conciliation and arbitration. The great weakness in the Government at present is its bringing in of legislation which is punitive and retaliatory and which threatens damages of enormous amounts against people who have only their weekly incomes between themselves and the poverty line. It is impossible to get any sanity in the Government ‘s legislation. We have opposed the Government’s legislation all the way through on the basis that it would do nothing but cause further industrial trouble. It has done that. There was the Gorman case in Victoria in 1978 and there is the Laidely case now. In each case it was left to Mr Justice Moore to step in, even though he may not have had any jurisdiction directly in the area, to solve it by negotiation. That he has done. It is a great thing that His Honour is able to take such initiatives. What would have happened if he had adopted the policy of the present Government of doing nothing and saying: It is a matter for State law and will be solved in the Federal Court? This nation would be completely at a standstill now.
When one is elected to government one is expected to govern, and to take an interest in all disputes that affect the livelihoods of people and the country’s productivity. One is expected to guarantee that people who are suffering ill health and other disabilities can get to hospital or to work if they are handicapped. But to paralyse the whole nation by adopting an attitude of selfstyled righteousness, and saying: ‘It has nothing to do with me; it is a State law’, is running away from one’s responsibilities. I make the point that if it were not for His Honour Mr Justice Moore there would not have been any settlement in this matter. I refer to the statements of the Press and others who do not support Labor. The Daily Telegraph newspaper and others- the Murdoch Press- have asked: ‘What sort of insanity is this, to stop the nation?’. And all Government members are saying: ‘It has nothing to do with me’. It is said that civil actions cannot be solved in industrial courts and that industrial actions can be solved only in industrial courts. In actions relating to the oil industry, in which the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has already found it ought to make a Federal award, that is the court which ought to be dealing with those disputes. That is the point we are making today in bringing in these two Bills. Firstly, we want to repeal section 45D of the Trade Practices Act and, secondly, to introduce a new provision into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to deal with disputes between organisations and third parties. In our Bill ‘industrial matters’ are denned as: . . . all matters pertaining to the rights or privileges of employees and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing -
We include a list of matters which is contained in all other divisions and which relate to a number of matters such as the rights of employment. I would like to draw attention to two of those rights. Paragraph (k) reads: .(k) the use by persons or corporations, to whom or to which this Division applies, of contractors in preference to members of an organisation;
The current dispute comes within the ambit of this provision. This provision enables the Federal court, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, to arbitrate in matters where independent contractors are deemed to be employees allegedly operating under what is called a general award in the State and getting less by way of remuneration than an employee under a Federal award would get. Paragraph (p) reads:
It follows that if the Government allows this current situation to continue the people presently operating under Federal awards would find that there would be a diminution of their security of employment because independent contractors would be able to supply oil to all service stations. The whole point of what we are about is to give some sanity to industrial relations in Australia. Even as far back as 1 900 it was agreed that if a dispute went beyond the boundaries of a State it ought to be settled in a Federal court. Does it not follow that if the whole State of New South Wales is paralysed the dispute will certainly flow across the boundaries of that State and affect all other people in Australia? But the Prime Minister says: ‘I have passed Federal legislation to amend the Trade Practices Act to improve competition’. It is laughable that this can result in an industrial dispute which can stop the nation. The Government has the high and mighty attitude that this dispute is a matter for the State of New South Wales. What particular State court of New South Wales could have dealt with this matter? How wrong was the Prime Minister to suggest today that under the emergency powers of New South Wales something could have been done because the oil tanker drivers are operating under a Federal award? How stupid it is to suggest that a State law can be passed to direct an industrial dispute which relates to the terms and conditions and security of employment of employees under a Federal award. The oil companies at least, to give them credit, understand that position. The Amoco company said: ‘We have had to try to negotiate a settlement’. It is obvious, is it not, that if we pass the amending legislation” now before the House Mr Laidely will be able to appear before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? That is where the dispute should be. In other words, he can be given the right of audience in this dispute. It is on that basis that we will be able to guarantee some stability in business.
If one is in business and makes an agreement one must not break the rules because if the rules are broken that itself can become the area in dispute. That is the real crux of this matter. The Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) said that he is still trying to find out what happened. He can easily do that. If I can do it, surely he can do it. He is writing letters and having telephone conversations but he did not appear at the conference convened by Mr Justice Moore, nor did the Prime Minister. They go on some late television show to laugh and crack jokes while the whole of the nation is paralysed, and say: ‘It has nothing to do with us; it is a State matter. ‘
There will be an election this year and it will have to be fought on the types of issues that are now before us. What sort of government do we have? How well has it governed? How has it been able to maintain business confidence in this country? Is the future going to hold a series of actions in the Federal court under section 45 D by an innumerable number of employers all suggesting they will bring the nation to a standstill? If one wants to fight one’s fellow Australians one can do it but this will bring this country to ruin. The whole purpose of the Government’s industrial relations legislation is to fight fellow Australians. If a person is entitled to go to an industrial court to put a case in relation to his weekly income, superannuation and security of employment that is where he is entitled to go, and the Government has said so. If there has to be uniformity in this law as there should be under section 5 1 of the Constitution- as the Government says- why not allow it to operate? How ridiculous it is that there can be two types of tanker drivers in New South Wales delivering the same sort of oil and getting different rates of pay and conditions. It is ridiculous to suggest that that system can be expanded to the detriment of one side. If it is expanded to the detriment of employees who operate under Federal awards, will they not take industrial action? Can the Government then say: ‘Even though they are operating under Federal awards it has nothing to do with us. If Mr Wran would only pass Lord knows what legislation they would all go back to work ‘? That is pie in the sky and everyone who knows anything about the law knows that a State Premier cannot in an industrial action direct people operating under Federal awards to go back to work. It cannot be done.
The whole point of what we are about is that section 45D will not help business in Australia or lessen the impact of market forces to such an extent that there will be an improvement for the consumer. To the contrary, there will be no supplies for the consumer. Indeed, there will be no consumer if the Government brings business to a standstill. It will not matter whether one is a small businessman or a large businessman. The Government should give the same order to Amoco for saying: ‘We have to look after a lot of other small businessmen as well. Do you want us to put them all out of business because one person has taken legal action?’ We are not here to judge the merits of Mr Laidely ‘s case. That can certainly go to a tribunal, but the appropriate tribunal is the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. At present the Act is so weak that it does not give the necessary right of audience. The Trade Practices Act is so ridiculous, so out of place, so inapplicable that it directs that the complainant to go off to a judicial tribunal which has no ability to solve industrial disputes.
One might summarise the situation in this way: As was forecast last year, section 45D is a time bomb that is slowly ticking away; when it does erupt it will destroy the whole of the social fabric of Australia. That it has done. It happened in the Gorman case. Thanks to Mr Justice Moore, that was solved by the action being withdrawn. The only solution in the Laidely case is that that action also be withdrawn. Should there be any consideration for people who are affected by secondary boycotts? Where are they to go? By all means they should go to the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. That can happen only if the amendments now proposed by the Opposition are in operation. It would mean the creation of a new Division which would have relation to disputes between organisations and third parties. It would consider the question of contractors being employed in preference to members of an organisation and, particularly, it would talk about security of employment.
For those reasons, in an attempt to take the issue away from the political forum of confrontation, a venue which has been encouraged over recent weeks, and get it back to sanity, the only thing that the Government can do is accept the amendments proposed to the two Acts- repeal section 45D and give to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the right to arbitrate and make a determination in disputes of this nature. I commend the Bills to the House.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.
– The Government is perfectly happy to debate this matter today, but the method that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) has used, that of presenting Bills to the House, is of course just a gimmick. He knows very well that the Government has a strong policy view, one that I will describe in a moment, on this matter. We will, of course, be opposing the Bills. The honourable member gave away his bias at a very early stage in his speech when he spoke of the infamouslyknown section 45D. What he, his party and many trade union leaders are trying to do is have section 45 D used as a rallying cry, a trigger phrase, so they can bring to bear the invective that they so often bring to bear in these matters, without ever really explaining what the section attempts to do and the benefits that it can bring to the Australian people.
The honourable member said- I wrote down his words- that the Government was endeavouring to bring the nation to a standstill, or had done so. Let us be quite clear on this matter from the beginning. It is the Transport Workers Union of Australia, not the Government, that has brought the country to a standstill. That is the reality. As for the ludicrous assertion that Premier Wran, the Labor Premier of New South Wales, settled the dispute, the facts as reported in the media make the real position perfectly clear. Then the honourable member said that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) had stated that the matter had nothing to do with him; it was one for Premier Wran. That is not what the Prime Minister said. Anyone who listened with any attention to the answer that the Prime Minister gave at Question Time, less than an hour ago, knows what he did say. He referred to New South Wales law. I presume that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition understands that that law provides for the imposition of sanctions. The Prime Minister referred to the fact that the New South Wales Labor Government had taken no action under the powers that it undoubtedly possessed; that, in other words, it was putting the matter aside altogether. That is what the Prime Minister said, not that this Government had no interest in these matters. Of course it does.
I will not attempt to answer point by point all of the distortions that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition presented to us today. I will mention but a few only. He piled distortion on distortion, but what came through his speech was a policy of trade unions- right or wrong. That is Labor’s attitude. It does not matter what the trade unions do, whom they hurt or what the conditions are. It does not even matter that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) said earlier that he would condemn bad strikes. Of course he has not done so. Apparently it is the trade unions and the views of extreme trade union leaders that are to be supported right or wrong.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, in one of his many distortions, referred to the findings of the Trade Practices Act Review Committee, the Swanson Committee. I wish to refer to chapter 10, clauses 10.19 and 10.20, at page 86 of the report, which state: 10.19 In these circumstances we recommend that the law provide an effective avenue of recourse for the trader directly affected, by allowing him access to an independent deliberative body . . .
That is not what the honourable member said. I cite the report further:
That some procedures for solving the matter should be available was something on which submissions of interested parties were virtually unanimous.
Clause 10.20 states:
We make no recommendation as to whether these procedures for recourse should be established under the Trade Practices Act or the Conciliation and Arbitration Act . . .
Referring to the trader, the report states:
He too is entitled to have his ‘day in court ‘.
That is actually what section 45d provides. It provides for the right of an individual or, if one likes, a company, when secondary boycotts are involved, to take action to preserve one’s rights. What the honourable member- presumably it is Labor Party policy- would want to do would be to take away from that individual his day in court because he would be perfectly happy for the individual to go under. The honourable member is perfectly happy for the trader to be sacrificed. In all that we have heard in the last half hour the Labor Party speakers have indicated againalthough they stand up here from time to time and tell us that they believe in supporting small business- that when it comes to a clash between small business and unions it is a case of the unions right or wrong. The policy of the Australian Labor Party is that whatever the union leaders want is to be given to them. So, the Labor Party says to the Government: ‘Do not provide a situation of confrontation, do not be provocative; settle these disputes because they hurt people. Give in to the unions and provide whatever they ask for’. That is the attitude of the Labor Party.
The honourable member spoke about the penalties that may be imposed on unions for breaches of the Trade Practices Act. For goodness sake, those penalties are there to be used against companies and businesses as well. I will refer briefly to what the relevant section of the Act is all about because it is amazing how its meaning is overlooked. Section 45d was drafted on the basis that concerted action boycotting commercial activities of other persons was, as it must be, an undesirable conduct which generally should be prohibited. It is in the interests of freedom of competition that the section should apply evenhandedly; that is to say, not only to unions but to business and as far as possible to the conduct of both businesses and employees. There have been a number of instances already- not just this case- of secondary boycotts which have led to higher prices for consumers. They can lead to anti-competitive results in the interplay, the businesses, by companies. A further target of the secondary boycott is often the small business- as it is in this case- which can be put at the mercy of large businesses or a powerful union. For these reasons and because of the serious commercial and public impact that secondary boycotts have often caused, the Government decided that it was proper that that conduct should be governed by the Trade Practices Act.
Of course trade practices are involved. I remember a few years ago Mr Hawke being one of the greatest advocates for change in resale price maintenance. That was a restrictive trade practice. It is now illegal. Rightly so. Secondary boycotts also should be illegal. Of course, there should be large penalties for a breach of the Act. How otherwise would the Act be effective?
The Trade Practices Act was designed to strengthen competitiveness in private enterprise and to protect the victims of anti-competitive conduct. It created a system of legally enforceable private rights. Mr Laidely has the right, as do others like him, to pursue his interests in the courts because this Government inserted Section 45D; otherwise he would not have those rights.
He is pursuing those rights. I do not know what the outcome of the proceedings will be, but I do know that he has rights. We think we know most of the facts of the case but, as I mentioned at Question Time, other facts certainly are being investigated. Mr Laidely is quite within his rights to pursue this course.
A moment ago the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said: ‘We do not mind if he wants to sell petrol in the country. That is OK by us, but when he goes over the boundary then that is all wrong. He should be inhibited because it does not suit the views of this union which I, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, am representing in this House’. This union, the Transport Workers Union, has a long record of disputation and of creating difficulties for the public, and for the people who rely on trade in petroleum products and the use of petroleum products. This is not an isolated occasion involving this union. It is nowhere near an isolated occasion. What we have seen is a constant incursion by the union, causing disputation and difficulties. If we followed the practice and the implications of many of the things that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, we would have to give way to the union on everything that it wants to do. If we did not there might be a stoppage somewhere and someone might be hurt. Mr Deputy Speaker, I put it to you that there has to be a drawing of the line by this Government. There ought to be a drawing of the line by the Wran Government. Certainly there are rights which individuals, and I include companies, should have and they should have methods by which they may pursue their interests through the courts. Labor’s attitude to Mr Laidely is: ‘You should restrict your business activities’.
– ‘Bad luck, chum’.
-As the Treasurer (Mr Howard) reminds me it says: ‘Bad luck, chum’. That is the attitude of the Labor Party. It says: ‘Do not worry about him ‘. I want to refer to a letter written by Amoco Australia Ltd on 14 March 1980 and addressed to Mr Laidely. This letter is very revealing. It states:
Dear Leon -
That is chummy enough-
I refer to our previous correspondence regarding Amoco ‘s inability to supply your Company with petroleum products. As you know, our drivers went on strike on 15 February 1980 in protest over delivery by your Company of petrol to a Service Station at Canley Heights operated by Mr Tony Molluso.
Our drivers returned to work on 19 February after we agreed not to supply your Company with petroleum products and they remained at work until 25 February when they again went on strike following the commencement by you of proceedings under Section 45d of the Trade Practices Act. After that the industry-wide situation became worse when drivers from all oil companies operating in N.S.W. stopped work on Friday 7 March, 1980, and there have been stoppages in all other states. On Saturday 8 March, 1980, representatives of oil companies including Amoco, the T.W.U., and the N.S.W. Government, attended a private conference with Sir John Moore at which recommendations were made. It was agreed not to disclose the terms of Sir John ‘s recommendations. On Tuesday 1 1 March, 1980, a further conference called by Sir John Moore attended by the above parties as well as the A.C.T.U. commenced in Canberra. Agreement was reached at this meeting which has resulted in the decision by all drivers today to return to work.
The last sentence states:
In the interests of industrial peace and due to circumstances beyond its control, Amoco is unable to supply your Company with petroleum products.
Yours sincerely, R. I. MARKOVITCH N.S.W. Branch Manager.
There we have it. That is what Mr Laidely has been subjected to. As I indicated at Question Time, there is now an indication that in fact another oil company is also restricting supplies to Mr Laidely and perhaps other people. Cabinet is calling an urgent meeting of the chief executives of the oil companies to discuss all these matters.
– To pick up donations for elections.
– It was the honourable member’s Deputy Leader who was so forthright in his defence of oil companies in this debate, and not the Government.
– I won ‘t be.
– I am pleased to hear the honourable member say that. I reply to the interjection in order that it will be recorded in Hansard. Section 45D is in the right place in the Act, because we are talking about trade matters. Unions are involved in trade matters. Unions ought to be controlled by rules and laws which are fair to people, just as much as companies have to be governed. There need to be sanctions equally against companies as against unions. Companies are not something special to be provided with a series of exemptions when they get into the trade field. The Opposition needs to face that fact. It would leave people like Mr Laidely right out on a limb and then cut it off.
This is not the end of the matter. This is a course of conduct by this union or some of its leaders and, I suspect, others. Mr Laidely was able to defend his interests- and is in the process of so doing- because this section exists. The Labor Party would like to take this section out so that he has no way -
– I am glad to have the honourable member’s confirmation that the Labor Party would like that section out. Mr Laidely then would have no way of pursuing his interests. That is what the Labor Party wants to do. It wants to leave people like Mr Laidely powerless. It wants to leave one man or a smaller organisation defenceless against a large union with many ramifications. This Government is totally committed to the principles behind section 45d of the Trade Practices Act. It will be closely monitoring cases involving the section to ensure that it continues to achieve the purposes for which it was designed and introduced. I reaffirm today in the strongest terms of which I am capable our opposition to secondary boycotts.
I deplore the attitude of those persons who take action which amounts to a wilful disregard for the consequences for the victims of the boycotts and for the public generally. They are the main victims. It is really of no use the Opposition coming in here and saying, as it has said- I am sure we will hear it again later in this debatethat we must listen to the demands of the union and bend every time it is prepared to go on strike.
– Of course it is blackmail as the honourable member for Swan says. We have had a series of -
– Don ‘t forget the oil companies.
– I do not think that I have forgotten the oil companies. I think I have been pretty forthright about them. I have read a letter from one of these companies. I have criticised both the union and the oil companies. The section of the Act applies to both. The point is that this Government can not be put in the positionthe Opposition ought not to be in a positionwhere it has to say: ‘Whatever the unions want we must do’. Surely in all common justice and even by adopting the attitude of the trade union movement, which of course I do not, a strike ought to be the last resort, not the first one. More and more in this country, it is the first option that this union seeks.
The Opposition comes into this House and states that that action is quite right, that the Government ought to conciliate, that it should not be so provocative and those sorts of things. Well, the Opposition should ask the people of New South Wales who it was that suffered in this last dispute and who it was that provoked this stoppage. The Opposition should ask what the State Government was doing. This Government accepts that it has the responsibility to endeavour to protect the interests of people affected by unfair, illegal and disruptive union action. Other governments, including the State governments, accept that responsibility. There cannot be one set of attitudes and responsibilities for the Federal Government and another for a State government. Nor can there be one law for companies and another law for unions.
Time and time again, it is being advocated that the unions should get special treatment. All of the arguments suggest that the special treatment that the unions should be receiving is that no law or sanctions whatsoever should apply against them. Clearly, equality before the law is a fundamental principle in this country. It has basic justice to argue for it. It is obviously one of our traditions which any government and any person elected to this Parliament should do his best to uphold. But it seems that the Opposition does not agree with that. The situation is that there are court proceedings going on at this time. An appeal is to be heard on Wednesday against the interim injunction. I understand that other proceedings are either in conduct or in prospect. I do not want to deal with those matters but I merely mention that they exist.
I have said, and my colleague the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has said, that the Government is active in collecting the facts of this situation as they relate both to past events and what will happen in the future. But Mr Laidely is pursuing his rights. On the facts as we know them at the moment, it certainly seems that he has been sacrificed by big business and big unions. I have already alluded to the fact that it seems that other oil companies- in practice anyway, whatever formula may have been agreed upon- have ceased to supply petroleum products to Mr Laidely. Obviously, that action cannot be. allowed to proceed. This Government does not propose to ignore it; nor should the New South Wales Government be ignoring it. As an early step, this Government will be getting the chief executives of oil companies to come to Canberra to discuss these matters.
I emphasise that this is a matter of trade practice. It provides individuals with a way of ensuring their rights in the courts. Surely this case would indicate to any fair-minded person the value of section 45D and its existence. The trade practices legislation as a whole has, in fact, already had a marked influence on trading conditions in Australia. It has improved competition -
– Certainly not for small business.’
– The honourable member for Hawker has a view about that. I will be interested to know what his view of section 49 of that Act is, whether he is in favour of it being repealed and of any other changes he would like to make to the Act. But that goes beyond what we are dealing with today. I am making the general comment that that section of the Act has improved competition; it has inhibited a lot of formerly cosy relationships that went on, such as market sharing in our economy and other anticompetitive devices. We come down to this: What is fair for business- it has been affected by this Act for years- is fair for unions and fair, in particular, for trade union leaders. They are the ones who guide these proceedings. We should not be in any doubt about that. As I mentioned the New South Wales Government went to the conference which I referred to earlier, although it seems that it did not take much part in the proceedings. Subsequently, I was told by Mr Laidely that he had found it impossible to get an appointment with the New South Wales Minister for Industrial Relations, Mr Pat Hills, to discuss these matters. So much for fairness. Although Mr Wran has referred to this particular stoppage as union madness, he is doing nothing. The New South Wales Government has powers.
– It doesn’t care.
– I am reminded by my colleague, the honourable member for Swan, that it doesn’t care. It hopes the problem will go away. Let me conclude by saying that the damage done in this strike was caused by unions. That is where the damage came from. Provocation by this Government is not involved. Here we have a section of the Trade Practices Act which cuts both ways. It provides rights for people; it does not remove them. The Opposition’s answer to that is to say: ‘Take this section out of the Act’. In other words, it wants to remove those rights because the unions have great claims and they must always be satisfied. What has been outlined in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and is being put up in the Bills that have been presented today is a recipe for more chaos than we have seen in many areas. It represents support by the Labor Party for the extreme elements of the trade union movement.
– Industrial anarchy.
– It is certainly going towards industrial anarchy. It is support for extreme trade unions leaders and, as a policy of the Labor Party in this place, it is a disgrace because it can result only in an undermining of the standards of living of all Australians.
-The idiocy of the position we find ourselves in on industrial relations is reflected in the fact that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland), who would never have attended an industrial relations meeting in his life, stands in this place pontificating about the problems of the dispute in New South Wales between the Transport Workers Union of Australia, the oil companies and Mr Laidely. The fact is that section 45D sits uneasily, as it has been described, in the Trade Practices Act.
We told the Government when the Swanson Committee report was acted upon some years ago that sooner or later section 45 D would be the focal point of industrial relations upheaval in this country. The Government knew that it would be the focal point of industrial upheaval, but it did not mind. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) does not mind industrial upheaval because he sees in it some political benefit. If New South Wales transport drivers are to be provoked, if 1,400 storemen and packers are to be sacked, or if anything can be done to affect the economy in order to win some political favour, this is the Government that is prepared to take such action.
– A eunuch-like deal.
-Section 45D which was introduced by the loudmouthed Treasurer who is about to leave the chamber -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable gentleman will withdraw.
– Well, you did not stop him interjecting.
-Order! The honourable member will withdraw.
-I withdraw. Section 45D was introduced by the Treasurer who does not take any responsibility for it now; nor should he, because he has no experience in this matter either. Mr Laidely has been affected because a contract with the oil company concerned was broken. That contract provided that Mr Laidely would supply oil in a certain district. Mr Laidely went outside the district. The prosecution under section 45 D is not to stop the transport workers getting a greater profit, which is what the Trade Practices Act is all about in terms of competition being its focal point. The transport drivers were not aiming at getting a greater profit for themselves. They were aiming to maintain the jobs which were a part of the contract that the oil company had with Mr Laidely. It was nothing to do with restrictive trade practices. It was something that Mr Laidely himself had entered into. He knew it; the oil company knew it; and the unions knew it.
What an incredible situation has developed as a result of the dispute. The most respected person in this country on industrial relations is Sir John Moore. This Government is asking him to shoulder the responsibility, given to him through the Constitution, of settling disputes which the Government itself provokes through this type of legislation. Sir John Moore has to try to circumvent bad laws. He has no jurisdiction over the Trade Practices Act. Apparently his advice as to the way these laws are to be applied and what impact they will have on Australia cannot be listened to. But it is left to Sir John Moore to call the parties together to see whether the dispute can be settled. But the Government is not satisfied with that. The Prime Minister tells us this is not good enough. Irrespective of the fact that Mr Laidely may have provoked the dispute by breaking a contract which was understood and accepted by all the parties, this Government wants to take the matter another step further. It wants to jump into the breach and to see whether anything more can be done to assist Mr Laidely and perhaps bring this dispute back on to the heads of the average citizens of New South Wales.
This Government, as I said at the outset, is not interested in settling disputes. There can be no risk, given the views that have been expressed in the annual reports of the Trade Practices Commission, that the Commission does not like the idea of section 45D being a part of the Act. The Commission does everything possible to ensure that industrial disputes are sorted out and settled where they ought to be- in the industrial arena. It is not a question of saying that the employers are wrong all the time or the trade unions are right all the time, or vice versa. It is a matter of the Parliament of this country adopting an attitude to the industrial arena that will result in action to establish a mechanism that can bring about progress and finality in settling disputesnot provoking them. But for over four years now this Parliament has been used by this Government to bring about greater industrial disputation. Wherever the law could be changed in order to bring about greater conflict it has been changed.
Since this Act was altered and section 45D was incorporated there have been two congresses of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) gave the impression that the only people who are concerned about section 45D are those in the militant left wing unions. Anybody who has observed the industrial unions in this country or organised labour would know that the militant left wing unions are in very much a minority when they go to an ACTU congress. But at the two congresses held since the Act was altered, the unanimous decision of the hundreds of delegates assembled in Sydney and Melbourne has been that any union that is caught up by this section of the Trade Practices Act will have the full support of the Australian trade union movement. We also have to accept that, as we are a democracy, we have a free trade union movement and the withdrawal of the labour of its members is something very basic to its civil liberties. If a threat to the security of employment is seen as something on which the movement should make a stand, as it did in the case of the transport drivers of New South Wales, it will make such a stand. The Government ought to understand that. The Government should not be putting hurdles in front of Sir John Moore and making his task more difficult. It ought to be trying to facilitate the settling of the dispute. It ought to be sitting down with the parties to evaluate ideas and to see what contracts can be reached between independent distributors and the major oil companies.
It is amazing that, throughout this dispute, all the scorn has been poured on the head of the Transport Workers Union. Perhaps I was invited by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs not to say anything of the oil companies. I say this of the major oil companies of this country which are pretty much the oil companies of the rest of the world: We would be mad to trust them in anything- in anything at all. Their decisions are not based on what is best for Australia, as can be seen from their industrial relations record and their record in chasing greater profits. If the Government seeks to get some industrial peace in that area, it will have to be a lot tougher with the one party that it is now pandering to- that is, the oil companies themselves. We cannot set up virtually in exile a tribunal such as the Cabinet, as the Government has done, sitting, making a decision, leaking all the material it wants to, pouring scorn on one party to the dispute and saying that it is all the fault of the unions. Since this Prime Minister was elected in December 1 975, 1 have not heard him or any one of his Ministers say that anything that was done by a trade union in this country was good- not once! But, almost every week without fail, they will think of some issue on which they can condemn the trade union movement. Fifty eight per cent of the members of our work force are unionised. But this Government sees some political benefit in the continual condemnation of the role that they play.
The transport workers dispute over job security, which sparked off the Laidely strike, is only a sign of things to come in job security matters. In the past it may have been that unions in this country concentrated greater and greater efforts on improved wages and conditions. But one of the conditions in the 1980s which will be demanded of union officials by the rank and file unionists of this country is that those officials do everything possible to make sure that those people have job security. In this case, the officials of the New South Wales branch of the Transport Workers Union have taken that action. If they had not taken that action, I prophesy that they would have been defeated at the next New South Wales branch election because job security is an all important part of their approach to industrial relations in this country at the moment when the Government in Canberra, as they know, does not care whether a person loses employment. The emphasis on job security is absolutely enormous.
The Trade Practices Act should never have had section 45 d inflicted upon it, because this is not the end but only the start of the matter. In some instances section 45D has intimidated some trade unions; action that might have been taken by some trade unions has not been taken because of section 45D. But sooner or later we will have a dispute such as the transport workers dispute in which one of the major unions will be embroiled as a result of a charge of a secondary boycott. The whole of the trade union movement in this country will get behind that union and support it, and Australia will really be brought to its knees as a result of this bad law. As I said, the people who then will be charged with settling the dispute will have had no say in the formulation of that Act. Sir John Moore and other members of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission run around Australia every hour of every day of every week of every year settling disputes; that is the nature of our economy and that is the way we have to deal with it.
The imposition of such laws makes their job almost impossible. It makes it impossible if, as happened last week, Sir John Moore brings the parties together again to reach a settlement only to hear himself and one of his Deputy Presidents abused in this Parliament today. All the plaudits from the Government went to Mr Laidely. As far as the Government is concerned, he is the hero and everything has to be done to assist him, irrespective of the contracts that Mr Laidely may have entered into with both the company and the unions. The Government cannot have it willynilly. It cannot say to the people operating in industrial relations outside this Parliament every day: ‘Just listen to the proceedings of Parliament each day because we may change the ground rules. It will suit the Government of the day to change the ground rules if we think there is some political benefit in doing so’. For Amoco Australia Ltd, the Transport Workers Union and Mr Laidely the ground rules were that he would serve a certain district. Mr Laidely accepted that, but he broke the contract. He seems to think that because he broke the contract everybody should support him. The fact that his breaking the contract would have meant that subsequently Amoco would have had to sack a driver does not seem to have come across the minds of any members opposite, but that is actually what they are asking to be done. They are asking that if a contract between Laidely, or people such as Laidely, who operate in New South Wales, and Amoco is broken in that such people try to go across the borders that have been given to them, Amoco should sack a similar number of drivers. That is what the drivers are fighting against.
Apparently all the parties came to an agreement, but the agreement has been broken and this Government is changing the ground rules for the participants in industrial relations outside this Parliament. Section 45 d does not have the unanimous support of all the employers of Australia. It is condemned by the total trade union movement in this country. It is the brainchild of a government which is viciously anti-trade union- not just left wing or centre unions, but all organised labour. That flies in the face of the development of trade unionism, especially since World War II. The Government will not solve anything by huffing and puffing in the Parliament about what it will do to trade unions or to specific trade union leaders on this issue. The fact is that that law is an unacceptable law.
The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs said that other laws have been changed in the Parliament. The law concerning resale price maintenance was changed in the Parliament after it had been changed outside the Parliament. The ACTU took action outside the Parliament by saying to the Dunlop company: ‘Under no circumstances are we going to take your goods and sign an agreement to sell them at the prices that you dictate. That is undemocratic. It is improper. It is a restriction on trade that should not apply in Australia ‘. That law was broken outside the Parliament before the Act was changed inside the Parliament. That ought to be a classic example for this Government. Section 45D will be broken outside the Parliament and then the Trade Practices Act will have to be changed. It would be a much more preferable step for the Parliament to recognise the damage that can be done to industrial relations in this country by the very existence of section 45D. The Government is making militant unions out of centre and right wing unions. The existence of this law and of the Industrial Relations Bureau is hardening the organised labour force of this country against not just the Government but also the laws. When the Industrial Relations Bureau was set up as part of the conciliation and arbitration apparatus there was a lot of hurling and puffing about what it would do. The only thing that the Industrial Relations Bureau is doing is to cost us a lot of money. As far as its effectiveness is concerned, the only notoriety it has scored has been as a result of keeping files on certain individuals, employers and trade unionists in the building industry. Fortunately the Minister has had that stopped. That is the only note of notoriety that the Industrial Relations Bureau has achieved.
When Senator Murphy, as he then was, introduced the trade practices legislation in 1 974 Australia was screaming out for an Act of that nature to be imposed on the business community of this country because it was foreign-controlled to a very large extent and was doing what it liked. We perhaps did not go far enough, but we do not hear the business world jumping up and down now about the Trade Practices Act. When do we hear anybody from the business world making a statement against the Trade Practices Act? The employers have quite successfully tamed the Trade Practices Act. It exists now virtually only to intimidate the trade union movement. The Labor Party has not said that it is part of its policy to repeal section 45D. We will repeal it not because of what unions do but because it is bad law. We bring disrespect on the Parliament by the introduction of bad laws. In some cases it takes practices to show that a law is bad. We knew that section 45D was bad at the time the Bill to amend the Act was introduced in this Parliament. It has always been bad. We knew the sorts of problems that would be provoked as a result of the application of section 45D. We knew that the Trade Practices Commission wanted to keep the application of section 45D at arm’s length, but because of the abuse that this Government has heaped on Sir John Moore and Mr Justice Staples today and because of the laudatory manner in which it spoke of Mr Laidely there can be no doubt that in an election year it wants a total showdown with organised labour, irrespective of the cost to the economy. This is very much an election campaign approach.
If this dispute had come up last year or the year before that there would have been no such heralding by the Government of abuse of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But we are a few weeks away from an election and it suits this Prime Minister to use all the media outlets at his disposal to try to persuade and to brainwash people of Australia into believing that always there is only one bad group in this community- organised labour. That is not true, but it is true that organised labour has given the Government notice that if anybody is caught in the net of section 45D by some of the horrendous fines that can be imposed as a result of section 450, the situation will be unacceptable. I suggest to the Government that it should support the Bills before the House and repeal section 45 D so that we can have common sense reimposed on industrial relations in this country.
– We have just heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) and from the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) the death knell of individual rights in industrial relations and of small business in this country under a Labor government. To be fair, the Australian Labor Party has been quite specific. It has said that it would deliberately expose both individuals and small business, without any legal protection, to the tender mercies of big business and of big unions. Apparently the New South Wales Government too approves of this attitude. I suppose that any industrial dispute could be settled if this attitude became normal practice. It clearly is normal practice for the Australian Labor Party. But settling disputes with that attitude as the normal practice would carry a price, and what a price it would be. I make it quite clear to the House that deliberately exposing individuals and small business to industrial blackmail without any recourse to legal protection is not and never will be normal practice for this Government.
We need to have a look at what is proposed. What will be the practical effects of what the Opposition has proposed in repealing section 45d of the Trade Practices Act and replacing it with this extraordinary amendment to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? To start with, the repeal of section 45 d would remove the existing provision of rights of both individuals and corporations. Those rights would disappear. This amending legislation is designed to replace a clear and coherent body of law which the existing provisions of section 45d of the Trade Practices Act contain with sweeping and uncertain power in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to change the rights of individuals, and perhaps corporations too, in each case with which it deals. There would be no ground rules for the Commission to follow in settling particular matters which were brought before it. The process would, in fact, be ad hockery gone mad. Precedent and clearly understood law would be chucked straight out the window. The Commission would be saddled with a totally inappropriate, onerous, and in some circumstances authoritarian, power to change people’s rights with no guidelines or principles laid down by this Parliament.
All told, the proposition is a shapeless mishmash which denies rights of people and corporations. It is half baked and ill considered. In fact, it is unworkable. As I said, it would do away with a coherent body of understood law. It is undesirable. It would trample on the rights of individuals within the community. It must be seen and understood, though, in conjunction with the ALP Federal platform on industrial relations which came out of last year’s Adelaide Conference. That was nothing less than a deliberate blueprint for industrial anarchy. I should like to go through some of the resolutions which became part of the ALP platform, part of the policy which would be implemented should the Labor Party ever come to office. I shall quote now some of the resolutions which were passed. I emphasise again that these resolutions which came from the Adelaide Conference have to be seen and taken in conjunction with the sorts of amendments that are contained in the Bills which have been brought into the House by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. One of the resolutions states: . . . recognise the rights of unions to regulate their own affairs in a democratic way free from government and judicial interference . . .
Let us have a quick look at what that resolution would mean. The Labor Party’s clear view is that employers should be subject to regulation but that unions should not. According to the Labor Party, unions should be free to take whatever action they choose on whatever issues they choose. It would place unions above the laws which everyone else is expected to observe. Its policies are therefore a direct inducement to the trade unions to operate outside the conciliation and arbitration system, which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honourable member for Port Adelaide, by their attitude, have been attempting to defend this afternoon. It is clear from the platform of their party that this posturing of today means nothing. What they have to implement is the policy of the party, part of which I have just read out. Let us take another part. An ALP government would: . . . recognise that the legitimate role of the trade unions is not limited to legally defined industrial matters.
Let us have a look at that resolution. The Labor Party clearly endorses political strikes through this plank of the platform. By adopting it, it has indicated its contempt for the democratic parliamentary process. Labor does not accept that Parliament is the proper place for voicing its concerns and opinions but has deferred to the unions in acknowledging that they can strike on any issue at all and force their views on the Australian public. If that is not a direct threat to democracy, I do not know what is. Let us consider another resolution, this time regarding the Labor Party’s policy in relation to the closed shop. I quote from the platform again. Labor will: . . . encourage the membership of registered organisations through the provision of preference to unionists in the taking of leave and … in their engagement and promotion and their retention in cases of retrenchment.
The implication of this resolution is that Labor has stated a firm commitment to the insidious closed shop arrangements under which, whatever the wording may say, non-unionists are effectively denied the right to work in many places where work would otherwise be available to them. What Labor has proposed there is a very significant addition to the current provisions of the preference clauses. Of course, its non-wage policy attracted a great deal of attention after the Adelaide Conference. The new platform commits an ALP government to supporting: … the automatic quarterly indexation of wages and salaries in accordance with movements in the Consumer Price Index.
But what the policy does not go on to say is that that principle is the base from which any claim can be advanced. No limit is placed on wage demands by the Labor Party. Indeed, the Australian Council of Trade Unions policy is virtually the same in that respect. The unions want all the benefits of indexation but they also want to be freed of any restraint in pursuing claims beyond indexation. They have stated that principle quite clearly and the Labor Party has endorsed it. What that means is that any possibility of an anti-inflationary policy or strategy would be quite out of the question. Quite apart from anything else, full quarterly indexation would result once again in a rapid wages merry-go-round that would prevent deliberately, by Labor Government choice, any reduction in inflation and would create, as it did before, further unemployment and depression of economic activity.
The Labor Party has not learnt. It did all these things when in government. It gave wage demands a free rein. We had the wages explosion of 1973-75 and we saw the result of it. It meant the loss of 190,000 jobs in one year alone. Australia’s commendable record in inflation and employment until then was destroyed and Australia joined the worst half of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries in relation to inflation. Yet here the Labor Party is giving its sanction to policies which quite deliberately would create exactly the same situation and would have the same results. The hard-won gains that this Government has made over the last four years in putting Australia into the best half of the OECD countries in relation to inflation would go out the window as well. But let us have a look at this fundamental situation of there being really one rule for unions and another for employers. The Labor Parry platform has this to say:
An ALP Government would move immediately to repeal all penalties for strikes against arbitral decisions of the Commission or a conciliation committee and the prohibition of action by the Commission to insert or register clauses in awards or agreements excluding the rights of workers to resort to industrial action.
I ask people to ponder on the implications of that part of the platform. The real significance of that part of the policy is that the 1977 platformhonourable members will remember that I have just quoted the 1979 platform- called for the repeal of penalties for employer lockouts as well. The words ‘and lockouts’ were taken out at the 1979 conference, which meant that while unions would be free to engage in whatever action they wanted to without penalty, employers would be retaliated against by the unions engaging in a lockout.
I take the opportunity to contrast that extraordinary industrial policy- if one can call it that- not only with the Government’s policy but also its record in industrial relations. The Government has three overall objectives. The first is to protect the public interest in industrial relations; the second is to protect the rights of individuals while emphasising the responsibilities of all parties; and the third is to strengthen the influence and authority of the legal and institutional framework governing industrial relations. I would like to spend some time in explaining how the Government has gone about those objectives and again I contrast this with the policy of the Labor Party which I have just exposed.
We believe that it is up to employers and employees to act on their own behalf to protect their own legitimate interests within a framework which pays due regard to the public interest and national economic needs. So, amongst other legislation, we have enacted laws which, for example, increase consistency in decision making within the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and prohibit the Commission from making employers pay employees for time lost due to industrial action, provide for the expeditious hearing of stand-down applications and remove, procedural difficulties, in getting industrial disputes before a Full Bench of the Commission. In the case of unions whose action puts at substantial risk the safety, health or welfare of the community we have provided an alternative path to deregistration in those unusual circumstances. We have strengthened the power of the Commission to deal with demarcation disputes. As this debate has indicated, we have legislated in the case of secondary boycotts through section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. Provision has been made- this is not widely known outside the industrial sphere perhaps but it is important nonetheless- for more efficient use of judicial resources in the industrial division of the Federal Court of Australia. We have made new administrative, financial and industrial arrangements for the stevedoring industry after the widest ranging inquiry and round of discussions that I can remember. We have done this in an industry which has had such a troubled plagued history.
We have also acted to protect- I come back to this point- the community interest in relation to those employees who work for government or government authorities. To ensure that public money is not put at risk, we have initiated a policy of ‘no work as directed, no pay ‘ if employees in those categories refuse to do their normal range of work. We have enacted legislation to provide that government employees who take industrial action which disrupts the provision of services to the community may be stood down or even ultimately dismissed. We make no apology for that. We recognise that legislation therefore is important in establishing a legal and institutional framework which can protect the community while meeting the needs of government, employers and employees.
We also recognise that legislation cannot solve all industrial problems. I have reiterated that point many times. There must also be a sense of responsibility and willingness to co-operate amongst ail- I stress ‘all’- parties involved. For that reason we established as a statutory body with a responsibility to meet each quarter the
National Labour Consultative Council in which representatives of government and peak councils of employers and trade unions meet regularly to discuss significant industrial relations issues. We are in the1 process of providing the Department of Industrial Relations with the further resources it needs to further these processes of communication and’ consultation at the industry and enterprise levels, having established a national level process through the NLCC.
We believe that union members should be encouraged to join the. organisation which they are eligible to join and actively to participate in the affairs of that organisation. We have legislated for secret postal ballots for elections in federally registered organisations. We believe that this legislation gives responsible unionists, who constitute the overwhelming majority, the opportunity to see that union leadership accurately and effectively represents the members’ views.
I come now to a central issue, namely the rights of individuals of which I have spoken already in this debate. As I said, we encourage people to join and participate in the affairs of the organisation they are eligible to join. But we believe equally that where an individual has been found to have a genuine conscientious objection to join an industrial organisation that view must be respected and protected. We have made provision for that.
Our national wages policy is well known and I do, not intend to repeat it. I come back to the role of the employers and unions. We believe that employers .and unions have a responsibility to settle differences within the established framework so that the community is protected from unnecessary and damaging industrial disruption. We will continue to use all of our available powers to encourage employers and unions to work within the proper processes. We have acted responsibly in our role as a major employer and we expect other employers to do likewise.
I look again at the contrast with the totally unbalanced one-sided recipe for industrial disaster put forward by the Labor Party. We have been lucky today in seeing some of this unsavoury mess unveiled. We have had just a taste, and an unpleasant taste at that, of what we would be served up with under a Labor government. I have no doubt that the Australian community would take note of that. There can no longer be any pretence by Labor that it would not deliberately throw principle out the window. It is worse than peace at any price; it is peace at any price if that price is demanded by a union.
That is an appalling indictment of the Australian Labor Party. It is also a shameless selling out of the rights of responsible unions and union members throughout Australia who rely on the protection and set of fair and equitable laws and the institutions which administer them. It is yet another example of the buckling under to the extremists in the Australian Labor Party. It shows no recognition for the responsible elements in the community. It is an invitation to industrial blackmail as has been said already in this debate. I make it quite clear that that approach is totally unacceptable to this Government just as it is totally unacceptable to the Australian community, including the vast majority of union members. The Australian Labor Party has made its choice and it will be judged by the electorate on its total lack of principle. We are indebted to the Labor Party for one thing today- it has given the community the opportunity to judge it on its lack of principle.
– We have just heard a sorry lamentable speech from the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) whose heart clearly was not in it. We on this side of the House concede that the Minister does have some knowledge of industrial relations. Any Australian citizen who heard the Minister today ramble on and read sections of the Liberal Party platform and sections, as well as his interpretation and view, of the Labor Party’s platform might well have been entitled to ask what the national Parliament is considering. What is the Parliament deliberating on? I certainly would not have known from the speeches of either the Minister for Industrial Relations or the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland), so let me recapitulate the issue that is before this Parliament and the issue that is before this Government. It is a very simple and clear principle which was established and clearly spelled out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen).
Let me refer to the point that the Minister for Industrial Relations finished his speech on. He said that his Government supports the principle of industrial disputes being settled within the established framework. Let us take that term ‘within the established framework’. That is precisely the argument that was put so cogently and forcibly to the House by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. It is a very simple proposition. The body of industrial law that governs relations between unions and employers in Australia is to be found in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The body of legal knowledge and, more importantly, the practical experience in dealing with the day to day problems of industrial confrontation and stoppage are to be found within the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
– Why don ‘t they take notice of it?
-It certainly will not be found in this Parliament or in the stupid utterances of the honourable gentleman. The proposition of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was a simple assertion which any honest Australian, anyone experienced in industrial relations, would fully concede: That is, that section 45D of the Trade Practices Act has not settled one industrial dispute in this country, but has caused and contributed on many occasions to the exacerbation of industrial confrontation. I challenge the Minister for Industrial Relations or any honourable gentleman opposite to name one occasion when the invocation of section 45D has settled an industrial dispute. The Government knows, the community knows and the employers know that any employer, whatever the situation, who invokes section 45D in the Trade Practices Act and its punitive provisions is issuing an open invitation to industrial confrontation. That is what occurs, has occurred and will continue to occur on every occasion. The Minister knows it and the Government knows it. The people of New South Wales and Victoria, both of whom in the course of the last 12 months have been confronted with this problem on two occasions, know it. Did section 45D and its invocation on those occasions solve these problems? The answer is no. It made them worse.
In regard to the dispute in New South Wales, neither the Minister or anybody else has denied the allegation made by the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) that this dispute and the invocation of the provisions of section 45D flowed from a breach of contract by Mr Leon Laidely. When he got himself into that situation- he was badly advised- he had to invoke a provision which virtually produced the level of industrial confrontation which tied up the State of New South Wales. Who sorted it out? Who had to move into that situation to try to produce some kind of rationale for settlement? It had to be one of the most distinguished lawyers and certainly one of the most experienced men in Australia dealing with these types of situations. But did he get the thanks of the Government? Did he get a tribute? No! The Government is concerned about Mr Laidely’s civil rights.
– Are you?
– I am concerned about everybody’s civil rights. I would say this to the young gentleman opposite who had the benefit of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth: If he knew anything at all about how his community in Victoria operates, he could talk about the rights of the individual. I invite him to try to open an authorised newsagency in Victoria, saying that he believes in the private enterprise system. I would like to see how far he would get. The honourable gentleman cannot even transport a bottle of beer from Canberra into Victoria and sell it below the purchase price. Why is that? It is because there are a whole series of complex relationships which govern the whole of our industrial relations structures in this nation. The reality is that it is no answer to problems of industrial confrontation to evoke, as did the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, the ideal model of the private enterprise system. There is no such thing operating in Australia as the ideal free enterprise system. I addressed a meeting of members of the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce less than a week ago. One should ask them how much freedom they have and how much initiative is in the free enterprise system, when they are chained hand and foot to the contracts and arrangements of the large oil companies. We hear honourable gentlemen saying that we must intervene on their behalf. Of course, we do not. The Minister for Industrial Relations who is sitting at the table does this nation no service at all when he so wilfully misinterprets the position of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the Opposition on this issue. There is a Bill before the Parliament which proposes two things: It says that if we want to produce industrial peace and some level of harmony in this community we should get rid of section 45 d, the use of which in this community has brought the nation and some States almost to their knees. It has never worked.
– It is the strikes that have brought the nation to its knees.
-It has never worked yet to solve one industrial stoppage.
– That is not true, and you know it.
– The interjections by the honourable member are because he knows that I am speaking the truth.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Melbourne Ports will resume his seat. The honourable member for Bendigo will remain silent or I will be required to deal with him.
– To abolish section 45 d, suggests the Minister for Industrial Relations, will leave the business community at the mercy of trade unions and that would be a terrible thing. That is not the proposal at all. The Bill seeks- I doubt whether the Ministers opposite have even examined it- to provide a legislative basis and a framework for all of these problems, not to be left at large in the community but to be taken within the framework of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission where those issues belong and where in the final analysis they have to be resolved. That is the proposition. Why has it not been enjoined? Why does not the Minister for Industrial Relations, who knows a little bit about industrial relations, say: ‘Yes, there may be some merit in having all these issues of industrial confrontation and stoppage’- because that is what we are dealing with- ‘being deliberated upon and being judged in the one tribunal which has the legal background, the knowledge and the experience to do it’?
That issue has not been enjoined at any stage of this debate. The Government has failed to answer that very simple proposition. That is the proposition which the Australian Labor Party has put before the Parliament. It has not been answered and will not be answered. The Government is more concerned to quote Liberal Party policy speeches. It is more concerned to misinterpret Labor Party policy. The average Australian citizen wants to see this nation get to a situation where there is a reduction in industrial confrontation and industrial tension. The average Australian citizen believes that the responsibility is upon this Parliament to produce the formulas which will produce that result. The reality is that this Government says: ‘We will cling to the concept of section 45D even though we know from our own experience that it does not work and it will not work; even though we know from our own experience that it will provide further confrontation, further stoppage whenever it is used. We know all that, but we will cling to that concept and we will dismiss as unworthy of consideration a viewpoint or an argument that says that until these problems are dealt with as they ought to be, within the framework of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, within that body of legal knowledge and practical experience with which to resolve these issues, we will not have industrial peace ‘.
The is the proposition before the Parliament. That is the proposition which has been supported by the Opposition. That is the proposition which I believe will give protection to all the citizens of this community, including the Mr Laidelys of the world. The Government has not been prepared to argue seriously that proposition. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm
Fraser), having failed to produce a khaki election issue, having seen his economic policies fail, having seen inflation escalating, is now about to produce and intensify any level of confrontation because his political survival depends on confrontation. This has been the most dishonest debate that this Government has ever been involved in. The proposition before the House and the Bills before the House ought to be passed. We may then have some level of industrial harmony in this nation.
-The industrial dispute that has taken place in New South Wales is not about section 45D; it is about the right of an individual to gain work and the right of that individual to employ people. The rubbish that has been spoken by honourable members opposite can be laid bare by the activities of the various people involved in this dispute. Leon Laidely, as a unionist, used a section of the Trade Practices Act to allow him to stand on his own feet and to do the job that he was trained for and has trained himself to do over many years. He is a member of one organisation only- the Transport Workers Union of Australia. He belongs to no other organisation but the Transport Workers Union. Here he is seeking to achieve some sense of justice against the union that wants to stand over him and to put him out of business. All he is seeking is some protection and some justice from the system.
Everybody involved in the transport industry in New South Wales must belong to the Tran.port Workers Union. They cannot load their trucks, they cannot drive on the roads, they cannot pick up loads, unless they belong to the TWU. They cannot enter a yard and the storemen and packers will not load their trucks unless they are members of the Transport Workers Union. They must show their badges on certain days to prove that they are members of the TWU. They are not allowed to show stickers on their trucks that say that they belong to other organisations such as the Long Distance Road Transport Association or the Independent Truckers Association. They are not allowed to do anything except what the union demands that they do.
Here we have one man who is brave enough to stand up to his own union and we have the Australian Labor Party, led by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen), coming into this chamber today and endorsing that sort of action by the Transport Workers Union in New South Wales. Not only does the Deputy Leader of the Opposition come into this chamber and endorse that union’s action, but also he condones it. He encourages that action by a union against one member of its own body- a member of the Tranport Workers Union in New South Wales. Not only is Laidely stood down and his rights to work denied him by the TWU, but he is king hit by Amoco Australia Ltd. Again we have the Labor Party saying today that it endorsed the attitude and the action of Amoco. The Labor Party said that in this case the oil company had done the right thing. Whom does the Labor Party stand for? What does it stand for? It has no principles of any sort. It endorses, it encourages and it condones the action of Amoco. The TWU and the small people of Australia who are involved in industry working for themselves and honestly applying themselves to their jobs will be pleased to see that the Labor Party endorses the action of the TWU with Laidely and it endorses the action of Amoco with Laidely. Just wait until that gets around the traps. Just wait until the truck drivers of Australia find that out. The blockade that New South Wales had in April last year will be nothing compared with what will come from the decision of the Labor Party today to endorse the TWU and to endorse Amoco. I have been told that within the last few hours Leon Laidely has been advised by Total Australian Ltd, another oil company in Sydney, that he will not be able to draw supplies from that company also. There we see the subversion, the acting together of a big union and a big busines -something that is endorsed, encouraged and condoned by the Labor Party. The Labor Party has said so in this House today.
It is a shame that Laidely was involved and was the victim of a secret agreement brought about by the union and by the oil companies. I am ashamed to say that Sir John Moore was also involved in that secret agreement. Again, that agreement was endorsed, encouraged and condoned by the New South Wales Government. That Government let the secret agreement get to bed, it let it be made. Then Mr Wran and Mr Hills came in and said, as the Labor Party has said here today: ‘We endorse what is going to be done. We endorse the TWU’s putting the boot into Laidely and Amoco ‘s king hitting him’. The Labor Party here and in New South Wales has endorsed those actions.
The sad thing, I believe, is that a president of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is involved. Mr Justice Moore as he then was, was also involved in the Leo Gorman case. I am told that in the presence of Mr Howard Nathan and Mr Noakes, an industrial advocate, Gorman was told by Mr Justice Moore that the Transport Workers Union would black ban him from the transport field and he would never be able to enter the transport field again. If that is not standing over somebody to get the results one wants, I do not know what is. That is the expertise that the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) spoke about in the last few minutes- the expertise that was brought to bear against an individual, to heavy him so that he will not face up to those people who are trying to put him out of business, to make it so difficult, even impossible, for him to carry on. Those stand-over tactics have been carried out by the union–
Order! The Chair is in some doubt as to whom the honourable member is referring to in those terms. Without pursuing the matter further, I draw the honourable member’s attention to the fact that he is not in order in attributing motivation to a judge. The honourable member is perfectly free to talk of the impact of the decision but is not free to attribute motivation or to reflect on a judge in any way.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I was speaking about the Transport Workers Union in New South Wales, then about a large oil company and then about a secret agreement between a number of people which makes it impossible for an individual to have any resort to justice except by the use of section 45D of the Trade Practices Act. A member of the union has no other avenue. The Opposition’s amending legislation, what it is seeking today, would withdraw the rights of th’e individual. We cannot, under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, produce those rights for the individual while at the same time considering the deregistration process. There is no way in which the proposition that the Opposition is putting forward can possibly work in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The honourable member ought to know that. He ought to have studied it before. He has the legal expertise. Why does he not research it? I think this is an incredible thing that the Labor Party is trying to do to the workers of Australia today. It is prepared to endorse big unions; it is prepared to endorse big oil companies and it is prepared to endorse secret agreements between various parties, one of those parties being the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I think that is wrong and I think the Labor Party will be seen to be wrong.
I do not think we can go down the road of appeasement and continue this road of appeasement. The Labor Party would like us to say that it would all be peace and quiet if everybody would just sit down and talk. We have seen recently two men in the same industry in Australia put to the wall and denied their rights by the actions of large unions. The Labor Party evidently endorses that process. In this case, not only have there been secret agreements but the unions own rules were broken by the union to achieve its objectives. The union held meetings of delegates and of the rank and file to which certain members of the union were denied admittance. There was no way they could gain access. They were told to leave that meeting. The union is in breach of its own rules, which action seems to me to have been endorsed today by those on the other side of the chamber. The Opposition endorses the fact that a union has broken its own rules to achieve an objective and has denied to a proportion of its membership access to a proper, fair and- what should have been- open meeting. The Opposition also has been saying today here in this chamber that it does not believe that section 45d is an effective industrial dispute solving mechanism.
Let me tell Opposition members that the Allied Messengers case in Victoria under Mr Justice Northrop was dropped because of threats by one of the parties to use section 45d. The Building Construction Employees and Builders Labourers Federation dispute in Victoria was brought before the court in relation to that section. In the Southern Cross company dispute in New South Wales concerning the transportation of fuel from interstate an action under section 45d was also brought before the courts but was not proceeded with. The people involved in that action settled the dispute and went back to work. It seems to me that in a number of instances section 45 d has been raised, has been brought to the fore, and has effectively retained industrial peace.
I conclude by saying that today the Australian Labor Party in this chamber has endorsed the actions of Amoco Australia Ltd and the Transport Workers Union of Australia. It will find out the ramifications of these actions. It will find that the independent small businessman of Australia will not tolerate that approach. The Opposition will see, as a result of what it has said, action against the Government of New South Wales for being biased in its approach to the problems of small business and the independent operators in the transport industry. They comprise two thirds of the industry. They are not allowed a voice in their union. They are not allowed a voice in New South Wales, but at least under section 45D of the Trade Practices Act they are allowed a voice.
– in reply- I must be brief because of arrangements that have been made. I want to pay tribute to my colleagues the honourable member for Port Adelaide (Mr Young) and the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) because they at least spoke to the matters before the House. They spoke to the legislation. They spoke to the fact that the two Bills before the House offer a solution to achieve industrial peace in this country. I was astounded to hear the Minister for Industrial Relations (Mr Street) talking in this House about everything but what is in the Bill. I reiterate what we are about in the Minister’s own terms. The public interest, the rights of the individual and an effective framework are the three fundamentals.
On the rights of the unions, there was not one representative of the unions on the Swanson Committee, the Trade Practices Act Review Committee. That is how fairly the Government thought it ought to handle this matter. It now squeals and whinges about the fact that the trade unions are not going to accept the position. The Swanson Committee said that there ought to be an effective ‘independent deliberate body’. It said that there should be some procedures for solving matters of this type. Anybody in the practice of law knows that there should be arbitral provisions in certain cases, particularly where a dispute could go into details. In the section 45d proposal at the moment there is provision for some consideration if the dominant purpose is deemed to be remuneration, conditions of employment, hours or working conditions.
This particular case, for the benefit of the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman), involves a dispute between a State union and a Federal union in the one field. The honourable member should not shake his head. The position is clear. The dispute arose because of an agreement made with Mr Laidely as to what service stations should be supplied by the Federal union. Honourable members know that a British Petroleum service station at Canley Vale was reopened and that is why the dispute arose. We also know that in the 1973 and 1974 period these carriers were offered terms and conditions of employment and were invited to take up the job of carrying oil on a certain basis and they subscribed to that.
Section 51 of the Trade Practices Act states that there should be a uniformity of conditions. Do not bring in the nonsense again in the debate here that the State Government of New South Wales has superior rights. It has not. The Wardley case clearly shows that where there is a
Federal determination, where there is a Federal award, it overrides State law. We have a settlement in this matter because, as I said, Mr Justice Moore, out of his own initiative- he has no real jurisdiction- was able to negotiate a settlement in the Gorman case and in this case. In the Gorman case it was to save Victoria, and in this case it was to save New South Wales.
We provided for the one day in court, as the honourable member for Melbourne Ports reminded us, in this proposal for deliberation today. We are asking for approval of a provision whereby Laidely can go to court. He would be able to go to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to put his case. Why did not any honourable members opposite address their minds to what is before them? It is not because they are so ignorant. They are aware of the situation. It is because they are involved in union bashing. The provisions which we are talking about today specifically deal with contractors being employed in preference to unionists. And honourable members deny it and say they did not know anything about it! The Minister for Industrial Relations asked: ‘Where is the provision for the member’s day in court?’ It is in the Bill. Why did he not address his mind to it?
I turn to a summary of the situation, in fairness of the Whip opposite. The public interest is paramount. The Government is going to bring this nation to a state of paralysis if it continues to allow private individuals to take private action in a Federal Court on a judicial basis. It has nothing to do with arbitration. The Government cannot allow it on that basis. Otherwise cases before courts of appeal will follow and there may be even a right of appeal to the High Court. Can honourable members imagine a dispute going on fo the length of time required for such procedures? So much for the public interest. The rights of the individual should be protected by some procedure, according to the Swanson Committee, and not by the Federal court to which the Government has hived the matter off. The procedure we have now asked the Government to consider is that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should deal with those procedures, particularly when they relate to corporations, the rights of independent contractors and security of employment.
Finally, with regard to the framework, what better framework is there than the arbitration system itself? It was even suggested by the Swanson Committee as being the alternative. The Government denied the proposal. Practical experience now shows how wrong the Government was. The Government is persisting in this attitude. Today in the Parliament it lambasted the President of the Federal Arbitration Commission. It suggested that Mr Justice Moore did not know what he was about and should never have convened the conference. It produced, letters here suggesting that everything is right from the point of view of the Government’s philosophy when there is a strike in New South Wales and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) abdicates his responsibility and says that it has nothing to do with him. His Minister asked: ‘Where is the framework?’ When we put up the framework the Minister did not address his mind to one piece of the proposed legislation. He could not address his mind to one clause. And the Government says that this was a bona fide debate! The Government is looking to an election. It will get one in the midst of the greatest industrial strife it has ever seen. It will paralyse this country. The Government thinks that it will get votes out of it. I think that what the Amoco company has said is fair.
Order! The honourable gentleman must confine his remarks to matters raised in the debate.
-I was raising in debate that the Minister said there was no such provision in the Bill. I am making the point that there is provision in the Bill and also stating why the Minister performed about what is deemed to be our policy. It is an election gimmick to talk about that and not about the Bill. I am happy to mention that out policy will guarantee industrial peace. It guarantees arbitration and it guarantees indexation- things that the Government will not do. These matters were raised by the Minister today when he said that we did nothing about these matters in the past.
I am getting signals from opposite that I should sit down because of arrangements that have been made. I will always abide by them on behalf of the Opposition. I ask the Government to reconsider its stupidity, to look back at the Swanson Committee report and to look at the other alternatives. Clause 10.19 of the Swanson Committee report stated that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission would be an effective tribunal to deal with these matters.
That the Bills be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker-Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the negative.
-by leave-I thank the House for the opportunity to report to the Parliament on the meeting of the International Working Group of Parliamentarians concerned with Population and Development which was held in Washington on 3 and 4 January 1980. The working group was called in order to follow up the findings of the International Conference on Population and Development which was held in Sri Lanka in August. That Conference, under the auspices of the United Nations Organisation, brought together parliamentarians from 64 countries to discuss global issues. I was honoured to be one of the 14 parliamentarians who were invited to form the working group.
As we enter the 1980s it is becoming increasingly evident that uncontrolled population growth in many areas, resulting in poverty for many of the world ‘s people, is contributing to the unrest and turbulence which is threatening world security and peace. The all too frequent outbreaks of violence in various areas of the world are clearly related to poverty- too many people competing for too few resources. Unless meaningful action is taken to correct these conditions, the recent manifestations of unstable leadership will continue and spread. However, it is too simplistic to believe that overpopulation is the only, or even the major, cause of poverty. To believe this would be to believe that the control of population alone will lead to eradication of poverty. This kind of reasoning fails to understand the nature of poverty and the measures needed to eliminate it. To this end it is necessary for the issues to be fully studied by nations in the spirit of international co-operation.
Poverty leads to malnutrition, ill health and lack of education, which in turn perpetuate high death and birth rates. In most situations poverty and population constitute a vicious circle constantly reinforcing their impact on each other. Population problems vary in nature from situation to situation and from country to country. It is not only developing countries which face population problems; they exist in differing forms in developed countries also through various factors relating to population such as ageing, slower growth rates of population and labour force. In a few countries the population growth rate has fallen below the growth rate required to maintain a constant level of population, and their populations have started to decline. Some of these countries have now initiated policies to reverse these trends and raise their birth rates. Nevertheless -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! I ask honourable members to remain silent. The level of conversation is far too high.
-I wish that the party whip would give a person a few minutes to try to bring forward a very important viewpoint. It is very difficult for an honourable member to speak with somebody saying: ‘Hurry up. Race it up’. It makes it extremely difficult for me. This is a very important issue. Honourable members are getting a person very flustered and this is a very important issue. Anyone would think that we come here to race like a machine, to -
– I take a point of order. What the honourable member for Franklin has just said about bis party Whip is what the Opposition has been saying for years. He is a standover man.
-Order! The honourable member for Newcastle will resume his seat. The House will come to order.
-Order! The honourable member for Franklin might like to wait for the call. I call the honourable member for Franklin.
-Nevertheless, the fact has emerged that there has been an unprecedented decline in birth rates in a number of developing countries, and for the developing countries as a group. This downward trend in birthrates marks the end of an unchanging pattern which has existed for centuries, since sharply rising population growth rates have been a fact throughout modern history. The significance of this reversal in the trend in birth rates lies in its consequences to total world population. It took 130 yearsfrom 1800 to 1930- for world population to double from one billion to two billion. But it took only 45 years for the population to double again and to reach four billion in 1975. But because of the decline in growth rates, the next doubling of population is likely to take around 40 years. The causes for the sudden reversal of trends in birth rates are being debated. Factors such as family planning, education of women, greater access to health care and a subsequent decline in infant mortality have all played a part.
An improvement in the quality of life is considered essential in bringing about this decline in birth rates in the developing countries. Despite the fall in fertility, population is still an urgent concern. It is essential that governments respond to the magnitude of the problem by way of international co-operation and a commitment to take action now in order to prevent the problem of poverty overwhelming future generations.
I am hoping to form an Australian parliamentary committee, comprising a few very sensible people from the Opposition and this side of the House, to study these issues in greater detail with a view to formulating policies that this nation might pursue in the area of population and development.
– by leave- On 15 January the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced’ that the Honourable Mr Justice Williams had transmitted to His Excellency the Governor-General the report of the Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs. The report was also transmitted to the governments of the four participating States- Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania- and it has also been made available to the governments of New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory since it covers matters which lie within their jurisdiction.
The Commonwealth has been in close contact with the participating States with a view to coordinating the tabling of the report in the respective parliaments. Because of the profound importance of the subject matter, the report is being tabled at the earliest possible date, today being the first occasion since the report was received by governments that the parliaments of the Commonwealth and of Victoria, Queensland and Tasmania have been simultaneously in session. The Parliament of Western Australia is to reconvene at a later date following the recent election in that State.
The report consists of some 1,700 pages in five volumes and a confidential annex. In accordance with the wishes of the royal commissioner, the Government does not propose to make public that confidential annex. The report deals comprehensively with the drug problem in Australia. It covers drug use and abuse, law enforcement, treatment, education and controls. It recommends a national strategy to deal with the drug problem.
National Strategy -Commonwealth-State Co-operation
The Government supports the concept of a comprehensive national strategy on drugs. It notes, however, the Royal Commission’s observation that this will succeed only if Commonwealth and State governments and agencies cooperate. The Royal Commission report has concluded that any strategy to limit the abuse of drugs must embrace all drugs, including alcohol and tobacco. The Government notes also that the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, in its report entitled ‘Drug Abuse in Australia- An Intoxicated Society?’ makes a similar plea for a national strategy to address the problems of alcohol and tobacco. There is, therefore, a need for co-ordinated action in the handling of matters covered by both these reports. A separate statement is being made on the Senate Committee ‘s report.
The Prime Minister has written to the State Premiers and to the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory suggesting that the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence- NSCC- which has existed since 1969 for deliberation amongst the various Commonwealth, State and Territory bodies participating in the administration of drug laws and control, might provide an appropriate forum for initial discussion of many of the recommendations in the report, as well as related reports such as the report of the Senate Standing Committee to which I have just referred and the reports of the royal commissions established by New South Wales and South Australia.
In his letter to the Premiers and the Chief Minister the Prime Minister has also suggested that the Royal Commission’s recommendation concerning the establishment of a national system of forensic science laboratories, which the Government supports in principle, be discussed in the Commonwealth-State Ministerial Police Advisory Council, the inaugural meeting of which is being planned for June. The Government supports in principle the establishment of a national system of criminal drug intelligence centres, as recommended by the Royal Commission.
All commissioners of police in Australia met in Canberra on 3-4 December 1979 and agreed to participate in the establishment of a national criminal intelligence centre, with regional units in each State. All police forces believe that drug intelligence should not be separate from other criminal intelligence because of the relationships between drug operations and crime. A report on the establishment of a national criminal intelligence centre was considered at the Commissioners of Police conference in Hobart earlier this month. A steering committee comprising the Commissioners of Police of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Federal Police, and chaired by Sir Colin Woods, has been set up to look at the further necessary steps required to bring the centre into operation-
The Government has decided, so far as this lies within the powers of the Commonwealth, that there be no relaxation of the present Australian prohibition on cannabis. Clearly this is a matter for the closest consultation with the States and the Northern Territory and the Government believes that discussions should begin as soon as possible between relevant officials. The Government agrees, in principle, with other recommendations in the report relating to health matters. Some of the recommendations concern matters that are already in train or are the subject of Commonwealth-State consultation.
For example, those proposals relating to strengthening controls over medical prescriptions for drugs of dependence, the use of heroin in medical practice and improvements in the collection and monitoring of data on drug abuse and drug movements in the legal trade are all matters which are currently under examination by the National Standing Control Committee. Consultation with the States on these matters will be given impetus by reason of Mr Justice Williams’ recommendations, and appropriate proposals in the report can be taken up initially at the next meeting of the NSCC.
Major items which it is proposed to include in the talks relate to a proposed national strategy on drug abuse, including setting up the proposed national network of drug information centres. Another important element of the proposed national strategy which will be examined in consultation with the States is the value of providing uniform drugs of dependence Acts in the States and a complementary Commonwealth Act, and the feasibility of its early implementation.
I remind honourable members that the Government acted, in November last, on the principal recommendations in the interim report by the Royal Commission which related to the disbanding of the Narcotics Bureau and the transfer of functions to the Australian Federal Police, with the Bureau of Customs continuing to exercise its preventive role at the customs barrier.
In this report the Royal Commission has reaffirmed the views expressed in its interim report. Other progress in the law enforcement task was made even before the Royal Commission reported. Following an initiative by Mr Justice Williams and the NSW Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Woodward, a joint task force comprising members of the NSW Police Force and Australian Federal Police Force, including five members of the former Narcotics Bureau, is operating in Sydney. All information and intelligence records of the AFP, including the former Narcotics Bureau files, are available on request to any State police force.
The national drug enforcement officers course at the Australian Police College, Manly, has been reviewed in line with recommendation 58 of the Royal Commission report and the question of additional courses is being examined, bearing in mind available venues and availability of specialist lecturers. Two intelligence analysts courses were conducted at Manly in February. One was for AFP members and the second was for State police officers. The course was specially designed to improve analysts’ capabilities and further courses will be provided to meet additional needs. The Royal Commission has foreshadowed a further detailed report on its proposal for uniform drug trafficking legislation.
When that report comes to hand, priority will be given to its consideration and implementation, in consultation with the States.
With the creation of the Australian Federal Police, an internal affairs unit, commanded by a chief superintendent, has been formed to investigate complaints against AFP members. State police have increased staff in similar units. The Government is also considering the enactment of legislation substantially implementing the Law Reform Commission reports on complaints against police to provide procedures for the handling of such complaints. In the meantime, consultations are taking place between the AFP Commission and the Commonwealth Ombudsman as to the role of the latter under the Ombudsman Act 1976 and in relation to certain aspects of the proposed new legislation in matters affecting AFP members’ actions.
Those recommendations of the Royal Commission which refer to arrangements for civil coastal surveillance imply centralised coordination, optimum use of the existing assets of participating authorities and regular reviews of requirements, programs and systems in the light of changing circumstances. These are in accordance with the underlying philosophy of the present Australian Coastal Surveillance Organisation. Many of the recommendations reflect established practice in arrangements for civil coastal surveillance. They also indicate, however, areas for improvement, particularly in the further consolidation of the resources which support Australia’s civil coastal surveillance effort. Where these recommendations are not capable of early implementation, they will be taken fully into account in the major review of civil coastal surveillance arrangements to be undertaken in 1981.
Australia has for some years directed a concentrated effort towards South East Asian drug producing and transit countries. It has cooperated with the United Nations in trying to promote alternative occupations and products. It took the initiative at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in 1978 in establishing a continuing Commonwealth regional body to keep this issue under examination. Equipment has been provided to some countries and Australia has provided training in intelligence, field procedures, and the use of dogs. In the period 1978-79 to 1980-81 Australia will contribute $700,000 to the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control for development assistance in anti-narcotics projects, and the Australian Government has recently approved a proposal for $250,000 worth of enforcement aids, including training for Thailand. The exchange of information and forensic data has been a long standing priority as it is integral to drug intelligence. Exchange has taken place for some time on information relating to the availability and traffic in illegal drugs in South East Asia.
It is clear from what I have said that the Commonwealth is taking its responsibilities in the fight against drug abuse most seriously. The decision in 1977 in concert with the States to establish the Royal Commission indicated the Government’s concern at that time with the drug problem. It acted promptly last November on receipt of the Royal Commission’s interim report in disbanding the Narcotics Bureau and transferring its functions to the Australian Federal Police, which has now become the Commonwealth’s principal agency in the drug field. The last session of Parliament saw the passage of amendments to the Customs Act which conferred additional powers considered to be necessary in the fight against drug abuse. Now, major recommendations of the Royal Commission’s report have been accepted in principle. They represent an on-going commitment of the strongest kind to a program of action that will be pursued in the short term with the utmost vigour in consultation with the States and that will not be allowed to languish in the longer term. The decisions announced point the direction in which the Government is determined to go.
As consideration in depth of the Royal Commission’s recommendations proceeds, further decisions will be taken by Government and announced to the Parliament.
I believe the States fully share our approach and are inspired by the same resolve as ourselves to combat the drug problem in Australia. Their co-operation is vital. Their concern is shown by the fact that, within the last three years, they have all instigated Royal Commission inquiries into drug problems. The moment is therefore propitious for a joint and co-ordinated effort by all governments. The opportunity should not be lost. With a common resolve, I am optimistic that we can achieve progress against the public health problems that drug abuse has presented us with, and against the predators, both inside and outside Australia, who seek to exploit the weaknesses of some Australians for profit.
I wish to place on record the appreciation of the Commonwealth Government for the major contribution made by the Royal Commissioner, Mr Justice Williams, and for the way in which he has carried out this important national task and to express also the Government’s thanks to all those who have assisted Mr Justice Williams in his inquiry and in the production of this major and important report. I present the following paper:
Drugs- Report of Royal Commission of InquiryMinisterial Statement, 18 March 1980.
Motion (by Mr John McLeay)- by leaveagreed to:
Motion ( by Mr John McLeay) proposed:
That the House take note of the papers.
– The Australian Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs has reported to the Parliament. There are five volumes, some 1,700 pages and some 246 recommendations. It required 2Yi years of inquiry to present this report to the Parliament and the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) attended to this most exhaustive and comprehensive investigation into a most vexing problem in the community in a little over 10 minutes. That is totally unsatisfactory. It is like trying to cook an elephant in a crock pot; it just will not do. What is going to happen, I expect, is that this report will go on to the Notice Paper. It will join 43 other papers, reports and statements but it will go to the bottom. It will go to the bottom of a Notice Paper which, by tomorrow, will have some 80 items listed on it, the debates upon which have yet to be completed in this Parliament. This inquiry, which dealt with one of the most important issues and one of the most disturbing concerns in the Australian community, has received nothing more than perfunctory attention by the Minister today.
I acknowledge the problems that the Minister has. The report which consists of five volumes, 1,700 pages, 246 recommendations and 2V4 years of inquiry, is more compendious than a Sydney telephone book. But, surely, we could have had something more substantial than the superficial, the once-over-lightly approach of the Minister today. There was nothing affirmative in what he had to say in the course of his statement. For instance he said:
The Government supports in principle the establishment of a national system of criminal drug intelligence centres . . .
What does that mean? The Minister said also:
The Government supports the concept of a comprehensive national strategy on drugs.
What does that mean? He continued:
The Government agrees, in principle, with other recommendations in the report relating to health matters.
And on and on it goes. It is like a dubious declaration of commitment to the principle of motherhood. It says nothing and it might in fact be a shroud for a wish to do very little. It concerns the Opposition that this matter will go on to the Notice Paper and like so many other matters which go on to the Notice Paper it may well become becalmed and forgotten forever when in fact there needs to be an extensive debate on the topic. When I say ‘an extensive debate’ I mean one that is not limited to 15 minutes a speaker from each side nor one that restricts the number of debaters who participate in the discussion on this important matter. The purpose of the Government ought to be to extract as much bipartisanship as it can in discussion on this matter, as much bipartisanship as it can in pressing home as successfully as possible the fight against the illicit drug trade in this country. When one reads as much as one can of the report- I acknowledge there are limits as to how much one can read of the report in the two hours during which the five volumes have been available to me- one finds oneself enormously disturbed at the serious deficiencies which were rampant in the administration of the anti-drug effort of the Government.
Let me deal with coastal surveillance as one matter which is treated in five paragraphs of comment by the Minister in spite of the fact that this topic was dealt with in over 100 pages of discussion in the report of the Royal Commissioner, Justice Williams. Let me place on record now my commendation of the sterling services that Justice Williams has contributed to the community in his report. He has been extraordinarily diligent. He has been exploratory in a wide range of detail and he has produced what appears to be a comprehensive, exhaustive report on the matters which he has dealt with. That is not to say that one would want to endorse every conclusion he has reached, but there are not many that one is not impressed by and those that one has a reservation about are the sorts of matters on which one feels there is a need for more discussion. That is why it would be most unfortunate if this issue was not opened up to wide debate in the Parliament. It deserves at least as much attention by this Parliament as did the repeated initiation of debate on the Afghanistan situation, initiation of debate by the Government in the previous three-week sitting. This is a continuing war and it is a moral imperative for the community. A testing of the feeling of the members of the Australian community will reveal that they are more alarmed about this mat’ter than they are about any other matter.
Coastal surveillance, the frontline defence of this country in combating the illicit drug trade, is clearly a front line defence with gaping holes. Let me give the House some quotes of the black comedy that is associated with the way in which the Government had been administering coastal surveillance. Before I do so let me indulge in some gentle irony in quoting what the Minister said in his statement to the Parliament. Under the heading ‘ Coastal Surveillance ‘ he said:
These are - he was talking about the recommendations in this area- in accordance with the underlying philosophy of the present Australian Coastal Surveillance Organisation.
Many of the recommendations reflect established practice in arrangements for civil coastal surveillance.
It sounds beaut. It sounds as though we have an effective, efficient organisation. Let me measure the effectiveness and efficiency of it from page B357. I quote
But perhaps the most dramatic illustration of the alleged inadequacy of the current level of surveillance of Australia ‘s coast was given by a senior police officer in confidential evidence in Brisbane in December 1978:
The answer he gave to the Commission: … A Taiwanese fishing boat went up the Brisbane River just some months ago. It went past the quarantine station. It went past the Navy and Customs offices and it went past the Water Police station, but was sighted up the river and that is when the alarm went up. It was stopped up near the Toowong Reach.
If it had been up much further it would have been tied up at the waterworks, the headwaters of the Brisbane River. The quote continues: (Question) Where was it going? . . . (Answer) It had sailed right around the top from Darwin, and using a school book atlas, fished all the way on the maps that he had in his atlas showing good fishing spots, and they lived on board. It took them about three months.
At page B435 it reads:
It is the view of the Commission that the present effort in respect of coastal surveillance as to drugs is inadequate and misdirected. The majority of detections have been fortuitous or as a consequence of a source of information unrelated to coastal surveillance.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was making the point that contrary to what had been said by the Minister for Health and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, who implied that the findings of the Williams Royal Commission of Inquiry into Drugs was fairly much on a parallel with what the Government was already doing in regard to matters such as coastal surveillance, in fact the report made it clear in its findings that there were grave deficiencies in coastal surveillance. To make the point more sharply, there is clear evidence from the report that the general administration of the fight against the illicit drug trade in Australia was foundering badly. The only conclusion one can draw is that there was massive ineptitude on the part of the Minister who had been responsible for the administration of this area of public responsibility; that is, the present Minister for Education (Mr Fife). One can only hope that he does nowhere near the same amount of damage to educational administration in this country as he has done to the general administration of the anti-drug fight in Australia.
The point I was making was in relation to quotations from the Williams report which make it abundantly clear that the Government has failed, and failed dismally, in what must be regarded as the front line defence of Australia in its anti-drug fight, that is, coastal surveillance. I cited how Taiwanese in a fishing boat had been able to come around Australia from the north west, using a school atlas, and to go right up the Brisbane River for several miles before actually being detected. Let me go on to make another point about this, but before doing so I remind the House that during my observations the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister objected that I had been quoting him out of context when I quoted him as having said:
These are -
That is, the coastal surveillance findings- in accordance with the underlying philosophy of the present Australian Coastal Surveillance Organisation. Many of the recommendations reflect established practice in arrangements for civil coastal surveillance.
Quite clearly the findings were devastating of the Government’s administration in that area. He said, I repeat, that I was quoting him out of context. He suggested that I quote the following sentence from his speech:
They also indicate, however, areas for improvement, particularly in the further consolidation of the resources which support Australia ‘s civil coastal surveillance effort.
That is a dramatic understatement. I have already made two quotations from the report, but let me give a third to indicate just how dramatic that understatement is. It appears on page B436 of the report and states:
It would be fair to say that smugglers, whether of drugs or other commodities, have little to fear from the Customs fleet. This is perhaps best exemplified by the reference in that part of Chapter 3 dealing with the adequacy or otherwise of maintenance and equipment of Customs launches, which tells of a Customs launch recorded as having broken down 83 times in travelling from Eden to Brisbane. At no time was it able to get closer than 14 miles to the ship which it was sent to shadow.
So much for the Minister who saw himself as the Elliot Ness in the area of drug enforcement. One could make a great many quotations from this report to substantiate the view I am asserting, namely, that this report is a damning indictment of the ineptitude and of the crass incompetence of the former Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, now the Minister for Education, in his administration of this area. I ask leave of the House to have incorporated in Hansard a list of extracts from the report enumerating the evidence to support that assertion.
The documents read as follows-
Australia’s coastal surveillance was found to be ‘inadequate and misdirected’ allowing ‘considerable potential’ for smuggling.
Surveillance of Sydney Harbour was neglected and haphazard.
The extent of the problem was evidenced by a total of 109 unidentified sightings of aircraft in the last 2 years.
The majority of detections were considered ‘fortuitous’ or as a result of unrelated information given to coastal surveillance.
In the past 3 years, the Commission estimates, $4,500 million in drugs entered Australia with only less than 10 per cent being detected; 30 per cent of illicit drugs imported to Australia were dumped off the cost.
Australia’s customs fleet was in a ‘parlous’ state.
The Commission noted that smugglers ‘had little to fear from the Customs Fleet.
On one occasion a Customs launch broke down 83 times travelling from Eden to Brisbane yet at no time got closer than 1 4 miles from the ship it was shadowing.
Customs launches are not designed for patrol on the East coast south of Cairns or on the South or South West coast of Australia.
Sydney Harbour Customs fleet can’t even get through Sydney Heads except in ‘still millpond conditions ‘.
There are no patrols carried out off the New South Wales coast between Tweed Heads and Gabo Island with the exception of Port Stevens, Newcastle and Sydney Harbours.
In fact it was only in 1977 that Customs Launches for the first time in Customs history had travelled the full length of the New South Wales coastline.
There are 2,039 air strips in Australia within range of Bali, Dili and Port Moresby.
While there are 2,000 light aircraft in Australia capable of flying to South East Asia and land on unprepared stripsthere are 24,000 people licenced to fly them.
-The point which must be placed firmly on record is simply that this is a different situation from that of a police force. It is well established that police forces can and do claim- the tradition is that they are entitled to claim- independence from the general concept of ministerial responsibility for their actions and for the general functioning of their responsibilities. However the Bureau of Customs is a Public Service department directly under the administration of a Minister. The former Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs failed abysmally and disastrously, as the list which I have incorporated in Hansard shows, to ensure that the Australian community was protected from the illicit drug trade that affects this country. No one suggests that there should be perfection in prohibiting that trade; it is an extremely difficult trade to combat. But the indisputable fact is that, even allowing for that, the Minister fell far short of reasonable standards of diligence, oversight and competence in the discharge of his responsibilities. There can be no excuse, no justification, for such a gross dereliction of duty. The fact is that he has been shifted sideways from the ministry of Business and Consumer Affairs into the ministry of Education so that the heat will be taken off him. He was shifted sideways following disclosures in the interim Williams report which referred to the Narcotics Bureau and which showed its total incompetence and largely ineffective functioning. We have further evidence -
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! If the Leader of the Opposition has in mind to reflect on a member of this House, he is required to do so by substantive motion.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I am just telling you what the royal commission report finds. If you want to dispute the findings of the royal commission report, that is a matter for you. But in terms of what that report has found, the facts are indisputable. Let me move on to the preventive services, as they are called. Mack Sennett could have not written a more hilarious script. It is the comedy of black humour. We find in the report that customs surveillance functions at the Port of Darwin, for instance, operate only in office hours. At other ports, there is an honour system. A boat may berth and the master has 24 hours in which to declare that the boat has berthed and suggest that perhaps the Customs people might like to search the vessel. So we find a surprisingly green-eyed innocence on the part of the Government, with a presumption that the illicit drug trade in Australia functions in office hours and that drug traffickers cling to some sort of code of honour. That is sheer nonsense. It is like putting an alcoholic in charge of a brewery. No one will be reassured by that nonsense. Let me read to the House some of the findings in this area:
Elitism and rivalry between different groups seriously impeded efficiency.
Some officers who had developed expertise in the searching of maritime cargo and shipping would constantly find themselves transferred to Sydney Airport for duty.
On and on it goes. I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Let us enumerate in detail on the Williams’ findings in respect of this Government ‘s neglect of the drug problem.
The Preventive Service- Customs Department
Evidence showed the absence of centralised control was a serious disadvantage.
That bureaucractic jealousies were a serious hurdle.
Elitism and rivalry between different groups seriously ‘ impeded efficiency.
On some occasions certain preventive officers demonstrated not only a bitter resentment towards management but also towards other officers who have vitally concerned themselves with combatting drug smuggling.
There was no formal minimal educational requirement. There was no mandatory physical requirement.
There was a lag of two years before new recruits effectively went into action.
There was evidence that officers with preventive responsibility suffered from a lack of basic training.
Lack of adaptability and relative inexperience of preventive officers.
That relationships with the Narcotics Bureau were in serious disarray.
Widespread friction and open antagonism between preventive officers and Third Division officers, leading to considerable frustration.
Many senior customs officers felt that they were not gainfully employed.
Many officers were not gainfully employed and because of their age and physical disability incapable of coping with the rigours of shift work and the strain of related normal duties.
Some officers who had developed expertise in the searching of maritime cargo and shipping would constantly find themselves transferred to Sydney Airport duty.
Such routine anomalies lowered morale.
Screening of incoming passengers
Evidence was given that incoming passengers at Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport have been peaking up to 12,000 passengers an hour and that they were moved through so quickly that only cursory searches were made.
Although passengers wait up to 35 minutes to collect baggage the average search time was 47 seconds.
Evidence was also given that an extremely competent officer would need at least Vi an hour to make a thorough routine search.
There was also evidence that smuggling successes had resulted from cracking the Customs Code and that variation of coding was only reluctantly made because of possible confusion to staff.
There were serious loopholes where passengers could by-pass primary line barriers which were not constantly manned. Only 10-20 per cent of incoming air passengers baggage was thoroughly checked.
Unaccompanied baggage could by-pass normal airport checking systems.
Cruise ships were not often checked because they were regarded low risk.
Containerism presented perfect opportunities for the illegal importation of drugs.
Large narcotic seizures were made in cargo.
One officer in 1 978 said we have knowledge of commercial containers containing narcotics being used but lack the staff to follow-up on information.
The size of the cargo problem is evidenced by the fact that in 1976 more than 19 million tonnes of cargo arrived in Australia.
The Commission found that an honour system whereby ships captains only had to notify Customs of their arrival within 24 hours allowed a great opportunity for smuggling.
The best method of smuggling goods would be sailing into Sydney Harbour in a pleasure craft.
Tankers were considered a low risk and therefore not subject to checks.
The Royal Commission found that most of the big hauls were detected by specially trained sniffer dogs but they didn’t have sufficient kennels and were considered to live in ‘terrible conditions’.
Underwater search units only operated on a part-time basis.
In the Northern Territory the services were grossly inadequate. Evidence showed a lack of staff had led to rostering arrangements which meant there was no preventive cover between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays at airports.
-It is unfortunate that one has only 15 minutes to discuss this very important matter. Issues of basic rights are involved. They include proposals for the random searching of people by Customs officers; for access to taxation records; for the Reserve Bank of Australia to be pressed into service to divulge information which has been previously confidential; for articles going through the postal service to be intercepted; and for the authority for telephone tapping and bugging to be extended to State police forces. The last proposal was made in spite of the fact that the royal commission reported on pages B230 and 231 that it found quite incontestable evidence of corruption in police forces. The report states:
Areas of drug law enforcement in which police have been found wanting are:
Corruption . . . Concocting cases against offenders . . . and unnecessary roughness . . . failure to be seen to have dealt promptly and properly - (Extension of time granted). I am grateful to the House for the extension of time. Let me repeat undistracted that the finding was this:
Areas of drug law enforcement in which police have been found wanting are:
Corruption . . . Concocting cases against offenders . . . Unnecessary roughness . . . Failure to be seen to have dealt promptly and properly - ‘Propriety’ is the operative word-
With complaints made against police . . . Laxity of security . . . Stealing money from suspects.
That is the record which has been established by Mr Justice Williams in his inquiry into illicit drug trading in this country and things which are associated with it. In the course of it he reached that disturbing conclusion about the police forces. It is proposed, in spite of that, that nevertheless we should be reassured, that we should invest enough confidence in institutions and organisations, which are clearly falling far short of the reasonable minimum standards which the community would expect of them, to allow them to tap telephones, to extend the authority available to them to bug premises and to use eavesdropping devices.
We face a very difficult dilemma in this matter. On the one hand, no one wants to be soft on people who are engaged in the illicit drug trade. In fact, I think I speak for everyone in this House, indeed in the community, when I say that the harshest penalties would not cause me any undue concern for those people who want to trade in the death and destruction of otherwise decent people in the community. But this must be balanced also against a mature and concerned judgment about the fundamental, basic rights of the people in the community.
Given the findings of Mr Justice Williams in relation to police corruption- for instance, the fact that there is corruption, the fact that the police concoct cases and that they resort to other tactics which are inexcusable and far in excess of what the law would tolerate- how can we feel assured that this authority will not be abused and misused? These are matters which require a great deal of further consideration by the Opposition before we declare a firm commitment as to how far we are prepared to concede further authority, if indeed we are prepared to concede it, to the police forces. On the one hand we are worried about basic rights and on the other hand we are appalled at the findings of Mr Justice Williams in relation to the serious defects which are quite apparent within the administration of the police force as far as basic rights are concerned. What we are talking about are basic rights. If the police are corrupt, if they are resorting to thuggery, if they are stacking evidence and concocting it against people, how can we feel sure that they will not abuse authority extended to them in other areas? These are very important matters and ones which were not touched on at all by the Minister in the course of his statement to the House. Indeed in his statement he said:
Now, major recommendations of the Royal Commission ‘s report have been accepted in principle.
These are major recommendations. Have they been accepted in principle? If so, I am quite justified in expressing my concern, as I did in my comments before the suspension of the sitting, that we are told so little, that we are told in nonaffirmative ways that the Government is committed in principle, that it endorses the general propositions put forward, without any detail being given. All of those things which I have outlined trangress basic attitudes about the rights of people in the community, such as the random searching of people. Regardless of who they happen to be, regardless of how decent and respectable they happen to be, regardless of the fact that they are just ordinary folk out of the suburbs who would never in a lifetime transgress the law, they are likely to be subjected to the indignity of a random search.
Taxation records are to be accessible to authorities; the Reserve Bank is to be converted into a source of information; postal services are to be opened up to various agencies; there will be an extension of the telephone tapping authority and of the authority in relation to eavesdropping devices to State police forces. Let the case be established beyond any doubt before we go that far. I repeat that we have no tenderness for the people who are engaged in this illicit trade for profit, but at the same time we have a concern- I believe it is a justfiable one- to protect basic rights. These things have been brushed to one side.
There are other matters which have been scarcely looked at, such as the fact that an extensive discussion has taken place in relation to the movement of drugs from various parts of the world, mainly in our own region, into New Zealand and then into- Australia. There are proposals- they will have far-reaching implications- that in future New Zealanders should have to travel on a passport when coming to Australia. There is no attention to this proposed departure from a very important and long-established practice with a very close friend and neighbour of ours. I find that incomprehensible. The Minister’s statement makes no reference at all to the finding of Mr Justice Williams that some doctors are abusing prescribing practices so that in fact addictive drugs are being obtained by people who should not be obtaining them.
Let me raise another aspect of the unsatisfactory nature of the statement to the House by the Minister. One of the key thrusts of the report is the proposal that forensic laboratories be set up in Australia. The Minister said that this is something that will be looked at in June, that it will be discussed with the Commonwealth-State Ministerial Police Advisory Council at its inaugural meeting. What he neglected to say, however, was that in 1 974 a report was made to the Parliament entitled ‘National Forensic Institute: Report of the Committee of Inquiry’. That report was cast to one side following the advent of the present Government in 1975; the report has been collecting mildew ever since. What is indisputable is that the Government had no intention then of following up the findings of a report in relation to the need for a national forensic institute, a national forensic laboratory, to be established in Australia to assist not only in this area but also generally in the area of law enforcement and crime detection and prevention.
The way in which this matter is being shoved to one side, the way in which the very important issue- it is a substantial matter- of the consideration of coastal surveillance is being deferred by the Minister until 1981 is evidence in my view that the Government intends to put on the nevernever, to defer as long as it can, in order to avoid the discharge of its proper responsibilities, so many of the crucial issues which form the key to the success of a whole set of commendable proposals which have come forward from Mr Justice Williams.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr Corbett) adjourned.
Discussion of Matter of Public Importance Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER-Mr Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to establish land rights for Pitjantjatjara people in South Australia and Noonkanbah people in Western Australia.
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-
-Mr Deputy Speaker, this matter of public importance is directed at the failure of the Government and the Minister -
Motion (by Mr Thomson) put:
That the business of the day be called on. The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr P. C. Millar)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 February, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence to suggest that the House have a general debate covering this Bill and the Customs Amendment Bill 1980 as they are associated measures. Separate questions will, of course, be put on each of the Bills at the conclusion of the debate.
-Order! The level of conversation is too high. I ask honourable members to remain silent. On the premise that the House actually heard the Minister put the proposal, is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering the two measures? I will allow that course to be followed.
-Both the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill and the Customs Amendment Bill relate to the imposition of an export duty on uranium concentrate produced from the Alligator Rivers region of the Northern Territory. This duty is to be levied at a rate of 1 lc per kilogram and the revenue obtained is to be used to help meet the cost of environmental protection in the region. The Opposition is opposing this legislation not because of the specific provisions contained in the Bills but because it believes that a wait-and-see approach should be adopted towards the development of Australia’s uranium resources. We are not opposed to the principle that uranium producers should contribute significantly to the cost of environmental protection but we do object to -
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat. The level of conversation of the House is too high. The honourable member for Blaxland has the right to address the House in silence, as does every other honourable member. I ask honourable members not wishing to remain to vacate the chamber quickly.
– But we do object to the Government’s whole approach to uranium mining in this country. It is pressing rapidly ahead with uranium developments contrary to the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry and undeterred by the need to find solutions to the problems associated with the nuclear fuel cycle. Mr Deputy Speaker, what about sending some of the clowns on the other side out of the chamber?
-Order! The honourable member for Blaxland will resume his seat.
– I take a point of order. Mr Deputy Speaker, microphones on the front bench are not working. Will you please arrange for us to hear?
-Perhaps the people in the control booth are alert to the fact that the microphone before the honourable member for Blaxland does not appear to be activated.
– The Australian Labor Party on the other hand has taken a responsible approach to these matters and recognises the need to find adequate solutions. Since 1 977 we have a clearly defined policy with respect to the mining and export of uranium- a policy which has been articulated often. Briefly, it states that a future Labor government will not permit uranium mining or export until the problems evident in the nuclear industry have been resolved to the satisfaction of the party. This policy is sound and reflects the growing concern within the Australian and international communities towards the nuclear industry. Since the adoption of this policy, little has happened in the international sphere to justify changing it, and nothing done by this Government indicates that uranium mining should proceed in its current fashion.
Nothing significant has happened in the area of waste disposal, for instance. The recently completed two-year international fuel cycle evaluation study established by President Carter has made it clear that vitrification of high level waste is not in commercial operation and that waste disposal has not even been tried. No repositories for the storage or disposal of solidified high level liquid waste have yet been developed. Even the Government’s own Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council pointed out in November last year that: the storage or disposal of solidified high level wastes in repositories in deep geological formations on land is unlikely to be undertaken even on a pilot scale, for at least 10 years.
Despite this, the Government is not concerned. It has sought to wipe its hands of the waste issue, declaring that this is a responsibility of consumer countries. Similarly, little progress has been made in the area of nuclear non-proliferation. The INFCE report- that is, the international fuel cycle evaluation report- found that technical measures have only a limited influence on reducing the risk of proliferation. The onus therefore must fall on governments to safeguard against the diversion of nuclear fuels. The Fraser Government has made virtually no progress in this area. The safeguards agreements that it is pursuing are far from adequate. They are so cumbersome that they are likely to collapse under their own weight. The Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) has demonstrated in his answers to questions his incompetence and inability to handle or even to understand the issues involved in safeguards agreements.
More evidence is also coming to light confirming the health hazards from both uranium mining and nuclear power. The United States National Academy of Sciences has recently reported that even low levels of radiation are harmful, also that with the current plans, nuclear reactors in the United States will have caused 2,000 cancer related deaths by the year 2000. The safety of the industry is also in question. Last year’s Three Mile Island accident brought this point home. President Carter’s commission on the accident has recommended a halt in the construction of nuclear reactors until its recommendation for improved safety has been adopted. The commission has warned that fundamental changes have to occur in the way reactors are constructed, operated and regulated. It has also warned that even with these changes there is no guarantee that there will be no serious future nuclear accidents. One catastrophic containment breach in a closely settled area will virtually finish the nuclear industry for good. The future of nuclear power is contingent upon an unblemished safety record.
Despite all this, the Fraser Government pushes ahead with uranium exports. It ignores all these problems. Instead, it is going to collect a miserable 11c a kilogram from uranium producers. This is its entire contribution to the solving of the problems of the nuclear fuel cycle. The Government’s whole policy is directed towards rapid development of the uranium industry; development that must be based upon growth in the nuclear industry. Let us look at the state of the nuclear industry. It is in a malaise and is facing a grim economic and political future. A recent report on the inability of the industry argued that unless substantial political and economic changes occur in the next five years, four of the world’s major reactor manufacturers will be forced to withdraw from the market and another two will follow in the late 1980s. The report went on to point out that in the worst case scenario, the collapse of these companies would threaten the viability of nuclear power world-wide by the early 1990s.
Estimates of future nuclear capacity are continually being revised downwards. The International Energy Agency has cut its estimates of expected capacity in 1985 from 610 gigowatts in 1975 to 220 gigowatts in 1978. No nuclear reactors have been ordered in the United States in the last two years. In 1979, eight orders were cancelled and nine were deferred. France was the only Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development country which ordered any plants last year. None of the major nuclear countries- the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany or Italy- ordered any nuclear capacity in 1979. Germany’s long standing nuclear stalemate is no closer to resolution. Sweden intends to make nuclear power the subject of a referendum in 1980. Switzerland has passed a referendum requiring a national inquiry to determine whether future electricity requirements could be provided by non-nuclear means. This Government has ignored the state of the international nuclear industry in its uranium policy. This downturn in world nuclear demand has damaged the prospects for the sale of Australian uranium. Despite this, the Government has chosen to ignore the recommendations of the Ranger inquiry on the development of uranium mines in Australia. One of the most significant recommendations of the Inquiry was- and I quote:
That construction of mines in the region (the Alligator Rivers Region) be commenced sequentially at appropriate intervals.
This Government has no intention that such development should occur sequentially. Approval has already been given for the development of Ranger, Nabarlek and Yeelirrie. The Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) has indicated that the Government intends to proceed with approval for the development of the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits. At this pace, by the mid-1980s, Australian uranium production is likely to exceed 10,000 tonnes per annum. Where is this uranium to be sold? Only one contract has been signed since 1972. This is only for the sale to Korea of 2,500 short tons over a nine-year period. Japan, Australia’s largest customer for raw materials and biggest potential customer for uranium, has already secured a supply of uranium sufficient to satisfy its existing and planned nuclear requirements to 1990. This supply period will be extended if Japan’s planned rate of nuclear installation contracts further.
The Australian Atomic Energy Commission predicted in 1974 that world demand for uranium in 1985 would be about 1 15,000 tonnes. In its 1978-79 annual report, this estimate has been decreased to 44,000 tonnes. I will just repeat that-from 1 15,000 to 44,000 tonnes. On the basis of expected world uranium production capacity this will mean a surplus of over 30,000 tonnes a year by the mid-1980s. The Government should realise that whilst it is stressing the size of uranium investments it is creating a situation where in a few years time our supply capacity could greatly exceed demand. This would have a marked consequence for the industry. No concern is shown for the commercial risks associated with uranium mining, let alone any of the other major risks. A government committed to the development of uranium should develop sensible policies and face up to the realities of the international uranium market. Instead, the present Government shows scant concern about the industry and is one-eyed about the development. It justifies the need for uranium mining on the grounds that it will contribute greatly to employment, but permanent jobs in the industry will be few and will require investment of around $650,000 to $700,000 per job. Even if all four Northern Territory deposits and Yeelirrie in Western Australia were developed to maximise output they would employ just over 2,000 people.
– This could not happen before the mid-1980s. It is a very small employment base.
-If the honourable member for Holt wishes to speak he has only to put his name down on the speakers list and he will get the opportunity to do so. In fairness to the honourable member for Blaxland, who is giving quite an intelligent speech to this House, he should be heard in silence.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, you are very discerning. One of the major arguments advanced for the sale of Australian uranium is that this will contribute significantly to solving the energy crisis. But the present contribution by nuclear power is small. At the moment it represents only 3 per cent of world energy requirements and 12 per cent of total power demand. It is worth repeating those figures. Nuclear power represents 3 per cent of world energy requirements and 12 per cent of total power demand. Yet the economic, environmental and political burden of this technology is immense. Nuclear power is dangerous. Whilst coal and oil also pose problems, nuclear power is unique in that it threatens future populations. The nuclear debate has been conducted against the background of total energy sufficiency. Emphasis has always been placed upon the supply side, with conservation receiving only lip service. It is now believed that the industrialised world is using 30 to 40 per cent more energy than is necessary to maintain the same levels of output. Living standards could be maintained with the current emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation without resort to nuclear power.
The Australian Labor Party’s uranium policy begs a continuing assessment of the state of the nuclear industry, particularly with respect to waste disposal and nuclear proliferation. In the unlikely event that the rate of installation of nuclear capacity rises markedly during the mid to late 1980s, it would be demonstrated that the moratorium approach would have failed to curb nuclear growth. Conversely, if nuclear power continues to languish during this period, as is now the case, then the environmental concern will have triumphed. Only time will tell. Time is on our side. In the meantime, the same emphasis must be directed towards obviating the need to rely upon the dangerous technology of nuclear power and to deal with the unresolved problems which attend the existing nuclear structure. For these reasons, the Opposition cannot support the legislation which is premised on the rapid development of Australia ‘s uranium resources.
-I support the Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill. The purpose of this legislation is to introduce an export duty on uranium concentrate produced from uranium ore mined in the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory. It is interesting to note the background of this legislation. The position of Supervising Scientist and the Co-ordinating Committee and the Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute were established under the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Act 1978 to monitor, research and control the effects of uranium mining in the region. In addition, research and monitoring of the environmental effects of mining uranium is undertaken by the Northern Territory departments and authorities.
Under the Memorandum of Financial Understanding signed on 1 July 1978 by the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments, the Commonwealth has undertaken to reimburse the Northern Territory Government for additional capital or other expenditure incurred when carrying out environmental regulatory services on behalf of the Commonwealth. The cost of these services being carried out by the Northern Territory Government on behalf of the Commonwealth is estimated to be of the order of $3m per annum. This estimate includes initial capital costs of monitoring equipment, and the establishment of laboratories as well as operating costs. Expenditure by the Office of the Supervising Scientist and associated bodies amounted to $85,603 in 1977-78 and $809,980 in 1978-79. The budgeted estimate for 1979-80 is $1,913,000. These figures cover both the capital and the current expenditure. On current estimates of exports of uranium concentrate, it is expected that the proposed duty will raise about $945,000 in the next three years. This amount is expected to rise by approximately $lm per annum when the four mines in the Alligator Rivers Region are in full production. This will meet approximately one-fifth of expenditure undertaken by the Commonwealth Government.
The main provisions of the Bill concern clause 4, which defines the Alligator Rivers Region uranium concentrate. Clause 5 imposes the export duty on that uranium concentrate so defined. Sub-clause (2) of clause 5 exempts producers of uranium concentrate from payment of the duty if the concentrate is loaded or has commenced loading before the date that this legislation receives royal assent. Clause 6 sets the rate of export duty at 1 lc per kilogram of anhydrous triuranium octoxide contained in the concentrate. Sub-clause (2) of clause 6 describes the way in which the weight of the anhydrous triuranium octoxide is to be ascertained. According to Statement No. 3 in the Budget Papers of 1979-80, a total of $5.2m is set aside in the 1979-80 Budget for environmental protection of the Alligator Rivers Scheme, Northern Territory. This amount is comprised of $ 1 .9m for the activities of the Supervising Scientist and the Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute and $3.3m for reimbursement of the Northern Territory Government for environmental regulatory services. The Government’s decisions in respect of environmental protection of the region have been based on the Ranger inquiry recommendations and have been set down in the uranium kit of 1977 entitled ‘Uranium- Australia’s Decision’, and in the ministerial second reading speeches for the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill 1978, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill 1978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978.
Major elements in the Government’s scheme under this legislation are, firstly, the office of the Supervising Scientist; secondly, the Coordinating Committee; and thirdly, the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service. The Supervising Scientist, Mr R. M. Fry, is based in Sydney, as is the main laboratory of the Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute. Mr Fry is an expert in the environmental health field. There is also a field laboratory near the Ranger site. The work of the Institute is inter-disciplinary, covering scientific fields such as aquatic and terrestrial biology, water quality, bio-assay, hydrology and environmental modelling. Scientists of the Institute are establishing environmental base line data, formulation of standards and the design of monitoring programs. The Supervising Scientist is directly responsible to the Minister for Science and the Environment for co-ordinating and supervising uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region.
The direct control and regulation of uranium mining are undertaken by various bodies of the Northern Territory Government. For example, the Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy and the Department of Health jointly ensure that the mining companies adhere to the 1975 Code of Practice on radiation protection in the mining and milling of radioactive ores which was fully approved by the Ranger Committee of Inquiry. It is planned that some 70 or more officers of the Northern Territory Government will be involved in the regulation of uranium mining. The Northern Territory Government has already enacted legislation dealing with water, soil, radiation and general aspects of uranium mining. The Co-ordinating Committee assists the Supervising Scientist in his function of protecting the environment in the Alligator Rivers Region. The Committee is presided over by the Supervising Scientist when he is present and includes the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and representatives from the Northern Territory regulatory bodies just referred to. The Supervising Scientist and the Co-ordinating Committee were specifically recommended by the Ranger Committee of Inquiry.
It is quite evident that every aspect of environmental protection in the mining of uranium is being covered. We are in the nuclear age whether we like it or not. In Australia we are very fortunate to have 25 per cent of the world’s known yellowcake. Members of the Government back benchers Trade and Resources Committee visiting mining areas in Western Australia and the Northern Territory feel that there are considerably more yellowcake fields to be found in Australia. We should be taking advantage of this natural abundance of a fuel which is very important in the energy world today. We should be mining, milling and marketing our uranium before it is too late. As has been mentioned by me on many occasions, we have markets for our yellowcake all over the world. We can sell our yellowcake to Canada, to the United States, to Great Britain, to West Germany, to France, to Japan and many other countries. All these major countries have nuclear warheads. So why do we not sell our yellowcake to them? They will get it somewhere else if they do not get it from Australia. We do not require uranium for our own energy sources in Australia. We have an abundance of coal and our future lies in the generation of electricity from the great coal deposits that we have not only in New South Wales in the Hunter Valley which I have the honour of representing in this Parliament but also in the Bowen Basin in Queensland. We want this coal to provide energy by way of electricity so we should be marketing our yellowcake to great economic advantage to Australia.
The honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) mentioned the near tragedy of the Three Mile Island incident in the United States of America. The prevention of a tragedy there indicated to us how good technical know-how is today. The nuclear technical men arrested the problem there to the advantage of all concerned. This indicates that the technical know-how is first class in this field. We know that spent fuel is a problem but ways of using this spent fuel are in operation today. It is being used for superphosphate and certain chemicals. There is no doubt that in the near future ways and means will be devised whereby all spent nuclear fuel can be used to the benefit of mankind. In the mining of yellowcake in Australia there has not been one loss of life. It is a safe industry, mostly using bulldozers and modern equipment. There has not been one known loss of life in the whole nuclear industry in the United States of America.
– Ha, ha, ha!
– That is true. The honourable member cannot point to any. The United States of America Navy has been nuclear powered for the past 23 years. There has been no problem and no loss of life in those fields. It has been mentioned that people are dying from cancer as a result of contacting yellowcake and uranium. Cancer is a dreaded disease and unfortunately 1 7 per cent of the deaths occurring in this country are by reason of cancer, but none of these deaths can be connected with contact with yellowcake or uranium. I suggest that these stories that are coming out from the United States and other parts of the world suggesting that cancer deaths are caused by contact with yellowcake and uranium are not correct. Scientists have informed us to this effect.
– It is just propaganda against it.
– It is absolutely propaganda against the industry. Another very important matter in the nuclear field as far as we are concerned is that in the next six or seven years we will face a great shortage of liquid petroleum in Australia. Unless new finds are located in the very near future we will be faced with a very great problem in meeting our overseas payments because we will have to import more liquid fuels. The export of our yellowcake overseas could provide us with sufficient funds to keep importing liquid petroleum which is so necessary in the automotive and many other fields. It is strange that opposition to the nuclear industry in Australia is found in the Australian Labor Party. I do not know why it does not want to get on with the development of this great industry. We are having problems with the Aborigines, the dogooders and the environmentalists. This Government is concerned with the environment, and this legislation which we are considering here tonight indicates that great concern.
In our travels throughout Australia we have seen the responsible action of the mining companies. They have restored the earth, in most instances, to a more satisfactory state than prior to the mining of the minerals. This is good to see, and this legislation will provide further safeguards of this kind, particularly in the uranium field. Unfortunately, at present export of yellowcake in any quantity is from only the Mary Kathleen company in Mount Isa. This yellowcake is going out of Australia without any fuss or problems at all because the trade union people in that city want to preserve their jobs. Many of them are employed in the Mary Kathleen mines. So why not let this Government get on with the mining, milling and marketing of uranium to the great economic advantage of this country and to no disadvantage to anyone else.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to start by briefly commenting on what the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) said. He said that we must sell our uranium before it is too late. Every honourable member and everybody listening in tonight should ask: Why? Why should we worry about it being too late? Let us look at the facts. The facts are that we have about 20 to 25 per cent of the uranium resources of the Western world, not of the whole world. We have something like 60 to 70 per cent of the uncommitted contracts. That is a fact of life. If our uranium is such a valuable thing, and there is real faith and future in the uranium industry, why is there a hurry to sell it? We could leave it in the ground.
Because of economic resources of our uranium, its quality and its location, at any time it can be exploited more cheaply than uranium in North America. We ask ourselves: Why does the honourable member for Paterson, who represents mining interests here, say that we have to sell it before it is too late? The real truth is- I will reveal the figures later- that the nuclear power industry is extremely sick economically. Under the system of capitalism, unless there is growth, it will die. The international fuel cycle evaluation, which is a study that was carried on for two years under an international authority, found that there was no solution to the waste problem, no solution to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and no solution to the problem of safety of nuclear power stations at this stage. That was the evaluation after two years. The sad situation is that for too long we have relied on and trusted the experts. All I ask people to do is to read the first and second Fox reports on the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.
I can clearly state that the information made available is so challenging that the Government will never stand up and discuss in depth the real issues. Therefore, the Opposition opposes these
Bills before the House. We have consistently opposed other Bills whose purpose it was to allow mining and export in the Australian uranium industry. The Opposition’s view is that there are many serious unresolved problems associated with uranium mining and the nuclear power industry. Until these problems are resolved, we will oppose the mining of uranium and its commitment to the world nuclear fuel cycle. As I said earlier, there is the question of waste. The United States of America, the wealthiest nation in the world, has 74 million gallons of toxic nuclear waste which it does not know what to do with.
On the question of the spread of nuclear weapons, we knew when the Ranger report was developed that India had got the bomb by stealth. Since that time we have learnt that South Africa and Israel have also obtained the bomb by stealth. And now it is pretty sure that Pakistan will have the bomb by stealth. When is this madness going to end? This Government has been entering into contracts with some of the most unstable governments in the world. For instance, the only uranium contract it has entered into since 1972 is with South Korea. Soon after entering into the contract, South Korea’s President was assassinated. South Korea is controlled and governed by martial law. Other countries with which the Government has entered into agreements include the Philippines, and it was on the verge of an agreement with Iran prior to the Shah’s abdication. It is very disturbing to note that the governments of certain countries with which it is having discussions and seeking arrangements are unstable and should not be given our uranium. In turn, nuclear power stations will be created and part of the waste that comes therefrom will be in the form of plutonium, which can be used in the creation of nuclear weapons. That is the great threat to mankind.
This legislation, like the many previous statements and bills on uranium that have been presented by the Fraser Government to the Parliament, does not resolve these serious problems to which I have just referred. The Government continues to ignore the important moral questions concerning what is to happen to nuclear waste, with its dangers for thousands of years to come, and the threat of nuclear war- the most serious of all of the problems that are associated with the nuclear industry. These concerns are held by many in the Australian community, yet the Government continues to ignore them.
We oppose this legislation because it is nothing more than another part of the extensive government machinery that is designed to clear the way for uranium mining. If we examine it we can see clearly that it is the public that pay for that machinery. We begin to get an idea of the extent of the public subsidies that will be contributed to the uranium mining industry. Subsidies are paid in respect of many other mining industries, but it is particularly true of this industry. The purpose of these two measures is to impose an export duty on uranium exported from the Alligator Rivers Region.
The Minister says that the purpose of the levy is to obtain a contribution from the uranium mining companies to meet the costs of environmental protection in the Alligator Rivers Region. He estimates that the revenue from the duty will amount to some $945,000 over the next three years. If we consult this year’s Budget Papers we find that that sum falls far short of the cost of environmental protection in the Alligator Rivers Region. These costs were $ 1.72m in 1978-79 and are estimated at $4.7m in 1979-80. In addition, there were capital costs of $0.28m in 1978-79 and these are estimated at $0.46m in 1 979-80.
The Minister argues that as production and exports reach planned levels the revenue will increase, but even then it will fall far short of the amount that is presently being spent by the Government on environmental protection. At planned levels of export the Government will have to spend much more just to maintain its present inadequate level of environmental monitoring and protection of the delicate region where mining takes place. When the Government steamrolls its changes to the Aboriginal land rights legislation and gives the go ahead to the massive and destructive Pancontinental project, which will create enormous additional demand for environmental protection, either the public will have to pay out even greater subsidies or environmental standards will drop even lower than their present abysmal level.
Let us consider how much revenue the levy would raise under the most buoyant market conditions. If, for example, Ranger were to produce and export 6,000 tonnes per annum, Nabarlek 1,050 tonnes and Pancontinental 3,000 tonnes, the levy would raise $ 1.1m each year. That represents less than a quarter of the present annual expenditure on environmental protection, for the Nabarlek and Ranger projects alone. Moreover, with the dire problems facing the nuclear industry we know that the market will be much tighter than that. In fact, the figures that I have just given are in the realm of fantasy. I repeat: The only contract that has been entered into so far is that with South Korea and it is a very small one indeed.
I should add that the figures as to the cost of environmental protection which I have taken from the Budget Papers are really an underestimate because additional public moneys are spent for this purpose through other channels such as the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The mining is to take place in the delicate Alligator Rivers area, in part of which the Kakadu National Park is being created. So we can see the real hypocrisy in this Government’s attitude towards expenditure in the public sector and government intervention in the market place. These expenditures on environmental protection in the Alligator Rivers Region are necessary for one reason only- because the uranium mining companies are trying to make a fast buck. The honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) said: ‘We must sell now before it is too late.’ I want that statement to ring in the ears of every one. Why the urgency now? That is what we have to keep on reminding people. Why such a hurry before all these problems have been resolved?
There is no case for charging anyone other than the uranium mining companies to meet the costs involved but the Government does not adopt that position. In fact at a time when it has cut back its environmental department to virtually nil and it has pulled out of any involvement in the protection of the environment of our cities, where most of our people live, all this money is provided to subsidise these mining companies. Subsidisation of the mining companies represents the only major area of real growth in the government’s environmental programs. So what is revealed is that the Government’s commitment to the environment amounts to nothing more than providing infrastructure for the mining companies.
Let us turn our minds again to the figures that I have cited from the Budget Papers on the cost of providing environmental protection in the Alligator Rivers Region. These figures are more significant for what they hide than for what they reveal because the costs involved go much deeper. How can we put a figure on the cost of destroying the beautiful and delicate environment of the Alligator Rivers-Kakadu National Park area? What is the cost of leaving this area scarred with waste rock piles, polluted creeks and radioactive tailings? How can we put a figure on the cost of exposing uranium miners or Aboriginal peoplewho take their food and water from the Magela catchment area- to increased levels of radiation that may cause cancer. These are the costs that are to be borne by the Aboriginal people in the
Alligator Rivers Region, indeed by all Australians including those of future generations who value this magnificent and sensitive environment. An area such as the Kakadu National Park is not only a national heritage; it is now a part of the world heritage.
One has only to go to the area to appreciate how sensitive it is to destruction, but the mining companies will go in there and rape it in order to try to make a fast buck. One has only to look at what happened at Rum Jungle as a result of the activities of Conzinc Rio Tinto. A study of the Budget Papers reveals that $300,000 was spent on rehabilitation. The Northern Territory authorities say that it will cost $14m to restore the area to its natural state.
When I was Minister for Urban and Regional Development we inherited the results of 20 years of procrastination on the part of the previous government which would not meet its commitments in respect of Captains Flat. When Labor was in government it met, at a cost of almost $2m, the commitment in respect of the Captains Flat tailings- in an endeavour to patch up the problems created by the mining companies of that time. What confidence can we have that in the Alligator Rivers Region the public will not again have to foot the bill? These are problems about which we must be concerned. We cannot trust the mining companies. We have to deal with them on the basis of their record, which has been a very bad one indeed.
If we look at the agreement between the Government and the Ranger partners we find that a security of $ 1.3m only has been provided for rehabilitation after that huge project has been completed. We may be sure that the Government will not be asking Ranger for more because it has been extremely soft in this respect hitherto. The Government will argue that Rum Jungle is in the past, that it will not happen again. That is what Senator Carrick said recently when Professor Kerr, speaking before a Canadian inquiry, drew attention to the pollution at Rum Jungle. The Government has said: ‘That is in the past. It will not happen again’. If we examine the record of the Government and the mining companies, and if we look at the second report of the Ranger Inquiry and the early promises of the Government, we see that there is reason not to have much confidence in this Government. The Government said that there would be codes of practice for uranium mining and transport. They were to cover mine and mill waste and the transport of radioactive materials, and a new health code was to be adopted. I ask the Minister: Where are these codes of practice?
Will he give us an answer in his reply? Where are these codes of practice which were promised nearly three years ago? Nabarlek has mined its ore; Ranger has been built: Yet the codes of practice which were to specify many features of the mining operations still have not been published.
The Ranger report recommends sequential development as one of the major planks of environmental protection. That has been torn out and has gone by the board as well. This has been rejected by the Government and it is itching to get the Pancontinental operation going even though there is opposition by the Aboriginal people. I say to the honourable member for Paterson that one of the peoples most opposed to uranium mining in this country is the Aboriginal people. It is their land. If honourable members look at page 9 of the second report of the Ranger Inquiry it can be clearly identified that the Aboriginal people are opposed to the mining of their land. Yet the honourable member for Paterson says that they are a problem. The Ranger report recommended that the best available technology for pollution control be used, but the Government sought to water down the proposals to get its own way. This is the whole basis of the concern that we must feel on this issue.
The Opposition wishes to draw the attention of the House to the demand for uranium and to the forecasts of the Western world ‘s future requirements for uranium made by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in each of the last five years. I ask leave to incorporate these forecasts in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– I thank the House. In this report it will be seen that there is a fall of more than 60 per cent in demand compared with the estimates of five years ago. This is why the honourable member for Paterson said that we must get on quickly with the job of selling uranium. If honourable members look at the whole basis of the world’s energy resources and the involvement in building nuclear power stations there is not much hope for the nuclear industry. Economically, it is dying. There are only a couple of countries that are continuing with nuclear power stations. I asked a question of the Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) to which I received a reply on 21 February 1980. Clearly set out in that reply are the problems with respect to nuclear power stations throughout the world. So that honourable members may examine it, I seek leave to have the question and answer incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows- (Question No. 5475)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development and Energy, upon notice, on 21 February 1980:
Is the Minister able to state how many nuclear power stations were (a) ordered, (b) cancelled and (c) deferred during 1979 in (i) Japan, (ii) the United States of America, (iii) the United Kingdom, (iv) France, (v) the Federal Republic of Germany, (vi) Canada, (vii) Italy and (viii) OECD countries, and in each case what was the generating capacity.
– The Minister for National Development and Energy has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Information on nuclear power stations ordered, cancelled and deferred during 1979 is not fully available. As at 28 February 1 980, the following data are to hand:
– If honourable members examine this answer, they will find that the United States had no new orders. Last year they cancelled eight orders and deferred six orders. France was the only country that had new orders; it ordered nine new plants. Might I say that France has an extremely autocratic government. There is very little public discussion of such matters. Currently there is a movement amongst the political parties. For instance, the Socialist Party, which is a party similar in makeup to ours, and the trade union movement are opposing this industry. Opposition to the nuclear power industry is growing right around the world. After the awful destruction caused by the nuclear bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki- which was a shock to everybody- in the early 1950s it was thought that there would be ‘atoms for peace’. Many people started to believe this slogan. As the matter has gone forward, no solution to overcome these unresolved problems has emerged. We have to be concerned not only with the waste problem and the proliferation of nuclear weapons but also about the genetic and biological effects of uranium. Unless the people of the world start to talk about the world as being ‘our world’ and ‘our future’ and until these problems are resolved the Opposition says: ‘Leave the uranium in the ground’. That is what we will do when we are in government. The Opposition will repudiate any commitment entered into by this Government.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– in reply- These Bills have afforded honourable members opposite an opportunity to go over the differences of view that exist in respect of the mining, development and export of uranium. I do not propose to contest again all those arguments. In fact these Bills were drawn rather more narrowly. I will take the opportunity of saying- and I do with all due acknowledgement to the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who has just resumed his seat- that the Opposition, with the leadership of the honourable member, attempted to make this a major issue at the last Federal election in 1 977. The fact of the matter is that it did not run and, therefore, I have confidence in saying that on this whole issue the public of Australia has already decided. In the case of the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) we heard a considered low key speech which carefully conformed with Labor policy, but at the same time contained a few hints of his own views. We have had the views of the honourable member for Reid which he has put to us many times before and which the Government does not accept.
The Government recognises that, as Australia has approximately 20 per cent of the uranium ore in the free world, we have an obligation to export uranium to those countries which need it. At this point Australia does not have a great need for uranium but many countries- particularly those that need heating in their houses for several months of the year; and that includes a good deal of the Northern Hemisphere- do need it. With the difficulties of oil supply, conversion to coal and general shortages there is not any question but that the world needs uranium. What has been put to us is that in spite of that need we should leave it in the ground. I would suggest that that is not reasonable, sensible or indeed responsible. We cannot speak of this matter as though it is something that can be decided in this Parliament. As was said by the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe), the world has decided in favour of generating nuclear energy. I do not have the exact figures but there exists somewhere between -
-It hasn’t been put to a referendum too often.
-No doubt the honourable member will have other opportunities to speak. Perhaps he will permit me to develop my argument. I do not have the exact figures here, but there exists in the world somewhere between 100 and 200 uranium nuclear plants generating electricity and an equal number- about 200- either in the course of construction or committed in planning. Many countries will need these plants. Japan is an obvious example. France and Belgium are countries that have made decisions in this regard. This is a fact and that situation exists. Yet we still have this argument from some people, led by the honourable member for Reid who has just spoken, that somehow we should divorce ourselves from this situation. I would remind the House that the Government has laid down the most stringent regulations and guidelines as to which countries will receive uranium. The questions of supply and safeguards have to be negotiated. Of course we will sell to no country that is not a signatory to the nonproliferation treaty. That is where we stand in this matter.
Incidentally, it ought to be recalled that the Labor Party is deeply divided on this issue. Honourable members will all remember the recent statements made by Mr Hawke and his attempts to change the policy of the Labor Party, in the teeth of opposition led by the honourable member for Reid. Indeed, I acknowledge the success of the honourable member who was the leader of the left wing of the Australian Labor Party and who succeeded in maintaining this impractical and rather pathetic stance of the Labor
Party, a policy which, I have no doubt, before very long will have to be changed.
I just take up two points which the honourable member made. He made some comment about codes not being developed. I am advised that there is a code on health and safety which is the law in the Northern Territory which is, of course, the subject area of the Bills. This code has been in operation in the Northern Territory for two years. But the honourable member, of course, does not like mining and does not like development not even when environmental preservation and repairs are to be affected. At the same time, of course, he will complain about unemployment. He does not want to see growth in this country. That is an underlying theme of his speeches.
These Bills, as I have indicated, are of a somewhat narrower compass. The fact is that as part of the arrangements made for the authorisation of mining of uranium in the Alligator Rivers Region of the Northern Territory, several activities were mounted to ensure the protection of the environment from the effects of that mining. These included the creation of the Office of Supervising Scientist, the establishment of an Alligator Rivers region research institute and an arrangement whereby the cost to the Northern Territory authorities of additional work involved in enforcing their environmental legislation is reimbursed. In the current fiscal year, the total expenditure on these activities is expected to be $5.2m. The Government agreed that a reasonable cost-sharing formula should be devised for the recovery from the mining companies of part of the costs of environmental protection. It was determined that the Government should meet half of the cost.
– Why do we subsidise only half?
– Clearly the Government came to a decision that this protection was part its responsibility and part the companies’ responsibility. I would have thought that was quite obvious. So the Government determined it would meet half the cost and it decided that to finance it, a levy of 1 lc per kilogram of U.0 which is the triuranium octoxide. the uranium ore involved and produced in the region and exported, would be the appropriate level. The procedure to impose and collect the levy is to be through the customs system; hence my involvement in it.
The Customs Tariff (Uranium Concentrate Export Duty) Bill when read with the Customs Act establishes the mechanism by which the material on which the levy is to be applied is identified. It sets the rate of levy and the method of its application. The Customs Amendment Bill contains small amendments to the Customs Act which are necessary to provide proper authority for the collection of the levy and to exempt agreements made for uranium shipments from the effective variations to the levy that are made subsequent to the agreements. The present indications are that the first exports of this ore, the
U3O8, from the region will occur in June- July of this year. If the levy is to catch the shipment the legislation will need to be in place by this time. That is the reason why the early enactment of the Bills is desirable. I commend the Bills to the House.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Mr V. J. Martin)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
-This seems to be the only opportunity to respond very briefly to the observations of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland). In the course of his reply to the second reading debate he referred to the remarks of the honourable member for Paterson (Mr O’Keefe) and said with respect to atomic energy that the world had already decided. In other words, it was a closed option; the world had already opted for the use of nuclear power. That really is not strictly the case. On the very few occasions when the issue has been put to the people for a vote the voting had either been very close in referenda or in those cases where elections have been fought on the issue it has been adverse to the Government. The only two cases recently in which there have been referenda on the issue of atomic power have, of course, been in Sweden and Austria. In each case the vote was against the use of atomic power, not by very much; by comparitively narrow margins. It grieves me to have to say that the political parties in Sweden and Austria that my party would be closest to have both been on the side of atomic power and it has been the side that perhaps honourable members on the other side of the chamber would have identified themselves with who voted against atomic power. I must say that in the case of those two states I am glad that the referenda were defeated.
– What about the Soviet Union?
-I will say that in the Soviet Union the issue has not, as I recall, been put to a referendum. When it is put to a referendum no doubt the honourable member for Perth will go over there campaigning for the Government and some of us might be over there campaigning for the other side. I simply say to the Minister that this is a debate by somnambulism. It is absurd. The statement is made: ‘Yes, the world has decided’. What that simply means is that a few people in positions of power make a decision of one kind or another and it is simply accepted willy-nilly by their communities because it is not put to a vote and there is no full and proper discussion on it. If the Government is serious in any belief in the principle of democracy, the principle of plurality and the principle that ideas have to be argued out and not accepted on a basis of blind faith then it ought to take on board the fact that when the two advanced, democratic societies have had a referendum the people in both countries have registered votes against atomic power. The Committee will note that there is another referendum coming up in Sweden in the next few weeks because there is a hope that the decision may be reversed. But do not run away with the idea that there is an automatic world wide acceptance of atomic power. There is not.
The other point that needs to be made is this: The Minister painted a picture, very commonplace, about people in the northern hemisphere shivering through the long winter and so on if they do not have Australian uranium. I draw the Committee’s attention to the answer that I received to a question on notice which appears in the Hansard of 14 November 1979 at page 3039. I asked the Minister for National Development:
Is he able to state what is the total annual per capita energy usage in (a) the United States of America, (b) the United Kingdom, (c) Australia, (d) Sweden, (e) France and (f) Canada.
The answer was:
The annual per capita energy usage figures for the following countries for 1 977 are based on energy consumption statistics provided by the B.P. statistical review of the world oil industry and are given in tonnes of oil equivalent.
France- 3.45. (0 Canada-7.53.
I am sorry that I did not add in that question a request for the Finland figures because they are really quite instructive. As I recall, the Finnish per capita consumption of energy is somewhat less than the Australian figure. Remember that a good deal of Finland is within the Arctic Circle and geographically it is very much more towards the colder region than Australia is. There is an automatic assumption that in a cold climate there will be a fantastic per capita energy consumption and therefore the people who live there cannot get along any way except by the use of uranium.
Honourable members opposite may choose to believe that if they wish, but it just is not so. The facts are quite different. In a sense every nation chooses its own pattern of energy usage. It is not something that is just left to the blind laws of nature. It is something about which the people do have the right to choose and they do in fact choose. The point is that Finland, for example, has historically opted for a low per capita energy usage but it has opted for an appropriate type of architecture for its houses, appropriate double glazing, appropriate use of insulation and so on to make sure it does not carry its energy around in a leaky bucket as it were. The people of Finland make the most of what they actually have and they do not throw it away. It is like a conditioned reflex to say that if people live in a cold climate of course there will be an enormous increase in the amount of energy usage.
The nation with the highest energy consumption in the world is, of course, the United States. But honourable members should know, if they are not already aware, that the area in the United States with the largest per capita consumption is California, as one might guess. California has a few elevated areas where it is cold but broadly speaking it has a mediterranean climate something like our own. The fact that California has a per capita energy usage that is about twice the rate in the rest of the United States is simply a matter of choice. That is the lifestyle the people of California choose. It is not forced on them by the environment. I think it is very dangerous if we fall into the trap of saying: ‘Look, it just has to be like that’. I also point to the French figure. France does have some areas that are rather cold, some areas that are rather elevated. But the French figure is really very low. It is only about one-third of the United States figure. The Australian figure is well down on the United States figure but our figure is well up on the United Kingdom figure. Is it suggested that Australia has problems of heating that are far more intricate than Britain’s? Is it suggested that Britain has a son of sub-tropical climate and Australia has a very cold one? Honourable members know that is just nonsensical. Yet the figures indicate that k the per capita energy usage in Australia is far higher than Great Britain’s. I think honourable members opposite are absolutely deluded over this.
There is a final point I want to commend to the Minister. A very worrying book on the misuse of uranium is a recent novel by Nicholas Freeling called Gadget which was published in 1979. It is a rather horrific story about an atomic engineer who is kidnapped by a group of terrorists and who is then given the appropriate ingredients of an atomic weapon and told to design a low-yield atomic weapon for use in political pressure tactics. At first, of course, he is repulsed by the idea, but after a while the sheer fascination of the task and the intellectual challenge posed by it overtake him. Of course, he does carry out his assignment, thinking that they will never do anything about it. But in fact they do. I believe it is a very dangerous area.
– On which clause are you talking?
-I wish that the honourable member would think instead of just shaking his head so that we can hear it rattle from this side of the chamber. This is the most important topic that will ever face this Parliament and honourable members ought to start thinking about it.
– I certainly compliment the honourable member for Lalor (Mr Barry Jones) on his ingenuity. But may I indicate that, whatever energy base countries start from, those which have a need for energy as a result of the growing shortage and cost of” oil have the alternative of consuming greater and greater quantities of coal, uranium, or both. Finland was one example to which the honourable member referred. I suggest that it is not a terribly good example for his case because that country has negotiated a supply of uranium from Australia. Clearly Finland feels colder and in need of this energy, even if the honourable member does not acknowledge it. In the first part of his remarks he questioned my statement that the world has decided in favour of uranium.
– Not when it comes to a referendum.
-The honourable member cited a couple of referendum results, but let us be practical about the matter. I argued that over 100 nuclear power plants are in operation.
– Yes, but who made the decision?
-I am talking about reality. Nearly 200 are either in the course of construction or are committed to be built. If that is not a growing demand, I do not know what is. If that is not the world’s having decided in favour of uranium, I do not know what the English language means.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 28 February, on motion by Mr Garland:
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
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 Garland) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 28 February, on motion by Mr Garland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The purpose of the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill 1980 is to enact changes in the excise tariffs on crude oil, saccharine and cyclamates and grape brandies to increase the excise on crude oil from $1 1.30 to $16.25 a barrel, to remove the $4.41 excise on saccharine and to decrease the excise on brandy from $18.75 to $16 per litre of alcohol. The collection of these excises was validated in legislation last year. At that time the Opposition’s views were also made clear. We are not opposed to the changes in relation to saccharine, cyclamates or brandy but we are opposed to the increase in the excise on crude oil, the reason being that the increase in excise on crude oil is the way in which the Government’s import parity oil policy functions. We are not opposing it because we are opposed to taxing oil producers but because we are opposed to the policy of import parity pricing. We are opposed also to the use of an inequitable and inefficient method of taxation.
The purpose of the Bill is to increase the crude oil excise from $1 1.30 to $16.25 a barrel, effective from 1 July 1979. Since then the excise has been increased to $22.27 a barrel, an increase which will reap the Government billions of dollars in extra revenue. The Opposition does not support this policy. Therefore, I move:
This Government makes the Australian consumers pay the same price for Australian oil as they pay for imported oil, and the levy is a mechanism for lifting the price to the world price or to the level which the Government determines from time to time to be world parity. It increases the price of Australian oil in line with the world price. The Government, not the Arab States, sets the price. The Government established this policy in the hope and belief that the Australian people would believe that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries fixes the price of Australian oil. Only the Australian Government can fix the price of Australian oil and it has established a linking mechanism which moves the price upwards when the OPEC states move their price, but the difference is collected by the Government as a tax.
The price increased by $5 a barrel in July last year and by a further $6 a barrel in January this year, and at present should be increased by at least $2 a barrel if the policy is to remain as the Government articulated it. The Government said that it would maintain import parity, which is essentially related to the Saudi Arabian market crude price which is now $2 a barrel more than the Government is presently charging. If we really want to do an analysis of import parity, we can see that one-third of Australia’s oil imports are purchased at around $30 a barrel. So the import parity price is not the $24.77 which the Government is presently charging for a barrel of oil in Australia but is really closer to $30. Even if the Government stuck with its own policy of taking the price to import parity, it would be $2 more than it presently is. Instead of being $24.77, it would be about $27.
The whole policy has led to a rapid increase in the price of ore fuels. Petrol prices have doubled in two years as a result of this policy. Avgas prices have doubled in 12 months. The price of liquid petroleum gas has trebled in 12 months. The list goes on. These price increases have ensured that Australia’s inflation rate has returned to double digits. The crude oil levy, or the Government’s petrol tax, has increased the Australian inflation rate by about 3 per cent and has taken us back to double digits. At the time of the next consumer price index announcement we will probably find that it is in excess of 10 per cent. One asks: Why does a government which is supposedly committed to anti-inflationary objectives follow a policy of funding its deficit with inflationary taxes? Simply, the Government believes that it was a quick and easy way of gathering significant funds to finance budgetary appropriations. This financial year the Government will collect $2,400m by way of the crude oil levy.
Most of the revenue from the oil price increase has gone to the Federal Government. Eighty-five per cent of the proceeds from the sale of Australian oil and 50 per cent of the price of a litre of petrol goes to the Government. Included in those figures are refining and other costs. As I said, this financial year the Government will collect $2, 400m from the petrol tax and a further $956m by way of an excise on refined products. That is the old pump tax, the tax which was always imposed on petrol and other petroleum products before the crude oil levy came into existence. So, if we add together the $2,400m from the crude oil levy and the $956m from the old pump tax we come up with some $3,400m, which means that that total oil and petrol revenue collection will be greater than the total company tax collections in the Commonwealth this financial year and will be equivalent to a 30 per cent increase in personal income tax collections.
If the Government were serious about the impost of taxation it would not contemplate such an increase in tax. Not only that, but the Government could not announce that it was putting up personal tax by the equivalent of 30 per cent. Such action would be prohibited by electoral consideration. But it has done it by a sleight of hand, by imposing a tax which is collected at the bowser. It has established a branch of the Taxation Office at every petrol pump in the country. The Government has blamed the Arabs when in fact it is the Government that has set the Australian oil price. Not one dollar of this revenue will be given to tax cuts in 1979-80. The public will remember the Treasurer (Mr Howard) making a statement in January that the Government would direct some of the $450m of extra levy collections resulting from the $6 a barrel OPEC increase to tax cuts. The tax cuts which were announced just a week or so ago will operate from 1 July. That means that, in all this financial year, that $450m which the Treasurer promised by way of tax relief will go straight to the Government’s coffers. That will go down as yet another broken promise by a Fraser Minister, by the Fraser Government. Tax relief was promised in the financial year 1979-80 out of the petrol tax income. None of it will be delivered. The miserable, paltry tax cut of 85 cents for the average family from 1 July will be more than made up by the extra tax on petrol which will begin from 1 July.
The Australian Government fixes the price of Australian oil on 1 January and 1 July, according to its policy. Even that is in some doubt. But on 1 July the price of Australian oil will rise again and the 85 cents will be automatically wiped out by an increase at least equal to $2 or $3 a week. Not only has the Government broken its promise by not giving any tax relief in this financial year but also the tax relief that it is going to give from 1 July will be wiped out by an increase in petrol prices at that time. At least the $2 increase which is in the system now will be passed on 1 July, but OPEC has a meeting in April and June. If there are increases in April and June under the Government’s policy, they too, plus the $2, will be passed on in July. The Government gets roughly $150m for every $1 increase in the oil price. If the oil price goes up by, say, $4 or $5 the Government will collect an extra $500m or $600m. So the 85 cents, the measly tax cut that the Government is to give, will be wiped out automatically by a higher oil price on 1 July. So much for tax reform, Fraser style! It is just illusory. We do not get what we have been promised. When we do get it, it is too small and will be wiped out by a higher oil price or petrol price anyway.
There is no justification for this tax on the basis of an energy policy. It is simply a taxation policy. It is tax by stealth. It is an indirect tax which does not assess the capacity of people to pay. Whether we earn $5,000 a year or $50,000 a year, we still pay 30 cents-odd a litre. Therefore the tax which is being levied is an iniquitous and unfair tax. It is not being levied on the basis of an energy policy. When the Government ran into flack over this policy, it tried to sell it as an energy policy. But not one dollar of this revenue will be spent on oil exploration. Not one dollar of the $2,400m collected from the crude oil levy will be spent on oil exploration. Only $9.1m has been budgeted this year by the National Energy Research and Demonstration Council to be spent on energy research and development. Only $9.1m of the $2, 400m will be spent on energy research and development. So the total expenditure on energy out of this massive tax impost is to be $9. 1 m.
Now, the Government says: ‘We need to charge this price in order to promote exploration. We need to charge the world price in order to promote exploration ‘. This is of course a phoney argument. Both the Liberal and Labor parties agreed to import parity pricing for new discoveries. Indeed, the Whitlam Labor Government introduced a policy on 14 September 1975. The definition of ‘old oil’ is oil discovered before that date and the definition of ‘new oil’ is oil discovered after that date. The price we pay for oil discovered 10 years ago is immaterial to the exploration effort because most of the companies exploring for oil and gas in Australia today do not produce oil in Australia, so they get no revenue from the old oil policy. Companies such as the Hudson Bay Oil and Gas, Canadian Superior, Mount Isa Mines, Shell and BP companies- one can go through a whole gaggle of them- are not current oil producers in Australia. They do not get any money out of the old oil policy. Therefore, the Government’s phoney claim that it needs to charge the world price to promote exploration is absolute nonsense. The only companies getting any benefit out of the policy are the small producers such as the Western Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd and Moonie operations, which produce 7 per cent of Australia’s oil. Essentially, it is the Esso-BHP organisation which produces 93 per cent of Australia’s oil, which receives the benefit.
It is true that some of the revenues have been spent on exploration in Bass Strait but the general national exploration effort is unaffected by the price of the Australian Government charges for old oil. Both parties support import parity pricing for new oil. That is the policy under which exploration continues in Australia. The Government’s claim that it needs to charge the Australian public the full world price for its petrol in order to keep the exploration program going is absolutely hollow and does not stand any examination whatsoever. It is the new oil policy which is the important stimulus to exploration. It was introduced by Labor and it is essentially a bipartisan policy. Where we differ is in the price we charge for oil which was discovered 10 years ago, oil which is being produced at a cost of about $1 a barrel. The question is: Why should Australians pay $25 a barrel for oil that costs $ 1 a barrel to produce? As I said, the companies exploring for oil, with the exception of Esso-BHP are not receiving any money from the import parity price policy, so Australia could have the benefit of cheaper oil from Bass Strait without impairing the exploration effort.
Exploration has not increased significantly under the Fraser Government. The Government makes the claim that exploration is being boosted under the present policies. Let me just examine that claim. During the three years of the Labor Government- that is, in the period 1973-75- the total exploration expenditure in constant prices was $263m. During the first three years of the Fraser Government it was $193m. So, there was a substantial drop from $263m to $193m. Let us look at the number of wells drilled. In the three years under Labor 146 wells were drilled. In the first three years of the Fraser Government 94 wells were drilled. So even by the objective test of the number of exploration wells drilled, less exploration has taken place under the Liberal government. The Government says: ‘Exploration languished under Labor’. It is not true in either expenditure terms or wells drilled terms. If we look at it in terms of metres of siesmic we find that the same comparison holds up. Even including last year, which makes four years under this Government, under the Liberals private industry has drilled only 151 wells. So in four years there are only about the same number of wells which were drilled in three years of Labor.
What have we got for this, $2,400m shift of wealth from the pockets of the motoring public to the Fraser Government and the oil companies? We have got very little. In fact, there is now only one Australian drilling ship left in the country. There were three drill vessels in Australia. One has left and one has been given permission to leave. There will be only one Australian drill ship left on the Australian coast. Yet, we are supposed to accept the view of the Government that we need import parity to keep all this exploration going. Quite obviously the exploration effort just is not large enough and is not of significant magnitude to warrant that kind of a shift of wealth under the policy.
The Government also argues that high oil prices are necessary for conservation, but success here has been minimal. During 1978 consumption of motor spirit increased by 2.7 per cent and during 1979 by 2 per cent. In other words, it was down by 0.7 of 1 per cent. This again is very small change considering that the Australian people have to pay so much money for oil and that so much tax goes to the Government. This change would also be partly explained by a decrease in real incomes through partial indexation and by the fact that shortages of petrol and petroleum products were experienced last year, particularly in New South Wales. So it is not really a drop in consumption as it is the fact that people were not buying because of strikes, industrial disputes, technical shortages and the fact that real incomes have been reduced under the Fraser Government.
The policy is also justified by the Government on the grounds that it was necessary for the development of substitutes. But under the new oil policies substitutes will get import parity anyway and do not need to have the old oil price priced up at import parity. Paying the world price for oil discovered 10 years ago is not necessary when we get to the substitute question. We also have the disadvantage of high prices without the advantages. Essentially it gets back to the point I made earlier. What the Fraser Government has done has been to set up a tax system by stealth, a branch of the Taxation Office at every petrol pump and it is a tax policy not an energy policy.
Even the Government itself now realises its energy pricing policy is in tatters. Evidence of this is the fact that it is not passing on the current increases that are in the system- the $2 Saudi Arabian increase which was decided on retrospectively in March or February. The Government knows it would be politically harmful to pass the $2 on. So we now have an import parity oil pricing policy with all of the virtue the Government attaches to that without import parity prices. We have an import parity pricing policy but no import parity prices because the Government is not game to put the price up. ‘ Even the Ministers do not know the current state of the policy. The Minister for National Development and Energy (Senator Carrick) when asked questions in the Senate gives a different answer to that given by the Treasurer. Indeed, Senator Carrick does not even know the difference between export parity and import parity. One of the pities is that the Fraser Government has chopped and changed Ministers and there is no continuity of policy development. In an important area such as energy the Minister does not even understand the rudiments of the policy. He is not even up to terms with the parlance. The Treasurer said that the Australian price will be increased on 1 July. He said that quite definitely. The Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) said recently that the timing will be flexible and he does not know when the next price increase will occur. So the Minister for Finance says it is flexible, he does not know when it will occur; the Treasurer says it will occur on 1 July. Those two statements were made in the last week and they are on the record. I will not go through the tedium of quoting them verbatim.
This Government does not know where its energy pricing policy is going. Not only that, at a time when the issue is to be debated or when conflicting statements have been made, Senator Carrick slipped the noose and is now looking at something in the United States of America. A Labor government would not allow this situation to continue. Fuel prices would be cheaper under Labor than under a Liberal government. The
Australian oil price would be frozen for the first 12 months of a Labor government then adjusted by the consumer price index or import parity, whichever was the lesser. This would mean that the Australian oil price would be stabilised and it would not move as rapidly as it has with OPEC increases.
As well as being opposed to this Government ‘s pricing policy we are also opposed to its taxation policies. The present arrangements are unworkable and inefficient. There are eight different oil prices and eight different levies are collected. The crude oil levy is in fact eight different levies on different categories of fields. They are changed every six months. No one denies that the oil industry should be subject to a tax additional to company tax. But this should be done properly. The crude oil levy system works against maximum production and against the development of marginal pools. It creates distortions in investment decisions and the fact that it needs to be changed regularly creates constant uncertainty. Labor would replace this ad hoc system of indiscriminate levies with a resources rent tax. Most major oil producing companies in the world have such a tax. This tax would be based on the cost of production. Low cost projects would pay more tax, but high cost projects would not be discriminated against. Production would be maximised, investment distortions would not occur and exploration development expenditure also would be maximised.
The whole pricing and taxing regime of the Government needs to be changed. What the Government has figured upon, it now realises incorrectly, is that the Australian public would never wake up to the fact that the nasty Arabs were not fixing the price of Australian oil. The Government cynically believes that the public is stupid. The Government takes the view that the public will always believe that the Arabs and not Malcolm Fraser were fixing the price. In fact it is the Government that is fixing the price.
– Quite open about it.
– The Government is open about it now because I exposed you and the Opposition exposed you.
– Rubbish! Utter rubbish!
– That is why the honourable member is chipping in now. He is doing so because he can see the Government’s majority sliding away with this policy. It is the killer policy that is going to wipe a number of honourable members opposite out of the Parliament and the honourable member knows it. He cannot help but bite whenever this policy is mentioned because it is the soft underbelly of the coalition.
– What did you do for exploration in three years?
– Look, between 1970 -
– In your three years.
– I will go back to the figures. The honourable gentleman was not here when I mentioned these figures. Let me just go over them. During the three years of Labor -
– Give us the figures for 1973, 1974 and 1975.
– Well, the honourable member made the interjection. Just let him listen to the reply. During the three years of Labor total exploration expenditure in constant prices was $263m. In the first three years of the Fraser Government it was $193m. Therefore, it was down $ 70m.
– Check your figures.
– The figures have been checked. In the first three years of Labor 146 wells were drilled. In the first three years of the Liberals 94 wells were drilled. These figures are from the Government’s own records- from the Bureau of Mineral Resources. For the first four years it was 15 1 wells. The Australian Petroleum Exploration Association indicates that in 1980 there will be fewer wells drilled than there were in 1979. Those of us who are interested in the industry know that the Sedco vessels now engaged in deep water drilling on the Exmouth Plateau will pull out if they do not turn up a reasonable discovery of commercial hydrocarbons. The Government has let two Australian rigs leave the coast. What does it have left? It has nothing.
By contrast the Labor Party envisages the establishment of an Australian hydrocarbon corporation which will use some of the funds not $ 1 of which the Government is spending on oil exploration in the direct search for oil and gas, the same as the British National Oil Corporation, Petro Canada, the Canadian state corporation, and lots of other state corporations do in searching for oil and gas. But this Government believes that only commercial incentive will work. We have been offering import parity now since September 1 975- well over five years- and it has not produced an exploration effort of appropriate magnitude given the dependency of Australia upon liquid fuels and our insufficiency given that we produce only 68 per cent to 69 per cent of what we in fact consume. So we all agree we have to find more oil and gas. In that case why does not the Government spend some more money instead of just sitting and waiting for something to happen when in fact this does not happen in an order of magnitude -
– Whose money should we spend?
– The Government should spend some of the $2, 500m which it is pinching from the motorists’ pockets. It does not spend one dollar of that. Members of the Government, cynical as they are, believe that the public would never discover that the Arabs were not fixing the price; that the Government fixed it. Australian oil from Bass Strait was sold at 2. 10c in 1 970 and 2.33c in 1977. For seven years it cost $2 a barrel. It comes from the same pools, from the same production platforms, and now it is $25 a barrel. Why did it go from $2 to $25? The answer simply is that the price was raised so that the Government could grab $2,500m because of its obsession with the Budget deficit. The Government claims to be a government with anti-inflationary objectives. In pursuit of that anti-inflationary objective it wanted to finance the Budget deficit because it did not do what it promised it would do four years ago; that is, reduce public sector outlays and adopt a policy of low tax, small government. The Government has broken both promises. It wanted to finance its spending and deficit by resort to a petrol tax. It has committed itself to financing its deficit with an inflationary tax. When people figure what it costs to live under the present Government, they will find that they are now paying $1 1 to $12 a week for health care which they were not paying under Labor. They are paying at least $10 to $12 a week for petrol that they were not paying two years ago. The cost of the Fraser Government is at least $25 a week, plus an allowance for the fact that there has been a depreciation in incomes through acceptance on only partial wage indexation. Add up the average family’s cost of having the Fraser Government in office is $30 a week or more.
The oil levy is a very expensive policy designed simply to raise revenue. When Labor was touching the question of petrol prices in the 1 970s and when we reduced the fuel equalisation subsidy at a cost of a miserable $24m to revenue, all hell broke loose in every rural newspaper and on television stations, but let us compare $24m to $2,400m. The Government has reached down into the pockets of the farmer, the rural town dweller and the suburban dweller and has clawed out from the average person $ 10 to $ 12 a week, which is $2, 500m in a full year. If someone has the bad luck to own a medium 6-cylinder car such as a Falcon or a Holden Kingswood it will cost him $25 to $26 just to fill his petrol tank. In
Sydney and some of the larger cities where public transport is not available, or is not available within certain time parameters, people who fill their tanks twice a week to drive from one side of the city to the other can pay $50 to fill their car. That is $50 a week for petrol.
Who is the architect of the high price policy? There were two joint architects- the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony). The Deputy Prime Minister is the great champion of the countryside. He is the one who has slugged the farmers. If there is any drop in the price for wheat, wool or other commodities, the farmers will find that energy input costs will drive them off their property. This is the stunning reality of the Government’s energy pricing policy. What do we have to.show for it? Let us look at the miserable exploration figures and the inadequate performance of Australia in terms of exploration. The Government has been found wanting and, more importantly, it has been found out.
– What would be your price?
– The price for petrol under Labor will be substantially less than it has been under the Liberal Government. If we had been in government on 1 January this year petrol prices under Labor would be at least 40 per cent cheaper than they are under Liberal.
– What about next year?
– Next year the saving will be even more because we will put the price up only to reflect the movement in the consumer price index. Honourable members opposite can eat their hearts out. They can battle it out at the ballot box while the Government is pinching the money from the public’s pocket at the petrol pump. That is what it has done. The Government has set up a branch of the Taxation Office at every petrol pump. It has tried to blame the rising price on the Arabs. It has been found out. The best that members of the Government can do is vote for the amendment moved by the Opposition and not increase the crude oil levy as the Government presently intends.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak at a later hour.
– I do not want to detain the House unduly, but one simply cannot allow the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr Keating) and other members of the Labor Opposition to say what the honourable member has just said about the Government’s oil pricing policy and the oil levy. On a number of occasions he made reference to oil exploration. As that was the note on which he ended his speech, I will start with it. He referred in particular to exploration for the period 1973-75, as if the Australian Labor Party could take any credit for what happened in 1 973. Drilling carried out that year was all in hand before Labor came to office. What the honourable member did not point out, of course, was how in 1975 exploration dropped to next to nothing and how, naturally, it then took a little time to recharge. I simply give the figures for the number of wells drilled in 1975 and 1979. Onshore, in 1975, six exploration wells were drilled; in 1979, 23 were drilled. Four on-shore development wells were drilled in 1975 and 45 in 1979. In 1975, 19 off-shore wells were drilled and in 1979, 20 were drilled. No off-shore development wells were drilled in 1975 but eight were drilled in 1979. The honourable member for Blaxland said that he would not go through the tedium of giving the details of his information, but I have given the figures for wells drilled.
When the whole context of the Government’s oil pricing policy is explained and considered, there is no doubt that the majority of Australians recognise that what the Government is doing is right and it is the only realistic and sensible way to act in the interests of Australians, not only now, but in years to come. The first point that I want to make is that even with recent increases, Australian petrol is among the cheapest in the world.
– He did not tell us that.
-The honourable member did not tell us that. The most recent figures available relate to early this month. I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
-The figures show that the price of petrol in Australia is about half the price in much of Europe. In France and Italy the price of petrol is about 75c a litre or about $3.41 a gallon, whereas in Australia at present it is 33.5c a litre or about $1.50 a gallon. The comparison with Japan is similar. In Britain also the price is higher. It is the equivalent of $2.60 a gallon compared with $1.52 here. Among the major countries, only the United States of America and Canada have cheaper petrol than Australia has. However, with the measures recently announced by President Carter, the price in the United States is about to rise to the same level as it is in Australia.
The second point that I wish to make is that those prices are as high as or higher than prices in Australia because in just about every other developed country the base price for crude oil, and thence petrol, is the world price. That is the only meaningful realistic price for this crucial and increasingly scarce resource. It is the natural price, the price that would prevail in a free market.
There would need to be some very good and cogent reasons for lower prices. Well, there are no such reasons. The practical, sensible thing to do is to go the other way. You charge the world parity price, because oil is a vital, scarce commodity with a price which reflects that scarcity; because we must conserve what we have by restraining demand; because we must find more oil, and we must use alternative fuels wherever possible. How would the Labor Party go about it? How would it restrain demand in the interests of conserving supplies now and for the future? Would it do so by government rationing perhaps with all its attendant evils of black markets and corruption? The Labor Party ought to think back to an earlier election- long before the time of the honourable member for Blaxland- in 1949 and what happened then to those committed to the rationing of petrol. Surely conserving petrol by public co-operation and the ordinary limiting effect of realistic prices is the right way.
The effect is there. In 1979 petrol sales increased by only 1.4 per cent, which was about one-third of the average increase over the past five years. That, of course, is one part of the process. The mechanism then is, with the crude oil producer selling to the refinery at world prices, the Government, via this excise measure before the House, imposes the levy on crude oil producers with these two effects: Firstly, it keeps to a reasonable level increased profits of the crude oil producers and, secondly, it brings about increased revenue to the Government which is not denied- although in no way is the measure primarily in place for that purpose. The oil levy revenue is applied for the benefit of all Australians. We had a debate in this House last week in which it was pointed out that the first call on that increased revenue is to reduce the deficit in the Government’s Budget account; that is, to contain the effects of an increasing money supply and inflation, and all that would do to spoil the momentum of Australian development and the provision of jobs for Australians. Within that framework, after 1 July some $600m of the revenue will be returned by way of reduced income taxes, especially for the low income, single income family. The honourable member for Blaxland talked about an income tax cut of 85c, whereas the relevant cut in income tax for the low income, single income family is $4.70 a week. That is a very significant cut indeed.
As to the crude oil producers, the Government’s policy has encouraged companies to plough greatly increased revenue back into exploration and development in a way that would not have been thought likely 1 8 months ago. We only have to witness the massive $ 1,200m fouryear program recently announced by Esso-BHP. So, in this way the oil pricing policy has provided, and is providing, both the incentive and the capacity to expand local oil production while, as I have said, encouraging people to use less fuel and to turn to alternative fuels. Thus it works to maintain our considerable degree of selfsufficiency in oil for as long as possible and thus it works to reduce Australia’s present and prospective dependence on imports. With all the uncertainties of the international oil supply situation and with increasing military activity in the Middle East, that substantial independence of imported supplies is all the more vital.
The Labor Party would have the people of Australia believe that if it were in government there would be cheap petrol. It also implied that the levy, the petrol tax, whatever its form, a resource tax or what have you, would be less. I suggest rather that it would be greater, if only to pay for Labor’s socialist Australian Hydro-Carbon Corporation it was talking about. There really can be no cheap petrol. The alternative to expensive petrol is not just cheap petrol: It is shortages and uncertainties and ultimately very high prices.
– Black markets.
– Yes, as I said before, black markets. There would be shortages and uncertainties and all those attendant evils and ultimately very high prices- prices paid, incidentally, to Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries not to Australian producers- which would preclude the recovery of any part of the price for the benefit of Australians as happens now through the excise levy system. So, the Government suggests that this is a policy which is appropriate to Australia and to all Australians and rejects the amendment that has been put forward by the Opposition.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr Keating’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker Mr P. H. Drummond)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment negatived. Debate interrupted.
-Order! It being past 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I require that the question be put forthwith without debate.
Question resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Leave granted for third reading to be moved forthwith.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland) read a third time.
Aboriginal Land Rights-Austria: Recognition of Diplomat Motion (by Mr Garland) proposed: That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to raise the matter of Aboriginal land rights. I refer in particular to Western Australia where the Noonkanbah people have been very treacherously treated by the Western Australian Government. Sir Charles Court, the Premier, made a statement to the effect that representatives of Amax Exploration (Australia) Inc., the Mines Department, the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority and the Community Welfare Department went to Noonkanbah earlier this morning and talked to the community about the proposed camp site. I have no doubt he has secondhand information, which is all I have, but I prefer to believe the source from which I obtained my information than this report from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) and from the Premier of Western Australia. The Premier said that equipment had been moved on to an agreed location and had commenced preparation of the site. He said that as a result of the meeting Amax had been given approval to proceed to meet a community request. This was done at the No. 2 drilling site instead of the preferred No. 1 site. It was also agreed, to please the preference of the community, that the camp site would be near the drill site. It had also been agreed that contractors could upgrade the roads and there was an assurance from the community that there would be no further difficulties.
This is completely contrary to the information from Rod Dickson of the Kimberley Land Council, who is an Aborigine, who has lived in the area and who knows the people. He does have, as he admits, secondhand knowledge. But he assures me that this report, which I also have from another Aboriginal source, says that the Amax trucks and equipment with the representatives of two of the State departments went in allegedly for further talks with the people, which had been promised by the Premier. After they had been allowed in to the homestead they shortly left for the Pea Hill site which the Aborigines claim to be a sacred site. When they arrived at this hill 10 to 11 police arrived. The other report tells me that it was four carloads of police. The community followed them down to the site and they were given five minutes to make a decision which of two sites they would allow to be worked.
– That is real consultation.
– That is what you call consultation. The Aborigines asked for time for a meeting. They were told: ‘You have got five minutes. If you do not like this site that we want you can choose the other one’. They picked the one furthest from the homestead. That action is in complete breach of all the assurances that have been given for a week or more by Sir
Charles Court that proper consultation would occur. He said that he found Aboriginal elders to be sensible, reasonable people and that the Government would not ride over them roughshod. He said that it is good to give them time to talk. This action is also in breach of the assurances given to Senator Chaney, the Federal Minister, who said in his Press release of 1 1 March:
The Premier’s statement in Penh today, committing his Government to the protection of sacred sites, consultation with the community and the undertaking that no right to drill would be given without strict conditions to protect their way of life, will be welcomed by the Aboriginal people.
Of course, it was welcomed, but has not been carried out. He continued:
The rumour that the company would enter the propertywithout notice and with police protection- caused great consternation. It is good that the Premier has put that rumour to rest.
The rumour that was put to rest has now come true. The assurances of the Premier are empty. He can be no more trusted than the Premier of South Australia who has gone back on the land rights promises to the Pitjantjatjara people there. He can be no more trusted than the Premier of Queensland who goes back on undertakings to this Government assuring the use of land to people in Aboriginal reserves in Queensland. The whole of Australia should be hanging its head in shame about the way these Aboriginal people have been treated. The Premier said that he would not release the report of the Western Australian museum body which is concerned with defining sacred sites in Western Australia because it would breach confidentiality of the Aboriginal elders. The Aboriginal elders then asked him to make it public. He still has not done so. There is a clear breach of undertakings and of honour.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to express my concern at the recent announcement on 13 March by the Chancellor of Austria, Dr Kreisky, that Austria was granting official status to a Palestinian diplomat in Vienna. Dr Kreisky acknowledged that this was a new form of diplomatic recognition that is unprecedented because it granted recognition to a people without a state or territory of their own. Austria has given the Palestine Liberation Organisation more recognition than other western European nations which have allowed the PLO to establish offices in their capitals. It is ironic that this announcement was made on 13 March, the date on which Hitler more than 40 years ago proclaimed the annexation of Austria. It was Dr Kreisky, himself a Jew, who officially met Arafat in Vienna last year and by so doing helped to strengthen and to give official status to the PLO. It was Kreisky who, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly last October, predicted that all countries would recognise the PLO soon. I suppose that that would be part of the gradual evolution of the foreign policy of the Western world, from detente to appeasement.
I am very pleased that today our Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock), in answer to a question I asked of him, gave an unequivocal assurance that Australia would give no recognition at all to the PLO so long as it remained committed to the destruction of the State of Israel. I think that our support for United Nations resolutions 242 and 338 constitutes a sensible basis for resolving the Arab-Israeli dispute. Resolution 242 has been rejected by the Palestine National Council and therefore by the PLO Central Council. Those who would seek to give support and encouragement to Arafat and his Soviet-backed organisation should be condemned by this Government. Any examination of the Palestinian National Charter should lead to great caution on the part of the Western world before any credence can be given to the PLO as a body capable of playing any meaningful role in a negotiated settlement of this Middle East problem.
I refer now to the Palestinian National Charter, Article 7 of which states: . . . It is a national duty to bring up individual Palestinians in an Arab revolutionary manner.
Article 8 states: . . . the Palestinian masses . . . constitute . . . one national front working for the retrieval of Palestine and its liberation through armed struggle.
Article 10 states:
Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war . . .
Article 1 5 states:
The liberation of Palestine … is a national duty . . . and aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine.
Article 19 states:
The partition of Palestine in 1 947 and the establishment of the State of Israel are entirely illegal . . .
Article 22 states:
Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world.
The article goes on to say that Zionism is: . . . racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and a geographical base for world imperialism . . .
The article continues: … the liberation of Palestine will destroy the Zionist and imperialist presence and will contribute to the establishment of peace in the Middle East.
Article 23 requires all states to consider Zionism an illegitimate movement, to outlaw its existence, and to ban its operations. In my view, that charter is an outrageous document but it is the kind to which Austria has given credence. The PLO has been granted permanent observer status at the General Assembly of the United Nations and at all international conferences sponsored by that body. It has also been granted a similar status at Inter-Parliamentary Union meetings. I reject the PLO charter and the methods and objectives enshrined therein. It is incumbent upon countries such as Australia to remain firm in rejecting the PLO and the kind of initiatives that Austria has now adopted.
I certainly ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs to stand firm even if it means that the United States and Australia are the only countries that will support Israel and reject these aims and methods of the PLO. The PLO has no role to play in the peaceful settlement of the Middle East issue while it continues to claim that Israel has no right to exist within recognised boundaries. I support the objectives as stated today by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and believe that this House should be quite clear in its condemnation of Dr Kreisky.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-For the second time in two consecutive sitting weeks, the Government has gagged debate on the land rights of Aboriginal peoples in Australia. I refer specifically to the gag being used to prevent debate on the rights of the Pitjantjatjara people of South Australia and, today, a discussion which encompassed both their position and the rights of the Noonkanbah people of Western Australia. Clearly, the Government in using its numbers in this way is expressing its policy and, indeed, its priorities concerning the rights of the Aboriginal people and the attitude of certain State Liberal Premiers. Clearly, the position of the Government is that it will totally ignore the rights of Aboriginal people to land that they have owned traditionally- going back to prior to the settlement of Australia.
The present Government of South Australia was elected in a situation in which the rights of the Pitjantjatjara people were never in issue.
There had been before the Parliament legislation which had resulted from five years of negotiation with those people, legislation based upon an allparty report. Thus, there was no disagreement between the major political parties on the matter and the Pitjantjatjara people were entitled to believe that they had with the Government of South Australia a binding covenant and agreement which ensured their land rights. Indeed, there are documents which indicate that the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, agreed with the aspirations of the Aboriginal people. Now there has been a change of government and a new Liberal Premier has, as a result of his preferment for the interests of mining companies, with no attempt at consultation with the Aboriginal people, with no mandate, expressed or implied, from the electorate, shamefully, wantonly and dishonourably broken a compact with the Pitjantjatjara people and in so doing has established a record low in relationships between State governments and our Aboriginal people.
The same situation is occurring in Noonkanbah. What kind of consultation is there with Aboriginal people when carloads of police arrive and they are given five minutes to make up their minds where drilling will commence? It is an extraordinary exercise in latent racism. I wonder what would happen if some oil or mining company decided that there was uranium or oil under St Patrick’s Cathedral or St Paul’s Cathedral. Does anybody believe that those sites, which are sacred to many members of our community, would be subjected to predatory occupation by a mining company, backed up by local police forces? Of course they would not, but there is somehow rampant within this Government and within sections of the Liberal Party the notion that, because we are dealing with an old culture which we neither fully comprehend nor understand, an Aboriginal’s view of his relationship with his land and of sites that are sacred to him is less relevant than the view taken in Christian or Islamic culture that certain sites are to be considered sacred. That is what is occurring in Australia today. I find it incredible that this Parliament can spend, as it did, some hours talking about human rights in the Soviet Union and many hours talking about the rights of the Afghan people to their land, yet devote so little attention to the rights of Aboriginals.
There are merits in all of those matters, but what about this Parliament’s spending some time in talking about the rights of our own indigenous people to their land. I venture to suggest that the only thing left to the Aboriginal people of Noonkanbah is to fly a different sort of flag, declare themselves a republic and ask for overseas aid. That is what it has come down to. This shabby treatment by State governments has been sanctioned by a Minister who has sat on his hands and refused to comment. I end on this note: It is a matter of deep regret that the gag tonight was moved by the Minister for Science and the Environment (Mr Thomson), one who represents a large Aboriginal electorate.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-I feel moved to speak on the matter that has just been mentioned by the honourable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr Holding), because there are on this side of the House honourable members who are concerned about Aboriginal land rights. This Government has been concerned about Aboriginal land rights. It moved, and supported rigorously through this House and the other place, legislation in the form of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, as we now know it. The fact is that this House has never backed away from debates on this important question.
I would like, in relation to the proceedings of the House, simply to draw to the attention of honourable members and of those who might read this speech in conjunction with that of the honourable member opposite, that so much of the program of the House is in the hands not only of the Government but also of the Opposition. A quick reading of today’s Hansard will reveal the hypocrisy of the honourable member, who alleges that it is the Government’s fault that this matter was not reached today. It is nothing of the sort. This matter was not reached today because the time that was available for the Opposition to raise this important question was given to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lionel Bowen) to raise his private member’s Bill relating to section 45 d of the Trade Practices Act. Honourable members opposite cannot come into the House and say that we took up four or five hours of debate and did not give them enough time to discuss land rights in South Australia or Western Australia. The reality is that the program of this House is as much in the hands of the Opposition managers as it is in the hands of the managers of Government Business.
We are not afraid to, nor do we run away from, debate on the question of Aboriginal land rights. We will stand on our record, where we have constitutional responsibility, in regard to the land rights that have been implemented in
Australia by this Government. When it comes to State government responsibilities, that is a matter for State governments to stand on their record. The fact is that honourable members opposite were not prepared to jump up and down in this place and talk about land rights in South Australia when a Labor government was in office in South Australia. They were not prepared to jump up and down and talk about it as if we ought to be acting on that matter when there was a Labor government in South Australia. At the moment they are not jumping up and down about it in New South Wales where a parliamentary committee seems to be sitting on his hands in relation to a report that it could be bringing down on the question of Aboriginal land rights.
We will all watch with interest to see the way in which Labor lives up to its responsibilities when it has to make a decision. States do have certain responsibilities in these matters. Each State has to judge for itself the way in which it will react to those matters. If the States want a good example that they can follow, the legislation of this Government, in the form of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, is one which I would commend to them. We are happy to stand on our record in terms of the legislation that we have introduced. I believe it is legislation that commends itself to others. I recommend that strongly as an example that the States might follow. I suggest also to Mr Wran in New South Wales that when he gets around to looking at these matters he might follow the example of this Government.
-The previous speaker, the honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock), was quite critical of the Australian Labor Party because it raised this matter of public importance on two days. On both of those days that it was raised the Government used its numbers to stop any discussion on this matter. If the honourable member is so concerned about land rights- I do not doubt his genuine concern in the matter- I suggest that he and his colleagues should put a bit of pressure on their South Australian colleague, the Premier, Mr Tonkin. The South Australian Government has gone back on an undertaking. This was pointed out clearly on Saturday at a very well attended meeting in Adelaide at which probably 3,000 or 4,000 people were present.
– Six thousand.
-I had thought that it was 3,000 or 4,000. It was an extremely well attended and very orderly meeting at which the Pitjantjatjara people had a chance to stand up and put their case to the white community of Adelaide. The present Liberal Government of South Australia has gone back on an understanding to the Pitjantjatjara people. The former Premier of South Australia, who led this country in regard to land rights by introducing the land trust legislation in the 1 960s and, of course, by introducing the original Pitjantjatjara land rights Bill in the previous Parliament, spoke at that meeting. He was quite clear on what he considered was a sell out by the Liberal Government in South Australia on an undertaking that had already been given. He was the man who organised a working party that worked closely with the Pitjantjatjara people and also agreed to the establishment of a select committee in which both sides of the Parliament were represented. Any amendments that were made to the Pitjantjatjara land rights Bill were unanimously agreed to by both sides of the Parliament. Amongst members from the then Opposition side was the present Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in South Australia.
Clearly, the Liberal Government in South Australia has gone back on its word. The South Australian Government made certain promises prior to the election, and as soon as the election was over it started questioning the matter of mineral rights. It said that all Australians must be equal; Aboriginals cannot have mineral rights that are not available to other Australians. There seems to be no understanding of just what that land means to those Aboriginals. The State Government’s whole concept seems to be that one goes around a piece of territory, picks out a part of that territory and declares that as a sacred site. I will tell the House how stupid the Liberal Government in South Australia was. It established a committee to go and identify the sacred sites. One of the things that the South Australian Government did not do was to ask the people it was going to put on the committee whether they wanted to serve on that committee, with the result that a couple of those people rejected the offer made to them. One of the worst things that the South Australian Government did was that it forgot to put the Pitjantjatjara people on the committee that was to establish those sacred sites. Knowing the Aboriginal people as I do- I hope I have their trust in what I try to do for them- I know that they do not go around telling everybody where their sacred sites are. There are certain things in their areas that the uninitiated, the women and the children are not allowed to see. The Aboriginal people will not let that information go willy-nilly to everybody who is floating around the place.
In trying to identify those Pitjantjatjara sacred sites the South Australian Government did a stupid thing. It never put a Pitjantjatjara person on that committee. That seems to be the whole attitude of the South Australian Government. During the election campaign I can remember seeing a pamphlet floating around in the northwestnot quite as far north as the Aboriginal areasstating that one of the things that the Liberal candidate was going to do was to alter the Pitjantjatjara land rights Bill for the benefit of miners. That was the attitude of the Liberal Party during the State election. There was no question about it. The South Australian Government has let down the Pitjantjatjara people badly. They are very honest people in their protests. I am sure they have done the right thing in trying to get their protests across to the South Australian people. I am sure the South Australian people will listen to them and give them all the support that they need and that the South Australian Government will pay for this sell-out of the Pitjantjatjara people.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I speak unexpectedly tonight because of the half truths and misunderstandings that have been brought forward by the other side of the House in relation to the Noonkanbah exercise in Western Australia. There are a couple of fundamental facts that have been deliberately overlooked. Firstly, the land at Noonkanbah is the subject of a pastoral lease. By agreement, that pastoral lease is leased to the Aboriginal community at Noonkanbah. When it signed that agreement it knew full well the conditions which applied. I own a pastoral lease and many other people in Western Australia own pastoral leases. It does not give one mining rights. It never has purported to give mining rights, and it never will purport to give mining rights. The fundamental fact is that a pastoral lease gives one grazing rights.
– You haven’t heard of Aboriginal law, perhaps?
– If honourable members opposite were entirely honest they would just be quiet and listen to the facts. Firstly, a pastoral lease never gives mining rights and never will give mining rights. The pastoral lease is for grazing rights. Secondly, it is not a question of sacred sites. The community in Noonkanbah is fully aware that there has been an unconditional guarantee that sacred sites will be preserved. The sacred sites are in no danger. At the moment the question at Noonkanbah has aroused passions and emotions and has broadened into a much wider issue now than simply sacred sites. There is an unconditional guarantee that sacred sites will be preserved. I believe that Sir Charles Court has been particularly patient in this respect.
The question of mining in the Noonkanbah area has been going on for over 12 months. It is not an issue that has arisen lately. There has been a delay in any mining or any activity from the mining side at Noonkanbah for over 12 months. This question came to a head over 12 months ago and by agreement all activity was withdrawn from that area. These are basic facts that cannot be disputed, despite the emotional outbursts from the people opposite and the stirrers in the community who have aroused the emotions and the expectations of the Noonkanbah people far beyond that which the Noonkanbah people have agreed to accept in writing. I put it to honourable members categorically that there are no mining rights with a pastoral lease. I know this from personal experience. If mining rights were granted to this pastoral lease or to any other pastoral lease because of special emotions all hell would break loose in Australia.
-Order! It being 1 1 p.m. the debate is interrupted. The House stands adjourned until 2. 1 5 p.m. tomorrow.
House adjourned at 11 p.m. PAPERS
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 18 March 1980, pursuant to statute:
Australian National University Act- Statute- No. 135- Academic and Ceremonial Dress Amendment No. 7.
Commonwealth Banks Act- Appointment certificate L. I. Foote.
Defence Act- Determinations- 1980- No. 3- Flying Allowance. No. 4- Flight Duties Allowance. No. 5 - Unpredictable explosives allowance.
Lands Acquisition Act- Statements (2) of lands acquired by agreement authorised under subsection 7(1).
Long Service Leave (Commonwealth Employees) ActRegulationStatutory Rules 1980, No. 38.
Seat of Government (Administration) ActRegulations 1980- No. 2 (Motor Omnibus Services Ordinance).
Superannuation Act- Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 37.
Trade Practices Act- Regulation- Statutory Rules 1980, No. 39.
Mr Holding to ask Mr Speaker:
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 March 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800318_reps_31_hor117/>.