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 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 standards 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 incomes by:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Charles Jones, Or Klugman, Mr Les McMahon, Mr Ruddock, Mr Sainsbury, Mr Simon, Mr Uren and Mr West.
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 representative without intervention and interference by an unrepresentative Advisory Council.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Burns, Mr Roger Johnston, Mr Lynch, Mr Martyr, Mr Simon, Mr Street and Mr Yates.
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 1 970 to over 1 0 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 forwith take the steps necessary to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Bungey and Mr Giles.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the retail price of Australian rum is too high and should be reduced to enable the average Australian to buy it.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that steps be taken to reduce the excise duty on Australian rum.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Donald Cameron.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament Assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully 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. by Mr Cotter.
The Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives assembled.
Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That benefits paid to persons who are unemployed are below the level of the Poverty Line as determined by Professor Ronald Henderson: and that such benefits have not been adjusted for under 19 year olds since 1975, and for others since 1 978, to meet the increased cost of living since that time;
That as a result unemployed persons, families and dependent children are enduring hardship and suffering, and becoming progressively worse off each day.
Further that unemployed persons are prevented from seeking or engaging in part-time work which returns them more than $6 a week by a 100 per cent matching cut in benefits for any amount earned over $6.
We seek immediate amendments to the Social Security Act to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Fry.
To all members of the Australian Government, Parliament House Canberra.
To members of the Australian Government in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That Ken Matime is a black South African student who was studying for a law degree when his government decided to place a ‘banning’ order on him. This effectively put an end to his studies. The South African Government has refused Ken Matime an exit visa even though he has been accepted by three Australian Universities: University of Western Australia, Monash and the Australian National University.
Although no reason for the refusal has been given we the undersigned believe that Ken Matime ‘s only ‘crime ‘ is to have belonged to an organisation- the South African Students Organisation- which opposes the racial policies of the National Party Government in South Africa.
Consequently your petitioners request the Australian Government to urge the South African Government to allow Ken Matime to leave South Africa so that he can resume his studies in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Hurford.
Acquisition of Land in Balmain
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled.
The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
We request that the land currently used by the Australian National Line at Moris Dock, Balmain, be immediately made available for combination development of open space for public use and low cost housing such as Housing Commission one level units, hostel and nursing home, accommodation for aged persons, pensioners, single parent groups and low income earners.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honourable House consider this Petition.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Les McMahon.
To the Honourable the Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia submits:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Young.
To the Right Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled.
This humble petition of the sportsmen and women and citizens of Australia respectfully 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 19 July to 3 August, 1980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Dawkins, Mr James, Mr Kerin and Mr Willis.
To the Right Honourable Speaker and Members of the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled.
We the undersigned sportsmen and women and citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia by this humble petition respectfully pray that the Australian Government ensure the participation of a full Australian contingent in the XXII Olympic Games to be held in Moscow, USSR, from 19 July to 3 August, 1980.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Innes.
To the Honourable, the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Victoria repsectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government promotes carcass trade and all future shipments of live animals overseas for slaughter be banned, and thereby stop a repetition of the shocking loss of life through burns or drowning as occurred with the incineration or drowning of 40,000 sheep on a ship to abattoirs in the Middle East, or the more recent cruelty to horses being exported for slaughter in Japan.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Mr Roger Johnston.
– I refer the Acting Treasurer to his statement yesterday regarding the introduction of the tap issue system for government bonds. I ask: Did the increase in official bond rates of about one-half of one per cent mean that the Government has raised the long term bond rate by in excess of two per cent in the last 12 months? Have housing and small overdraft rates gone up by one-half of one per cent over the same period? Does the Acting Treasurer see this latest increase by the Government triggering a general interest rate rise by banks, building societies and finance companies? In view of the unusually tight seasonal monetary conditions, will he consider taking steps such as a release from the statutory reserve deposits to minimise the now inevitable upward pressure on interest rates because of the Government’s increase in official rates?
– The Government decided to bring in a tap issue for government bonds after a decision last year by the Loan Council which, as the House will know, involves all States. It was done for a specific purpose. That purpose was to avoid periodic cash loans, which are inflexible and can result in having either a good or a poor result. The tap system allows a continuous supply of bonds to be available to the Australian community. Whilst there has been, as the Government acknowledges, some increased pressure upon interest rates in this country, given the small increase in the rates that was announced yesterday- they reflect the market; they do not lead it- of 1 1.5 per cent for 1982 and 1 1.7 per cent, or effectively 1 1.84 per cent, for 1985, the rates are consistent with what is occurring in the market place and with the Government’s fight against inflation. One of the important elements in fighting inflation is to get the money supply under control. It is also an important element in the Government’s economic policy.
I do not want to make any comment on statutory reserve deposits except to acknowledge that, as I believe was implicit in the question of the Leader Opposition, it is unlikely that the Government will sell a lot of bonds during the rest of the financial year. Certainly, in the next month or two, with the liquidity rundown, one would not expect to sell much Government paper. However we have now set in place machinery which will enable the system to work very effectively for the period towards the end of the financial year and thereafter.
I wish to make a final comment about interest rates generally. The prime rate in this country for borrowings of over $ 100,000 is 12.5 percent. We cannot isolate ourselves from what is happening throughout the rest of the world. It is still a fact that, despite some easing, interest rates in the United States are at about 19 per cent, in the United Kingdom 18 per cent, in Canada 17 per cent and even in Germany about 1 1 per cent. Given the international pressures that are affecting all countries, this Government’s policies and its continuing fight against inflation deserve credit not condemnation in any way, because of the effect they have had in maintaining the lowest interest rates possible, given the market.
-Will the Acting Treasurer confirm that the rates fixed in the market the day before yesterday were not only set by the Government but also agreed to by the Reserve Bank of Australia? Were the rates that were struck in accordance with the market dealings at that time, both with regard to the $500m loan for about 2 years and the smaller $200m loan which was issued, at a discount for a fiveyear period? Does he not think that if these market rates had not been met and if there had been a failure of the first type of tap loan it would have been disastrous; that therefore this was the only possible way in which the market could have been tested and a good result achieved by the Government?
– The points that the right honourable member for Lowe makes are, of course, absolutely correct. Not only was the rate set in discussion with the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Treasury but also, indeed, in consultation with the Loan Council. As the Leader of the Opposition will be aware, this decision requires the agreement of a majority of members of the Loan Council. The other important element is that it will allow adjustment to take place. Rates will be available from the Reserve Bank on a daily basis for government bonds, and the semi-government bonds, which have kept their traditional margin above government bonds, will be adjusted each Friday. As the right honourable member rightly says, unless we were prepared to face what was happening in the market place we would not have given the new system, which will operate for the benefit of the country, an opportunity to work effectively.
-My question, which is also directed to the Acting Treasurer, relates to the Bureau of Statistics figures, released today, in respect of articles produced by manufacturing industry. These show that the increase in cost of those articles for the year ended February 1980 was 17.1 per cent. I ask: Is it a fact that the rate for the equivalent period last year was only 12 per cent? Further, is it a fact that the monthly increase for February was 2.4 per cent, which represents the highest figure recorded since the last election? Does this indicate a significant worsening of the inflation situation? Is it also a fact that a substantial proportion of the increase was caused by higher prices for petroleum products as a result of the Government’s petrol pricing policies?
-It has become very apparent during the life of this Parliament that members of the Opposition, including the leadership, continually try to make bad news out of indexes which are released. It has been often said to members of the Opposition- I would have thought the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have grasped it if nobody else had- that it is just not proper or sensible to take one index and to say, because of that, that inflation is getting out of control. What has happened is that, because of the Government’s policies, the fight against inflation has been more successful in this country than anywhere else throughout the world. One element- I think the only elementthat binds members of the Opposition with a sense of unity is their capacity to be pessimists. As soon as an index comes out which might indicate in any way that things are not as good as we would like them to be, the Opposition seizes on it. I say to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition: It is a very risky practice to take indexes separately and in isolation and to try to turn them into a national trend.
-My question, which is directed to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, refers to the Telecom Australia program called Community Access 80 by which telephone subscribers in remote areas will be able to call their local service centre at a rate of 9c for three minutes. Can the Minister tell the House whether subscribers to the Royal Flying Doctor Service radio network can expect some relief on the per word charges for telegrams transmitted over the RFDS network to their local service centre? Particularly, can the Minister tell us whether Telecom would be willing to offer some alleviation of the delivery charges for such telegrams?
– The honourable member for Kalgoorlie has raised this matter in the House previously and has pressed his representations upon me and upon Telecom- to great effect, I am happy to say. Telecom has agreed to apply the spirit of the Community Access 80 arrangements to outpost radio service telegrams to and from local service centres. This means that people who use the outpost radio service for the purchase of their daily requirements from their local service people will be charged 60c for the first 12 words and 5c for each additional word. A 20-word message would cost a subscriber $1. Likewise, when business people in a service centre want to communicate with people in the outback, the same sort of rate will apply. It will apply both ways. This means that there will be a loss to Telecom of about $100,000-all to the benefit of people who live in the most remote locations. I am happy to say that they have been greatly aided in this respect by the honourable member.
– My question, which is directed to the Acting Treasurer, relates to a recent reported statement by the Minister that action by State and local governments to restrict employment growth has been ‘sadly lacking’. Did the Minister mean by this statement that, instead of State and local governments expanding their employment of wage and salary earners by some 70,000 and 20,000 respectively during the last four years, they should have reduced their employment, as the Commonwealth has done? If so, does the Minister believe that this loss of 90,000 government jobs would have been more than made up through an increase in employment by the private sector, despite the fact that private employers managed to increase their employment of wage and salary earners by only 14,000 during the past four years? If this is the Minister’s belief, or if it is the belief of the Government in general, will he explain to the House the mechanisms through which he believes such a process would have occurred?
-I have made some comments in recent weeks regarding the distinction between the attitude taken by the Commonwealth Government in restraining expenditure and the attitude taken particularly by State governments since we have been back in office. I have made the point to Australians that whilst the Government welcomes their interest in how their money- the taxpayers’ funds- is being spent by the Commonwealth Government, it would be very healthy if they took greater interest in the level of funds that State governments spend. Collectively State governments spend a little more than does the Commonwealth.. All State governments, irrespective of political persuasion, have had a history of easy Budgets which have given in the main taxation decreases and yet have increased expenditure. Although this has applied to all States I would have to give the prize for the most permissive spending to the Dunstan Government in South Australia. This is reflected not only in the level of expenditure; I invite honourable members to have a quiet look also at the number of public servants that are employed by State authorities.
This Government under its staff ceiling policy has fewer people working for it now than when it came into office. That, of course, is very different from the profligate spending of the previous administration.
I now turn to the question of jobs. I hope that members of the Opposition will read the very good speech delivered yesterday by my colleague, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs. The fact is that the only sustainable way of increasing employment in this country is in the private sector. It is not a solution to spend more taxpayers’ funds to create jobs. Any country that has tried this has failed dismally. The honourable member or his colleagues know that they cannot indicate to me one country that has tried this pump priming exercise with any degree of success. Such an exercise has been an abject failure.
Could I add to the answer I gave to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition who in the last question I was asked referred to the import parity pricing of oil? Of course that has had an impact upon costs and the inflation rate. But in the long term interest of this country that policy is absolutely critical if we are to have the greatest degree of self-sufficiency, if we are to conserve oil, find new ways of exploring for it and also find alternative sources of energy.
-Is the Prime Minister aware of the very valuable work done over many years by the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Victoria? If he is aware of that, has he seen reports with respect to certain difficulties facing the institute, particularly with respect to overcrowding in laboratories? If” so, is there some way in which the Commonwealth Government can assist the institute to continue its very valuable scientific research work?
-Quite some time ago I was asked to visit the institute and see the work that it is doing. The invitation, in fact, goes back quite a long way. Last Monday morning the invitation was in fact picked up and I spent two or three hours at the institute with the director and other leading personnel of the institute. Over recent times the work of the institute has been examined very closely. Its future has also been under examination. There has been the question as to whether the institute could be expanded, the additional buildings improved by modification or whether the institute should in fact be rebuilt on a close neighbouring site, because it must remain close to major public hospitals. The institute itself and its board of management have given the most careful thought to these matters.-
I think all honourable gentlemen will know that Australia has not just the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute but also other medical research institutes that do work of the highest possible national and international quality. That fact is judged very plainly in that the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute attracts something like half a million dollars a year from United States sources for its recurrent funding. I am advised that its recurrent funding is in pretty good shape, with the resources it gets from government, but that there is a major proposal, which ultimately could cost up to $20m, for the rebuilding of the institute. It has asked for support of $100,000 each from the State Government and the Commonwealth Government for a feasibility study relating to the rebuilding of the institute, and the Commonwealth and State governments have agreed to share jointly in the funding of that feasibility study. I am advised that this will be completed in the latter part of this year. The funds will be available forthwith.
The honourable gentleman was right when he indicated that the present laboratories are overcrowded, and the work, whilst still going on at the highest standards of excellence, would obviously be assisted by slightly more spacious facilities. I am advised that the floor space of the institute is about the same as that of one or two other institutes with half the number of research personnel, which again is an indication of the overcrowding in the laboratories of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research. We are very glad to join the Victorian Government in the feasibility study. Obviously we want to do what we can to assist work of the highest possible importance in medical research, which has already been of great value to Australia and to many other countries. Its continued work in the directions of its researches could be of the utmost significance to the health and wellbeing of millions of people in the world.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs, relates to the Minister’s claims that employment increased by 155,000 over the past 12 months. I ask: Is it a fact that the Minister relies on the labour force surveys conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for this claim? Is he aware that the director of the labour force section in the Bureau stated publicly a few weeks ago that ‘there’s something funny in the labour force series’ and that ‘you can’t place too much reliance on short-term movements in the labour force surveys’, and that the Bureau preferred using the civilian employees series for measuring short-term movements in employment? In view of this clear concern by the Bureau about the accuracy of the labour force figures and its indication that the civilian employees figures are to be preferred, why does the Minister persist in using the unreliable labour force figures to measure employment growth? Specifically, does he continue using the inaccurate and misleading labour force figures because they show a rate of employment growth more than twice as high as that of the civilian employees series?
– The honourable member should know that the labour force and the civilian employees figures are arrived at differently and come from different sources of information. There is some criticism of the adequacy of the civilian employees series due to the range of information that is available and the volatility of that series. The honourable member’s question is another example of what my colleague the Acting Treasurer has said, that is, that the Opposition refuses to face up to the facts. The labour force series is a series that has been used for a long time and accepted as an indication of the growth in the labour force. In my speech to this House yesterday detailing the growth in the employment field over the last 12 months to two years and the great prospects that lie ahead for Australia in the 1980s, I used the figure of 155,200 as the growth over the year to February 1980. The honourable member for Gellibrand may not be aware that the Statistician today published some new figures, that is, for March. I am sure that honourable members, certainly on the Government side and I hope on the Opposition side, will be greatly impressed by the increase of 181,600 over the 12 months to March 1 980 which the labour force figures show.
I simply ask the honourable member for Gellibrand: Is he prepared to ignore the implications of those figures? Is he prepared to ignore that it was the largest increase for any single month since May 1974? As the honourable member for Lilley would point out, the increase in the March figures is the largest since the first oil crisis and has been exceeded only once since the middle 1 960s. I ask the Opposition: Is it prepared to ignore yet again the proof that is there in the strength of the labour market.
The figures put out today by the Australian Statistician also contain a revised figure for unemployment. They show that over the year there has been an even greater improvement than was indicated in the preliminary figures. The figures show that 14,400 fewer people were unemployed and seeking full time employment at the end of March 1980 than a year earlier, which is an improvement of some 3,000 over the preliminary figures. The labour force figures show that the number of people in full time employment- this is of critical importance- increased by 129,500 between March 1979 and March 1980. 1 will repeat those figures for the benefit of the honourable gentleman: There was an increase of 129,500 full time employment positions between March 1979 and March 1980. The number of people in part time employment rose by 52,100 over the year. These figures very effectively answer claims by people, including those honourable members opposite, who blindly refuse to acknowledge the improvement which is under way and will continue through the economic policies of this Government in the 1980s. I thank the honourable gentleman for his question.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and Resources. I refer to the fuel freight subsidy scheme which the Government has further extended to assist country people. Can the Minister explain why, despite the fact that the Government is spending $120m on this subsidy in a year so that the freight component in fuel prices is limited to no more than 0.44c a litre, the retail of price of petrol in many country areas considerably exceeds the prices charged in the city areas?
– I am aware that some people are concerned at the marked difference between the retail price of petrol in country areas and the price in the cities. I also know that a lot of people in the country appreciate the fact that the Commonwealth Government has reintroduced the fuel freight subsidy scheme after it was cancelled by the Labor Government. Indeed, that left a very deep mark in the minds of country people. I believe that this was one of the reasons- only one- why people in the country areas of Australia completely rejected the Labor Party and will continue to do so. They have long memories. In reintroducing the fuel freight subsidy we said that we would ensure that in terms of the transport component, the wholesale price of fuel in country areas would not exceed 0.44c a litre more than the normal wholesale price in city areas. Of course, the Commonwealth has no control over retail prices. Often retail prices are dependent on the volume of sales. Where there are high volume sales in city areas, there can be greater discounts than in country areas where sales are slow. This is the major reason for the differences. I re-emphasise that our task was to try to make wholesale prices as equal as possible. We have no control whatsoever over retail prices.
– Is the Minister for Defence aware that there is considerable discontent among families of Navy personnel and among Navy personnel, particularly those serving outside Australian waters, due to delays in mail services? Is he aware that the delays are caused by Australia Post not being aware of the location of the Navy vessels at the point of mailing and that sometimes mail is sent as surface mail rather than as air mail causing unnecessary delays? Is he aware that to allow all overseas naval mail to be sent at the standard domestic rate would cost the Government a mere $28,000 a year in loss of revenue? Is he aware that prompt delivery of mail is an important element in maintaining morale in the Navy? Will he consider overcoming these problems by granting a mailing concession for all mail to and from Navy personnel who are serving outside Australian waters, as I understand is the practice in most other countries?
– The substance of my friend’s question, namely, the granting of a concession, would be a matter of Government policy. I will treat that part of the question as being on notice and will refer if to my colleagues in the Government. It would be a matter of some surprise to me to know that any mail to servicemen serving outside Australia would be sent by surface mail. If the honourable gentleman has any more specific information on that matter I would be most grateful if he would place it in my hands.
-Can the Minister for Transport inform the House when he expects to be able to advise local government what funds will be made available to it for expenditure on roads in 1980-81 to supplement the amount spent on roads by local government out of rate revenue and its two per cent share in income tax collections? Can the Minister assure the House that resources allocated for expenditure on urban and rural local roads will be provided, firstly, in such a way that 100 cents in the dollar reaches local government; secondly, in such a way that the resources provided by the Commonwealth are not offset by a commensurate reduction of funds now provided to local government by the State governments; and thirdly, in a way that ensures that the funds are distributed on a needs basis in accordance with wellestablished equalisation principles?
– The Government hopes to be in a position to advise the Premiers of the allocation of funds for roads for the financial year 1980-8 1 within the next few days. I would expect a further statement to be made, probably at the Premiers Conference, about the next three-year road funding program. In regard to the other aspect of the honourable gentleman’s question relating to the level of contribution from the State governments, the Commonwealth Government will take into consideration the suggestions that have been made by the honourable gentleman and by others that in making an allocation of resources to the States to assist them in their road building programs, the States should match the Commonwealth contribution in percentage terms rather than reduce their contributions in line with any increases that they may receive for any category, particularly for local government roads. We could not tolerate a situation whereby we could make an increased allocation to local government roads and find that a State government reduces its contribution to the road systems within its State. We recognise that this is a very important priority area of expenditure. I am certain that that view is shared by most people on this side of the House. We will be giving sympathetic consideration to the problem of road funding in the very near future but it will be done against the background of the overall budgetary situation that is facing the Government.
Mr West having addressed a question to the Prime Minister-
-I rule the question out of order.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. I appreciate that you ought to consider possible objections on the basis of the sub judice rule, but I make the point that I am merely asking the Prime Minister to confirm what he has stated in this House on two occasions.
- Mr Speaker, I wish to speak to the point of order.
-Order! I do not wish to hear the Leader of the House at the moment. The question is out of order. I think it is wrong to put the Prime Minister in a position where, in answering the question, he may say something which, at a later point, could be prejudicial to any party.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. This question has nothing at all to do with the case. It is a matter as to whether the Prime Minister still has an implicit belief in undertakings given to him by a former senior Minister. One can understand the embarrassment and the sensitivity of the Government on this matter and the possible humiliation of the Prime Minister and the Government, but the fact is that it is a reasonable question to raise in the Parliament.
-Order! The Leader of the Opposition will resume his seat. I have given a ruling. In my judgment it would not be in the interests of this Parliament to allow an answer to the question.
- Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. May I ask you why it would not be in the interests of this Parliament, except that it might embarrass the Government and, more specifically, the Prime Minister?
-Order! My ruling has no relevance whatsoever to any possible embarrassment to the Government. It does have everything to do with the possible embarrassment of a member of this House. I will not allow the question, nor will I permit any more discussion of it.
-Can the Minister for Primary Industry inform the House as to the present position regarding the Government’s guarantee of a $4.5m loan to the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd? Does the Minister believe that prompt legal action against certain persons may assist in preventing the financial collapse of this important primary producer co-operative?
– The Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd has run into certain financial difficulties over past years. It has, as a result, disposed of some of the operations it had undertaken. It has maintained the operations at the Brooklyn abattoir with the assistance of the Commonwealth and State governments, which have given a guarantee that enabled the company to borrow $9m for the purpose of paying out some debts and to allow it to have some working capital. These guarantees are continuing. There has been a lot of speculation about the financial difficulties and, indeed, the financial options that might be available to the company. I do not think it would help very much if I were to add to that speculation in this House today. I do not propose to do so. The Government is satisfied with the way in which the company is handling its operations. We believe it to be handling them in a proper commercial way. Legal action is proceeding. If it were to succeed, it would certainly assist the company in its total financial position.
-Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Queensland Minister for Maritime Services and Tourism has given notice in the media that the report of a special committee which was formed by the Commonwealth Government last year to monitor the effects of long-line fishing will contain a recommendation to ban Japanese long-line fishing in north Queensland marlin waters? Further, will the Minister give an undertaking to accept in full all recommendations of the committee and the Queensland Government on this matter and to continue negotiations with the the relating to the renewal of the fishing agreement on the basis of such recommendations?
– I am afraid that I am unable to help the honourable gentleman insofar as the report of what the Queensland Minister for Maritime Services and Tourism stated. I have not seen that report so the honourable member is better off than I am in that regard. The working party report is to be considered by both the Commonwealth Government and the State Government. Its findings and deliberations will be taken into account when the negotiations with the Japanese are continued.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Transport. I refer to the recent heavy rains which have fallen in the north of South Australia and have rendered unserviceable the Port Augusta to Alice Springs via Marree railway line. Because that line was out of action and much work was needed to put the track back in order, can the Minister advise whether the Australian National Railways is prepared to repair the old line and keep it serviceable until the standard gauge line reaches Alice Springs, owing to the number of people expecting to truck stock and tourists who have been booked on the 50 ‘last’ Ghan services?
-The Australian National Railways has moved very quickly to repair the line. The narrow gauge line between Marree and Alice Springs was washed away in heavy rain last week. I believe it was washed away in several places. The passengers who were en route to Alice Springs were returned to Port Augusta and taken on by different modes of transportultimately by bus- to Alice Springs. I am informed that the line is now open and the future Ghan services will operate on the old line until the new one is completed, unless further washouts are caused by more rain. I might say that the progress on the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway line is going according to schedule. We hope that it will be ready for the Prime Minister to open in October. We look forward to that occasion and to having the Prime Minister there.
-The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs will recall that in answer to a question a few minutes ago he said to the honourable member for Gellibrand that the latest civilian work force series statistics indicate an increase in the civilian work force for the year to March of 1 80,000. Is it a fact that an increase of that order is equivalent to 3 per cent of the work force? Is it a fact that non-farm growth in the economy this year to the March quarter would be of that order or perhaps marginally more? Is the implication of a 3 per cent growth in the work force over that annual period with a non-farm growth in the economy of about the same order a clear indication that there has been negligible or no improvement in productivity in the economy? If this is so, accordingly the Government’s expenditure of $ 1,400m in investment allowance in the last four years has failed massively in its stated objective.
Does the Minister seriously believe in the civilian work force figures and the implication that the Government has failed to achieve any productivity over the year to March, or does he sensibly agree that all the evidence confirms the Bureau of Statistics reservations about the reliability of this series as expressed by the honourable member for Gellibrand in directly quoting the Bureau? Does this have the same quality and virtue as his multiplier on employment?
-I see that the Leader of the Opposition is picking up the same habit as the honourable member for Gellibrand, that is, he is refusing to face the facts. Let me repeat them to him: The labour force figures published by the Australian Statistician today show an increase of 181,600 in the number of people employed in
Australia over the 12 months to March 1980. Let me also point out to the honourable member that it is particularly pleasing to see that the growth in “ the employed labour force in the six months to March 1980 was 125,100; that is, 48,600 more than for the six months to March 1979, compared on a year-by-year basis and compared over a six-monthly period as I have done. Both the labour force and employment maintained strong annual growth rates in March 1980, continuing the trend evident in the previous six months. Annual employment growth continued to outpace labour force growth.
These are the kinds of things which the Opposition and its leader blindly refuse to acknowledge. Those figures show the reality which the people of Australia see around them, whether it be in my own State of Western Australia, the Leader of the Opposition’s State of Queensland, or New South Wales, Victoria or the Northern Territory. South Australia, due to the great misfortune of having the Dunstan and Corcoran governments, has many years of hard work ahead to recover a situation whereby people will be prepared to invest, because it is only through investment that there will be economic growth and employment growth.
The reality of the figures which we see are acknowledged by the Government and blindly refused acknowledgment by the Opposition. For once in their lives I wish members of the Opposition would open their eyes, face the facts and look to the future of Australia, because it is a great future if we are all prepared to apply outselves to the task. If we do so, as I said last night, we will be again on the route to full employment. That prospect is in view.
– Has the Minister for the Capital Territory seen reports canvassing Canberra’s future? Does the Minister have information concerning Canberra’s future growth and economic prospects?
– I have seen reports, one of which is called the Doyle report. It was put into the Australian Capital Territory House of Assembly but it is just a piece of Australian Labor Party apology. We have heard a little this afternoon about Labor’s approach to the economy. So far as Canberra is concerned, that policy says that the answer is to increase the Public Service and to spend more money. I thought it would have been clearly realised by now that the people of Australia do not want the Public Service increased. It is on that basis that the Government has fulfilled its policy since 1975. It is on that basis that the Government has proceeded in building the economy of this city.
The fact is that, for instance, in recent months there has been a fall in retail vacancies in this city which is quite significant. There has been also a boost in land prices and in land auctions recently there has been spirited bidding well above the reserve prices. Of course, if we look at the unemployment statistics, we will find that over the year from March 1979 to March 1980 there has been a drop overall -
– They have gone walk-about.
-Of about 1,500.
– They are up in my electorate.
– That is to say, there has been a drop in unemployment from 8,300 to 6,800.
-The honourable member for Hunter will not interject, otherwise I regret that I will have to discipline him.
– They are working in the power station.
-I warn the honourable member for Hunter to remain silent.
– The unemployment rate in the Australian Capital Territory is now less than the national average. Those figures ought to be a clear indication, to those who are trying to suggest that the economy here is in a very shabby state, that they are absolutely wrong. The fact is that the Government has committed itself to the development of the national capital as no previous government has. There is a program for the development of the capital the like of which has not been seen before. One has only to note the various projects to which the Government has committed itself to observe the Government’s confidence in the national capital. I would hope that every honourable member, on whatever side of the chamber he may be, would want to see our national capital developed as a national capital. It is to that task that the Government is committed.
Also, recently the Government indicated its intention to connect natural gas, to support the electrification of the railway line and to undertake the upgrading of the air terminal. Recently, further transfers to Canberra have been announced. Last year, the Canberra Development Board was set up. That Board is now actively involved in developing the economy of the city. I would hope that honourable members on both sides of the House would want to see the national capital developed not only in the public sector but also in the private sector. I hope that we will see, for instance, the development of the electronic data and information services in this city, as an industry -
-I ask the Minister to bring his answer to a conclusion.
– That would be very appropriate for the development of the private sector.
– by leave- The Government sponsored the National Youth Conference, which was held in Canberra in October 1979, to provide a focal point for issues of concern to young people to be raised and discussed in a national forum.
A broad cross-section of Australian youth came together at that Conference and through a series of workshops and plenary sessions formulated views for Government consideration on a wide range of topics.
Since the Conference a number of initiatives have been taken to ensure the interest generated by the Conference is directed towards constructive ends: A kit of information and ideas on how to continue the dialogue begun at the Conference has gone to all participants, many of whom have become active in their communities following the Conference. Participants have been surveyed to assist in the evaluation of the Conference, which the National Youth Advisory Group is conducting. A video-tape of the Conference will be made available to youth organisations seeking material on methods of communication with young people, and a book about the Conference is soon to be published by Cassells Australia for sale through bookshops and newsagencies.
The Government has considered the Conference resolutions and in keeping with my undertaking, given at the time of the Conference, is now able to respond to them.
The issues which are raised by the resolutions are wide-ranging and complex, reflecting the diversity of background and concerns of the participants. They cover matters which lie within the areas of responsibility of many government portfolios. Additionally, some matters were raised which are the constitutional responsibility of the States. Others are of joint responsibility.
The resolutions of the Conference as a whole have been brought to the attention of the State Premiers and, in those particular cases where the Government considered it appropriate, specific issues have been raised for State government consideration.
The resolutions of the Conference have also provided, in particular instances, valuable input into ongoing government policy formulation or into current inquiries into policy issues. The Conference findings on matters related to transition from school to the work force are a good example of issues which were referred to the State governments for consideration and have influenced government thinking in introducing its $150m program of school to work transition which my colleague the then Minister for Education and I announced in November 1979. This program is being implemented in co-operation with the States and the Northern Territory and $ 13m of expenditure has already been approved this year. More approvals will be announced in the near future.
In preparing the Government’s response to the resolutions we were interested to note the number of them that reflected existing policies and programs. Much of the text of the Government’s response is therefore limited to explanations of measures already being taken to deal with problems and general issues affecting young people. For this reason the scope for developing new policy initiatives was rather restricted.
The final important consideration which had to be taken into account in preparing a response to the resolutions was the Government’s budgetary policy. There are many competing demands within the community for extra resources and, particularly at a time when restraint in government expenditure is an essential prerequisite for balanced economic recovery without fuelling inflationary pressures, the Government has to consider all of these demands in terms of priority areas of need and cost effectiveness. This assessing of priorities normally occurs annually within the context of the preparation of the Budget.
The time taken to consider and to implement certain decisions on matters relating to the Conference will vary according to the amount of expenditure involved, and the need to consult different bodies and organisations including State governments before decisions are taken. It will be appreciated, therefore, that in some cases our response can only be a commitment to give further consideration to a proposal.
With these preliminary comments, I now present a summary of our response to the resolutions. A statement detailing answers to individual resolutions has been presented to, and discussed with 12 representatives of the Conference delegates. It has been distributed to all other Conference delegates.
The resolutions of the Conference have been grouped into eight major areas as follows: Communication and consultation; employment, training and small business; work and leisure; income security; health; rights and responsibilities; special groups- Aboriginals and ethnic youths; and conservation and environment.
Communication and consultation emerged as one of the major issues of the National Youth Conference. Some 14 resolutions were proposed, covering five main areas relating to Conference proceedings, communication with young people in isolated areas, communication with government, the National Youth Advisory Group, and relationships between young people and youth organisations.
The Government is committed to developing effective channels of communication with young people. To date no one process has emerged as the ideal approach and it is clear that there must be further research and consultation before the dimensions of an effective process can be established.
We have asked, the Office of Youth Affairs in association with the National Youth Advisory Group and the Task Group on Youth Affairs to examine ways to improve this communication, including surveys, seminars, conferences and contacts through voluntary agencies and other existing structures. We will also be examining a range of research proposals into specific areas of youth needs.
Since the National Youth Conference the Government has announced its intention to seek to place young people- those under 30- on appropriate advisory, consultative and similar bodies, so that government has available to it the particular outlook of youth. Such placements have already commenced. We have also made appointments to these bodies of older people with a proven interest in, and affinity with, the attitudes of young people.
The Government supports the National Youth Advisory Group, established to provide advice direct to me, in its efforts to communicate with the youth of Australia and to bring their concerns to the notice of the Government. Action is being taken to strengthen the role of the Office of Youth Affairs and NYAG in the exchange of information between the Government and young people.
The Government is concerned that young people in isolated areas do not have the same access to information as those from more populated areas. The Office of Youth Affairs has been’ directed to examine how best the needs of isolated youth might be identified and met.
The Conference passed resolutions in respect of manpower programs, curriculum development, training of apprentices, and the development of small business and work co-operatives.
In keeping with my announcement at the National Youth Conference that the Government was examining a school to work transition policy, the Government subsequently announced a commitment for such a scheme entailing the expenditure of $ 1 50m over five years.
I have already referred to the Conference’s influence on the development of the school to work transition policy which is aimed at providing all young people with options in education, training and employment. These involve both the secondary schools system and the technical and further education system, and include a number of initiatives designed to provide assistance to young people already experiencing difficulties in making the transition.
In the last Budget the Government allocated $140m to a range of manpower and training programs. Funding of such programs as the Community Youth Support Scheme, Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Full-time Training, the Special Youth Employment Training Program, the National Employment and Training Scheme and the Education Program for Unemployed Youth has been provided to meet special needs of particular groups. These programs are kept under constant review to enable the Government to vary the mix of funding as the needs change.
In relation to small business, the Government recognises the importance of this sector to the Australian economy and has taken a number of initiatives.
Small business development programs which have been introduced and which assist small business include management training assistance, taxation measures, loan provisions, export expansion grants, marketing incentives and productivity improvement programs.
In addition, the Committee of Inquiry into the Australian Financial System- the Campbell inquiry- is currently examining, amongst other things, the financing of small businesses.
The Government’s policy of reducing inflation and encouraging Australian industries’ competitiveness will result in a stronger and more stable small business sector.
The Government is deeply concerned about the high level of youth unemployment and its current and likely impact on social and economic life. It has taken a number of initiatives aimed at assisting young people to enter the work force, and particular efforts have been made to ensure expanding opportunities for youth. For example, in the area of technological change and its impact on employment opportunities for all age groups, the Committee of Inquiry into Technological Change- the Myers inquiry- has been established to examine the complexity of issues involved.
We have considered and decided that it is inappropriate’ to act on two Conference resolutions relating to preferences for tenderers for Commonwealth contracts and youth work co-operatives.
On the first proposal, the Government believes that the administrative costs of a scheme of preferential tendering for employers who take additional apprentices could well outweigh the limited increase of employment which might result.
On the second matter, the Government considers that with the existence of State programs for work co-operatives it is inappropriate for the Commonwealth to enter this area of activity. .
The Government believes that the emphasis of manpower programs for youth should be on assisting the transition from school to work, increasing training opportunities and providing basic skills, work experience and training for disadvantaged young people.
Programs such as CYSS which assist young unemployed in developing and maintaining skills, while retaining their work orientation, are also beneficial.
The Conference considered that it was time for a re-examination of the nature, role and relationship between work and leisure in Australian society. Resolutions called for a reassessment and change in attitude towards work and leisure. Participants requested that research, including consultation with young people, be conducted into the impact of technology and future work patterns, alternative ways of working, and meaningful alternatives to work itself.
In this regard I have already mentioned the establishment of the Myers inquiry into the impact of technological change. The Government is also looking at the constructive use of leisure while bearing in mind the view of most Australians that work is a basic function and value of society.
The Government has referred the Conference resolution relating to the declining popularity of organised recreational activities amongst 14 to 20 year olds to the Recreation Ministers’ Council and the Standing Committee on Recreation for closer examination.
The Conference passed seven resolutions relating to guaranteed minimum income, the unemployment benefit, student financial support and rental/housing and transport assistance.
The Government is committed to providing a rational, comprehensive system of benefits for young people including those completing secondary school, and those continuing on with tertiary education. The range of benefits includes the Secondary Allowances Scheme and the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme.
The Secondary Allowances Scheme provides a means-tested allowance to assist low-income families to maintain children at school for the final two years of secondary school.
The Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme provides a means-tested living allowance and other benefits on a non-competitive basis to students undertaking full time study in approved courses at universities, colleges of advanced education, technical colleges and other approved tertiary institutions.
The Government has certain reservations about a guaranteed minimum income scheme. There would be little general acceptance of a proposition involving increasing tax rates to pay benefits to people who are subject to a test only on income, including people who choose not to provide for themselves.
Australia has in fact developed a comprehensive system of minimum income support which is possibly closer to a guaranteed minimum income scheme than exists in any other country. Practically all are guaranteed an income- other than those who are able to work, but choose not to.
The system under which the unemployment benefit operates in Australia in particular is more comprehensive than the insurance approach common in many overseas countries in that school leavers and other new entrants to the work force are not excluded from eligibility for the benefit because they lack contributory record. There is also no limit in Australia to the period for which the unemployment benefit is payable.
The resolutions of the Conference will, however, be kept in mind in the continuing review of the income security system.
In the general area of social welfare, the Government believes that proposals for accommodation assistance and transport concessions are essentially the responsibility of the States and accordingly resolutions in these areas have been brought to the attention of State governments. The Commonwealth recognises, however, that there are specific areas of need such as homeless youth. The Department of Social Security through the Childrens Services Program has provided funds fc,- this purpose. I have requested the Task Group on Youth Affairs to study this problem to see whether additional Government action is required.
The area of health produced strong resolutions from the Conference participants. They called for more Government involvement in discouraging the use of alcohol, tobacco and other nonprohibited drugs; in particular the Government was urged to broaden and intensify community health, drug and preventative education programs.
As a matter of principle, the Government supports initiatives to discourage behaviour and consumption patterns which are harmful to the health of individuals and the community. Indeed, the Government placed a ban on the brand advertising of cigarettes and tobacco on radio and television in 1976.
After having considered the Baume report and the recommendations of the National Youth Conference, the Government has recently announced in its response to the Baume report that tax rates on alcohol and tobacco are matters usually determined in a budgetary context but that health considerations will also be taken into account should the Government consider adjusting those rates.
Traditionally, the Government has used community education techniques such as the National Drug Education Program to discourage behaviour and consumption patterns which are harmful to the health of individuals and the community. The Department of Health is currently developing a National Health Promotion Program which proposes, in the longer term, to pursue a variety of cross-cutting strategies targeted to different settings- for example, schools, work place and community- in such a way that the messages in each setting would be reinforced by those of other settings.
The school would be one such setting. Children in schools generally have not yet acquired long-term unhealthy behaviour habits- for example, smoking, drug and alcohol abuse- and present, therefore, fertile ground for the cultivation of a better understanding of the close relationship between life styles and health. Much is already being done in schools throughout Australia, but on a piecemeal and uncoordinated basis which emphasises the need for a comprehensive health promotion effort. The National Health Promotion Program will envisage school health education endeavours designed to equip children and adolescents with the appropriate cognitive, emotional and interpersonal skills to adopt and maintain healthy behaviour patterns.
There are a number of health problem areas affecting youth that are a matter of concern. These were acknowledged by the National Youth Conference in its resolution 7, which seeks the provision of adolescent medical units. The resolution states:
That the specific medical (including psychiatric ) problems of adolescents be recognised and catered for in adolescent health units.
The Government recognises these problems and believes young people at risk should be encouraged to seek and accept help early.
The Government has invited the Minister for Health (Mr MacKellar) to examine the appropriateness and availability of health-related services to youth and to recommend to the Government any action necessary to augment services designed to meet the special health needs of youth.
Three resolutions relating to the rights and responsibilities of young people were passed by the Conference. The Government recognises that the legal rights of the child should be kept under constant review, and as a preliminary to a more intensive examination of the issue the Office of Youth Affairs is to review the issue of young people and the law in 1 980-8 1 .
In response to these Conference resolutions, my colleague the Attorney-General (Senator
Durack) has asked all Commonwealth departments to examine their legislation to determine whether it discriminates against young people. The need for an inquiry will be assessed in the light of responses received.
The Conference also passed a resolution seeking formal involvement of students in curriculum development. The Secretary of the Department of Education wrote to his State counterparts and to the Schools Commission, the Curriculum Development Centre and the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority drawing their attention to this resolution and inviting their comments. The issue is essentially a State education matter, but over the last decade all systems have recognised the need to give young people more responsibility for decision making, particularly through such bodies as student councils.
The Government fully supports the proposition that the Aboriginal people of Australia should be encouraged and assisted to retain their racial identity and their traditional lifestyle or, where desired, to adopt partially or wholly a European lifestyle. This is consistent with the Government’s policy that all Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders should be as free as other Australians to determine their own varied futures.
The Government believes that Aboriginals should be assisted to utilise educational opportunities available to the wider community, and that, in general, educational opportunities for Aboriginals should be in no way inferior to those available to the rest of the community. To overcome educational disadvantages suffered by many Aboriginals, special education programs are provided for Aboriginals. Education should be in harmony with the Aboriginals’ cultural background and should enhance their dignity, self-respect and self-reliance.
In relation to the resolution on land rights, we have enacted the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976, which had the effect of granting inalienable freehold title to Aboriginal land trusts over former Aboriginal reserves and certain other lands in the Northern Territory, and created a framework for the hearing of traditional land claims over unalienated Crown land. In introducing the Aboriginal Land Rights Bill the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who, as it happens, was myself, pointed out that the Commonwealth action reflected its determination that Australians should be able to pursue the lives they want, in ways that they determine, and that securing land rights to Aboriginals in the Northern Territory was a significant expression of this objective. The Minister stated that he was sure- and I am still sure- that this progressive step would be studied with interest in the States with respect to their land. Where Aboriginals do not have access to land for their social and economic needs the Commonwealthfunded Aboriginal Land Fund Commission purchases land for them in the States. To date, some 52 properties have been purchased.
– That is right, and I authorised the purchase of Noonkanbah. Furthermore, in several States Aboriginals have been given title to former reserves. The resolution of the National Youth Conference in this matter has been drawn to the attention of the State governments.
The Government accepts and supports the view contained in the resolution concerning Aboriginal health problems. The Departments of Aboriginal Affairs and Health are actively encouraging the development of health services for Aboriginals, including the funding of Aboriginal health units in State health departments and Aboriginal-controlled community health services and the training of Aboriginal health workers. The policy behind the resolution, and the broad forms of support offered for health service, are in accord with the report entitled ‘Aboriginal Health’ by the House of Representatives Standing Committee, which was tabled on 20 March 1 979. The Government recently reviewed the report of the Program Effectiveness Review into Aboriginal health status and programs, and will be giving the report close consideration.
Co-ordination of Aboriginal affairs between the Commonwealth and the State governments takes place through the annual meetings of the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council, at which Ministers responsible for Aboriginal affairs consult on matters of mutual concern. In addition, the National Aboriginal Conference, which has elected Aboriginal representatives from all regions of Australia, provides advice to the Commonwealth Government on programs and policies.
The Government strongly supports the direction of resolutions passed by the Conference relating to ethnic groups in the community, which accords with its recently adopted comprehensive policy with regard to migrants in Australia following the Galbally report.
Significant Government action has been taken in a wide variety of areas, including financing of an integrated settlement program, the appointment of migrants to advisory bodies, expansion of government interpreting and liaison services, development of language training, and promotion of cultural exchange between the various ethnic groups in our community.
The Government, in accepting the Galbally report, agreed to a three-year program estimated to cost $50m and covering initiatives such as the integrated initial settlement program, extra resources for the teaching of English in schools, the expansion of community English tuition, and the provision of special migrant health services under the Community Health Program.
Conference resolutions call for a higher priority for environmental and conservation considerations, standardisation of environmental legislation, regular and updated statements on government policy, and public release of information concerning environment and conservation matters, provision of financial incentives for the use and development of energy efficient and low impact technologies, and government legislation designed to eliminate lead from petrol.
The Government maintains its commitment to the encouragement of environmental and conservation considerations, and in this regard works to co-ordinate the activities of the State and Commonwealth governments in the area of environment and conservation through the Australian Environment Council and the Council of Nature Conservation Ministers.
The Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 allows the Government to act in the national interest to ensure that appropriate prior assessment is made of any proposed actions in which the Commonwealth might be involved and which might have a significant effect on the environment. The Government, through its National Parks and Wildlife Service, manages some national parks of national and international importance such as Kakadu and Uluru and the Commonwealth has entered into special arrangements with the Queensland Government for the protection of the Great Barrier Reef.
In response to the interest shown in this area by participants at the National Youth Conference the Government, through the Office of Youth Affairs, is examining what initiatives it may take concerning the involvement of young people in the area of conservation and environment.
The recommendation of the National Youth Conference on standardisation of environmental legislation is similar to recommendations on this matter by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Conservation. The Government is considering these proposals.
In the field of energy the Government has encouraged efficient and low impact technologies by allowing exemption from sales tax for these technologies, and has provided under the National Energy Research, Development and Demonstration Program over $38m to date to stimulate energy research.
Both the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Transport Advisory Council are considering the question of lead in petrol and lead emission from motor vehicles. The issue is also being considered by both the Commonwealth and State governments in the Australian Environment Council. The resolution of the Youth Conference in this regard has been brought to the attention of responsible Ministers.
The Commonwealth Government makes every effort to release regular and updated statements of its policy on conservation, which was another matter of concern to the Conference. This concern has been brought to the attention of the Government Task Force on Departmental Information and the Freedom of Information Legislation.
I would express the Government’s gratitude to those young people who attended the Conference and expressed their views on such a wide range of interests.
There is every indication since the Conference that this meeting of young people has provided a milestone in two-way communication between youth and Government.
The Government is determined that this impetus will not be lost and that the 1 980 ‘s will provide the opportunity for the youth of Australia to profoundly influence Government decisionmaking. Effective communication is at the heart of a productive relationship between youth and Government.
In this regard I mentioned to the Conference my determination to strengthen the roles of the Office of Youth Affairs and the National Youth Advisory Group, in co-operation with the Standing Task Group on Youth Affairs. Action in this direction has already been taken. The National Youth Advisory Group is working constructively, establishing its links with government and youth, and I will shortly be announcing new appointments to it.
I look forward to a continuing period of development in relations and effective communication between young Australians and the Government. The first National Youth Conference held in Australia was an important constructive step along that path.
The National Youth Conference was undertaken seriously. The consideration by the Government of the resolutions of that Conference were taken seriously, as is reflected in the statement that I have made to the House. I can assure all participants in the National Youth Conference and all young people of Australia that the follow-up to the Conference also will be undertaken seriously by this Government. I present the following paper:
Government’s Response to Resolutions of the National Youth Conference- Ministerial Statement, 30 April 1980.
Motion (by Mr Nixon) proposed:
That the House take note of the paper.
Motion ( by Mr Nixon)- by leave- agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Port Adelaide speaking for a period not exceeding 3 1 minutes.
– It is a tragedy that the first serious statement on youth affairs that has been made in this Parliament for so many years has to be so abysmal. It lacks any substance in terms of understanding the magnitude of the problem that is confronting so many people who make up the youth population of this country. In this country we have something like 2,500,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24. At least 10 per cent of that number- 250,000- have no jobs. They are unemployed. The Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) makes no reference to them or to the way in which these problems will be attacked. The young people of this country are entitled to be disillusioned by the way they are serviced by this Parliament and, more specifically, by this Government. It was the young people of Australia- in a most unfair fashion- who carried the great responsibility of discrimination in conscription in the 1960s. It is the young people of this country who in the late 1 970s carried, and obviously the 1980s will carry, the unfair burden of discrimination in employment. It is these problems and structural alterations that are taking place in our society which the Government- through the voice of the
Minister- has completely ignored. I honestly believe that, if they were given the opportunity to stay away from the polling booths at the next Federal election, those young people between the ages of 1 8 and 24 would prefer to stay away rather than cast a vote for a government that is not intent on attacking the problems with which they are confronted.
We have reached the stage where a rock concert on television receives greater respect than an announcement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), where the name of Molly Meldrum on the television channels of Australia would be greeted with far more excitement and trust than the voice of a Minister of this Government or, indeed, the Prime Minister. All this has been accomplished in the last four or five years as the young people have continued to protest at the undue burden which is placed upon their shoulders. Every time the Government is confronted with the problem it tries to turn the charge back and say that that problem exists in our society because the young people have created it. It charges the young people with being unemployed because they lack motivation. It charges the young people with being unemployed because they lack educational qualifications. It charges the young people with being unemployed because they do not wish to work or because their wages are too high. They are never unemployed as a result of this Government’s policies.
When these young people were called together last year at the first National Youth Conference, a conference which was appallingly preparedthat was the description given to it by most of the people who attended- they discussed matters which this Government has almost totally ignored in today’s statement. When the young people met to discuss and resolve that there ought to be greater government expenditure in the areas in which they are involved, the Government totally ignored them and said that for budgetary reasons it cannot deal with the resolutions which were carried at the youth conference. But in the same breath as the Government is telling the unfortunate youth of this country that it cannot spend any more money on them, at the behest of the Chief Justice of this country it will spend Sim opening the new High Court in three weeks’ time. The Government will fly in people from all over the world, feed them the best food that Australia has to offer, give them bottles of champagne, put on a big party at Government House and spend Sim to open a building. But it will not give an extra cent towards solving the youth problem that is confronting this country.
The Prime Minister, who spoke at the Youth Conference, said: ‘I would be delighted to hear of the flow-on of the Conference resolutions and see what we can do about them’. But what has the Prime Minister done about expenditure on the problems confronting the youth of this country? He spent $40m buying himself a couple of aeroplanes so that he could fly around the world. That $40m could have gone a long way towards putting many of the young people of this country into work. The problem does not revolve merely around the people who do not have work. Many people- thousands of young people- are forced to go back to school because there are no jobs. Literally tens of thousands of well qualified people in this country are sweeping the streets, doing totally unskilled work, in spite of the fact that they studied hard and that their parents made great sacrifices. They were told that if they studied hard their opportunities for good employment would be even greater. But that was all to no avail. This Government does not seem to understand the changes that are taking place in Australia. It does not seem to understand that some of the changes that have taken place throughout the 1970s are permanent. We are not going to reverse them. We are not going to put thousands of people back to work in manufacturing industry.
All these young people suffer the same fate. Today at Parliament House I had unemployed young people from Canberra come and have lunch with me to talk about their problems. As someone said, as far as the Government was concerned, the Youth Conference last year was a complete farce. The Government conducted it as a public relations exercise. One has only to read the Minister’s statement to realise that the Government should get a world gold award for the number of times it has said that the decisions reached at the Youth Conference were being considered or were under review. I ask the Minister to tell us one of these days which proposalthe proposal that is under review or the proposal that is being considered- gets priority. The Minister’s statement gives notice that as far as the Government is concerned this is the end of the public relations exercise concerning youth. Combined with this statement, we have the statement made by the Minister yesterday telling us that we are on the road back to full employment. We had the Minister in the Parliament at Question Time today using figures which he knows are questionable.
This is all being done to lift the expectations of the young people in this country. As I said, they have a right to be disillusioned with the way in which the Parliament of this country has serviced their needs. If they were given the option of voting or not voting at future elections, I would not blame them if half of them stayed away. That is what happens in the United States of America. That is what happens in all the countries where voting is voluntary. If the politicians do not perform they do not earn the respect and support of the youth of their country. That is exactly what has happened in this country. How many times have each of us been told of people who have completed their training- not people who have left school but people who have left colleges, such as teachers and nurses, people who were told to do their training for three, four or five years- only to find that no jobs are available? The Minister does not even refer to the problem. In 1980 we have people being trained in colleges and when they complete their training at the end of 1980, 1981 or 1982 they will not be able to get a job using the skill which they have developed by their training. But the Minister just brushes this problem aside because it has become too complex. The Minister is still living in a box. He believes that one of these days Australia will return to the 1950s and the 1960s. Someone ought to tell this Government that the 1950s and 1960s are history. The Australian people want to know what will happen in the 1980s and the 1990s.
– You are a born pessimist.
– This is what they are concerned about. The Minister interjects from across the table that I am a born pessimist. I am a born realist. I mix and talk with these people who are confronted with these problems every day of the week. The Minister says that I am a pessimist because yesterday when he came into the House, like Sir Charles Court, talking about the mining industry, he told us that everybody would go back to work because on the drawing boards of the mineral industry in this country are projects that will employ everybody who is out of work. He told us that we are on the road back to full employment. That is a cliche for the 1980 elections. I am not allowed to use in Parliament the term which describes what I think about that statement, but if the Minister likes to come outside after I have completed my speech I will tell him to his face exactly how every other Australian would describe the statement that he made yesterday. Again, it is a classic example of the way in which this Minister and this Government lift the expectations of the Australian people. But when the time comes to perform there is no performance.
There is a real breakdown- a worrying breakdown- in the relationship between young people and adults in our community. We have 40,000 homeless youths in this country. That must be something of which the Minister is proud. Forty thousand young people without homes are wandering around this country. Most of them come from homes which have broken up as a result of unemployment. Unemployment has been created by this Government’s policies. That is how it treats the youth of the country. Why does the Government not ask its Ministers to put that matter under review as well while it is looking at all the other proposals which the Conference put forward? In the period in which unemployment hasgrown- the number of unemployed has grown by a minimum of 200,000 since this Government came to office- the Government has become politically scared of unemployment. It has had to do something to try to get the focus of responsibility away from itself and on to some other party.
As I said at the outset, this Minister, along with several other Ministers, coined the phrase dole bludger. To him everybody who did not have a job was a dole bludger. He came into this House after making a statement at a conference and said: ‘I am warning the young people of this country that they have to get off their backsides. We are not going to find jobs for them’. What is the Government trying to do? Is it trying to opt out of its responsibilities? If this Government is not in charge of the economy, who is? We had the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson), the Acting Treasurer, saying that he drove past a beach and saw some people there who were obviously dole bludgers. Not every person in Australia has the means, as has the Minister for Finance, to live on the Isle of Capri on the Gold Coast. I suppose he sees a lot more of the beach than many other people.
We told the youth of this country that if they studied hard at school, if they went to college, good jobs would be available for them. Now the Minister, who is harassing the young unemployed of this country with his work test, says: You will take any job which is available, irrespective of what you have been told at school or at college. You will sweep the streets, work in the mines or clean up horse manure. It does not matter what the Commonwealth Employment Service tells you to do, if you do not want to lose your unemployment benefits you will accept any job’. That is the way in which this Government operates and that is the way in which it considers it is looking after the welfare of the youth of this country. So we had the development of the accusation that everybody who did not work did not want to work; plenty of jobs were available. That is the way in which this Government has operated. Let me read to the House from the Adelaide Advertiser of just a couple of weeks ago. This Minister says that we are on the path back to full employment. An advertisement placed in the Adelaide Advertiser on Tuesday 25 March reads:
Written applications are invited from alert young persons for general office duties including Docket sorting and some typing.
M.S.McLEOD LTD, 176 PULTENEY ST, ADELAIDE 5000
On 29 March- four days later- another advertisement appeared. It read:
M.S.McLEOD LTD 1 76 Pulteney St, Adelaide
We wish to thank the 273 applicants, who submitted applications, for the above vacancy, advertised … the position has been filled.
Yet the Minister says that we are on the road back to full employment. He should tell the 272 applicants who missed out on the job that we are on the road back to full employment. That is the story right throughout Australia. The Minister said that there has been an enormous growth in employment in the last year, but if he looks at the figures for the number of people who are receiving the unemployment benefit he will see that they do not tell the same story. I say to him that we have to look at all the figures in order to get some idea of the situation. A young person who attended the Conference last year wrote on the wall at the back of the conference room:
No gathering of human beings is ever a complete failure, but this one came close.
That is how seriously some of the people who attended the Conference saw the way in which this Government was taking into account the problems of the youth of this country. Delegates at the Conference, among other things, urged the Government to create jobs. On how many occasions have they heard the Minister say: Philosophically, the Government is opposed to creating jobs. The market place has got to be allowed to create the jobs’? The only reference in the statement to the unemployment benefit being increased and the work test being abolished is the remark that budgetary considerations do not allow the Government to move in any of these areas.
Let us look at some of the matters which the Minister raised in his speech. They make very interesting reading. In paragraph 9 the Minister tells us that budgetary considerations do not allow the Government to move in some of the areas dealt with by resolutions of the Youth Conference concerning the abolition of the means test and increasing the unemployment benefit. But, as I said earlier, if the Cabinet had sat down and discussed the resolutions of the Youth Conference at the same time as it decided to spend $ 1 m opening the High Court building or it decided to spend $40m on VIP aircraft to enable Malcolm Fraser to have trips around the world- he has already had 21 trips- perhaps it would have given some priority to the problems of the youth of this country. Until it does so there will not be much light on the hill as far as the actions of this Government are concerned.
Paragraph 14 of the Minister’s statement points out that to date no one process has emerged as the ideal approach to communication between the Government and the youth of this country. I do not believe that there is such a thing as one process in terms of communication between politicians and the youth of this country. The Government is held in such low regard by the youth of this country, and for good reason, that there is no one process. I give the Government some advice: If it wants to build up its stocks with the youth of this country and everybody else it should start to tell the truth. It should tell the people of Australia, including the youth, about the problems we are likely to be confronted with in the 1 980s; it should tell them about the changes in our society with which we will have to deal; it should tell them how the politicians of this country will have to be far more sophisticated in understanding the problems with which Australia will be confronted; and it should tell them what damage to job opportunities is being done by the increase in oil prices in this country. The Government has to tell the truth before it can ask the young people to have any respect for the Government. If it does not do that it does not deserve that respect.
In paragraph 22, in explanation of the resolutions which were carried about spending money on job creation, training and retraining, the Minister just gave us a rundown of what the Government appropriated in the last Budget for all the measures which it calls its training and retraining programs. He did not mention that already the. Government has been exposed in trying to save-‘ money on these programs. The sum of $29m of . the amount appropriated last year will not be spent because the Minister is too insistent on trying to ingratiate himself with the Prime Minister so that he can go up the ministerial ladder. He is interested more in that than in worrying about the youth problems of this country.
In paragraph 27 of the statement the Minister did us the decency of referring to youth unem.ployment. In a speech that took 32 minutes he devoted two and a half lines to unemployment. He said:
The Government is deeply concerned about the high level of youth unemployment and its current and likely impact on social and economic life.
That is the summing up of this Government, after four and a half years in office, on youth unemployment in this country. This Minister knows better than anybody that the Government’s programs are a dismal failure. As I said yesterday, we have to go scouring Europe for tradesmen to come and live in Australia because we will not invest in training Australian youth to be tradesmen. We are so concerned that we have never had a debate in this Parliament on the social implications of unemployment. The Brotherhood of St Laurence, the Society of St Vincent de Paul and all the other groups that work in this area are telling us frightful stories of the social costs, associated with unemployment in this country. The fact that only two and a half lines of a 32-minute speech were devoted to unemployment gives us some indication of the mentality, quality and humanity of this Minister, this miserable man who sets out just to serve the Prime Minister.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Port Adelaide will withdraw the reflection.
– I withdraw. In paragraph 32 of the statement the Minister explained how the Community Youth Support Scheme has been of great benefit. He told us that it is available and has been helping people to gain skills and to consolidate their skills. It does not create one job, apart from those for the co-ordinators who work with the unemployed youth throughout Australia. Prior to the Budget being presented last year, 321 schemes were operating in Australia. We were spending $ 11.5m on them. CYSS was so good that the Minister, in the Budget of last year, took $1.5m from it and closed down 51 other schemes. That left 270 schemes still operating. At Christmas he found that the amount of money appropriated was not sufficient to keep the 270 schemes going, even though they had had their funds cut, so he put another $ lm back into the schemes.
This Government has no faith in schemes like CYSS. I invite anybody in Australia to visit one of the places in which CYSS operates. The Government hopes that CYSS will be a morale booster. The Government hopes that CYSS can keep the hopes of kids alive so that they will keep searching for work. CYSS does not provide jobs. In some ways it provides a little bit of mercy in recycling the young people who have been unemployed for so long. The Government does not show any interest in the difference between a person who has been unemployed for a week and a person who has been unemployed for a year. It just considers them part of the group it has put out to carry the economic burdens of getting inflation down. That is the way in which this Government operates and that is the way in which it will continue to operate.
Further on the Minister said that the Government cannot do anything about increasing the unemployment benefit. The $36 which is paid to persons under the age of 18 has not been altered since the days of the Labor Government over five years ago. Anybody who applies the inflation rate to that $36 over five years will find that a person under 18 years of age is living on a lot less than he was when the Labor Government went out of power. In addition, in order to stop these unemployed people showing any incentives for work, the most they can earn on top of the $36 a week is $6. The Minister tells us that nothing can be done about that. I will tell the Minister- I am sure that most of the members of the Government know this-that we are training thousands of cheats. We are training young Australians not to tell us when they earn more than $6 because if they earn more than $6 and they tell us they will start to lose the unemployment benefit. There can be no doubt at all that thousands of young Australians, hoping to go out and get an introduction to the work force, are doing work for which they are paid more than $6 but will not tell the Department of Social Security. They know that if they do they will lose part of the miserly $36 which they are paid in unemployment benefit.
Everybody realises that that limit of $6 has to be lifted. Other social security recipients can earn up to $20 without having their pensions affected. Why should not the youth of Australia who already cany the enormous social burden of being unemployed be allowed to earn more than the $6 which this Government now allows? We are teaching them to be cheats. If we teach them to be cheats as soon as they leave school, why should they change? Why should they have any respect for a system which shows so little respect for their pan in the community? The Minister says that nothing can be done about it. The claim is that the unemployment benefit for adults should be indexed so that people can live decently. That benefit should be brought up to what Ronald Henderson said in the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty is the poverty line. Honourable members would not think that it would be too much for the Parliament seriously to consider that the unemployment benefit should be paid along the lines of the benchmark that Ronald Henderson said in his report is the poverty line in Australia. This Government does not look at any of these problems because the Liberal Party traditionally has never been worried about the social costs. Perhaps in the 1 950s and 1960s it could ignore it, but I can assure the Government that in the 1 980s no one will be able to ignore the social cost of these problems, whether it be crime, drug abuse or whatever. It will cost the community much more money in trying to cure the social costs that evolve as a result of unemployment and broken homes than it will to try to keep the homes together and to put the young people to work. Of course the Minister does not in any way try to attack the problems in this manner. Sir Peter Karmel said in his report on education and work:
What is required is an integrated policy for youth which would provide each individual with an activity in the form of education/training/work/recreation or a combination of these directed towards facilitating the transition from youth to adulthood.
That is what the Parliament ought to be looking at. We ought to be looking at a combination of policies which carry out a facilitation from youth to adulthood. We should not be looking at the public relations exercise of holding a youth conference so that the Government can show it has hair on its chest and say that it is worried about the youth of the country. We ought to be doing what my colleague the honourable member for Lalor, Mr Barry Jones, is doing in looking at the problems that will be thrust on Australia by the changes that have taken place as a result of the changes in the industries. I want to quote what he has written. It will be published very shortly. I agree to a very large extent with what he has written about the changes in our society. He says that our society in the 1980s is going to be marked by the following: a decline in the proportion of the work force employed in manufacturing and directly related industries, so that more goods and services are produced by fewer people; a rise in ‘service ‘ employment to between 60 and 75 per cent of the total work force; a greater proportion of the workforce engaged in the distribution of goods and services than in their production; a radical discontinuity with past economic history, marked by a dramatically widening gap between the high cost of labour and the low cost of technology, intensified by the impact of micro-electronics; the growth of an information based economy in which more people are engaged in data processing, broadly defined, than in agriculture and manufacturing; the development of a global economy, characterised by an international division of labour, instant world wide communication, and the declining relevance of specific local or regional market forces determining demand and employment patterns, increasing power of multi-national corporations, and a reduction in economic autonomy by particular nation states; an increasing complexity in decision making and a tendency for power to move away from elected parliaments to various groups of experts such as technocrats, public servants, or corporate managers, who operate on a basis of technological determinism’ and in which the democratic political process is of diminished significance; falling demand for unskilled and semi-skilled workers and an end to the era of ‘full employment’ due to the decline in the numbers of people who need to work to maintain supplies of goods and services; and dramatic increases in resource depletion, widening the gap between the ‘have’ and ‘have not ‘ nations.
The Parliament at some time should set up a committee to debate and discuss the problems, to look at the constructive way in which the Parliament and the talents that reside in this Parliament could be used and to look purposefully at the problems of the youth of this country. We could with justification win back to our side the trust of young people in Australia. We have not done that in the past. Specifically the Government is giving the youth of this country great reason to be disillusioned with the parliamentary process. We have thrust those young people on to a heap. We have given them an economic burden to overcome. The inflationary problems are being borne by the youth of this country unfairly. They have a right, as I said, to be disillusioned with us. The National Youth Conference which was held last year did not go any part of the way to overcoming the problems. The resolutions which were carried have been ignored by the Government. In the words of the Minister in his statement, ‘they are under review’ or ‘they are being considered’. The Minister has in every sense a right to be condemned for the role he has played in uplifting the expectations of the youth of this country without any conviction of carrying out what he promises in his statement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Speaker has received a letter from the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to provide programs that would ensure accessibility to and security of housing for the Australian people.
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-
-After unemployment, housing is the most serious social problem facing the people of Australia. Every day the housing problems grow worse in this country. More severe problems, of course, exist in differing regions in Australia, particularly in the region of Sydney. For example, housing prices in Sydney at present are skyrocketing. In Perth, and on the Queensland Gold Coast- there are growth pressures. In Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra the housing industry is in a depressed state. The housing problems are related to the structural upheaval that is taking place in the Australian economy. The decline of manufacturing industry across Australia and especially in country towns is causing a major dislocation of the population. People who have lived for many years in rural areas are now finding they have no job and income security. When they leave for a major city or a growth centre they find that they have no housing security on arrival in those areas.
A family which leaves Wangaratta in Victoria to go to Gladstone in Queensland in search of employment soon finds two things. It is forced into sub-standard rental accommodation at high prices or into poorly serviced sub-standard accommodation in caravan parks. A family which leaves Ballarat to go to Sydney to look for employment finds, firstly, that there are few jobs available and, secondly, the cost of housing is beyond their means. Most families have to go out in the western suburbs of Sydney where few jobs are available, where there are few social and cultural facilities and where the price of housing is around $100 a week to rent or between $42,000 and $45,000 to buy. No single program can solve the unemployment in this country and no single program can solve the housing problems of this country. A comprehensive strategy is needed to attack the related problems on a broad front. It is clear that the Government has no strategy except a strategy of neglect. It is a strategy of a class government which represents only the very wealthy and only the few elite in this community.
More and more people are being excluded from home ownership because they cannot afford the high and rising prices. They need the option to rent and to have security of accommodation within their means. They lack the right under this Government even to purchase a home. Under this Government only one person in ten can afford to acquire a home at present. Over 75,000 families are on the waiting lists for public housing. That list is growing. Over 100,000 people are homeless in this country and that number is still growing. Over 200,000 people are living in temporary or mobile homes and that number is growing. There is an urgent need for an expansion of public housing to meet the needs of these people. This Government has pursued a course of gradual withdrawal from its responsibility for public housing. In the last Budget this Government made available less than one-third of the amount provided for public housing by the Labor Government in 1974-75. As a result, the number of new public dwelling commencements is less than half of that under the Labor Government.
With cutbacks on public housing expenditure and cutbacks on public capital works spending there has been a loss of over 50,000 jobs in the building and construction industries during this period of the Fraser Government. We know that it is not possible to acquire a home in the metropolitan area of Sydney costing under $35,000, the ceiling price to qualify for the Government grant under the home savings grants scheme. We know that more and more people in other capital cities are being disqualified from owning a home. As a result, the capacity of the home building industry has been declining. At present, the home building industry is operating at 12 per cent below capacity. While a stimulus is needed for the industry to meet the backlog of neglected social needs, that stimulus has to be made progressively and in a planned way. Labor’s program has been designed to provide a stimulus to the home building industry, to expand access to home ownership, to increase the availability of public housing and to ensure the security of housing for all Australians.
I want to expose the failure of this Government to provide housing security for people by contrasting the Government’s present policies with the policies of the incoming Labor Government. Labor’s housing policy has three major thrusts: First, improved home ownership assistance; second, the expansion of public housing; and, third, the re-establishment of the Australian
Housing Corporation. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to have Labor’s housing policy incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
LABOR’S HOUSING POLICY
Labor’s housing policy is based on the assumption that everybody has the right to shelter sufficient for them to live with security, dignity and comfort.
Labor believes that people should be free to choose to either buy or rent their accommodation.
It recognises that in the present economic situation many families can only be helped to achieve reasonable housing when a significant part of the stock is in public ownership.
Labor recognises that measures designed to make better use of the existing housing stock must be taken.
Labor recognises that special measures must be taken to slow down the rate of inflation in land and housing prices.
It also recognises that there is a need to discourage financial institutions from making speculative investment in property- particularly land for residential development and Central Business Districts- because it is a major inflationary pressure in the economy, making it difficult for working people to purchase their own home.
Basic family housing policies
Labor will introduce a Family Home Ownership Plan. Under this scheme the Government will make available a Family Home Ownership Grant of $3,000 to eligible first home buyers. It will be paid over the first four years of loan repayment with the first year payment of $ 1,200; the second year $900; the third year $600; and the fourth year $300. The Grant can be used to increase borrowings or reduce repayments. It will allow for the average income earner additional borrowings of $11,330 from a savings bank and $9,750 from a building society.
The Grant will be made available to single income first home buyers with an income up to $ 1 6,000 in the year prior to application, while for first home buyers with a dual income the limit will be $24,000. To qualify for the Grant applicants will be expected to have saved at least $3,000 with a recognised home lending institution over a period of at least 1 2 months. Arrangements will be made to enable Grant payments to be made direct to the lending institution on behalf of the home buyers. The Home Savings Grant will be continued for those who prefer to receive a $2,000 lump sum payment in preference to the Family Home Ownership Grant. All previous HSG commitments will be honoured.
Labor will introduce a Home Improvement Program in co-operation with State and Local Government. Owner occupiers. will be eligible for a loan up to $3,000 with a repayment period of five years. Loans will be made for home improvements such as hot water (including solar), heating, insulation (to economise on energy), plumbing (including inside toilets). The loans will be available to single income families with an income up to $12,000 and for dual income families with an income up to $ 16,000. The interest rate will be in line with Savings Bank home loans. In the first year $7.5m will be provided for the establishment of a revolving fund.
Labor will increase public housing funds by $80m per annum for the construction of new housing as well as for the selective purchase of existing dwellings in inner city areas.
Labor will abolish the system of ‘market related rents’ and, with the co-operation of the States, will seek to introduce an averaged ‘ cost-rent system. Subsidy provisions will be made for tenants in need so that no public housing rent exceeds 20 per cent of household income. These measures will be implemented through a renegotiated Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
Supplementary housing policies
Labor will establish an earmarked revolving fund to improve the housing of the rural population. The Rural Housing Improvement Fund Scheme will be developed in collaboration with the States.
Labor will re-establish the Australian Housing Corporation which will- administer the Defence Services Homes Scheme with the objective of eliminating backlog; establish a second mortgage market; introduce deposit insurance schemes to provide security for people investing in building societies; introduce deferred repayment mortgages; and develop and finance cost-rent housing associations and co-operatives.
Labor will increase the supply of land at reasonable prices in appropriate locations in cities where land price inflation remains excessive. Labor will conduct a review of the operation of the Land Commissions to ensure their effectiveness.
Labor will enlist the co-operation of the States in measures to reform and speed up the conveyancing system.
Labor will sponsor the development of energy efficient housing for the different regions of the nation. Labor will establish a program to educate builders and home owners about ways in which energy savings can be made by using modern design and materials. Funds will be made available for research into energy efficient housing designs and materials.
-I thank the House. Labor’s program will mean greater housing security for the people and on-going job creation because if we create greater investment in housing, it has a cumulative effect. People will want to buy more refrigerators, more washing machines and more home furnishings. This will have an on-going cumulative effect on employment. But this Government restricts its policies, particularly on home building and home ownership. Labor’s home ownership scheme is designed to assist home buyers in two ways. First, a grant of $3,000 will be made available over four years to eligible first home buyers. Those eligible are single income families earning up to $16,000 a year and joint income families earning up to $24,000 a year. There will be no other means test on Labor’s housing program in regard to this proposal. This grant will enable people to obtain a larger loan from a bank or building society and so reduce the deposit gap that otherwise excludes the majority of people from being able to buy their own home. The average income family will be able to borrow an extra $11,000 from a savings bank or an extra $9,750 from a building society at no extra cost to them. For a home buyer on average earnings who wishes to buy a $40,000 home, the deposit gap is about $ 1 5,000. Under Labor’s scheme, the deposit gap will be reduced to about $5,000.
At present, a family needs an income of around $15,000 a year to be able to buy a home at the bottom end of the market in the western suburbs of Sydney. With Labor’s scheme, those people on incomes of less than $ 1 5,000 a year will be able to obtain access to home ownership. For example, a family on an average annual income of $12,400 at present can obtain a maximum mortgage from a building society of $25,200. They must have a deposit of $14,200 in order to be able to purchase a $40,000 home. With Labor’s home ownership scheme, the same family can obtain a mortgage of $34,950 so that the deposit required is reduced to $5,000. Under our scheme, they would repay $3, 100 in the first year as a result of our payment of $1,200 to them. In the second year, they would repay $3,400 and we would pay $900; in the third year, $3,700 and we would pay $600 and in the fourth year, $4,000 and we would pay $300. As their incomes rise each year the repayments will not exceed 25 per cent of family income. The scheme will prevent home ownership from becoming the preserve of only the elite. It will take pressure off the private rental market where rents are becoming exorbitant and it will stimulate the home building industry and flow through to other job creation areas of the economy.
The second way in which Labor’s home ownership scheme will assist home buyers is by reducing their repayments in the first four years when the burden is heaviest on the family budget. With rising interest rates, the scheme is becoming increasingly important. Many families have to reduce their living standards in order to meet their mortgage commitments. Some are forced to forgo having children so that they can save to buy a home and earn enough money to repay the loan. A rise in interest rates of one per cent on a $30,000 home loan over 25 years means an additional monthly repayment of $22. That is an additional repayment of about $6,580 over the life of the loan. A grant of $3,000 over the first four years will help new home buyers to get their feet on the first rung of the home ownership ladder.
I turn now to the second thrust of our policy, that is, public home ownership. Labor will increase funds for public housing by at least $80m in its first year in office. The increased funds will allow for the construction of new dwellings and the selective purchase of existing dwellings, especially in inner city areas. These funds will allow for an increase in the supply of housing, reduce the rate of house price inflation in the private markets and provide more jobs. Labor is concerned to protect low income residents from being displaced from inner city areas and will provide funds in co-operation with State and local government to provide housing security for low income earners. Between 1972 and 1975 we saw the development of Labor housing programs such as the Glebe Estate which we purchased from the Church of England, the Woolloomooloo scheme which was carried out in conjuction with the New South Wales Government and the Emerald Hill scheme which was carried out with the Victorian Government. Similar schemes on a smaller scale will be entered into by the new Labor Government.
Through a renegotiated Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, Labor will seek to replace the system of market related rents with a fairer system. The market related rents system means that public tenants are made to pay for the further provision of public housing. It is a situation whereby the needy subsidise the poor. The system has imposed hardship for many public tenants. In Victoria, for example, two out of five housing commission tenants are in rental arrears. Many are served with eviction notices, often because they are unemployed. Labor will seek to introduce a system so that no public housing tenant pays more than 20 per cent of his household income in rent.
The third thrust of Labor’s housing policy is the re-establishment of the Australian Housing Corporation which will maintain the liquidity flow for finance for housing. The Corporation will not compete with existing financial institutions but will supplement those institutions. At present, with major infrastructure developments taking place in the new growth regions for mineral processing developments, there is a large call on the Australian capital market. Finance for housing may become restricted as semigovernment authorities and other organisations seek more funds for capital projects. We have to ensure that the availability of housing finance is not restricted. The Australian Housing Corporation will establish a second mortgage market providing more equitable access to funds for second mortgage purchasers. It will administer the introduction of a deferred mortgage repayment scheme. These are essential innovations which are welcomed by the majority of financial institutions. They are sensible innovations and they are equitable innovations.
Let us be clear: The priorities of this Government are directed towards assisting the coporate sector- the wealthy sector- to increase its profits. This Government has no concern for the many neglected social needs of the people of this country. It is in the process of transferring funds away from the people to the corporate sector. The reduction in funds for housing programs is one part of this transference of funds away from the people to the corporate sector. As a result, a growing number of people experience hardship and employment opportunities are being restricted. Labor’s priorities are designed to meet the needs of the people. When the needs of the people are being met there must be a more productive use of skills and resources. When the needs of people are neglected those skills and resources are being wasted. The failure of the Government to meet the housing needs of the Australian people is a major contribution to the economic stagnation of this country. Labor’s housing programs will contribute to renewed economic activity and to greater security for all Australians.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– The Opposition does itself little credit in the arguments that it has advanced during this debate on housing. The honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) has spent well over 10 minutes of the 15 minutes available to him, dealing with the housing policies of the Australian Labor Party. I suggest that they disclose a twisted approach to the housing issues of this country. The honourable member has made it very clear that should the Labor Party ever regain office it would return to a policy of Whitlamism. By that I mean that it would attempt to solve all the housing problems of this nation by spending as much of” the taxpayers’ money as it possibly could. Labor sees the answer, as it did between 1972 and 1975, as spend, spend, spend; to drag hard-earned money from the taxpayers and use it on expensive government-funded programs. Spending may sometimes assist to overcome problems but more often than not spending to the extent contemplated by Labor compounds the problems that exist. The policies of the ALP are superficial, extravagantly expensive and would once again prove to be totally ineffective.
I wish briefly to refer to comments made in one or two newspapers following the announcement of Labor’s housing policy. I refer first to an editorial which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on 15 February 1980, soon after Labor’s policy was announced by the honourable member for Reid and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden). The editorial, which is entitled ‘A Dream Revisited ‘ reads:
Labor’s money tree is losing its leaves. It does not seem to have learnt the bitter lesson of the Whitlam years. You can win votes by promising to extend Government welfare payments to middle-income earners, but when they discover the big tax bills which go with this new-found generosity, they quickly switch their votes elsewhere. In these days of resistance to tax increases, the only sensible policy for governments is to restrict welfare payments to people in genuine need.
An editorial in the Canberra Times on Monday, 18 February, stated:
It is hardly going too far to suggest that the extent to which the policy would improve community welfare by providing access to better housing for those who really need it would be incidental: it seems to have been designed primarily to buy votes for Labor from young middle-income earners seeking their first house . . .
Labor’s housing policy can hardly be described as a policy for the needy. There will be less money for the genuinely needy in the community as a result of it: instead the poor will be subsidising the well-to-do.
Those comments, by two responsible newspapers in this country, are obviously highly critical of Labor’s policy. I wish to bring to the attention of the House an aspect of Labor’s policy which concerns its so-called family home ownership program. Under that program there is an income test. For a single income family it is set at $16,000. For a two-income family it is set at $24,000. It is suggested that a payment of $3,000, spread over a number of years, will be made to families which qualify. From the example given it can be seen that a family with one income- say that of a husband working, and the wife staying at home with six children- can have an income of $16,000 only. If it is $16,001 the family will fail to qualify. On the other hand, a two-income family may have an income of $24,000. Thus we have the absurd example of a family with an income of $16,001 and six children not qualifying, but a family with an income of $24,000 qualifying- the husband receiving say, $23,000 and the wife $ 1,000. Such a policy is an absolute absurdity and a disgrace to those who prepared and drafted it. If the members of the Labor Party have any sense at all they will look at that policy again. It might be wiser to tear it up and start all over again, because it is a complete absurdity.
The Government has a very different approach to housing. It recognises that taxpayers’ money must be spent, but sees its responsibility as that of trustee of that money. As I have said, it is hard-earned money and should be spent wisely and carefully. That is what the Government is doing. It does not see the spending of money as the be-all and end-all of its policies. We must recognise that nine out of 10 Australians obtain their housing finance in the private sector. They borrow funds from a bank or building society in the normal way and repay the loan over a period. Conversely, only about one in 10 people rely on public housing. I gather, from the policies of the Labor Party, that it would like to see that proportion of one in ten increased somewhat so that there would be a greater dependency on public housing. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a table which shows the funds which flowed from our major lenders, the banks and permanent building societies, in 1 978 as compared with 1979.
The table read as follows-
-I thank the House. The table shows that funds provided increased, in total, by 16.1 per cent in 1979 when compared with those provided in 1978; further, that the number of loans made increased by 9.3 per cent. These represent record figures and a greater sum than had ever previously been provided for housing by those lending institutions. That is a very significant fact. By encouraging lenders to provide funds for housing we have ensured the continuance of a very good flow of funds to assist people who wish to buy their own homes. As a government we recognise that the vast majority of Australians have a great ambition to own their home. It is part of the Australian way of life and, as a government, we support them in that ambition. We want to encourage home ownership in this country and have been very successful in so doing. According to the latest figures, seven out of 10 households in Australia either own their home or are buying it. In fact, compared with comparable economies, Australia has the highest home ownership rates in the world. Therefore, we have encouraged the private sector. We have not gone about our housing policies flamboyantly and with undue fuss. We have applied ourselves sensibly and responsibly in endeavouring to overcome the problems that were created by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975.
I wish now to list a few of the initiatives that this Government has undertaken since it has been in office. I hope that the Opposition will take note of these significant initiatives. In January 1979 in order to encourage and assist home ownership in the community, we established the Home Ownership Branch in the Department of Housing and Construction. We greatly increased the grant component in welfare housing funds provided to the States- $ 100m in this financial year compared with $14m in the previous financial year. That was a very substantial increase. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out the waiting lists of the State housing authorities around Australia.
The document read as follows-
– That table clearly indicates that there has been a substantial reduction in the waiting lists for public housing in Australia. If honourable members look at the figures for 3 1 December 1975 they will see that the table shows a total waiting list of 102,906 people, which had been reduced at 3 1 December 1979 to 73,310. There is a note at the base of the table which honourable members should take note of. It states:
Figures from and including 30 June 1 978 are for rental accommodation only.
– You are fiddling the figures because you are building fewer homes.
– The honourable member for Reid interjects that we are building fewer homes.
That, of course, is quite untrue. In the last calendar year, 1979, there was an increase in the number of houses built in Australia, compared with the previous year, of 10.9 per cent. That is something which the honourable member for Reid has not recognised. It is about time he did recognise it and gave us credit for it. So there has been a substantial increase in the total number of houses built in Australia- public houses and private houses. It is about time the honourable member for Reid recognised the facts and began to give us credit for them. We have also provided special assistance for those people in the community in special need.
One of the fundamental principles we have followed in administering our housing policies and programs is to make sure that the available funds go to those people most in need. I think every honourable member in the House would agree with that principle. We have directed specific funds to assist pensioners and Aboriginals to obtain suitable housing. This year $30m has been provided for pensioners compared with $14m the previous year. An amount of $20m has been provided for Aboriginal housing. This is the first time funds have been provided under the Housing Assistance Act for Aboriginals. We have amended the Home Savings Grants Scheme to introduce a value limit. I recognise that this is causing some problems in certain central areas, in particular in Sydney. I indicated, when we announced that a value limit would apply to the Home Savings Grants Scheme, that we would be reviewing that value limit from time to time. At the moment my Department is collating information and data which will be placed before the Government at the appropriate time. We will then assess the effectiveness of the Home Savings Grants Scheme. We want to see that scheme remain effective. The Government has supported it by providing a substantial increase in funds- $20m last financial year and $75m in this financial year. Even the honourable member for Reid would agree- I think he is nodding his head- that that is a substantial increase in funds provided.
We have formed the Housing Advisory Council and the Construction Industry Council, two important bodies, to provide government with advice on the problems faced not only by those in the community with housing problems but also by the housing industry. We have established the Ministerial Council on Housing Costs. Our efforts in containing and restraining housing costs have been very effective when we compare the results we have achieved with those achieved by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975. At that time we saw increases of 23 per cent, 24 per cent and 25 per cent per annum. That was disastrous for those seeking to obtain a house of their own. I know that the honourable member for Reid is not a keen supporter of the housing industry in this country. I refer to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of 6 June 1978-1 have referred previously to this statement- in which, speaking as a prominent left-winger, he was reported as saying:
As a person, as a socialist, I would find it immoral to buy a share in a private company that is going to exploit labour . . Whenever a company is going to make a profit then it is exploiting labour.
Obviously the honourable member for Reid does not support the housing industry and does not support companies within the housing industry making any sort of profit. That indicates the kind of approach that he and, indeed, the Labor Party have to the problems of the industry. Our policies have been effective. They have assisted people to obtain suitable housing. Access to housing is improving, and is not receding as suggested by the honourable member for Reid. We will not be complacent. We recognise that problems remain and that there are in the community people in need of proper housing. Therefore, we must remain alert to their problems. We must apply ourselves vigorously, but in a sensible way, to assisting those people in need of housing.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
-The honourable member for Reid may wait until the conclusion of the discussion.
– With due respect, I understood that, under the Standing Orders, if I am to make a personal explanation I must make it immediately after the honourable member who has misrepresented me has spoken.
-That is not the case. I think the honourable member is getting confused with points of order.
– The only thing I can say is that rulings are changing from day to day.
-I think that is not consistent with the facts.
-The Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom) has made once again a somewhat weak response to the proposals put forward by the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) with respect to the Australian Labor Party’s housing program. He referred to editorials, particularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, which suggested that associated with this program is something of the profligate spending of which some people have accused the Whitlam Labor Government. I refer briefly to the Melbourne Age, which describes the program in this way: . . an interesting example of Labor’s approach to the 1980 election campaign. It treads a middle course between the ambitious experiments of the Whitlam years and the austerity of the Fraser years. The injection of another $ 1 50m into the ailing housing market would only have a limited impact on both the intended beneficiaries and the taxpayers.
The report goes on to describe the program as a very modest one. I think that is a fair description, but because the program is modest one ought not to think that it is not comprehensive. I think one of the great concerns that people around this country have about the Government and its approach to housing is that that approach has been highly selective. All this Government’s policies are directed to the redistribution of income away from the lower income groups. They are directed to the restoration, if we like, of inequalities within the Australian, community. I believe that Labor’s housing program is a balanced program which seeks to redress that imbalance. It seeks to make it possible for people to continue to have access to home ownership.
The Minister for Housing and Construction has indicated in the past a certain carelessness with regard to facts when he has talked about home ownership in this country. The reality is that Australia, which in the past has had a very fine record with respect to home ownership, has seen over the last 10 years a steady decline in the percentage of the population which has access to home ownership. Given the enormous prices of the home-land package, particularly in the city of Sydney but also in other Australian cities, it is quite clear that if Australia is to continue to have high levels of home ownership, which the Opposition supports, it is necessary for governments to devise programs which will assist people at least to get their feet on the rung. That is simply what Labor’s home ownership plan seeks to do. It seeks to provide assistance to people in the early years when they are faced with the problems of deposit gaps and of inadequate income. It seeks to give them support in terms of a series of payments which would make it possible for them to achieve the rather larger loans which are necessary in today’s housing market. This scheme will allow the average income earner additional borrowings of $11,330 from a savings bank or $9,750 from a building society. All the scheme is designed to do is to provide more realistic assistance than the Government’s existing scheme provides to enable people to get their feet on the rung and to realise the opportunity of home ownership. Our scheme does not seek to eliminate the Government’s scheme. That scheme is an alternative but Labor believes that its approach is more realistic, given the rapid escalation in housing costs across the country.
One ought not see this scheme as being the whole of Labor’s housing policy. Certainly we are concerned about the access of new families to housing through home ownership, but we are equally concerned about established housing across this country. One of the nation’s greatest assets is its housing. In the established areas of the great cities or the provincial areas of this country, one of the great concerns is the way in which the housing stock is allowed to deteriorate, particularly where people cannot alford to make repairs or to maintain the housing in which they live. Labor recognises that that is a critical problem. It can see that a great deal of very good housing in the established inner areas of Sydney and Melbourne will be swallowed up by people who can afford to renovate- by the so-called trendies, the new gentry of the inner suburbs. So Labor has put forward a program to assist people with loans of up to $3,000 to enable them to bring their housing up to scratch by installing heating systems, carrying out plumbing work and so on. I believe that this aspect of the program will be extremely important and very popular, particularly with older people and people living in established and older suburbs.
The third aspect of Labor’s program, and the one to which I want to give particular emphasis, is the need to increase substantially funding in the public housing program and this would amount to more than half of the money that Labor is talking about in terms of its overall housing program. We are talking about lifting the level of Commonwealth Government spending oh public housing by something of the order of $80m. No one could possibly argue that that kind of escalation in spending on public housing is not justified.
Although we have a good record in relation to home ownership I believe we have one of the worst records of any country in relation to public housing. The Commonwealth Government, as the ultimate source of a great deal of funds for public housing, bears a great deal of responsibility for that. The situation in public housing in Victoria has never been more critical. The Housing Commission of Victoria, which has been wracked by scandals- the responsibility of the Hamer Government- is currently being starved for funds. It has reached the point where it is building no more than 1,000 new units in a single year. This is less than a quarter of the number of units that were built in Victoria during the Whitlam Government’s term in office. That appalling situation is occurring at a time when this Government is in the grip of the worst recession since the Great Depression. It means that the unemployed, the people who are temporarily forced on to benefits and the growing number of people on social security benefits simply are not able to get into public housing. One can talk about waiting lists but the reality is that more than 20,000 people in Victoria want to get into public housing either as purchasers or renters.
These people cannot get into public housing either because housing is not being built or because much of the housing that was built in the past was totally unsuitable to the needs of families. That is a totally scandalous situation which bears most severely on those who can least afford housing in the current climate.
It stands to reason that surely the time to increase the supply of goods and services that are particularly directed towards low income people is when a country is experiencing a recession, when the level of unemployment grows and when people are forced on to benefits. I find it impossible to imagine how the Minister can suggest that in any real sense the public housing policies of this Government are directed towards dealing with the needs of people who are in the worst situation. People living in welfare housing in Victoria increasingly are being forced into a situation of rent arrears. The honourable member for Reid suggested that two out of every five people in public housing are in rent arrears and that housing costs are simply one of the pressures that are bearing down upon them in a situation in which this Government has proved to be absolutely heartless.
One can refer to the particular needs of sections of the population in terms of their need for housing. In my electorate the problems of homeless youth have escalated dramatically over the past three or four years. I know of hundreds of young people who are not being properly housed because housing is not being made available by the Commonwealth or by the State housing authorities. One can think in terms of the needs of the aged. If the Minister thinks that the aged of this country are being properly housed let him come to my electorate and let him look at the way in which some aged people are being housed at the present time. The Minister is from an area in a remote part of Australia which has no sense of the tremendous needs which exist for housing in the metropolitan areas of the great cities.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr UREN (Reid)-Mr Deputy Speaker, I claim to have been misrepresented by the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom), who is at the table.
-The honourable member may proceed.
– This is not the first time that the Minister has misrepresented me. I made a personal explanation when he misrepresented me on a previous occasion. Normally, when an honourable member makes a personal explanation in regard to misrepresentation by another honourable member what he says is accepted in good faith. I am disturbed that the Minister continues to misrepresent me.
-The honourable member must move immediately to the point on which he has been misrepresented.
-I must express my abhorrence that the Minister should continue to misrepresent me even though I have made a previous personal explanation. The misrepresentation relates to a Press report based on what I said at a New South Wales conference of the Australian Labor Party. The report related to a discussion at the conference over the .question of what a socialist would do in respect of corporate capital. I hope that the Minister and honourable members understand what I mean by corporate capital. I will explain my position. Less than 400 companies make more than 50 per cent of the profit of the 200,000 companies that actually lodge a taxation return in this country. That is what I call the corporate sector. The argument was whether we should as individuals buy shares in corporate companies. I said that I believed that a trade union or group of trade unions may buy shares in the corporate sector so as to gain an influence over policy but that as individuals we should not buy shares because that in principle would be exploitation of a fellow worker. I emphasised in my speech at the conference that I was not talking about small business. I said that the Labor Party believed in the philosophy of protecting not only workers but also small farmers and small businessmen.
Most home builders are small businessmen. The Minister and his advisers know that when I was a Minister I encouraged contracts to be entered into with private concerns. I, as a Minister, carried out those transactions. However, the Minister says that I do not believe in private builders in the building industry. I want to nail this claim to the Minister’s mast. If what I have said has not penetrated his head, I will take this action every time he makes this statement. So far as I am concerned builders and private enterprise have this right, but personally I would never acquire a share in a corporate company. Therefore I was talking about corporate capital and not about small businessmen or small home builders in any shape or form.
-lr this debate we are talking about shelter, which is one of the fundamentals of human existence. I had hoped that in such a debate we could talk in logical terms rather than attempt to sway people by emotions. Tomorrow, when the previous speaker reads his speech and discards the emotion, he would not be fair if he did not come to this conclusion: ‘There is not much ore in the mountain of words I uttered yesterday’. He would have done well to listen with intent and purpose to the Minister for Housing and Construction (Mr Groom). One of the pertinent remarks made by the Minister was that home ownership in Australia stands at 73 per cent. That indicates that the policy of the Liberal and National Country parties on home ownership is accepted by the Australian people. We stand for home ownership. By comparison, Opposition speakers emphasised rental housing. They are trying to capture the hearts and minds of people, but they want to put the people in their debt so that they can control them in that very fundamental matter of shelter. At 73 per cent, home ownership in Australia is very high.
Whilst I can understand in isolation the remarks of the previous speaker, detailing standards of housing and the inability of people to have access to housing, I suggest to him that when he moves around Australia he should not use the jaundiced eye of socialism but should look objectively at the matter. He will see a good standard of housing, with many people living contentedly. We admit that, on account of their occupations, certain people- itinerant workers and members of the Defence Force- do not require home ownership on a permanent basis but are looking for rental accommodation. I seek leave of the House to table a document on housing access to indicate the success of the Liberal and National Country parties in the matter of home ownership and rental. We find that between 1973-74 and 1978-79 there was a significant decline in the number of years of disposable income, based on average weekly earnings, required to buy a house. A similar pattern emerges in relation to rental housing. There has been a significant decline in the percentage of the take-home pay packet of a worker that is required for home rental. I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
Number of years disposable income of average weekly earner required to buy a modest new house
Percentage of average earnings paid to rent an average dwelling
– That proves that the economic stability of the present Government has created the right climate. It is worthy of note that costs in building have shown a decline. In 1976-77 the annual cost increase in building was 1 1.9 per cent, in 1977-78 it was 8.2 per cent, and in 1978-79 it was 6.4 per cent. Some emphasis was placed on the fact that interest rates had increased marginally in recent times. I remind Opposition speakers that the extra amount required every month to meet interest and redemption payments over a loan period of 25 years, which is the norm, will be met easily by the income tax deductions that will apply after 1 July this year.
Referring to interest rates, let me remind the Opposition when interest rates for housing in Australia reached a peak. In what year was that? One would not even have to guess that it was 1975, when interest rates reached 1 1.5 per cent. As soon as the Liberal and National Country parties came back to the Treasury bench, economic stability and good fiscal management emerged and, consequently, declining interest rates. The rate was 10.5 per cent in 1976, 10 per cent in 1978, 9.5 per cent in 1979, and recently there has been a slight increase to 10 per cent, consistent with overseas trends and with the desire to make funds available for housing.
– That is still less than under Labor.
-Quite so. As the honourable member for Dawson quite rightly points out, under the Government of which the Opposition spokesman in this debate was a member, interest rates reached an all-time high of 11.5 per cent. Now they are down to 10 per cent. It is interesting to note the tremendous activity in house building in Australia. In the eight months to the end of February, 180,000 houses were built. Another interesting fact is that the average loan period in Australia is not 25 years, although that is the nominal period. A man here is free to progress up the ladder in his job, and after seven or eight years he may be in a position to sell his existing home and buy a bigger home in a more convenient suburb, and perhaps have more children. Because of that economic stability, when he buys his second home he has a greater equity in it than he had when he purchased his first home. Few people seem to appreciate the significance of housing being part and parcel of overall economic stability.
In the few minutes left to me I want to compliment the Minister on many of his initiatives in these areas where the Government has been criticised in the past. For instance, he detailed the expansion in welfare housing. After all, these are matters of State responsibility. Under the Constitution we do not have the responsibility, but we are interested and concerned. I note the allocation of $4.5 m for pensioner housing in the State of Queensland. It is of tremendous benefit to old people to have decent housing, and that has been an initiative of the present Minister. In Queensland we are a little disappointed that, notwithstanding that we have 15 per cent of the population, under the formula we get only 10 per cent of welfare housing funds. We can readily understand that it is difficult for a central organisation here in Canberra to catch up. We cannot help it if the environment in Queensland is so good that people want to leave the socialist States of New South Wales and Tasmania and come to live with us. We admire them for their judgment in wanting to come to a good State. We realise that it takes time to catch up, and I know that in the years ahead the Minister will rectify the imbalance so that we get our rightful share of welfare housing.
I want to talk also about the matter of supplementary allowance and an allowance to permit people to stay in their own homes. I did not hear the Opposition speakers develop this point; they are tied to socialised welfare housing. Their attitude is: ‘We own the house. We want to control you.’ Why did they not advance a proposition for the poor people, for the mums and dads and the grand old men and women who have lived in their own houses all their lives and now find it difficult to exist on the pension and pay money for upkeep, perhaps to repair a broken window. I believe that it would be excellent to give them the same amount- $5 per week- that is available as a supplementary rental allowance to people who pay rent. That idea appeals to me because I believe in home ownership. The more people we have in their own homes, the better it is for all.
The Minister and others commented on aged persons’ housing, and our record in this area stands second to none. We have a policy of providing accommodation for the aged, and not just in the metropolitan areas. We want old people to stay in the areas where they have grown up, where all their friends live, and where they know the environment. We want to have a happy and contented society. No emphasis was given to the Minister’s many initiatives such as the release of a technical book on the building of energy efficient housing. Maybe it is not important for the people who live in the cities. But how important is it to the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), the honourable member for Maranoa (Mr Corbett) and the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) who live in isolated areas where people do not have access to all these wonderful aids to modern living which are to be found in the metropolitan areas? That pamphlet lets people know how a more energy efficient building can be constructed. That is terribly important in the cold areas of Australia.
-(Hon. Ian Robinson) - Order! The honourable member’s time has expired. The discussion is concluded.
Motion (by Mr Groom) agreed to:
That legislation committees appointed before 22 May 1980 have power to meet at any time on any day on which the House meets.
– I move:
The proposal is for the provision of permanent working facilities and associated engineering services for Army units at Holsworthy, New South Wales, and the works will include: A task force headquarters; headquarters and administrative facilities for units; a military instruction block; warehouse, storage and workshop facilities for units; gun parks and covered military vehicle shelters; a major parade ground; and associated road works, car parks, landscaping and engineering services.
Stage 1 of the Holsworthy Army Development was undertaken during 1964-1967 and planning for the Stage 2 works has taken due account of likely Stage 3 works so that there will be a totally integrated development. The estimated cost of the proposal examined by the Committee was $10.3m at October 1979 prices. The Committee recommended construction of the works in the reference. If the House agrees to support this motion, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 29 April, on motion by Mr Viner:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr West had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to substituting the following words: whilst not opposing the Bill, the House is of the opinion-
That, while not opposing the integration of the lands fund, loans fund and grants in aid (enterprises program), the Parliament must have access to the submissions which led to the proposed integration of such programs;
That the appointment of the members of the Aboriginal Development Commission should be made by the Minister acting on the advice of the National Aboriginal Conference and the various land councils, and
That the Government should assure the House of its commitment to maintain and increase its financial assistance to the Commission’.
– I oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition to the Aboriginal Development Commission Bill 1980. 1 will discuss the amendment later in my speech. To some extent, the Aboriginal Development Commission Bill is a new Bill.
The Government very laudably asked many Aboriginal organisations for advice and opinions regarding this Commission. This Bill is a genuine effort by the Government to move Aborigines further towards self-management, self-respect and real equality in the community. The Government really is taking a genuine and sincere step forward in that regard. Many organisations made submissions to the Government regarding this Bill. Amongst those that did so were the National Aboriginal Conference, the Council for Aboriginal Development, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, the New South Wales Aboriginal Legal Service and the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Ltd. These submissions favoured a reduction in the role of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in favour of an expanded role for the Commission- an all Aboriginal Commission- and the creation of powers and responsibilities greater than those contained in the original Bill.
I said earlier that, to a great extent, this is a new Bill. There were 40 amendments to the Aboriginal Development Commission Bill 1979 of which the Government took tremendous notice. One of the amendments which is of great importance is contained in clause 3 of the Bill which states:
The purpose of this Act is to further the economic and social development of people of the Aboriginal race of Australia and people who are descendants of indigenous inhabitants of the Torres Strait Islands and, in particular, (as a recognition of the past dispossession and dispersal of such people) to establish a Capital Account with the object of promoting their development, self-management and self-sufficiency.
That really is a practical approach to the whole subject of Aboriginal affairs. The primary purpose of the Bill remains as it was previously, that is, to establish the Aboriginal Development Commission to embrace the present functions of the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission and the Aboriginal Loans Commission and to take over from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs the administration of its enterprise grant-in-aid program and to assume an advisory role to the Government. In that connection this is a very pertinent clause in the Bill because under past governments, Aborigines were subjected to a complete withdrawal of administration. I am speaking mainly of the Aborigines in the outback- in the north west of Australia, in Queensland and in the Northern Territory. Almost overnight they went from a position of being in settlements with supervisors, advisers and so on, to virtually having thrust upon them the administration of those settlements.
I have dealt with this matter before and many of the old men whom I have known for up to 30 years or more have expressed just that feeling. They have said: ‘Why did you walk away from us and leave us in the lurch?’. It is all very well to have- as it is expressed often by people who do not know the situation- the ideal situation for Aborigines to run their own affairs, to have their own business enterprises, to manage their businesses and so on but it happened far too quickly. I am not saying that it should not have happened, but it should have happened gradually from 1972-73 until now. Since that time there have been many disasters, much disappointment and many heartbreaks. That is why I still see great merit in the retention, not of ministerial oversight, but of some ministerial presence, which is provided for in this Bill.
Much of the work that has been done on behalf of the Aboriginal people has been done in most cases sincerely, but in many cases it has not been done sincerely. Many people who have been involved with the Aborigines have been working for causes other than the genuine Aboriginal cause. The relationship between blacks and whites in Australia tends to be deteriorating. This situation is not being helped by various people, whether or not they are sincere, who serve the Aboriginal people in an advisory capacity or by sections of the media which tend to look for sensationalism regarding almost everything and certainly regarding Aborigines. These are the things the Aboriginal people have told me in the time that I have been associating with them.
I do not support the amendment which has been moved. I think it misses the bus. The new Bill provides for much of what is sought in the proposed amendment. The proposed amendment suggests that the Aboriginal Development Commission should be comprised wholly of Aborigines. That is what is provided for in this Bill. It suggests that the members of the Aboriginal Development Commission should be selected by the Minister, acting on the advice of the National Aboriginal Conference and the various land councils. There are 10 land councils. They will have a tremendous say in the running of the Commission. Clause 11(1) of the Bill states:
The Commission shall perform its functions and exercise its powers in accordance with such general directions as are given to it by the Minister in writing.
The Bill goes on to state in clause 11(2): . . does not empower the Minister to give directions relating to the content of any advice, information or recommendation that may be given by the Commission to a
Minister, Department or authority of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory.
So the Minister’s powers are limited. The proposed amendment states:
Clause 1 1 (3) of the Bill states:
Subject to sub-section (4), the Minister shall cause a copy of any direction given by him under sub-section ( 1 ) to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 1 S sitting days of that House after that direction was given.
Clause 11 (4) states:
A copy of a direction laid before the Parliament in accordance with sub-section (3) shall not disclose any matters known to the Commission to be held sacred by Aboriginals . . .
That is not relevant to the Minister. So the Bill contains provisions which ensure that the Minister does not just use the Commission. I think the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) said in his speech yesterday that the members of the Commission could be or are considered to be the Minister’s Aborigines. They will certainly not be the Minister’s Aborigines. I think the honourable member, speaking with his newfound knowledge of Aborigines and Aboriginal affairs, rather let himself go. He made the accusation that smug honourable members earning $39,000 a year were doing nothing about looking around and seeing what should be done for the Aborigines. He cited a run-down sawmill at Yarrabah and so on. If he had been around outback Australia he would have seen numerous Aboriginal enterprises which virtually folded up upon the sudden change to self-determination, which was the great policy of the Labor Party. He should have seen the sawmills at Snake Bay on Melville Island, at Nguiu on Bathurst Island- I think the one at Garden Point is still workingthe various garden projects, the sawmill on Goulburn Island and others throughout the countryside. Now they are not operating. That is due to a lack of guidance. The Aborigines used to operate these facilities and they did so very well but, like everyone else, unless someone is leading the team, then things run down and tend not to be renewed or continued. I think some of the criticisms made by the honourable member for Cunningham were not unjust but were made in ignorance.
He made much of the Noonkanbah situation. Things have been forgotten about Noonkanbah and the sacred sites there. The Aborigines say that if a drill is put in the ground the sacred goanna will be injured and so on. No one seems to have mentioned the fact that Mr M. P. Durack, that famous Western Australian, went broke drilling an oil well at Noonkanbah many years ago. I think it was 7,000 or 8,000 feet deep. There was no mention of sacred sites or goannas or anything else. I do not know whether they were injured by the drilling of the dud oil well.
– If they had found some oil things might have changed quickly then, don’t you think?
– I think the situation might change quickly now if the mining companies are allowed to drill and find some oil. Much politics is played on the Aboriginal scene. I remember speaking to the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant), who is in the chamber, when he took over the ministry. I said at that time that if he could keep politics out of Aboriginal affairs he would be doing the Aborigines the greatest service that anyone could do for them. I have no reason to retract that opinion or alter those remarks. As a person who has lived amongst the Aborigines for 40 years, minus a few during the war, I think that is a most pertinent remark which should still be taken note of today. I think that in embarking on any legislation we should bear in mind the fact that its main purpose should be to gain a joint approach- that is, an Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal approach- to the development of Australia so that blacks and whites can live together in harmony, both profiting from the assets which abound in this country. That, once again, was the opinion of the elders whom I have known for so long and it is still their opinion, although at times there is a radical element in the community which would have two separate societies. This would do nothing but harm for the Aboriginal cause and for the nation.
I conclude by saying that the National Executive of the National Aboriginal Conference wrote to the Minister about this Bill and said:
National Aboriginal Conference Executive applauds the Government’s initiative in implementing the Aboriginal Development Commission and is optimistic about its future and the benefits that will accrue to Aboriginals throughout Australia.
Responsible Aboriginal organisations made many suggestions and almost every one of those suggestions was taken note of. The Aboriginal Development Commission Bill is a great effort by the Government to do something genuine and significant for the Aboriginal people of Australia.
-The Aboriginal Development Commission Bill attempts to deal with a very complex question in relation to the administration of Aboriginal affairs. On the one hand there is an attempt to provide for self-determination or, at least, self-management for the Aboriginal people. Whilst there are various definitions of what self-management might be, I suppose that in simple terms the notion of self-management requires the Federal Government at least to provide structures and resources for Aboriginal people throughout Australia to determine their own futures in their own way. So I think the Bill does attempt to implement the policy of self-management.
The other important question which the Bill tries to deal with is that of the responsibility for the expenditure of public funds. I think we would all accept that if public funds are to be expended for any purpose at all there has to be some accountability for that expenditure to this Parliament, if this is the place where those funds are appropriated. This Bill attempts to deal with those two questions in the following ways: In the first place it creates an Aboriginal Development Commission consisting entirely of Aboriginal people. So, in one sense, we can see that as having some relevance to the notion of selfmanagement. Secondly, it provides for financial responsibility from the Commission back to this Parliament by giving the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the power to direct the Commission on the performance of its functions and the exercise of its powers. I was very pleased to see that, in the amendments which have been included in this Bill, the Minister’s power has been constrained to some extent. As well, provisions have been added to require that these directions to the Commission from the Minister must be in writing and the Parliament notified.
The second way in which financial responsibility is assured is that the amount of funding available to the Commission is determined from time to time by the Government, presumably on the recommendation of the Minister. So, within the constraints of the framework in which this Bill has been cast, I think there are some welcome aspects and I think the Opposition is prepared to acknowledge them. We have acknowledged the fact that we do not oppose the idea of combining the functions of the two former commissions and some of the functions of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the functions of the Aboriginal Development Commission. However, we think there are some serious faults and we think those faults could be overcome fairly easily. Whilst we welcome the fact that the Commission will be composed entirely of Aboriginal people, we cannot see the necessity for the Minister being solely responsible for the appointment of those people. The Bill, as it is now, provides that all the people will be appointed by the Governor-General- for that read ‘the Minister’- and that their terms of office will be for five years. The termination of those appointments is again a matter for the Minister through the Governor-General to decide, subject to the disallowance provisions.
The Opposition believes that this is an appropriate time to expand the functions of the National Aboriginal Conference to involve it in the appointment process. This is not a new idea; it happens in the appointment of so many government commissions or statutory authorities in that interested groups are invited to provide the Minister with a panel of names from which the Minister can choose the number required. I would not have thought that it would impose a very great strain on the Minister simply to ask for a panel of names from the NAC or from other bodies around Australia representative of Aboriginal people generally. There are a number of functioning land councils throughout the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland. I do not see why they should not have been given an opportunity to have a say in the membership of this commission. There are ways in which the role of Aboriginal groups- for instance, the NAC- could be much greater than simply providing the Minister with a panel. But, even if we were to take it at its lowest, I do not see why the Minister could not have allowed the NAC to get formally involved in this appointment process.
I think it is important that the NAC be given an increasingly expanded role. The role should be expanded over time. Unless the powers of the NAC are expanded and unless it begins to do something which has some meaning to the Aboriginal people, it will not enjoy the respect of the Aboriginal people. They will not bother to turn out to elect to the NAC representatives who will only fiddle around giving advice to the Minister which, in many cases, can be ignored. So, for the sake of the NAC if nothing else, that body ought to be given a greater role in processes such as the appointment of Aboriginal people to statutory bodies such as this Commission.
The second area in which the Opposition believes there is a need for substantial improvement in the Bill is the area of funding. At the moment absolutely no guarantees are given about what the level of funding will be in the future in terms of the Commission fulfilling its obligations. It seems to me that there are two requirements in relation to funding. The first is that the Commission should be provided with sufficient funds to undertake its functions. Of course, it is a matter of debate as to what would be a sufficient level. But it must be at least the amount- I would say very much more- which has been spent on the functions which this Commission is taking over.
We have some idea of the amount of funding which is necessary. Just as important as the need to provide sufficient funding is the need to provide predictability of funding. If the Commission is to operate in any way successfully it must be assured of the level of funding which will be made available to it from the Government. I would have thought that this might have been an opportunity to build into Aboriginal affairs some statutory requirement to provide a given indexed level of funding to the Commission on a permanent basis so that it knows exactly what it can expect from year to year. That could be a base amount which could be added to from time to time. Having made those two criticisms about the ways in which I think the Bill could have been improved substantially, my view is that the main fault with this Bill is that it is operating within a far too limited framework. The assumption seems to be that the Commission can operate successfully in isolation.
Let me deal with the question of providing land for Aboriginal people. The Aboriginal Development Commission will have the power to acquire land for the use of Aboriginal people in various parts of Australia. Of course, it is appropriate for the Commonwealth to provide funds to a body such as this Commission for the purpose of purchasing land for Aboriginal people. But this is not nearly enough. It is not enough simply to be able to buy land in the same way as anyone else can buy land. In many cases the land which is required by Aboriginal people is not available under sufficiently secure title. For instance, if we take the Kimberley region we find that it is possible to buy only pastoral leases for the use of Aboriginal people. There are a few Aboriginal reserves in the Kimberley area and nearby.
If land is required outside of those Aboriginal reserves, such as at Noonkanbah and several other places, the only way in which that land can be obtained for the use of the various communities is by the purchase of a pastoral lease. What I am suggesting is that a pastoral lease is an entirely inadequate way for Aboriginal people to hold land. It really means that they have control only of the grass and the trees which grow on the land; that is all. The important thing to remember is that we are not providing land in the Kimberleys for Aboriginal people just to give them the benefit of the grass and the trees. As the Minister said in relation to the acquisition of the Noonkanbah pastoral lease, the property was purchased for the Noonkanbah community for its social and economic advantage and advancement. That means very much more than simply providing Aborigines with access to the grass and trees which grow on Noonkanbah and the water which flows through the Fitzroy River.
What the Minister is talking about is providing the Noonkanbah people with access to the land, which has very great significance to them as a community which provides- as it has provided in the couple of years since the people have been back on Noonkanbah- the basis to re-establish their own self-respect and the structure of their own society. The purpose of buying that pastoral lease was very much more than the purpose for which anyone else would be interested in a pastoral lease. In the case of Noonkanbah, the Land Fund Commission paid something over half a million dollars for the pastoral lease. In fact, the risk is that before long the Aboriginal people there will be left with nothing of significance at all as far as that land is concerned simply because they have no right to control who can enter it. They have no power to prevent mining, except that they have very limited rights under the provisions of the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act in relation to the protection of sacred sites. That is a controversial area now and is likely to be resolved to the disadvantage of the Noonkanbah people. If it is left to the State Government, they will not have any rights there either. Quite clearly there must be a better way of holding land for Aboriginal people apart from the simple purchase of land as is provided for by this measure.
I want to interpolate a reference to something which the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) said in relation to Noonkanbah. He referred to earlier mining activity which took place at Noonkanbah and the fact that there was no objection at that time from the Aboriginal people. I think the honourable member for the Northern Territory, who I acknowledge is widely experienced in this whole area, would recognise that at that time there was absolutely no power for Aborigines to do anything about mining on their land. At that time the Aborigines at Noonkanbah described their state of employment as being akin to slavery. If they had attempted to raise their voices in opposition to any mining activity on Noonkanbah that opposition would have been met with brutal repression. I think the honourable member for the Northern Territory would acknowledge that there were -
-Not by M. P. Durack.
-No. The point is that it is a different ball game as far as Aboriginal people are concerned. There are now formal ways in which they can object to mining. Indeed they now have the support of a very substantial part of the Australian population in terms of their endeavours to protect their sacred sites and achieve some meaningful sense of land rights. It is not really fair to say that because they did not complain 20 years or 30 years ago- or however many years it was- they should be quiet and accept whatever is dished out to them.
– You could mention their tradition with respect to goannas too.
– That raises the other point. The people at Noonkanbah and in the Kimberleys are not saying that there can be no mining anywhere. What they are saying, however, is that there must be real protection for the sites in the areas which they believe are sacred. They think that they will have a role in determining where those sites are and that their views ought to be respected. Given that the protection which is available for their sacred sites at the moment is very limited, of course, they are pushed into a position of being fairly extreme about the question of mining. They are saying that there should not be any mining anywhere for three years until such time as the question of protection and preservation of sacred sites can be resolved. It seems to me that that is not an unreasonable proposition.
The whole question of sacred sites is a difficult one. It is not something that can be sorted out overnight. In fact, in order to sort it out one must first gain the co-operation of the Aboriginal community. One will not achieve that by confronting them and telling lies about them as has happened in Western Australia on the part of the Western Australia Government. If they are to have a real role in the protection of their sacred sites, they have to have some formal and lasting tenure of the land so that through a process of negotiation they can come to an agreement with the State governments or mining companies in relation to the nature of mining activities and where they will take place. This is an important question and is one which is not adequately addressed by the Development Commission. We have seen at Noonkanbah- there will be other places in the Kimberleys without doubt- that simply purchasing a pastoral lease does not advance us very far along the track towards providing a permanent and meaningful base for Aboriginal communities to re-establish their traditional way of life.
I do think that in isolation this Bill cannot work. However, it would be a very effective adjunct to a proper system of land rights determined by the Commonwealth by resort to its constitutional powers to acquire land compulsorily, if necessary- not only the land, but also the resources in it- for Aboriginal people. I think that unless the Commonwealth is prepared to take that step and to use the powers which it properly and constitutionally has to acquire land in a way in which it can provide for Aboriginal communities real and lasting tenure, then the purpose of this Development Commission will bc substantially undermined. I regret to say that time has beaten me. In deference to my good friend the honourable member for Wills, (Mr Bryant) 1 will stop at that point.
– I thank my friend, the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins), for giving me these extra few minutes in which to speak. I regret that we cannot debate the Aboriginal situation in Australia at greater length. Mr Deputy Speaker, you will know that at the time when you became a member of parliament, when subjects of this importance were debated there was adequate time for everybody to take part. I can only rise on every occasion on which the subject comes before this House to express my anger and indignation that so many years after the campaigns got under way to try to ameliorate the lot of the Aboriginal people of Australia, they still live in such miserable conditions across the greatest part of what is one of the wealthiest parts of the world.
Following on from my friend the honourable member for Fremantle, I just ask a simple question: Why should mining rights transcend Aboriginal rights? Why should we have some materialistic concept such as that which bedevils the whole situation of the Aboriginal people who happen to live in that part of the continent where many of the minerals are? I say to those people who think that this issue is new: ‘Take a look at the petition that was lodged in 1963 by the people of Yirrkala on this very same issuemining on their home land; not just their sacred sites but their actual home land- and look at the history of the matter’. So I express my indignation that we are still getting along in such a miserable, slow and penny-pinching way. My colleague, the honourable member for Fremantle asked: What is the funding to be? That is the key question. When is this Parliament to go on record and say that the situation of the Aboriginal people of Australia is such a blot upon the
Australian scene that we will fix it, no matter what it costs?
It is all right for my friends opposite to say Money isn’t everything’; most of them represent the people who have most of the money anyhow and they like to keep hold of it. But there is a function of funding in this situation which cannot be superseded by any other consideration whatsoever. So, I make some reservations in judgment of this legislation. It may well be that it will work better than most of the legislation in the past, but with goodwill and ministerial drive, most situations can be made to work. The problem is, of course, that the less adequate the legislation, the more complicated the scene behind it, the more difficult it is to get it under way and the longer things take. The Aboriginal people have waited long enough now; so I hope this legislation works. But I think the criticisms of my colleagues are true enough, from my long experience of watching governments in action and trying to make inadequate situations work.
I think it is time to remind the House of what this matter is all about. A large proportion of the members of this Parliament have only come into the Parliament in the last four years; so I will remind them of the long haul in getting this legislation this far. Why has it taken this long to get to this stage? I suppose for nearly a century or more there was a quiescence on the Aboriginal front. As far as this Parliament was concerned, for almost half a century there was an almost absolute quiescence. The number of debates on Aboriginals in this Parliament in the first 58 years or so of the century was meagre indeed. The matter received some mention in questions. It got some consideration here and there but it was either put in the ‘too hard basket’ or the constitutional rights of the States were of more consideration.
Back in the mid-1950s a campaign developed about the matter. It was a very successful campaign, hard fought and generated by people who had nothing much going for them but their simple desire to right a century and a half or more of wrong. In 1967, that is 13 years ago- not yesterday, but 13 years ago- a referendum was carried which placed upon this Parliament the absolute duty, not just the absolute powers; I am not all that struck on powers as such, to get on with the job. Ninety per cent of the people of Australia said yes to this Parliament’s having authority over Aboriginals. Ninety per cent of them in effect said: ‘Get on with the job.’ Some Commonwealth activity flowed from that decision in a rather muted way. The Office of Aboriginal Affairs was appointed. The people administering that section had a whole series of what one might call fracas with the State authorities and even with the Commonwealth authorities. But tentative steps were taken here and there. We have to pay tribute to those people who took a part in it. One of our former colleagues in this House, the honourable member for Mackellar as he then was, Mr W. C. Wentworth, was active in this matter. But in a situation where his political party was not sympathetic, there was not all that much he could do.
In 1972, the Labor Party became the Government. We had the advantage in that we had a set of policies worked out. A great number of people throughout Australia, both Aboriginal and nonAboriginal, were concerned about our policies and were keen to make them happen. Their aspirations had been rising gradually over the previous four or five years. When we got into government, I suppose one might say that they blossomed or almost mushroomed as though some sort of atomic political blast had taken place. We set out to do something about the situation across-the-board. Before very long- after three or four months- we came under hot attack, not from people saying ‘Look what you are doing there; that money is wasted’, but from people more or less saying: ‘That money is going to be wasted’. In every area of human activity with which the Aboriginal people were concerned- health, education, land rights, community development, legal aid, housing and Aboriginal enterprises- there was a new generator at work. I have to pay a compliment to the Parliament in that in the early stages of our program, nearly all the Parliament- both sides of both Houses- gave us support. But as the political content came into it and as the people could see that there were political points to be scored, life became increasingly difficult. One only has to look back to the newspaper comments and the television comments of the time to see that that was the case.
So I look at this legislation and say to myself: Will it pick up these matters and make them go? After all, Aboriginal health is the worst in the Australian community. One might say that it is almost a case of criminal negligence on all our parts, I suppose. We on this side of the House and even those of us who perhaps have put almost half a lifetime into trying to generate activity on this matter in this place have to accept some responsibility for that situation. But in the area of Aboriginal education, there has been a dramatic change. I do not know how many Aboriginal people now have university or tertiary qualifications- not that I am all set on paper qualifications as qualifications. But the facts are that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of Aboriginal people in their late 20s who, with a good, solid secondary education and some tertiary qualifications behind them are available to take part in the administration of Aboriginal affairs. It is good that they are out in the community working on this, that and the other, but somehow we ought to have some sense to it all so that the Government can lay its hands on people and put them into the scene to administer Aboriginal affairs.
Of course, land rights, I think is the very mainspring of Aboriginal aspirations. Those of us involved in the situation learnt that 20-odd years ago and took steps to do something about it. But I must say firmly and categorically that although this Government has given lip service to it, its attitude in legislation, administration and execution has been too light on.
– That is most unfair.
– No, it is not. I do not have time to argue the point with the Minister. I say what I have been saying for the last 20-odd years: There is only one answer to dealing with people like Sir Charles Court and Mr Bjelke-Petersen.
– We brought in land rights.
– Now I have heard everything. The situation is that a land commissioner was appointed in early 1973 and the land councils were appointed in 1973. 1 heard the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), who is at the table, say this in the chamber on one occasion: ‘We established the land councils’. I thought to myself: ‘That’s odd. I thought I had something to do with that’. So I looked up the Press reports of the time and unless somebody had forged them, that is what was stated. There is only one thing to do about land rights. In the face of the people who administer the States -
– Let us say that together we got land rights for Aboriginals.
– The Minister at the table and I, being his ‘dutiful servant’, did something about Aboriginal land rights. But the Minister did not do enough because he did not listen to what I told him, which was: No matter what he does, if he does not place on that land an acquisition order with the power of the Commonwealth behind it, he might as well leave it alone.
– But, Gordon, you did not do it in Queensland.
– We did some of it.
– You shied clear pf it.
-No, we did not. We had the legislation and the documents all prepared ready to acquire the whole lot. But nobody wanted to do that; nobody wanted to pay the Queensland Government $153m or whatever the estimate was at one stage-it might have been $50m or $150m but $153m is the figure that sticks in my mind. We would have had to pay that amount for land that rightly belonged to the people of Australia. But that was the only solution. Very early in the piece the then Prime Minister and I wrote to Mr Bjelke-Petersen about taking over the Aboriginal reserves in Queensland. That was in early 1973 but for some mysterious reason we still have not received an answer. There is only one way in which the Government will stop this danger to the Aboriginal people: Acquire Palm Island, Yarrabah, Aurukun and Noonkanbah and the rest of the reserves and then if it wants to negotiate with the States, negotiate from a position of strength. My friends opposite always talk about negotiating from positions of strength in everything else. They are out in the Indian Ocean terrorising the Russians and all the rest of it from a position of strength; so why are they afraid of Bjelke-Petersen and Charles Court? I am certain that this legislation will not resolve the matter unless the Minister gets behind it and drives it on.
I remind the House of the great difficulties during the period when Labor was in officedifficulties from which flowed the attacks upon Aboriginal development programs by people who were basically racist in the first instance and later engaged in taking political points. But I do not want to spend my time on that aspect.
The question is whether this legislation will guarantee Aboriginal participation. It may and it may not. The Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Malcolm Fraser), bless his heart and soul, went off to Africa to fix things up. He insisted that in Zimbabwe the Africans should run the place, but when a vacancy occurred here, in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, the senior Aboriginal public servant was not invited to take over as head. That is no reflection upon the current head, but if we mean business in Africa we must mean it in Canberra too. There are not enough Aboriginal people playing an active part in the management of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Do not tell me that they are not capable of doing it because they are. They have played their part in such projects as Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, to which Senator Neville Bonner was appointed back in 1973. Fortunately that appointment still runs.
I might perhaps remind honourable members of the beginnings of the National Aboriginal
Conference. When Labor came to office in 1973 one had to ask oneself the question: How are we to find Aboriginal people and involve them in this? The first thing we did was to gather people who were prominent and active in Aboriginal affairs, people who were involved in the work of their own communities or were supported by them, and bring them onto the scene. A team of some 70 people came to Canberra and spent a few days sorting matters out, setting up a program and deciding the way in which elections would take place.
I am the first to admit that elections may not be the way to do it. Therefore, there has since been created- I am pleased to see that there is at least one survivor of what Labor did between 1972 and 1975-the National Aboriginal Conference. We must begin to use that body as much as we can. The National Aboriginal Conference ought to be the body from which we draw the members of the Aboriginal Development Commission. After all, they have been selected, or elected, by their people and have their confidence. We must give them the status that we expect representatives to receive in this country. The NAC is the basis upon which we should be building. We ought to put the NAC into the business of governing aboriginal affairs in the same way as representatives govern Australia, a local community or a State. That is the basis upon which we run our own affairs, and my principal regret is that the Bill establishes another organ which basically by-passes the NAC. I only hope that at some time in the near future, and before I have departed the parliamentary scene, honourable members will have a chance to engage in a real debate, in which it will be possible to hear from both sides of Parliament at some length. I support the amendment. I hope that Government supporters also will endorse it, but even if they do not at least the spirit will be there for them to take on board when they draw up their next 40 amendments.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– in reply- I wish to take only a very short time of the House to reply to one specific aspect of the comments made during the second reading debate. Both the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West) and the honourable member for Fremantle (Mr Dawkins) called for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) to accept or at least have regard to nominations made by the National Aboriginal Conference for membership of the Board of the Aboriginal Development Commission which is being established by this legislation. I inform both honourable members that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the National Aboriginal Conference have reached agreement on the basis on which the Conference will put forward a panel of names from which the selection of members of the Board will be made. As I understand it, that really is what the Opposition is asking for.
This arrangement between the Minister and the National Aboriginal Conference was referred to in debate in the Senate and the Minister incorporated in Hansard a copy of a letter dated 15 April 1980 from him to the National Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference. In that letter my colleague agreed with the Conference that the Conference, as the representative body of the Aboriginal people, is the appropriate body to provide the Minister with recommendations concerning these nominations. The Minister suggested that, before providing the Minister with the Conference’s recommendations, it was desirable that the Conference co-ordinate an approach to each State or Territory branch of the Conference seeking the nomination of four Aboriginals from each State or Territory who are considered to be suitable persons for appointment to the Board of the Commission; and that when these nominations were received by the Minister he would be prepared to discuss a short list of nominees with the National Executive of the National Aboriginal Conference before the Government made its final decision.
I think that is an eminently sensible arrangement which allows the Aboriginal people, through the National Aboriginal Conference, to participate fully in the nomination and selection of the members of the Board, all of whom will be Aboriginal people. Therefore, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the letter dated 15 April 1980 from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to Mr James Hagan, the National Chairman of the National Aboriginal Conference. It has been incorporated in the Senate Hansard and I think it appropriate that it be incorporated in the Hansard of this House.
The letter read as follows-
Dear Mr Hagan,
I am writing in response to the National Aboriginal Conference’s request to participate in the selection process for nominations to the Board of the Proposed Aboriginal Development Commission.
I agree with the advice in your recent submission on the Bill that the National Aboriginal Conference as the representative body of the Aboriginal people is the appropriate body to provide me with recommendations concerning this important matter. Before providing me with your recommendations, I think it desirable that you now co-ordinate an approach to each State/Territory Branch seeking the nomination of four Aboriginals from each State or Territory who are considered to be suitable persons for appointment to the Board of the Commission.
Once you have received nominations from the Branches I would appreciate if you would provide me with a copy of a list comprising all of the names put forward, preferably not later than 19 May. I shall then consider the list and shall be happy to discuss my short list of nominees with the National Executive during their scheduled meeting in the following week prior to the Government ‘s taking any decision.
We all will need to be mindful of the requirement for a balanced composition of members on the Board. Such matters as individual experience and ability, State or Regional background, sex, age, tribal or urban background, etc. will be among the relevant considerations to be taken into account. Other matters including membership of existing Aboriginal organisations will need to be considered, but I should like to make it clear that nominations of persons of demonstrated ability and relevant expertise are required notwithstanding that they may be members of Aboriginal organisations including the National Aboriginal Conference.
I look forward to receiving your early advice on this matter.
Mr James Hagan,
National Aboriginal Conference,
P.O. Box 259,
WODEN, A.C.T. 2606
– I simply conclude by saying that the Government does not accept the need for the amendment. There has been more extensive consultation with the Aboriginal people over this Bill than over any other Bill affecting the Aboriginal people of Australia. Therefore, it is appropriate that this Bill, having passed through the Senate, be given speedy passage in this House.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, may I have your indulgence for several moments?
-The honourable member may proceed.
– I want to put it on the record that, whilst we in the Opposition place a considerable amount of importance on our amendment, on this occasion we did not call for a division, because of the equally important necessity to debate fully the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. However, that in no way reduces our emphasis on the importance of the amendment moved by me.
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 Viner) read a third time.
– I move:
This Bill has two main purposes: Firstly, it is to facilitate the registration of titles to Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory and, secondly, to provide for the security of agreements entered into between a land council and a miner. Honourable members will be aware that titles have not been registered because there has been some dispute between the Commonwealth and Northern Territory governments as to the identification of roads over which the public has a right of way. Under the Act, such roads are required to be excluded from any grant made to an Aboriginal Land Trust.
The amendments proposed by this Bill give effect to a solution formulated in consultation with the Aboriginal land councils, the Northern Territory Government and the Commonwealth which will enable deeds of grant which had been issued to Aboriginal Land Trusts in relation to land described in Schedule 1 of the Act to be registered by the Northern Territory Registrar General prior to the identification of roads over which the public has a right of way. Although registration of the deeds of grant is not essential for their taking effect, the Aboriginal land councils have applied to have the deeds registered and it is this Government’s wish that registration be effected as soon as possible.
The amendments provide for the execution and issue of new deeds of grant which will be deemed to take effect from the date of issue of the original deeds. The deeds of grant will be expressed to exclude, in general terms, roads over which the public has a right of way and any issue as to which roads fall within that description will be resolved after the deeds have been registered. The Bill provides a procedure whereby the Northern Territory Government and a land council can agree upon which roads are roads over which the public has a right of way.
Where an agreement is reached, the details will be forwarded to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and he will publish a copy of the agreement in the Commonwealth Gazette. Where agreement cannot be reached, provision is made for either the Northern Territory Government or the relevant land council to apply to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory for an order declaring that a part of the land contained in the deed of grant is a road over which the public has a right of way. On publication in the Gazette of an agreement, or on the date of an order of the Supreme Court, the land agreed or declared to be a road over which the public has a right of way shall be excluded from the land granted.
In conjunction with these amendments, the Northern Territory Government will introduce its own legislation designed to restrict the use of public roads traversing Aboriginal land. This permit system will be similar to the permit system created under the Northern Territory Aboriginal Land Act but providing right of appeal by an unsuccessful applicant to the Administrator.
This Bill also contains provisions which are designed to ensure that once an agreement has been concluded between a land council and a miner in accordance with procedures set out under the Act, both parties will be in a position to honour the agreement and will be bound by it. These provisions will provide the same protection as is already provided under the Act for agreements relating to the transfer or surrender of an estate on Aboriginal land by a land council. More specifically, the Bill provides that an agreement which has been concluded between a land council and a miner cannot be invalidated on the grounds of non-compliance with sections 23 or 48 of the Act. Provision is also made to ensure that where permits authorising entry onto Aboriginal land are required under the terms of an agreement, such permits can be withdrawn or withheld only in accordance with the terms of that agreement.
I want to emphasise that there will be no change to the present situation wherein land councils are required to obtain the consent of traditional owners and to consult with affected communities before concluding an agreement with a mining company. The Government does recognise however that the obligations and responsibilities placed upon a land council are both complex and difficult in their fulfilment and there may, on some occasions, be speculation as to whether the Land Council has in fact fulfilled its obligations, particularly as they relate to the negotiation of a mining agreement. It is with this in mind that the Government has included a provision which will require the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to withhold his approval under section 27 of the principal Act unless he is satisfied that the land council concerned has complied with any duty imposed on it by sub-section 23 (3).
Finally, provisions contained in the Bill will clarify the position with respect to Crown ownership of minerals on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. The enactment of this Bill will thus facilitate registration of deeds of grant to Aboriginal land, ensure the security of agreements which have been concluded between land councils and miners, provide a check on compliance by a land council in relation to its duties under section 23 of the Act and clarify the position with respect to Crown ownership of minerals on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory. I commend the Bill to honourable members.
Leave granted for second reading debate to continue forthwith.
– I move:
This Government’s present Aboriginal Land Rights Act is simply an emasculated version of Labor’s 1975 legislation. It is an Act which gives first priority to uranium mining at the expense of Aboriginal land rights. Let me just go over the major provisions of an already weakened Act. Inalienable freehold title to all Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory can be granted to Aboriginal land trusts whose membership is drawn entirely from the traditional owners. Claims can be made for vacant Crown land on the basis of traditional ownership. Claims are heard by an Aboriginal land commissioner who is to be a judge of the Northern Territory Supreme Court. Land councils have been established to represent the traditional owners.
There are at present three such councils- the Northern, Central and Tiwi land councils. Entry to Aboriginal land and management of Aboriginal land is controlled by Aboriginals. Mining on Aboriginal land cannot take place without the consent of the relevant land council acting on instructions from the traditional owners unless the Governor-General proclaims such mining to be in the national interest. Consent of the land council is not required in cases where mining leases in Aboriginal land were granted before 4 June 1 976. Finally, the land council has the power to negotiate with intending miners the terms and conditions under which the mining will take place. An arbitrator can be appointed if agreement on terms and conditions cannot be reached.
I am concerned about the land rights position at this time in the States because the simple fact is that there are not any in respect of traditional land. The position is that in Queensland and Western Australia reserves are Crown land controlled by the State governments. In Victoria the Liberal State Government has given title over two former reserves to Aboriginal trusts. These reserves are Framlingham and Lake Tyers. Framlingham is in the electorate of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). These trusts are controlled directly by Aborigines themselves. In New South Wales the Aboriginal Lands Trust has been given freehold title to some former reserves and has some controlling rights over exploration and mining. In Tasmania, where the 1976 Aboriginal population was almost 3,000 people, no land is currently set aside for the Aboriginal people. However, the Labor Government of Tasmania has prepared draft legislation which will give freehold title to an Aboriginal lands trust over some land in that State.
In South Australia title to former reserves other than the Pitjantjatjara lands is vested in the South Australian Aboriginal Lands Trust which was set up in 1966 by the Dunstan Labor Government. Although the Lands Trust does not have overriding control over mineral exploration and mining there is provision for royalties derived from mining to be paid by the Government to the Lands Trust. In respect of the Pitjantjatjara land the present Tonkin Liberal State Government has already reneged on the promises it made while in Opposition. The Dunstan Labor Government led the way for Aboriginal land rights in Australian States by setting up a select committee of the State Parliament in 1976. The membership of that committee included the present South Australian Liberal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Allison. That Committee approved without dissent the Dunstan Government’s Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Bill 1978. That Bill was a landmark in land rights legislation and would have given the Pitjantjatjara people the absolute control over their land which they need to have a real say in the future. Don Dunstan has long been a fierce fighter for Aboriginal rights. He is reported to have said in an article which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser in December 1979:
If you want tribal law you have to be able to say no to any outside intrusion such as mining. Unless the Pitjantjatjara can impose their wishes the moment anything valuable is found, they will be intruded upon. The effects of such intrusion on the rest of South Australia ‘s Aboriginals is well known.
But the Tonkin Liberal Government, under pressure from the South Australian Chamber of
Mines, is currently doing its best to ensure that the Pitjantjatjara people have as little control as possible over their land and their future.
The prime difference between the 1976 legislation and the model 1975 Labor legislation is where the Government removes the right of veto over mining exploration and development on traditional land. Aboriginal consent is not required for rnining on petroleum leases applied for or issued before December 1976 in eastern areas of Groote Eylandt or on the Ranger uranium area, although it should be noted that the Pancontinental lease at Jabiluka does not fall into the Ranger category. However, in these areas, although Aboriginals have no power of veto over mining on their land, companies are compelled to negotiate the financial and environmental terms under which mining can proceed.
Sections 43 and 48 also require relevant land councils to fully inform local Aboriginal communities as to the effects of mining under these circumstances. They must also attempt to ensure that Aboriginal local communities fully understand the effects of mining. Of course, there is another way land can be made available to Aboriginal communities and this is via acquisition of pastoral leases or land purchases by the lands fund, or now by the Development Commission.
I will go over the deficiencies in the FederalState position with regard to land rights legislation. First, there are no rights to acquire title to traditional land in the States as there is now by Commonwealth law in the Northern Territory. Secondly, the State governments are frustrating transfer of pastoral leases to lands trusts and communities. Conservative State governments are adamant that mining rights shall prevail over Aboriginal land rights in the States even to the extent of ruthlessly desecrating sacred sites as is currently occurring under the Western Australian Premier and his unstable ex-pugilist Minister for ‘ Cultural ‘ Affairs- Mr Grayden.
The vital need is to balance mining and drilling requirements against the undeniable rights to land of the Australian Aboriginal people. The Australian Labor Party is not an antidevelopment party. For instance we do not oppose all mining and drilling in the Western Australian Kimberley region. However, unless the consent of the traditional owners is obtained, we oppose it on Aboriginal sacred sites, on leases acquired by the land trusts, and on traditional land in the Northern Territory and land which might be granted to Aborigines in the States. A package of Federal-sponsored legislation, backed by the powers of section 5 1 of the Constitution, is needed to implement a national approach to these vexed questions.
I believe that four major initiatives should be put forward to the States for their consideration. Firstly, we should put up model general land rights legislation regarding ownership of traditional tribal lands. Secondly, we should allow the previously debated Aboriginal Development Commission to be run by Aboriginal commissioners who are selected by Aborigines. We should also provide that Commission with ongoing funding. Thirdly, there must be Federal and State agreements, enforced by federal legislation if necessary, to establish a clear and accepted mechanism to identify and protect sacred sites. Fourthly, general or specific federal legislation, using Commonwealth powers under section 5 1 of the Constitution, to protect sacred rites on traditional lands or acquired pastoral leases ought to be possible, with federal acquisition in the event of such belligerent intransigence as is currently being pursued by the Court Government in Western Australia.
In case honourable members opposite think this course might not be possible under the section 5 1 powers, I refer now to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. In regard to section 51 (XXVI) the report states:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to:
The people of any race . . . for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.
Of course, section 5 1 (xxxi) complements that power. The report states:
Section S (xxxi) expressly confers power on the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws for the acquisition of property ‘from any State’. The High Court has affirmed that the power extends to acquisition by the Commonwealth of land belonging to the State.
There is no doubt about the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to provide for acquisition of rights to minerals . . Minerals in the ground are part of the land, and may be dealt with in the same way as other interests in land:
The report then refers to the case of Wilkinson v. Proud. It goes on to say that the Commonwealth Parliament may provide for acquisition of land from the States, after payment of just compensation, for any consitutional purpose. That is the position, whether honourable members opposite like it or deny it.
– Nobody is denying that.
– Surely the possibility exists to use it to deal with the current situation in, say, Queensland and Western Australia.
– You are making the . same speech you made a week ago.
– That is not so. I remember the honourable member saying: ‘What about section 51? Let us explain it’. I have explained it to the honourable member tonight.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! The honourable member for Cunningham will ignore interjections and proceed with his speech.
-I turn now to the Bill, and I make the point that Senator Chaney some weeks ago said in his second reading speech that the Northern Land Council and the other land councils in the Territory had agreed to this legislation. He was forced some two weeks ago to make it clear to the Senate that the statement was incorrect and that in fact no agreement had been reached with the land councils. There must have been a tremendous breakdown between the Minister, the Department and the land councils. On 29 February, the land councils made their position very clear. In a telex to Senator Chaney the Chairman of the Northern Land Council said:
Your action is unacceptable, not only to us, but to all Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory on whose land miners have interest.
Of course, no statement appeared between 29 February and 17 April. The Northern Land Council has informed me that the Minister should have been under no misunderstanding whatsoever about whether agreement had been reached. What is more, a further letter was sent to the Minister last week asking him not to go ahead with this legislation because there still had been no agreement. Yet this Bill is proceeding. So much for the self-determination protestations of this Government. So much for the talk about consultation self-determination for the Aborigines. With regard to the Bill, the most obnoxious clauses are obviously those relating to the invalidation of sections 48, 43 and 23. Section 48 provides: the traditional Aboriginal owners … of the land to which the proposed grant or application relates understand the nature and purpose of the proposed grant . . .
Without reading the whole section, it goes on to say that they must be seen to have understood it and that it is the Land Council’s responsibility to make sure of that. That provision was put into section 48 of the Act, but now we have a Bill that states:
Where a Land Council, in giving a consent referred to in sub-section ( 1 ), fails to comply with that sub-section, that failure does not invalidate the giving of that consent.
Therefore, the agreement still stands. What the Government is saying is this: ‘You are supposed to take certain actions, but if you do not go ahead and take those actions, that does not matter because there is still a legal agreement.’ That makes a nonsense of sections 23, 43 and 48, because of course the same intent and virtually the same amendment applies to sections 23 and 43 as well as to section 48. The Minister and the Government were warned by eminent people in the Aboriginal land rights movement that this would not work. I wish to quote from a letter written by Dr H. C. Coombs to the Minister in which he said that this was an incorrect course. He suggested:
To achieve these purposes, I suggested that it would be necessary:
to eliminate the clauses of the Aboriginal Land Rights legislation by which Aborigines can be required to negotiate, and which authorise the Minister to enter into an agreement on their behalf if they fail to do so in a way he considers reasonable;
to require the Government, wishing to allow mining, other than in accordance with a freely negotiated agreement formally to announce by a proclamation its intention to exercise the National Interest provision; which proclamation however should not be effective until the High Court after public inquiry has declared the proclamation as justified.
At the conclusion of his correspondence he said:
I again commend these ideas to you. They would more effectively ensure enforceable agreements than what you propose and they would achieve this by protecting the rights of Aborigines the original legislation purports to establish. Those you propose seek simply to weaken those rights to the point of possible extinction in the interests of mining companies. As I said in an earlier letter, ‘Once again Aborigines are being denied the protection of the law to which they are entitled ‘.
Those are the words of Dr H. C. Coombs, a very respected authority on more issues in the Australian community than Aboriginal affairs.
The second major amendment put forward by this Bill provides for the registration of title of traditional lands before the public roads have been identified and defined. The current Act allows for registration of title only after public roads have been defined and agreed upon. The background to this change is the dispute between
Queensland Mines Ltd and the Aboriginal community at Oenpelli over the use of a road between Cahill V. Crossing at the entrance to Arnhem Land and the Nabarlek uranium mine owned by Queensland Mines. The Aboriginal community at Oenpelli does not want the Queensland Mines Ltd to use that road. It is the road over which the Queensland Mines expects to get its uranium milling machinery into Nabarlek and its yellowcake product out. In the event of a continuing disagreement between the Northern Territory Government and the appropriate land council, this Bill provides for an appeal to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory upon application by either party. I stress that agreement has not been reached with the land councils, much less the Aboriginal communities. Further trouble is certain, as has been outlined by Dr Coombs.
As has been stated in the Opposition’s amendment, the Bill should be withdrawn and there should be further consultation with the Aboriginal communities on these matters of registration of title and the use of the roads. While many people think the present legislative position is too conciliatory towards the mining industry, this is not a view shared by the more conservative State governments, the majority in this Federal Government and Federal departments such as the Department of National Development and Energy and, of course, the Australian Mining Industry Council. Commensurate with the projected second post-war surge in mining and processing of minerals and energy, there is a concerted attack by these groups to reverse the modest gains in Aboriginal land rights and, consequently, socio-economic areas. In effect, these people are appealing to latent racism and are arguing that Aboriginals have no special mineral rights or land rights and that the mining code of mining where the minerals are must prevail over Aboriginal culture, community needs and sacred sites. This argument entirely misses the point that unwanted proximity to white population centres usually breaks down renurtured Aboriginal communities and negates the original rationale for the granting of access to this land. I will quote briefly from correspondence to back up the contention that there has been a big move to reverse the modest gains in Aboriginal land rights. The Australian Mining Industry Council is in the forefront of this situation, lt says:
In addition land rights legislation creates the expectation within other Aboriginal groups that they also will be given the right to claim and be granted other large areas of the State.
This is the sort of fear mentality that these people are trying to propagate in the community. At the behest of the Australian Mining Industry Council, Senator Chaney has taken a very unusual step. He has appointed a private consultant to inquire into and report upon the workings of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. He is paying this consultant, a Mr B. Rowland from Perth, $29,000 a year. Not only has he been employed to do this, but also, according to correspondence signed by the first assistant secretary from the oil and gas division of the Department of National Development and Energy, Mr Rowland is working very closely with that department. He has been given a brief by the Department of National Development and Energy which says that the land rights legislation works too much in favour of the Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory and must be amended. As I do not have much time in which to speak, I will table the correspondence if that is what honourable members opposite wish. I will not waste the rest of my speaking time by reading it. Honourable members must rest assured that what I am saying is correct.
I want to deal very quickly with another major point that relates to Aboriginal health. Despite the $81m that was spent in the last six years on Aboriginal health through State grants and Federal grants-in-aid, there is still an appalling health situation. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) would be aware of this situation. There is a direct link between health of Aboriginals and their relationship with the land. The importance of land to Aborigines is well known because of their traditional, spiritual and cultural beliefs. Control over their land can make very significant contributions to the emotional health and welfare of Aboriginal communities.
Another major factor which can contribute to good health in Aboriginal communities in relation to land is the right of ownership under freehold title. This can also provide an emotional and economic base. This is an accepted right throughout the rest of the Australian community. The National Trachoma and Eye Health Program and other official surveys and reviews have demonstrated the health problems that occur in Aboriginal communities when those communities are rootless and have no meaningful and long term title and control over their land. In order to back up what I am saying about Aboriginals, particularly those in northern Australia, I will quote some appalling facts. The infant mortality rate in the Northern Territory and in Queensland is 48 to 1.000 live births. Twenty-three per cent of all Aborigines over 60 years of age are blind in both eyes. Twenty-nine per cent of Aboriginal men and 42 per cent of Aboriginal women over the age of 60 have trachoma. Twenty-five per cent of Aboriginal children under five years of age in urban centres such as Redfern are so badly undernourished that they will suffer permanent brain damage. The trachoma team further found that one in every nine Aborigines seen had inflammation of the middle ear compared with one in 90 nonAboriginals. I have some absolutely horrifying statistics with regard to the strike rate of leprosy and venereal diseases amongst Aboriginals in northern Australia which I do not propose to release to the House until I have had a further opportunity to check them. I hope to do that at a later date, before the House rises at the end of the autumn session.
I want to conclude by mentioning the uranium mining around Ranger and possibly at Jabiluka on the Pancontinental lease. The Aboriginal communities must be concerned, as should the white communities in those areas, with the continuing danger, over many thousands of years, which will surely result from the disposal of uranium mill tailings. For instance, I understand that the Ranger project will simply dump the tailings in the tailings pond. Permanent disposal will be effected by cover of a few metres of filling. It is absolutely certain that over millennia these mill tailings will be exposed to the air and to societies who might know nothing about them. I have a technical paper here from which I would like to quote.
– You are talking -
-This is the position. A whole host of radioactive substances will be present in mill tailings. They include thorium 230 and radium 226 which have half-lives of 7.5 million years and 1,620 years respectively. They will produce radon. Although radon gas- which, of course, causes lung cancer- has a half-life of only slightly less than four days, it will be produced every time these long-living radioactive elements are exposed to the atmosphere. In a sense radon gas will be produced over an immensely long time. The radon gas breaks down into radon daughters which are a number of short-lived radioactive particles which cling to dust. But the root cause will be there once the mill tailings are exposed to the atmosphere for 100,000 years or more. If some of the health statistics that I have just quoted with regard to present day Aborigines are considered serious, how much more serious will be the health effects on Aborigines and their offspring for thousands of years to come as a result of uranium mining in the Northern Territory under this Government? I could conclude on no better note than by quoting several paragraphs from the eminently laudable Age editorial of 3 April this year which, by a strange coincidence, was the day after the Noonkanbah Aborigines had their great moral victory by chasing Amax Exploration off their land in the Kimberleys. The Age had this to say about land rights:
Land rights are of central importance to all Aborigines- in real terms to those who still have traditional links with their country- symbolically to those struggling on the fringes of white society. The present land rights, limited as they are, should be protected, and the term ‘national interest’ subjected to the severest scrutiny. Too often there has been too thin a line between white man’s need and white man’s greed.
The editorial continues:
For the sake of the future, white Australians must face up to the facts of the Aborigines’ past and present. It is claimed that this country is founded on the highest ideals of equality and freedom. It is not. It is founded on a grave injustice, one that must be righted.
-i second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.
-The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill is a rather simple Bill. One might be forgiven for believing that we were here to discuss a motion of some wide-ranging importance for Aboriginals in general. Whilst the speech of the honourable member for Cunningham (Mr West), who preceded me in this debate, may have been interesting, it certainly was not directed to the Bill which is before us.
– Yes, I did. I dealt with it.
– I was more courteous to the honourable member than I might be on a future occasion. I did not take any points of order but I think that to do so would have been well warranted.
– That is because the speech was so interesting.
-The honourable member flatters himself. The Bill deals with the registration of titles to Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory and with the security of agreements entered into between land councils and mining companies, or miners. The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. It is rather interesting to note that that Act has been in operation since 1976 because the honourable member for Cunningham suggested that in some way this Government was not committed to Aboriginal land rights and that the legislation might be watered down in some way.
-I think, as the Minister has suggested, that that is a ridiculous comment for the honourable member to make. This Act has been in operation for over four years. It has been the subject of what one might call only minor and technical amendments relating to questions of detail. The major thrust of the legislation, which was quite novel when it was introduced, has been maintained. I think that that is a very important point and one which cannot be overlooked. In fact, one might wonder whether the honourable member for Cunningham has even read the Act.
– He has now left the chamber.
-I would not comment on that. The fact is that if our honourable member had read the Act he would not be proposing an amendment in these terms. The amendment states:
This is the operative section-
To guarantee the rights of Aborigines to be fully consulted on, and informed of the effects of, mining and drilling on traditional lands as a prime requirement for the validity of mining agreements relating to Aboriginal land conferred under this Act.
The honourable member was referring to land in the Northern Territory and to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The simple fact is that that Act provides for consultation with Aboriginals through land councilsthe three land councils that have been mentioned- in relation to the matters that are dealt with in the proposed amendment. The amendment speaks about the question of consulting with Aboriginals on, and informing them of, the effects of mining and drilling on traditional lands. That is what the Act deals with. It provides the very mechanism for that to occur. To suggest that this Bill ought to be withdrawn to allow for consultation to facilitate those matters is a nonsense. I certainly hasten to suggest that the honourable member who seeks to speak for the Opposition on questions relating to Aboriginals should have a look at the Act and familiarise himself with it. Then he might not be embarrassed when he submits amendments in this form, which quite clearly could not be supported because the Act does what the amendment calls for.
The honourable member took the opportunity to speak about the commitment of this Government to Aboriginal land rights and about the question of land rights in the States. There is no doubt about the commitment of this Government to land rights. I have mentioned that matter already. I think it is quite proper to look at the extent to which States have been prepared to implement Aboriginal land rights in line with the model provided by the Commonwealth in the form of the legislation that operates in the Northern Territory. I have suggested previously in addresses to this House that I would certainly encourage other States to follow that example. If New South Wales, as a Labor State, is so interested, it might be the first to follow. Perhaps Tasmania, as the other Labor State, would be interested. But those States have not been interested to date. This legislation has been in operation since 1976 and neither State Labor government has seen fit to implement legislation which goes as far as that of the Commonwealth in relation to the Northern Territory. I think that is an important point which needs to be looked at and which cannot be overlooked.
The honourable member for Cunningham suggested previously and he has suggested again today that the Commonwealth can, in some way, move in on the States so that they will give effect to Aboriginal land rights on the basis of the legislation which operates in the Northern Territory. I have said before and I say again that that cannot be done without cost and the cost would be substantial. It is correct, as I think the honourable member indicated, that section 5 1 of the Constitution deals with this matter. Placitum 24 gives the Commonwealth the right to make laws in relation to people of a specific race. It is suggested that that includes Aboriginals but it is quite certain in my view, as the honourable member suggested, that the use of that section to make laws for people of a specific race, including Aboriginals, is subject to the Commonwealth’s power, in relation to the acquisition of property from any State, to acquire that land on just terms. That is the crux of the matter. If we are to give land rights to Aboriginals we have to acquire the land.
I understand that the Labor Party is quite familiar with these matters. When it was in office it looked at this matter as a possibility and, like us, realised that it was not a practicable possibility. It might be fine to talk about it when one is in opposition, but it is not a practicable possibility when one is in government. The reasons are quite simple. It is not for the Commonwealth to assess what are just terms. It might be able to negotiate just terms with a State, but ultimately, if the question of what are just terms for the acquisition of land cannot be resolved by the governments concerned, it can be resolved only in the courts of the land. The fact of the matter is that the Commonwealth would then have no say in budgetary terms as to what that cost might be. I am certain that it is not a matter of looking to where the latest hot spot is in relation to Aboriginals and seeking to acquire the land in that particular district. We might be able to acquire Noonkanbah today and Mornington Island and Aurukun tomorrow, but I imagine that the number of hot spots- if I can describe them in that way- would certainly grow with the prospect of the Commonwealth seeking to acquire Aboriginal land on just terms.
The fact of the matter is that if we are to seek to acquire Aboriginal lands- those lands which have been available in the form of pastoral leases or those lands which are available now in Aboriginal reserves in any State of Australiaand if those lands happen to contain significant mineral deposits, those mineral deposits would have to be acquired at cost by the Commonwealth. It is difficult to know what the extent of those deposits on locations throughout Australia might be, but I would hazard a guess that we would be talking about thousands of millions of dollars in acquiring land simply to give effect to the Aboriginal land rights by the Commonwealth purporting to exercise such power. It is a nonsense to suggest that we could be so irresponsible in relation to the welfare of the Aboriginal people that we would seek to expend moneys of that order in acquiring land when so many programs are essential for the Aboriginal people.
The honourable member for Cunningham made some reference to the needs of Aboriginals in the health area. He spoke somewhat favourably about a committee of this Parliament which I happen to chair- the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs- and its report on Aboriginal health. The fact of the matter is that the very programs which that Committee regarded as being of a fundamental nature would be at risk if the money to acquire Aboriginal lands had to come out of budgets available for Aboriginal affairs. The very fact of the matter is that the amount of money involved would be of such an order that it would be totally debilitating in terms of any budgetary responsibility in this country.
– You must take into account the point that I was making about the relationship between health needs and land.
-I will deal with that point in due course. I think it is certainly relevant that, as the report said in its terms, the special relationship of Aboriginals to land and the need for Aboriginals to be able to make decisions about the way in which health programs are administered are important. If the honourable member reads that report he will recognise that fundamentally the Committee said that the first thing that has to be dealt with in relation to Aboriginal health is the provision of water and sewerage in all Aboriginal settlements throughout Australia. That is what we put as the first priority. The members of the Committee- the Government members and the Opposition members- said collectively that the first priority in terms of expenditure by government on Aboriginal health ought to be in the provision of water and sewerage in Aboriginal settlements throughout Australia. We recognised, as did Professor Hollows’ team in the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, that one needs to be able to be clean and to be able, on settlements, to wash and perform proper ablutions and so on in a clean environment if one is to maintain a reasonable standard of health. Whilst Aboriginals are not moving around in the way that they did in the past, it is almost impossible to do that in other than a static or fixed location. That is the matter that was given preeminent emphasis and that is the very matter which the Committee emphasised in its report would not be able to be dealt with if we were spending thousands of millions of dollars simply on acquiring land in States to do what States are not prepared to do .
I am quite prepared to go on record as saying, as I have said before, that there is a model there for the States to pick up. The Labor States of New South Wales and Tasmania could do so if they were so inclined. There is a model for Aboriginal land rights legislation which they can pick up and which they can use to give title for those Aboriginal reserves in their States to the Aboriginal people and to establish the same sort of mechanisms that the Commonwealth Government has established in the Northern Territory for effective consultation with Aboriginal people.
-They won ‘t do it.
-That might not be done in New South Wales and Tasmania, but let us wait and see whether it will be done. The very point I am making is that in terms of the welfare of Aboriginal people one could not responsibly, as the Labor Government proved, seek to go into each State of Australia and acquire all that land which is now available to Aboriginals, together with the minerals, and hand it over in the form of the Commonwealth legislation on Aboriginal land rights. That is the point I was making the other day. The question of just compensation under our Constitution is difficult for a government of any political persuasion to be able to overcome. Just compensation means what it says. It means that the Commonwealth, if it is to acquire land from the States, would have to pay the States for what the land, including the minerals, is worth. It is not a matter for the Commonwealth itself to determine. I think those points have been made quite clearly. It is about time that the honourable member stopped trying to resurrect those matters in the sense that he has and that he looked in detail at legislation like the legislation that is before us today and understood the important points involved.
As I indicated before, not a great deal is involved in this legislation. I would like to take up a couple of the matters that the honourable member for Cunningham dealt with when he became relevant. He suggested that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) had misled the Senate in some way in the comments that he made about the degree of consultation which had taken place with Aboriginals in relation to this legislation. The Minister dealt with this matter when it was alluded to in the other place. The Minister was aware of the comments that the Labor Party’s spokesman on Aboriginal affairs had made. In the Senate Hansard of 23 April 1980, at page 1776, the Minister said:
I was a little disappointed, however, at the statement which was issued by the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs following the statement that I made last week because, among other things, Mr West said:
Last night Senator Chaney admitted that his statement that the land council had agreed to support the Bills was untrue.
That is not quite correct. What I said was that my advice to a certain point had been that the councils had agreed. I had received a message the previous day that they disagreed and I immediately put that fact before the Senate, as of course I must. I am advised now that the Central Land Council does agree, the Northern Land Council disagrees, and I am left in some doubt as to just what is the true position. I have not made any statement that my original statement was untrue. What I have advised is that I have now received some conflicting advice on that particular point. Mr West also said that there was an amazing breakdown between the Minister and his Department. I find that a little curious because on this particular issue there has been very close contact between me and my Department.
I think that deals with the matter that the honourable member for Cunningham raised.
– They still do not agree with it.
– The honourable member may not agree. The honourable member alluded to and quoted extensively from comments made by Dr H. C. Coombs on the provision relating to the security of agreements entered into between a land council and a miner. I would like to take up that matter briefly. Some very specific provisions were included in the Bill to take into account the views expressed by Dr Coombs and the views expressed by others who were interested in this question. It has become apparent that some people who are interested more in opposing mining than in protecting Aboriginal interests in land have been casting around to find ways and means of stopping mining approved by an Aboriginal land council. They are seeking to bring up cases, one after the other, which in some way might impugn the agreement that an Aboriginal land council entered into with the people with whom it has an obligation, under this Act, to consult.
The legislation is quite simple. What it seeks to do is to say what will happen once all those procedures have been gone through. Before those procedures are completed, any person can challenge them at any point. If an Aboriginal community was not being consulted or some group of Aboriginals believed they were not being consulted by an Aboriginal land council they could, at any point up to the conclusion of an agreement, challenge in a court the extent to which that consultation is taking place and prevent the signing of an agreement. That is not being dealt with in any way in relation to this legislation. What the legislation is endeavouring to do is to say that once the point has been reached where the agreement has been finalised, concluded, by a land council, its having gone through all those forms, the people who are to invest money and embark upon a development ought to be satisfied that they have an agreement to which the people they have dealt with are bound just as much as they are bound. It is a simple matter, and a proper matter to be dealt with by legislation, to provide that the agreement once concluded, those procedures having been followed through, is to be final and is to bind both parties to the same degree so that it cannot be challenged.
It was recognised that we are dealing with Aboriginal people who may not know all the forms and may not be as conversant with these matters as a sophisticated white community and that we ought to consider ways and means of ensuring protection that one would not otherwise look for in dealing with any other group of people in relation to the finality of agreements. It was with this in mind that the Minister agreed to include in this Bill amendments to ensure that the Minister has to satisfy himself that a land council concerned with a particular matter has complied with the duties imposed upon it, particularly those duties in section 23 (3 ) of the principal Act.
If honourable members look at the second reading speech tonight of the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) they will see that some emphasis was put on that. For the sake of completeness I would like to quote what the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs had to say. He said:
I want to emphasise that there will be no change to the present situation wherein land councils are required to obtain the consent of traditional owners and to consult with affected communities before concluding an agreement with a mining company. The Government does recognise however that the obligations and responsibilities placed upon a land council are both complex and difficult in their fulfilment and there may, on some occasions, be speculation as to whether the land council has in fact fulfilled its obligations, particularly as they relate to the negotiations of a mining agreement. It is with this in mind that the Government has included a provision which will require the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to withhold his approval under section 27 of the principal Act unless he is satisfied that the land council concerned has complied with any duty imposed on it by sub-section 23(3).
Finally, I would like to allude to two matters. In relation to roads at Oenpelli, discussions are still proceeding with the Aboriginal people to resolve those difficulties. In relation to Mr Rowland, he has been very thorough in his discussions with many organisations, including Aboriginal groups.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Jarman)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-This amendment to the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act further waters down the authority and rights of the Aboriginal people. The original Bill was introduced by the Labor Government in the 1972-1975 era. That Government gave to the Aboriginal people complete rights over their land, except when it was not in the national interest. When the Fraser Government came into power in 1 975 it withdrew and redrafted Labor’s Bill and so the Aboriginal people lost certain rights at that time. This legislation now strengthens further the hands of the mining companies. This Government really represents the corporate sector- the wealthy mining corporations- and does not have any real feeling or understanding for the Aboriginal people. In seconding the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition, I wish to concentrate my remarks on clauses 6, 7 and 9 of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill. These clauses are a fundamental negation of Aboriginal land rights. They put beyond legal challenge the Ranger and Nabarlek agreements which were obtained without the consultation of the Aboriginal people as required by the land rights legislation. They pave the way for future mining agreements to be secured with the same devious tactics that were used by the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to obtain the Ranger agreement. The Minister at that time was the present Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner), who is also the Leader of the House. The legal effect of these clauses is that where a land council enters into an agreement for the mining of Aboriginal land without complying with section 23 (3) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, this does not invalidate the agreement. In part, section 23 (3) states: a Land Council . . . shall not take any action, including, but not limited to, the giving of consent or the withholding of consent, in any matter in connexion with land held by a Land Trust, unless the Land Council is satisfied that-
Members of this House know that the Aboriginal people of Oenpelli were not given that right at the time of the Ranger negotiations. It was a disgusting action by this Government to waive this tenet in respect of the agreement with Ranger. This amendment takes the real commitment out of section 23 (3) which is one of the few remaining planks of self-determination left in the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. It prevents Aboriginal communities or traditional land owners from challenging agreements reached in defiance of their right to be consulted, to give or refuse consent. Instead, under clause 5, it confines to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the power to question the exercising of a land council’s responsibilities under section 23(3). The amendment weakens the power of Aboriginal communities to hold their land council and the Government accountable for decisions made on their behalf. The Government has discovered that the greatest strength of the Aboriginal people lies in the collective resole of their communities to defend their land and to determine their own future.
The Government was able to manipulate and intimidate the Northern Land Council in the case of the Ranger agreement, but the Government and the mining corporations have found a growing confidence and strength in the Aboriginal communities on to whom mining developments are being forced. I want to stress that. It is the case at Noonkanbah. And at Oenpelli where the community was not consulted about the use of the Oenpelli-Cahill’s Crossing road by Queensland Mines Ltd. The immediate purpose of this amendment is to nullify the Oenpelli people’s challenge to the agreement with Queensland Mines for the Nabarlek project. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney) has made this very clear in another place. The amendment also frustrates members of the Oenpelli community in their opposition to the Ranger agreement.
We can see that the amendment is an admission by the Government that the Nabarlek and Ranger agreements were obtained in defiance of the requirements of its own legislation, that is, section 23 (3) of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. The honourable member for Dundas (Mr Ruddock) shakes his head. As a lawyer he knows that that is the situation. Let me briefly examine the record of the Government in the Nabarlek and Ranger negotiations. The Ranger negotiations were marred by Government standover tactics, threats to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act and the manipulation of the Northern Land Council by white bureaucrats. We know that the white bureaucrats gave dishonest information to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Land Council. I have given evidence of that in this chamber. The requirements of section 23 (3) were not carried out.
– I raise a point of order. I assume that the honourable member’s allegation was in relation to dishonesty by a Minister.
-I wish the honourable member for Dundas would wash his ears out and listen to what I said. The facts are that I said that a public servant, a bureaucrat, had misled the Northern Land Council.
-I was not aware that the honourable member for Reid said that the Prime Minister was dishonest. I did not hear that remark.
– He cannot help it.
-The honourable member for Wills will withdraw the remark that the Prime Minister cannot help being dishonest.
– I will withdraw it.
-I did not hear the honourable member for Reid say anything unparliamentary.
-Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to place on record that this is not the first time that I have protested to you. Every time that you are in the chair, when time is limited, you waste the time of this House.
-The person who is in the chair has no alternative when somebody raises a point of order than to hear it. I am very happy for the honourable member to proceed. I did not hear him say anything which was out of order.
- Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order.
-A point of order has been raised and I have no alternative but to listen to it.
– I do not like to interrupt the honourable member, but the fact is that he used the word ‘dishonest’ in relation to somebody outside this chamber. As I understand it, the procedures say that one can do that only by substantive motion.
-There is no substance in the point of order. The honourable member for Reid may proceed.
-I wish those members who really do use delaying tactics would listen to the facts. A bureaucrat, who was an employee of the Northern Land Council, was dishonest. Previously in this House I have shown by evidence where he was dishonest. In fact, he was a liar. The requirements of section 23 (3) were not carried out, despite an injunction being taken out by the Aboriginal community leaders in the Northern Territory Supreme Court seeking their enforcement. The blame for this shameful event falls squarely at the feet of the Government and in particular, at the feet of the honourable member for Dundas and the honourable member for Mitchell (Mr Cadman). This national disgrace was best summed up by Dr H. C. Coombs. In a letter dated 29 November 1978 to the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the present Leader of the House (Mr Viner), he said:
I have frequently, throughout my official life, disagreed with actions of the government of the day, but never before, in the field of domestic policy, have I felt such shame at the way in which policy has been put into effect. The signatures have, I believe, been obtained without the processes of clarification and discussion which were promised to obtain the lifting of the injunction previously imposed by the Supreme Court. Furthermore, the proceedings at the meetings at Bamyeli and at Oenpelli not merely failed to include representatives of communities vitally concerned but were such as to leave those Aborigines who did participate bewildered and unaware of the significance of what was happening.
Dr Coombs is one of the most respected public servants in this country. He served not only Labor governments but also several conservative governments as a personal adviser. In addition, he was the head of the Reserve Bank of Australia. That is what he had to say about this
Government. This Government allowed such action to be taken and both the honourable member for Dundas and the honourable member for Mitchell know the facts. They know of the stealth and the dishonesty, particularly of the public servants, that occurred at that time. It has also become clear that the Oenpelli community was not properly informed of or consulted about the Nabarlek project. Senator Chaney admitted as much when he said in a statement tabled in the Senate on 22 November last year
Sections of the Aboriginal community have complained that they were not adequately consulted regarding the use of certain roads and the volume of traffic involved.
At the same time, he presented a report on the social impact of uranium mining on Northern Territory Aboriginals which stated:
Lack of information, inadequate communication and misinformation have led to some serious misapprehensions in the minds of local Aboriginal communities: For example, the Gunbalanya Council did not have a copy of the Queensland Mines Ltd’s final environmental impact statement, the content of which so vitally concerns that very Council. Often there is an absence of documentation or, where it exists, it is couched in idiom and vocabulary beyond the Englishspeaking capacity of many of the Aboriginal people. Steps must be taken to ensure some comprehension and communication between Aborigines and non-Aborigines in what is already a fairly tense set of relationships.
This is the sorry record of this Government when it comes to a conflict between powerful mining interests and the Aboriginal people. This Government does represent the really powerful mining interests; it always leans towards them rather than towards the weak, the people who really need assistance- in this case the Aboriginal people. This amendment enshrines in law those past practices used to get the Ranger Agreement. It enables future negotiations to take a similar course without threat of legal challenge. We can be sure that there will be more amendments to the land rights Act whenever mining interests are threatened. The next in line is probably an amendment to allow Pancontinental Mining Ltd to overcome Aboriginal power of veto over the Jabiluka project. Recent Press reports indicate that the Department of National Development and Energy is pushing for a weakening of the land rights Act to allow petroleum exploration to be maximised and for new fields to be brought into production in the shortest possible time. There is no doubt that the prime purpose of this amendment is to make life easier for the corporate mining sector and, in particular, to clear the path for uranium development in northern Australia. The Government puts these objectives well ahead of the welfare of the Aboriginal. It always has and it always will as long as it is the Government of Australia. The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) said in this House in May 1 979:
We do not want to see anything stand in the way of new projects.
The Deputy Prime Minister meant that the Government did not want to see anything stand in the way of new projects being undertaken by the corporate rnining sector- the sector it really represents. It refuses to represent the weak sector of our community.
While the Government is vocal about human rights, for example, in the Soviet Union, here in our own country it is engaged in a massive denial of the rights of Aboriginal people. Its record will increasingly tarnish Australia’s standing in the international community. We can see also the hypocrisy of this Government when we ask where uranium mined from Aboriginal land will be sent. We must ask where the uranium is going because once it enters the nuclear fuel cycle it will contribute to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Government members always want to put their heads in the sand when it comes to the inter-relationships of uranium mining and the nuclear industry. The third finding and recommendation of the ‘First Report’ of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry states:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry . . .
But Government members refuse to acknowledge that. They know also that at page 9 of the second report there is set out this rinding of the Commission on the attitude of the Aboriginal people of Oenpelli.
The evidence before us shows that the traditional owners of the Ranger site and the Northern Land Council (as now constituted) are opposed to the mining of uranium on that site . . .
Of course, this Government knows that. It knows the inter-relationship yet it continues in this way. This Government has agreed to export our uranium to South Korea which is run by a militarist regime, an oppressive government. It has also entered into agreements with countries like the Philippines which has an oppressive government and it would have entered into an agreement with the Shah of Iran had it not been for his overthrow. The facts are that the Government has been stupid, and I say that advisedly, in its agreements on uranium mining and export. One of the countries it has entered into an agreement with is Finland. As far back as 22 February last year I asked a question of the Minister for Trade and Resources relating to countries likely to receive Australia’s uranium and where that uranium would be enriched. I received a reply from the Minister on 20 May 1979. Mr Deputy Speaker, so that these details can be placed on the record, I seek leave to have my question and the answer from the Minister incorporated in Hansard. I have shown the document to the Minister.
The document read as follows-
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES QUESTION
(Question No. 3244)
asked the Minister for Trade and Resources, upon notice, on 22 February 1979:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
-I thank the House. In part (3) of my question I asked the Minister for Trade and Resources where France and the other European countries would obtain uranium enrichment services. The Minister’s reply indicated that 10.6 per cent of France’s uranium would be enriched in the Soviet Union; the United Kingdom, 11.5 per cent; West Germany, 31.1 per cent; Italy, 14.5 per cent; Sweden, 9.9 per cent; and Finland, 100 per cent. This Government entered into an agreement with Finland in relation to the sale of our uranium but it refuses to guarantee that under the safeguards agreement it will veto the enrichment and reprocessing of that uranium in the Soviet Union. The Government talks about human rights! It calls the Soviet actions in Afghanistan the greatest threat to world peace since the Second World War but refuses to guarantee that Australia’s uranium will not go to the USSR. Labor has said clearly that we cannot divorce land rights from uranium policy when we are dealing with Aboriginal rights, particularly in the Northern Territory. We have said clearly that the Government’s safeguard policy presents too many unresolved problems. Until those problems are solved we should not enter upon uranium mining. Really the Government should respect the rights of the Aboriginal people and ensure that it does not proceed in this way by stealth, representing only the big mining companies and displaying no heart or understanding at all for the little people, particularly the Aboriginal people of this country.
– I wish to begin by asking honourable members: Why can we not leave the Aboriginal people in peace? Why must we harass them wherever they are? Why cannot a country of three million square miles, which has but a handful of Aboriginal people, making up only one per cent of its population and scattered over some of the least hospitable parts of the continent, leave them alone until it resolves the social problem of the impact upon them of mining and all other human endeavours. I am not persuaded that this country need disturb those people in order to gather a few million tonnes of bauxite or anything else. This measure is but another step along the long, unhappy road travelled by the Aboriginal people in trying to find some resting place on this continent. I remind honourable members that the Aboriginal civilisation, if one can put it that way, as far as we can determine is one of the oldest on this planet. Its record goes back for some 30,000 or 40,000 years.
As my colleagues have pointed out, this legislation represents yet another interference with the principles that were established between 1972 and 1975. The Government keeps tinkering with the principles as some new opportunity to exploit the land and ignore the Aboriginal people comes up. I wish to take up the point made by my colleague from- Dundas (Mr Ruddock) about land ownership and how we can overcome the difficulties it presents when we have intransigent State governments, for instance, or even the Northern Territory Government, to contend with. The honourable member said that to purchase the land involved would cost thousands of millions of dollars. I challenge that assertion. In the Northern Territory about 90,000 square miles of Aboriginal lands are already in the Commonwealth arena- if it has not been surrendered totally to the Northern Territory Government. I am not sure offhand of the figures for Queensland and would add that I am also not sure that this is the way in which we should handle this legislation. I came to this House from the Senate, where it had been under deliberation for some time. True enough, we can obtain the documents, study them and be prepared to discuss them, but the legislation is brought in here, the Minister for Employment and Youth Affairs (Mr Viner) makes a second reading speech and we proceed straight away. That is not a sound procedure. One does not have time to gather material that ordinarily one would have available. We do not have the necessary staff around the place to chase things up and to find the basic documents upon which to base arguments. However, I was able to walk to the Library and examine the Queensland Country Life newspaper in order to see how much land of this sort, scattered around Queensland, is worth. I noted near Mount Isa properties for sale at about $3.50 an acre. I noted for sale at Rockhampton a property of 39,000 acres, and fully developed, at $296,000.
– Without mineral rights; you would have to buy the minerals, too.
– We would not have to do anything of the sort. There has been no instance that I know of so far of the High Court’s taking that into account in making a judgment on the proper value of land.
– As long as you buy them without minerals you leave them in the State ‘s hands.
-No, you buy the land absolutely.
– You said that your Government wasn’t prepared to spend the money. You said it in your last speech.
-During the previous Liberal government’s reign of terror, before 1972, the State police were not able to go into the Commonwealth offices to put out people who were sitting in them. We had to bring down special legislation to enable them to do that. Once the Commonwealth takes over it has absolute rights. If you like, let Bielke-Petersen give someone mining rights on the Army land around Shoalwater Bay.
– But you would not acquire any land in Queensland when you were the Minister.
-That is not correct. We started to take the necessary steps; the procedures were set in train.
– No, you were not prepared to act.
– There was always hope that at some time it would be possible to come to an agreement. Even the Minister acknowledges that there is no way in coming to an agreement. I told my colleagues that.
– We got an agreement that no other Government has been able to get out of Queensland on Aurukun and Mornington Island.
– It will not work.
– Of course it will.
– The Minister does not mean to say that that agreement will hold in three or four years time?
– Yes, of course it will.
– The Minister would not trust a certain person as far as he could throw him if he were buying a used car from him. I am endeavouring to tell honourable members what the land is worth and how much of it is involved. How much would one have to pay for Yarrabah? Not too far from this Parliament there is a property called Lanyon which has 10,000 acres. It is fully developed and, as honourable members are aware, it has a beautiful homestead. The Government of the day started to acquire it and we offered between $lm and $2m to the owner. He said, ‘No, this is an urban property. I want urban values.’ Being a man of some generous spirit, he asked for $35m. The matter went to the court but there was no judgment because an agreement was reached that the Government would not pay for the future use but rather for the present use.
What would the Government have to pay for the land use at Yarrabah, Aurukun or somewhere else? I regret that there is no other solution. It is nonsensical that we should have to pay out Commonwealth funds to protect the Aboriginal people against their State governments. I wish that I could put my faith in the people of whom the Minister is speaking, but I am afraid that I cannot do so. I have had long experience in watching governments in action all around the world, and particularly in Australia. The closer one is to them, the less one is inclined to like them. The more I watch the present Government at close quarters, the more I realise thai it needs constant supervision. When its supporters get 1,000 miles away in Queensland one almost needs to put the dogs on them.
– Is that why you are putting Bob Hawke in the House?
-The Minister will find out how to deal with him soon enough. He has not done too well in the public domain so far. There is little enough of the land available and we ought to insure it. As far as these properties are concerned, the honourable member for Dundas is drawing a cloud of delusion over the whole scene. The Commonwealth will have to take this up unless we can resolve the other problems between the Aboriginal people and the community. In my view it is a question not of mineral rights or anything else but of the social rights and development of the Aboriginal people. As far as I can determine, there has been no instance in which a mining development in an Aboriginal community has not done them damage. In order to confirm that we can go to Groote Eylandt, Yirrkala and other places around Australia and see for ourselves. Despite all of our efforts we still have not resolved the question of the social impact of such things as mining development on the Aboriginal people. Until we do we should protect their rights absolutely.
I wish to remind honourable members of one or two features of this legislation. Although the Northern Territory might be called ‘our creature’, we have created there, as part of this federation, another of these monsters called a State authority. We have clouded the issue with not only mining rights but also State rights. To do that was an act of irresponsibility. I recognise the problems presented by the whole situation and sympathise with the Minister in his attempt to give them definition. Involved is the definition of access. On many occasions I have explained this to people I know in the Aboriginal communities. I have said that they cannot really demand that the whole of the Australian continent be free to them with other Australians not having some sort of free access to their part of the domain. I recognise that and believe that somewhere along the line some kind of agreement about it must be reached. Of course, Aboriginals in many communities need to be protected against the rather rapacious people who are likely to wander around them. So I recognise the questions of roads, permits and so on. I wonder whether there is not some better legislative way to overcome the issue with regard to deeds of grant. My view is that the time is long past when we should be talking about leasehold or freehold land and that we should give a different definition to Aboriginal land, such as Aboriginal ‘domain’ or some similar term.
I put this question to the House: Can we not, just for once, place the interests of human beings, in a compassionate Australian spirit, in front of material development? If we look at a map we can see what is now happening on Aboriginal land from one end of the continent to the other: In the Kimberleys it is diamonds; at Noonkanbah it is oil; in Arnhem Land it is bauxite and uranium; on Cape York it is bauxite; and in the Torres Strait it is fish. I have said here previously and will say again that after all our effort- 16 years after the first petition from the Yirrkala people, 13 years after the referendum, 20-odd years after we started to campaign, and the best part of 150 years since the Governors of New South Wales tried to protect the Aboriginal people- for the Aboriginal people of Australia there is still no resting place.
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr West’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Dr H. A. Jenkins)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question put:
That the Bill now be read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr Deputy Speaker- Dr H. A. Jenkins)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move:
In explanation I would say this: Since the first deeds of grant were executed on 30 August 1978 certain areas of the land described in Schedule 1 of the Act which were excluded from the grant because at that time a person other than the Crown held an estate or interest in them have become vacant Crown land. These areas should now be included in the land to be granted to the land trusts in fee simple. The Northern Territory Department of Mines and Energy has advised that the following mining interests in Aboriginal land have expired, been forfeited or cancelled: firstly, Arnhem Land, mainland, mineral lease 154, Northern Territory portion 1696, forfeited on 31 August 1978; secondly, Alligator Rivers No. 1, residence area 17A, Northern Territory portion 1690, cancelled on 10 September 1978. There may be other areas which have now reverted to the Crown. When these are identified they should be included in the grant of an estate in fee simple. The amendment to the Bill will make clear that the Minister’s power to do so extends to including such land in his recommendations to the Governor-General.
At the time the original deeds were submitted to the Registrar-General for registration some errors in descriptions were identified. For example, two small portions of land which had been included in the grant to the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Land Trust were in fact part of the land the subject of special mineral lease 1 1, held by Swiss Aluminium Company. The amendment will ensure that those errors will not be perpetuated in the new deeds and will avoid the risk of having the new deeds rejected by the
Registrar-General when they are presented for registration. In determining whether to exclude any land, the Minister would act on the advice of the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor, whose office has the responsibility for drawing up the new titles. The amendment I have moved will enable land to be included in the new deeds of grant to be issued or to be excluded from those deeds of grant, as the case may be.
May I take the opportunity of commenting upon a remark made earlier with regard to the actions of Mr B. Rowland, Q.C., who is a legal consultant to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Chaney). It was suggested that Mr Rowland was embarking on consultations only with mining companies and the like, the result of which would be to diminish the rights of Aboriginals under the legislation. Let me make it clear that Mr Rowland has invited submissions from all interested persons and has met with both land councils, that is, the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council, and visited many Aboriginal communities. So it is not correct at all to suggest that he has directed his attention only to mining interests. His attention has covered the whole range of persons interested in the operation of the land rights legislation.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Viner)- by leave- read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 April, 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 Migration 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.
-Is it the wish of the House to have a general debate covering these two measures? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be followed.
-The Customs Amendment Bill (No. 3) is a grab-bag of amendments to the Customs Act of 1901. Many of the changes are intended as a streamlining of the Bureau of Customs administrative procedures. However, others relate to the glaring deficiencies, anomalies and loopholes that have begun to emerge in the Act in recent years. The Opposition does not intend to oppose any of the proposed amendments, but I should like to take this opportunity to make a few general and, indeed, a few specific points in relation to the Customs Act 1901 and this Bill. Some of the major deficiencies which this Bill attempts to rectify have actually existed in the Act since its original drafting in 190 1. They are only beginning to be exposed now, some 80 years later. I extend my sympathies to the officers of the Bureau of Customs because of the herculean task they have to perform. They are in the invidious position of having to regulate and react to the rapidly changing face of Australian trade and business practices by applying Customs laws derived from but still basically relating to the situation as it existed in 1901.
The dramatic increase in the number of amendments indicates how deficient the Act is in terms of modern business practices. Some 34 amendments to the Act were required in its first 70 years. In the last ten years that number has close to doubled. There have been 23 amendments since 1971, and this is the third amending Bill to come before the House this year. Right now, the introduction of major technological changes in the Australian business community is gathering pace. This is just one reason why we can expect more and more legislative deficiencies to emerge. It will entail an even heavier workload for the Bureau, the parliamentary draftsmen, and members of parliament. Perhaps it is time to float the idea of a major overhaul to the Act rather than continuing this process of amendments which are piecemeal in nature.
One of the problems with our present approach to the legislative amendments is that the Bureau is always reacting rather than anticipating change. This can lead to the criticism of closing the gate when the horse has bolted. The Bill contains one such glaring example, and I will come to that in a moment. Clauses 7, 8, 9 and 16 of this amending Bill set out the powers and manner in which Customs should treat ships or aircraft illegally imported into this country. Barring several important exemptions, the existing Customs regulations prohibit the importation of ships into this country without the permission of the Minister for Transport. Without that permission, the ships are liable to immediate seizure. The amending clauses of the Bill spell out the restrained steps by which the Bureau of Customs can take action against the prohibited ships without having to seize immediately. I have no argument with the amendments: in fact I commend them.
However, in the second reading speech of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) he said that there were several pressing reasons to shore up what has been a longrealised deficiency in the present Act. To be specific, the pressing problem was what to do with the flotilla of 30-odd refugee boats languishing in Darwin harbour or abandoned along the northern coast. The Northern Territory Government wanted to deal with them before the cyclone season last January, but the question was overwhelmed by bureaucratic inertia because of the deficiency in the Customs Act. Three months later, the necessary changes to resolve the bureaucratic hiatus are now before us in this Bill. But these clauses, which in the future will enable swifter action, are an example of closing the gate when the horse, or in this case the boat, has bolted.
The Darwin boat problem has disappeared because certain local identities have come up with their own highly ingenious, if somewhat irregular, path through the bureaucratic maze. 1 understand that the instigator of the scheme is a local personality known as ‘the admiral’ who also purports to be the Darwin representative of the Vietnamese Government. He and his associates have managed to exploit the existing Customs regulations which exempt any boat with an internal capacity not exceeding 1,500 cubic feet from the status of prohibited import. Apparently, there are some particularly elastic tape measures floating about Darwin, and the dimensions of the refugee boats have miraculously fallen within the exemption limits. I understand that all the boats of any value have been sold and are now being renovated for use as cruising yachts, a floating restaurant, tourist attractions and so on. When the appropriate amendments do come into effect, the Bureau will be left to ponder the legal status of four or five derelicts lying at the bottom of the harbour.
Other major sections of the Bill also deal with serious deficiencies in the principal Act. The provisions dealing with warehouse licensing and the suspension and cancellation of such licences is one of these areas. A Federal court has confirmed that, contrary to the Bureau’s own opinion, there was no provision in the Act for the cancellation of these licences except on the grounds of non-payment of fees. The new proposals set out a long list of personal, security and auditing conditions that have to be met for the granting and continued operation of a warehouse licence. I believe the proposed amendments rectify the present situation, but they do arouse concern that such a deficiency could exist, given the integral role that these warehouses play in the Bureau’s streamlined system of import control by documentary rather than physical checking.
One of the key changes in the licensing provisions for Customs agents also highlights the deficiencies arising from the application of a 1901 piece of legislation to modern business practices. The changes to which I now refer will be subject of further amendments moved at the Committee stage. I will mention them now. In essence, these amendments are necessary because the original Act makes no allowance for business corporations acting as Customs agents. The present Act refers only to the licensing and liabilities of an individual Customs agent.
These are just some of the deficiencies that have emerged in recent years. The proposed amendments appear to modernise adequately those particular sections of the Act but I am concerned that more and more deficiencies will emerge as the Bureau attempts to keep track of the vast changes occurring in the structure and methods of Australian business.
However, there is one provision in the Bill for which I would particularly like to compliment those who are responsible. That is the creation of a National Customs Agents Licensing Advisory Committee with a direct input into the Bureau concerning its specialist field. An ad hoc committee previously existed but this legislation formalises it and sets it on a permanent national basis. It also includes provisions ensuring that the Bureau seeks its advice before taking administrative action in the agent area. It is a step in the right direction, fostering liaison between one small section of business and government. Eventually, I hope we can move beyond such limited application and realise a proper consultative structure between all the sectors of government, business and the trade union movement.
In closing, I refer to the Migration Amendment Bill, which we are debating cognately, and which is partly consequential upon one of the administrative amendments in the Customs Amendment Bill, namely, the ministerial appointment of ports and airports, rather than the present time consuming method of proclamation by the Governor-General. The other part of this minor, machinery Bill allows a carrier who brings a person to this country a defence against a charge of allowing that person to come here without a visa in the form of proving that he had reason to believe that the person possessed an exemption from the need for such a visa. The Opposition supports this Migration Amendment Bill as it has supported the Customs Amendment Bill. We are glad that such administrative machinery is coming before this House for improvement in order to make the lives of administrative officers easier without transgressing people’s civil liberties.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– by leave- I move together the following amendments:
Commencement “2. (1) Subject to sub-section (2), this Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent. “(2) Paragraph 3 (b) and sections 4 and 5 shall come into operation on a date to be fixed by Proclamation.”.
2 ) The functions of the Committee are-
Constitution of Committee 1 83DA. ( 1 ) The Committee shall consist of the following members:
a member to represent the Commonwealth.
in the opinion of the Minister, possesses special knowledge or skill in relation to matters that the Committee is to advise or report on.
Remuneration and allowances 183DB, (1) A member referred to in paragraph (a)or(b) of sub-section (1) of section 183da shall be paid such remuneration as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal, but if no determination of that remuneration by the Tribunal is in operation, he shall be paid such remuneration as is prescribed.
Acting Chairman 183 DC ( 1 ) Subject to sub-section (2), the Minister may appoint a person to act as Chairman-
during any period, or during all periods, when the Chairman is absent from duty or from Australia or is for any other reason, unable to perform the functions of his office.
Deputy member 1 83DD. ( 1 ) The Minister may appoint a person, on the nomination of an organization referred to in sub-section (4) of section 1 83da, to be the deputy of the member referred to in paragraph (b) of sub-section ( 1 ) of that section during the pleasure of the Minister and the person so appointed shall, in the event of the absence of the member from a meeting of the Committee, be entitled to attend that meeting and, when so attending, shall be deemed to be a member of the Committee.
Customs agent affected by investigations to be given notice “ 10d. Section 1 83J of the Principal Act is amended-
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-section:
Arrest of witness failing to appear “ 1UE. Section 1 83M of the Principal Act is repealed.
Offences by witness “10f. Section I83p of the Principal Act is amended by omitting ‘Two Hundred dollars or imprisonment for six months ‘ and substituting ‘$ 1 ,000 ‘. “ IOC Section 183Q of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted:
Statements by witness 1830. A person is not excused from answering a question or producing a book or document when required to do so under section 183p on the ground that the answer to the question, or the production of the book or document, might tend to incriminate him or make him liable to a penalty, but his answer to any such question is not admissible in evidence against him in proceedings other than proceedings for-
I thank the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) for his earlier remarks. I did not want to speak during the second reading debate to say just that because I knew I had this opportunity during the Committee stage. The main purpose of the amendments is to remake Part XI of the Customs Act to provide a revised legislative scheme for the licensing and control of Customs agents. This revised scheme is set out in amendment No. 5 circulated in my name. I had hoped that these amendments would have been drafted in time to have been incorporated in the Customs Amendment Bill No. (3) 1980 prior to its introduction but in the event this was not possible. In the view of the Government the amendments are of sufficient importance to warrant their inclusion in the Bill. The Customs agents organisations have been consulted about the principles involved. Although the amendments introduce certain new features into the licensing procedure, the intention has not been, and nor do the provisions reflect, any attempt to create a closed shop. Safeguards have been built in so that such a situation will not arise. I stress that it is not the Government’s intention or policy to create a closed shop. The Customs Act places certain obligations on owners of goods, particularly in the computation and tendering of the correct amount of duty payable on their imports. The owner or his employee may choose to deal direct with the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs in such matters. However, in many instances these obligations require technical expertise which is sometimes beyond the competence of an owner and the use of agents is often more convenient for the importer.
The Customs Act has always provided for licensing of Customs agents who provide a vital service to the mercantile community in representing owners of goods in complying with the provisions of the Customs. The relevant provisions in the Act, which have not been revised for some 20 years, are designed to ensure that only qualified persons of integrity are licensed, so that the public are protected and the Department does business with competent agents. Existing legislation is directed to the licensing of individuals and does not reflect the present day commercial reality that Customs agent services are, in the main, offered by corporations and partnerships. Accordingly, the amendments I now move will revise the licensing procedures to enable licences to be granted also to partnerships or companies.
The criteria under which individual agents will be licensed remain basically unchanged. An applicant for a corporate agency licence will now be required to nominate an individual agent for each place of business of the agency. It will also be necessary for all persons participating in the management of the agency to be persons of integrity. A principal feature of the proposed legislation will be the establishment of a National Customs Agents Licensing Advisory Committee to investigate and report on all matters concerning licensing. The Committee will be independent of the Department under the chairmanship of a magistrate or person of similar standing and comprise a member representing the Department and a member representing the Customs agents.
I now turn to the other amendments circulated in my name. The purpose of amendment No. 1 is to defer the commencement of proposed sections 4 and 5 of the amending Bill dealing with the appointment of ports and airports. This is for the reason that consequential amendments in respect of the appointment of ports and airports also need to be made to the Migration Act 1958. It is important that the amendments proposed to the Migration Act and the Customs Act come into operation at the same time. Amendments numbered two to four and 10 to 12 make amendments of a formal nature to the Customs Amendment Bill (No. 3) 1980. The essential elements of amendments six to nine is to enable applications to be made to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of decisions made by the Minister, the Comptroller of Customs or a Collector of Customs for the purposes of the licensing and control of Customs agents.
-As I indicated in my speech in the debate on the motion for the second reading of this Bill, the Opposition does not oppose these amendments. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Garland) was kind enough to give us the usual courtesy of advance notice that the Government would introduce these amendments in the Committee stage of the debate, adding to the proposed changes to the Customs Act 1901.I made reference to these amendments in my speech at the second reading stage and I do not want to repeat what I said then. I take this opportunity of thanking the Minister for allowing departmental officers to assist the Opposition in understanding these changes to the Customs Act, and for the help that those Customs officers gave us.
Amendments agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report- by leave- adopted.
Bill (on motion by Mr Garland)- by leaveread a third time.
Consideration resumed from 22 April, on motion by Mr Macphee:
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 23 April, on motion by Mr Staley:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-On behalf of the Opposition I move:
Before I turn to the essence of the Opposition’s amendment, I would like to mention at least one other aspect of this legislation; namely, the further limiting of the rights of ordinary citizens to appear before the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and to present their case. We will present detailed amendments about this matter before the legislation committee which will deal with this Bill. It strikes me that clause 6, which amends section 18 of the principal Act, whilst theoretically it might leave to the absolute discretion of the Tribunal the decision whether someone can appear, when taken in conjunction with some of the appeals that are omitted, will quite clearly affect the freedom of ordinary individuals who have no apparent direct interest in the sense of ownership or any other connection with the particular case before the Tribunal. They will have an even harder job being heard and, in fact, will probably be excluded from the hearings. The whole matter rests on the trust one can place in the Tribunal. I must confess that judging by the performance of the one-time chairman of the Tribunal I would not hold out very much hope for ordinary members of the community getting the opportunity of having very much to say.
I now turn to what is essentially the main part of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill which establishes the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation. I must confess that I am rather concerned about some of the happenings up to date. I have been informed that the newly-appointed director of the IMBC, Mr Bruce Gyngell, walked into the very first staff meeting, stating: lam not interested in wog television. I find it boring.
I ask the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Staley) and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) whether they truly believe that Mr Gyngell is the best person to promote multicultural television and multiculturalism in Australia. An article in the Australian Financial Review of 28 April about the same meeting states:
Mr Gyngell modestly stated, ‘I am an autocrat and that is the way it is going to be. This-
That is, the IMBC-
Is an autocracy.
I must say that I am horrified to think that the future of multicultural broadcasting in Australia is left in the hands of a wog-bashing selfconfessed autocrat. I have also been informed that Mr Petro Georgiou, the ex-speech writer of the Prime Minister who now heads the Institute of Multicultural Affairs, has been appointed also to the programming sub-committee of the IMBC interim implementation task force. Mr Georgiou presently sits on this sub-committee even though he is not in any legal sense a member of the full committee. According to my information, Mr Georgiou has in essence forced his presence onto the committee and has regularly participated in the debates of the interim implementation task force even though, as I understand it, he has not even been invited to its meetings.
– He has been invited.
– I was informed that he had not been invited. There have been allegations also that the deliberations of the interim committee quickly find their way back, by persons or a person unknown, to the Government, to Ministers and to people who are highly placed. There is considerable concern about this matter. Some rather interesting questions are raised as to why Mr Gyngell has been appointed at this stage and what his actual position is. On what basis is he being funded? Also, why has he chosen at this very early date to chase off overseas to begin purchasing films and other material for programming when at this stage the legislation has not been passed, the Corporation has not been set up and no consultative machinery has been established to allow contact with the people for whom, presumably, it is meant to have been established; namely, members of the ethnic community? One’s faith in the future of this organisation is really shaken when one notes the views of Mr Gyngell on the whole question of broadcasting. I am sure that he will inject into multicultural television an A-class taste of his own. An article in the National Times on 3 January 1977 reported Mr Gyngell as having this to say in general terms about quality in television:
A lot of so-called A-class people in the socio-economic groups- the 20 per cent of the population who have a stimulating job- would like watching the ABC because they are more interested in the real world. That 20 per cent is important, so let the ABC air to them. Leave the commercials to air to the rest- the people for whom the working week is time to fill in between the weekends, who have boring jobs and who don’t like their wives because they got married for the wrong reasons before the advent of the pill. There’s no romance in their lives- she has varicose veins, her hair is in curlers, she smokes, and he ‘s not too attractive either. They need escape to get away from the humdrum.
They are the views of Mr Gyngell, the man whom the Government has shoved in to control the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation, the gentleman who will decide in essence the basic quality of this new corporation and the sorts of programs it will broadcast. I put it that way because the legislation allows him to be not only the managing director- I forget the actual term- but also to be the full time chairman. I think that is an incredible situation. He will be more than the Duckmanton of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. At least Sir Talbot Duckmanton has to take instructions, theoretically, from the Commission. Mr Gyngell, in his position of authority, will be in the corporation as of right as the chief executive officerthat is the position he is likely to get by the look of it- and, what is more, he may even be appointed the full time chairman. So really it will be a.one man band- Bruce Gyngell.
Bearing all these thoughts in mind, one must try to analyse what ought to be behind such an innovation. We have the commercial stations, we have the national network and we have lots of other interests in the community not adequately catered for. At present there is no reason why the commercial stations cannot provide for members of the ethnic communities. The reason why they do not is that they will not make any money out of it. Here we are foisting something onto the commercial networks because by the legislation we are setting up an authority which is partially publicly funded and an authority which will be expected to earn its keep by getting advertising revenue. That, to me, creates an impossible dilemma. Clearly, if it is meant to get a significant proportion of the required revenue from advertising it will have to work hard. If it is to provide programs which will warrant the expenditure by advertising people of significant sums of money, clearly those programs- if I dare quote the Minister and I must say shame on him for saying this- cannot be too high brow. In the Age of 28 April the Minister is quoted as saying:
An ABC service might well not cater for majority audiences. It is felt this sort of broadcasting should be aiming at the biggest possible audiences.
In other words, even the Minister is bowing to this curious requirement that it should be low brow and appeal to as many people as possible. That is the only way it will get sufficient advertising revenue, taking it from the other television channels and taking it also from the ethnic Press because the people interested in advertising to members of the ethnic community are probably those who are substantially maintaining the ethnic Press. The ethnic Press proprietors themselves have recognised that. I know that they have put out a statement deploring the situation.
In order to get the maximum audience, clearly the programming cannot be aimed at a specific ethnic group, such as the Italians, because all the Italians in either Sydney or Melbourne would not be a large enough audience on their own to make it worthwhile for advertising. So it cannot be directed explicitly at the Italian community. It has to be of interest to Italians, probably in Italian, but aimed at attracting a broader section of the community- the sort of colourless mush which often characterises so much of the commercial networks. That is their business and that is the way in which they earn their money. What is more, they get enormous audiences. That is okay for them but that is not, in my view, satisfying the needs of members of specific ethnic community groups. One cannot appeal to all the ethnic communities in one go. The Turks do not understand what the Greeks or Italians say and vice versa. The programs will have to be specific.
If this Corporation is required to earn money, how will the small communities, such as the Turks, get on? They are so few in number that they cannot possibly ever attract any significant advertising revenue. They will be given time somewhere. They will have to be because there will be some sort of gesture towards them. They will be given off prime time- no doubt at hopeless times for most of them- and minimal time. In essence, this is a botched up extension of the commercial system which certainly will not make the commercials happy. If they think they will enjoy it they are crazy. It will not satisfy the needs of the members of the ethnic groups.
On top of that, this Corporation will be required to cater for, provide for or help public broadcasters generally. It is in fact being given the self-same sorts of tasks that, in a way, are given to the ABC to cater for the diverse interests in the community. Inevitably, when either the ABC or this Corporation caters for a particular interest group in a particular program everybody will say: ‘Why waste so much money on it? Look at how low the audience rating is’. The audience rating will be low because theoretically it will be appealing to a small interest group- that will be why it will be there- unless, as I say, it sells out completely and becomes just another cheap commercial network.
I notice the pain on the Minister’s face as he looks at the gentleman from the commercial network in the gallery at the back of this chamber. But the sense in which I am using it is in appealing to specific interest groups which want indepth cover for whatever their interest is. Even the ABC errs sadly if, in trying to cater for more, it is forced into a certain superficiality when dealing with what ought to be specific interests for particular groups in the community. That is one of the dilemmas facing the ABC at the moment. In fact, I hope that the inquiry into the ABC exposes that and comes up with some positive suggestions. I suggest it will be probably in the form of further outlets for the ABC because it cannot cater for the diverse range of interests in the community with just one television outlet. In like fashion I think this Corporation will fall between two stools. It will finish up satisfying absolutely nobody.
Of course, the way the Corporation has been set up, the way Mr Gyngell has been appointed and the way he has gone off and started buying programs without consulting anybody, highlights one of our other major objections, that is, the complete lack of real consultation with members of the ethnic community and the fact that no real responsibility is being given to these sections of the community to have any say in what really goes on. The consultative committees are an empty gesture, mere window dressing. They are not even required, to be representative of anybody. They do not have any power at all. They can write letters no doubt and maybe occasionally talk to the members of the Corporation. But, of course, they will not have all that much power either if, as I say, the set-up is such that the chief executive officer has all the power that is implicit in his being on the Corporation and also its chairman.
In summing up, the proposal in the Opposition’s amendments is that we should seriously consider the establishment of, in essence, an alternative public broadcasting authority- an authority which is an alternative to the ABC and which is quite independent, obviously, of the commercial channels. It should not compete with the commercials but should supplement the ABC so that the total national network can cater better for the diverse interests in the community. It is only in this way and with adequate funding by the Government, not by requiring the Corporation to raise its funds out of advertising revenue, that we will genuinely cater for the interests for which this Bill purports to cater.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment. I would like to speak very briefly to the amendment and to support some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass). It would seem to me that this proposal, along with the legislation establishing the Australian Institute of Multicultural Affairs, represents a clear example of the actions of a government which recognises the importance of ethnic communities in political terms and is prepared to introduce legislation and to establish authorities that superficially would appear to be some kind of response to the real needs of the ethnic communities but which establishes those authorities- the Independent and Multicultural Broadcasting Corporation is another example- in such a way that they will provide tremendous opportunities for the Government, the bureaucracy or the establishment, however one might like to put it, to control, in the case of the Institute, the research funds and the programs that might be developed in relation to ethnic communities and, in this case, the extremely important means of communication. I think that is very serious.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! It being 10.30 p.m., I propose the question:
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-The fact that the Government has these political motives to which I have referred can be given weight in terms of figures that the honourable member for Maribyrnong (Dr Cass) cited in relation to the role that Petro Georgiou has played in respect of the special broadcasting authority. As to the views of Mr Gyngell, they are not representative of the community as a whole, they are highly partisan and no doubt the Government recognises that those views are in no sense going to endanger the Government’s political interests. It is very easy to talk about a concept such as multiculturalism and to associate it with broadcasting and television forms of communication. It is much more difficult in fact to build on the reality of the various ethnic communities to assist and to improve the communication that exists for those communities both within their life and across them. It would appear to me that the Government has not really given any serious consideration as to how that might be done and how the resources that are currently available might be improved and built upon so that more effective communication takes place.
There is no doubt that this is an extremely serious problem within Australia. I believe that the very negative reaction of the ethnic Press to these proposals is some indication of the fact that very many newspapers have been established to serve ethnic communities and have had to struggle and fight to sustain their existence. Here the Government is to spend tens of millions or perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars over a period to establish a sophisticated system of communication, quite ignoring the existing forms of communication that might exist between the various ethnic communities. There was a clear political indication in terms of the proposal which was suggested by the Minister’s reference in his second reading speech to the need to get this whole operation under way by October of this year. The kinds of things that the Government may have in mind do not allow for processes that could take several years to develop on the basis of experimentation, working with existing communities and thinking through their ideas. The operation has to be put into effect as quickly as possible because this is an election year and the Government has to say that it is doing something. In this place the Government has to meet commitments in relation to national television services so this has to be got off the ground.
I want to refer to a transcript of an interview with Mr Rowan Ayers, the executive producer of the Government’s Special Broadcasting Service who resigned in August 1 979. Mr Ayers is apparently a world renowned media worker who established the British Broadcasting Corporation program Front Line and set up Australia’s first media course at Sydney Macquarie University. He is clearly a person of considerable substance in that field. The Special Broadcasting Service is just one element of his authority. I would say that if the Government intends to move and to establish this highly complex authority to cover a variety of fields then at least it ought to have laid the foundations, to have got the foundations right, in terms of one element- the Special Broadcasting Service. This interview at the time of Mr Ayers resignation reflects in it a whole series of problems which could be magnified to an enormous degree in terms of the establishment of this authority, given the way that it is being established. Mr Ayers referred to the emphasis on bureaucracy and the kinds of priorities which are reflected in it in relation to that service. He said: i think the priorities there were actually quite wrong. a great deal of attention seemed to me to be given to the inessential things such as nice potted plants and wall to wall carpets, big offices, big fat desks and lovely suites of offices and everything, but very little time given to the hard nitty gritty of putting programs to air. That was left to two or three people who struggled on in what appeared to be a very small operation when the whole concept of the thing seemed to be very big.
Perhaps in this case we are getting into a very much larger operation. Surely that means that we need to get our priorities straight. This would seem to me to involve a great deal more consultation with the various communities than clearly must have taken place. By consultation, I do not mean simply talking to token leadership. I mean consultation with very complex communities that have many stratas within them, many subcommunities. I do not believe that has taken place. Mr Ayers went on to speak in the context of some of the things that the honourable member for Maribyrnong has suggested about the supply of material. I ask honourable senators to remember that Mr Gyngell is now overseas digging up material. Mr Ayers said:
Now the supply of material from overseas doesn’t seem to me to have been expedited. There are a lot of technical problems which they haven’t ironed out . . . The cataloguing and library area seems to me to be in some kind of shambles . . . and so on.
He goes on to make the point that the overseas material which is being used has not really been thought about in any serious way. In the end, it is a matter of shoving material on to air simply because there has to be foreign language material and so it is selected in a very ad hoc kind of way. I want to read from the end of the interview which I think is quite significant. Mr Ayers was asked by the interviewer:
Now looking at the notion of ethnic television in the future, everything that we have now seems to be on a fairly shaky foundation for a future. How do you see it?
Mr Ayers replied, I think very significantly: i think we’ve got to go back to the drawing board, frankly. i think this is one of those periods where we’ve tried a little bit, not very wisely and we’ve learnt from it, there’s no question of that, we’ve learnt perhaps negatively we’ve learnt what not to do. We were acting in a kind of bureaucratic vacuum, going through a kind of operation without being really involved in the feeling and thinking and the needs of community groups.
That is the essential point that I wanted to make. This operation is about the manipulation of ethnic community groups. It is about opening up ethnic markets to a commercial television station where the Government will be providing, in a real sense, the subsidies so that products can be sold more effectively to ethnic communities throughout Australia. Some of the pressures of television and some of the resources which are available to existing channels will not have to be used. The Government will be subsidising a commercialised operation which is very largely designed to exploit people politically, in terms of social values and in a base commercial sense. I think it is very unfortunate that the tentative steps that have been taken in this country towards developing a more effective means of ethnic communication and communication between the various groups that exist here are being prostituted by the Government at this point in its desire to achieve a reputation as being concerned to invest resources in sections of the community which it regards as politically significant. Frankly, I am not impressed with this legislation. I was not impressed with the institute. I believe that we are dealing with a very base political manoeuvre arid that history will show that to be the case.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Mr Staley) agreed to:
That this Bill be referred to a legislation committee for report by 14 May 1980.
-The following nominations of members to the legislation committee to consider the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1980 have been received. The Government members are: Mr Staley (member in charge of the Bill), Mr Ewen Cameron, Mr Corbett, Mr Cotter, Mr Dean, Mr Falconer, Mr Jull, Mr Katter, Mr MacKenzie, Mr Simon and Mr Wilson. The Opposition members are: Mr Bryant, Dr Cass, Mr Innes, Mr Barry Jones and Dr Klugman.
Motion (by Mr Staley) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
-This evening, I wish to raise the matter of tax deductibility for voluntary agencies in Australia that provide overseas relief. Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a letter I have received from a constituent on this matter.
The letter read as follows-
CHRISTOPHER M. LEE & CO.
Solicitors & Attorneys
C.D.E. No. 11311 Hurstville
Rural Bank Chambers 183c Forest Road
P.O. Box 163
Christopher Milton Lee LLb.
Kim F. Morrissey, B.A., L.L.B.
In reply please quote Mr Morrissey: DB
Your reference 28th April 1980
Leo McLeay M.H.R.
We write to you as constituents and as sponsors of the World Vision International Relief programme, who are concerned that all of the World Vision overseas aid programmes are not presently eligible for tax deductibility.
It is not that we are concerned for our own taxation liability, but that we feel that more Australians might be inclined to make donations if they were given some form of tax relief, particularly those Australians, such as employed persons on fixed salaries, who really cannot otherwise afford to make donations to international relief organisations.
The total cost of implementing this form of tax relief, estimated by some to be less than $5 million, seems a small price to pay for the benefits that would pass to our Third World neighbours and the resulting goodwill that would be to Australia ‘s own interests.
We seek your assistance on an issue that is most important to us.
F. Morrissey and R. Morrissey
– I thank the House. I believe that the Australian Government should provide tax deductibility for donations to organisations that provide relief in other countries. I am mindful, of course, of the provisions of the Harries committee report on Australia and the Third World and the need for Australia to take a responsible attitude to the provision of foreign aid in areas to the north of Australia and to the Third World in general. I think that to achieve a consensus of opinion in our community about that, there is a need for community awareness and involvement. To my mind, the correct way to gain involvement is through Australia’s participating in the work of voluntary agencies such as World Vision of Australia, Community Aid Abroad, the Freedom from Hunger Campaign and Australian Catholic Relief. These organisations provide self-help programs which develop a vast amount of goodwill towards Australia, both from local organisations in the countries they work in and from governments.
Section 78 of the Income Tax Assessment Act which is the vehicle the Government can use for the granting of tax deductibility for donations to those organisations was introduced in 1936 and provided that there would be tax deductibility only for those charities operating in Australia. However, in 1936 Australia did not have a very international outlook. Indeed, we had just come out of the Great Depression and we were trying to get ourselves back on our feet. But it is now 1980 and I suggest that the Government should take a different approach to tax deductibility for organisations that do a very worthwhile job on behalf of Australia in international forums. It is estimated that over $100m per annum is provided for tax deductibility for donations to charities within Australia. But no deductibility whatsoever is allowed for charities that dispense their funds overseas. I think that the need in international terms is as great as, if not greater than, the need in Australia. For example, how long has it been since there was a famine in Australia? How long has it been since three million people have died in Australia, as happened in Kampuchea? There has been no civil war in this country. There has been none of the fears and pestilence that ravage Third World countries.
Last year, Australia allocated $645. 3m for foreign aid. If we allowed tax deductibility for funds expended by World Vision, Community Aid Abroad and Freedom from Hunger, et cetera, it would probably add another $10m to that $645. 3m- not a very great amount at all and, I would say, an amount that would be extremely well spent. I think one should be mindful of the fact that when these organisations spend their money there is a lot less chance of any of it being siphoned off by corrupt officials overseas. These organisations ensure their aid is given to the people most in need. In fact, World Vision has done a survey of the funds it has expended. It indicates that 78 per cent of the funds that World Vision collects goes to the recipients and only 22 per cent of the funds it collects are spent on administration or fund raising. Sixty-three per cent of the people who contibute to World Vision funds receive an income of less than $ 15,000 per annum. I think it would be a fine thing if the Government were to change its attitude to tax deductibility for donations to charitable organisations that work in the international field. I think it would go a great way towards assisting Australia’s international image and it would go a great way towards getting our people to involve themselves in the wider area in which our country should be involved.
-Tonight I want to refer to the remarks made by the honourable member for Wills (Mr Bryant) in his contribution to the adjournment debate last night. He spoke about the need for Australians to observe Anzac Day properly and, in particular, the need to explain to the younger generation of Australians the particular significance of this, our national day of rememberance. On this occasion I would like to congratulate the Returned Services League of Australia for the work it is doing in organising Anzac Day services throughout this country and for the way in which it explains to the younger generations of Australians the rights and responsibilities of Australian citizenship. Within that context, Mr Deputy Speaker, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the Code of Citizenship which has been put forward by the Returned Services League of Australia.
THE RETURNED SERVICES LEAGUE OF AUSTRALIA
Code of Citizenship
We believe the highest values of citizenship are fundamental to our society.
We believe good citizenship is the responsibility of every citizen of Australia.
We believe every citizen should uphold these social values:
Loyalty to Australia and the Crown.
Strong commitment to democracy and democratic institutions.
Respect for law and order and the rights of others.
Practical compassion for those in need.
High personal standards of responsibility, conduct, performance and integrity.
Fair dealing, and giving value for value.
Personal co-operation and friendship with citizens of other countries.
We believe a sound environment is desirable for the preservation of these values.
We believe each generation is entitled to be grounded soundly in these values-in the home, in centres of learning and through the example of every adult citizen.
In fostering this Code, the aim of the R.S.L. is to improve the quality of life in Australia to make it worthy of those men and women who build this country and of those who gave their lives to preserve it. “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance”
– I thank the House. I think that that Code deserves great commendation. RSL branches throughout Australia are getting into the schools in the suburbs and explaining to the younger children exactly what citizenship in this country is all about. I would like to congratulate the RSL branches in my electorate which are doing that. I know that the Nollamara, North Perth sub-branch of the RSL in particular has made an attempt in this area and I commend the branch for that and urge it to continue that work. I also see a role for parents and friends organisations and parents and citizens organisations in putting forward this Code of Citizenship to the schools with which they are associated. I think so often the adults in the Australian community do not give the proper lead. The dawn service in Perth last Friday was dominated, in fact, by a lot of the younger people which surprised me and, I think, surprised many of us.
What really concerned me about Anzac Day in Perth was the very poor display of the Australian national flag. I was surprised when I observed from Kings Park which overlooks the city of Perth that not one Australian national flag could be observed flying above the buildings of the city of Perth. I drove through the city and some buildings, such as the Perth Council House had a good display of flags, but I was amazed to find that the buildings of many Commonwealth Government instrumentalities did not fly the flag; State government instrumentalities did not fly the flag and the State Parliament House which has about 15 flag poles also did not fly the Australian national flag, which I think is a very poor performance. The city of Perth was a sea of flag poles but there was a great absence of flags on those poles. The relevant authorities should look at this because no one could suggest that there is not a need in this country for a sense of national pride and patriotism. I think that Anzac Day of all occasions, provides the focal point for developing that spirit.
In this context, I congratulate the Government for its policy of making the Australian national flag available to as many community groups as possible. I have certainly been active in my electorate in distributing the Australian flag to pensioners’ clubs, churches, schools and many other organisations. It gives us the opportunity to explain the importance, the privilege and the value of living in a free, democratic and peaceful country, and the price that has been paid by successive generations of Australians to preserve the way of life which we all enjoy. It is so difficult in these days to explain to a younger generation exactly the true meaning of peace and freedom because they have never known the denial of basic freedoms. So often we tend to forget, and perhaps even take for granted, that we are probably 14 million of the wealthiest, healthiest and freest people on the face of the earth. It is difficult to explain to children that freedom is something like breathing. You do not know how good it is until you start choking.
We have a responsibility to fly the Australian flag as often as we can and wherever we can, and on national days of remembrance in particular. We have a responsibility to make sure that the efforts of such organisations as the Returned Services League are supported at official levels and throughout the community. I wish to congratulate the League upon the work that it has done, not only in making sure that we observe the national day of remembrance in a proper way, but also in putting forward a very responsible code of citizenship which all Australians, particularly the younger generation, should learn to live by-
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr MillarOrder! The honourable member’s time has expired.
-My remarks are along similar lines to those ofthe honourable member for Perth (Mr McLean). I have been disappointed with some of the remarks that have been passed at Anzac Day services by guest speakers. It is important that we recognise that Anzac Day is a national day for Australians, a day which every Australian, whether or not he has a commitment to military-type service, has to acknowledge as the day upon which Australia was welded as a unifying force and a nation. It is, I suppose, what made us recognise that Australians were entitled to be, and capable of being, recognised as a nation. What concerns me is that repeatedly people, usually of middle agealthough on this occasion they included serving members of the Defence Force-carry out illconsidered attacks on young people. It is almost part of the Anzac Day ritual to say that the younger generation is not patriotic, is not what older generations were, and would not have done what was done at the time of Anzac.
– I am only indicating what is said. It is also part of the rhetoric that they are indolent, lazy and so on. It is worth remembering that prior to the 1914-18 War many who later enlisted were in similar circumstances. A different technology and set of conditions prevailed but nevertheless the circumstances were similar to those of today. The first boatload of Australians to leave these shores in 1939 had probably had their first regular pay packet upon joining the Army. They came forward and volunteered when needed. I have no qualms at all about the generation of Australians who would be called for military service. If there were a threat to the nation and the country’s leadership were sufficiently unified to demand respect, that generation would be there. It would serve as well as any generation of Australians has ever served. It is unfair to make the type of comment that is so regularly heard- to suggest that they are unpatriotic because theirs is a different form, a different level of thought.
Flag waving has not been the Australian way of life. In fact, it is actually discouraged by the country’s leaders. We do not take sufficient pride in our country. We have still not, in 1980, acknowledged that we are sufficiently important as a nation to have a national anthem of our own. Victoria especially, among the State governments, has directed that Advance Australia Fair is not to be played separately from God Save the Queen in any service. God Save the Queen is a royal anthem as far as Australia is concerned. It acknowledges our connection with the Crown, but the symbol of our nation is what is now called the national song. That song was not even played at most Anzac Day services. If we are to expect young people to display nationalism we have to be honest about it ourselves. Those who lead the nation have to be prepared to acknowledge that it is a nation; that it is not subservient to anyone; that its respect for the Crown is held because we are Australians, not because we feel that we need someone to hang onto. If there is any suspicion that Australians are not proud of their country it is probably because the leadership of the country is afraid to acknowledge that the nation is entitled to the respect of all.
– I was interested to hear what my honourable friend said about the nation and national events. I would have thought that, after the crisis in Iran over the weekend, the national Parliament would by now have had a debate on the situation and had some observations to make, from both the Government and the Opposition sides. But apparently this Parliament has simply no views to express on world affairs. It does not even seem to bother to initiate a debate on the matter. Therefore, it is not surprising that the average person whom one meets has simply no idea what the real crisis is all about. He imagines that it has to do with hostages in Iran, oil or something like that. To be honest, it is far more serious. What has occurred is that now no proper degree of confidence exists between the two major world superpowers. That is, of course, a recipe for disaster.
Mr Brezhnev has said that he and the Soviet Union are not able to deal with President Carter because his advisers change his policies so often; that they have now lost confidence in dealing with him and with his Administration. After the exhibition on Friday of this week I am not surprised. On the other hand, the President of the United States says that he cannot get on with the leaders of the Soviet Union and he has classified their leader as a liar. If ever there were a situation which should demand the attention of the world, and of our Parliament, this would be it. One need only add up the figures to acknowledge that at this time there are now in the Indian Ocean some 55 naval vessels of one sort or another belonging to either the Soviet Union or the United States and carrying marines or having the ability to land them. It is no idle talk to say that the United States forces are on full alert. Therefore, we must ask ourselves what action can we rightly take in the world situation and where should we be concentrating our efforts most? In what respect, and where, can Australia possibly play a part? The time has gone when Australians can say ‘Oh, it is too far away’, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Hayden) has done. They forget that this country went to war over what happened in Poland. Was that too far away? Of course it was not.
There is one fundamental matter upon which this Parliament could concentrate and concerning which it should wake up its ideas. In May a new Parliament will be created in Iran. That Parliament, of new parliamentarians, will be meeting. They have been charged with the special duty of considering what should be done with the hostages. Is this not an opportunity for members of this Parliament to exert themselves and to say that they have one fundamental duty- to arrange to work together and ensure that members go to Tehran to meet the members of the new Iranian Parliament and speak to them quietly and with common sense?
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Millar)Order! It being 1 1 p.m., the debate is interrupted.
The following notices were given:
Mr Anthony to present a Bill for an Act relating to an agreement between the Commonwealth and Tasmania in connection with the Launceston Precision Tool Annexe.
Mr Anthony to present a Bill for an Act relating to an agreement between the Commonwealth and Western Australia in connection with the Ord Irrigation Area.
Mr John McLeay to present a Bill for an Act relating to the acquisition by the Commonwealth of certain interests in land in the Northern Territory.
Mr MacKellar to present a Bill for an Act relating to the bringing of certain vessels to Australia.
The following papers were deemed to have been presented on 30 April 1980, pursuant to statute:
Australian Bureau of Statistics Act- Australian Bureau of Statistics- Proposal for collection of information- 1 980 No. 1- New topics to be included in the population survey: May 1980.
Judiciary Act-Rule of Court-Statutory Rules 1980, No. 88.
Public Service Act- Appointment- Department of Social Security- T. C. Agius.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 2 1 February 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Treasurer, upon notice, on 19 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The low rejection rate reflects several considerations. These include the facts that a number of proposals are withdrawn once it becomes clear to the parties that their proposals are likely to be rejected; that many proposals which would otherwise have been rejected have been approved after modification, at the Board’s suggestion, to make them consistent with the policy requirements; that prospective foreign investors are well aware of the policy requirements and, therefore, frame their proposals in a manner that is consistent with them; and that of the proposals that are approved around one-third, on average, are subject to conditions designed to remove their possible disadvantages and to meet the policy requirements.
Nevertheless, the Board and its Executive are in frequent contact with the parties to proposals and, through correspondence and discussion, follow up proposals as necessary, particularly larger foreign investment proposals and those that have special features. Moreover, in many cases the parties to proposals are required to report periodically to the Board on progress in the implementation of their proposals.
The advice and guidance given to foreign investors by the Board is intended to ensure that the policy requirements are understood by the investors and that their proposals are formulated in such a way as to satisfy these requirements.
asked the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 19 March 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
CSIRO Computer Equipment (Question No. 5855)
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 1 April 1 980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Science and the Environment, upon notice, on 16 April 1980:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council has recently submitted to the Government a report on radiological safety and future land use at the Emu atomic weapons test sites. The report is currently being printed and will be tabled in the House as soon as it becomes available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 16 April 1980:
-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
The United States Naval Communication Station (Civilian Employees) Act 1971 applies to persons covered thereunder the provisions of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees ‘) Act in this regard.
Under the Seamen’s Compensation Act 1911 the definition of ‘medical treatment’ (section 3) makes no reference that would allow payment for chiropractic services.
Amendment of the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees ‘) Act 1 97 1 and the Seamen ‘s Compensation Act 1911 to cover the provision of services by chiropractors only when registered under State or Territorial legislation would not be appropriate at this stage as not all States or Territories have yet introduced registration legislation. The Department of Social Security is keeping this situation under review.
The position under the Workers’ Compensation Ordinance 1951 (ACT) is similar to that under the Seamen’s Compensation Act 191 1. That Ordinance is administered by my colleague, the Minister for the Capital Territory, and I am informed that the Department of the Capital Territory is similarly keeping the situation under review.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 April 1980, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1980/19800430_reps_31_hor118/>.