26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, ls it a fact that the Department of the Army has acquired land at Berri, South Australia, and is it the intention to establish a Citizen Military Forces training centre at that town in the near future?
– I have no information regarding the matter. I shall convey the question to the Minister for the Army and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry any further information regarding the proposed dairy farm amalgamation scheme?
– I expect that the Minister for Primary Industry will be making a statement in connection with this matter in the very near future - within a few days, I hope.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface. I refer to an answer I received from him yesterday to a series of questions that I asked in regard to the release of the site of the North Head quarantine station for harbourside parklands. Will the Minister institute an inquiry as to whether or not the New South Wales Minister for Lands has offered alternative sites to the Commonwealth for a new quarantine station in Sydney?
– There is a protocol in negotiations between the Commonwealth and the States. The normal procedure is that communications pass between the Prime Minister and a Premier. Yesterday in reply to the honourable senator I indicated that this was a matter which should rest ai that level and that it was not norma] to release communications between a Prime Minister and a Premier except by mutual arrangement. 1 think that that is where the question should remain at this particular time. Tt is my understanding that there has not been a communication.
– The Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ implied that there has.
– 1 say with all respect that publication of a report in a newspaper, be it the ‘Daily Telegraph’ or any other newspaper, is not a criterion of fact in relation to an important issue on matters which would normally pass between the Prime Minister and the Premier. If (he Premier has made some representations it would be his prerogative to discuss with the Prime Minister whether or not rt was appropriate to hive some release of their correspondence.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Now that the Commonwealth Government has become involved in international shipping, and because of revolutionary changes taking place in regard to the various types of ships to operate at both the international and national levels, and the need to improve and co-ordinate all forms of transport arrangements to our main seaports, has the Government given consideration to a certain recommendation of the Senate Select Committee on the Container Method of Handling Cargoes? That recommendation is -
A joint Commonwealth-Slate Consultative Committee be appointed to supervise the introduction and early operation of the container method of handling cargoes.
– I can answer the honourable senator’s question only in general terms. A Senate select committee was set up. lt submitted certain recommendations, in the first instance, to the Minister who has the normal responsibility for matters relating to shipping and transport. Such recommendations are then passed on to the Government for consideration. I cannot give a categorical answer to the question as to whether special consideration has been given to a particular recommendation. I would not know that. However, all the recommendations submitted by that committee, as is the case with recommendations submitted by any select committee, will receive close scrutiny and consideration by the Government.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been directed to an article in the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ of Tuesday, 29th April 1969, which indicates that the Premier of Queensland has made public the text of a strongly worded letter that he sent to the Prime Minister seeking an immediate decision on Queensland’s application for Commonwealth drought aid, the letter inferring procrastination on the part of the Commonwealth Government? Will the Minister please inform the Senate whether the Queensland Government presented a documented case in support of its application for drought aid? If the answer is in the affirmative, what is the reason for the delay in responding to the request? If the Queensland Government has not presented an adequate case for drought aid, will the Minister indicate that to be the case and so put a stop to what appears to be a game of passing the buck?
– My information as at yesterday was that the Premier of Queensland had written recently to the Prime Minister requesting further Commonwealth financial assistance for drought relief in Queensland. As the Prime Minister’s representative in this place, I can say that the Prime Minister shortly will be advising the Premier of the Commonwealth’s decision in this matter.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation seen a report which includes a forecast by Ansett Airlines of Australia that the rapid expansion of air cargo in Australia could change the Government’s attitude to allnight operations? Can the Minister say whether the reported ‘anticipation of approval’ for the establishment of 727 aircraft as cargo carrying aircraft at night is justified? Will the Minister give an assurance that every care will be taken to preserve cities and built up areas from the damaging and disturbing effects of noise which will result from any programme of this kind?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation is very conscious of the problems confronting our major cities in relation to aircraft noise. That is why an embargo was placed on the arrival and departure times of aircraft in major capital cities, particularly those on the eastern seaboard. As to whether cargo aircraft will be allowed to operate within the restricted hours, I will take up the matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation who, I understand, answered a question on those lines in another place a few days ago. I will get the answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Why have restrictions been placed on pressmen trying to get news of the fighting now going on along the West Irian border? Is it correct that pressmen have had their freedom of movement in New Guinea restricted so that they are not allowed past Madang? Will the Leader of the Government tell us what information the Government has in relation to the fighting going on there? Is it correct that over 1,000 Indonesian troops are harassing West Irian refugees who are trying to escape into Australian territory, and that mortars are being used by the Indonesians?
– I understand that the Minister for Works, who represents the Minister for External Territories in this chamber, is to make a ministerial statement at the end of question time. The statement adverts to the matters raised by the Leader of the Opposition. For that reason I suggest that his question stand until the statement is made.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that in respect of the proposed AustralianAmerican space communication station at Woomera no related or jointly shared activity will take place between representatives of the armed Services of Australia and of the United States of America? Is it also a fact that the primary role of tha station will be to operate as a major control centre for purely military communications, and that those communications will be exclusively controlled by personnel of the United Slates Army?
– At this point 1 have nothing to add to what is in the ministerial statement I made yesterday on behalf of the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister for Works whether his attention has been drawn to a question which I asked in this chamber a few weeks ago about the limits of the security deposit required by his Department from successful contractors for Commonwealth Government construction works, ls the Minister aware that until recent times-
– Order! Senator Webster, you are asking a question abou; a question. I have been rather anxious that that practice should not continue. If you have an original question to ask. would you “please, ask it?
– I have an original question, to which I have not received a reply although it was asked a number of weeks ago. 1 am asking a question now about: that.
– That is the practice of which 1 have been disapproving. I refer to the practice of questions being asked about questions not answered.
– Some senators have great trouble in getting answers to their questions unless they persist in their efforts to obtain the answers. I asked a question some weeks ago. On the day that I asked my question the Minister was absent. Therefore I am anxious to find out whether my question has been brought to the Minister’s notice. That is the first part of my question. I then wished to proceed to ask the Minister whether he is aware of the terms of the alteration in procedure by his Department.
– It would be a matter of great regret to me if any acrimony or misunderstanding arose in relation to a question asked of me by the honourable senator. He would know that I. would be most zealous in providing him at the earliest opportunity with the information requested.
– That is what you always say, but do we get answers?
- Mr President, with regard to that impertinent interjection from Senator Turnbull, I suggest that he peruse the notice paper of this sessional period of the Senate. He will find that there has been great promptness in the generality of answers provided to questions. He will find that very few answers have been delayed more than 2 weeks. I will resume my answer to Senator Webster’s question and will disregard the cackle coming from the Opposition. Senator Webster will be glad to know that the draft answer to his question was before me on Monday, but the form of the answer necessitated further reference to Melbourne in the interests of accuracy. 1 anticipate that a complete and accurate answer will be available for the senator’s information in the week after next.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the decision made last night by the Senate in respect of the lifting of the ban on the export of merino rams, can the Minister now advise the Senate whether the original decision of the Government to lift the ban will be carried out?
– I direct the honourable senators attention to a statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry in another place today.
– I ask the
Minister for Repatriation: In view of the whole nation celebrating Anzac Day last Friday and paying a sincere tribute to those who serve their country in war, will he, as Minister for Repatriation, give an assurance to the Senate that the 1969 just claims of the Returned Services League, the representatives of totally and permanently incapacitated soldiers and the War Widows Guild, which have been forwarded and no doubt discussed with him, will be granted to ex-servicemen and their dependants to allow them to benefit in this affluent society, which is spoken of so frequently by Ministers of this Government?
– The honourable senator is quite correct when he suggests that the submissions of the Returned Services League have been made’ to me already and, indeed, to the Ex-Servicemen’s Sub-Committee of Cabinet. All I can say in reply to the honourable senator is that 1 am one Minister of twenty-six Ministers who make a decision on these things. I can assure the honourable senator that the submissions made by the bodies representing ex-servicemen’ throughout Australia will receive careful consideration at the appropriate time..
– ] ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. With Australia owning its own container ships, will this not give Australian shipper interests an opportunity to draw an accurate comparison of cost factors and freight movements which, when under the old AOTA formula the FEOTC - that is, the Federal Export Oversea Transport Committee - found it nearly impossible to obtain because of the many hidden costs associated with the land aspects of the voyages?
– As was clearly stated by the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for Trade and Industry on the Australian entry into the United Kingdom and the East Coast North American trade, the prime objective’ of the Government is to obtain information about and an insight into the operations of container shipping and those conferences in which container ships will be operating. Government officials will draw on the benefits of this knowledge in their advice to the bodies in negotiating and dealing with conferences. This is a tremendously important aspect of the entry of the Government into container ship operations. However the Government will be expected to respect the confidential nature of commercial information about the operation of particular shipping companies which it may obtain and, of course, would not be in a position to divulge such information to shipper bodies or to any other party.
– My question to tha Minister representing the Minister for National Development follows on the question asked by Senator Webster of the Minister for Works. I refer to the Senate notice paper and a question asked by me, which is on notice, on 17th September 1968. 1 ask the Minister-
– He will need 2 weeks notice.
– I did not say 1967; 1 said 1968. Can the Minister suggest any conceivable justification or excuse for the failure to answer this question after more than 7 months? Does he not regard it as part of his responsibility as Minister representing the Minister for National Development to jog the memory of that Minister and to see whether he can get some reasonably rapid response to questions on tha Senate notice paper?
– I have noticed with interest the question that the honourable senator has placed on the notice paper seeking information from me as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Looking through it, 1 find that it is quite a complex question and. being a complex question, it may take considerable time to get the necessary information that the honourable senator requires. However, I am prepared to bring and will bring to the notice of the Minister the request of the honourable senator.
– In the light of the entry of the Australian National Line into the Australian-Europe shipping conference and in the light of the refusal or apparent refusal of other members of the Conference to equalise their rates to the main container ports, will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport investigate the possibility of the Australian National Line providing a freight equalisation container shipping service for Tasmania and the other feeder ports which otherwise will be penalised in the container trade?
– I have replied to a question upon notice which was asked by Senator Georges and which dealt with the provision of container feeder services and freight rates in respect of north Queensland outports. Regarding the possibility of the Australian National Line providing container feeder services from either these or any other ports, including Tasmanian ports, the Minister for Shipping and Transport will certainly request the Line to investigate the feasibility of such operations.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Fs it a fact that theatre managements do not advertise adults only films as such, and by not doing so are able to charge full adult prices for children? Were cuts imposed on the film ‘100 Rifles’, starring Raquel Welch and Jim Brown, made on the ground of undue emphasis on sex or were they due to racial squeamishness?
– The honourable senator was kind enough to let me know that he .proposed to raise this matter in the Senate today, so I have the following answer for him: The classification of films for exhibition in theatres is a requirement under the legislation passed in the States of Victoria. Tasmania, Western Australia and Queensland. The Commonwealth Film Censorship Board is named as the authority for classifying films in those four States. The Board may approve a film for general exhibition - classification G. not suitable for children - classification A, or subject to special conditions. One such condition frequently applied is that all advertising shall indicate clearly that the film is suitable only for adults. In those cases in which it comes to the notice of the Chief Film Censor that advertising conditions arc not being met, he raises the matter with the film distributor concerned. To date this has always put the matter right. 1 can offer no comment regarding the prices charged for the admission of children, which, of course, is a matter for the theatre owners. The film ‘100 Rifles’ was rejected on the grounds of indecency and excessive violence. An appeal lodged against this decision was dismissed. Racialism is not one of the criteria for film censorship.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. Whilst acknowledging the very important part the Commonwealth Government has played in encouraging the decentralisation of population in the various States, I ask: Was a Commonwealth committee on decentralisation originally formed under the supervision of the Department of Trade and Industry, Has that committee met at frequent intervals? When will the committee report to the Minister? When will the advice of the committee be conveyed to the Senate?
– The honourable senator asks me four questions. I will seek the information for him and make it available to him and the Senate.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the MinisterinCharge of Aboriginal Affairs. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the recent conviction in Roma, Queensland, of an Aboriginal woman, the mother of eight children? ls the Minister aware that the woman was sentenced to 3 years imprisonment with hard labour, with a minimum period of 9 months? Is the Minister aware that the woman was convicted of the manslaughter of her baby, who died of malnutrition and scurvy? Is the Minister aware of the appalling conditions in which this woman and her family lived? What action does the Office of Aboriginal Affairs intend to take to protect this woman from the savage justice that was meted out to her?
– I did see the news item in the- Press concerning this very tragic affair. The honourable senator asks what action the Office of Aboriginal Affairs is taking concerning this person’s case. 1 cannot tell him whether any action is being taken, but I will place his comments before the Minister-in-Charge of Aboriginal Affairs.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. If the Australian
National Line were to provide a feeder service by sea from other than the three key ports, and if, as claimed, freightage from Tasmania is too dear, for which reason that State is to be excluded from the containerisation service to the United Kingdom, could not the disparity involved in the extra cost from Tasmania be absorbed by the whole system so that its effect on United Kingdom to Australia freights would be infinitesimal’?
– This is a very interesting question. 1 have great sympathy for the honourable senator from Tasmania who is promoting the suggestion that because, when containerised shipping of cargoes is introduced between European countries and Australia, some of the Tasmanian out-ports will not receive a service they should be given some type of subsidy to cover the additional expense of carrying cargo from European ports to Tasmania via the major Australian ports. 1 have seen articles in the Press on this subject. Because of the interest that the honourable senator has taken in the matter I shall obtain an answer for him from the Minister for Shipping and Transport.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Earlier today when I asked a question about the export of merino rams the Minister referred me to a statement made in another place by the Minister for Primary Industry. Could he now indicate to the Senate the reply given by the Minister in another place?
– I would be able to answer from memory only, so for purposes of accuracy J. think it would be better if the honourable senator were to look at tomorrow’s Hansard to sec for himself what was said.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In the light of the gigantic cost to the community in the loss suffered as a result of accidental injuries, particularly industrial accidents and road accidents, and in the light of the resolution carried by the
Forty-first Annual Conference of the Australian Automobile Association in November 1968 requesting the Commonwealth Government to establish a ministry for accident prevention and also to implement a vigorous policy of research and co-ordination of the Australian effort in this regard, can the Minister advise whether any steps ara likely to be taken to increase the Commonwealth Government’s activity in this field?
– This is a very comprehensive question, lt has always been my understanding that industrial accidents are dealt with in the industrial field through the Commonwealth Department of Labour and National Service and the State Departments of Labour and Industry, whereas road accidents come within the portfolio and responsibility of the Minister for Shipping and Transport. There is a very clear delineation between the two types of accidents in terms of administration. Having, with other senators, made a critical study of road accident problems, I would have some reservations about a proposition which would bring the major problems of road accidents and industrial accidents together under the one administrative portfolio. It seems to me that each type of accident stands in its own right and that the problems in neither case will be resolved by the mere provision of funds. I think the subject goes far deeper than that. In both fields there are matters which are common to every country. In every industrial country there is a significant reflection of industrial activity in industrial accidents, and in those big countries where there is a high density of automobiles and a big roadage there is the problem of road accidents. In short, I would say that I do not believe that this is a matter in which the Government should undertake the responsibility of drawing them together in a separate ministry. The States themselves all have clear cut responsibilities in these fields and there is a quite clear pattern of management between the Commonwealth and the States in these particular fields at the present time. Do not misunderstand me. I am not suggesting for a moment that enough is being done. There are many things still to be done in both fields, but I do not think there is any advantage to be gained in bringing them together under the one ministry.
– 1 address a question to the Leader of the Government. It relates to purchases by Australia of American supplies and logistics for use in the war in Vietnam at a cost. I understand, of about $30m. or at the rate of Sim in a month. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether it is a fact that ammunition made in Australia is being sold to the United States for resale to Australian forces in Vietnam? If this is so. was (his absurd deal arranged because the Australian Department of Defence claims that continuous shipping would be needed to keep our forces in Vietnam supplied with ammunition? Does the Department of Supply contend that Australia is capable of maintaining a direct supply of ammunition to our troops in Vietnam?
– This question is clearly associated with an article which appeared in the Melbourne ‘Herald’ yesterday. 29th April. I say that because, in his question. Senator Murphy used the precise words that are used in one part of the article. I would like, if I may, to answer the question at two levels. My attention was drawn by my staff to the article in the Melbourne Herald’ yesterday. I read with considerable interest the statement in the third paragraph reading:
Bui Supply Department officials claimed today thai Australia was capable of maintaining a direct supply to its force.
Towards the end, the article stated:
Supply Department officials hoped the system of .selling ti) the United States will be the first step towards Australia becoming self-sufficient in munitions.
When I read this, 1 did so with some surprise because it was quoting an alleged statement by officials of the Department of Supply. I am sure Senator Murphy, and indeed the Senate will agree that the use of the words ‘Supply Department officials’ connotes an official statement. The words used in the context in which they are used in the article are clearly intended to mean that this was an official statement made by Supply Department officials’. I have made inquiries of my Department and f am assured by senior officers of the Department that no official made the statement claimed to have been made in the article published on 29th April under the signature of one Kevin Childs of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ staff.
1 3860/ 69 - S - £43)
– ls the information true?
– 1 shall come to that. I am dealing with this matter first. I invite Mr Childs to inform me who the Supply Department spokesmen were, what time they made the alleged statement and what are their names. The door of my office is open for him to come in at any time. If he does not like to do that, he can publish the information in his newspaper. But until he does that, I invite the Senate to reflect upon the statement as it appears in the Melbourne ‘Herald’. It is true that Mr Childs, somewhere about Friday, 18th April, or Monday, 2 1 st April, submitted a series of questions on this issue to my Department. He was told that they were not matters coming within the responsibility of my Department and that he should direct his representations to the Department of Defence. I feel obliged to say these things because when a statement is made referring to officials, the world at large accepts it as being significant, lt is intended to convey that officials are making an official statement. The head and deputy head of my Department, having made inquiries, informed me that yesterday, 29th April, contrary to what the newspaper states, no statement was made by an official to Mr Childs. I do not mean to say that official statements are not made in a department. Things are said officially. However, such things have no reference to comments which may be made in coffee houses or in backhanded interviews with certain people, or even in the traditional way that we used to refer to many years ago.
I come now to the substance of the honourable senator’s questions, and I thank him for his forbearance in allowing me to make this explanation. I now want lo say to him, as was said to Mr Kevin Childs, that the matters to which he directs his questions are clearly mailers for the Department of Defence. As I represent the Minister for Defence I will take the questions one by one, as the honourable senator put them to me, and will obtain an answer for him. I feel bound to say from my own knowledge - obviously I must have some knowledge of these matters - that in making arrangements with the United States the Australian Government had in mind the effective logistic support of our forces in military service. There is a perfectty normal explanation relating to these matters. I am quite certain that the Department of Defence, which was supplied by my Department with the ten questions submitted by the journalist concerned - 1 think there were ten questions - already has the matter in hand for some considered reply.
– 1 ask the Minister for Customs and Excise: What is the reason for the ban on the showing in Australia of the film ‘Pretty Poison’ which has been highly praised by well-known overseas critics? As the film has been freely distributed in New Zealand - 1 hope 1 will nol shock the Minister unduly by admitting to him that I saw it there - would he inquire from the responsible Minister in the New Zealand Government whether the showing of this film in that country has been followed by a perceptible increase in crime or a decline in morals?
– I must advise the honourable senator that 1 am not acquainted with each film which is rejected. Some 1,500 films are viewed each year by the Commonwealth Film Censorship Board and of that number from about 30 to 40 are rejected each year. Therefore 1 ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper and I will obtain for him the answer he requires.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. It is one which I have asked in this Senate on a number of occasions without receiving a satisfactory answer to the point 1 raised, ls the Minister aware that the Snowy Mountains Authority is developing its services into the field of professional consultant work? ls it a fact that the Authority is at present increasing its staff quite substantially in this area of professional advice? Is it a fact that the Authority currently is advising not only Commonwealth Government departments but also State governments, municipal authorities, private enterprise ventures, overseas governments and overseas organisations? Need there be any concern by this Senate or by the private consultants throughout Australia that work is being taken away from or not granted to private consultants because of the activity of the Authority?
– This is a very important question and obviously is one for the notice paper. I ask the honourable senator to place his question on notice.
– Can the
Minister for Works indicate when the proposed additional extensions to the existing extensions of the runway at Sydney (KingfordSmith) Airport will be commenced and, after commencement, when the work is expected to be completed? Will it be necessary to bring back to Australia for dredging purposes the dredge that was brought here for the original extensions and which has since been returned to its country of origin? If not, what arrangements will be made for dredging? Can local residents be guaranteed by the Minister and by his Department that there will not be further foreshore damage to the beaches of Kyeemagh, Brighton and Ramsgate on the shores of Botany Bay as a result of the dredging?
– I understand the honourable senator’s reference to extensions to refer to the extension of the promontory into Botany Bay, which will extend the runway from 8,500 feet to 13,500 feet so that it can accommodate jumbo jets. Within the last few weeks tenders were called. The time for tenders will expire at some time in June. From recollection, it is expected that the work will be completed in the first half of 1971. I am no more competent than was King Canute to give a guarantee that the work involved will prevent a recurrence of erosion of those delightful beaches on Botany Bay, but I assure the Senate that the best advice available in the world has been taken by the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales, in whose authority the responsibility lies. The places of dredging and the manner of dredging that will be done - some near the promontory and some near the entrance to Botany Bay - have been so designed as to correct any risk of erosion that may have resulted from previous work and to ensure the least possible risk that present science can guarantee of a recurrence of damage to the foreshore by reason of the work.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, ls it the intention of the Government to permit the importation of high pressure gas cylinders free of tariff duties? As these cylinders are at present manufactured by British Tube Mills (Australia) Pty Ltd of South Australia and as overseas supplies would threaten the livelihood of employees in the industry, will the Minister make inquiries and take appropriate action to secure the continued employment of skilled workers now engaged in the manufacture of such cylinders?
– The honourable senator has asked a question which has many implications. The answers are to be found in the Government’s tariff policy. Goods come into Australia at a certain rate of duty or they come in duty free or under by-law admission. If an Australian industry considers that it is adversely affected by the importation of a particular type of goods which attract a low rale of tariff, that industry has the right to seek tariff protection by applying to the Special Authority. On an application to the Special Authority the import is given a short term rate of duty and a reference is made to the Tariff Board which then studies the matter in depth, ft makes a determination and informs the Government whether or not injury has been caused to the industry and whether or not a case has been made out for an automatic increase in duty. In all the circumstances and since the honourable senator referred to a specific case it would be appropriate to put the question on notice. I certainly will have it directed to the Minister for Trade and Industry immediately.
– I direct my question to you, Mr President. Are you aware that in another place today a question was asked of the Speaker as to whether he was aware that the Chief Justice had committed a misdemeanour in the Senate at the swearing in of the Governor-General today? Can you give us an explanation for the comment that was made in another place?
– In the first place, the Senate was not assembled as a Senate. The chamber was being used by the Govern ment of Australia for the swearing in of the Governor-General. The swearing in was done by the Chief Justice. He, following the tradition of his high office which would be well known to the members of the legal profession in the Senate, brought his tricorn hat with him and put it on the table with his gloves on top. That is a traditional indication of independence from the Crown. How far back the tradition goes I am not sure, but I should think it would probably go back to the reign of Charles I. There was nothing wrong in doing what he did. lt was a traditional means of indicating that the judiciary is independent.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. I refer to question No. 1078, of which 1 gave notice on 26th March last, concerning the inadequacy of telephone services in Perth and the delay in building a new telephone exchange. As I have received a letter from the Postmaster-General giving his reply to this question, is there any reason why the reply could not be given in the Senate so that it may be incorporated in Hansard?
– I know that the Postmaster-General communicated with the honourable senator because 1 received a copy of his reply. I appreciate the point that the honourable senator would like the answer to appear in Hansard and I feel certain that that can be arranged. I shall see what can be done. I do not know what the relevant forms of the Senate are, but I presume that the answer can be incorporated.
– I direct a question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. Is it true that fares between the Australian coast and the American coast are the highest per mile in the world? Is the Government doing anything to rectify this situation? What is the Minister’s view of the position?
– The question of fares in international aviation is a matter which has long since been regulated by international agreement within the International Air Transport Association, to which this country subscribes. Whilst fares across the Pacific are high, I cannot say on any basis of comparison whether or not they are the highest in the world, but we who seek to enlarge the tourist intake from America would like, of course, to see them lower. As the honourable senator knows, there have been proposals to duplicate American air services to Australia. Continental Airlines was first chosen by President Johnson, but that choice is being reviewed and there is a possibility that another line originating from a more populous area will be chosen. If that line obtains acceptance in Australia it is possible that a high degree of patronage will have an effect that will enable air fares to be reduced. In addition, of course, the honourable senator would be interested to know that it is a subject of constant consideration by the Department of Civil Aviation and the branch of the Department of Trade and Industry which deals with tourism as to whether or not the introduction of charier fares would be consistent with the general purposes of maintaining safety and reliability in international aviation and promoting the tourist trade at a lower fare level. These matters are under constant consideration. In fact they received the consideration of the Minister for Civil Aviation and myself in a deliberate way as recently as last month.
– My question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral relates to a complaint that I made regarding a programme on the Australian Broadcasting Commission television station about Italians and the evil eye. When I made the complaint the Minister expressed her own indignation and said that she would communicate with the PostmasterGeneral and get him to comment on it. A week ago I pointed out that private individuals had received a statement from the ABC on action taken in regard to this programme. Now a week later I again ask: Will the Australian Broadcasting Commission ever get round to doing the Senate the courtesy of giving it an answer to the question?
– I appreciate the points made by the honourable senator. As promised when he asked the question. 1 saw the Postmaster-
General. I think I have already communicated that fact to him. He asked another question and although I just cannot remember all the details I believe it was whether any comment had been made to those who were involved in the programme. I informed the honourable senator that I understood that there had been comment. Then he asked about correspondence, the matter to which he has again referred. I will again take it up with the PostmasterGeneral and endeavour to get a reply.
– My question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral is further to that which has just been asked and answered. Will the Minister also inform the Postmaster-General that the official Opposition in this place, without in any way supporting or opposing the substance of the matters which have been raised by Senator McManus, also takes the view that the Postmaster-General is earning himself a very poor reputation in his dealing with matters raised in the Senate? (Question not answered.)
– I also direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Does she recall that during the past month I have asked a number of questions about an American experiment to restrict programmes on American television which depict violence? The Minister has not replied to the questions. Can she advise whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission has taken action on the lines of the American experiment?
– If I remember correctly, the honourable senator asked me on the occasion to which he has referred whether I had read an article concerning a report following an investigation carried out in America by members of the United States Department of Health or by certain doctors.
– That is right.
– I did see the article and so informed the honourable senator at the time. He also asked, if I recall correctly, whether a similar report would be submitted by the appropriate Minister or department in Australia.
I have transmitted the question to the Ministers concerned but as yet have not received a reply.I shall again speak to them and see what information I can get.
– My question follows those questions which have just been asked of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral and is also directed to her. I inquire whether the Minister is aware that it will not be until October of this year that the United States Surgeon-General will produce a report on the major study which has been undertaken on the effect of violence shown on television in the United States. I also ask whether, in the light of that situation, it might be wise for action to be considered after that report has become available. I point out that the report will be on one of the most important studies undertaken in an advanced country in relation to television.
– I appreciate the information given to me by way of question concerning the United States report on television. The honourable senator has implied that that report should be given consideration before we can produce the best kind of recommendation on any similar reports compiled in Australia. The honourable senator has raised some very important issues and I shall also place them before the Postmaster-General.
(Question No. 870)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1., 2. and 3. Yes. Mr Cremer, who is a professional forester, was emphasising the magnitude of the silvicultural and forest management task which the various forest services will have to undertake as soon as harvesting of the present forest crop for wood chips gets under way. However, his further statement that there is very little relevant data on the regeneration of a new forest crop, following clear-felling, and on the rate of growth of the young trees is not correct. In fact, a great deal of information on these subjects is in the hands of the Australian forest services and my advisers, and this information leads to the firm expectation that regeneration of a new crop will be rapid and virtually complete.
Following representations made by the President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, concerning the need to regenerate the forests to be harvested for wood chips and to preserve the amenities generally in coastal areas affected by wood chip projects, this matter was discussed by the Australian Forestry Council at its meeting on 7th February 1969.
All Ministers, responsible for forests gave assurances that the forest services would regenerate a new crop of trees in all areas felledover, immediately after harvesting. The Ministers indicated that they would, in many cases, replace semi-derelict cut over and fire damaged forest with a sound young crop. They looked on the wood chip export projects as an opportunity to improve forest areas hitherto neglected because of absence of markets for their wood. The revenue derived from royalties on the sale of wood for chips will provide the finance required for regeneration and forest management of the areas.
I should point out that management of most of Australian forests is the responsibility of State Governments, the remainder being under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. I am confident that the forest services have the technical capacity to achieve full regeneration of their forests.
(Question No. 979)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
In view of the criticism of the dollar for dollar subsidy for drought relief by the Priemier of Queensland, has the Government been sufficiently influenced by these criticisms to warrant a review of the subsidy proposals?
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The provision of natural disaster relief is primarily a responsibility of State governments and the Commonwealth normally participates only where the cost of providing relief is judged to be beyond the financial resources ofthe State concerned. In that event the Commonwealth usually shares the cost of relief with State governments on a dollar for dollar basis. During the widespread drought, however, the Commonwealth reimbursed Queensland and the other drought affected States in full for their expenditures on agreed drought relief measures. In the 4 years ended June 1969 it is estimated that assistance totalling over $16m will have been paid to Queensland under these arrangements. On 11th March I announced that, in view of the recurrence of drought conditions over a large area of Queensland, the Commonwealth was prepared to participate with the Queensland Government on the usual dollar for dollar basis in the provision of funds for further drought relief measures. Subsequently, the Queens- land Premier (Mr Bjelke-Petersen) and the Treasurer (Mr Chalk) askedthe Commonwealth to consider giving assistance in the form of direct grants if the present seasonal conditions in Queensland continued after the end of this financial year. I announced on 13th March that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to consider this matter in the light of the seasonal conditions at that time. It is understood that the Queensland Government has since announced the introduction of a wide range of relief measures similar tothose in operation in the earlier drought.
(Question No. 989)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 999)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
(Question No. 1011)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
In each of the years since the Commonwealth Advanced Education Scholarship Scheme commenced -
How many awards were made to students attending each State secondary school and what was the name and location of each school?
How many of these scholarships were awarded to students attending each nongovernment school and what was the name and location of each school? (Question No. 1012)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
In each of the years since the Commonwealth Secondary Scholarship Scheme commenced -
How many awards were made to children attending each State secondary school and what was the name and location of each school?
How many of these scholarships were awarded to children attending each nongovernment school and what was the name and location of each school? (Question No. 1013)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, upon notice:
In each of the years since1960 -
How many open entrance university scholarships were made to students attending each State secondary school and what was the name and location of each school?
How many such awards were awarded to students attending each non-government school and what was the name and location of each school?
– The Minister for Education and Science has advised that the information requested by the honourable senator is not available. However, the Minister is looking into the question of whether it might be possible to compile this information in future years.
(Question No. 1023)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The only operation by Artesian Basin Oil Pty Ltd which has been subsidised under the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act was the Muttaburra seismic survey in Queensland in 1959. This operation in which the operator fulfilled all the conditions pertaining to the Agreement, entitled the applicant to a subsidy of 50% of the audited cost of$45,811. As the subsidy was in respect of a seismic survey, the question of refund does not arise.
(Question No. 1029)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1035)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Has the Minister seen a letter written on 14th March 1969 by the Townsville Harbour Board to the Minister for Trade and Industry on container freight rates to North Queensland; if not, will the Minister make himself familiar with the contents of this letter and reconsider the answer that he gave to Senator Lillico on 20th March 1969?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. Initially container ships will call at Fremantle, Melbourne and Syndey and cargoes from Brisbane. Newcastle and Adelaide will be fed into Sydney and Melbourne. The container freight tariffs will absorb the costs of centralising this cargo. It still remains the clear intention of the container consortia, as notified 2 years ago, to provide feeder services from North Queensland, but this can be done only when it is economically feasible. At the rates currently being quoted for feeder services, it is certainly not economic, but studies into this problem are proceeding and, for the present, North Queensland will be served by conventional ships at freight rates agreed between shipowners and shippers. The frequency of North Queensland calls will be determined on the same basis as at present, namely according to a formula based on the cargo offering, which has been agreed between shipowners and shippers’ representatives. This position was indicated in the answer given to Senator Lillico on 20th March 1969. The situation in respect of providing feeder services to outports will continue to be watched closely to ensure that no section of the Australian exporting community is disadvantaged.
(Question No. 1041)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1071)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
With reference to the promise made by the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, a week ago, that he would endeavour to ascertain whether the sum of approximately$12,000, paid as oil search subsidy to a company or companies in which the Premier of Queensland holds major interests, was returned to the Commonwealth, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the money has been refunded and. if so, on what date?
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
See my answer to Question No. 1023.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1145)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1167)
Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The Post master-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As these charges have not been heard, it has not been established that a bribe was offered or accepted.
– Yesterday Senator Cavanagh asked me the following question:
I wish to ask a question which I think should be addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Can the Minister inform me where copies of Federal Hansard can be purchased in Adelaide? What became of the recommendation of the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary and Government Publications that shops should be established in each capital city for the purpose of making available Commonwealth publications?
I undertook to obtain the information for him. 1 am grateful to the Principal1 Parliamentary Reporter, who has supplied me with the following answer:
Copies of Federal Hansard may be purchased in Adelaide a*, the Sub-Treasury. The Commonwealth has a Government Bookshop at 347 Swanston Street, Melbourne and a Government Book Counter in the foyer of the Commonwealth Centre, Sydney, where Commonwealth publications are for sale.
Is it a fact that under the Broadcasting and Television Act the by-election to be held in the electoral district of Curtin in Western Australia on 19th April will prevent the broadcast or telecast in Queensland during the period from 16th to 19lh April of material relating to the forthcoming Queensland State elections? Does not the Minister agree that this is an absurd situation and that it is not the first occasion when a by-election in one State has affected telecast and broadcasts of election material in other States? What is the Minister’s evaluation of the clarity of reception in Perth of television images and radio broadcasts originating in Brisbane?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply: lt is a fact that under the provisions of section 116 of the Broadcasting and Television Act the broadcasting or televising of election matter, as defined in section 116(6.), by any station in Australia was prohibited from midnight on 16th April to the close of the po” for the by-election for the Commonwealth electorate of Curtin, Western
Australia, on 19th April. This had the effect that the prohibition applied to some stations which did nol provide a service to the areas in which the election was held. Any variation in the law was not possible to be effective in relation to the election referred to.
Will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate whether it will be necessary for radio and television stations in Queensland to cease broadcasting political matter in that Stale not only 3 days before the Queensland elections but also, in the previous week, 3 days before the Tasmanian elections?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
Yes. This is the position under section 1 16 of the Broadcasting and Television Act.
Reports on Items
– Pursuant to statute I present a report by the Special Advisory Authority on the following subject :
Band saw blades.
I also present reports by the Tariff Board on:
Codeine and ils salts (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
Neither report calls for legislative action.
– by leave - I propose to read a statement made in the House of Representatives today by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). Honourable senators will understand that where thc word T appears in the statement it refers to the Minister.
I am glad to be able to inform the House that proposals put forward by the Australian Wheal Growers Federation for quotas to operate on delivery of wheat to the Australian Wheat Board next season now have the full support of the wheat industry in all
Suites, all Slate governments, the Commonwealth Government and the Reserve Bank. The way is now clear for them to operate for the 1969-70 harvest.
Honourable members will know that the wheat industry has encountered serious problems in storing and marketing the unprecedented intake of wheat from the 1968- 69 harvest. In drawing the industry’s attention to the implications of this situation, I pointed out that the industry had to face up to the certainty that another big crop in 1969-70 would compound its problems. I also emphasised that it would not be reasonable to expect the Government to guarantee unlimited finance for the industry. The industry has not been slow to respond, lt has shown that it is fully alive to the situation and that it is prepared to meet the challenge of production in excess of probable outlets.
Last month the Australian Wheal Growers Federation formulated a plan intended to bring production to manageable levels. Essential features of the Federation’s proposals are. first, that the quotas be imposed on deliveries in each State in the 1969-70 season. The basic State quotas would total 344 million bushels, with provision for a further 13 million bushels of prime hard wheat if such wheat were available. Thus, the maximum quota for all States would be 357 million bushels. Secondly, a first advance payment of $1.10 per bushel should be made on all wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board within the quotas.
I have had some discussion with the Federation to seek clarification of aspects of the proposals and to test industry reactions. I am now assured that the proposals have been ratified by affiliated industry organisations in all States. 1 have also consulted with State Ministers for Agriculture. Each of them has now informed me of his Government’s acceptance of the Federation’s proposals and of his intention to ensure that thc delivery quota plan operates successfully. A condition of this acceptance was that the Commonwealth should undertake to arrange finance for a first advance payment of SI 10 per bushel on quota wheat delivered to the Board.
In these discussions with State Ministers and with the Federation there was general recognition of thc fiscal implications and legal problems which needed to be considered before finality was reached. An early meeting of Commonwealth and State legal advisers is being arranged to discuss aspects of implementation of the proposals. Arising out of these discussions, certain supporting legislation might be necessary.
The Government has considered the whole problem facing the industry and the major features of the Federation’s proposals. lt regards these proposals as a constructive approach, and has decided that it will support them. This support, translated into practical terms, will be to guarantee finance to the Australian Wheat Board to enable it to pay a first advance of SI. 10 per bushel on wheat of the 1969-70 season delivered within the quotas established, not exceeding in aggregate 357 million bushels. To enable the Wheat Board to meet expenses such as storage and handling and administration, a further sum will be made available, but the Board’s drawing limit with the Reserve Bank will be S440m. The Board of Governors of the Reserve Bank has today agreed to make the necessary funds available. The basis of the first advance will be Si. 10 per bushel for fair average quality wheat, f.o.r. ports. That is, freight will, as usual, be deducted from payments to growers.
This limit of S440m must be observed. The amount is a large one. As honourable members know, the industry, through the Wheat Board, is now heavily indebted to the Reserve Bank and is likely to have an overdraft of as much as S200m at the time when advances on the next crop will be around their peak. In other words, there may be as much as $640m advanced to the industry in the early months of 1970. Let me make it clear that the sums I have mentioned will not be exceeded. If quotas are noi implemented, and if thc quantity delivered to the Wheat Board exceeds 357 million bushels, then the first advance will have to be something less than SI. 10 petbushel.
The question has been raised in some quarters as lo the effectiveness of the plan as far as the 1969-70 crop is concerned, and it has been pointed out that some growers have already planted their land for the coming season. I think I should remind those concerned that it should have been well known to them that the Australian Wheat Growers’ Federation decided on 12th March to recommend that delivery quotas be introduced, and that since then the industry and governments have been discussing the matter, and that strenuous efforts have been made by all parties to work out a solution to the problem. Growers who have planted their land for the coming season have done so in the full knowledge that such a plan as is now proposed was likely to be implemented.
When the next harvest is completed, there will be an urgent need for a review of quotas for the following year. The industry’s stocks, financial position and marketing prospects also will have to be examined closely by the industry and each of the governments concerned. I have offered to do what I can to co-ordinate action by the States if they wish me to do so. That offer still stands, but the decision to implement the State quotas and all the decisions as to how they are to be allocated between farms or growers are constitutionally matters for the States.
The plan for delivery quotas poses problems and difficulties. As 1 have said, there is a willingness on the part of all governments - Commonwealth and State - to ensure that the plan is successfully implemented. The legal advisers will be expected soon to indicate the nature of whatever new legislation will be necessary if the plan is to work successfully. The other requirement is acceptance by the industry of a degree of self-discipline. Having demonstrated its capacity to devise this plan,I am confident it will now demonstrate the determination to make it work.
Motion (by Senator Scott) - by leave - proposed:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cohen) adjourned.
– by leave -I wish to inform the Senate of recent events at Wutung, a small village on the New Guinea coast and within a few hundred yards of the border between the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and West Irian. I am now able to give the Senate more details than were available when the Minister for External Territories issued a statement to the Press last Sunday. The village of Wutung lies approximately 30 miles from the West Irian capital Djajapura and approximately 20 miles from Vanimo, the District Headquarters of the West Sepik District of Papua and New Guinea.
For some years, many West Irianese have entered the Territory of Papua and New Guinea at Wutung. Ties of kinship and tradition extend along the coast on either side of the border and at various times small and large groups of people have called at Wutung by boat or on foot. Most have called to visit relatives. They are traditional inhabitants of the border region. Some, dissatisfied with their lot in West Irian, have come to seek greater employment opportunities. A small number have sought permission to remain in Papua and New Guinea for humanitarian reasons. Those granted permission have settled in the Territory. The remainder have returned to West Irian.
Late last year, a group of West Irianese established themselves illegally near Wutung and just on the New Guinea side of the border. Once it was known that these people were living within Papua and New Guinea they were asked to return and did so. It is understood that they established themselves in the bush across the border from Wutung.
From reports that have been received from the Administration of Papua and New Guinea it is clear that on Saturday, 26th April 1969, a small group of armed, uniformed Indonesians entered Papua and New Guinea at Wutung in search of a number of West Irianese who had crossed the border from their bush camp on the West Irian side of the border. During this incursion, the Indonesian party fired shots at the Officer-in-Charge of Wutung Patrol Post. Mr A. Try, two native constables and the station interpreter, none of whom was armed. It also appeared that the party conducted a house to house search of a Wutung hamlet. After a prolonged discussion with the Officer-in-Charge, during which a man who had been held by the party was released, the Indonesian party returned to West Irian. No one was hurt as a result of the incident. I wish to mention the highly commendable behaviour of Mr Try, the Officer-in-Charge, Wutung and the police who acted with great firmness in the face of this armed group.
The situation at Wutung has now returned to normal. The seventy-nine West Irianese who crossed the border are being accommodated at the YAKO quarantine station near Vanimo. They are being cared for by the Administration and in accordance with normal precedures relating to border crossings, any claims they have to remain in the Territory are being investigated. Additional Administration staff have been sent to the West Sepik district and thc police strength at border stations has been increased to ensure adequate protection for the Papuans and New Guineans in areas near the border and for the Administration’s officers.
The Government’s policy in relation to the border has always been premised on the principle that international boundaries mu.v, be respected and this is (he basis of its policy regarding West Irianese border crossers. On this occasion the border has been breached by armed officials of the neighbouring government. The Indonesian Government, with which our relations in many fields, but particularly in regard to the border, have, been close and co-operative, has been fully informed of this incident. Strong representations have been made to the Government of Indonesia to avoid any recurrence of such incidents and that Government has given assurances to this effect. 1 move:
That the Senate lake note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– Pursuant to standing order 336 which provides:
It shall be in order at any time to move without notice that any resolution of the Senate be communicated by message to the House of Representatives.
What persuades me to do this is the concern I expressed on this matter last evening in the Senate. In this matter the Parliament, because of the process of the regulatory principle, has been deprived of the opportunity of placing a veto on it. All the Parliament was able to do or all that any House of the Parliament was able to do was to pass a resolution which, at the best, could be persuasive and anything but compelling. That is a very serious position. I am not charging the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) with doing something that he is not completely entitled to do. The Minister has ample power within the existing regulations. That is the way in which the process he had in mind to elke should properly be effected. What is at fault is that by the process adopted and operated on this occasion the Parliament has been deprived of the opportunity of veto.
In these circumstances, as we can do no more than attempt to be persuasive in thi-, matter, 1 think that the resolution of this chamber, as carried last night, at least should be expressed within the Parliamentary forum in the most formal terms. Our altitude should be formally expressed. Wc did this last night in this place by means of the resolution. We do it within the context of the whole Parliament by conveying the resolution we carried last night in formal terms to another place so that the opinion of this chamber goes before the other arm of the legislature where that arm can, in (urn, consider it if it feels so disposed. I do not wish to address myself to this matter at any greater length than I have now done.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Ridley) - Is the motion seconded?
Senator COHEN (Victoria) [4.26 - I second the motion, Mr Acting Deputy President. I think it is a proper resolution to put to the Senate and it has the support of the Opposition.
– I see no reason to oppose the motion. After all the resolution relating to the embargo on the export of merinos was passed by the Senate. The other place no doubt would be aware of it. As to conveying that resolution, as the formal expression of this Senate, in the manner indicated by Senator Byrne, this has been done before and the Government offers no objection to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Opposition is asking the Senate to disallow this Ordinance which proposes sewerage charges in Canberra. Before I get on to the matter of advising the Senate of the reasons for asking that the Ordinance be disallowed, perhaps I can dispense with some of the frivolities that crept into discussion on this subject since this tax was first mooted by the Department of the Interior. It has been described as a lavvy levy and as an attack on the seat of Government. Those people with nimble minds have even connected it, in some extraordinary way, with being a tax on piano stools with some reference to a lonely farmhouse on the south coast of New South Wales. If I did not dispose of these frivolous things at the beginning of the short address I want to make in support of our motion for disallowance, I suppose inevitably they would creep in by way of interjection.
– Will you hog the lot?
– Yes. I thought I would help the Senate by dealing with the frivolities at the beginning.
– You have been sitting on this.
– Not for all that long. BeforeI traverse the background of this matterI want to draw the attention of the Senate to the Ordinance itself, which I have before me. It is an extraordinary document. I strongly suggest to honourable senatorsthat they read it if they have a little time at their disposal. Perhaps one of the most simple passages is this one, clause 1 1 (2.), which states:
In the last preceding sub-section -
a reference to the erection of an additional building on land shall be read as a reference to the erection of a building on land on which a building containing a flushed sanitary fixture is erected immediately before the erection of that building; and
a reference to the erection of a building, other than an additional building, on land shall be read as a reference to the erection of a building on land on which either no building is erected or no building containing a flushed sanitary fixture is erected immediately before the erection of the building.
This is delightfully clear, I am sure, to every honourable senator and I am sure that the people of Canberra will have no difficulty whatever in deciphering what is meant by it. The Ordinance goes on to deal with the formula on which the amount is calculated. It says:
I suppose that this formula is necessary because of certain legal requirements but to me it seems to be one of the most hopelessly jumbled explanations of the particular sub-clause that it has ever been my displeasure to read since I became a member of the Senate. There is very little else in the Ordinance to help one if one wishes to arrive at exactly what is meant.
In more simple termsI want to remind the Senate of the background to this matter. For over 30 years, up to 1960, the residents of Canberra paid water rates, general rates and sewerage rates based on an assessed annual value of the land. Of course, that is the way in which quite a number of local government bodies throughout Australia calculate rates in their respective areas. In 1960 the present Government introduced in Canberra a new system of water charges involving a flat rate payment plus a charge for excess water. Now the Government proposes to introduce a sewerage rate - perhaps it could be better described as a sewerage charge - of$10 a year for the first two toilets and a lesser amount for additional toilets. This to me seems to be a novel idea. I do not know where the Government obtained this idea of specifically taxing the toilet itself. It may well be that this is done in some States of the Commonwealth, or indeed, in some regional areas. I know of no capital cities which adopt similar procedures. To me it seems to be an unfair tax. It seems to be an extraordinary way of arriving at conclusions as to what residents of an area should pay for services.
There is no reason, in my opinion, for the Government to depart from procedures that have stood the test of time in the various States of the Commonwealth merely because Canberra happens to belong to the Government and is administered by it. This certainly is a departure from the traditional way in which these matters are calculated in the respective States of the Commonwealth.
This Ordinance, and other things that have happened in Canberra in recent years, have been described as taxation without representation. I think it is quite fair to say - and I do not think it is an overstatement - that this Ordinance has caused considerable resentment in all sections of the community in the Australian Capital Territory. The resentment has been general. It has been felt by all classes in the community. It has been contributed to by the Press. I think it is fair to say that in the Australian Capital Territory there is a fairly responsible Press in the ‘Canberra Times’ and other newspapers which disseminate news of a local character within the Territory. 1 think it fair to say that the Canberra Times’ has supported the people in their almost united objection to the way in which this proposed tax has been initiated and in the way that it is to be levied.
At this time 1 think it is appropriate to mention that the elected members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council recently resigned in a mass protest against this and other measures introduced by the Government. This is evidence of the general dissatisfaction in the community here about the relationship between the Department of the Interior and the people of Canberra. When 1 mention the Department of the Interior I do not want the Senate to think that 1 am embarking on an attack on the Department or on any of its officers. I am not doing so. I am stating a fact which is known to anybody who has followed, even in a cursory manner, the events which have occurred in the Aus tralian Capital Territory during the last 12 months or so. There is no doubt that anybody who has made even the most cursory examination of these events knows that there is considerable and general dissatisfaction in the Australian Capital Territory which has resulted in a general breaking down of the relationship between thc people and the Government.
On Sunday I drove around Canberra, as I do from time to time because as a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory T like to keep in touch wilh what is happening in the Territory, and I was over at Regatta Point. Honourable senators may or may not know that a forum has been established al Regatta Point and in the last few months people have been prone to give forth on various matters which, in their belief at least, have some importance in the life of residents of the Australian Capital Territory. One of the speakers on Sunday was an exmember of the Advisory Council. He had resigned from that body. 1 believe he represented the Liberal Party on it. One had only to listen to him to find out just how deep is the resentment on the part of residents of the Territory of the type of imposition represented by this Ordinance. I do not suggest that the Ordinance is the sole reason for the mass resignation of the members of the Advisory Council, but 1 suggest thai it is one of the things which in no small way have contributed to the general spirit of dissatisfaction and disenchantment in thc Australian Capital Territory about the big brother altitude which residents claim - I do not claim this, but residents* do - exists here today.
Several factors have intruded to produce this rising tide of resentment. The proposed closure of the Canberra Abattoir is one of the things which have caused considerable disaffection and hostility in the community. These matters serve to illustrate just how widespread the dissatisfaction and the disenchantment are. The mass resignation of members of the Advisory Council has severed the means of communication between the Government and the people of Canberra. We have before us an Ordinance whose character is deeply interwoven wilh the resentment and the hostility which exists in this community today. The Senate would be very wise if it gave the deepest considera- tion to the question of whether or not such an Ordinance should be introduced - an Ordinance which, as I said at the beginning of my speech, has met with widespread resentment and has no support even from the most co-operative Government supporters in this community.
When we consider this disaffection and these problems which must of course disturb the minds of honourable senators, I think it is important for us to be aware that in the national capital of necessity there must be a separation between the development of Canberra and the things associated with the development of the Parliament and the dreams of those who decided that this would be the national capital. There must be a separation between the functions of Canberra as a city and as the home of the national Parliament. Where there was a likelihood of local activity impinging upon the concept of the national capital, I would be the last to suggest that the local people should have the right to disturb that concept. This is a responsibility for governments alone. By the same token it seems to me that the need to preserve this concept has led to a drastic and unnecessary restriction of the rights of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. It is because of this restriction that I think we should give considerable thoughtto what is contained in this Ordinance and indeed we should give considerable thought to the establishment of a farbetter relationship between the Government and the people of the Territory than that which exists today. That is the problem which the Government has in maintainingthe necessary degree of authority over the development of Canberra. As I have said that degree of authority has eroded, to some extent, the rights of the people. There has never been a proper understanding ofthe problem, to my knowledge. In the 15 years that I have been a member ofthe Senate I have never known Parliamentto consider what could be done to achieve a better relationship between the Department of the Interior, whose task it is to administer the capital, and the people.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that today the population of Canberra is between 105,000 and 110,000 - a city of not inconsiderable size. Perhaps in the next 12 months the population will be in the vicinity of 150,000. I find it hardto believe that in a community of this size we should have a situation in which the local people do not have the slightest say in determining even the most minute aspects of local government. People from the States can determine the width of the Canberra roads - an extraordinary situation - the type of sub-division and even the nature of some of the elementary services that are provided to the community. Senator Marriott is shaking his head.I do not know whether in agreement or disagreement.
– In disagreement.
– Apparently he is doing so in disagreement. He andI are members of the ACT Committee and share at least the desire to do the best we possibly can lor the people of Canberra. I think he shares my belief that membership ofthe Committee imposes upon both of us an obligation to recognise some of the just complaints of the people. It may well be that the Committee’s terms of reference preclude itfrom doing some of the things that ought to be done. Nevertheless the knowledge we obtain as members of the Committee enables us to see much more clearly than other honourable senators some of the disabilities and tensions which have crept into the community life of Canberra and which have created something in the nature of a crisis between the people and the Government. I do not think Senator Marriott would disagree with that contention. The Minister forthe Interior (Mr Nixon) has claimed in this dispute- -it is a dispute and it is idle to say that it is anything less than that - that the people of Canberra are more fortunate than residents of other capital cities because today every block is sewered. How can we assess the validity or otherwise of what the Minister said unless we can examine these statements against the background of all other rents and charges that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have to pay?
I am not even sure in my own mind that an injustice is being done to the people of Canberra, but at least before I make a decision as to whether or not there is injustice I would want before me - and I think the people of Canberra arc entitled to have before them - much more detailed information as to the validity of this lax than is available at present. Because of this 1 ask honourable senators to turn their thoughts in that direction. I believe that il they do they will be doing a service to the Senate and to the people of Canberra as well. It could be that if facts are provided - when I say that, I mean if unassailable evidence is placed before the people of Canberra that the tax being levied on them is not an imposition - the people will accept the position and accept it with good grace. [ do not think the people of Canberra would want to have any greater facilities than the people who live in other capita! cities have, but I believe that the disaffection that has been created by this proposed tax has been brought about largely by the paucity of information and the lack of communication. The Government with its big brother attitude has decided to impose this tax. It has said: ‘We think it good for the people of Canberra and they have to lake it whether they like i; or not’.
The people of Canberra have not between them and the Government the usual buffers that exist in other States. In South Australia, of course, if the State Government imposes conditions of an oppressive character under the Local Government Act the people can discuss them through their representatives at the local government level in the metropolitan and district councils. They have an articulate body to speak for them, not a body overloaded with representatives of the Government in which they can be outvoted at any time no matter how strongly they feel about an issue. There is no doubt that the decision of the elected members of the Advisory Council to resign in a body was largely brought about by this sense of frustration with this over-riding authority of the Commonwealth not only on matters affecting thc concept of the national capital but on every phase of local government life in the Territory. It is against this background that I ask the Senate to consider very deeply whether or not this Ordinance should be disallowed.
Let me make it clear again that 1 am not attacking the Minister or his predecessor and I am not attacking the Department. Senator Marriott knows that as members of the Australian Capital Territory Committee we had certain disagreements with both the present Minister for the Interior and his predecessor, but at no time did the
Committee believe that either of those two gentlemen was doing other than the best that he could do in the field in which he had to work. 1 think that the problems that afflict Canberra today are not problems provided by this or that Minister for the Interior. Let me hasten to say also that Interior is probably one of the most difficult portfolios to administer. This sort of thing has grown up over the years. It has resulted from the fact that no attempt has been made to separate the concept of the national capital and the rights of the local people in matters affecting their own daily lives. Sooner or later the Parliament has to lay down some guide lines which will enable these pressures to be taken off and enable the people of Canberra to make some intelligent decisions in respect of their own future and their own operations.
Because of this, the first priority is that this Ordinance be disallowed. If it were disallowed, this would provide a climate for a much more amicable relationship between the people and the Department of thc Interior and, in fact, the Government itself. I tusk the Senate to remember that before such drastic changes as that proposed in this new tax in Canberra could be effected in most States, ii would have to run the gauntlet of considerable debate and discussion by people who had some right of determination. But the people here have no such right, no such channel, no such avenue, and because of this they are handicapped cruelly in this type of decision. I ask the Senate to remember that, contrary to the statement by the Minister, the residents of Canberra have paid sewerage charges for over 30 years on the assessed value of land, lt is true that in 1960 this situation changed but overall statements have been made which created the impression that the people of Canberra have not at any time had sewerage charges imposed on them. I want to correct that impression now.
I say finally that in the atmosphere of hostility that at present prevails between the people and the Government it would be folly to proceed with this ordinance. This is a decidedly novel tax. I ask the Senate to disallow the ordinance and when diplomatic relations between the parties to the dispute improve we can get down to a discussion of the way in which a sewerage tax, if it is justified, should be implemented in Canberra.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - ls the motion seconded?
– Senator Toohey has moved for the disallowance of the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968. He has endeavoured to impress upon the Senate the necessity for disallowing the Ordinance but he did not once speak of that part of his motion which seeks that a different system of sewerage rating be adopted in Canberra. He did not say whether a rate should be based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value of the land or the unimproved capital value of the land. We are discussing two propositions. One is that the Government should charge a sewerage rate of SIO per house and other rates for commercial enterprises. The other is that the Senate should recommend that, the Government adopt a different system - I presume to get the same amount of money - by the application of a rate based on assessed annual value, improved capital value or unimproved capital value.
– 1 said that there should be discussion to determine the method to be used.
– The honourable senator did not once mention why the Government should change from this system to another system of collecting revenue to pay for these services. So the Senate has to decide whether this way of collecting revenue for sewerage purposes is better than other ways of imposing a sewerage rate. We as a government claim that the fairest, way is to charge a rate of $10 per annum on houses and flats - not, as has been widely and erroneously stated, $10 per toilet. In fact a house can have two toilets and the householder still be liable only to a charge of $10 per annum.
– What about the third one?
– You can have six.
– You can have three in a house, you can have four in a house, you can have five in a house or, as Senator Marriott has said, you can have six in a house and you still pay only SIO per annum for that house. But if you have business and/or commercial premises you will be charged $10 per annum for the first two toilets plus $10 per annum for each flushing unit in excess of two. Schools, churches and so on will be charged $10 for the first two units plus $5 for each flushing unit in excess of two. The proposed charges, therefore, are related to expenditure incurred in the provision of services in the same way as charges imposed upon citizens in other cities are related to the cost of providing services.
Senator Toohey, when speaking to his motion, said that the people of Canberra in the past have been charged a sewerage rate. That is correct, lt was included in the water rales until, 1 think, 1960. In 1965 the practice was altered. 1 mention here that the proposed introduction of the sewerage rate is an implementation of part of the Government’s decision in 1965 to increase the general level of charges in Canberra for the equivalent of municipal and other services. Canberra citizens alone among residents of capital cities all have sewerage and in recent times have paid nothing for the service. Although the water rates originally were intended to cover water and sewerage services, the increase in the level of water charges in .1966 took into account only the cost of operating the water supply system and did not extend to the costs involved in the sewerage system.
The cost of maintenance and operation of the sewage treatment works and the maintenance of mains and reticulation services, plus administrative expenses, in 1967-68 totalled about $341,000. When depreciation and interest charges on the treatment works and the cost of providing mains and distribution facilities are added to that sum, the total cost of the sewerage system in 1967-68 was $858,000. That is a considerable amount of money. Whilst we, as a government, believe that these services should be provided to Canberra residents, we believe also that a charge should be made for them. At the present time we are not making a charge for sewerage in its own right. The proposed method is, we believe, by far the best method of recovering some of the cost of providing this service to the citizens of Canberra. I think that the present population of Canberra is about 120,000 people. All of those people are provided with sewerage.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! It being 2 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate, the Senate will, pursuant to standing order 127, proceed to orders of the day.
Motion (by Senator Scott) proposed:
That consideration of Orders of the Day be postponed until after further consideration of Business of the Senate. Notice of Motion No.1.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is the motion seconded?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion to Disallow Ordinance
– I was speaking about the services that have been provided to this our capital city in Australia by way of sewerage and I was stating that, unlike any other capital city, 100% of the population of Canberra has sewerage available to it. We, as a government, believe that because we have given this service to the people of Canberra they should be charged for it but not be required to meet the full cost. I have just informed the Senate that if interest, sinking fund, maintenance and other charges associated with the provision of sewerage are taken into consideration the cost of 1967-68 was in excess of $800,000. The proposed charge of $10 for each house will return to the Government only about $340,000 a year. I might also mention for the consideration of honourable senators that other capital cities in Australia impose charges that I believe we all should look at very closely before commenting unfavourably about the proposal here. I think their charges are far in excess of our proposed charge of $10 per house. I shall read a selection of the minimum charges that are applicable in other places in Australia. In Adelaide the minimum charge is $8, in Sydney it is $15, in Goulburn $15.40, in Yass $14, in Queanbeyan $24.25 and in Brisbane $30. With one exception those minimum charges are in excess of the maximum to be charged Canberra householders.
It is interesting to note in this context that the Brisbane scheme has moved well away from the valuation system which is the system propounded by the Opposition as the one which it believes will be more equitable to the residents of Canberra than that proposed by the Government. Senator Toohey did not argue that aspect. He did not even mention it. However I should like honourable senators opposite to propound the Opposition’s alternative and to state why they believe that we should make a charge on the basis of the unimproved or the improved capital value of a property to cover costs. I have said that the sewerage rate in Brisbane is fixed at a minimum of $30 a year. It is also interesting to note in this context the details of the Brisbane scheme, which has in fact moved well away from the valuation scheme.
– In what way?
– I am about to tell the honourable senator. The sewerage rate levied on all rateable properties is 1.4c in $1, with a minimum charge of $30 a year. In fact, between 66% and 75% of ratepayers pay only the minimum charge. In addition, however, the Council levies on all rateable properties other than those used for residential purposes a sewerage charge of $40 per pedestal for each pedestal in excess of one upon a rateable property. I repeat that the minimum annual charge is $30, and there is a charge of $40 for each pedestal in excess of one. Senator Georges is continuing to interject. If he will keep quiet for a moment I will give him more information. A comparison of the sewerage charges in Brisbane with the proposed charges in the Australian Capital Territory shows that as Senator Marriott has said, the owner of a house on a Canberra block will have to pay only $10 a year for six flushing units. In Senator Georges’ home city of Brisbane a business pays a minimum annually of $30, plus $200 if it has an additional five pedestals.
– It pays for every additional one.
– Yes, $40 for each additional one.
– Not for every additional one.
– If you have two pedestals you pay more than a man who has only one.
– But who says that is right?
– I will read carefully the note given to me by my advisers so that there will be no confusion. I am advised that in addition to the minimum charge of $30, the Council levies on all rateable properties other than those used for residential purposes a sewerage charge of $40 per pedestal for each pedestal in excess of one upon a rateable property. That applies, of course, for other than residental purposes.
– Other than residential purposes.
– Yes. I am making that quite clear. We believe that the system evolved for the ACT is the best that can be introduced to raise some of the money that is expended each year on the provision of sewerage services. At present in Canberra some older residents living in valuable properties are in receipt of a pension or a low rate of income. Because they came here in the early days of Canberra they obtained big blocks of land for practically nothing, and built houses on them. Now in their old age they enjoy living in a lovely building on a very big block. If improved or unimproved valuations were taken into consideration they would have to pay a rate that they could not afford. It is much more equitable to fix a rate of $10 a house than to fix a rate according to improved or unimproved valuations. The practice of fixing a rate according to improved or unimproved valuations is being moved away from in the States as they impose a minimum charge. It is not necessary then to have regard to valuations.
The Government, believes that increased charges since 1965 have not taken into account the cost of the provision of sewerage services. We believe it to be only right that if people in Canberra want these services they should be prepared to pay for them. 1 believe that they are prepared to pay. The suggested rate will return to the Commonwealth each year an amount only slightly in excess of one-third of the total cost of sewerage services, taking into con sideration interest charges and the sinking fund.
– Where does the other two-thirds come from?
– Out of the pockets. Although the annual cost of providing sewerage services in Canberra is over $850,000, the proposed charge is estimated to return annually an amount of only about $340,000. I turn now to consider how the business community in the ACT will be affected. I refer, for instance, to motel owners. They will have to pay a charge for each unit in their establishments. T am informed that on the basis of a 70% occupancy of a motel - it does not matter whether the capacity is 100 units or 10 units - the sewerage charge will add about 5c a day to the tariff charged for each unit. Motel owners and other business people are to be charged for the facilities that are given to them. If a rate were fixed according to improved or unimproved valuations, and the sewerage facilities were being used to the maximum, the amount paid would be nowhere near the amount that should be paid according to a rate determined by usage. They are to pay about 5c a day on each unit for the service that they are receiving. I believe that this is the fairest and best method of charging the people of Canberra for the sewerage services that the Commonwealth is providing.
– 1 wish to support the remarks of Senator Toohey. Senator Toohey now suggests to me that perhaps Senator Marriott would prefer to follow the Minister in this debate. If he wants to do so, I do not mind.
– No. I would much rather have an argument to answer.
– It seems to me that the answers given by the Minister to questions asked about the ordinance are extraordinary. I think we should consider the background of the proposed sewerage charge. The Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and large groups of people within the Australian Capital Territory complained about the proposal. The Government refused even to consider the suggestions of these representative bodies. The Government has not said: ‘In view of the fact that complaints have been made about the method of assessing land rates and sewerage rates, we might consider withpresentative bodies what could be done.’ Obviously there is room for argument. Obviously the system of sewerage rates throughout Australia is not uniform. Senator Gair has raised some points about the system applied in Queensland. The fact is that throughout the rest of Australia there is a town water and sewerage rate.
One would think that the Commonwealth Government when it proposed some new method of recovering charges from the community would be persuaded or influenced by the uniform standard throughout Australia. What this charge is based on, as 1 understood from what the Minister said, is the charge that has been imposed in Queensland. What the local community has said and protested about is that the method of fixing the tax on pedestals and urinals is wrong. That is all what the local community has said means.
This is the sort of tax that could be said to be similar to the tax that was applied on windows in the United Kingdom during the last century. The local community has listed this example as a very pertinent proposition to be considered, lt says: ‘If we have a tax on pedestals - and this is the system of sewerage disposal that we have - we have a tax which wilh work against good hygiene in the community’. It is a fact that as a result of the window tax in the United Kingdom people did not build windows in their domiciles. Because a tax was imposed upon windows, residences were built without windows. What the local community of Canberra has said is: ‘Here is a complete example where, if taxes on pedestals are payable, the number of pedestals in buildings will not be consistent with the health requirements of the community’. This seems to mc to be a common sense proposition.
If a tax is fixed on a system which is not for the good of the community, building authorities and people who wish to erect structures will say: ‘Let us minimise the number of conveniences which would be acceptable conventionally. Let us not build as many as we would have normally’. This is what the Government is doing through its tax. Let us face the fact that the Government is adopting a principle which will mean that in the building of business premises, private domiciles and schools, people will ask whether they can afford to install sufficient lavatories that the occupiers might be expected to require in them, ls that a sensible proposition? It seems to be most ridiculous to rae. 1 do not think anybody could justify the argument that the tax ought to be applied on that basis, lt must indicate that people who want to build homes and those concerned with the erection of schools and business premises will be influenced by the thought: ‘How many fewer toilets can we get away with to avoid the tax which has been applied to the community by the authorities?” This is the wrong principle to adopt.
– What about the position in other Slates? People in the States pay the same tax in a different way.
– That is a different proposition. A particular question is concerned here, relating to an area of discussion and negotiation, lt seems to me that the local people have put up a very reasonable proposition. Very simply, they have said: We had a system of rating within the Australian Capital Territory until I960 which in fact imposed upon the community a combined water rate and land tax. There was a change in I960 but we have paid a sewerage rate in fact all the time. That sewerage rate may need to be changed. If it needs to be changed, different discussions from those that have taken place ought to be held between the Government and the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. Obviously, the community should bc included in discussions to determine the proper method of rating”.
It may be argued, as it has been argued locally, that the rating shoul’d be associated with lbc valuation of each property. That seems to me to be the sort of pattern which has been adopted throughout Australia, with the exception of Queensland, and is the pattern certainly which might be canvassed by a responsible government and by people who are concerned about this new tax. The introduction of the tax has been implemented by the Government without much consideration for the views of the local community. For these reasons alone. I believe sufficient argument has hecn advanced to persuade us to disallow (he ordinance. Honourable senators ought to be aware of these facts.
Additionally, as most people know, representative bodies have come to Government members and to members of the Opposition about the matter. I was the member of a committee that was required to discuss this matter with local people. Also, petitions on the subject have been presented to this Parliament. For example, the honourable member for the Australian Capita) Territory (Mr J. R. Fraser) in another place presented a petition from 5,000 persons in this community. That is a very substantial number of people. They were opposed to this tax. I think Senator Toohey presented a similar petition in the Senate. T am not sure of the number of people who signed that petition but, obviously, a strong section of the community of Canberra is opposed to this proposition. That section is opposed to it on the ground that it strikes a new method of taxation in the Australian Capital Territory. It says that the authorities who propose this method ought to be rebuffed and that the Ordinance should be disallowed. It believes that the Government should say: ‘We will look at this question again and we will consider what might be required’. It seems to me that, on that basis, the argument is sufficient.
The argument concerning economics has been raised. The Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), who represents him in the Senate, talk about the need to recover some of the expenditure which is incurred in the vast work of installing sewerage systems. I put it to the Minister that this is right. We do not disagree with that suggestion. A requirement exists that the community ought to pay for the services which it uses and which are required in a normal up to date city. What I am putting to the Minister is this: The strange thing is that within Canberra there is a fixation about the charges which are required to be met by ordinary persons. No question arises about the great expenditures which occur over the whole face of Canberra. Vast works are carried out here. A multitude of gardeners are employed. Increased road works are being carried out all the time. As one walks to Parliament House from the Hotel Kurrajong one sees road works being carried out, and kerbs being changed. The men work with modern plant. We see gardeners using all sons of modern equipment.
Over the last 2 years outside this Parliament building we have seen a multitude of people laying down pavement and constructing the great avenue between Parliament House and the Australian War Memorial. It looks very good. It must have cost millions of dollars. Nobody contends in this Parliament that these works should be restricted. But in the situation we are discussing, householders, people running ordinary businesses, and those concerned in the operation of schools are to be charged a special tax and the Government attempts to justify it by saying that it has to recover some of the expenditure which is incurred in the provision of sewerage services. I cannot see any case at all for this action. I think that what Senator Toohey has done and what will be proposed in another place is sound. If the Federal Government proposes to introduce into the Australian Capital Territory some new method of rating, it should have regard to what is the uniform method of rating in the States. The figures that Senator Scott has given us today have no relevance to this debate because they relate to an entirely different system. The system in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia is fairly uniform and is quite different from the system that applies in Queensland. At least in the majority of States a combined water and sewerage tax is imposed. That sort of approach to financing these public works ought to be followed by the Government in Canberra.
When a community group of the size that we are talking about asks this Parliament to hold up this Ordinance until it has had the chance to discuss the proposed tax with the Minister for the Interior, I should think that the Government would be only too ready to say: ‘Yes, we will delay implementation of the Ordinance and we will consider with the appropriate authorities what sort of measure ought to be applied, having regard to the peculiar development within Canberra. Senator Toohey has made this point. He has said that two concepts must be remembered when dealing with Canberra. Canberra is not like any normal Australian State. It is the national capital.
– It is more pampered.
– I beg the honourable senator’s pardon?
– Canberra is pretty pampered.
– That is right. It is quite true. As 1 mentioned earlier, it is a pampered community. But it is pampered in some directions which may not be necessary. 1 have made my point about this fact. I made the point that some people-
– A lot of the pampering that is done is for the embassies and those who are not living here.
– Of course, and it is done for the concept of the Australian Parliament. We have pampered this capital’, as I have said to the Senate, by planting great avenues of trees and by having well laid out roads. The road system is being changed constantly by new roadworks. The shelters which are provided for bus passengers would not be found in normal communities. These things cost thousands of dollars. People are changed from one lawn plot to another because we think that is a good thing. Canberra is a pampered community.
– Up to a year or two ago the authorities used to clip the hedges for householders.
– That is right. In addition, as Senator Gair will know, as we walk past Parliament House we often see about thirty gardeners lifting plots from the lawns, extracting the earth and foundations and laying new lawns. I have already referred to the work that has been done in front of Parliament House in the last 2 years. How much did it cost? Nobody knows.
– But the people of Canberra did not derive any benefit from that.
– That is right. The concept of the national capital is a great one. but the cost of developing it is obviously a charge on the whole nation. Whilst I do not disagree with this great concept and the expenditure of millions of dollars, I point out that nobody knows how much is really being spent on it. In considering the taxing of the ordinary householder we must ask ourselves who he is. He is a public servant. He works in the Department of Health, the Department of the
Army, the Department of Shipping and Transport or some other department. He may be a first grade clerk or a fifth grade clerk. He has a family. He has been moved to Canberra to carry out the work of the government. Now he is expected to meet this extraordinary new tax which is to be imposed on a basis against which most groups of people would react.
– Had he been transferred to Brisbane he would have paid considerably more.
– He might have. All I can say to Senator Gair is that in all the years he was in office in Queensland the system in Brisbane was not changed to the uniform Australian system. There is a uniform pattern all over Australia, except in Queensland. This pattern should certainly have been considered by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, the people of the community, the Minister for the Interior and the Government. They should have said: ‘Because of the great protest against this proposed tax, what we should do in this case is negotiate a sensible settlement’. But they have not done that, lt seems to me that that is a very good reason why the Senate should disallow this Ordinance.
Unless honourable senators opposite can prove that the proposed tax is not as bad as those that exist in the States or that it is parallel with the system of rating that applies in the States, the Government has no case at all for introducing this new tax. If that is the position, this new tax becomes an imposition in a place in which there is no special case for it. If anything, the people of Canberra have a special case to argue for beneficial consideration, because most of them have been transferred to Canberra to carry out the work of the Parliament and the government. For those reasons, I support what Senator Toohey has said and hope that the debate will continue to the stage where the Government will volunteer to withdraw the Ordinance.
– I rise to address the Senate on the Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 30 of 1968, which provides for the imposition of sewerage rates. I think the kindest thing I can say about Senator Bishop is that he still misunderstands the Ordinance that we are debating. I do not believe that he would try to mislead the Senate or the people of Australia at any time. Therefore J must say that he misunderstands the Ordinance. He tried to make out the case which has been made in the Press and from which great misunderstandings have come, namely, that this is a tax on the actual toilet in the home, lt is not a tax on the toilet in the home; it is a tax for the sewerage service provided to the home. It is at the rate of SIO per annum in respect of a home of any size and with any number of toilets. Naturally, a home would not be subject to sewerage tax if it h:id no toilet. But every home in Canberra is connected to the sewerage system. Therefore, if this Ordinance is put into law, every home in Canberra will attract the tax of $10 per annum regardless of the number of toilets it has. I am referring particularly to homes. I will come to commercial and business premises later.
I believe that it is good for the Senate to be required to debate an ordinance of the ACT. In my belief, three alternatives are open to the Senate. Firstly, we could leave the Ordinance as it is. Secondly, we could disallow it and accept the Opposition’s amendment, which would bring in a rate of tax for which the people of Canberra, when they received their bills for the sewerage tax proposed by the Opposition, would find very little reason to thank members of the Opposition. Thirdly, we could disallow the Ordinance, and the citizens and business houses of Canberra could continue, for so long as the Government took no further action, not. to pay a special tax for the sewerage service which they are now receiving and which many of them have been receiving for many years.
I do not deny that Canberra is a city of grave problems from the standpoint of its administration by the Commonwealth Government. Its population is rapidly approaching 120,000. I believe that it richly deserves the opportunity for a debate in the Senate. It has no advisory council in operation at the moment. It has one member of Parliament with one voice - a stalwart voice, but an Opposition voice - in another place. It has the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, of which I am privileged to he the Chairman and of which Senators Toohey, Devitt. Withers and Maunsell are members. But we can only inquire into matters that are referred to us by the. Minister for the Interior or the Government. We also have to consider any variations of the plan of the city of Canberra that the departments and the Government want to put into operation.
So, at this moment the people of Canberra have a great feeling of frustration because of their inability to have a say in matters affecting them. That is not a position in which any Australian likes to be. I admit that a number of matters currently are causing this unrest in the city. Perhaps the very debating of this matter will urge the Government to have a look at some of the other problems. As 1 see the position, there arctwo forms of problems in Canberra at the present time. The first is that the people have no say in local government or in the way they are being taxed and have no direct representation in the Senate. So, they are in a mood of frustration, which has not been helped by the resignation of the members of the Advisory Council. I must say that 1 cannot and do not criticise the members of the Advisory Council for taking the action they have taken. I believe that the problems that the Council faces in Canberra have to be dealt wilh in separation, each one divorced from the other particularly when dealing with one such as is enshrined in the Ordinance which we are now debating and which provides for a charge on the community and the business and commercial life of Canberra for a specific service.
We have been told that argument about the proposed charge has been going on since 1966. Many diverse interpretations have been pui on the Ordinance. I have a daughter in Vancouver and she has told me that the two main pieces of Australian news over past months have been, first, the lavatory tax in Canberra and, second, the published report that the current Premier of Tasmania has written to the President of the United States asking for a bit of soil from the moon. The very fact that the proposed charge has hit the headlines in the overseas Press means either that it is very stupid or that it has been misunderstood.
In this debate I do not speak as the Chairman of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, but as the Chairman I have had representations made to me. Voluminous quantities of printed material have been given to me. I have listened to arguments about the tax. I have read about it and I have thought about it. As a result I believe that in its present form as laid down in this Ordinance it is fair. The provision is really simple and if the news media could spell it out clearly the people of Canberra would understand it. we would not be hearing of overseas news items about it and we would not have Senator Bishop standing in this place and, in my view, making mistakes in describing the tax. If the tux were understood I do not think the Government would be criticised outside the Australian Capital Territory on the policy that it has announced, and I believe that the citizens of Canberra would accept a charge for rates and taxes similar to those charged by local governments in other cities throughout the Commonwealth. 1 believe that each individual tax must bc debated on its merits and not tied in wilh the higher cost of living in Canberra because of freights, stamp duty and other things. I propose now to deal with the Ord. nance which prescribes the sewerage rate and to deal with it as it relates to the individual tax. If we do this I believe that we must come to the conclusion that it is a fair charge whichever way we look at it. Lel us consider the situation. Honourable senators opposite propose cancellation of the Ordinance, and they want a sewerage rate to be levied on the basis of a percentage of either the assessed annual value, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value. Seemingly the Opposition has done a tremendous amount of homework on this subject and fully understands the implications of it. This has been made apparent by the two speeches that we have heard so far. Can it be said that the Opposition has offered a precise or clear-cut suggestion to replace what is clearly set out in the Ordinance? The answer is no. Honourable senators opposite want a charge based on some rate per cent of some type of value, assessed by someone, somehow.
– Some time.
– Yes. some time. The only comment that I make on this indefinite suggestion from the Opposition is to ask why the suggestion has been made.
In it I see political portents. This is an election year, lt is quite obvious to anyone who has studied the situation that, if the Ordinance is disallowed, much time must elapse before the Government and the departments involved can work out a system and a percentage and arrive at a valuation to enable accounts to be sent to the people of Canberra. 1 believe that this slipshod method of approach suggested by the Opposition is loaded politically and is purely and simply, when exposed, a lactic to delay the imposition o!: the charge. The Opposition believes, with the Government, that the people of Canberra, including private home owners and commercial and business undertakings, should pay a fair charge for the sewerage service that they have. Consequently, I hotly oppose the Opposition’s proposal. I oppose it because I believe ii would impose a serious disadvantage on the people of Canberra.
Let us consider what would be involved in levying a percentage rate on the value of a properly. Think of the high values of properties in this affluent city and then think of the smaller homes which have been built for a number of years and which will probably continue to be used for a long time. In my view we would never be able to get a system of rating based on value which would be as fair to the overall community as a direct charge. Many home owners in this city would be hit heavily by the adoption of the Opposition’s suggestion of a percentage charge on assessed annual values, or the other alternatives offered. The cost of administering this scheme would be excessive because of changing values and we would be raising a comparatively insignificant sum at a high cost, whereas under the Ordinance that is before us the cost of administration would be very low. The total cost of the Government’s proposal would be little more than the postage involved in sending out accounts. I believe that the citizens of Canberra who will be required to pay the tax would like to see their money going towards the services with which they are provided and not see it being used to administer those services. Value for money is a motto in our Party.
Some queries may be raised about legal aspects of the phraseology of the Ordinance hut I do not propose to touch on those They have t-oi been raised so far, but I expect that they will be mentioned. There arc lawyers in the Ministry and on both sides of the Senate. I am prepared to listen to arguments from them on the phrasing and legalities that may or may not come into the debate; but on the straight facts of a reasonable charge for a good service and a fair situation all round, this sewerage tax should he viewed in the same way as water charges, electricity charges, gas charges and other charges which in most cases are payable to local governments. In all cases the charges vary as between the home owner who is providing for his family and the commercial, industrial or business undertaking whose aim is to make profits and in respect of whom the charge takes into account other aspects. The Minister has told us that the purpose of this Ordinance is to raise money and to pay for sewerage extensions. Its purpose is not to pay for the capital expenditure of many millions of dollars which has been spent already. The Minister, in a most optimistic mood, hopes purely and simply that he will raise enough money to cover the cost of maintaining the service in Canberra each year.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– On resuming the debate on the motion moved by the Opposition thai the Sewerage Rate Ordinance 1968 contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 30, made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act. be disallowed, I want to emphasise that already I have stated my support for the ordinance which provides for the levying of a tax of $10 per annum per home unit. This has to be clearly understood. I have stated my opposition to Labor’s amendment which seeks to remove the straight out charge of SIO a unit and replace it with a percentage charge based on some form of valuation of the premises or land. The Labor Party has been completely unspecific as to really how it wants to work this out. 1 have expressed the sincere belief that the great majority of the people of Canberra - home users, home owners and the business community alike - will be better off if the Senate leaves the ordinance as it is now than they would be if it tinkered around with some percentage basis of charge. Although to reject the ordinance might mean some delay before the tax is finally levied, I firmly believe that if we tinker around with evolving some system of charging on a percentage basis the people of Canberra will be paying more for their sewerage service.
When replying to the mover of the motion, the Minister clearly defined the charges as they affect business, commercial and industrial premises. To my knowledge, there has been no complaint from these sectors of the Canberra community. Having had some experience in this sort of thing. I know that if you get no complaints made to you as a member of Parliament, you know that the people concerned are pretty satisfied. Therefore I do not propose to say anything further about the tax as it applies to the business community.
But I do want to emphasise that in judging the severity or otherwise of this new charge it must be remembered that the people of Canberra pay nothing towards having their homes or premises connected to the sewerage service. I understand that in other cities and towns one would pay anything from $500 to $600 for each connection. This cost is never borne by anybody in Canberra. It is paid for by the Commonwealth out of funds provided by the taxpayers of Australia.
I understand there has been some criticism of this charge by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. I understand that it suggested that the figure of $10 per annum was just pulled out of the hat - it sounded a nice round sum. I believe that is wrong and unfair criticism. I believe that the $10 charge per annum was worked out as being the amount which would return a revenue that would cover what government policy intends to be covered by it. That policy is that the rate charged should cover as nearly as possible the cost of maintenance and operation of the system in the Territory as it is today and as it will increase - as we well know that it will. It is just as well to remember that this charge does not meet the capital cost. Up to the end of the last financial year, the total amount of capital expenditure on this service was approximately $9m.
Finally. I want to say that J fully acknowledge that the people of Canberra, in their various sectors, are concerned, and in some cases deeply concerned, over various other matters, f name one or two. I name, for example, the introduction of stamp duty. That is being met with opposition from the business community. The closing of the abattoir is rightly causing deep concern to the residents of Canberra and those employed at the abattoir. The question as to whether, and, if so, how the people of Canberra are to have a real voice in a local government that has some authority and power to act on their behalf is causing widespread concern. But I do suggest and hope that in voting on this motion the Senate will consider only whether or not this charge should be levied in the form proposed by the ordinance or whether it should be levied in the form in which the Labor Party has suggested it should be levied.
I believe that it would be wrong for the Senate to bring into consideration other matters of concern to the people of Canberra when deciding this question. 1 certainly hope that these other matters will be debated in this Parliament at some time during this session, but I believe it is wrong to bring them into consideration at this stage because, if the Senate were to take other matters into consideration in deciding to disallow this ordinance it would be an indication to the people of Australia that the Senate really believed that the citizens of Canberra should not pay fair and normal charges for the services that they receive, that they should not be required to pay rales and other charges of the type that all citizens in all other cities, towns and villages throughout Australia which have these services pay now.
I, for one. stand by the principle that a fair and equitable charge should be made to the people of Canberra for the service with which they are supplied. 1 also add that the Parliament and the Government must give more attention to other matters that are the concern of the people, but I hope that the Senate will realise that if the Opposition’s proposal is carried this ordinance will be disallowed and the Government will be enabled to bring in another charge which 1 believe would be to the detriment of the people of Canberra because I believe they would find that they were paying a higher sewerage rate than will be the case if we leave this ordinance in the form in which it was gazetted.
– At the outset I should like to make the observation that the listening public must be greatly elevated tonight to know that the Senate of the Commonwealth Parliament has no other business to discuss than a lax on lavatory pedestals in Canberra.
– They will he surprised to hear you joining in it.
– I join in it to bring a bil of commensense, a bit of reason and a bit of balance to the debate and to destroy some of the stupid emotion that has been introduced by those who want lo oppose the ordinance in question. After all. I suppose I am not entitled to denigrate the pedestal because I know how much it means to so many people in the community who strive very hard to get on a pedestal.
– You were on one yourself for a while.
– As I have said here previously, it is belter to have been on a pedestal for a while than never to have been on one at all. Let us bc sensible and reasonable in dealing with this question. A tax such as this is not peculiar to Canberra. The Greater Brisbane City Council levies a tax or charge on toilet pedestals. If it does not exist in other capitals then that is ig business of the municipal authorities in those places. 1 cannot see that the people of Canberra have any particular cause lor complaint in this regard. We are talking about a tax or a charge and no-one likes paying taxes of any description. The complaint of the people of Canberra is understandable so far as that goes but they must not overlook the fact that they are getting a service in return for the fee paid. Canberra is a. new, modern city with sewerage facilities. There are many old capital cities in which a big part of the city still remains unsewered.
– Brisbane, for example.
– Brisbane is one such city, it is true but it is not the only one. We have to learn to be prepared to pay for services provided. The people of this city have received a great many services for which they paid comparatively little. When we examine the rales, whether general rates or water rates, paid by the people of Canberra and compare them with those paid by people in other cities, the strength of my argument will be seen. The general rate in the Canberra city area is 1 . 1 96c in the SI of the unimproved value. Outside the city area it is 0.39c in the $1 of the unimproved value. The water rate is SIO for the first 75,000 gallons and thereafter it h 20c per 1,000 gallons for excess water. Thc average residential block in Canberra is valued for rating purposes at less than $2,000. Therefore the average householder in Canberra pays less than $35 a year for general rates and the ordinary water rates.
– What about the land rental?
– We will come to that matter. We should then add the $10 for the proposed sewerage rate. It will be seen that the average householder in Canberra will be paying less than S45 a year unless he uses excess water. Compare that figure with what is being paid by citizens in other Australian capital cities.
– And in country towns.
– And in country towns. Honourable senators will then see just how well off the people of Canberra are so far as municipal rating is concerned.
– You cannot do-
– I cannot do what?
– You cannot ignore the land rental.
– I will come to that. It is often said that although the rates are low in the Australian Capital Territory the home owner in Canberra is required to pay land rent. This is what Senator Georges is concerned about. This is what is regarded as a sort of rate. The average building block in Canberra, as I said, is valued for land rent purposes al much less than $2,000 and the average land rent, at 5% of the unimproved value, is still less than $100 a year. Even when this is added to the rate, the average householder In Canberra would be paying much less than $145 a year. We think the average for rates and land rent combined may be below $100 a year.
Not only are the rates in Canberra relatively low; the standard of service is considerably better than that enjoyed by people in many other capital cities. One has only to walk the streets and footpaths in this place or to travel round the city and compare it with what is being endured in Greater Brisbane, for example. Outside my home 1 find difficulty in walking on what was once a bitumen footpath yet I am paying much more in rates than is the average person in Canberra. 1 walk on my footpath at the risk of twisting my ankle or breaking my leg or neck. We see the concrete block footpaths and pavements in Canberra and we know that no contribution is extracted from the people here for paving, kerbing and guttering - not even for the collection of garbage from houses. The people listening to me tonight will be surprised to know just how well off the people of Canberra are in comparison with people elsewhere.
– The people did not ask lo come here, you know. They were forced to come here.
– Forced to come here? One would think that this is Siberia. The people of Canberra have every amenity and every facility. What nonsense it is to say that they were forced to come here. I know a lot of people who would be happy to come here if they had the chance. People here talk about how badly they are treated yet even the garbage is carted away free of charge. Comparison between the general treatment of the people of Canberra and that of people in other centres must show that people here are infinitely belter off. Money is no object here, but when one tries to extract a few thousand dollars from Canberra for expenditure elsewhere it is a different story. I had the experience of trying to extract money from Federal Treasurers when I was Premier of Queensland and I know how difficult it was to get any money for objects and projects in Queensland. The same applies in the case of the other States. But apparently there is no shortage of money in Canberra for the provision of amenities for the people here. Do the Canberra people believe they are a section apart from the general population of Australia and that taxes and charges should not be imposed on them to pay for services so important as the sewerage service. No, Mr President, not for a moment could I support the resolution moved by the Opposition. 1 think it is only a piece of politics anyway. I think the Opposition knows as well as I do that these people have been pampered for a long time.
– Could it not be gradual?
– It has been gradual for a long time. They have been exempt from other forms of taxation for too long. Why should the people of Canberra be exempt from stamp duty when everybody else in Australia has to pay it? People here receive their salaries and wages the same as everybody else in the Commonwealth does and there is no justifiable reason-
– There is no turnover tax here either.
– The people here are only just commencing to pay tax. As 1 said earlier, it is understandable that they are irked about having to pay. We all become irked about taxes. The fact remains that somebody has to pay for the services provided for the people of Canberra and if it is not the citizens of Canberra themselves who pay it will be their fellows in other parts of the Commonwealth. Not for a moment could I see that that would be just and fair.
– Do you not think that people in Canberra are entitled to have some say in the rating systems adopted?
– Well, I suppose they do have some rights. I concede it and 1 agree with you up to a point. But the people of Canberra did not want a say about the money spent here from general taxation by successive governments in their interests. They were content to take it and did not need any explanation as to where it came from. This was money which was not available to the people of Adelaide, where Senator Toohey comes from, or to the people of Brisbane or of any other city or State. The money has been pumped into this city and the people have been the beneficiaries. This has to cease. If the people here want a say - and I think it might be timely for the Government to give some consideration to a reorientation of the entire administrative system in Canberra - then perhaps we should set up a municipal coun cil, if this could be done, which could work in with the Department of the Interior. If I were Minister for the Interior I would be looking for an escape. I think the administration of Canberra would operate better if it were in the hands of sane men of common sense, ability and some imagination - men who desired to do something for this city. I think this might be of advantage not only to the Government but to Canberra and its people. It is true that this is a federal Territory. For that reason people say that it must come under the jurisdiction of the Government. But where there is a will there is a way and there must be a way to remedy this position. 1 do not dispute that the people have a right to an explanation. All honourable senators have been issued with a copy of a booklet entitled ‘A Statement of Receipts and Expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory’. A study of that booklet probably will supply some of the information that has been sought. If it docs not contain all the information that has been sought there must be supplementary documents that will supply it. However, I will content myself with those few observations.
I cannot cry for the people of Canberra, not at all, because I think they have been treated very well. The suggestion that they have been forced to live here is too ludicrous for words. They have come here of their own accord. They have a good housing system. No place in Australia would be more suitable in which to rear young families. The federal capital, Canberra, is an ideal city. It is healthy in every respect. Sewerage is an essential and imperative part of good heath in any community. Certain people think that everything should come for nothing. I do not know where they think the money comes from to pay for the essential services. They want all the improvements without charges. Years ago when I was a State Premier the State Government subsidised the provision of sewerage by the local authority at Hughenden in the north west of Queensland. Prior to the sewering of the town in the summer time one could scarcely live there because of the fly menace. One got tired arms from swatting flies. I went hack there after the sewerage system had heeD installed and I could not help but observe the great improvement and how livable the place was. I saidto somebody: ‘How is it that the last time I was here the flies nearly drove me mad?’
– You attracted them.
– The honourable senator would not attract anything - not even flies. I said: ‘How is it that there is an absence of flies?’ He said: ‘The sewerage is responsible for that’. Yet some people living in that community would have been content to go on living with an antiquated system rather than have a healthy, clean sanitation system. They had no civic pride and no regard for health and comfort. They were concerned about the extra £5 that they had to pay towards the cost of introduction of the sewerage system.I do not suggest that the people of Canberra are as out of date as all that, but I think that over the years they have had so much for so long for solittle that now that they are required to pay something it is foreign to them and they oppose it.
– I am stirred to enter this debate by a reference made earlier to certain charges imposed by the Brisbane City Council and by the manner in which the charges were compared with the charge to be imposed on the citizens of Canberra. I decided to study the Ordinance which an honourable senator opposite said dealt with a rather simple matter that the Press ought to be able to explain easily to the people of Canberra. Perhaps he has an advantage over me. I reached page 7, clause 3, which I shall read. I should hate to impose on Senator Scott the task of interpreting this clause because he has been through a particularly torrid time with the Department of Customs and Excise over the last few weeks. The clause reads:
The Ordinance continues in the same vein for 2 or 3 pages. At that stage I decided that my approach to this matter should be a simple one. A charge of $10 is to be imposed arbitrarily throughout Canberra without reference to the people who have to pay it or to their position, so that the person who lives in the most distant suburbs will pay$10 as will the person who lives on Mugga Way and has half a dozen toilets in his house. That is the inequity of it. No-one gave any thought to the democratic point of view. Democracy does not seem to exist so far as local government in Canberra is concerned. The $10 is not a large amount when compared with the amount applicable in the States. I say that the method by which it is imposed is iniquitous because it does not allow for differences in income or in position of the persons who have to pay it. I say that that alone is reason for considerable comment and criticism.
I do not think the people of Canberra object so much to the $10 as they do to the suggestion that they are not paying their way. They are paying their way. If we were to take Senator Gair’s figures alone we would see that we have to take into account the general rate of about$40 a year and the water rate of $10 a year which, incidentally, isfor 75,000 gallons of water. But do honourable senators realise that the 75,000 gallons contains an allowance of 25,000 gallons so that the citizens of Canberra can water the nature strips? They have 50,000 gallons for their own use and a further 25.000 gallons with which to water the land in front of their house and the land across the footpaths as well - the nature strip. If one studies the document entitled ‘A Statement of Receipts and Expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory’ one realises the position in which a citizen of Canberra finds himself when he wants to build a home. He can go to an auction and bid for a 99-year lease of a block of land. He will pay as much as $2,000 under a Liberal Government. He will pay as much as he is prepared to bid.
The payment of $2,000 entitles him to the privilege of paying at least $96 a year rental. It is called rental, not rates, but I cannot see the difference. He pays the $2,000 for the privilege of leasing this piece of land which he does not own. He will pay rent on it. Also the land will be revalued every 20 years. The Department of the Interior makes a considerable profit from the citizens of Canberra from these transactions. At one stage under a Labor government, if I am permitted to make a comparison-
– That must have been a long time ago.
– Obviously it was a long time ago. At one stage a person could bid to the reserve price of the land, say $700, and all that he was required to pay was the amount that he was prepared to bid above that figure. Therefore I say that Labor has been too long out of power so far as the citizens of Canberra are concerned. The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) told us that the Government will collect only $300,000, in round figures, from this tax whereas the cost of providing sewerage services is approximately $800,000. Has he included in the amount of income derived from the sewerage tax $10 on every Commonwealth owned pedestal in Canberra? I do not think he has.
Sooner or later the Government will have to grant local government to the citizens of Canberra because the citizens of this city are in a peculiar position. They have no local representative; they have no State representative; they have some nonelected representatives and an elected advisory council which resigned recently. They have only one voice speaking on their behalf and that is the voice of the honourable member for the A.C.T. (Mr J. R. Fraser) in another place. That is the only representation that the people of Canberra have. Sooner or later local government will have to be given to them. That is their demand.
The proposed $10 tax has stirred them into activity. Not only has there been the closing of the abattoir; not only has there been the resignation of members of the Advisory Council; there has been this Boston tea type tax - a pedestal tax. It has stirred them until they now realise that they require representation. What would be the situation of local government in Canberra? You would find that a large part of Canberra was occupied by Common wealth buildings housing Commonwealth authorities. The Commonwealth would not pay rates as do other authorities in other cities. One reason why in cities like Brisbane the rates are so high is that so many bodies, mostly Commonwealth authorities, do not pay rates for the services provided to them or for the land they occupy.
The issue so far as the people of Canberra is concerned is: There should be no taxation of this nature without representation - no taxation without the people having some say in the decision. The sooner the Government appreciates that, the better will be the relationship between the Government and the people of Canberra. It must be realised by everyone, as we in this place have realised, that authority is blind. We had an example recently of the National Capital Development Commission having actually made a decision on the site of the new and permanent parliament house. We were being steered to a site by the lake. It was only after considerable debate by a representative body in this place speaking on behalf of the whole nation that we decided that the Commission was wrong. It is fairly obvious that the exercise in democratic or representative government that we went through in this chamber is the kind of exercise that the people of Canberra require. The sooner the people are given the opportunity to take part in an exercise of that kind, the better. We can give some indication of our support for them by disallowing this iniquitous ordinance.
– I believe that in any reasoned discussion on charges which are likely to be applied or should be applied to the residents of the Australian Capital Territory the develop ment which has taken place to make this Territory the national capital of Australia must be taken into account. I am one who believes that the charges levied on residents in the Australian Capital Territory cannot be compared with those levied on residents in other States of the Commonwealth, but that is not to say that the individual in Canberra should not pay a reasonable amount for the services with which he is provided. I make that comment at the outset because I believe that Senator Toohey. Senator Bishop and other honourable senators on the Opposition side who have argued this matter really have tended nos to direct their remarks to the core of the proposition that the Labor Party has put forward. Let the Senate be quite sure that the argument ls not whether charges should or should not be applicable to residentof the Australian Capital Territory. The argument advanced by the Labor Party is that the charges that are being applied at a flat rale should not be so applied.
– That is not the argument at al).
– I believe you. senator. You spent all your time talking about the poor residents of Canberra and how they should not have these charges imposed upon them. Let me direct your attention to the motion to which you have put your name. It is in these terms:
That the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 30 of 1968, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1965, he disallowed, on the ground that the necessary revenue should be collected by means of a rale based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value of the land concerned.
In short Senator Toohey confirms his belief that a rate should be applicable to the residents of Canberra for the services provided but he disagrees with the method by which the Government is applying the rate. I believe that there is reason to look at that aspect, but Senator Toohey will admit that that was not the basis of his argument. I think your argument was a political argument which tended to the view thai thc residents of Canberra should not be charged this amount. 1 have read the terms of the Opposition’s motion, which is to the effect that the people should be rated but not on the basis put forward by the Government. I believe that is the core of the matter which we should debate because we are all united in the view that a charge should be made for services provided. I have said that charges for the Australian Capital Territory cannot bc compared with those that are levied in the various States because of the inbuilt component that we are building Canberra as the national capital. Charges are applicable to the people here which are applicable to the people in the States. lt has been stated that this discussion has been thrust upon the people of Canberra. I direct the attention of the Senate to the fact that on 17th August 1965 the Honourable Harold Holt, who was then the Treasurer, in his Budget Speech made the following statement:
With the growth of Canberra as a city and as a business centre, we think it would be no more than fair and proper that residents of Canberra should bear certain taxes of a nature comparable with those levied on residents of the States.
He went on to speak about the introduction of stamp duty and a range of other duties. He completed his comment on this aspect by saying:
Following its review of the general level of charges in Canberra for the equivalent of municipal and other services, the Government has come to the conclusion that some increases, including increased hospital charges, will be necessary. These will be the subject of further examination.
In 1965 the proposition was put to the people of thc ACT that similar municipal charges would be applicable here. The idea of a flat rate is not new to the people of the ACT.
– lt is more applicable to Canberra where there is no speculation in the price of land.
– There is an element of speculation in the price of land here. That is something [ would be anxious to discuss. I want to deal with the method of using a Hat rate, if that is the argument, as against a system which takes into consideration the unimproved capital value, which may involve increased rates as values increase. Honourable senators opposite have said that they would prefer a system which takes into account unimproved capital value. In 1959 an ordinance was introduced for the imposition of water rates to be paid for a municipal service, the provision of which represented a direct cost to the Government. If that ordinance is read in any depth it will be seen that at that time a flat rate was applicable to every household for a water supply. I am advised that no member of the Opposition at that stage complained. Perhaps those honourable senators opposite who were here in 1959 may be able later to indicate the view they took at that time, and whether they then believed that that method of imposing a water rate was altogether wrong. I do not believe that that method of rating the citizens of Canberra is altogether wrong. I feel that the basis and the principles upon which the proposed charges are to be made are correct.
– You are proposing a new method. You are talking about the 1959-60 method. This is quite a new method.
– I have just attempted to explain to honourable senators - and I may not have been able to convey it to Senator Bishop - that it is not a new principle, lt was applied in 1959 to residents on the basis of a flat rate for the water supply.
– Would you explain why there is a change? Why should the Government tax toilets?
– 1 suppose that the senator’s comment is the level at which we must speak, but I am not anxious to discuss whether it happens to concern toilets.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wedgwood) - I ask Senator Webster kindly to address the chair.
– -The fact is that the proposed system of rating is a Mat rate for every residence, the same system as was applied about 10 years ago in respect of water rates. I mentioned, perhaps to the irritation of honourable senators opposite, that I believe that those of them who were here at that stage did not raise a voice in opposition to that system of rating or then say, as their motion puts today, that a different principle should be employed. The principles upon which the proposed charges are fixed seem to me to be very reasonable.
– lt is a lavvy levy.
– Honourable senators opposite keep interrupting to say that that is what it is, but they are entirely incorrect. I know you will agree with me, Madam Acting Deputy President, when I say that honourable senators opposite are acting tonight exactly as they acted last night in the discussion on a bao on the export of merino rams. They are not sticking to facts but are using a lot of political propaganda. They are anxious to take t he subject into another area. We are
I J860.’n9 - S - (43) concerned with a sewerage rate and the cost of connections to houses. The householders are to be charged a sewerage rate to pay for the service to their houses. Senator Bishop may be pleased to learn that we are not concerned with the subject about which he has been speaking so often. We are discussing the provision of a sewerage service to take the effluent from the houses regardless of from what part of the house it is taken. The annual charge is to be a flat rate of $10 a home. As a Victorian citizen I know the costs that are applicable in Victoria and I feel that this is a very fair proposition for the residents of Canberra.
– Businessmen would know from the figures presented to them that the annual costs of operating the sewerage service in Canberra are about $858,000.
– How do you pay it in
– I ask Senator Milliner to give me a chance to say that in 1967-68 expenditure on the ACT sewerage service was $858,023. In that figure is included depreciation and interest on capital of $516,069. Operation of plants, maintenance of mains and reticulation amounted to $341,954. 1 take it that the figures are correct. A flat annual charge of $10 is to be paid for each residence. An appropriate scale is to be applied to people earning income from businesses such as motels, hotels or blocks of flats.
– Are you talking about residences? You are wrong, lt is not residences at all.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Bishop, you have made your speech.
– I do not mind if Senator Bishop interrupts me, if he wishes to do so. The fact is that the Commonwealth Treasury intends to recover only about $350,000 annually in respect of the sewerage service provided. 1 believe that the citizens of the ACT are very well served in this matter. They are being asked to provide only for the direct operating expenses of the sewerage service.
– So are the people in the States.
- Senator Milliner says that the position is thc same in the States. I have conducted an investigation and have listed similar charges for sewerage facilities elsewhere. In Brisbane the annual cost is $30.
– That is not so.
– We will hear from Senator Milliner on this point very shortly. In Queanbeyan, I suppose Senator Milliner will know, the annual charge is $24.25. In Yass the annual cost is $14: Goulburn $15.40; Sydney $15; and in Adelaide, that wonderful capital of South Australia, the annual charge is only $8. That is the lowest charge on the list I have compiled. An excellent, sewerage service is provided for people in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not believe that there is cause for complaint about the charges. I think honourable senators should agree that the minimum charge requested of citizens should be the cost of operating the plant, without taking into consideration depreciation and interest charges. The minimum charge under any other system of rating would need to recover for the Commonwealth about $350,000 each year. 1 do nol think honourable senators would argue about that as being a minimum recovery.
Honourable senators opposite are trying to push the people of Canberra into a different rating system. They do nol want the flat rate charge. They want the charge assessed on the unimproved capital value of the land. They are saying that they would not wish to recover only $350,000 each year from thc citizens of Canberra. They want to use a rating scale which rises with the value of land as people pour into Canberra. They are proposing for the ACT a system which is greatly to the disadvantage of its citizens. The consideration they have given to this matter demonstrates as much wisdom as they demonstrated last night in attempting to explain which wool producers should have a vote in a referendum on the ban on the export of merino rams.
I believe, from the inquiries that I have made, that the general opposition from the people of the Australian Capital Territory lies in one or two particular factors. I am told that the basic objection lies in the fact that, supposedly, the people through their own Advisory Council have asked that the Government provide them with a profit and loss account or an income and expenditure account of the cost of running certain services in Canberra. I am told that the people of Canberra are quite prepared to pay the charges that are applicable to the services provided to their homes if those figures are made available to them.
I am informed also that in 1966 the former Minister for the Interior, the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), attempted to set out this matter for the Advisory Council. But I believe that he was requested to take into account the amount of excise paid on cigarettes, liquor, etc., in the ACT. If this were the case, it certainly would be an impossible task to obtain the information. There were reasons why those facts could not be given. I believe that the Government will need to provide for them some basis by which they will know what the costs are that are applicable for the services that are provided and what rates they should pay for those services.
I feel that, at this point, the Government is attempting to be fair. I believe that, in the calculation of the income that is to be gained from the tax proposed, Commonwealth departments concerned will make a notional transfer of this charge which is to be made so that all services in the Territory to an extent will be charged. That is the first point on which 1 believe objection is raised by the citizens of thc Territory. They feel that the Government has not provided them with sufficient information upon which they can make a proper judgment as to whether they are paying sufficient or insufficient rales. They feel that they have the right to look at the facts of this matter.
They are aware also of the peculiar system that applies in Canberra. I think that a major point is associated with the uncommon system that exists in Canberra in which a person originally acquires land on a 99-year lease. Here, the citizens say that they are required to go to a land auction and to pay a premium - or key money, as it has been called - for the benefit of exercising control over that land for a 99-year period. Quite a large sum can be paid to obtain that land. I have been a participant in this type of auction before today and I know that quite sizeable amounts are charged or paid for the benefit of having control of the land upon which a person is to build.
The citizens of Canberra say that at least some of the services provided must be taken into account in relation to the capital cost of the land. They say that the cost of the services provided to a particular block may well be covered in the original charge for or the capital investment in acquiring that block of land. Then, they claim that they are paying what is equivalent to a land rent of 5% of the unimproved value of that land. They point to the fact that in New South Wales this land rent figure is approximately 21% of the unimproved value of a piece of land. They feel that, with that differential, they are being charged something which is related to the cost of providing the very good services that they have to their homes. Those are the main objections, f do not find that any citizen of Canberra really will complain about it being a flat rate and certainly it should be said that the rate of $10 per annum is a better proposition than anything that the Opposition has put forward this evening.
I am in agreement wilh those who advocate that this motion to disallow the relevant Ordinance should be rejected. I believe that the basis upon which the Opposition has put forward this motion is entirely unacceptable. I do not doubt that the Opposition has not made a calculation as to how the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value of the land could be arrived at. 1 certainly have heard nobody on thc Opposition side attempt to say how this would work out. A calculation made on this point shows that it could mean anything from S2.10 to $50 per house block. The greatest anomaly that would occur - and surely the Opposition does not want it to occur - if that basis of calculation were adopted would be felt by those citizens who may have been among the foundation citizens of Canberra with a very pleasant residence at, say, Red Hill and who perhaps have retired. The highest value would be placed on the land that they hold. Perhaps these people would be the oldest citizens in their area. On this basis of calculation they would pay the greatest fax. I completely disagree with the proposition that the Australian Labor Party has put forward.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) [8.56J- Madam Acting Deputy President, the debate tonight has arisen out of a breakdown in public relations between the Department of the Interior and the people of Canberra, lt has been said that the Government has been asked to give a profit and loss account concerning its activities in Canberra. 1 wish to point out that, during the course of this debate. Government members have been very confused. Some of them have said that the Department of the Interior has given away loo much to the residents of Canberra. Others are saying that the rate that is being imposed upon the people of the Australian Capital Territory is a fair one. lt is my view that this debate itself has been a degrading experience. These local matters should never have had to reach the level of the Senate and the Australian Parliament. The fact that these matters have been brought to our attention illustrates that the people of Canberra have been left in the lurch by this Government. They have been left without local government and without an Advisory Council. The only way in which the people of Canberra can obtain some justice within their community is to bring this matter before the highest authority in the land - the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Here we are debating a matter that should have been settled on a different level altogether. This situation reflects badly on the Government. I think that the Government has let down not only itself but also all of the people of Australia. To think that here in this Senate today we have had to debate a piddling thing like this matter which should have been resolved at a different level!
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Fitzgerald) - Order!
– The Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott), who represents the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) in the Senate, criticised Senator Toohey because the honourable senator did not mention the various rating systems outlined in the motion. Does the Minister not understand the nature of our motion? We ask that the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968 be disallowed:
If the Minister cannot understand that motion, I know a number of people who could give him a short study course on how rates are raised throughout the rest of Australia. Senator Marriott fell into the same trap. The point that Senator Toohey made was that the people of Canberra, as outlined in our motion, should be able to enjoy the same rating system as applies to residents in other cities. The real issue involved is that the people in Canberra should have the same choice as other Australians have. We on this side have never argued that the people of Canberra should escape charges and rates altogether. 1 understand that the people are quite prepared to meet their responsibilities. But they should have the opportunity to know the details of how this levy is to be imposed. lt has been said that the Government should be given a good kick in the seat of government to remind it that the people of Canberra are human beings. The people of Canberra are being fleeced, and the Government is accentuating this fleecing. Everywhere one goes in Canberra the public servant is looked upon as the target for tonight. The prices that the people here are being asked to pay in the shops and for services are fantastic. The Government is doing nothing to give the people of Canberra a fair go. These people are not receiving higher salary rates than people elsewhere. They are being forced to come here from Melbourne, Sydney and other cities where the headquarters of the various departments were. They have had to lift up their belongings lock, stock and barrel and come to Canberra.
I admit that it is growing into a beautiful city. But these people themselves are making their contribution to its growth into a great city. They are forced to come here, and when they get here they are made the target for tonight in respect of all these impositions and charges. I believe that the Government should have a good look at this matter. This is a growing city. We are very pleased to have diplomats from all over the world come here and heap praise on the Government for the wonderful job it is doing.
– Hear, hear!
– That is quite right. But the Government should also bear its full share of the cost of making Canberra a beautiful city. It should realise that these costs should not necessarily be met immediately by the residents of Canberra. That is what the Government is trying to do. It is trying to work out a system under which it can extract as much as possible from the present residents of Canberra. It is trying to finance immediately a water scheme that will provide for the next two or three generations of people in Canberra, lt is trying to capitalise the scheme in a hurry, lt has set this rate which the people of Canberra have never had properly explained to them. The people of Canberra have been treated in a very cavalier manner by the Government over this whole matter.
Lei us look at the story behind this motion. Mr Pead, who was the Chairman of the Advisory Council, initiated the move for this matter to come before the Senate. He felt that there was no redress other than for it to be debated here. The people of Canberra have not a senator. They have no representation in the Senate. But it was felt that the Ordinance that would bring this levy into effect could be debated here and have a chance of being disallowed.
– The Opposition has not moved for its disallowance; it has moved to amend it.
– We have moved for its disallowance and we have given the grounds. We have moved for ils disallowance because we believe that the people of Canberra have been treated in a very harsh way, in a bureaucratic way and in an autocratic way. Had the Government handled this matter properly, had it been as generous in its deeds as its supporters have been in this debate and had it explained to the people of Canberra why this levy was necessary, how it was being imposed on them and the whole story in relation to it, perhaps it would never have reached the stage that it has reached at the present time. But the Government has not done that. It stands condemned for that reason.
It has been said quite rightly that the Department of the Interior is taking a big brother outlook towards the people of Canberra. It is saying to them: ‘This is our policy. You .take it, you accept it, or else. This will be done. No matter what your opinions are, it will prevail’. That is not good enough, because these people have not any redress. If they were to demonstrate they could be sacked. There is very strong discipline in the Public Service. A large proportion of the people who live in Canberra are members of the Public Service. So they cannot do what the university students, the transport workers or other people can do, namely, go out and demonstrate or go on strike.
– You endorse people and then you sack them.
– I endorse people who stand up for their democratic rights at any cost. The ordinary man in this community has only two commodities to sell - his brains and his brawn. He should be able to expect as good a price for those commodities as the man who is exploiting the people when be overcharges them in a shop in Canberra or when he overcharges them for rent or any of the other services that are building up quickly, snowballing and mushrooming in Canberra. The people here are being fleeced. There is no doubt about that. But the Government is doing nothing to protect the people whom it has forced to come to Canberra.
– You are hurting our feelings.
– That is not so. I am not hurting your feelings. This is going off your back like water off the back of a muscovy. It has been well said that democracy in Canberra is for others. Democracy is supposed to be dispensed here, but it is not for the people who live here.
It is on those grounds that I believe that this matter should be investigated thoroughly to see where the public relations have broken down, why the people of Canberra feel so upset and frustrated about this charge that is being imposed on them and how to mend the fences that have been broken down between the administration in the Department of the Interior and the public of Canberra as a result of the resignation of the members of the Advisory Council. It is not good enough that a city of more than 100,000 people should have so little direct contact with the Government.
These people are being governed; yet they have no contact with the Government.
Earlier in the debate someone said that there should be no taxation without representation. That applies particularly at the local government level because local government goes right into the homes of the people. It is the most expensive charge on the wages or salaries of the people. These people, after paying competitive prices for their blocks of land, are being charged land rent and water and other rates, and now this charge is to be imposed on top of those charges without any explanation being given to the people. That is not good enough. I believe that this matter could and will be resolved by the disallowance of this Ordinance and by a proper investigation being made of the whole matter of the method of raising revenue to service the cost of supplying water and sewerage facilities to the residents of Canberra.
There is no doubt that, because of the overall design of Canberra, the trees, nature strips, gardens and the like need a lot of water. But, fortunately, there are good catchment areas in the vicinity. Then it is a matter of the services being supplied to the people for a charge which will service the outlay but which will also make the people feel that they are receiving value for their money. The core of the whole argument seems to be the cavalier way in which this charge has been imposed and the way in which the Minister has evaded giving a proper explanation to the people of Canberra. The efforts on the part of ratepayers and the residents of this city have been continually frustrated. The ratepayers have been frustrated in their attempts to have their voices heard and in trying to achieve some measure of participation. They have been frustrated by not knowing the reasons for the imposition of the charges. I believe that this is a grave reflection on the Government and, for that reason, I believe that the Ordinance should be disallowed. A different method of approach should be taken by the Government to impose a sewerage charge. We would find that if more diplomacy and better public relations were introduced between the Government and the people, debates such as this would never have to be repeated in this Commonwealth Parliament. I support the disallowance of the Ordinance.
– I am pleased to come into this debate at this time. When listening to Senator Toohey I was quite impressed with his arguments; he seemed to be very reasonable. But as I have listened to the last two speakers it has seemed to me that we are now getting the debate into its true colour, lt is definitely a political debate. Senator Georges chose to bring in politics and Senator O’Byrne has challenged the Government on every hand - for being autocratic, bureaucratic and everything that he thinks it should not be. I venture to say that the Government has been most reasonable in the way that it has handled the people of Canberra in taxing them, and quite rightly so. Why should they not pay a sewerage tax as does everybody else in the Commonwealth? 1 should like to set to work to show how reasonable the Government has been.
I have here a list of letters that have been going backwards and forwards between the Advisory Council and either the Minister for the Interior or the head of his Department over a period of years. Thc letters go right back to June 1966 when the then Minister. Mr Anthony, wrote to the Chairman of the Council’ setting out the proposed scale and asking for the comments of the Advisory Council. I shall read what he said in a moment. The next letter, dated 29t.h August, was from Mr Pead requesting information on behalf of the Committee of the Advisory Council. The next letter, dated 3rd November 1966, was to Mr Pead from Mr Douglas, First Assistant Secretary of the Department, forwarding the replies furnished in respect of the matters raised by the Committee. The next letter, dated 10th July 1967. was from Mr Douglas to Mr Pead requesting that the Council complete its consideration of the Minister’s proposals and furnish its views as soon as possible. The fifth letter, dated 13th March 1968, was from the Minister to the Chairman of the Council pointing out the length of time that the Council had taken to forward its advice. The Council replied to that letter. The sixth letter, dated 5th December 1968, was from the Minister to the Chairman of the Council indicating an intention to proceed with the introduction of the sewerage rate. With that letter was an explanatory statement as to the provisions of the proposed Ordinance which had been forwarded to the Advisory Council with the Minister’s letter of 5th December 1968.
In order to prove that these letters were most reasonable I should like to read some parts of them. The first letter was from the Minister, Mr Anthony, who wrote:
In accordance with this decision I am having a review made of general rales, but in order 10 give adequate warning. I would not apply any changes before 1967. Accordingly the current basis for rating will continue at least for the calendar year 1966.
The Council may be assured that before any new scale of rating is introduced, full details of the proposals will be submitted to the Council for its views.
However, in keeping wilh the Government’s decision, early action must be taken on the financial arrangements for the provision of sewerage services. As Council knows, Canberra residents do not pay a sewerage rate or sewerage charge, as residents of other places are required to do. For the year ended 30lh June 1965 the cost of sewerage services in Canberra was approximately S500.000-
He then gave a detailed list of what the costs were. The letter continued: lt is reasonable at this stage that the Commonwealth should recover al least the cost of salaries and administration, the costs associated wilh the treatment works and the maintenance of the mains and reticulation system. For the financial year ended on 30th June 1965 these totalled $250,000 and for the vear ending 30th lune 1966 are estimated to be $286,000. lt is planned that a scale of charges be introduced to produce sufficient revenue to meet these costs.
He then went on to give the comparative rates, which we have heard already from the Minister, of what was done in the various States. Later he staled:
So far as Canberra is concerned. I consider that, a direct charge for sewerage services is preferable to a rate in the dollar based on land values. Wilh the rapid development of the City values do vary considerably over relatively short periods and this would create anomalies.
By 30th June 1966 there will be in Canberra 7,100 departmental houses, 2,018 departmental flats, 15,530 other residential leases and 720 business leases, a total of 25,368.
In addition, there are other users such as the Commonwealth itself in respect of its public buildings and offices, and statutory authorities, against whom sewerage services would also be charged.
He then detailed exactly what his plans were. Notwithstanding that the Opposition has said that the people of Canberra and the Advisory Council were not told, it is all here in detail.
– Could the honourable senator quote the letter written to Mr Douglas?
– I shall do so in a moment. The last paragraph of Mr Anthony’s letter stated:
It will be necessary to have new legislation prepared to give effect to these proposals, but before I put this in train, 1 should be glad of any comments the Advisory Council may care to make.
The letter to Mr Douglas from Mr Pead asked twelve questions. I do not think it necessary to read them all.
– Give us a digest of the letter.
– I think it is too long.
– Have it incorporated in Hansard.
– If the honourable senator would like that I shall do so. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate in Hansard the letter dated 29th August 1966 to Mr Douglas from Mr Pead. 29th August 1966
Mr C. Douglas, First Assistant Secretary, A.C.T. Services Division, Department of the Interior, CANBERRA, A.C.T.
Dear Mr Douglas,
On 9th June 1966 the Minister informed Council of a proposal for the levying of a sewerage rate in the Australian Capital Territory. At its meeting on 20th June, Council considered the Minister’s letter and elected a committee of five to investigate and report on the proposal.
The committee met on 25th August and, because of the lack of precise information on a number of aspects of rating in the Territory, would be grateful if you could provide answers to the following questions:
Whilst the Committee has confined its recommendations to water rating, it feels obliged to state that it had some difficulty in dealing with this aspect in isolation. It is of the opinion that before any further review of water rates, as such, is undertaken, the general question of land rents, general rating and the rating of Commercial, Industrial and Business Establishments should be closely examined. The Committee found it difficult to divorce consideration of the revenue being received in particular, from land sales and land rents, which is a direct charge against house-holders and which provides surplus of receipts over expenditure against the deficit currently being highlighted for the supply of water.’
(i) What is the formula for general rating?
Yours sincerely, J. H. PEAD
Then the letter dated 3rd November 1966 to Mr Pead from Mr Douglas states: 1 am sorry I have taken so long to reply to your letter; however I hope you will appreciate that some of the information you sought required considerable investigation and detailed study.
I attach a paper containing the questions you submitted to me as well as such answers as we are able to provide at the present time. You will see from the attachment that we have not been able to give you all the information you sought. On the other hand, I hope it will be sufficient for the Committee to proceed with ils investigation of the Minister’s proposal.
The Senate may be interested to know what questions were not answered because they were not relevant to the sewerage Ordinance. The first question which was not fully answered related to the split up under each head of expenditure of the general rates, which did not include water and sewerage, in respect of the capital operations, the tentative figures for maintenance only being available. The second question related to details of revenue received in the Australian Capital Territory by the Commonwealth in respect of sales tax. petrol tax, excise, income lax and so on. Again that had nothing to do wilh the sewerage tax. Therefore, there was no reason why, as Mr Douglas so politely said, they could not proceed with their investigations. The questions and answers are all available if honourable senators want to see them. Every one of the twelve questions was answered adequately. Then on IOth July 1967 Mr Douglas wrote to Mr Pead and said:
Von will recall that on 9 June 1966 the Minister wrote to Council informing them that he proposed to institute a sewerage charge for the year 1967. Detailed information in support of the proposal was given in the letter.
On 29th August 1966 you wrote on behalf of the Council to the Minister seeking additional information on twelve points. A reply giving this information was sent to the Council on 3 November 1966.
Whilst I am aware that the Council decided to refer this mutter to a special sub-committee which has apparently not been able to devote much recent attention lo its task, I feel obliged lo ask that the Council be good enough to expedite its handling of the matter. The Minister’s letter proposed that the charge be levied with effect from the beginning of 1967 and already the passage of time has made it impracticable to achieve that objective.
– I am reading it out. so it will be in Hansard. It ends:
To enable the lawmaking process to be completed in time for the introduction of the charge from the start of 1968. t would be grateful if Council would complete iri consideration of the Minister’s proposals and forward its views to him ai soon as possible. lt is all extremely polite and co-operative. Here is another extract from a letter to the Chairman of the Advisory Council.
On the other hand, there have been cases when Council’s advice and assistance have been sought, but have not been forthcoming. For example, in June 1966 the then Minister sought the advice of Council on certain sewerage charges which he hoped to be able to apply from the beginning of 1967. Now twenty months later I am still waiting for Council lo submit its comments lo me . . .
Twenty months later. It continues: . . although I do understand that (he proposals have been the subject of some correspondence between Council and my Department. While there will undoubtedly be some who might applaud Council’s reluctance to recommend the imposition of additional charges on the people of Canberra, (he result has been a delay of at least 2 years in the collection of sewerage charges, with a consequential loss of revenue for the Territory’s administration. 1 do not feel that the other letters are pertinent. They continue this argument with the Council, which said that it did not have the information asked for and that was why it had not given its advice. The whole point of my argument is that the Opposition has repeatedly told us that the Government has been overbearing, that it has not given advice to the people of Canberra through the Advisory Council. These letters prove that every possible piece of advice was given and every request by the Council was met.
We know that the principle of collecting charges on this basis is not new because, in I960, similar legislation was enacted wilh respect to water charges. At that time, no argument was advanced by the Advisory Council or the Australian Labor Parly for a disallowance. The legislation was accepted as quite the proper thing. Al that time, the charge for excess water was doubled. Again, in 1966, there was an investigation by a committee of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, after which the Advisory Council recommended to the then Minister that the water rates be doubled. There was no attempt at any movement for disallowance of regulations by the Opposition on either of those occasions. 1 maintain that the present move by the Opposition is completely political. Because there is to be an election this year, the members of the Opposition, along with other people in Canberra, are endeavouring to mislead the people of Canberra. I have read many letters in the Canberra newspaper giving completely distorted views and distorted information about what this tax is for. People have been told, as Senator Georges said tonight, thai the tax is for every lavatory in each house. That is not so.
– I did not say that at all.
– The honourable senator did, and the Minister corrected him. Senator Georges said that one had to pay for each lavatory in the house, and that is not so.
– I did not say that.
– We shall look in Hansard, but I remember his saying it.
– You pay in Brisbane.
– -lt is quite reasonable that, people should pay a tax for this service. I say that this motion is moved by the Opposition out of a desire to mislead the people and to gain political capital. Senator O’Byrne spoke about what the public servan! has to do in the Australian Capital Territory. I maintain that he was trying to woo the votes of the public servants: he was trying to stir up strife amongst the public servants. I have read every letter that has passed between the Advisory Councli and the Government. All have been in most reasonable terms, asking for the Council’s co-operation. This attempt to have thi Ordinance disallowed at this particular time is nothing but a pure political move. I do not think there is any need to go any further but I think that the way in which tinAdvisory Council has behaved recently has caused the position where the Government has had to act without the co-operation of the Council despite the fact that it has asked for that co-operation. I maintain that the Advisory Council has been unreasonable. Its action in resigning is a very weak way out of the position. Obviously anybody who has something to light, lor stays in office to fight; he doc. not run away. If the members of the Council really have something to fight for, it would have been better to stay in office and fight instead of bringing the matter before this national forum in order to gain political capital. 1 oppose the motion.
– We have before us a proposition that has been debated at great length, and I do not propose to spend a great deal of time on it. We are debating a motion moved by Senator Toohey for the disallowance of an Ordinance that has been brought down by the Government in the interests of the health and convenience of the people of Canberra. The comparisons that 1 have heard made seem to be completely misleading and false, particularly the case that has been presented that there is something wrong with the Ordinance because the people of Canberra had not been properly consulted and the acceptance of thc proposed motion will correct that situation.
I have read the motion very carefully and in my view the question whether or not the people of Canberra have been or should have been consulted is beside the point because there is nothing in the motion that suggests that they should be consulted. The motion suggests that the Ordinance should be disallowed on the ground that the necessary revenue - it concedes that the revenue which the Ordinance proposes to raise is necessary - should be collected by means of a rate based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value of the land concerned. For the life of me. I cannot read into it any great reform that will set up any type of local council in the Australian Capital Territory that will be in the interests of the people of Canberra. I can read into the motion nothing that suggests that any different, means of raising the necessary revenue would be in any way more democratic than the method proposed by the Government in the Ordinance. I see nothing in the motion which in any way suggests that there should be an alteration in the administration of the Australian Capital Territory. Therefore, why spend so much time in this discussion implying that the mere carrying of the motion for the disallowance of the method proposed for raising the money will in some way give the people of Canberra some great measure of responsibility in their own right to make the subsequent decision as to which of the three methods mentioned in the motion should be adopted? The motion mentions no machinery whereby they can select for themselves the method whereby the necessary charge mentioned in both the Ordinance and the motion is to be applied.
Let us have a look at the propositions contained in the Ordinance and in the motion for disallowance. The Ordinance proposes a flat rate of charge. It is similar lo the charge levied on a person who finds it necessary to use a public convenience which has a 5c slot on the door. The door itself does not record whether he is rich or poor, Jew, gentile, or anything else. The charge is at a flat rate, whether the person concerned be Senator Georges, a lesser person in the community, or a more highly placed person. So the flat rate charge for a service such as this is not a new idea. In fact, it has been found to be the only practicable, businesslike way in which to collect such a charge in a public convenience. It is said to be unjust if it is applied to a whole city.
It has not been expressly stated in the motion, but it is implied by argument that the methods proposed in the motion will be far more just and equitable, that by their adoption it will be possible to select the rich from the poor, those who can afford to pay and those who cannot, lt has been suggested that if the charge is based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value, or the unimproved capital value of the land, it will be possible to impose a discriminatory rate based on the capacity of people to pay.
– And will it not?
– I ask the honourable senator to curb his impatience. I am coming to that. He needs education on this subject, and I will help him. In the city of Melbourne, of course, we do not know what we pay for the sewerage service provided for the section of the community that has the benefit of it. The people whose homes are not connected to the sewerage system do know what they have to pay because they pay a pan charge imposed by their local council. People who do not have the benefit of a sewerage service are charged a specific amount but there is no specific amount levied on those who do have this service. The charge for the sewerage service is included in the Board of Works rates and the people are assessed by means of one of the mystical valuation systems.
How do the valuers arrive at these valuations? The Board of Works, by means of government enactment, has the right to levy a rate based on the local council rate. When the local council rate rises so too does the Board of Works rate. When one tries to determine the method by which the local council assesses the rateable value of a property one finds mystery heaped upon mystery. I remember that in the old days we of the Labor Party - the good old Labor Party as it was then - thought there was a tremendous injustice in imposing rates on the improved capital value. The owner of a big hotel in the busiest street in the city certainly paid more money because his hotel covered a greater area of land but he was charged at the same rate as that applying to a suburban cottage. We said that this was unfair. It was even unfair so far as the owner of the suburban cottage was concerned. A man who worked on his property and improved it found that when the local council valuer looked at it he compared it with a dilapidated place next door. If a man was a good citizen and improved the appearance of his property, even though he had no more money than the careless fellow next door, up went his rates because they were assessed on the improved capital value. The home of the good citizen had a greater value than the property next door, ls that a fair, equitable or just system?
Therefore the Labor movement in the city of Melbourne conducted a great campaign aimed at catching the land speculators. That was the main theme of the campaign. Then we got the rates assessed on the unimproved capital value of land. Those people who bought land as a speculation to hold it for 15 years and sell at a profit then had to pay rates and taxes on that land. We thought that this was a grand way of bringing justice to all. But how has this worked out? Take the case of an elderly couple who built a weatherboard cottage 40 years ago. Standing alongside their 40-year-old somewhat depreciated property, particularly if they were subject to a means test or were trying to live on superannuation, was a new brick veneer home. The elderly couple could no longer even maintain their property in a reasonable state of repair but their rates were equivalent to those for the new home recently built by somebody who was obviously in a much better position to pay rates. Yet the rates were supposed to be based on the unimproved capital value of the land. In that case when the owner received a rate notice and found that there was an identical property 100 yards up the street and that there was a difference in the assessment of SIO, Si 5 or $20. naturally he would go to the council. Then the council sent out the genius who was the valuer. He had a look at the two properties and said: “You are surrounded by better properties and that is the reason.’ But the rate was supposed to be based on the unimproved capital value. What is this mysterious system of valuation of the unimproved capital value of land?
I suppose that the unimproved capital value of land in Canberra could be argued as being the value of thc land before it was decided to establish the Australian Capital Territory in this area. On that basis anyone would realise that a suburban block of land would be worth about $1. Should that be the unimproved capital value or how is it to be determined? We are told that when land is asasessed at the unimproved capital value, that roads and footpaths are provided. Of course, in the suburbs of Melbourne one pays for roads and footpaths. Therefore I do not think the land is unimproved. I think those things are improvements which you pay for yourself and that the unimproved capital value of the land is then assessed on the basis of including the actual improvements that you yourself have paid for. If one analyses this one realises there is no other method. I could not argue with a council valuator on this matter because 1 realise I would not be paying any rates at all. We would get back to what the land was worth at the time when the Aboriginals were in control and we were not even thought of.
These are the propositions that are supposed to be fair, equitable and just. People come along and say: ‘You have a sewerage service. Do you want it or not? Would you prefer to go back to the old system of disposing of household refuse? Would you prefer to dig a hole in the back yard once a fortnight or is it worth $10 a year to have this service?’ That is what is thought of as being a flat rate.
Mr President. I like this idea of a flat rate. I wish that I, living in the city of Melbourne, knew precisely what proportion of my Board of Works rates is collected for sewerage because that body only provides sewerage and water services. But if we accept the proposition that it should be $10 for water services and $10 for sewerage services then I am paying a lot more than $20. Perhaps this flat rate idea was an accident but I believe it is a good idea for a service. Why do we call this a tax or a rate when it relates to a definite service which can be seen and analysed and when we know what we are getting? We know the value of a sewerage service to our own health and to the health of our families; we know how important it is in the prevention of typhoid and other diseases which break out in unsewered areas. Are we not talking about a charge for a service rendered? If so, why should the charge be associated in any way with the facade of the house on a particular property, the size of the dwelling or any other things which are completely unrelated to the service provided? lt is those reasons J have mentioned, Mr President, that prompted me to be in favour of this Ordinance produced by (he Government. 1 have not been influenced by the complications introduced in the debate on this charge. I think a great many of the arguments introduced into this debate are irrelevant because they are not covered by the Ordinance or by the resolution.
The people in this community of Canberra are reaching a stage at which many of these types of community issues should be in the hands of an organisation of their own to help in making the decisions. 1 do not suggest that this point is completely relevant to the debate on this Ordinance. If the citizens of Canberra would prefer to pay for all the costs associated with the provision of this service then 1 would say that they had an absolute right to decide the amount of the charge, how it should be administered and so on. But if this service has been provided for the people of this area at a cost far in excess of what they are being asked to pay, then if 1 know human nature they will be very satisfied to say: ‘If we could get out of this with such a wonderfully cheap service and if the Commonwealth is prepared to subsidise it because this is the Australian Capital Territory and the seat of Parliament, we should noi demand quite too vociferously the democratic right of paying for it ourselves’. If the people of Canberra want to pay all the costs 1 would be the last one to discourage them. 1 would be prepared to say: You have the right to pay the lot and if you do so you also have the absolute right of sole management. You have the sole voice to say how the money should be raised and where it should go, provided that the sewerage system does not interfere with the health of those people who are not resident in Canberra or that it does not affect other relevant matters’.
But that is not the case. This proposed charge will not raise all the money necessary to cover the tola! cost. This is conceded even in the resolution moved by Senator Toohey because it refers to the necessary revenue. That is an admission, of course, that the charge to be imposed under this Ordinance is completely justified and completely necessary. This money should be raised in some manner or another. As the motion contains nothing to suggest that the people of Canberra should be given a say, just as the Ordinance contains no such suggestion - and that is the only relevant argument that has been produced - this motion becomes purely a political stunt and a sham fight. The Opposition says that it is opposed to the people having to pay the charge but the motion admits that the charge has to bc paid. The motion contains a lot of hocus-pocus lo the effect that the charge should bc levied in a different manner. I think the Ordinance is clear and provides for a simple and honest way of levying the charge. I hope the Senate will give its approval to the Ordinance.
Senator LAUCKE (South Australia) [9.4 lj - I think that Senator Toohey, who moved the motion for the disallowance of (he Ordinance, had in his mind that such disallowance would mean that the cost of sewerage services to Canberra residents would be brought below the figures that are proposed to be charged.
– From the wording of the motton ) took it that the honour able senator did. 1 will repeat the motion. Senator Toohey moved:
That (he Sewerage Kates Ordinance 196S be disallowed, on the ground that the necessary revenue should be collected by means of a rate based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value of the land concerned.
Under the Ordinance we have a very clear cut method of determining a certain charge for a specific service. If this be an equitable and reasonable charge, why have a different method of assessment or one which could cost more to administer? I believe the residents of Canberra have to realise how very fortunate they are to be offered a complete sewerage service for $10 per year per residence; for businessmen to have imposed on them a charge of $10 per year for commercial premises plus SIO for each flushing unit in excess of two; and for schools and churches to be levied $10 per year plus $5 for each flushing unit in excess of two. The residents should compare the proposed charges wilh the charges which apply in every Australian capital city and in towns all over the nation. This is indeed a very generous offer and a very generous provision by the Government to ensure that services are made available at an absolute minimum cost to the recipient.
The cost of maintenance and operation of the sewerage treatment works, the maintenance of mains and reticulation plus administrative expenses in Canberra last year totalled $341,954. But the entire cost of providing sewerage for the city and its environs was $858,023. All that is sought to be returned through this charge is $341,954. So under the present proposal the residents will receive quite a large subsidy on their sewerage services. I think this is the most generous charge to be found anywhere in Australia. When I heard Senator Toohey say that there has been an almost united objection to the proposal incorporated in the Sewerage Rates Ordinance, I thought that there must be a very definite lack of public relations as between the residents and the authorities who determine charges such as these. I think the residents of Canberra have to understand clearly that these things which are being provided for them are being provided at a cost far below that which normally applies in other parts of Australia. They have to realise that every house in Canberra has sewerage connected to it. immediately on construction - a situation which does not apply in any other Australian capital city. They have to realise that the Government has given concessions to them so that the development of this magnificent capital city of Australia can proceed. 1 refer to the cost of water supply and note that the cost for 75,000 gallons of water is $1.0. In my home city the cost is $18.75 for the same amount of water. Excess water here costs 20c per 1,000 gallons but costs 30c per 1,000 gallons in Adelaide. These are typical concessions that are given in the development stage of Canberra.
I do not for one moment object to this situation. I refer to these matters to indicate that, when a very definite objection is expressed to what is said to be the imposition of a heavy tax, it is necessary to look further and to see what applies in other parts of Australia. I fail to see how the system proposed by the honourable senator - -the levying of a rate based on unimproved or improved values - could be adopted with any advantage to the ratepayer.
– lt would cost nearly as much to value all the properties in Canberra as it would to provide the sewerage service.
– That is so. The valuations and the cost of administration thereafter would add very considerably to the overall cost. Under the Ordinance we have a very clear cut, direct and definite means of returning approximately half the cost of providing the sewerage service.
– Without any connecting fee.
– That is so. All in all I regard the proposals as being extremely generous. They must surely be acceptable to residents, to businessmen and to public authorities. Any person who compares, who reflects or who makes a real assessment of basic liabilities will accept with very great gratitude something that is quite unique in that no similar facility is offered anywhere else in this nation. I warmly support the Ordinance and I strongly oppose the motion for its disallowance.
Senator WILKINSON (Western Australia) [9.491 - I always enjoy following Senator Laucke in a debute because I think he makes a quiet and reasoned contribution to debates in the House. Unfortunately Senator Laucke, like every other honourable senator, is only a visitor to this capital city. None of us is a resident of Canberra. We have the best of the world that we find in Canberra and we have the best of our own home city or town.
– That is right. We usually come off best.
– I appreciate the interjection. The reason why we come off best is not always because of logic but because of numbers. We on this side usually can state a case and our logic is unanswerable. I really deplore, as do other honourable senators on this side of the chamber, including members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, the fact that it should be necessary to bring on a debate of this nature concerning the Australian Capital Territory when we have other impol t;ints matters to discuss, particularly when we are on the air. Quite conceivably the people of Australia could feel that the only thing about which we in the Parliament are concerned is a matter of no moment to Australia as a whole. However, apart from one honourable member in another place who represents the people of the Australian Capital Territory, I believe that the Senate is practically the only avenue open to the people of Canberra to express their views because they can approach senators and ask them to state their case. lt is important to point out at this stage that honourabe senators on the Government side have criticised us and have said that this debate is political and is being used as a political weapon, but I think it should be remembered that the eight members of the Advisory Council who resigned because of this sewerage levy comprised three members of the Australian Labor Party, two members of the Liberal Party–
– I think they have been disowned now.
– I do not think so. The remaining three are independents. The Council represented a cross-section of the community. As far as I know, there have not been any members of the Democratic Labor Party on the Advisory Council but if there were I am sure that they, as residents of Canberra, would appreciate the problem much better than we do who merely fly in and out of this city.
J shall say a few words about Canberra itself and about the way in which we should be looking at the situation in this year 1969. When Canberra was established it was intended to be the show window of Australia to other countries of the world, through the diplomatic corps, so that they would know that this was our national capital. For that reason everything possible was done to make it a show window. I do not know how many trees have been planted to beautify Canberra but it is more than two million. Those trees have been planted because this is the national capital of Australia, not because of the people living here. In the early days - this applied for a number of years - hedges were planted in the front of all houses because front fences were not allowed. The hedges and what are called here the nature strips were cut by employees of the Department of the Interior. Why was this done? It was done so that members of the diplomatic corps could see that this was the national capital of Australia of which we were proud.
Let us not forget that in those early days Canberra was remote from the centres of civilisation in Australia. There were not the Boeing 727 or the DC9 aircraft. There were none of the services that we have now. This was a remote capital city. Members of Parliament remained in Canberra for the whole sessional period. No-one could go back to Perth, for example, lt just could not be done. Now we go back to Perth every weekend. That is why I said that we are in a different position from that of the residents of Canberra. We do not live here. We come here only while the Parliament is sitting. In those early days it was necessary for Canberra to be controlled and administered by the Department of the Interior and the Advisory Council was set up to advise the Minister on local affairs. But the Advisory Council cannot act in the same way as can an ordinary local government authority, lt seems to me that the time has come - in fact I believe that the time is long past - when Canberra should be administered by a tocal government authority so that the people of this city would have a direct say in what goes on in it.
– The Opposition’s motion will not achieve that.
– The motion seeks lo provide a more equitable basis for rating purposes. Even in his own speech the honourable senator could not claim that the basis was equitable. In our motion we state that the revenue should be collected by means of a rate based on the assessed annual val’ue, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value of the land concerned. You have only to fix a basis and you can introduce any rate. The charge would vary depending on the assessed annual value or the other two bases that have been mentioned. This is not the time to introduce a proposal relating to the establishment of a local government authority but if a local1 government authority were controlling Canberra the kind of levy we are now discussing would be handled automatically by that body.
A point that has been missed in all the contributions that have been made so far on the Opposition’s motion is that at no stage has the Opposition admitted that the amounts stated relating to revenue and expenditure are a true indication of the revenue required to meet the expenditure.
– You think it should be more?
– We consider that it should be less, or at least I do after having spoken to former members of the Advisory Council on this matter. They have produced a report - it is not one of the White Papers which were produced at the last minute last night and do not mean anything, although it is typed on white paper - which has been distributed to Government members to show the true position. In the report they have pointed out that the sewerage rate is paid when a person buys his land. That is part of the existing arrangement. Now the Government seeks to impose something additional. The Council says that if anything extra is required a basis for assessment should be decided upon first and then a rate struck which is equitable to all members of the Canberra community. That aspect has been ignored so far in the debate. Some people have rushed in and said that our proposal is political and others have said that we are trying to do something which we are not trying to do. We are trying to introduce something which is fair to the people of Canberra.
The only thing in our proposal in relation to which we could be criticised - I agree with Senator Little on this - is that we have not stated, and 1 do not see how we could have done so. that a local government authority should be set up but perhaps that is a matter which could be brought forward in another place as a private member’s bill. That could not be clone here. I do not think anybody in Canberra is objecting to a fair assessment of what is required to meet the costs. The people of Canberra are prepared to pay. providing the charge is distributed amongst the community on an equitable basis.
I believe that the motion we have put forward is perfectly reasonable. We of the Opposition have had many inquiries from the citizens of Canberra about this matter. I hope that honourable senators opposite have had similar inquiries. The people of Canberra believe that the proper and reasonable way to meet the cost of sewerage services in their city is as set out in our motion. Although honourable senators opposite and senators of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have voiced opposition to the motion, I hope that there are amongst them some who will concede its value. Senator Webster is shaking his head. I am not sure whether he is rattling it or whether he is indicating that he is joining us. I believe that our motion is worth while and T hope that the Senate will be prepared to support it.
– Senator Toohey has moved:
That the Sewerage Rates Ordinance 1968, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 30 of 1968. and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1965, be disallowed, on the ground that the necessary revenue should be collected by means of a rate based on the assessed annual value, the improved capital value or unimproved capital value of the land concerned.
I suggest at the outset that the wording of the motion indicates the inherent conserva tism of the Australian Labor Party and its predilection for concepts which have long gone out of date, or if they have not, have ceased to have the validity they had when introduced. It is true that throughout the greater part of Australia in terms of valuations and the basis of valuations for rating purposes regard is had to the net annual value of land, the improved capital value or the unimproved capital value, but it is rapidly becoming a fact that in Australia, where so many people actually own and occupy their premises, the system which was based upon essentially a tenancy situation no longer has applicability. I have mentioned that only as an illustration of what I regard as a very conservative streak in the Labor Party in this and other matters.
I think it is important, in view of much that has been said, to look at the provisions of the Ordinance that the Opposition seeks to have disallowed. A lot has been said about the Ordinance being difficult to read, but I suggest that any honourable senator who takes care in reading through its provisions will find them perfectly clear. Section 7 provides:
Sewerage rates are imposed, in accordance with this Ordinance, in each rating year in respect of each parcel of rateable land.
Section 5 defines rateable land in effect as being land or buildings. In section 6 land and buildings are divided into five classes. A different rate is payable in respect of each class. Class 1 consists of single houses or land or buildings in respect of which no sewerage services at all are supplied. An annual fee of $10 is payable in respect of that class. It does not matter how many toilets are in a house in that class. The amount remains at $10. Class 2 concerns land on which there is a building containing flats or residential units to which sewerage services are provided, and which is leased from the Commonwealth. A flat amount of $10 is payable each year in respect of each flat or unit, irrespective of the number of toilets.
Class 3 deals with parcels of rateable land on which there is a Commonwealth owned residential building. Again the flat rate is $10 a year, on the same basis. Class 4 types of land relate to schools, churches, hospitals and benevolent institutions. In this case a slightly different rate is paid. A flat rate of $10 is payable each year for one or two sanitary fixtures in an institution, school or hospital. If there are more than two sanitary fixtures, for each one an amount is calculated at the rate of $5 a unit. Class 5 embraces all other land or buildings not covered by the previous four classes. A basic amount of $10 is payable for each two sanitary fixtures and thereafter, an amount of $10 for each sanitary fixture in excess of the first two.
The provisions are perfectly clear. As 1 see it, the only point which the Opposition can properly make - and some honourable senators opposite have valiantly endeavoured to make it - is that a new concept is introduced. 1 suggest to honourable senators opposite that the speeches they have made evidence that they are seeking to make political propaganda. That is fairly clearly demonstrated because this is not the first time that this type of service fee has been imposed within the Australian Capital Territory, lt was imposed in I960 by the Water Rates Ordinance of 1959. I will quote part of it merely to illustrate the point, lt is Ordinance No. 19 of 1959. Section 7 provides:
The amount of rales in respect of water to bc supplied in a rating year from a system of works to a parcel of land on which a building containing residential Hats is erected is an amount of five pounds for each flat in the building and that amount becomes due at the commencement of the rating yeal.
Of course, the Ordinance has been amended since that date lo provide for extra amounts to be paid for excess water used, but basically the principle contained in thai Ordinance is the same as that which is given expression in the Sewerage Rates Ordinance. There is nothing new about the Sewerage Rates Ordinance. The Labor Party did not seek to have the Water Rates Ordinance o! 1959 disallowed, nor did it seek io have disallowed any of the amending Ordinances passed since that date. I can only suppose that the basic reason why the Labor Party is seeking to have the Sewerage Rates Ordinance disallowed is that it desires to give aid te the current member for the Australian Capital Territory, who is a member of the Labor Party and who at present carries its endorsement for the coming election. Perhaps it is a desire to help him in some way.
– He had a rough passage though.
– A very rough passage. We do not know what it will be like in the future.
– You must have a very sinister mind.
– I do not think it is at all sinister to read the newspapers and to appreciate what the Labor Party makes evident to the whole of Australia - the divisions and difficulties within its ranks, lt is very tempting to be led into a digression, but I will endeavour not to be diverted. The point I make is that a novel concept is involved in the Sewerage Rates Ordinance, but not a new concept in terms of services provided in the ACT and the charges made for them.
– Are you saying that in I960 the pedestal tax was applied?
– I said- if Senator Bishop will let me answer his question - that the principle of applying a sum of money as the charge to a flat or unit in respect of which a service is providedwhich is the principle underlying the Sewerage Rates Ordinance - was basically and essentially the same as the. principle of the Water Rates Ordinance of 1959.
– If you say that, you are telling lies.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Bishop. >ou must not say that the honourable senator is telling lies.
– I withdraw the interjection.
– I recognise that the power which the Senate has to disallow ordinances made in the ACT and the power lo disallow regulations or other ordinances made in respect of Australia is a valuable power which has to be preserved and recognised as having intrinsic merit and should not be destroyed in any way. But if the Senate is to exercise this power wisely and properly, it should take the step of disallowing only if there are good reasons for doing so. Of course, in regard to statutory rules there are well established principles which this Senate has long recognised. But with regard to Ordinances in relation to the Australian Capital Territory, as far as my research has indicated there has been no general body of principle evolved under which such Ordinances ought to be considered and then disallowed.
I appreciate the points which have been made by speakers on the Opposition side that this situation may be due for a change. But we have bad for many years a situation in which the laws which apply in the Australian Capital Territory, apart from those which were taken over on the formation of the Seat of Government Act in, I think. 1911, are the Ordinances which are made by the Governor-General. That is by the Executive of the Government. Section 12 of the Seat of Government Act provides simply that:
The Governor-General may make ordinances having the force of law in the Territory.
I would submit to the Senate that when we consider whether or not Ordinances ought to be disallowed, we should have regard to what I think are the three major or salient facts. The first is that we should look to see whether involved in the measure is a departure from some sound and accepted principle. Secondly, I think that we should look to see whether the provision unduly and unacceptably trespasses on personal rights and liberties. Thirdly, 1 think that wc should look to see whether what is sought to bc applied has a national significance extending beyond the bounds of Canberra or beyond the persons in Canberra to whom it has been applied. I feel that on each one of those criteria no case exists for disallowing this Ordinance.
– The big motels would love it to be dropped; just imagine 40 rooms at SIO per room.
– I doubt whether the motels would like this Ordinance to be dropped. If the provisions in the Labor Putty’s motion were to be applied and wc were to go back to the old fashioned method of rating on valuations, some properties would be rated at as low as $2 or $3 per annum while others would have enormously high amounts to pay just because a value is taken and a percentage of that value is struck as the basis of payment. It seems to me that, when we have a service which is generally applicable and everybody receives the benefit of that service, generally we should be able to say: ‘Well, each unit or each piece of land which receives that benefit pays in a broadly proportionate measure’. There is a further fact that 1 consider is valuable. This is the mere fact that a person may own and occupy land which is valuable land but may not have the capacity to pay what might be the amount payable under a system where the rating is based upon land valuation. Many people have received the benefit of property valuations in the sense that they have lived in the same house for many, many years. But that is not to say that their ability in liquid funds to pay an increased amount in rates is anywhere near the value which their property has accrued in increasing value over tha years.
– Those people would be the exception rather than the rule, would they not?
– That is always a matter of opinion. I would think that any general rule cannot be made about it. It is sufficient to accept that there are some such people and to recognise that if we can get what is a fair system overall it is beneficial. I simply say that the Ordinance which is sought to be disallowed is not an Ordinance which imposes charges which are onerous. I think that it is fantastic for honourable senators in this place, so many of whom come from the metropolitan areas of Australia, to espouse the cause of people ;n Canberra on the basis that they should not have to pay $10 per year for their sewerage services in respect of the house in which they live. The amounts paid in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and in any major Australian centre are far greater than tha amount proposed here, lt seems strange that these representatives of the metropolian areas of Australia should come pleading the case for the citizens of Canberra when they are unable to achieve the same sort of thing or even seek to espouse the same sort of thing for the people in the States that they represent.
I simply say, as the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) said earlier, that we should consider the position in other places. I know that in Melbourne the rate is up to a limit of 5% of the net annual value which is to be paid. I understand that in Brisbane a minimum of $30 per year must be paid. I feel-
– Has the honourable senator any evidence to support that?
– I can only refer Senator Milliner, if he would like to look at it, to the Act that applies in Victoria. 1 relied as to what is the position in Brisbane on what Senator Gair has said and what the Minister has said. Senator Milliner, if that does not satisfy you, 1 suggest that you could find it out for yourself. I am satisfied.
I say that the position with regard to the Ordinance is crystal clear. It imposes a charge, a useful charge and a charge which is not onerous or unfair.
If honourable senators choose to look al the report which is presented to the Parliament each year under the Seat of Government Act by the Minister for the Interior of the moneys received and expended during the financial year by the Commonwealth in the administration and development of the Australian Capital Territory, they will see that a very interesting picture reveals itself. I refer to the ‘Statement of Receipts and Expenditure for Year 1967-68’. This report shows that the receipts received in the year ended 30th .lune 1968 amounted to §20,000,000. As far as expenditure is concerned, this is divided into two categories. If we take General Services, we find that the amount expended is $25,714,915. In regard to Capital Works which are ‘Additions, New Works and Other Services Involving Capital Expenditure’, the total amount expended is $59,009,750. So, out of an expenditure of approximately $84m by the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory there is received an amount of approximately $20m. I appreciate that, in this report, if one reads it, one has to note that this cannot be regarded as a complete statement in the terms which the document records. It is sufficient for the purposes which I am illustrating to show the tenor and the general proportions of receipts and expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory.
The residents of the Australian Capital Territory, not having paid sewerage rates before, ought not to regard themselves as being imposed upon, or treated ungenerously or treated unfairly if they are required now - those who are residents living in their own houses - to pay $10 per year. The Government expects that it will receive approximately $350,000 a year as a result of this impost. Indeed, if we were to take into consideration capital repayment and interest in respect of sewerage payments, an amount of approximately $800,000 would be required. I would have thought that there was a good case for an amount approaching that sum to be the amount which is sought. That is not what the Ordinance provides. The fact that it does not so provide makes it, I imagine, all the more reasonable.
There are other matters to which I feel attention should be directed. I am surprised that in the plethora of speeches which have been made tonight no reference has been made to matters which I consider are provisions which ought not to find their place in Ordinances of this character. I refer to sections 18 and 22 of the Ordinance. Section 18 provides: (1.) The Minister may determine that the sewerage rates provided for in the preceding provisions of this Ordinance do not apply in relation to sewerage services supplied or to be supplied to a parcel of rateable land in circumstances that the Minister considers to be unusual or to warrant special treatment and the Minister may, instead of those sewerage rates, fix special sewerage rates in respect of services supplied or to be supplied.
– Does the honourable senator object to that?
– I personally do.
– Well, why does the honourable senator not vote against the Ordinance?
– I will have a few words to say. Section 22 of the Ordinance provides: (I.) The Minister may in special circumstances exempt any parcel of rateable land or any parcel of rateable land included in a class of parcels of rateable land from payment of sewerage rates under this Ordinance or from payment of a portion of those sewerage rates.
It is quite clear that this Ordinance is an Ordinance which imposes a liability, albeit in the circumstances not a severe liability. It is a taxing statute and the essence of taxing statutes should be that they apply fairly and equally among all those people upon whom the obligation by the statute is cast. These two provisions provide that the Minister on criteria in respect of which he is answerable to nobody may exempt any person or any land from the liability to pay the rates.
– Or vary the charge.
– Or, as Senator Toohey says, vary the charge, if there is to be such an ability, in my opinion that abil’ity should be couched in the Ordinance itself or in regulations made under the Ordinance.
– lt would operate in the case of financial hardship, would it not?
– I leave that because another provision, to which I will refer, covers cases of hardship and 1 believe that it is more than adequate to meet the situation.
– Does the honourable senator think this provision, which is one to relieve an impost, is in the same position as a ministerial discretion to increase an impost?
– 1 appreciate that there is a difference. This is a power to relieve an impost. But, in fact, it is the sort of relief about which the struggle to assert the supremacy of Parliament was waged 300 or 400 years ago. If favours can be granted - I am not saying that favours are granted - by him who has the power to grant dispensation, an element of unfairness comes into the pattern of taxation and one person may say: ‘I have to pay a certain amount. Why does not my neighbour pay the same amount?’ lt is then found that for some reason, which is good enough for the Minister but unexaminable by the courts or the Parliament, the Minister has been able to make some allowance. I believe that the Senate should always bc on guard against that sort of situation.
In this Ordinance we have provisions which impose very wide obligations and in which there are these discretionary powers which are wide in their character and, as far as what they permit is concerned, completely for the Minister to determine. There are no guidelines, there are no principles, there are no indications as to how he is to exercise these powers.
– On that basis, how can the honourable senator support the Ordinance?
– Let me have my say. That certainly is not the case in other places in which I have been endeavouring to discover the position. I know that it is not the case in Victoria where, under the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works Act, under which water and sewerage rates are imposed, it is quite clear that the rate is imposed without any power Oil dispensation in anybody. In regard to ordinary local government rates, the rate is imposed upon property and there are exemptions which are set out in the relevant Ac>. Those are the only exemptions. There are no others. Therefore I say that this provision is a harsh, unfair and totally unmeritorious one which should not be in this Ordinance.
I noted what Senator Cavanagh said, namely, that there should be some provision under which hardship can be alleviated. That provision exists in clause 23 of the Ordinance. I make no attack on it.
– A relief provision could not be harsh. I do not think that would be the correct adjective.
– The way the honourable senator has put the point to me, I agree; but a relief provision can be harsh in the way it operates as against other people. 1 certainly concede that it could not be harsh in its application to the person who received the grant or benefit. Clause 23 provides:
The Minister may refund or remit any sewerage rates or a portion of sewerage rates under this Ordinance if the Minister considers it just and equitable so to do.
The point 1 make is that clause 23 provides that any sewerage rates that are imposed - that is, those that are due each year - may be remitted or refunded by the Minister. It is fair enough that if a person can present a case of hardship he should be allowed some refund or a portion of the charge should not be imposed in respect of the year concerned. Because the liability still remains and in certain circumstances there could still be hardship, I believe that it is reasonable to allow some limited discretion. I believe that that is what clause 23 does.
– In view of that, what is the purpose of the other clauses of which the honourable senator complained?
– It is difficult to find any purpose for those other provisions. I sense that they are included because the Water Rates Ordinance of 1959 contains comparable provisions which originally were introduced on the basis that where there was a school, hospital or other institution which in legal terms could not qualify as a charitable institution the Minister could say: ‘This institution is so close to being a charitable institution that the exemption will be granted’. But under this Ordinance there is no need for such a provision because all land is included in five classes and if we take the fifth class we find that an extra $5 over the fourth class rate is payable in respect of each sanitary fixture over two. Having regard to the fact that institutions will not have hundreds of sanitary fixtures, based on past experience, one can assume that the amount: involved is small. So there is no need for such a provision. But, even if there were. I submit that these are provisions that strike at the very core of the rule of law which this Parliament should be concerned to preserve.
In near conclusion let me say that these ordinances which are part of the administration of the ACT and the ordinances of other Territories under Commonwealth control are not part of the documentation honourable senators receive. I know that all regulations made under Acts passed by the Parliament are circulated to honourable senators, and I am sure that they are read. But these ordinances, which are equally important to the Senate or the Parliament as regulations, are not circulated.
– What is more, regulations are referred to the Regulations and Ordinances Committee as a matter of role or automatically.
– Yes, and so are these ordinances. But the point 1 make is that for senators the ability to appreciate what is in these ordinances comes about only if the effort is made to obtain them and read them. I suggest to those who have the carriage of these matters that it would be a desirable reform for these ordinances, along with other ordinances made under Commonwealth Acts, to be made available to all members of the Parliament as of right.
– Did not that arise recently in relation to rules of court? Was it not the position that they were not subject to disallowance and it was suggested that they should be made by regulation on the very principle that you have enunciated?
– I cannot recall the details of the matter Senator Byrne refers to me. 1 certainly know that ordinances made under the Seat of Government Act for the ACT are capable of being disallowed by the Senate, as are statutory rules, although some years ago, I think it was, the power to disallow ordinances in regard to the Territory of Papua and New Guinea was withdrawn. Beyond that I cannot elaborate on what Senator Byrne has said.
I suggest that the matters I have raised arc important. We lack an assurance from the Opposition, in a House in which the Government does not have the numbers, that any such reform of this Ordinance would bc acceptable to it. In those circumstances, when one so thoroughly approves of the substance of this Ordinance, there is no point in undertaking a fruitless exercise with regard to a portion of it. However, it is encouraging to know and to be able to state that when I and others look this matter up with the responsible Minister - the Minister for the Interior. Mr Nixon - he assured us thai the clauses to which I have referred and comparable clauses of the Water Rates Ordinance will be looked at by him with a view to considering whether-
– When did he say that in the Senate?
– He has not said it in the Senate because he is not a Minister in this place. I am quite sure that if the honourable senator wishes to have confirmation of what the Minister said it will be forthcoming. I mentioned that because he said it to me. I hope that in due course consideration will be given to those provisions because I believe that as they stand at the moment they, more than the points upon which the Opposition has been concentrating, ought to be reformed.
– in reply - Senator Greenwood made a speech which I think I can rightly say was a clear mixture of logic and unreason. He started off by saying that the Australian Labor Party was playing politics on this matter. I want to put that suggestion in perspective. He concluded his address by making a frontal attack on the Ordinance and gave a reason, which was as sound as any reason given by any honourable senator on this side of the chamber, as to why it should be disallowed. I shall deal first with the suggestions about someone seeking political advantage. 1 remind the Senate of the manner in which this question came before it and the reason why it is being discussed tonight, lt came before the Senate because there was a general outcry from the people of Canberra at the nature of the decision which had been made in respect of the sewerage tax.
Honourable senators on both sides of the chamber were canvassed by local organisations and were inundated with petitions from local people objecting to the procedures adopted by the Government in respect of this matter. The only difference between us was thai Government supporters chose to ignore the petitions and the representations made lo them whereas members of the Labor Party Opposition decided that there was a case to answer and that the Senate should discuss the question in the form in which we now have it before us. 1 suggest that the people who are seeking to take political advantage of the discussion tonight are those who are trying to play the people of Canberra against the people in the various Stales of the Commonwealth. They are the ones seeking to take political advantage, if any can accrue from this discussion. Let us put that matter in its true perspective here and now. Government supporters know full well that they were canvassed by members of local organisations in Canberra.
– They missed the most important Party. They never came near us.
– Perhaps they will do so next time. You are not giving them much encouragement.
– They will learn their lesson the hard way, 1 suppose.
– They may approach the Democratic Labor Party eventually, but at the moment I am afraid that the honourable senator’s Party does not give them much encouragement to do so. Senator Greenwood jumped a very poor bandwagon and spoke about the Labor Party trying to gain political advantage from this matter.
– Don’t you ever try to do that?
– Not in this case. Senator Greenwood ended his mixture of logic and unreason by drawing attention to a very grave weakness in sections IS and 22 of the Ordinance, which give the Minister for the Interior arbitrary power to determine almost anything in respect of this Ordinance which is now before the Senate. Senator Greenwood, perhaps more effectively than I ever could, in a devastating way has laid bare all the deficiencies that the Ordinance possesses.
– Which way will he vote?
– I do not think there is any doubt as to the way he will vote. I think he has already made that clear. But we are indebted to him for exposing something which obviously his colleagues had not realised - that the Minister has arbitrary authority over decisions in respect of the levying of this rate. Many red herrings have been drawn across the trail in this debate. In various ways it has been suggested that the Labor Party was seeking for the people of Canberra some concession which is not available to people in other capital cities. There is nothing inherent in the motion to suggest that this is the case and nothing that I said would give rise to such a suggestion. lt is an idle exercise for us to engage in a debate on whether the rating should be based on an unimproved value or capital value, or whether any other system of rating would be better. As one who had some experience in tocal government before entering the field of politics, I know that there are imperfections in any rating system that man has devised. There has never been any suggestion in the attitude of the Labor Party to this matter that any concession should be given to the people of Canberra. What we have tried to put before the Senate in this debate is that the people of Canberra should have available to them the same rights of determination in respect of methods of rating that exist in other capital cities and in the various shires throughout the Commonwealth of Australia.
– They did have that right but they just ignored it.
– But they, do not have the right at present, and this is the reason for their reaction.
– This resolution will not give them that right.
– lt will.
– The resolution says only that the Government will do it by the method you suggest. That would not help the citizens of Canberra.
– We say that it should be done by the Government in consultation with the citizens of Canberra.
– The honourable senator was not in the chamber when I read the letters which went between the Advisory Council and the Minister, giving the facts and asking for their opinion.
– 1 have spoken to members of the Advisory Council on numerous occasions today and 1 have been assured by them beyond any shadow of doubt that the nature of the communications they have received from the Department and the Minister has been unsatisfactory in the extreme. In the estimation of members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, never at any time have they received from the Government the details that they have repeatedly sought. This is obviously an instance where the Minister thinks one thing and the Advisory Council thinks something else. But 1 do not want to be sidetracked; I want to get back to what we are asking the Senate to do. I have pointed out that never at any time have we suggested that the citizens of Canberra should have advantages over citizens of other cities.
– That is not in the resolution.
– Of course it is not, but Government supporters have read into the resolution, quite erroneously, that we have done so. Government supporters have suggested that this is what we have said and that this is what we mean. I diss.sociate myself from any such suggestion because it was never made by me and, to the best of my knowledge, it was never made by any other honourable senator on this side of the chamber. I come back to the point and bring the debate back to where it really belongs. Have the people of Canberra the right to have any say whatever in the method of rating that should bc adopted in determining the rates that they will pay each year?
– If you are asking the question, I will answer it.
– You say you can answer it. Of course they have the right.
– Neither in the Ordinance nor in your resolution have they that right.
– Yes they have. In our resolution at least they have » choice.
– They have nc . a choice; the Government will be given the choice.
– But at present all they have is an arbitrary decision by the Minister thai they shall pay a certain tax in a certain way. The citizens of Canberra object to the tax and it is quite obvious that they are entitled to have their voice heard. I suggest to Senator Little that if a decision which were made by this Parliament adversely affected or was adversely received by 90% of the residents of the area in which he lives he would probably be one of the first people to come along and ask for that decision to be rescinded.
– ! would not ask you to move the resolution because your resolution will not take the responsibility away from the Government.
– What the honourable senator would ask me to do is relatively unimportant. If he were associated with local government in any way and the vast majority of ratepayers decided that a certain thing should or should not be so, he would say that the right of the majority should prevail. It is of no good his trying to tell me that he would do anything else, lt is no good adopting a split personality attitude and saying that there are some inherent weaknesses in the proposition that is before the Senate, but then using them to provide a way of escape in dealing with the proposition. All the specious arguments that the honourable senator is putting forward are designed for that purpose. He knows how he is going to vote. He will vote against the proposition. But if the proposition were placed before him in a local situation in his own State or locality he would adopt a vastly different attitude from the one he has adopted tonight.
– Not at all: 1 am only unhappy about the methods you have suggested. Yours would be a most anomalous way of dealing with the situation. Every man in the street would be paying a different rate. That is what you are trying to achieve.
– I think that Senator Little is obviously desperately trying to establish a reasonable excuse for voting against the motion tonight. The interjections he is making in an attempt to prevent me from speaking are evidence of that. I think it can be safely said that Senator Greenwood killed the Ordinance. He killed it stone dead. I notice that he is not in the chamber. He probably will not be here until he reappears to vote against it.
The point 1 want to make about the proposition that the Minister wants to impose in the form of an ordinance on the people of Canberra is that I do not know - and I do not think anybody here is in a position to say - whether its imposition would result in some advantage accruing to the people in Canberra as against other rating systems or whether some overall disadvantage would result. I certainly have not been bold enough to make a forecast with respect to this tonight. We say that the weakness in the Ordinance is that it is inequitable, that it does not spread fairly throughout the community the rate that should be imposed upon the people in the community. If this is the belief of the vast majority of thc citizens of Canberra, then, with all due respect to Senator Little, I say that their voice is entitled to be heard.
All I am trying to do is stop the Ordinance from being put into operation and then, in the hiatus that will follow, we can go into the question of determining what is the best way to satisfy the Department’s wishes and at the same time meet the just objection of the people of Canberra to being treated in the arbitrary manner in which they will be treated if the Ordinance is proceeded with. That is all we are asking. If there is any political capital involved in that, I should like to know where it is. I repeat that the people who are seeking to make political capital out of this are those who are cynically playing off the people of Canberra against the people of the various States of Australia. If there was anything inherent in the proposition we have put before the Senate tonight that would give some distinct advantage to the people of Canberra I would say there would be some justification for adopting that attitude, but nothing has been put forward during the debate to establish this. So it gets back to this cynical disregard for thc proper procedures of debate and an attempt to evade the real issues involved in the proposition which we have put before the Senate. I hope that in the lime 1 have had at my disposal I have at least brought the debate back to where it belongs.
The final point I make is that the Labor Party did not submit this motion out of any idle decision to embarrass the Government. We did not dream this up. lt was something that was presented to us by a situation which had created something in the nature of a crisis in the Australian Capital Territory, and the existence of this crisis and the circumstances which provoked it were just as well known to the Government as they were to the Opposition. That is the reason why this matter came before the Senate. Honourable senators on the Government side can advance all the specious arguments that can be put forward, but, whatever they do, whatever they say, there is no doubt that all they have to do tonight is to disallow this Ordinance and to allow sufficient time to elapse to enable things to be sorted out. It is all very well to say that, simply because somebody in the Department dreams up a system of his own of taxing toilets, this must of necessity be accepted by the people of Canberra and by this Government.
– We think this is the best method.
– Obviously you do. I wonder whether the honourable senator thinks it would be the best method for Wallaroo or Kadina in South Australia. I wonder whether the people he represents in those areas would also think it was a very good system. I have very grave doubts about that. At least the people of Canberra are not satisfied that it is a good system. I think the Government has a clear duty to satisfy the people of Canberra that what it is imposing upon them has an element of justice and reason in it. Until such time as the Government can do that, no honourable senator opposite can stand and say that a proper degree of justice has been given to the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory.
– Or given recognition to their beliefs.
– Or given recognition, however wrong their beliefs may be, to their right to hold those beliefs, and that is all that the Opposition is asking the Government to do. I say that if this motion for the disallowance of this Ordinance is defeated tonight the Government must accept responsibility for whatever degree of dissatisfaction and indignation the people of Canberra will rightly feel against it.
That the motion (SenatorToohey’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House,I present the report on the alternative sites of Capital Hill and the Camp Hill area for the new and permanent parliament house. A dissenting report, signed by two members of the Committee, is included with the main report. The report I am presenting has the following appendices:
The report which will be distributed to honourable senators does not contain appendices1, 2 and 3 which were circulated to all honourable senators and honourable members some 5 weeks ago. If honourable senators would like additional copies of the appendices they are available.
Ordered that the report, the dissenting report and the appendices be printed and that consideration of the report be made an order of the day for the next day of silting.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Mr President, during the debate last night relating to the export of merino rams I had occasion to interject to query an authority quoted by Senator McManus. In order to put the record straight I would like to make a statement to the Senate concerning the use of the name of Dr H.B. Carter, of the University of Textile Industry in Great Britain, as being a supporter of the retention of the ban on the export, of merino rams. I do not attribute to Senator
McManus any deliberate attempt to mislead the Senate. However, in fairness to the authority quoted as being a supporter of the ban when in fact he is not a supporter of it, I think the position should be noted by the Senate in order to put the record straight.
I will read to the Senate the facts relating to the opinion of Dr Carter on this matter. J propose to quote from the ‘Merino Annual” published by Queensland ‘Country Life’. This issue is dated 24th April. I refer to an article headed ‘Positive Step to Help Wool - Easing of Merino Ban’. The article states:
The Australian Government has done the sensible thing in relaxing the ban on the export of Merino rams.
This is the view of Dr H. B. Carter of Leeds University who has spent many years developing strains of sheep suited to overseas conditions. lie said in a Bradford interview that it was important to consolidate the position of wool in the world. What the Australian Government had done was no.hing less than that.
He regarded it as a positive .step towards improving thc future of wool.
The rams exported, in his view, ought in bc Ms and finer, preferably animals of a bulk 70s quality.
If we accept this - and I have no doubt many arguments can bc raised for and against the idea - only a small number of (locks or stud breeders arc likely to be affected,’ Dr Carter said.
We all know that the number of studs producing straight 70s finewool rams are very few indeed - probably fewer than 5% of the total output of Australian stud and Hock rams.
Nevertheless, in my view, they are the kind of quality rams that should bc released to those countries and those places requiring them.
In other words, as I see it, the type of rams that will lie selected will not necessarily be the ones that will impinge on the bank balance of the main bulk of ram buyers in Australia.
I should add that the problem of moving sheep from Australia to the countries most likely to benefit by them would be immeasurably complicated by thc current quarantine restrictions associated with the existence of foot and mouth disease, scrapie and blue tongue to name just a few,’ Dr Carter added.
I quoted this opinion because 1 think it is important, in the interest of accuracy and the interest of the people concerned, thai when we quote authorities they should be correct. I make (hat explanation because when J interjected last night I suspected, without having the text of this article in front of me, thai the authority was being wrongly used in this instance.
Senator McMANUS (Victoria) [10.571- Mr President, Senator Prowse was courteous enough to inform me beforehand that he was going to raise this matter. He is perfectly entitled to make what he believes is a necessary correction in regard to the views of Dr Carter. 1 want to make it clear, however, that subject to examination of the Hansard report, I do not recollect that I personally quoted Dr Carter as an authority. What happened was that I quoted an authority at the school of textiles who had quoted Dr Carter in order to support a point that he made regarding the genes of sheep. 1 would like to make that point quite clear. 1 thank Senator Prowse for his courtesy in letting me know that this matter was to be raised.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) [I0.58J - I wish to take up a few minutes of the time of the Senate before it adjourns in order to bring before it and the responsible Minister the acute hardship facing soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island. Kangaroo Island is a small strip of land off the south coast of South Australia. To get there one has to travel by plane or boat. There is a small stretch of water between the mainland and the island. At the time of the Second World War it was decided lo follow the principles adopted at the conclusion of the First World War relating to the responsibility of rehabilitating exservicemen. We accepted the principle of leaching them a trade at different centres al the expense of the nation. Another scheme was the soldier land settlement scheme. It was expected that development of the allotted land would permit a return to the ex-servicemen as well as payment for the expenditure involved.
In the settlement on Kangaroo Island 160 soldier settlers are established on the land. This is a large proportion of the island community, there being only 3,000 residents. Those 160 settlers have battled on under a system whereby the Federal Government has provided some finance for the project. The State Department of Lands has received all the income from the operations of this farming venture on Kangaroo Island and has met all the permissible or authorised expenditure incurred by the settlers. The settlement has been in existence for 15 years. Over this period the settlers have been given a living allowance for the purpose of maintaining themselves and their families. This allowance has risen in accordance with the cost of living. Today the allowance is $1,800 a year with an additional $10 for each child. That shows that these soldiers, whom we sought to rehabilitate and to whom we sought to give the right to be members of a farming community undertaking a profitable venture, have existed on a wage below that which industry normally would pay them at present.
However, with the desire to achieve something and to make themselves independent, they have struggled on. They have put some money of their own into the venture. Their wives, and also their children as they have grown up, have worked on the development of the blocks allocated to them in the hope that good years would see them prosper. Last year was possibly one of the best years on record. When they look at the figures of income and expenditure for the year they realise that the most efficient farmer in the area cannot succeed. Those who would be considered the most prosperous section of the community cannot get out of the area nor can they achieve any financial gain by remaining. A crisis point has been reached.
While I was there I interviewed five settlers who had been given notice by the South Australian Department of Lands that they would not be provided with rations or a living allowance as from June of this year. From that date those five settlers will not have a means of livelihood because their income will have been terminated by the Department owing to the amount that they are in arrears with the Department. Normally the assets that they had acquired over the years and their equity in the blocks would be such that they could profitably leave the settlement if they could sell their properties. But at present twenty-two properties on Kangaroo Island are on the market and are unable to be sold. Only an odd sale occurs where the individual who is buying does not propose to make a living from the block. At least five settlers, to my knowledge, will not have an income after June of this year and will not have the opportunity to sell their properties because sales cannot be made. They will have to throw away all that they have put into their blocks and all the efforts that they have made to improve the land. They will go out bankrupt. These are soldier settlers to whom we promised rehabilitation. In view of our responsibility to soldier settlers I ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) to consider the plight of those who must walk off the land because of the termination of the allowance by the South Australian Department of Lands. If they could get extended credit for a further 12 months there is a hope that they might be able to make a sale and so save some of the equity that they have built up over the years.
The farmers are continuing on with no reasonable prospect of making a living. The prospect of making a living has become more remote. After a bountiful year last year they found themselves in arrears in relation to the capital with which they had commenced. One of the reasons for this is the high cost of transporting stock and goods to and from Kangaroo Island. Another reason is the rental that the soldiers have to pay - in the vicinity of $800 a year. Those who are not so heavily committed financially have stated that they could make a deal of the proposition if there were some reduction in the cost of freights to and from the island and a reduction in the cost of rents. The rents are based on a system of repayments of the capital invested in the project and on some return from the capital invested. I do not know whether that should be the criterion. The Government had to pay for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen in industry. The returned servicemen did not have to pay.
The Minister for Primary Industry, who visited Kangaroo Island in 1962, admitted that it was one of the difficult areas in which to undertake farming because of some of the costs involved. I have here figures showing the freight charges involved in transporting 39 sheep for sale at the Adelaide abattoir. The freight was $45.43. The sale price was $168. That shows that nearly one-third of the price received from the sale of sheep or cattle shipped from the island to the mainland goes in freight. Another additional cost is the freight on superphosphate. On 40 tons of superphosphate carried by the’ Troubridge’, the ship maintaining the service, on 9th December 1968 the freight amounted to$360.40. One settler showed me his figures. His freights last year were in excess of$1 ,700. It is impossibleto continue farming successfully on the island and the settlers lose through inability to sell their properties, all that they have put into the scheme.
The Federal Government subsidises freights on goods shipped to King Island from Tasmania and from King Island to Tasmania.I do not think it would have any power to subsidise intrastate freights. There is a federal subsidy for freights on goods going from Melbourne to King Island. For the next 3 years the South Australian Government will subsidise to the extent of, I believe. $200 a year the operations of the Troubridge’ to permit that ship to continue this serviceto Kangaroo Island. This is a subsidy to a shipping company. The company will not reduce the rates it charges the inhabitants of the island. The cost of transporting sheep from Kangaroo Island to Adelaide, a distance of a few miles, is far in excess of the cost of transporting them by road from oneborder of the State to the other. Therefore, with difficult land, it is impossible to continue with these high freight charges. While the Commonwealth may lack constitutional power to subsidise freight on goods other than those coming from Melbourne to Kangaroo Island - it would appear that there is a need for consideration to be given to these unfortunate settlers on the island. The Commonwealth should honour its obligation to the men who have settled on the land and should see that some system is worked out to permit the rationalisation of the programme that we thought would be the best programme when we placed them on the island.
Among the difficulties faced by these settlers is the inability to conduct lambing successfully. Kangaroo Island, because of its heavy rainfall, is not good sheep country. The settlers are having no success with their lambing. The Kangaroo Island research centre is at present experimenting with all aspects of lambing. On every occasion this necessitates restocking by purchase. The Kangaroo Island Research Centre now claims that the failure of lambing on the Island is the result of the sowing of yarlopp clover which was sown under the direction and on the advice of the Department of Lands in South Australia. The Department provided the seed. The clover now has created a problem because it interferes with the lambing of the ewes. It has to be ploughed in so that other clovers can be established. This is beyond the financial capability of the farmers on the Island, particularly in the Goss area, who need urgent assistance. The only hope that those who are remaining on the Island have of striking a balance in the coming season is eithertoreduce the amount of superphosphate that they use normally or to refrain from using it at all. Anyone connected with primary industry knows that that is false economy and will only put them further into financial difficulties.
With the greatest respect I ask the Minister to give special consideration to the matters I have raised. Mr Adermann, when he was the Minister for Primary Industry, inspected the area. I ask the present Minister for Primary Industry to confer with the Department in South Australia which is administering this scheme to see whether some relief or redress can be given to the settlers to whom we promised so much, because it appears that the venture on which they are engaged will not be successful.
– I learn with regret the circumstances outlined by Senator Cavanagh and I am sure that that regret is shared by every honourable senator in this chamber. However I am aware that our regret is not sufficient for the men concerned. They need the help that Senator Cavanagh has outlined. I certainly will take up the matter with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) to see whether something can be done to help these men who need assistance so badly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 April 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690430_senate_26_s41/>.