26th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMuIlin) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Has the Government any statement to make on the disaster which occurred in the China Sea, as the result of a collision between HMAS ‘Melbourne’ and an American warship?
– It is regrettably true that there has been a very serious collision at sea, involving HMAS ‘Melbourne’. The Minister for Repatriation, who represents the Minister for the Navy in this chamber, has a statement on the matter and I think it would be appropriate if he were to make it now in answer to the honourable senator’s question.
– by leave - The Royal Australian Navy aircraft carrier, HMAS ‘Melbourne’ has been involved in a collision with the United States Navy destroyer USS ‘Frank E. Evans’ approximately 650 miles south west of Manila in the South China Sea. USS ‘Evans’ was cut in two in the collision but the exact number of casualties is not yet known. Preliminary reports from the collision scene indicate that there are 216 survivors from the after section of the ‘Evans’ who have been taken aboard HMAS ‘Melbourne’ and one confirmed casualty. USS ‘Evans* was last reporated to be carrying 273 officers and men. This means that, so far as is known at the moment, the casualties or those missing number 57. There were no casualties aboard HMAS ‘Melbourne’.
HMAS ‘Melbourne’ and USS ‘Evans* were involved in an anti-submarine phase of the South East Asian Treaty Organisation maritime exercise ‘Sea Spirit*. The sea was calm and it was a bright moonlit night. At approximately 3.15 a.m. local time - 6.15 a.m. eastern Australian time - ‘Melbourne’ ordered the ‘Evans’, which was ahead of her in the anti-submarine screen, to change course to a rescue destroyer station astern of her. ‘Evans’ approached on a collision course and despite urgent action by ‘Melbourne’ a collision occurred. The captain of ‘Melbourne’, Captain J. P. Stevenson, was on the bridge at the time.
In the collision ‘Evans’ was cut in two. The bow section sank about 10 minutes later. ‘Melbourne’ was able to secure the after section of the destroyer to her starboard side. Sailors and officers made a search of the after section and all personnel were taken on board ‘Melbourne’. The captain of the ‘Evans’, Commander A. S. McLemore, and the ship’s executive officer were among the survivors. After the search was completed the after end of ‘Evans’ was cast off.
Melbourne’ has been holed above the waterline. Her flight deck has been distorted and the catapult is unserviceable. She is able to make a speed of between 8 and 10 knots. Temporary repairs will be made to the ship before she returns to Australia. The Naval Board is awaiting further reports before deciding ‘Melbourne’s’ immediate programme.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral V. A. T. Smith, has spoken by telephone from Canberra to the Flag Officer Commanding the Australian Fleet, Rear-Admiral G. J. B. Crabb, aboard ‘Melbourne’. Admiral Crabb is discussing with a United States Navy admiral the action necessary to begin an inquiry to ascertain the facts. The Naval Board will consider proposals regarding the nature of the inquiry and will decide what action the Royal Australian Navy will take. SEATO authorities have called off the exercise. Messages of condolence are being sent to the American authorities. On behalf of the members of the Senate I should like to express condolence to the relatives of those who have suffered injury or are missing.
– by leave - On behalf of the Opposition I express support of what has been said by the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar). I assure the relatives of those who have suffered in this collision of our sympathy in their loss and that we wholeheartedly agree with the messages of condolence which have been sent on behalf of the Government.
– I assume that you wish me to communicate those expressions to the right quarters?
– I address a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen newspaper reports of alleged large scale slaughter in West Irian by the Indonesian Army? Did he note that the reports in question stated that Indonesian officials had come to realise that the West Irianese might actually want independence? Did he note further that the threat to the unity of Indonesia had prompted Indonesian military commanders in West Irian to take steps to ensure the right result from the act of free choice? In view of the disclosure of recent events in West Irian, does the Australian Government still support the United Nations’ approval of Indonesian plans for the so-called act of free choice?
– As to the first three questions, I have seen the Press reports to which the honourable senator appears to refer. I am not aware of any hard evidence of large scale slaughter in West Irian by the Indonesian Army. In reply to the fourth question, I point out that on numerous occasions the Government has made clear its attitude to the act of free choice. Indeed, I myself have referred to it in reply to earlier questions. The Government understands the procedures by which Indonesia intends to implement the 1962 agreement with the Netherlands. Those procedures have been cleared with representative councils in West Irian in accordance with this agreement and have been accepted by the United Nations representative who has been stationed there since August of last year. The Press reports to which the honourable senator refers have not led the Government to change its present attitude to the act of free choice.
– Has the Minister for Customs and Excise prohibited the showing of the Swedish film ‘I Love, You Love* from this week’s Sydney and Melbourne film festivals? Was this film shown at the Cannes Festival? Has it been described by the director of the Melbourne Film Festival as ‘a cautionary tale of the highest moral standard’? Is Australia the only country in the world in which internationally endorsed major film festivals are still subject to censorship? Will the Minister take urgent steps to facilitate the screening of this film at the festivals, thus avoiding disappointment to some thousands of mature and discerning filmgoers who have helped to make Australia’s two annual film festivals an important feature of Australian cultural life and to give us an honoured place in the international film world?
-In 1968 we informed the promoters of the Sydney Film Festival that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to allow in certain films for thenfestivals provided they were not excessively indecent or obscene. I have agreed to an arrangement whereby a film will be passed without cutting for a single viewing by the Melbourne and Sydney film festivals provided the film is of a nature which would not be rejected in its entirety as being obscene and indecent. Insofar as the film ‘I Love, You Love’ is concerned, the Chief Film Censor advised me of the Board’s rejection of the film as a whole. In view of the special arrangements approved for the Sydney and Melbourne festivals, I decided to view this film to determine whether 1 should intervene in the Board’s decision. Regulation 40 of the Film Censorship Regulations authorises the Minister to intervene. Having viewed the film I decided not to intervene. However, I have agreed to discuss the matter with the producer of the film, and while I am of the view that I should not intervene and release the film unless at least one scene is deleted from it, I would prefer to offer no further comment until after my discussions with the producer. In reply to the further part of the question as to whether Australia is the only country in the world that censors films for festivals-
– Internationally accepted films.
– International films- I shall look into this, find the answer and write to the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health read of the discovery by a team of Sydney researchers of the link between two of the highest centres of the brain and the circulatory system of the human body? Because of the apparent great importance of this discovery, will the Minister inquire whether further information is available? Will the Department of Health extend its assistance so that this research may be accelerated and increased in both scope and effectiveness?
– I did see the Press statement to which the honourable senator refers. I read it with interest and made some inquiries concerning it. It was a comment on the work being done by Professor Korner on the relationship between the high centres of the brain and high blood pressure. Professor Korner’s work is being supported by the National Heart Foundation, the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Life Insurance Medical Research Funds of Australia and New Zealand. The National Health and Medical Research Council’s contribution for 1969 is $6,865. The Commonwealth does not directly carry out medical research but supports research, as in this case, by providing the funds for National Health and Medical Research Council projects.
– I direct to the Minister for Works a question concerning a matter raised during an interview on an Australian Broadcasting Commission radio programme in Adelaide last week in relation to the fire hazard at the AMP building in that City. In addition to the matters raised in correspondence with him this morning, will the Minister be good enough to supply to the Senate details of the cost of converting the office accommodation for Federal parliamentarians in the AMP building?
– The question refers to the safety from fire of the AMP building in Adelaide. Although part of that building is, I understand, the subject of occupation by Federal Ministers and other parliamentarians, its construction was a private enterprise and I would be surprised if it did not conform with the current building regula tions and fire provisions of Adelaide, but I shall make inquiries into the matter and provide the honourable senator with details of the costs to which he refers.
– I direct a question to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, ls it a fact that Australia received $10lm in overseas earnings through the tourist trade last year. To what particular aspect of tourist promotion would the Minister credit this greatly increased amount of income from overseas tourist sources?
– I have particular pleasure in confirming reports that were made over the weekend to the effect that the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics has upgraded the overseas earnings of the tourist industry in Australia for the year ended December 1968 to $101m. It is a matter of some significance to us all, as a nation, that we are now registering income from that source which, for the first time on a statistical basis, exceeds $100m a year. As to the factors to which it can be attributed, first of all it would be unfair for me not to recognise that the whole travel business on a worldwide basis is showing a marked increase due to factors of development of a worldwide character. But I believe that the Australian Tourist Commission can claim some degree of special credit for the work it has done in its various promotional activities, constituted as they are in the United States of America, New Zealand, Great Britain and Japan. Also, I believe that it would be unfair of me not to give credit to those who constitute the tourist industry in Australia, including the State governments, because I find an increasing interest in the development of the tourist industry by all sections of the industry showing a great alertness to the opportunities that are being presented for even greater increases in the near future.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Repatriation. Is it correct that patients at the infirmary of the war veterans home, Myrtle Bank, South Australia, through lack of accommodation, are being discharged from the home when a doctor’s attendance is no longer required although nursing care is essential? ls the only alternative accommodation available private nursing home accommodation which in most cases is beyond the financial resources of the war veteran? In view of the hardship suffered, will the Minister do something urgently to increase the accommodation available at Myrtle Bank?
– I am not aware of the circumstances outlined by the honourable senator. He mentioned war veterans homes in the course of his question. Of course, war veterans homes are outside the Repatriation Department altogether. So far as the Department is concerned, briefly the position is that, if men are in need of care and we are not able to take them into repatriation hospitals because they are not ill enough and perhaps all they need is to be looked after, where it is possible we get them into these homes. The honourable senator suggests that in this instance some of the men are in need of medical treatment. I do not know what the position is with regard to this case, but I certainly will make inquiries and let the honourable senator know what the position is. If any action can be taken to help the men, we certainly will take it.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for National Development been drawn to the advantages that would accrue to two States, namely, Victoria and South Australia, ft om the establishment of the first nuclear power station in the south east of South Australia?
– A nuclear power station, wherever it may be erected, will be of considerable advantage to the part of the Commonwealth in which it is situated. I under* stand that, in view of that fact, the Minister for National Development has had conferences with all the States interested in nuclear energy, and that the Government is about to decide where the first nuclear reactor will be situated. If the power station is to be built in the south east of South Australia it will need to have a capacity of at least SOO megawatts. I understand that it is thought by the advisers to the Government that there are very few parts of Australia where a nuclear power station of that size would be warranted. However, as this is a very complex question, I should like to get an answer to the points raised by the honourable senator from the Minister for National Development so that I can advise him of the distinct advantages of a nuclear reactor to this part of Australia, if it is decided to put it there.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in this House a question without notice concerning the FU I A aircraft.
– Is this the same as the one the honourable senator was going to ask last week?
– Nearly the same. I have to preface my question by stating that recently I and a member of the House of Representatives stated that monthly payments by the Australian Government to the Americans-
– Order! I trust that the preface will be brief.
– Very brief.
-hI would like the honourable senator to direct his question.
– The Minister would not understand my question if 1 did not preface it. We stated that the monthly payment by the Australian Government was $8.9m. In the House of Representatives the Deputy Prime Minister stated that this was a figure taken out of the air.
– I suggest that the honourable senator reframe his question.
– Does the Minister remember replying to me in this place on 9th May 1968 concerning the FI IIA aircraft and saying that the payments were made monthly, that the next payment was due on 15th May 1968 and that it would amount to S8.904m? Did he make that statement and, if so, who is trying to mislead whom?
– I trust that the honourable senator is not suggesting that I was trying to mislead the Senate or him. I am not quite certain whether it was 8th May or 9th May 1968 that I answered the question. In any event, what was said then would be superseded by answers to a whole welter of questions which were asked of me last week in relation to the Fill. In the circumstances I should think that the whole of his question would need to be brought up to date in relation to information that I have given subsequently to Senator Cohen. There is still some information sought by the honourable senator to which I have not been able to obtain a reply.
-Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware of a television interview with Mr Maxwell Newton in Melbourne last Sunday when Mr Newton stated that he held numerous Government documents styled ‘confidential’, ‘strictly confidential’, ‘secret and confidential’ and otherwise bearing restriction notices on circulation, and when he stated also that he had in his employment public servants who worked for him at the same time as they held their Public Service appointments? Does the Minister regard this as a matter of grave public concern? Is the Government prepared to institute an inquiry with the most extensive powers to ascertain the extent to which a situation suggesting corruption of the Public Service has developed? If not, is the Government proposing to take any action?
– I have not had the advantage of hearing the statements made and I have read only some comments on them made by a certain section of the Press. If the honourable senator is directing his question to the morality crf a situation whereby public servants working under the Commonwealth Public Service Act are acting contrary to that Act, that would be a matter of very grave concern to any government and would be a matter of grave concern to this Government. However, I think it would be very wrong of me to give a constructive answer to the question as it was posed until such time as the Government has had the advantage of seeing a full transcript of what the person concerned actually said. At this point of time, therefore, I cannot make any further comment.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What specific steps have been taken so far by the Federal
Government to integrate Tasmania in the overseas container shipping service?
– I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice. In view of the fact that the Senate will rise this week I shall obtain the answer from the Minister and write direct to the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry whether the Australian Government has taken any action to protest to the United States Administration over the lamb import quotas proposed by the United States Senate. If the proposed quotas are imposed, will this mean even greater competition between New Zealand and Australian fat lamb producers for the already limited markets?
– I am not fully informed of the implications of the proposed import quotas but I shall obtain an answer from the Minister for Trade and Industry and make it available to the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it true that our Defence Department suspects that the Fill swing wing mechanism is still inadequate even after recent modification? Can the Minister tell us why the Commonwealth Government has asked for a testing period of 16,000 hours compared with the 8,000 hours which the United States Government accepts for its Fill aircraft? Is it because of fear of the wing deficiency? Finally, if this plane is the greatest available, why has the United States Government cut its order from 1,500 to 493 and why is it that this order might still be further reduced?
– Many of the questions asked by the honourable senator were asked last week and I replied to them in considerable depth. I pointed out several times that the 16,000 hours requirement was part of the original agreement. This was made clear in the Prime Minister’s statement which I read, not once, but twice. In those circumstances, I do not feel a need to reply to that part of the honourable senator’s question. The other part of his question is purely hypothetical. Because somebody has said something, he suspects something. I do not think I am obliged to reply to that, either.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science been drawn to a Press report of a statement in a Library Week address by a senior lecturer at the Melbourne Secondary Teachers College, Mr J. D. McLaren, to the effect that Australian public libraries needed a Federal grant of $44m to bring them to minimum effective standards? Does the Minister not agree that this suggests a most disturbing situation as well stocked libraries are essential as a source of ideas and information for people of all ages? This being Library Week in Victoria, I ask whether the Government has any plan to do something to remedy this state of affairs or whether it regards public libraries as being generally outside its sphere of interest or responsibility?
– The honourable senator will know that only within the last 12 months the Government has made an appropriation for the advancement of school libraries. It is only within the last decade that the Commonwealth Government has entered directly into the field of assistance to education. In this field, it places great emphasis on assistance to schools. I submit that the improvement that has taken place in public libraries throughout the whole of Australia reflects great credit on the State governments which have been working in this field and on the library boards who also have been working towards this end. We will be watching with great interest anything that comes out of special weeks such as Library Week and will study carefully any informed comment that we may receive on these matters from the National Librarian and his Board.
– My question is directed to the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities. Is the Minister aware that the Hobart Trade Fair is being opened on 1st August next and will continue for the following 8 days? Does the Minister agree that this fair is an important event not only for the business community but also to all tourists and those interested in tourism?
– My colleague from Tasmania, Senator Rae, naturally rejoices in some degree of achievement, even on the part of Tasmanian industry, and I am glad that he has brought to my attention the trade fair that will begin on 1st August and go on for a matter of some weeks. It is a matter that will attract the attention of tourists as well as industrialists, because it is not very well understood that Tasmanian industry is very diversified and in some particular respects makes a contribution to exports to the mainland that is of very much value.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In a question on the Fill aircraft last week I asked the Leader of the Government if the requirement of 16,000 testing hours on the Fill, as stated by the Prime Minister, would take almost 2 years to meet. The Minister undertook to supply me with information on the method used for this type of testing. Could the Minister now inform me what method is to be used for completing the 16,000 hours testing on the swing-wing mechanism of the Fill?
– It is true that in response to a question by Senator O’Byrne I told him that I would get the departmental explanation of this process and how it works. I do not have it as yet, but I will attempt to get it and make it available to the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. 1 ask again: Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate had an opportunity to read the agreement cm West Irian signed by the Indonesian and Dutch Governments which was tabled by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate? If so, does he believe that the Indonesians are fulfilling their obligations to the people of West Irian under this agreement?
– I have already answered a question asked by Senator Lawrie which touches by implication the question now asked. The honourable senator asked me whether I have read the details of the agreement. The answer is no, I have not done so. But I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Departmentof External Affairs for comment.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. So that honourable senators can judge for themselves the Minister’s fitness to act as censor, will he arrange for honourable senators to see the banned film ‘I Love, You Love’ in the Senate club room as soon as possible?
– In answer to the honourable senator’s questionI would like to make it quite clear that I have a very competent censorship board that looks after the importation of all films. Whilst under a certain section of the regulations I have powers either to take notice of the board or not, I am in this instance quite prepared to take notice of its recommendation in relation to this film, up to a certain point. There is a part of it that I would say would have to be deleted before it could be allowed to be viewed by anybody at all. In view of the honourable senator’s question about whether it is possible to have this film viewed by members of the Senate, I will have to look into this matter and will advise him personally.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is it a fact that the selection of the Swedish film for the Sydney Film Festival was made by the Arts Committee of the Swedish Film Institute? Is the Institute a semi-governmental body, the chairman of which is appointed by the Swedish Government? Is the acting president also a government appointee? Is the Institute financed by the Swedish Government to enable it to make Swedish films? Will the Minister also tell us when he will have discussions with the Director or other persons concerned with the possible liberation of this film for Australian audiences. Will he also tell the Senate the decision that he has made as soon as possible after that discussion?
– As to the qualifications of the director who is recommending this film to the Sydney Film Festival, I do not know what connections he really has with the Swedish Government. I understand that there is a claim that he has all the connections that the honourable senator has indicated. I will find this out and advise the honourable senator as soon as I can. As soon as I complete the interview that I will have with Mr Bjorkman when he comes to Canberra I will advise the Senate of my findings.
– I would like to direct further question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does his failure to read the agreement between the Dutch and Indonesians on West Irian indicate that he haslittle interest in the West Irian problem?
– I will leave the Senate to judge my interest on that matter. I represent five other portfolios besides being the Minister for Supply. When I answer a question on external affairs I do not give my own personal views; I give a reply which is based on a consideration by the Minister for External Affairs. If the question relates to a matter under the control of the Prime Minister, my answer is given on a basis of consideration by the Prime Minister’s Department.
(Question No. 874)
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:
It would appear from the honourable senator’s question that he is not clear on the purposes of the Snowy Scheme and the method of its operation. I shall be glad to provide him with a brief explanation in the course of which his questions will be answered.
The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme as its name implies is primarily for the production of electricity. It is designed to produce peak load power for the New South Wales and Victorian grids and for the Australian Capital Territory. It also provides very valuable standby services to the major thermal stations as its hydro machines can come on and off load far quicker. Finally it provides interconnection between the two State systems.
Electricity consumers in New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT meet the whole of the cost of constructing and operating the Scheme.
Although the Scheme is primarily designed for the production of electricity it also has very valuable irrigation characteristics. It diverts the Snowy river and several of its tributaries through the mountains where the water is made available in the western flowing streams without charge to irrigation authorities. On the average 1 million acre ft of water a year is diverted westward; however, through the regulation and control provided by the Snowy works and the downstream storages the additional water which can be made available for irrigation is nearly 2 million acre ft a year.
The scheme is operated and maintained by the Snowy Mountains Council which works within the terms of a Commonwealth/State Agreement. This Agreement provides certain rights to irrigation authorities for water. In fact, however, the Snowy Mountains Council has provided far more water than the basic legal rights. In particular during the recent drought it made special additional releases which were of critical importance to irrigation industries in the Murray and Murrumbidgee Valley. It is for reasons such as this that I would be surprised if Riverina irrigation officials have taken the view the honourable senator appears to attribute to them. In fact the senior officers of both the New South Wales and the Victorian Irrigation Commissions have stated that far from jeopardising irrigation industries the special assistance provided by the Snowy last year was of critical importance in saving irrigated crops.
In the light of the above the honourable senator can understand that electricity is not produced in the Snowy area merely to eke out coal production. There is ample coal produced in New South Wales to meet all its electricity needs; but it is more expensive to produce electricity for purely peaking purposes from coal than from the Snowy hydro plant. Thus the use of the Snowy not only saves costs but in addition enables far more water to be made available for irrigation purposes.
(Question No. 1097)
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:
Legislation has been passed by the Parliament to provide grants as follows:
The Government has also announced that it will provide up to $6 million to South Australia for the Tailem Bend-Keith Pipeline Scheme. On the 17th April 1969 the Minister for National Development announced that the Government had agreed to provide up to $20 million to New South Wales to assist with construction of the Copeton Dam, up to $4 million to Victoria for the construction of the King River Dam and up to $750,000 to Tasmania for the construction of the Cressy-Longford Irrigation Works.
(Question No. 1150)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1207)
asked the Minis ter for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
However, the question of protection for this industry is under review. The Minister for Trade and Industry referred the matter to the Tariff Board in March 1968 and the Board has completed its public inquiry. When the Board’s report is received it will be considered by the Government without delay.
(Question No. 1209)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1262)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
In view of the acknowledged profitability of the Australian national shipping services to and from Tasmanian ports, will the Minister stress to his colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, that Tasmania would be unfairly disadvantaged if its shipping cargo rates were increased to make up for losses experienced by the Australian National Line on its other services, and can some indication be given that trade to Tasmania will not be so disadvantaged? .
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Coastal Shipping Commission is required by the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act to make its shipping services available at the lowest possible rates of charges.
Within this policy, the services to and from Tasmanian ports are provided at freight rates which permit the Australian National Line to obtain a reasonable return on the cost of providing those services, without compensating for losses sustained in other services, such as the service to Darwin from Melbourne/Sydney/Brisbane.
Should the Commission be of the view that an increase in its freight rates is necessary, the approval of the Minister for Shipping and Transport, in accordance with the Act, would first need to be obtained before any increase could apply. There is no suggestion that freight on the services to and from Tasmanian ports should be increased to compensate for losses sustained in other areas.
(Question No. 1263)
asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Kingsgrove Hire Car Service
Legion Hire Cars
Hurleston Park Hire Cars
Broadway Hire Cars
Ambassador Hire Cars
Hughes Motor Services
Mays Hill Hire Cars
Carlton Hire Cars
Mosman Cremorne Hire Cars
Gymea and District Hire Cars
Earlwood Hire Cars
Balmoral Hire Cars
Kings Hire Cars.
Duration of Contract- 1 April 1968 to 31 March 1970.
Bases of Payment - Payment is made according to time and mileage from pick-up to set-down except where the job involves travelling outside a 20 miles radius from the G.P.O., when payment is made ‘depot to depot’ on miles plus waiting time basis.
Rates of Hire - The hourly rates charged vary from $1.80 to $2.40 and the mileage rates from 12 cents to15 cents. In addition there are various minimum charges and some contractors offer discount rates for prompt payment of accounts.
For work outside the 20 miles radius the bases of charge include waiting time rates varying from $1.50 to $2.40 per hour and mileage rates varying from 10 cents to 16 cents per mile. There are also various minimum charges and prompt payment discounts.
(Question No. 1292)
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The statistical classifications for imported and locally produced rum do not allow for dissection according to the colour of the rum.
The revenue figures for all imported rum for the period 1st July 1968 to 31st March 1969 according to the main countries of origin are:
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered the times of the meeting of the Senate for the remainder of the present period of sittings, be as follows: 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. until 1 1 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Murphy moving a motion relating to the order of General Business after 8 p.m.
– Mr President, I move:
That intervening General Business be postponed until after consideration of order of the day No. 9.
This order of the day relates to the Canberra abattoirs. The motion will have the effect of bringing on for discussion at 8 o’clock notice of motion No. 9. I indicate that some amendment will be made to that notice of motion or that the form of the proposal will be changed. It stands in the names of Senator Devitt and Senator Toohey. When discussion of that notice of motion is disposed of, according to the understanding which has been reached we will facilitate a return to the consideration of Government Business.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of section 11 of the Australian National University Act 1946-1967, the Senate elects Senator Rae to be a member of the Council of the Australian National University to fill the casual vacancy in that Council caused by the death of Senator Laught.
– I have received a letter from the Prime Minister appointing Mr Calder to fill the vacancy on the Foreign Affairs Committee caused by the resignation of Mr Ian Allan.
Consideration resumed from 30 May (vide page 1884).
-(Senator Drake-Brockman). -I remind the Committee that we are taking the Bill as a whole. Before I call Senator Cavanagh, may I remind each Senator who rises to speak that he should indicate theitem to which he relates his remarks.
– Mr Chairman, I wish to speak on the Department of Social Services and also on the Department of Air. I take Division 500 - Administrative as the item on which to base my remarks concerning the Department of Social Services. I wish to bring up the question of the administration of this Department as it relates to the Aged Persons Homes Act. As the Committee will know, for some time I have been concerned about the deposit that it is necessary for an aged person to pay for the purpose of acquiring possession of an aged person’s home. At the time of purchase, the aged person has no equity in the property.I have pointed out that it was commonplace to charge $3,000, which I termed key money, in order to gain possession of a home. If it was found that a tenant was not a satisfactory tenant and that tenant was evicted or if the death of a tenant occurred, the amount of $3,000 was sacrificed from the estate of that tenant although that tenant may have occupied the dwelling for a short time only.
The matter goes further than this. The Act provides that the Government will subsidise the cost of the dwelling to the extent of $2 for each $1 provided by the organisation that controls aged persons homes. The Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) sends out numerous returns. I wish to highlight particularly the return sent out in January of this year. It showed the payments that have been made, As a result of the information that the Minister supplied then, I placed a question on the notice paper showing that a number of organisations were receiving payments in excess of the amount that they contributed towards the cost of aged persons homes. The payments consisted of money received from Government subsidy and from donations by residents of the homes. I asked the following question:
The organisation received $2,700 in excess of the capital cost of the dwelling. Then I asked:
While previously we were told it was necessary for donations by residents and the Commonwealth grant to meet the full cost of the construction of the homes, we find that money received for the construction of homes is in excess of the actual cost of the homes. Before this question was answered the Minister for Social Services (Mr Sinclair) rang me and said: ‘Do you want to discuss this?’ I said: ‘No. Is this a fact?’ He said: ‘Do you know of anyone who is making a profit out of the scheme?’ I said that I did not know of anyone who was making a profit out of the scheme; all I know was that some organisations were getting more than the capital cost of the homes.
When we find an organisation, such as the Age Cottage Homes Incorporated, which is a private company in South Australia, receiving payments in excess of the actual cost of the construction of the homes, we wonder where the money is going to. I am suggesting that there is some exploitation. The Minister pointed out that any amounts received in excess of the capital cost of the homes possibly could be used to provide additional homes for non-donors. In other words some people who are successful in getting homes have to pay high deposits so that other people can get homes on a lesser deposit. It would be unfair if only the privileged few who have the amount of money necessary for a deposit can enter aged persons homes, especially when we find that organisations are receiving payments in excess of the cost of the construction of homes. The Department should take this matter up, bearing in mind that the Act provides for payments to meet the capital cost of the homes, not for something additional, such as administrative expenses and the upkeep of the homes, for which the tenants are charged a weekly rental. I should like the Minister to comment on this matter.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Minister for Housing) [3.18] - When Senator Cavanagh was speaking I asked him which organisation he was referring to, but he did not hear me, so I cannot reply specifically to that matter.
– 1 referred to the Commonwealth Age Cottage Homes Incorporated,
– Thank you very much. I cannot give the honourable senator any particular information on that organisation, but I can refer him to the answer which was recently given by the Minister for Social Services concerning the point he raised about various homes and the amounts of money which have been paid to them. I bring the honourable senator back again to the point made by the Minister when he said:
Commonwealth grants may only be made under the Act to religious and other non-profit organisations, thus all amounts received are applied towards the cost of accommodating aged residents. Any amount received in excess of the capital cost of the building is usually used either to help meet the cost of movable equipment and furniture, which is not eligible for Commonwealth subsidy, to provide additional homes for nondonors, to build nursing accommodation or to meet the cost of other services for the aged residents.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia) (3.2 1] - I wish to raise two matters. The first relates to defence. I refer to a report which was circulated last week to the effect that the Sabre jet aircraft were encountering a number of difficulties occasioned by failure of the compressor blades. The report stated that the failure rate was very high and that the relevant department was carrying out research into the use of various metals other than the metal usually used for compressor blades in the Avon engine, and also a plastic. Can the Minister inform me whether the failure rate for this part of the engine is in fact very high? Does the failure of a compressor blade in a Sabre jet engine present the same kind of hazards as it would in other aircraft, including a very serious fire risk, and so on?
My next question relates to a reply which I received from the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Sinclair) concerning the provision of inter-system rail passes for dependants of national servicemen. Employees of the Commonwealth and State Railways who are called up for national service do not earn recreation leave during the period of national service, but all other rights are preserved. Thus, they maintain their superannuation rights and the various other rights that they have as employees of the Railways, but their dependants lost the right to interstate rail passes. The case that I put to the Minister for Shipping and Transport was in relation to an employee who had gone to Vietnam. During his service in the Army overseas the wife of such a man is entitled only to rail passes for travel within the State. She cannot enjoy the use of an interstate pass in order to visit her relations or friends, as she would in normal circumstances.
This seems to me to be a most unfair situation. We are conscripting men to undergo national service overseas, and there is no doubt that they are doing a good job, but the fact is that the dependants of employees of the Commonwealth and State Railways are losing something which they would receive if the men concerned were serving in their own States. I raised this matter in a letter which I sent to the Minister for Shipping and Transport on 2nd December 1968. On behalf of the Australian Railways Union and some other unions I asked him whether he would take action to see that the dependants of national servicemen were accorded the position which they would enjoy if the national serviceman concerned were working for the Railways. On 23rd January 1969 I received a long reply. I shall not read it, but with the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate it in Hansard.
Dear Senator Bishop,
On 2 December you wrote to me regarding the provision of intersystem passes to dependents of railway employees during the period the employees are undergoing National Service training.
Railway officers or employees qualify for the issue of intersystem rail passes only in respect of approved recreation or long service leave accrued by service with the railway system by which they are employed. In addition, employees are granted certain travel privileges on their particular system but these privileges are not associated with leave entitlements.
In common with the policy adopted by other public service organisations, absence on National Service does not count as service for recreation leave purposes, although the employee retains other entitlements such as continuity of service, promotion and appeal rights, and superannuation and incremental advancements, where applicable. Consequently, during “ the period of National Service neither the employee nor his dependants qualify for the issue of intersystem passes. However, during his term of military duty the National Serviceman is granted leave by the Army and periodical free travel is provided when leave is taken.
Where an employee has a credit of accrued leave when commencing National Service he may arrange for his dependants to utilise the intersystem pass during his absence, or alternatively he can arrange for the entitlement to be deferred until such time as he returns to duty with the railways.
The conditions governing the issue and control of intersystem passes to employees and their dependants were agreed upon following discussions between the various Australian, railways systems, and any variation or amendment thereto would require the concurrence of these systems.
I regret that I am unable to offer any worthwhile assistance, nor does there . seem to be any way in which my colleague the Minister for Defence could help the Union achieve its aim. I can only suggest that the South Australian Branch might consider asking the Australian Railways Union to present the mutter to the next meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Railways Conference.
Yours sincerely, IAN SINCLAIR
It will be seen that the Minister’s reply states, as I have already indicated, that absence on national service does not count as service for recreation leave purposes but that during his term of military duty the national serviceman is granted leave by the Army and periodical free travel when leave is taken. However, the important point is that his family loses something because of his service to the nation.
The Minister suggested that the union or unions concerned might refer the matter to the annual meeting of the railways commissioners. It seems to me that the Minister and the Government ought to initiate some action. The Minister for Shipping and Transport could ask the Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways to urge upon the State commissioners that past benefits should continue to be enjoyed by the dependants of national servicemen. The Minister could grant the extra privilege - that is, passes for dependants of national servicemen who retain their service in any State railway - for travel on the Commonwealth railway system, and could further promote the objectives of the unions through direct discussions with the State commissioners.
– The reference to the Sabre aircraft was based, I presume, upon a Press article written by Mr John McDonald, the aviation writer of the ‘Age’. There have been some engine failures, but such failures are by no means peculiar to the Sabre aircraft. The purpose of investigational work is to determine over a long period the reason for such failures and to ensure against future failures. There is no suggestion of grounding the Sabre. The investigational work to which I have referred indicates the part that is played by my Department in safe life studies of various aircraft.
The assessment of the safe life of any RAAF aircraft is a matter of continuing research, and our assessment is passed on to the Department of Air. The investigations are undertaken by the Aeronautical Research Laboratories. Such investigations have covered not only the Sabre aircraft but also the Winjeel, the Hercules, the Neptune, the Vampire, the Canberra and the Mirage. The story in question has tended to take this work out of perspective. I suspect that it stems from an open day which was held and a question that was asked. 1 have before me a list of the investigations normally carried out, but I do not think there is any need for me to have it incorporated in Hansard. Suffice it for me to say that there has not been a recent upsurge in failures. The number of failures in the last 10 years with the Avon engine used as it is in the Sabre aircraft has not been unusual.
– Senator Bishop asked a question relative to Division 490 - Commonwealth Railways. I have not the information available, but I shall obtain it from my colleague the Minister for Shipping and Transport and pass it on to the honourable senator direct.
– I refer to the proposed appropriation for the Department of Air and the provision of $253,000 far freight and cartage in Division 694. I would like a breakdown of this item. I am concerned as to whether any of this sum will be used to bring to Australia spare parts for the ill fated Fill aircraft. My information is that for some months the Royal Australian Air Force has been carrying spare parts from America to the air base at Richmond for an aircraft which we may never own. I put a question on notice to which I received a reply on Friday in these terms:
The assessed quantities required for the first year of operation of the aircraft have been received in respect of 37,000 identified spares items.
This is a plane that we may never get, but if we do succeed in getting it it will necessitate - it is anticipated - 37,000 spare parts in the first year of operation. I take it that despite long testing great quantities of spare parts will be necessary for this aircraft, and this relates only to its first year of operation. As to the cost, the reply stated:
The exact value of the quantities received cannot be given because claims for payment are not made until some time after deliveries. It is estimated that the value would approximate $20m.
We are getting these parts - 37,000 of them - at a price which we do not know. We think that it may be $20m. I want to know what is the actual cost to Australia of this ill fated plane. Senator Cohen asked a question as to what we have paid in purchase price. Now we have notice that we are up for approximately S20m for spare parts for the first 12 months of operation when we get these aircraft. Does this amount of $20m include the freight and charges involved in bringing these spare parts to Australia, or are these costs covered up in this item of $253,000 for freight and charges under Division 694?
– Item 06 of Division 694 does not refer to the F111A aircraft.
– Where do we find what it is costing?
– First of all, I should like to mention the near impossibility of giving detailed replies to questions on appropriations when they are fired at Ministers in the manner that has been adopted. I am not criticising the Opposition at all. If it is possible for a Minister to sit here and have his advisers near him he can give detailed information, but this is not possible when there is one question on Supply, another on Air and so on. The only thing that can be done under the circumstances is to give the replies that are provided to the Minister on paper and then provide any further detail required at a later date. I just mention that by way of explanation. In relation to the item that the honourable senator mentions, in the year 1968-69 the appropriation amounted to $1,682,000 and the additional appropriation is $253,000. This item covers sea, air, rail and road freight and removal expenses. The additional appropriation is required to allow for a change in procedure regarding the debiting of freight costs. As from 1st March 1969 expenditure on freight for equipment, stores and aircraft components purchased in North America and Europe will be charged to this vote, instead of, as was the case previously, to the appropriations to which the equipment was charged. This additional cost, it is estimated, will require an appropriation of $200,000, and $53,000 additional will be required for freight paid in Australia.
Senator TURNBULL (Tasmania) (3.33] - I have several things that I want to beef about. The first one I relate to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, Division 130, subdivision 1 or sub-division 2. The Minister need not bother looking it up because I am merely pinning my remarks on that division. I want to refer to the rudeness and - as I have often said in this chamber before - the arrogance of Ministers. It will not hurt honourable senators to hear it again - not that the Ministers in this chamber have ever been rude or arrogant. I think that they have done a very good job, facing great difficulties in that they have to be the meat in the sandwich. They get all of the kicks and no praise. They do a wonderful job in the Senate. I refer to the other Ministers and on this particular point to the AttorneyGeneral (Mr Bowen). As a representative of the electorate, when I write to a Minister I expect an answer and I expect some action, not 2 months after I write to him. I wrote to the Attorney-General for someone who was not even an elector of Tasmania about some divorce proceedings. It took 6 weeks for the Minister, with his Private Secretary, the Private Secretary’s secretary, the three assistant typists and secretaries attached to the office, to give me an answer and say: This does not really concern me’.
– He could get married and divorced again in that time.
– Not under our laws; but he could try. I was only seeking information for a man who knew I was interested in this problem. I had to wait 6 weeks before I could reply to him saying: The Minister is so dilatory, or should I say that he is so busy with affairs of state, that he cannot even get a secretary to write and say: “This really does not concern me or my Department. This is a matter on which I cannot give advice”.’ That is what the Minister said. It took 6 weeks. This goes on all the time.
I refer now to the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) in regard to the same subject.
I will pin this on Division 290. This Minister is so puffed up with importance - regrettably so in view of the fact that he is not a medical man - that he thinks his departmental officers are paid so much that noone anywhere in this country can give any opinion or make any suggestion that might be acceptable to the Department of Health - unless it comes from that Department. This applies not only to the Department of Health; it applies to any department, if we want to analyse the matter. I am just pinning this on the Department of Health. I raised questions on three different matters. Because I raise something, or anyone else in this country raises something, it is of no use or consequence whatever. The head of the Department is paid $19,000 a year. He is supposed to think of these things. But he is so busy doing something else that he just has not the time to think of it. One would think that he would be grateful to someone who made a suggestion that he could follow up.
Let us take a simple thing such as the palm and turn container for tablets, which I showed honourable senators. It is not the complete answer to the problem, but it is partially an answer to the problem. It is better than what we have at the moment for the prevention of deaths of children or the accidental poisoning of children. What do we get from the Minister? I have received from him three letters saying that this is not the answer. In the last letter, he turned it down, saying that it was only partially the answer. But is it not an answer until he can get his minions, who are being paid these high salaries, to think of something better? Why do we have to suffer because the Department is so jealous of its rights that it cannot listen to anyone who has a suggestion? One would think that the Department would be grateful for any suggestion that came, no matter from whom it came.
In the end I was told that the National Health and Medical Research Council would consider this matter. If it is worth that body considering it, and if it will save the life of even one of the children who have to go to our children’s hospitals - there are two or three of them a week - as a result of swallowing tablets from containers with lids that come off or can be taken off easily, surely it should be used.
But the Department does not do a thing about it because this was not suggested by it. What does the Minister or his Department care about people dying? Not a thing. If they were interested they would do something. Children do take tablets and they do get sick or die. Every year children die from accidental poisoning. I have not the statistics, but Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, who represents the Minister for Health, could quite easily find out the number from her statistics. She has the staff; I have not. Children do die, or if they do not die they become ill. This means added cost to the Commonwealth. But the Government does nothing, except that the Minister writes three letters saying, in the end: Perhaps this is something we should think about’. This is months and months after the matter was first raised.
Let me refer now to drugs. In this chamber I moved an urgency motion to the effect that the Minister for Health should call a conference of all State Ministers for Health and Attorneys-General to go into this question. Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin stood up and, on behalf of the Minister for Health, read out a statement saying: ‘This is not necessary’. But a year later such a meeting was held, was it not? Why does the Government wait? It cannot bear to think of anyone else thinking of anything first. What I am getting at is the arrogance of the departments and the Ministers. They will not accept suggestions from anyone. They do not care two hoots about the matter. Their attitude is that they did not think of it first so the suggestion cannot be any good. The departments and the Ministers should be ashamed of the way that they go on. One could cite case after case of this kind involving not only the Department of Health.
There has now been a conference on drugs and the Commonwealth and State Ministers have admitted that there is a problem. Even the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) had something to say about it. But when I raised the subject in the Senate a year ago I was told that there was no need for a conference. I suggest to the Minister representing the Minister for Health that she should read her speech on this subject. I do not have with me the copy of Hansard containing her speech as I did not know that we would be debating the
Supply Bills today, but I remind her that her remarks are worth reading. She said that there was no need whatever for a conference. Yet now that another year has gone we have the conference, and the problem is still just as acute as it was then.
I refer next to smoking, a subject which has been raised time and again. But you on the Government side of the chamber are frightened of this subject. You are absolutely dead scared to offend the people who pour money into your funds. That is the answer. Otherwise you would do something about smoking. People do not have to stop smoking altogether. I am reminded of that idiotic recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council that APC tablets and pain killers should carry a label warning that they are dangerous, that they may make a person ill. But when the Government is asked to issue a warning in relation to smoking, which has been proved time and again to be harmful, what does it do? It says that it will leave it to the National Health and Medical Research Council. But what does the Council do? It leaves it to the Government. No-one does a thing. And why not? Can you of the Government give me one good reason why you do not do anything? I do not want to be shoved off; I just want to know why you do not do anything.
The first time we raised the question of smoking you said that you had no control over it. Of course you have control. You have control through customs and through excise duty. You can increase the price of cigarettes. It has been proved beyond doubt that cigarettes cause the greatest morbidity in Australia of any disease. Take any disease you like to mention - heart disease, lung disease - it is always increased by cigarette smoking. But what do you do about it? You sit passively by because British Tobacco Company (Australia) Ltd and Rothmans of Pall Mall (Australia) Ltd are so powerful. You are not prepared to do anything about it. Other countries prohibit cigarette advertisements on television, but you allow it because your Party stalwarts provide funds for your Party and a ban on cigarette advertising will affect their trade. You do nothing about advertising in ‘the newspapers or on television. You just sit there as smug as smug can be with the attitude: ‘We administer, so what the hell? It does not matter. We are here and you cannot shift us. We have a lousy Opposition, so what the hell? Let us do what we like.’ That is your attitude and you will not lift a finger to do something about the situation. You have been asked to do something about it, not only by me, but also by other people who are even more competent that I am. If you were to do something about these matters you would be saving the lives of Australians, but you will not do it.
Will the Minister kindly tell us why the Government will not act but continues to shelve the problem onto the National Health and Medical Research Council or onto the State Ministers? The Federal Government has power to act, either directly or indirectly. It has power through the Postmaster-General’s Department, which the Minister representing the Minister for Health also represents in this place, to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act to prohibit the advertising of cigarettes on television. Smoking is not a joke, but it is treated as a joke. People think it is a wonderful thing and just laugh it off. They do not realise what they are doing to the young people and how they are setting them an example. Yet they wonder why there is a permissiveness in society. The reason is that we tell youngsters that they must not do what we do, but at the same time we continue to do it.
I have mentioned these three points in my opening remarks concerning the Department of Health to show the arrogance of Ministers and departments. Before I finish my remarks on Ministers I refer to answers to questions. Since Senator Anderson has been Leader of the Government in the Senate we have been able to get quicker answers to some of our questions. All praise to him for that. We do not now have to wait a year before receiving a reply. But could it not be passed on to Cabinet that, in the first place it is rude, in the second place it is dilatory, and in the third place it is an example of incompetence, when a Minister cannot answer a simple letter? I know that in some cases it is necessary to telephone all over the Commonwealth to find out what is happening, but normally that would take only a day or so. I remember that on one occasion I could not get an answer from the Minister even after 3 weeks of questioning. I then rang the library at Duntroon and got an answer within 5 minutes. Of course, the Minister’s secretary was too busy. Ministers’ secretaries are always much too busy to answer questions by honourable senators. I say to the Minister: ‘Would you take it to Cabinet? Would you behave in a reasonable manner? You are only elected by the people and by the grace of your own Party. You are elected by the people just as we are. Would you mind doing something about it?’
I come now to Division 350 which relates to the Department of the Interior and wish to ask a simple question about one matter in which I am interested as a former alderman and former mayor of a city. I should like to know how the city of Canberra can afford the bus shelter sheds that are to be seen in National Circuit just across the way from Kings Avenue. There are three such shelter sheds. 1 think they took about 8 weeks to build. I should like to know how long it did take to build those asbestos cement and wooden structures and how much they cost. When I get an answer I might have something more to say about them.
I come now to item 11 of Division 430 under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department. I refer in particular to public relations officers. I cannot take this matter up fully today, but I hope to do so during the Budget session. I did ask how many public relations officers and Press officers were employed by the various Ministers and their departments. The number is an absolute scandal. No-one has worried about the huge number, but an answer has been given. I do not think everyone realises just how many there are. Do honourable senators know that there are twentytwo Press officers in the Army and that every article they read is censored and therefore has to go through one central command? These twenty-two, I think, are in addition to the one which the Minister has. The reply I received is not clear on that point. I suppose the Royal Australian Air Force does not want to talk about the Fill, so it has only two such officers. Five are employed by the Department of Air. The Royal Australian Navy has no Press officers, but five are employed by the Department of the Navy. Can the
Minister get for me information as to what these twenty-two public relations officers are doing in the Army? How do they fill in their time? Where can we see their handiwork? What sort of rank do they hold? I suppose they are all captains and majors. What do they do? Can we have an answer some time tonight as to what they do?
In the Department of the interior sixty-nine public relations officers are employed. That is all! Of course, sixtyfive of them are employed by the Australian News and Information Bureau I suppose they would be spread throughout the various States. I have not had time to go into the details relating to them. It would seem to me that the total number of public relations officers employed in al] departments, including the Army, would be 150. If that is not a scandal, tell me what is. I should like the Minister to point to what they do. Let him show us some of their work. What are they achieving? Is their employment worth while? Does not the Government take an interest in these matters? Does it not inquire as to why twenty-two such officers should be employed by the Army or why, for example, the Department of Immigration should employ twenty-seven? Probably the twentyseven employed by the Department of Immigration would include officers employed at overseas posts. I suppose each overseas post has a public relations officer. How he can fill in his time on migration matters, I do not know.
One more question: It relates to item 02 of sub-division 5, Division 430 - Historical Buildings. I did ask the Minister whether he would take to Cabinet the question of Elizabeth Farm, a historical museum. I asked whether this was the oldest house standing in Australia.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I think I should comment here upon some of the points raised by Senator Turnbull. He referred to a whole series of departments and asked a number of questions. I remind him that we are now merely seeking appropriation of short term supply to carry us on from 30th June. The main Appropriation and Supply Bills will be dealt with during the Budget session. I am sure therefore that the honourable senator will acknowledge that it is not possible for Ministers to get answers to the whole series of questions he raised today. No doubt each Minister will extract from the Hansard record any point raised by the honourable senator which concerns his particular department and will seek the required information for him.
I do not subscribe to the strong views the honourable senator expressed concerning the discourtesy of Ministers. But he was expressing his personal view on that matter. I remind him that Ministers in this place who are only representing Ministers in another place are faced with administrative difficulties when questions are directed to them. As I pointed out during question time, any answer that is given has to be based on a study made within the department concerned. All I can say to the honourable senator is that the Ministers concerned will extract from the Hansard report points relevant to their responsibilities and submit them to the departments concerned. Then, at a subsequent meeting of the Senate, or during the Budget session, the honourable senator will have the opportunity to say whether he thinks the answers supplied have been satisfactory or unsatisfactory.
– I could not allow the attack which Senator Turnbull has made upon the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) to go unanswered. The honourable senator complained about rudeness and arrogance and then, as the whole of his audience could judge, proceeded to give a display of unparallelled rudeness, arrogance and ignorance. He complained that the AttorneyGeneral did not answer a letter relating to divorce within 6 weeks of its having been addressed to him by Senator Turnbull. Senator Turnbull did not have the courtesy to examine the correspondence in detail before coming into this chamber and taking advantage of all the public mass media to refer to one of his little matters - on one of these occasional instances when he sits down and devotes some attention to business.
I would suggest that a moment’s reflection would remind the honourable senator that the Attorney-General is probably one of the most hard worked members of the Government. He is not required merely to advise upon complicated constitutional matters which arise daily although almost every proposal before the Government requires his careful consideration of the legal implications from the point of view of our constitutional power. In addition, when emergency requires it, he has to turn his attention to other matters which come before Cabinet for decision. In those circumstances, I claim on behalf of the Attorney-General that it is within the province of his judgment to accord Senator Turnbull’s correspondence a priority which may well go to a period of 6 weeks before sending a reply. One can be concerned in this Parliament with much more purposeful proposals than this display of spleen to which we have been treated by the honourable senator.
[3.54] - I want to refer briefly to one point raised by Senator Turnbull because I feel that the information I have will be of importance to him. It has to do with cigarette advertising. A report on smoking attitudes has been prepared by a committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. That report is to be considered by the Commonwealth and State Ministers at their next conference which is to be held in Adelaide this month. The question of action to be taken by the States and the Commonwealth in respect of its Territories so far as cigarette advertising is concerned will be considered in the light of that report.
I should like also to mention one further point which is of interest to Senator Cavanagh. When replying to the honourable senator earlier, I said that a large number of aged persons in aged persons’ homes had not paid a donation to the home concerned and that a number were receiving pension benefits. I should like to give further details. Sixty-five per cent of aged persons in homes have not paid a donation and 78% of the residents are receiving age pensions.
– I want to direct my remarks to the appropriation for the Department of the Army, Division 670, Arms Armament and Equipment, item 04, Weapons and Ammunition - an amount of §4m. I think the Minister for Supply (Senator Anderson) will be able to answer my questions without going too deeply into all the details. I have just returned from attending a conference in Cambodia. Last week while I was there there was on the British Broadcasting Corporation news service an item that Prince Norodom Sihanouk was proposing to appeal through the International Court of Justice for reparations in respect of defoliation damage caused to rubber trees in Cambodia. So I took the opportunity to approach the Government and ask whether it would be possible to inspect the area which was complained of for my own information and the information of Australians generally. This request was agreed to and I was flown to the south east corner of Cambodia. 1 then flew back and forth over an area of some 2S0 square miles and landed at one place in order to have a look at the defoliation. I was shocked at what had happened, and I think most honourable senators would also be shocked at the scene. Some thousands of rubber trees are dead or apparently dead. They are not capable of producing rubber, and as a result of this in one plantation alone 2,000 workers have nothing to do. The workers and their dependants, some 15,000 people, are without any means of support. The situation is quite tragic.
We also flew along the border with Vietnam and certainly on the Vietnam side the position is much more depressing. But the rubber trees are being ruined in a neutral country, and this disturbed me because 1 wondered to what extent Australia might be involved in this destruction. My question relates to the amount that is being spent here on weapons and ammunition, and I would like to have an assurance that no money from our appropriation is being spent on defoliants or that our planes are not being used to drop defoliants anywhere in the Vietnam area. Apparently the wind is blowing the defoliants across the border into Cambodia and causing this trouble.
From my observation the most sensitive trees are rubber trees, and they are destroyed before anything else. They are the first to succumb to the effect of 2-4-5-T and they are on the other side of the border in neutral Cambodia. Can the Minister give me this assurance, or is he able to find out whether ‘ we are providing any of the defoliant gases or assisting in the distribution of them?
– I did not interrupt the honourable senator when he was speaking because I would not like him to think that I was singling him out for any discourtesy, but in truth the points he has made are not relevant to the appropriation to which he referred. I should think that there are other means that he could use to bring out the point he wants to make. If we are to make some progress with the consideration of the Appropriation Bills and Supply Bills the technique of using an item as the basis for making an inquiry of that kind cannot be employed; otherwise we shall be involved in a long debate lasting many days. I suggest with great respect that all the Minister can do by way of reply is to say that he is not able to give an answer at this time and will refer the matter to the Minister concerned and try to obtain a reply. If an honourable senator considers the reply to be unsatisfactory he can use the forms of the Senate to raise the matter again.
– Division 670 deals specifically with weapons and ammunition, and has nothing to do with the subject raised by Senator Wilkinson. I am quite happy to give the explanation of it, which I have here if the honourable senator needs it, but there is no information about the subject which he raised - not a thing.
– I refer to Division 520, sub-division 3, item 02 in the appropriations for the Department of Trade and Industry. This item refers to the subsidy paid to the South American shipping service amounting to $60,000. As these are supplementary appropriations, I would like to know what was the total amount of subsidy provided for the whole year for this shipping service. I would also like to know whether the subsidy is granted in toto for the whole of the Australian service or whether the subsidy is for the individual States according to the shipping from those States. If there is a breakdown I would like to know how much of this subsidy for a full year will be appropriated for shipping services ex Port Adelaide, South Australia.
– I want to refer to Division 390, Administrative, Department of National Development. I wish to refer to the remarks made by the Leader of the Government (Senator Anderson), and round off the comments made by Senator Turnbull with respect to the answering of questions upon notice. I think the way that the Government carries on when honourable senators put questions on notice is a disgrace. The questions are allowed to remain on the notice paper until the answers to them are of no use to the honourable senators who asked them.
I instance one case. I asked Senator Scott, as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development a question on 23rd March. I received an answer to that question on 24th May. That is an interval of 2 months. A colleague of mine asked a similar question of the Designated Authority in Western Australia, and he is a member of a different House. But my colleague asked the question on a Tuesday and he had the answer on a Wednesday. This illustrates the difference between the promptness with which questions are answered in another parliament and the delays which occur in this Parliament. I do not altogether blame Ministers for the long lists of answers to questions upon notice which they bring into the Senate because they cannot get the information outside, but when one looks at the methods which are resorted to to avoid the answering of long questions, such as the incorporation of them in Hansard, this reflects upon the efficiency of the Government. I make the protest and suggest that Ministers should impress upon their colleagues that honourable senators are entitled to expect to be given answers more speedily than they receive them at the moment.
– I want to direct a couple of questions relating to Division 330 under the Department of Immigration. My questions relate to sub-division 3, item 02, Commonwealth Hostels Ltd, hostel tariffs for unemployed migrants and their families. The information I seek, and I do not expect to be given it immediately, is a breakdown of the amount of such payments to the two New South Wales hostels, one at Berkeley on the south coast and the other at Dundas in the metropolitan area. I also refer to the reimbursement of passage assistance made by migrants on temporary departure from Australia. I wonder whether there is a great amount of bad debts involved in respect of this repayment and also I should like to know the criterion on which approval is granted for such payment. Finally I want to turn to the Department of Social Services. I refer to the grant made to the ‘Australian Council on the Ageing’. Although the amount is only $40,000, I am curious to know the function of the Council and its components.
Senator Dame ANNABELLE RANKIN (Queensland - Minister for Housing) [4.7] - I am sorry but I do not have the details of the last matter Senator Mulvihill has raised. I will answer the question on the Department of Immigration. The honourable senator referred to the additional appropriation of $222,000 under the heading ‘Hostel Tariffs for unemployed migrants and their families’. These payments comprise the difference between normal hostel tariffs and deductions from social service benefits towards accommodation costs until breadwinners have been placed in initial employment. The reasons for increased expenditure are as follows: Firstly, there is an increase in the average per capita cost of the subsidy. Factors which have given rise to the higher average per capita costs are increased tariffs from October 1968, and a higher adult proportion in the intake. The second reason for increased expenditure is that more migrants now proceed direct to hostels instead of to the Bonegilla migrant reception centre. Thirdly, there has been an increase in the proportion of special social service benefits retained by migrants awaiting first employment over the period 15th December 1968 to 1st February 1969 thus increasing the amount of subsidy to be paid by the Department of Immigration to Commonwealth Hostels Ltd.
– Senator Turnbull asked a question about the cost of the erection of three bus shelters in National Circuit, Canberra. The cost of the shelters, including paving and footpaths, was $11,631. The contracts were of 3 months duration. The bus shelters serve the
Barton offices, the Patent Office and the Tariff Board. Senator Cant asked me a question in my capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. His question concerned the delay in answering questions. I will take this up with the Minister and advise him.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Anderson) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 27 May (vide page 1576), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 27 May (vide page 1576), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Consideration resumed from 27 May (vide page 1577), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 27 May (vide page 1578), on motion by Senator McKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I raise a point of procedure. I suggest that it might suit the convenience of honourable senators if this measure and the Meat Chicken Levy Bill 1969 and the Meat Chicken Levy Collection Bill 1969 were debated together at the second reading stage. They would, of course, be taken separately in committee.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood) - There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– Madam Acting Deputy President, I have discussed this matter already with the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) who is handling these Bills. We did agree that these three Bills mightbe taken together at the second reading stage. The Bills are associated with a levy to be placed on meat chicken breeders for the purpose of research work within the industry. The Commonwealth Government will pay an amount equal to that provided by the collection of the levy. The Opposition does not oppose the Bills as such, though it is proposed that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) will move some amendments during the Committee stage. The Opposition is concerned at some of the measures relative to the rights of inspectors to move on to farm properties and to confiscate goods without a system requiring warrants to be issued for this action. We are concerned also with the clause relative to the length of time for which a prosecution can be held over the head of a person who has been deemed by an inspector to have broken the provisions of the Act.
We agree in principle with the measures. The industry itself has sought the research fund. It has indicated that it is prepared to be levied for the purpose of research. So, asI have said, the general principles of the three Bills will not be opposed.
The chicken meat industry has developed extensively over the last 10 or 15 years. The amount of chicken meat sold in shops today is far in advance of what anybody would have thought some 10 years or 15 years ago would be the case. However, it is accepted that a deal of research into this industry will still be required to ensure that the costs of production are reduced, that the losses that occur particularly in the early hours of the lives of chickens can be reduced and that the great losses that occur by reason of disease in the later lives of chickens can be reduced also. It is a fact tha! diseases that affect poultry move through whole flocks very quickly. A whole flock of chickens can be lost very early in their lives. Whole flocks of mature birds can be lost as a result of some of the known diseases that affect chickens.
We are hoping also that this research will find some answer to the problem that the housewife has. The housewife buys a bird marked as being of a certain weight. But when she thaws that bird out to put it in the pot she finds that it weighs nowhere near the weight marked. It is well known that there is a heavy weight of water content in chickens that’ are purchased as frozen birds. This matter has been taken up in various States to ascertain some method whereby the freezing can be so modified that the housewife is not paying a high price for a bird and finding that a substantial amount of the weight is ice.
I think we also must look at the position of some people in this trade at the moment who are filling the bird with all the things that the normal housewife throws away when she cooks a chicken in her kitchen. I understand that some years ago a person who sold chickens would have sections of the bird in a separate bag. The liver, the legs and the giblets would be sold separately in bulk at a far lower price than that at which the bird itself would be sold. Now we know that if we pick up a chicken today we find that it has two legs stuffed inside it and that we can pull out also from inside the chicken a little plastic bag that contains a heap of broken liver, giblets and the neck of the bird. I presume that these things are provided for the purpose of making some kind of soup or broth. But I think that 80% of housewives look at this conglomeration with horror when it is pulled out. A housewife who has a cat quickly disposes of these things by feeding them to it
I hope that in helping this industry to become more efficient by assisting it in research into the various matters that affect it, such as the diseases of which I spoke earlier, as a result of which perhaps heavier birds will be produced in a quicker time, we will find that the industry itself will play the game with the consumer by ensuring that the consumer is not robbed by these spurious methods of increasing the total weight of the frozen bird and trying thereby to convince the housewife that birds are being sold at a lower price per pound. Some birds sell at 45c per pound. But by the time the ice has been removed and the entrails have been thrown to the cat the housewife finds that she is paying approximately 60c per pound for the bird instead of 45c per pound. With those few comments, I commend the Bills to the Senate with the exception of those matters concerning which amendments will be moved by the Leader of the Opposition during the Committee stage.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) 4.20- Madam Acting Deputy President, a part of the chicken meant industry has recommended that a research organisation be set up. I fully support these Bills, as do other members of the Country Party. It is estimated that some 50% of hatcheries throughout Australia are likely to contribute towards the amount of $80,000 which, it is intended at this stage, will be raised. The amount does not appear to be particularly high. My calculations show that it will be more or less a minimum nominal contribution by the hatcheries which will be levied - those that raise 20,000 birds or more a year.
Research is certainly needed in this industry particularly in relation to diseases. Great benefits will be achieved if attention is directed to the advantages of force feeding and the great growth and scientific progress that has occurred in the stock feeds industry over the last few years. I believe that the breeding of various types of birds probably will be improved a great deal by the benefits that can be contributed in this way. Senator Poyser mentioned some of the problems of marketing. We have seen that this industry has forced its product onto the market with great success. Probably the greatest problem that the industry faces at the present time is the competition that is abroad to the extent that, indeed, some marketing or retail prices which are being gained for poultry meat must be very near to the bone as far as profitability is concerned.
I would wish the Minister for Repatriation (Senator McKellar) to make clear regarding the Chicken Meat Research Trust
Account exactly what is meant by clause 5 of the Chicken Meat Research Bill. This clause makes some comments regarding the amounts that are to be paid into the Chicken Meat Research Trust Account. There seems to be some inconsistency there. I would be pleased to know the way in which the amounts payable into that account will be regulated. As the industry has requested these measures, it is with great pleasure that I support the Bills.
– Madam Acting Deputy President,I, too, support the legislation. I also wish to support some of the comments that have been made by Senator Poyser in relation to this matter. This industry is to be commended upon not only the efficiency with which its growth has taken place but also the attitude which the industry has adopted towards its problems and towards overcoming those problems. As I understand it, this research scheme is to be set up at the instigation of the industry. I hope that the industry which last year was responsible for the slaughter and sale of 76 million chickens, most of which were frozen before sale, will do something about overcoming the problem of excess moisture in frozen chickens.
The technique of slaughtering and then freezing chickens involves the use of machines which vary in their types and in their techniques. With some of them, as I understand the situation, the tendency exists to include a greater amount of water in the final product. Consequently, there is a tendency to leave a greater amount of water frozen in the chicken. Some tests which were conducted by the Australian Consumers Association, the results of which were published in December 1967, give an indication of the variation which exists in the amount of water left in frozen chickens. I make no mention of the brand names which were published at that time because the producers of those brands may have altered their methods since then. Brand ‘A’ contained 21% water. Brand ‘B’ contained 17.4% water. Brand’C’ was found to have 15.1% water. Brand ‘D’ contained 2% water. The differences are very, very significant. A number of other brands were tested and great variations between 20% and 2% were found. If some people can produce frozen chickens with a moisture content as low as 2%, it may well be that there is no good reason why other people should produce chickens with a moisture content as high as 20%. In some States people who are buying chickens are buying very large quantities of frozen water at a very high price.
The Australian Consumer’s Association at the time of its investigation recommended to consumers that they should avoid buying frozen chickens and buy only fresh chickens. It might well be that that will remain good advice until some steps are taken by the industry to overcome this particular problem and voluntarily to impose upon itself the type of restriction which has been imposed by force on chicken producers in Tasmania where only 5% moisture content in chickens is permitted, and in South Australia and Victoria where restrictions have also been imposed. I understand that the matter has been considered by the Food Standards Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, and that a recommendation was made at a meeting of that Committee on 30th April last. The recommendation is to go forward to the Research Council’s meeting in October next. But in the meantime the sale of chickens containing excess moisture will apparently continue. I can only join with Senator Poyser in urging the industry to adopt a responsible attitude with regard to this aspect of its operations, as well as with regard to other types of research.
There is one other matter on which I wish to comment. Clause 9 of the Meat Chicken Levy Collection Bill provides that: . . a person authorised in writing by the Minister to exercise powers under this section may, at all reasonable times and on production of that authority -
A moment ago I received a copy of a proposed amendment. I have not had time fully to consider the amendment, but it does appear to me that possibly it answers the objections which I intended to raise. I simply draw attention to the fact that this type of power of entry given by the Minister to any person, whether that person is concerned with the administration of the scheme, or whether he is a police officer or some other officer, is an invasion of the liberty of the subject which may or may not be warranted. This is something which must always be borne in mind in relation to the problem which has to be overcome.
– Commodity boards take no notice of civil liberties.
– As Senator Cormack points out, commodity boards take no notice of civil liberties. For some time 1 have been concerned about this question of the growth of the powers given to people to enter premises and to require people to do things which criminals or people who are thought to have committed crimes are not required to do. We give greater protection to the criminals in the community than to honest producers. 1 simply raise my voice to express concern about this tendency which has been going on, particularly in relation to marketing organisations and marketing schemes.
Senator O’BYRNE (Tasmania) 4.29] - .1 want to address a few remarks to the Senate concerning the meat chicken industry. 1 should like to take the opportunity to issue a warning to the industry that on every occasion on which legislation which is designed to impose levies has come before the Senate for sanction by the Parliament, complaints have been raised about the standard of the chickens that are being made available to the public. Senator Poyser, Senator Webster and Senator Rae have referred to this matter. I think the industry should be informed that if it continues falsely to present a commodity to the public it can expect some opposition from this Parliament to legislation which is designed to collect levies which are used in the interests of the industry. After all, it is the consumer who eventually pays the levy in extra charges for chickens. Therefore, it is the consumer who should be protected against dishonest practices.
I refer to the practice of pumping - or whatever is done - to put moisture into chickens for the purpose of deceiving the public. This practice should be stamped out. The Tasmanian Government had to legislate to forbid people pumping moisture into chickens in Tasmania. I believe that the Commonwealth should take similar action in its own Territories. This matter probably is more noticeable in the meat chicken industry, because after a person buys a chicken from a store he puts in in his refrigerator and then it has to be de-frozen before it is placed in the oven. One sees the bird visibly shrinking and there are many wrinkles to the square inch where the iced water was located. The chicken sags as though it is emaciated. It becomes a poor unfortunate looking thing. I want to make this protest against this practice of adding to chickens water which turns into ice and which is sold to the public. The public is being deceived.
– I think that the water usually is the residue of the washing.
– No, 1 do not believe that. The water seems to be injected into the flesh of the chicken in some way or other because the water is not in the form of solid ice inside the bird itself. People cannot see these things when they buy chickens. 1 have never in my life seen anyone eat chicken legs. I have heard that people eat frogs legs. 1 believe that the French think frogs legs are a delicacy. But you could not feed a bandicoot on chicken legs. There is not enough on them, unless one eats toenails, because that is about the only part of the chicken leg that could be eaten. Then there is the scraggy looking thing which is called the neck. It is distorted. Senator Poyser said that the neck could be given to a cat. I do not think that any self-respecting cat would eat it. It is not meant to be anything to eat. It is put in the chicken so that people will pay 50 cents or 60 cents a lb for it. The industry should take this as a warning that if this practice is continued 1 will do my best among my colleagues - and I hope that I will get support of some decent thinking honourable senators opposite - to encourage them to give a second thought as to whether the meat chicken industry should continue to get support from this Parliament if the industry allows this practice to continue. I am sure there are decent thinking people in the industry who do not approve of this practice which is going on. Let us take the example of the Department of Customs and Excise which has introduced a system which it calls ‘commodity control*. The Department is asking people with whom it deals to submit returns, and the Department trusts these people. More trust is coming into dealings in the community. This practice which has been adopted by the Department of Customs and Excise is admirable and it is very acceptable to the public. I think that we should try to reduce to a minimum the mistrust which can develop in our community in relation to certain matters.
The final point I want to raise relates to inspectors. It should be the duty of this Parliament to try to reduce to a minimum the practice of people having big brother breathing down their necks. I do not believe that sufficient attention is given to training inspectors in public relations. After all, many inspectors have a nine to five job. Possibly it is not a very pleasant job to tell people that they are wrong all the time or to snoop about finding out things about people. I do not suppose that it is a job which attracts university graduates. Nevertheless, the inspectors are officers of the Public Service who make contact with the general public. I believe that they should be specially trained in making contact with the public.
Primary producers in the main live isolated lives. They run their own business. Many of them are battlers in the industries in which they are engaged, and they do not like being pushed around. I believe that primary producers object to people being given wide powers to walk in and inspect books. The man whose books are being inspected no doubt feels that he is carrying on a legitimate business. Nevertheless, he gets the impression that he is under the scrutiny and observation of an inspector. That is not a very good situation. I think that more thought will need to be given to this aspect of the levy and also to the matter of contact between officers of the Public Service and the people engaged in the industry.
– Very briefly, I wish to commend the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony), on his acceptance of the representations of the chicken meat industry through its Federal organisation, the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, regarding the establishment and operation of a joint Commonwealth and industry research scheme for the chicken meat industry. The Government has again pursued its excellent policy of fostering rural industry and of undertaking research into the problems of rural industry. In this instance it will provide funds on a $1 for $1 basis to match those raised by the chicken meat industry. This is the seventh rural industry which will have such a scheme. As I have said, it is another excellent example of the willingness of the Government to help industries which are prepared to help themselves.
There has been great growth in the chicken meat industry in Australia in recent years. It has the potential for much greater growth, provided that assistance is given to enable research to be carried out into breeding, processing and the other aspects of the industry. I have no doubt that good results will flow from the establishment of the research committee which will consist of six members from the Australian Chicken Meat Federation, two from the Australian Agricultural Council, and one each representing the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, universities and the Department of Primary Industry. I have no doubt that the committee will give a boost to the industry and that as a result of its efforts the industry will rank very highly amongst the industries producing meat in Australia. Very briefly, I have taken the opportunity to pay my tribute to the Minister for the policies that he has implemented in rural industry research and to indicate my very warm support for the Bill.
– I wish to indicate that the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party support this legislation which seems to have been generated by representations by the industry. It is easy to share the fears that have been expressed in this chamber concerning the unscrupulous methods of marketing which sometimes are adopted. However, I think that the people who use those methods are in the minority. After all, this is a highly competitive industry. It is a booming industry these days. Nowadays it is common for people to eat chicken two or three times a week whereas once upon a time they ate chicken only at Christmas time or at Easter. The industry has met challenges in the past. Today there is a high degree of competition, and I think that that in itself keeps the majority of producers honest. The fact that there are three Bills dealing with the industry at present before the Senate and that a chicken meat research committee is to be established may indicate that the industry itself is well aware of the problems stated by honourable senators who have spoken during this debate.
It is hoped to create a major export industry in chicken meat. I suggest that we cast our minds into the future and consider the circumstances that may well arise if we have millions of bushels of wheat which we cannot sell to anybody because we have hopelessly overproduced in the light of world demand. In that event we could conceivably send away meat in the form of chicken carcasses if the industry has the capacity to do so and sufficient initiative to develop alternative methods of production. It may be possible to reduce the cost of production and thus make it possible to produce quality chicken meat at the reduced price that will be necessary if we are to demand a place in the world market.
This matter is of particular interest for those who have sought information about Asia’s food requirements and trade arrangements, because chickens already are widely eaten in Asia, lt would not be a matter of sending to Asia something by way of an experiment, nor would it be like trying to popularise the eating of crumpets so that we could sell the Asian people butter to put on the crumpets. A market for chickens already exists and it could be expanded if Australian producers were able to produce a quality product at a lower price. I believe that development of the industry and research into the production of better chicken meat are well worth while, and for that reason we approve of the legislation. Two of the Bills are consequential upon the establishment of the research committee, and for that reason they cannot do otherwise than meet with the approbation of the Senate.
I wish to say a few words concerning the comments of honourable senators to the effect that individual liberties should be preserved and of the rights that may be established under this legislation. I suppose that a person who runs a factory or an industry has no civil liberty to fail to disclose his wages book to a factory inspector upon demand. How else could the law which provides that proper wages shall be paid to employees be administered? The civil liberties of the person who runs the factory and is required to produce his wages book are limited by the civil liberties of the people who work for him. They have an entitlement to protection that is afforded through examination of the books and by other means. I do not know that a good case in this respect can be made out when the authority concerned is a board. Heavens above! Under the Act which covers the functions of an egg marketing board a producer has not the civil liberty to own the eggs that a fowl lays. He may own the fowl which lays the eggs; he may own the sheds and everything else, but he does not own the eggs. Most of us agree, I think, that industries today cannot exist and prosper unless there is a certain degree of organised selling. As we know, the various boards organise the selling. When such boards are established the liberties of the producers are limited. Whatever rights an egg producer may have over the eggs that he produces, they are limited by the rights of the rest of the community who are assisting in the orderly marketing of the eggs.
We of the Democratic Labor Party would be prepared to examine these amendments at the appropriate stage. However, I want to say that when an organisation is established to undertake research into an industry, and it is established at the request of the people in the industry who are most likely to be affected by the research and to be involved in any examinations or payments that are necessary, the liberties of each person involved in that industry are limited by the liberties of everyone else in the community. We support the legislation.
– in reply - The Chicken Meat Research Bill and the Meat Chicken Levy Bill are not subject to the amendments proposed by the Opposition. They will apply only to the Meat Chicken Levy Collection Bill. I wish to reply to some of the matters that have been raised during the debate. Senator Webster inquired about the amounts that are to go into the research fund. I inform him that they will consist of, firstly, an amount from the Consolidated Revenue Fund equal to the levy raised from the industry; secondly, amounts contributed by the Commonwealth equal to one-half of the expenditure, up to an amount equal to the contribution by the industry; thirdly, any donation by people interested in furthering research; fourthly, amounts recouped by the sale of chickens or eggs, or by the sale of assets; and fifthly, interest.
Senator Rae and Senator O’Byrne expressed concern about water and other things that are found in frozen chickens. Senator O’Byrne sounded a warning to the chicken producers.I understand that the water content of chicken frozen for home consumption is a matter for the States. It is already controlled, as Senator Rae said, in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania. I understand that legislation is under consideration in New South Wales and that the position in Western Australia is being considered. The Australian Agricultural Council also is looking at the matter. The question was raised as to what would happen in the Australian Capital Territory if the States took action to prevent excessive water content. The answer is that the Territory would fall into line with the States. Senator Lawrie said that he supported the proposals contained in the legislation and pointed out that the Bills had been introduced at the request of the industry.
Civil liberties have been referred to. I remind honourable senators who are still a little fearful about any curtailment of civil liberties that Senator Little provided a rather good explanation of certain proposals being contained in the legislation. Senator Cormack said by way of interjection that similar provisions were contained in legislation relating to other commodity boards. We could scarcely expect this industry to be singled out for exclusion from such provisions. I shall not go into the matter in detail now, I shall be able to do so at the Committee stage when the amendments are moved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to refer to clause 12. I point out, first, that clause 9 provides for the appointment of eleven persons to the Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee. Clause 9 (1.) provides:
The Committee shall consist of -
six persons to represent the organisation known as the Australian Chicken Meat Federation;
two persons to represent the organisation known as the Australian Agricultural Council;
one person to represent the Commonwealth scientific and Industrial Research Organisation;
one person to represent Australian Universities; and
one person to represent the Department of Primary Industry.
Clause 12 (1.) states:
The Minister may remove a member or the deputy of a member from office for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour.
I can see serious dangers in the Minister’s having power to remove a member from office for incapacity. Who will decide whether a member is incapable? Incapacity is not defined. An organisation might decide that a member is not incapable, but the Minister will be able to override the organisation. Why should the Minister be able to say whether a person is incompetent? Surely it is for the organisation that elects a member to say whether he is competent or incompetent. The Australian Chicken Meat Federation may elect a member of the Committee, but the Minister will be able to say: ‘I will not have that man on the Committee. In my opinion he is incompetent’. Is the Minister to determine what constitutes misbehaviour? Disagreement with the Minister or with the Minister’s representative on the Committee might be construed as misbehaviour. What the Minister regards as being misbehaviour might well be behaviour that is supported by the organisation that appoints a member. This could lead to dispute.
To my mind, this clause places too much power in the hands of the Minister. What constitutes incapacity, incompetence and misbehaviour should be spelt out. There are some things for which a member might well be removed from office, but different people would have different opinions as to what constitutes incompetence, for example. This is a new provision; it is not the normal provision that one finds in legislation relating to other such bodies. I am wondering what is the reason for its inclusion in this legislation. I was very pleased this afternoon to hear what Senator Rae had to say. I said to myself: ‘We seem to have another one who goes along with us in regard to the civil rights of individuals’. An organisation should have the right to appoint a representative without interference from the Minister.I have not any specific proposal to put forward; I merely ask the Minister why this provision is contained in the Bill and voice my opposition to it.
– Senator Cavanagh has referred to clause 12(1.), which provides:
The Minister may remove a member or the deputy of a member from office for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour.
I point out that sub-clause (2.) limits the Minister’s power. It provides:
The Minister may, at the request of the organisation or organisations that a nominated member represents, terminate the appointment of that person as a member.
I imagine that if it were found necessary to remove a person from office the request would be made under sub-clause (2.). Surely only in very exceptional circumstances would the Minister, without any request from an organisation or organisations, take it upon himself to dismiss a member of the Committee. Senator Cavanagh suggested that it might be better if the offences, misdemeanours, or whatever we might call them, for which the Minister may remove a member were spelt out. To do that would be rather cumbersome. I do not know whether the same provision is contained in other legislation. After all, the Minister is responsible to the Parliament, and that in itself provides a check. I cannot conceive of a Minister acting irresponsibly in dismissing a member of the Committee. I think he would act only at the request of an organisation or organisations. I cannot see any danger in the provision.
– I think that the Minister’s explanation has made my point more forceful. Under clause 12 there are two methods of dismissing a member from office. Subclause (2.) states:
The Minister may . . .
I do not know why the word ‘may’ is used instead of ‘shall’. The provision continues:
That provision is understandable. The member is the representative of an organisation. It may decide that it has no confidence in him and it may appoint another representative. It will then approach the Minister and request him to terminate the appointment of the first representative and appoint the new nominee. That is only one method of replacement. The other provision makes no reference to the organisation. Sub-clause (1.) provides:
The Minister may remove a member or the deputy of a member from office for incapacity, incompetence or misbehaviour.
There is no provision for reference to the organisation and the removal of the member may be contrary to the wishes of the organisation that he represents. It will be the Minister’s decision, not the decision of the organisation that nominated the member, that the member has an incapacity, that he is incompetent or that he has been guilty of misbehaviour. The Minister relies on the fact that he cannot visualise a Minister taking this action without proper cause. Neither canI. But a Minister should not have the right to do this. We do not know what will be the future of the Committee or whom we may have as Minister in the future.
– A person could take civil action if he were wrongly removed from office.
– The honourable senator may be a better legal man than I am but I know of no civil action that such a member could take, because he would not have a case. In the Minister’s opinion the member may be incompetent if he makes what the Minister thinks is unjustifiable criticism of the Minister’s representative on the Committee. In the Minister’s belief, this may be misbehaviour but in the belief of the organisation that nominated the member the criticism may be justified and in support of the aims of the organisation. If the Minister’s opinion is that the member’s conduct amounts to misbehaviour, I do not see what right of civil action the member would have. Surely the provision can be clarified and tightened up so that it will not be necessary for a member to have recourse to civil action to establish his right to continue, when he has the support of the organisation that nominated him.
– I know from bitter experience how hard it is to convince Senator Cavanagh about something on which he has made up his mind pretty firmly. He acknowledges that he, too, could not envisage a Minister acting in this capacity without cause but he wants to make quite sure that it could not possibly happen. I am informed that the same provision exists in other Acts.
– If that is sufficient justification.
– I am just stating that this provision is not something entirely new. It is in existence in other legislation. Surely some trust must be placed in a Minister. He cannot be just tied hand and foot and told: ‘You can do this and you can do that, but you cannot do any more’. After all, as I said earlier, if the Minister abuses that trust action can be taken against him. I have no doubt that it would be taken and, what is more, it should be taken. I have not any fears at all about this provision.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 27 May (vide page 1579), on motion by Senator McKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I seek some clarification of clause 7, which reads: (1.) The rate of levy is-
I am not sure of the meaning of the words in any other case’ in that provision. Clause 11 provides:
The Governor-General may make regulations for the purposes of section 7 of this Act.
If I am right, this means that the GovernorGeneral may prescribe the levy of additional amounts in respect of chickens born after 1972, and the rate could be increased from one-tenth of lc to one-quarter of lc. I ask the Minister whether that is a correct interpretation.
– The levy will be constant for 3 years, that is, to 1972. That disposes of one of the honourable senator’s points. After that, the operative rate may be varied on the recommendation of the Committee? The other question was as to when this chicken was born, was it not?
– I think it comes after the egg.
– I had an idea that the honourable senator had a query regarding the date, but if this answer satisfies him I will not worry any further.
– That satisfies me.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKellar) read a third time.
Consideration resumed from 27 May (vide page 1579), on motion by Senator McKellar:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move:
That the Committee report progress and ask leave to sit again.
– Can the Minister indicate why he has proposed this motion? If it is to get assistance on the matters which are the subject of amendments, it might be helpful if we indicated their basis. In addition, another matter will be raised.
– I ask that we report progress in order to get further assistance with regard to amendments that the Opposition has foreshadowed and in regard to another matter that was raised earlier in relation to entry to premises. I do not want to hold up consideration of the legislation.
– On this question of whether progress should be reported, it might be helpful if I indicated that there is another matter to be raised.
– The question must be put without debate. The honourable senator will have to ask for leave to make a statement.
– It might help if the Minister were to learn what we have in mind. Perhaps we could vote against the motion for the moment.
– Is leave granted for Senator Murphy to make a statement?
– Senator Murphy, in a desire to help, wants to ask me a question in relation to whether or not we should report progress,I suggest that if you allow him to ask the question it might help everybody.
– There being no objection, leave is granted?
– I will fit in with the procedure that has to be adopted. What I really wanted to do was to raise another matter apart from the proposed amendments. If Senator McKellar intends to obtain some assistance, it might be helpful if this matter were considered, too. I draw his attention to clause 6(2.). First of all, clause 6(1.) provides:
An amount of levy that is payable, and an amount that is payable by way of penalty . . . may be recovered by the Commonwealth as a debt due to the Commonwealth.
Then clause 6(2.) provides:
In proceedings for the recovery of an amount referred to in the last preceding sub-section–
I have just read that out - an averment or statement in the complaint, claim or declaration of the plaintiff is evidence of the matter so averred or stated.
What I would like to know - Senator McKellar might be able to obtain assistance on this matter - is why this Bill should be selected for a departure from the general law of the Commonwealth; why these chicken hatchery operators should be put under some special provision when the general law of the Commonwealth is that if the Commonwealth is recovering a debt the law operates in a certain way? A statement may be set out in a statement of claim or in a declaration. That is either denied or admitted. The matter is dealt with according to the principles of the law. Why should a special provision be put in this enactment? Why should the chicken hatchery operators be singled out?
This principle may appear in other provisions touching primary producers. That will not be sufficient answer for me, because it seems to me that the primary producers are being disadvantaged in a number of respects in a series of such enactments.I would like to know why the primary producers, particularly the chicken hatchery operators, are being singled out in this way.
– This form of expression in relation to averment is a little weaker than the usual form of expression, is it not?
– It seems to me to be a very strange one. But there is also a danger in it. This might assist Senator McKellar and his advisers. Sometimes - for instance, in the customs legislation - the averment provisions are limited, although many of them are criticised. They refer to an averment as to a particular matter. The reason why such a provision is made is that there may be some special difficulty of proof of a particular matter. But in this case the provision is general. Apparently anything that goes in the statement is to be evidence. The mere say-so of the Commonwealth in the proceedings is to amount to evidence. If that is to be the law, why is it not the law generally? Why are the chicken farmers picked out for this particular application?
– Can the honourable senator refer now to some other averment provisions from which this provision is different?
– No, I am not able to do that at the moment. But my recollection is that most averment provisions, where I have struck them, have been limited. But that is only by theway. I am wondering why there is any necessity at all for any averment provision in regard to chicken hatcheries? Why is this departure from the general law being made in relation to an apparently simple matter? Why are the chicken hatchery operators to be under this special disadvantage of the law?
– The usual provision is that an averment as to so-and-so shall be prima facie evidence.
– As my colleague Senator Cohen suggests, the provision is usually that an averment as to so-and-so shall be prima facie evidence.
– That is why I say that this is a rather unusual form of expression.
– Yes. There may be precedents for this, but that will not be sufficient answer for me. It seems to me that the important question is: What is the necessity for this? Why should the chicken farmers be singled out for this special departure from the law? If this should be the law, why is it not the law in respect of all debts? As Senator McKellar apparently would prefer to obtain his advice before I outline the reasons for the other proposals, I will not do that now.
Senator McKELLAR (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation) - by leave - I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) for his co-operation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 28 May (vide page 1637), on motion by Senator Scott:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is a Bill to amend the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act 1959-1967. It creates some problems for the industry, the Government and the Australian people. In the first instance, it sets out to outline in some form Government policy with respect to overseas investment in Australia. I simply ask whether the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has approved this approach to overseas investment and, if he has, whether the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) has approved it. It seems to me that the Government is at sixes and sevens on overseas investment in Australia. Yet the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) has now come into the picture with a policy on overseas investment in the oil industry. The Government has belatedly adopted a policy of encouraging Australian ownership. I say belatedly’ because there is very little acreage left for new operators. I propose to illustrate how the Australian sedimentary basins have now been let out to various operators. As I develop my argument honourable senators will understand that although the Government is setting out as its policy the encouragement of overseas investment in Australia, in fact its policy is rather negative and it is now necessary for the Government to do something to rectify what it has allowed to go on over the years.
– If the honourable senator will identify the paper to which he is referring it will help anybody who wants to refer to it.
– It is ‘Petroleum Search Subsidy in Australia’, a publication of the Petroleum Information Bureau (Australia) containing a petroleum title map as at 7th October 1968. That is the latest one available. It can be seen from the map that leases for prospective areas, both off-shore and on-shore, have already been taken up and that whatever Australia’s share is at this stage is likely to remain our share for some time to come. I might add that Australia’s share will remain as it is unless there is some wheeling and dealing between companies during the life of the legislation which is now before the Senate. This is an example of the Government’s ineptitude and of its closing the stable door after the horse has gone.
The whole of the Commonwealth Government’s activity with regard to off-shore exploration is open to attack. I do not want to develop that aspect because I am a member of the Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources, but the Government’s policy is open to attack. There is much eminent legal opinion to support the view that the submerged lands surrounding Australia are wholly the responsibility of the Commonwealth. But the Commonwealth allowed the States to give this area away before it thought of entering this field. Some areas have been let out by State governments for a great number of years - in some cases, for as long as 19 years - and the areas extend not only to what is commonly termed the continental shelf but also beyond that region.
The Commonwealth has found that it has rights to this area but that the States have usurped those rights and given away the assets. It might be argued that these areas still belong to Australia, but I remind the Senate that Australia’s interest in them is very little because overseas companies have been given rights to prospect in these areas and if they find something to give them away to someone else. We saw evidence of this in this place in November 1967 when so-called mirror legislation was passed through the Parliament to regulate the industry or to put it in chaos, whichever might be the final outcome of an examination, on terms which are likely to return to the Commonwealth the amount that it had invested in the industry.
From off-shore exploration the Commonwealth will receive a return in royalties of 4%, but it will receive no return from that part of the industry which is on land. The return of 4% represents approximately $9m at the peak of production from the off-shore oil resources which -are known at present, yet since 1959 the Commonwealth Government has invested $90m in oil search subsidies to help this industry both on-shore and off-shore. In addition the Commonwealth has carried on extensive work through the Bureau of Mineral Resources. In his second reading speech the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) said that during 1968-69 $3.9m had been spent on this work by the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Division of National Mapping. If this amount is added to the $llm which the Commonwealth will provide this year for oil search subsidies - I think that is the amount for this year - it wilt be seen that the Commonwealth will spend about $15m this year on oil search and will receive a return, not this year but at the peak of production from off-shore areas, of approximately S9m.
– Is that all, Senator?
– That figure is based on the presumed daily production of 350,000 barrels per day by Esso Exploration Australia Inc. It is not known what the well head price of the oil will be, but the price of S2.06 per barrel after 17th September should mean that the price at the well head would not be very much less than 52. A calculation of royalties based on that level of production reveals that between S9m and $10m will accrue to the Commonwealth Government from this source, in return for an expenditure in 1968-69 of $15m.
The Commonwealth now says that unless there is a 51% Australian interest in the offshore area the full subsidy wm not be paid. The effect of this would be that even a company like Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, which is an Australian company but which has only an 84% Australian ownership, 16% of its shares being held overseas, would not qualify for a full1 subsidy in this area. Consider also Woodside (Lakes Entrance) Oil Company N.L. which is operating off the coast of Western Australia and which has a 40% interest in 104,000 square miles. That company will not be entitled to a full subsidy. If we examine the formula set out by the Minister in his second reading speech we find that the subsidy that would be payable to Woodside would amount to about 14% or 15%, yet the Bill sets out to allocate a subsidy of 30% for oil exploration.
When we see what has happened in this industry it becomes apparent that the Government’s announced policy of encouragement of Australian participation in this industry is an attempt at face saving. All prospective areas have been taken up and are held in very large areas. For instance, one area of 104,000 square miles has been taken up; there is another area of 63,000 square miles and yet another of 60,000 square miles. These areas are in different States; I have not had time to trace through to see whether the companies or consortiums that hold those areas hold areas in other States also. It is known that Woodside has 104,000 square miles off the north-west coast of Western Australia, and has areas also off the coast of Victoria. There is no doubt that some of the other companies would be in a similar position. The area off-shore is very much more expensive for exploration than the area onshore, but this does not mean that exploration on-shore is cheap. For this reason it is likely that large overseas companies - the big seven, if I may refer to them as such - will dominate the off-shore areas.
The Government knows that it is only face saving in legislating to encourage a greater Australian share, lt wants to be able to say: ‘We tried to assist the Australian companies. Now it is up to them.’ No matter what they are given, I should like to know where they can get acreage to explore and how they can get it. It is dishonest for the Government to say to the people that it is going to encourage greater Australian participation in this industry when it fails to make provision by which Australians can undertake exploration.
– What do you say should be done? You criticise but you do not come up with anything constructive.
– I would say that the first thing we should do is reduce the areas that are now held. Is there any justification for any exploration company holding 104,000 square miles of off-shore leases? Is there any justification for any company holding 60,000 square miles off the coast of Western Australia? Is there any justification for the Esso-BHP group tying up the whole of Bass Strait, an area of 63,000 square miles? If the Government really wants to encourage Australian companies to come into the industry, if it really wants to see them engaged in the industry, then it must make available to them the acreage which will enable them to do so. By its policy of confirming the permit areas that have been let, over the years, quite invalidly, by the States to overseas companies, the Commonwealth has created a position where it is impossible for its so-called policy of encouraging more Australian participation to operate. It has created this position by agreeing to the illegal acts of the States and by agreeing to confirm the areas granted by the States and, knowing that the cost of off-shore operations is very high, by limiting the payment of subsidy to a 51% Australian interest in the holding or operation.
Examples of the weaknesses of Australian companies are numerous. I need mention only one as an example. It is Australian Oil and Gas Corporation Ltd, an Australian company which is operating in Queensland. It has generated a cash flow from oil and gas at Moonie and therefore must be considered to be one of the stronger of the Australian companies. But it also holds per mit areas oil the Queensland coast and is not able to take any great part in exploring there. It has had to farm out to the Gulf Oil organisation 95% of its area off the Queensland coast. How. therefore, can the smaller, less rich Australian companies hope to get in to explore these areas? So much for the Government’s policy and its effectiveness in this direction. 1 come now to on-shore exploration, which is within the province of the States. We find that here practically all the prospective areas have been taken up. Unless there is some redistribution of these areas, the Australian share in this sphere will remain as it is at present. In any case, no attempt is made to give preference to Australian companies. At least, I do not know of any legislation that gives preference to Australian companies. It is proposed in on-shore areas to give assistance by way of an oil search subsidy irrespective of whether the search is being carried out by an Australian company or an overseas company and the rate of subsidy will not be governed by the amount of Australian shareholding in the operating company. If the Government feels that the on-shore areas are being neglected, if it wants to encourage exploration on-shore rather than off-shore, then it should give favourable consideration to the Australian companies.
The large overseas companies which hold any areas on-shore will qualify for subsidy irrespective of whether they have been active. We believe that in this less expensive area preference should be given to Australian companies. We also believe that the same conditions as apply to the payment of subsidies off-shore should apply to the payment of subsidies on-shore, and when the legislation is being considered in Committee we propose to move amendments designed to give effect to that policy.
In any case, one must ask: What is the value of the subsidy? It is known that the large overseas companies are not attracted by the subsidy at all. What attracts anyone exploring for oil, especially the big companies, is the prospectiveness of an area. It does not seem to matter very much whether a subsidy is payable or not; if the area is prospective, there will be exploration, whether it be done by aero-magnetic survey, seismic survey, or drilling. But if an area is not prospective, there will be no exploration, no matter what strings the Government may attach to the payment of a subsidy. It is my belief that the Government is just trying to boost the morale of its supporters and that the subsidy will not be worth anything. I remain unconvinced that the subsidy has made any material difference to the exploration programme. I say that with a little diffidence because it probably has made some difference to the smaller companies. But overall, it has made very little difference to the search for oil because, in the main, the search for oil is being carried on by the large overseas companies and they are not particularly interested in subsidy payments.
– Do you think the subsidy has made some difference, or no difference?
– It has made some difference to the smaller companies but no difference to the large companies.
– Do you agree that that is what we should be aiming at?
– If you can find the acreage for them, I will be all with you. i cannot find it. As I said before, the companies have stated that they are not particularly interested in whether a subsidy is paid; they are interested in whether the area is prospective for the production of petroleum, and where this prospect is greatest is where you will find prospecting going on.
I do not believe that exploring for oil in Australia, whether it be on-shore or offshore, is an industry that attracts the small operator because, even if allowance is made for the extra cost of rigs and other equipment necessady to drill in great depths of water off-shore, there are still great logistic problems which increase the cost of onshore exploration. This means that there has to be a considerable amount of capital available even to explore on-shore, which is probably more expensive than it is in most other countries, because of our small population, our large area and the concentration of so much of our population into one relatively small area in the south eastern corner of the continent.
The lines of communication get pretty long when one gets into the Amadeus
Basin in the centre of Australia, and into the Canning Basin in Western Australia.
In addition to this, the geology of Australia is so complex that it takes a considerable amount of research work after primary exploration or magnetic and seismic work has been conducted to be able to interpret the geology and to know whether or not an area is prospective. So it is my opinion that there is little room in this industry for the small operator. It may be that a number of small operators could combine, but whether or not they will do this I do not know. That is a matter for them, and we cannot compel them to do so. But certainly they will not forsake the off-shore areas for the on-shore areas while off-shore areas remain the most prospective. Therefore I believe that the policy to be implemented by this legislation will do nothing to add incentive to oil exploration on-shore. I am convinced that the amendments will not do anything to increase the Australian share of the industry on-shore or off-shore.
I just want to say here that there is contained in the off-shore legislation - and, I believe, in most of the on-shore legislation too - a policy for the relinquishment or surrender of certain areas. As far as the off-shore legislation is concerned, no acreage will become available for Australian companies during the life of the legislation we are now considering. The legislation is made for a period up to 1974 - 5 years from now - and the surrender provisions under the off-shore legislation will not be effective until 1st April 1974. So that during the life of this legislation that we are considering today surrender provisions will not make any more acreage available. I do not believe that this policy will do anything to encourage the industry.
– It will encourage exploration, and it is exploration, not acreage, which is important.
– It will if the areas are prospective, but if the areas are not prospective it will not. It is known that the areas will not become available during the life of this legislation. What the surrender provisions are with respect to on-shore areas I do not know, and all I say is that if there is little activity on-shore at the present time this legislation will not create any more, because at the present time the companies concerned are entitled to a subsidy. Certainly there has been an alteration to the methods under which it will be paid to a company operating on-shore, but nevertheless a subsidy has been available to these companies all the time, and little difference is made to it by the changes brought in now. Therefore I do not think it will create any greater interest than has been created over the years and it will create less incentive off-shore because of the 51% Australian interest that there must be in a company before it can attract a subsidy.
– What is the reason behind the suggested amendment to delete the word ‘submarine’ and insert the words any area’?
– The reason behind the suggested amendment is to make the conditions of the payment of subsidy the same to a company operating on-shore as they are to a company operating off-shore, that is, that the subsidy will be paid to the company operating on-shore if there is a 51% Australian content in the operation, as applies in the off-shore legislation.
– Can you suggest why it was confined to ‘submarine’?
– According to the second reading speech of the Minister, the idea of it is to encourage a greater effort in exploration on-shore. Secondly it is to encourage, if possible, a greater Australian share in the operations off-shore. The figure was fixed at 51%. There must be a 51% Australian interest in the off-shore operation before the total subsidy is paid. It is paid when there is a lesser percentage, but if one has a look at the formula one finds that the subsidy falls away very quickly. 1 think the Government has to give greater thought to the marketing of the products when they are found. If people go out and explore for oil and find oil or gas they are entitled to have a market for it. If they are not entitled to have a market for it they are entitled to have at least a share of the market for it. Magellan Petroleum (Queensland) Pty Ltd has stuck oil in the centre of Australia estimated at 500 million barrels and it has no market for it. The oil is too far away for it to be brought to the coast. The company also has almost unlimited supplies of gas and no market for it. It had a prospective market in New South Wales which was cut out by the finding of gas in Bass Strait. But worse than this is the position of Woodside (Lakes Entrance) Oil Co. N.L., which is an Australian company, lt found gas at Golden Beach off the coast of Victoria, but because of a deal between the Victorian Government and Esso-BHP Woodside found that it has no market for its gas.
– Was not this gas of Woodside’s found after that in Bass Strait? This does have a great bearing on the deal between Esso-BHP and the Government.
– On the policy given out by this Government with respect to oil, if there is more oil found in Australia onshore or off-shore then pro-rationing will operate. Esso-BHP says that it has an assured market for its oil’ now up until 1980, and this is one of the attractions for foregoing the formula of the Tariff Board. But it also knows that if there is more oil found in that area on the Australian coast it will only be able to take its share of the market. There will be prorationing according to the quality of the oil that is found.
– That has not been announced though, has it?
– Of course it has been announced.
– When was it announced?
– I will show it to the honourable senator sometime; it has been announced. I cannot go any further than that, Mr President. Esso-BHP, of course, have this assured market up until 1980 and yet we have these two other companies which have found hydrocarbons and have no markets for them. 1 say to the Government that if it wants to encourage oil exploration in Australia and wants to encourage Australian companies to go out and search for oil then it has to make sure that there is a market, or a share of the market, for the products that are found.
– Would you agree with that policy?
– 1 might have a different policy. They might not have any of it if I were deciding this matter. It might all belong to the state. By the action of the Victorian
Government, Esso-BHP has been given a monopoly over the Victorian gas market. It appears from the statements of Sir Henry Bolte that no gas can be sold from the Bass Strait area at a lesser price than that which Victoria has to pay - I do not know how he gets around section 92 of the Constitution - thai no one else will be able to have any gas from Bass Strait.
– If their experience is the same as that of the Brisbane gas consumers, no one will want it.
– 1 do not know whether that would be right. But the simple facts are that a closed market or a monopoly has been given to a group of companies - EssoBHP - and no-one else can get in. I say simply that the legislation, good and all as the intention of the Minister may be, will not be effective for the purpose which he envisages until such time as smaller Australian companies are given areas to explore and sufficient assistance to carry out exploration.
Australia, in addition to paying a subsidy over the years, has been very generous to the oil industry and the mining industry because of its taxation policy. The Government allows the oil industry the whole range of deductions available to other industries, such as royalty payments, wages, interest, depreciation on plant, general running expenses and other expenditure. It has also allowed deductions on unrecouped capital expenditure and expenditure on the acquisition of prospecting or mining rights. This means that a strong financial company could, if it wished, go out and buy up the whole of the continental shelf of Australia. The costs of doing this would be regarded as capital expenditure and would be allowed as a taxation deduction.
The oil companies are allowed a 20% depreciation allowance on pipelines. Also, the general rate of withholding tax, which is 30% with respect to overseas companies and is applicable to the dividends paid to overseas shareholders, is 50% in the case of these companies. I consider that this is a very generous policy for the Government to adopt with respect to any industry. I know that this does not apply only to the oil industry. It applies to the mining industry generally. But the Cil industry is able to take advantage of this policy. In addition the Commonwealth sets out to pay a subsidy. However, unless the Commonwealth can find places for smaller Australian companies to explore, the policy of subsidising will not add incentive to oil exploration.
– The occasion of the Senate debating this measure to amend the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act is an appropriate one on which to give consideration to those measures which the Government over the years has promoted and which have resulted at present in Australia being some way along the path towards self-sufficiency in its crude oil requirements. It should be remembered that the original Petroleum Search Subsidy Act was enacted in 1957. It was expressly enacted to promote the search for oil. The purpose of its provisions was to subsidise exploration. At that time just under £50m had been spent throughout Australia over the years in the search for oil. The only discovery of significance which had occurred up to that time was at Rough Range in Western Australia. Despite the intense speculation which that discovery engendered when it was announced, it was quite apparent after a short time that the discovery was not a commercial one. Obviously, in 1956-57 the search for oil was at a low ebb. It was in these circumstances that the Government brought forward its measure to promote exploration for oil by giving a subsidy. The Government recognised a clear need at the time and the Opposition recognised that same clear need. Indeed, the Opposition gave its support to the general principle of the Bill.
Since that time the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act has been amended in a variety of ways. It has been amended on each occasion to give expression to some new circumstance which has arisen. But I feel it should be stressed that the purpose of the original Act was to promote the search for oil. There were two ultimate objectives which it was hoped the search for oil would achieve. The first was that Australia would have an Australian oil industry. The second was that, by virtue of the establishment of the industry, there would be a saving in the cost of importing crude oil from overseas. It was also hoped that there would be the stability and the reliance upon local supplies which were so useful in defence strategic planning. I think, when we look at the position in 1969, that the measure which the Government enacted in 1957 has played some part in developing what at present is a very widespread and very costly search for oil in this country. I suppose that it is fair to say that this encouragement of exploration engendered the interest which was displayed by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and its partner, Esso, and led to the discovery which took place in Victoria in about 1966.
I wish very briefly to survey the way in which the Government has approached the necessity of amending the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act in accordance with the circumstances which have changed in oil exploration over the last 1.2 years. The 1 957 Act provided for expenditure of Sim by way of a subsidy and also for Sim to be made available for the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Division of National Mapping. The intention of the original measure was to encourage a particular type of stratigraphic drilling by which the geological sequences at various levels could be determined. Subsequently, there were various amendments to the Act. The next amendment was enacted in 1959 and it increased the amount of the subsidy by a further S2m. It is interesting to note that the attitude of the Opposition on that occasion was to oppose the measure. I think it is significant that it was opposed by the Opposition, not because it felt this was a project which should not be carried through, but because the Government was not giving enough money to support this proposal. On that occasion Senator McKenna referred to the Government’s effort as a ‘paltry gesture’ of help and as ‘an approach which was hopelessly inadequate’. He indicated that the Opposition would vote against the measure, as it did. on the grounds that the subsidy was not enough.
The next amendment was moved in 1961. This amendment concerned the type of drilling for which the subsidy was available. It was extended to include test drilling and detailed structure drilling. On that occasion there was an additional commitment of $3,600,000. Again, on that occasion, Senator McKenna indicated that there was a need for the discovery of oil. I am interested to see that Senator Dittmer is in the cham ber because on that occasion he referred to this whole approach as a ‘threepenny bit approach’. The measure again was opposed by the Labor Party because sufficient money was not being made available.
In 1964, a further amendment occurred. That arose because of the great increase in geophysical surveys and drilling. By that time Government disbursements had risen to S27m and, indeed, in the year 1963 the Government had provided $10m. The amendment widened the scope of the drilling which could be carried through with the support of a subsidy. At that stage, for the very first time, there was an expression at opinion by the Australian Labor Party that the Government had vacated the field in favour of overseas companies. There was no suggestion, as I understand the debates at that time, for the particular plea which Senator Cant has made now. True, it was a complaint that overseas companies were receiving the subsidy and that the Government itself should have gone into the field, but this was the first time upon which the Australian Labor Party utilised that argument as an argument against this measure. It is interesting also to note, in the light of subsequent events, that the Labor Party said at that time that the refineries in Australia must absorb and refine every gallon which comes out of the ground in Australia.
In 1967, a further amendment indicated that the operation of the Act was to be extended to 1969. At that time, the amount which had been paid by the Commonwealth in subsidies amounted to $60m. Indeed, for the year 1966-67, $12m had been expended. It is interesting to note that at this stage, which was at the time the discoveries had taken place in Bass Strait and after the Tariff Board had made its recommendation as to the price for locally produced crude oil and the Government had added its own incentive margin to this price, Senator Cant in speaking to this measure commended the Government for adding the extra US50c to the recommendation of the Tariff Board and indicated in his speech that it was an amount which should have been added because it would protect and foster the exploration industry.
It is because of that particular increase following the recommendation of the Tariff Board and subsequently the finding of tremendous quantities of, as it were, low cost produced crude that the necessity arose for the Government to make some arrangement in the years before the price which had been fixed in 1965 expired in 1970. It was precisely for that reason that the agreement was negotiated in October of last year between the Government and the EssoBHP partnership. It was an obvious step which the Government had to take because of the changed situation from what had been the position in 1965. Although there has been much criticism from members of the Opposition about what the Government did in October of last year, basically, if Senator Cant was their spokesman in this place - and on this occasion he was - the Australian Labor Party approved of what the Government had done with regard to fostering and encouraging local industry in 1965 by fixing the price at SUS3.50 per barrel.
– Had any State government criticised the legislation?
– I am not sure to which legislation the honourable senator is referring. But certainly the petroleum search subsidy legislation which we are discussing has not excited, as far as I know, opposition from the States. After all, they receive substantial benefits from the exploration which is being carried out. It is exploration which is being subsidised not by State governments but by the Commonwealth Government.
– Was not the attitude of the Opposition to the subsidy and to the report of the Tariff Board consistent?
– I am unable to say whether there was consistency because I must say that I have looked only at the speeches of Opposition members on the occasion of the last Petroleum Search Subsidy Bill that was before the Senate. I have quoted what Senator Cant said in which he complimented the Government for adding the incentive price to the recommendation of the Tariff Board. I know that Senator Cant has been a consistent Labor supporter over the years. I do not imagine him adopting any inconsistent attitude on that score.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m. (General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business)
- Mr President, on 28th May 1969 Senator Toohey and I, as members of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, placed a motion on the notice paper, which appears as notice of motion No. 9. It reads:
That the Senate considers -
that the question of the future of the Canberra Abattoirs should be referred to the Joint Committee on the Australian “ Capital Territory for examination and report with the widest possible terms of reference; and
that slaughtering at the Canberra Abattoirs be continued pending the report of the Joint Committee; and therefore the Senate requests -
that the Minister for the Interior make such reference, and
that such steps be taken as may be necessary to ensure that the Abattoirs be con.tinued in operation pending such report.
It will be recalled that subsequent to placing that motion on the notice paper - in fact, last Friday during question time - I asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) whether he would facilitate the bringing on of that notice of motion to enable the Senate to discuss the matter; to go into the pros and cons associated with the decision which had been taken by the Government to close the Canberra abattoir on 27th June next. I made this request to the Leader of the Government in view of the fact that the Senate was about to rise for the winter recess and that if the matter did not receive consideration before the rising of the Senate, the act of closing the abattoir would be consummated on 27th June and following that there would be no opportunity to take any action to restore the abattoir to its current field of operations. So it became necessary in the circumstances to raise this matter and to endeavour to bring it forward for debate.
Members of the Australian Labor Party would have been satisfied if the notice of motion had been brought forward for debate, but the Government did not see fit to facilitate bringing the matter on to enable the Senate to debate it and, one would have hoped, to have it referred by the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory so that the whole question could be opened up for public examination and determination. In the circumstances there was no other alternative to us but to take the constitutional steps provided for in the practice of this chamber, and I now propose to move for the establishment of a Senate select committee to examine this question. In the circumstances, since the original motion cannot now be proceeded with, I seek leave of the Senate to move the motion which has been circulated to honourable senators.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
I do not propose to canvass at any great length the reasons why we put this proposal forward, because only last Friday the question was deliberated on at some length. Honourable senators will recall that as we could not have the motion on the notice paper brought forward we took the only other course available to us and that was to raise the question during consideration of an appropriation Bill. What we said in that debate as to the reasons why we put this proposal forward ought, in the main, to suffice, apart from one or two supporting observations which I should now like to put to the Senate.
It seems to me and to other honourable senators on this side of the chamber that the Canberra abattoir should not only be providing a very important and necessary service to the people of the Australian Capital Territory, but also be doing that as a paying proposition. Reference to page 23 of the Auditor-General’s report for the year ended 30th June 1968 indicates that for the year ended 30th June 1968 the Canberra abattoir made a profit of about $12,900. When we bear in mind what appears to me to be mismanagement and maladministration on the part of the Government, I think it becomes very evident that if the abattoir came under proper managerial practice, and if the facilities which ought to be available at the abattoir were provided there, this utility would return quite a handsome profit. Entrepreneurs come to Canberra from Sydney and collect from the abattoir and the butchers waste products from the slaughtering process. They take those products back to Sydney, process then there and no doubt make a reasonably good profit. If that can be done surely it must be obvious to any thinking person that with better facilities, or if the facilities were brought up to a suitable standard, there would be no problem from the financial aspect.
Let us turn to the question of service to the community. During my speech on Friday last I said that the abattoir, in the current year’s operations, gave indications that it would produce 1 0 million lb of boning meat. 1 point out once again that this is nol a small back country butchery but a very important part of community life in the Canberra area, serving Canberra and Queanbeyan, lt is estimated that consumption of meat per capita in Australia is about 185 lb per annum. Having regard to the population here, a quick calculation will show that the total consumption in this area generally is approximately 22,200,000 lb of meat per annum. We should take into account also the fact that 48 butchers in this area, servicing 60 outlets, are currently using this facility. There is also the fact that another local butcher with 12 outlets cannot get his meat slaughtered here. Having regard to those facts one can readily come to the conclusion that improved facilities at this abattoir would extend the range of: service to the people of the area generally. In this respect I am speaking from the point of view of the consumers.
I pointed out on Friday, and I stand by what I said in this regard, that if meat is to be brought in from any distance there will be an increase in price to the local con sumer. I stated then that as a very conservative estimate a rise of lc per lb in the price of meat would mean an additional impost on the people of the Australian Capital Territory of at least $100,000 per annum. Therefore, I ask: In arriving at the decision to close the abattoir, what regard has been had for the inhabitants of Canberra? As a result of the decision of the Government, taken one assumes on the evidence gained by the inter-departmental committee of inquiry - a secret inquiry - the abattoir is to be closed in the face of all the other evidence that ought to have been available affecting the welfare of the people of this community.
For 39 years there had been in the Australian Capital Territory an Advisory Council carrying out the functions of a local council, lt was the local authority in this area. It advised the Government and acted as the mouthpiece of the people of the Territory for 39 years. However, it was frustrated by the decision of the Government, which did not give it one tittle of evidence to support the closing of the abattoir and no hint of the reasons upon which the inter-departmental committee had based its decision. To this point the ACT Advisory Council has not been given one piece of evidence to support the decision to close the abattoir. Therefore, I say that this is an act of contempt by the Government for the elected representatives of the people of the ACT.
There was a time when, in the main, this was a sheep raising area. Because of the outlet which was provided by the abattoir and with the growth of population in the area, some local graziers changed to beef production to serve the Canberra community. This has been a continuing process. Not only were the graziers prepared to attune their production to the local conditions, but also the local councils round about went to great expense to themselves and their ratepayers to provide selling yards and facilities of that kind. The decision of the Government to close the abattoir on 27th June means that those councils will be left with the additional expense that they have inclined, while the graziers and others who breed cattle and sheep to provide meat for the local market will have to go elsewhere.
Another aspect of this matter that concerns me very greatly is the volume of production of the Canberra abattoir. Again I say that I stand by the figures which were given by me on Friday, despite the assurances of the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who gave the views of the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) concerning the quantities of meat produced by the abattoir. I refer the Minister for Housing to a statement made by the Minister for Health to the effect that he did not know what proportion of meat supplied to the Canberra community passed through the Canberra abattoir. It is questions of this kind that ought to be examined, and any decision that is made ought to be made in the light of all the evidence that is available. Up to the moment no evidence at all has been provided. Yet, here we are bandying percentages and figures in the Senate, although there is no real confirmation in fact for them. I suggest that a committee of inquiry ought to be able to glean the facts and to make a report to the Senate that is based on those facts.
During the debate on the Appropriation Bill last week the Minister for Housing said that prices in the Australian Capital Territory and those in Sydney were approaching parity. I direct attention to the fact that so far as the price of mutton is concerned there is a disparity between Canberra prices and Sydney prices of between 22.6% and 25% according to the various cuts of meat purchased. So far as beef is concerned there is a disparity of between 7% and 8%, if my figures are correct. If provision is made for additional transport loadings on meat transported to this area the disparity is even greater. There is also the question of the industrial situation which will arise if the abattoir is closed, and this is no small consideration. There are fifty-seven employees at the abattoir at the present time. It is reasonable to assume, I think, that with the increased activities which would result if the facilities were upgraded as they should be, even greater employment would be provided. In any event, there will be quite an upheaval for fifty-seven families as a result of the Government’s decision to close the abattoir. My colleague, Senator Toohey, pointed out on Friday that one would not expect the people of Canberra to take this situation lightly.
It seems, therefore, that the whole business has been characterised by mismanagement and maladministration on the part of the Government. I think that the abattoir operations ought to be considered by the Parliament. We of the Opposition maintain stoutly that no action should be taken to close the abattoir until all the facts have been assembled and a report has been made on the basis of those facts. To seek to deny a House of this Parliament the right to know the basis on which a summary decision has been made is so contrary to my conception of responsible parliamentary practice as to be completely and totally unacceptable. To pretend to give credibility to the elected representatives of the Canberra people through the ACT Advisory Council while withholding from that Council the evidence upon which the decision to close the abattoir was based, ought to be as unacceptable to us as it was to the members of the Council. It was an ex parte decision. The refusal by the Government to take the Council into its confidence and its further refusal to agree to refer the subject to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory ought to be completely unacceptable to this responsible House of the Parliament.
I do not want to go into the right of the people of this Territory to have a voice in their own affairs. I merely say that it is quite wrong for the Government to act upon some report which the Senate knows nothing about. We are being asked to agree to an ad hoc decision made outside the Parliament and in one of the government departments in Canberra without our having an opportunity to make our own judgment upon the merits or otherwise of the facts which led to the making of that decision. I do not want to labour the matter any further. The facts have been laid fairly and clearly before the Senate. The matter ought to be discussed without any heat or rancour. It is of tremendous importance to the people of the Australian Capital Territory. In justice to the parliamentary system we ought to be able to say: ‘Tarry a while. The matter is not so important that somebody outside should decide now to close this abattoir which was established to meet the needs of a population of 250.000.’ The Parliament ought to perform its proper and natural function and inquire into all the facts before a final determination is made on this matter which affects the day to day lives of approximately 150.000 people.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - fs the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Senator BULL (New South Wales [8.21] - 1 rise to oppose the motion. I, like Senator Devitt, hope that this will not become an emotional issue. The matter is of great consequence not only to the people of Canberra but to other people as well. Senator Devitt has dealt with it as a local issue and has not looked at the wider aspects of the slaughtering of meat and the price to the consumers.
– Do you not think a committee is necessary to investigate this?
– No, 1 do not, and I will try to indicate why. We must remember that the present abattoir was established a few years ago to replace a bad local abattoir then in existence. This has been all to the good. I think that, as the present abattoir is not suitable from a health point of view, the Government has been correct in looking at the wider aspects of the slaughtering of meat and how they affect Canberra in particular. The Government has looked at the present trends in slaughtering, the price to the consumer, and the economics of the industry. We may well ask ourselves whether, if the abattoir were rebuilt at a cost probably of several million dollars to bring it up to a proper standard-
– Did you say several million or seven million dollars?
– I said several million dollars. I have in mind future requirements and so on. Would the rebuilding of the abattoir be in the interests of the consumers and of the producers? In my judgment, it would not be in the interests of either. 1 have had some experience in the production, of meat, particularly beef, and also in the marketing of it through organisations with which I have been associated. I have been particularly interested in the marketing and distribution of. meat to the public to the best advantage. Again I say that the Government, in making the decision we are now discussing, has acted wisely and in a manner that is consistent with present trends in the slaughtering and marketing of meat in Australia and with due regard to the economics of the industry. As has been mentioned, the whole matter was thoroughly investigated by an inter-departmental committee. I respect the judgment of members of the committee. I believe they were on very safe ground in coming to their decision.
Much has been said about the present retail price of meat in Canberra. Whilst it is admitted that prices in Canberra have been higher than at other places, they are levelling out to a degree. If honourable senators were to look at this morning’s Canberra Times’ they would see the prices paid in Canberra and the other capital cities. Prices paid in Melbourne are fairly consistent with those paid in Canberra, but admittedly prices in Sydney are lower. We must remember that of ali the cities in Australia, Canberra has the highest standard of living. In addition, it has a tremendous tourist trade. The people of Canberra and the tourists demand the best cuts and meat of the best quality. No doubt when the butchers of Canberra buy they have to pay above average prices for stock in order to meet the demands of the people.
– You said that you thought the inter-departmental committee was on good grounds. Have you read its report?
– Where is the report available?
– Will the honourable senator let me develop my own theme? There have been tremendous changes over the last 10 or 15 years in the slaughtering of meat. Small slaughter houses in the various States have been closed down. Many smaller abattoirs have experienced economic difficulties. I believe that the main reason for the closing down of these abattoirs has been a lack of profits with which to upgrade the works to meet health and export requirements. Moreover, there has been insufficient throughput to reduce the unit cost of production. I repeat that it is for these reasons that smaller abattoirs are experiencing considerable difficulty. In New South Wales the Agriculture Department is displaying a great deal of concern about small abattoirs. Not only in drought years but also after periods of drought when breeding stock are held back the smaller abattoirs - let us face the fact that the Canberra abattoir is small when compared with many others - experience extreme difficulty in getting sufficient stock. This has the effect of creating serious economic difficulties and also of producing labour problems. The lack of continuity in the supply of stock and skilled labour means that these abattoirs must call in casual labour, much of which is unskilled. This in turn adds to the marketing problem and affects the economics of the undertakings concerned.
– But they cannot supply all the meat required at the moment.
– Will the honourable senator let me finish my speech? The small abattoirs are unable to take full advantage of the production of by-products. I wonder whether the Opposition has looked at this aspect of the matter. As I said earlier, Senator Devitt has dealt with it purely as a local matter. One has to look at a much wider area really to understand slaughtering and abattoirs generally in Australia. I think that many people in Canberra have looked at the subject in a highly emotional manner and have little regard for economic considerations. I have been interested in the abattoir position and slaughtering arrangements in Australia because of the importance of the meat industry. It is one of the few primary industries that are making a profit at the present time. We are under tremendous pressure all of the time from the cattlemen’s association in the United States which seeks to stop imports of Australian meat into that country. Because of this our abattoirs have to be properly supervised and brought up to the required standard. The history of local government abattoirs is largely one of disaster. In Victoria there has been a long history of uneconomic abattoirs and bankruptcies. Honourable senators might recall an organisation called the Direct Meat Supply Cooperative in which producers were interested a few years ago. It operated in a big way but either went bankrupt or had to close for 2 or 3 months and then get some financial arrangement to enable it to carry on on a restricted basis.
That is typical of the history of Victoria in this regard. Let us look at the situation much nearer to us in New South Wales. The pattern is the same. Some of our biggest meatworks have closed. Anderson’s, for instance, went bankrupt. It was either bought out by another company or is going along on a smaller scale. Figures supplied to me by the Department of Primary Industry show that whereas in 1962 there were 110 registered abattoirs which met the requirements of the Commonwealth Department of Health, in 1968 the number had been reduced to 105. This in itself indicates that things are not quite as they were, remembering that we have a tremendous increase in stock and a bigger population than we had 6 or 8 years ago. Let us look at the position of municipal abattoirs in New South Wales. This is a pathetic story. There are fourteen municipal or local government abattoirs. This figure was provided by the Chief of the Division of Animal Industry of the New South Wales Department of Agriculture who told me that of the fourteen only four made a profit last year. These were at Dubbo, Goulburn, Gunnedah and Blayney.
– What about Canberra?
– That is a Commonwealth undertaking. I am talking about New South Wales. They were the only four to make a profit and not very much profit at that. I did not obtain the figures. The other ten suffered losses. They were at Albury, Broken Hill, Maitland, Newcastle, Tamworth, Wagga, Mudgee, Forbes, Moree and Guyra. This was in spite of the fact that many of them were sustained by contributions from the New South Wales Government towards loan instalment payments. Forbes abattoir suffered a loss of $188,000 in 12 months. According to the Chief of the Division of Animal Industry, many of those ten abattoirs would have had to close their doors during the last 2 or 3 years if they had not had assistance from the New South Wales Government. The Department of Agriculture in New South Wales is horrified by any suggestion that the State should have more abattoirs. I believe that this is a correct assessment at the present time. These figures do not surprise me because of the trend generally and the need to have a great volume of throughput, thus lowering the unit cost of production. In order to be able to operate efficiently it is necessary to have continuity of supplies and continuity of skilled labour. Why does the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council consider that it would succeed while so many others have failed? I sincerely think that there is reason to believe that the Canberra abattoir would fail and be just as uneconomic as those to which I have referred. I believe that it would be at a disadvantage as compared to many abattoirs which are already operating in New South Wales.
– What would fail?
– The abattoir here. That is my opinion.
– lt has noi failed yet.
– 1 said that it would fail in the future. The honourable senator did not refer to the position outside Canberra. He did not develop his theme in an area 1 mile outside Canberra.
– Come back inside Canberra. That is what we are talking about.
– 1 will finish this argument. The honourable senator will see what I believe are the facts of the case. If an abattoir were established most of the stock, particularly in the winter, would have to be imported to Canberra because this is not a fattening area nor is the tableland area. While it produces an enormous amount of stock, and good stock too, it is not a fattening area. I should think that from June till the end of September very little, if any, fat stock is produced in this area. I know something about this matter because the southern tablelands is an area where as a rule stock is sold in April1 and May and goes out into the fattening areas, which are the western slopes and plains. They are unquestionably the fattening areas of New South Wales. That being so, this stock would have to come back to Canberra to be slaughtered if there were an abattoir here. It costs twice as much to bring stock bv road transport as it does to bring slaughtered meat. This stock would be coming right past the existing meatworks at Cootamundra and Goulburn and this just would not be economic.
I do not think that Senator Devitt mentioned tonight, although he did mention the other day, that the population of Canberra will grow to 200,000 within a few years, and the position will then be worse. I do not think that it will be worse from the point of view of meat, because there will be very little more fattening stock here by 1980 than there is at the present time. More and more livestock will have to come into this area at greater cost than the cost of bringing in meat. Most of the meat that is sold at Goulburn and Cootamundra at the present time finds its way to the great metropolitan areas of New South Wales. I believe that 100,000 lb of meat is very often transshipped from Goulburn to Sydney in one night. The same can be said of Wagga, Forbes and all the other areas. This is the modern trend. I come from an area down in the Riverina, where at Yanco there is an abattoir owned by Bush and Sons who are continually sending their meat to Sydney and other metropolitan markets. The trend is to kill in the country and transport the cold meat to where it is required. Why should it be different in Canberra? I cannot see that it is logical for us to set up another abattoir virtually in a State in which some municipal abattoirs have had a disastrous history. lt has been claimed - I do not think this was claimed tonight - that the closure of the Canberra abattoir will affect those in the Canberra area. But if Canberra is to grow into a large city more stock or more meat will have to come into the area. Without question the tendency at the present time is for fat stock sales at small centres, which had regular sales 10 or 15 years ago, to go out of existence. The stock are sold at the bigger sales in places such as Wagga, which is the biggest stock selling centre in New South Wales at the present time, Orange and Dubbo. The stock are sold in these places and the meat is slaughtered there. This is the trend. Whereas 15 or 20 years ago a tremendous amount of fat stock was marketed in Sydney, today it is a comparatively small stock selling centre. I believe that Canberra should and will be best served by bringing meat in from places such as those 1 have mentioned.
– Is the trend economic in terms of value?
– In what way?
– Is the trend of which the honourable senator speaks proving to be satisfactory and economic?
– Yes, it is. I sell stock at the Yanco abattoir, direct to the meatworks, on a cold weight basis. This system is better for the stock and it is better for the meat. The meat is not bruised. In every way it is superior to sending stock by road transport. Under that system they are bruised in the transports and the meat certainly is not as good as it is when the stock go only a short distance to the abattoir and then the meat is transported to the market.
– That is an argument in favour of local abattoirs.
– Yes, but not for having abattoirs everywhere. That is just not economic, as I said a while ago.
– Why is the honourable senator opposed to the matter going before a select committee?
– I believe that the Government’s judgment is absolutely correct.
– The Government is not infallible.
– I am not saying that any government is infallible; but I believe that in this instance the Government is on very sound economic ground in coming to this decision.
– Was it not on sound economic ground when it decided to curtail wheat production?
– The honourable senator is speaking about something altogether different.
– Might not a select committee confirm the Government’s decision?
– I am speaking of the position as I see it. In my judgment, there is no need to have a select committee.
– Why does not the honourable senator reinforce his argument by supporting the establishment of a select committee?
– What is the use of wasting time? I believe that my view is correct.
– The honourable senator may be wrong.
– Of course I may be wrong. I am not infallible either. But I assure Senator Cavanagh that my views are also strongly held by the livestock producers in the State of New South Wales and in Australia.
– But not by Senator Devitt.
– Senator Devitt did not get outside the boundaries of Canberra.
– He did. He lives in the mainland State.
– He did not refer to anything outside Canberra. The weakness of his argument is his lack of knowledge of the meat position in Australia generally. I believe that on all the facts brought out by the inter-departmental committee the Government’s decision is absolutely right and is not only in the interests of the producers but also in the interests of the people of Canberra getting meat at a reasonable price. Therefore, I oppose the motion.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, it is very nice to see you sitting in the chair, presiding over the Senate. I wish to make abundantly and concisely clear where I stand on the substantive motion before the Senate and why I take the position I do. We had a debate on this matter as part of the debate on the Appropriation Bills last week. I point out that as Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory I naturally have met a number of Canberra citizens who have made direct representations to me and have given me information that they believe to be correct. I have read all I can of what has been presented to me on this matter. As a member of the Government parties, I have worked for the holding of an inquiry into whether the Canberra abattoir should be retained. That request has not been granted. Now there is a motion that a select committee of the Senate be appointed. As I believe that there should be an inquiry into this matter, I propose to support the motion.
Although many people have approached me with what I believe is good information on why the abattoir should be retained, tonight we have heard from an authority in the person of Senator Bull, who provided to the Senate information on why, in his learned and experienced opinion, an abattoir should not be retained in Canberra. I believe that in fairness to the people of Canberra there should be a public inquiry into this matter. I am not prepared to say which way the decision will go. It must be remembered that the people of Canberra are in a completely different situation from that of the people of any other city in Australia. They have not a voice of strength, power and decision in respect of many of the amenities they have in this city.
In reality, all we have been told in support of the proposition that the abattoir should be closed is that an interdepartmental committee of inquiry was appointed in 1966; that in 1968 it reaffirmed its opinion that the abattoir should be closed; and that in 1969 it has reaffirmed that opinion again. It is not likely that the members of an inter-departmental committee, having made a decision in 1966, would willingly change their view in 1968. They had no need to. Certainly they would make idiots of themselves if they changed their view in 1969. As far as I know, the only information available to the citizens of Canberra, who fear for the future of their meat supplies in the years to come, is that the inter-departmental committee thinks that the abattoir should not be retained.
I do not believe that that is good enough in a democracy. The people, having the right to know the facts, can get to know them only if a committee of some sort is set up; it takes sworn evidence; it then makes its report to the Parliament; and on that report the Government takes whatever action it thinks fit. Then, whether the report is for or against the retention of the abattoir, at least the people of Canberra will know what are the facts and what they can expect in regard to future supplies of meat in this city. 1 am not at all happy with all the phrasing of the motion before the Senate. Actually, it is the third edition of the suggested Opposition motion on this matter. I am not one who receives secret documents which normally are not available to me. I have not seen any secret documents in this instance at any time. I query the advisability of including paragraph (2) of the motion, unless the committee - if it is set up - goes about its business very quickly and presents a report in quick time. Paragraph (2) states:
That, pending the Select Committee’s report, the slaughtering facilities at the abattoir should be continued.
That would be regardless of the health consequences if the proposed committee lingers over the summer months before it makes a decision. I believe that the right to close the abattoir at a moment’s notice must remain with the health authorities of this city. That is the only fair attitude that can be taken, having regard to the need to protect the health of the people of Canberra. Would not the health authorities have an overriding authority? 1 come next to paragraph (7). The Opposition obviously is suspicious of whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate will nominate three members of the Committee. I do not know whether they will, as I have heard no discussion on that point. My understanding of paragraphs (7) and (8) of the motion is that if the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Government in the Senate declines to appoint three senators to the committee, but one of them does do so, the Committee shall consist of three senators, one of whom shall be the chairman. I understand that a quorum of the committee would be two senators. Consequently, we would have the situation in an important inquiry of expert evidence being given on oath before a quorum of the committee consisting of two senators. 1 refer next to paragraph (12) which in my notes I have labelled as dangerous. I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) that the motion would not be harmed in any way if that paragraph were deleted. Paragraph (12) of the motion states: that the Senate authorises the publication of all documents which may be laid before the select committee. . . .
In case honourable senators have any doubt about it, this paragraph would give the select committee power to order the publication of any document that it receives. So under this paragraph two senators from one political party would be given authority to order the publication of ail documents which were presented as evidence. My fairly long experience of committees of the Parliament and the Senate suggests to me that if this paragraph is retained in the motion it will stulify evidence, it will restrain people from producing evidence, either for or against a proposition, particularly if the publication of the evidence or documents will be left to the discretion of two or more senators. This is a dangerous provision to write into a motion setting up a select committee of the Senate which would be taking sworn evidence, probing the facts, viewing documents and otherwise getting information in order to enable it to report properly to Parliament. Therefore, I urge the Opposition to take note of what 1 have said and to consider whether it would rather not delete that paragraph. I propose to delay the Senate no longer. For the sake of consistency in carrying out a belief that I hold with all sincerity possible, that there should be a public inquiry and that evidence should be taken on oath in respect of the abattoir, I indicate that I shall support the motion.
Senator TURNBULL (Tasmania) [8.531 - I propose to say only a few words to make my position clear.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear that some honourable senators are interested. My first comment is on the < fact that advice given by the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has been overridden by a department. I can understand its advice being overridden by the Department of the Interior because it is from that Department that it gets its authority, but to be overridden by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) on a non-health matter seems to me to be the absolute acme of bureaucracy.
– He is a doctor.
-! agree that he is a doctor, but the Department of Health has no justification or right in interfering in an economic problem which does not concern that Department. If a matter of health were involved the Department would have every justification for stepping in and saying that something must be done about a certain situation, but this autocratic handling of the whole position is literally disgusting. Admittedly only one Government supporter has expressed opposition to the motion. I presume that all other Government supporters will support the motion, because what has happened goes right against the principles of the Liberal Parry. We find here a Government department rushing in on a matter that does not concern it in the least, apart from the fact that certain conditions are required by the American meat industry. I would have expected the abattoir here to be required to undertake some alterations, but we find that it is to be closed down without being given a chance to carry out those alterations. If Launceston, with a population of 50,000 or 60,000, can maintain a successful abattoir, so can Canberra. The population here is going up in leaps and bounds and certainly could be well over 200,000 people within a short time. To stop private enterprise in this way amazes me, especially when there is no opposition from Government supporters to the closing of the abattoir.
– It is not a private enterprise.
– I agree thai it is not a private enterprise.
– It is a Government show.
– It is run by the Government, although I think it is what we usually call a semi-governmental instrumentality. I believe that this motion does not go far enough. I believe it should demand also that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) reinstate the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council.
– The members cannot be reinstated; they have resigned.
– I know they have resigned, but if the Minister were a big enough man he would ask them to recom.sider their resignations and to take the job on again. They were elected by the people of Canberra and they are people of whom the Government should take notice. I have heard arguments against this motion from only one honourable senator, and every argument put forward by Senator Bull seemed to me to be contrary to what his Party believes in.
– I can assure the honourable senator that he is wrong.
– I must admit that I heard only the last half when the honourable senator was talking about the abattoir being uneconomic, but every uneconomic primary industry that I can think of is the subject of a demand for a subsidy by the Australian Country Party.
– What a lot of rubbish.
– What about the dairy industry and the wheat industry?
– What are the subsidies for? They are for the consumers, not the industries.
– That is the most naive remark I have ever heard in my life. The honourable senator is suggesting that these hand-outs are not for the growers. By not allowing an abattoir in Canberra we are to a minor extent hitting against the principle of decentralisation. No doubt in Goulburn there are interested people who are trying to boost their industry at the expense of Canberra. I fail to see how as a matter of Government policy there could be opposition to an inquiry into the Canberra abattoir. After all, it will be only an inquiry. 1 presume that there would be Government senators on the committee. I hope that they will be big enough to serve on the committee if the motion is carried against their wishes and will add something concrete to the committee’s work so that we can have more knowledge of the abattoir and be able to vote on the matter later. I repeat that if the Minister for the Interior were big enough he would reinstate the Council.
– The matter which is now before the Senate, concerning as it does the Australian Capital Territory, again highlights the particularly unfortunate position into which the Territory is drifting by force of circumstances. We have now a totally artificial position continuing to exist in relation to the Australian Capital Territory. We have a growing urban population with no orthodox municipal or local indigenous government. We have an advisory body which recently has found it necessary, for reasons good and sufficient to itself, to resign. There is in the Australian Capital Territory the permanent effect of the appropriate Government departments - the Department of the
Interior and the Department of Health - and above these lies the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. The time which is now occupied on matters coming before this Parliament affecting particularly the conduct of the Australian Capital Territory is becoming a matter of some concern. A few nights ago I brought a group of 100 schoolchildren from Queensland into the Parliament. At one stage 50 of them were in the House of Representatives and 50 were in the Senate. The debate proceeding in the Senate during the half-hour they were in the Senate gallery was a debate on the imposition of the cistern pedestal tax in the Australian Capital Territory. When they went over after half an hour to the other place to listen to the debate there, the debate proceeding in that place was a debate on the imposition of the cistern pedestal tax in the Australian Capital Territory. In other words, the whole of the Commonwealth Parliament was occupied at the one time on this matter concerning the Australian Capital Territory.
This experience highlighted the fact that perhaps the normalisation of the position of Canberra may now be becoming a matter of some urgency. Insofar as the Parliament finds it necessary to intrude in the administration of the Australian Capital Territory, let us look at the matters which very recently have come before this Parliament. Only very recently this chamber disallowed an ordinance governing the conduct of the legal profession in the Australian Capital Territory, for reasons good and sufficient to this chamber. Again, as I say, there was the imposition of the cistern tax. We have legislation now before the Parliament in relation to the imposition of stamp duties, duties on transfers and cheques, and things of that nature. In other words, the Parliament is assuming more and more responsibility in normalising the situation in Canberra.
But, of course, if we are going to normalise it then it must be normalised totally. It is not fair to the Australian Capital Territory to expect it to assume the financial responsibilities of normal areas which are subject to normal municipal and State authority control and at the same time not to give it the right of self-government within the area available to a city of this kind. Therefore, when we get a matter of this character, it highlights the fact that there should now be a concerted effort to normalise the position of the Australian Capital Territory. Otherwise, we are going to have this Parliament constantly occupied with these domestic matters. We are going to have people or parties constantly dissatisfied, and we are going to have frictions which arc indicated by the matter which is now before this Parliament. After all, it should be normally within the disposition of an area such as this, by the exercise of its own local governing powers, to determine whether or not there should be an enterprise of the character of the Canberra abattoir in the Territory and in a city of this size. But it is left to the intruding department to intervene and say: ‘You shall not have such an enterprise’. Now it comes before this Parliament to determine to what extent that decision should be allowed to remain.
After all, if the Parliament is going to impose these persistent taxation obligations and other things of that character on the Territory, then at the same time we must display sympathetic solicitude for the Australian Capital Territory, and that solicitude is displayed in the motion which the Senate is now discussing. That is why it is important that this matter should receive further consideration and that the best endeavours that are available should be directed to ascertaining all the facts so that the best decision might be arrived at.
Having said that, I want to indicate what I have no doubt made obvious - that- the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the proposition for a select committee. Senator Gair was consulted as to whether the Democratic Labor Party would serve on the committee. Unfortunately, because of the limitation of our numbers, because our four senators were recently serving on standing committees or are heavily engaged on committee work of the Senate which will occupy weeks of their time during the recess, it is not possible to do so. Otherwise, we would have been quite happy and disposed to serve on this committee as we have on others. Nevertheless, we would trust that the committee, directing itself to the problem, will discover by the best evidence available the best solution of this unfortunate situation.
There is one final matter to which I wish to refer. It relates to paragraph 2 of the proposed amendment which reads:
That, pending the select committee’s report, the slaughtering facilities at the abattoir should be continued.
This is a very important matter. Suppose the Senate is disposed to appoint an investigating committee of this chamber. I remind honourable senators that the Executive Government has apparently already decided that the abattoir should be disposed of. The question that now emerges is this: If a decision is taken by the Senate to establish such a committee, with this prayer that nothing should be allowed to permit of the disposal of the abattoir until the committee has brought in its report, is that decision of the Senate going to be accepted as an injunction by the Executive Government? Or is the Government going to do in this case what we unfortunately saw it do last week in relation to the new and permanent parliament house? If it is, then we have one further defiance by the executive government of the expressed will of the Parliament, or certainly of one House of the Parliament.
Therefore I draw the attention of honourable senators to this provision in the proposed amendment which is now before the chamber. I would trust that if this proposition is carried the Executive certainly would postpone any plans it may now have in mind to dispose of this utility and that it will not go ahead in any spirit of defiance or disregard of the expressed opinion of the Senate of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia in the way in which, unfortunately, the opinion of the parliamentarians of the Commonwealth of Australia was bluntly and brutally disregarded last week. Having made those observations, I commend the amendment to the support of honourable senators and regret that owing to circumstances such as limitation of facilities and personnel the Democratic Labor Part)’, while approving the principle, is unable to be identified by personal service on the committee.
– I should like to add a few brief comments to this debate. I have not had very much time to examine the case which has been put forward by the former members of the Australian Capital Territory
Advisory Council, but I should like to congratulate them on their zeal; in trying to look after the people of Canberra. They certainly have done a great deal to bring the facts before the Senate, and I think very properly so.
It is unfortunate that the people of Canberra do not have local government and therefore have not the normal outlet that most people in Australia would have for airing their views on a subject such as this. Therefore I believe that the Senate is a right place to consider their point of view. But I consider that there is a danger that this issue is becoming a little emotional, perhaps politically emotional, because there may be a trend among the housewives of Canberra to feel they are not getting fair treatment. Therefore anyone who takes up their cause may gain some political1 support - certainly at this time.
As a housewife myself, I want to say that I think perhaps they are worrying unduly. There are new trends in the provision of meat for housewives which I find extremely satisfactory. For years I was very glad to go to a butcher and make my selection from what meat was in the shop but recently I had the opportunity of packing a deep freeze by shopping at one of these places that sell packaged meat.
– But we are concerned with the workers in Canberra.
– I will come to that. I am a worker, funnily enough. You would be surprised.
– But a highly paid one. You are not working under any arbitration court award.
– As a housewife, I am not paid at all, but I am very pleased to do my housework in the most efficient way. One means of doing this is by packing my refrigerator with pre-packaged cuts. I have never had better meat, and I find this method very satisfactory. Senator Cavanagh says he is concerned for the workers. Let us come to those who work at the Canberra abattoir. There are fiftyseven men employed at the abattoir who, quite rightly, are concerned about their future and their jobs. But, after all if the Canberra abattoir were brought up to date and the chain system of killing was intro duced instead of the manual system they have at present, no doubt a good many of those people who have worked there for very many years would find themselves redundant. So I do not think this issue really comes down to one of being concerned about the workers. We are all concerned about people not losing their jobs, if that can be prevented. I am just as concerned as Senator Cavanagh about that. But I am also concerned about the housewives getting a good deal when buying their meat.
– But how can the worker afford a deep freeze?
– I think you will find that in a very short time a deep freeze will pay for itself in that not one scrap of the meat is wasted. If you have a deep freeze you are able to go out to work and do something else instead of spending your time in shopping.
– If you have the initial cash.
– Where there is a will there is a way. A great many people do it in this way. However, in spite of what the opposition has said about the Government not making sufficient inquiry into this matter, I do believe from my own investigation that the Government has made every inquiry. It is quite logical that the report of the interdepartmental committee presented to the Government is kept secret because people who gave evidence to it understood that they were giving evidence on that condition. I think it is a pity that such reports cannot be made public, but if people are encouraged to give evidence on that condition we have to accept the fact that it is not possible to make the evidence public. I congratulate again the ex-members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council on the report that they presented after having taken evidence from many people. I think it is an extremely interesting report and that it was very enterprising of them to produce the document, but I am not critical of the Government for having kept the report of the interdepartmental committee secret.
I know, too, that in 1968 the Government called tenders on two occasions for the purchase or lease of the present abattoir. On one occasion there was a tender submitted for the purchase of the abattoir, but it was not adequate. There was one tender for the lease of the abattoir submitted by, I think, the members of the Advisory Council themselves, but certainly the Ordinance would have had to be amended to enable them to do that. It was not possible. I think the ideas which have come out of this report are quite logical. It is quite obvious that it would be better to have an abattoir run by private enterprise, as Senator Turnbull admitted. The abattoir is not an undertaking for the Commonwealth Government to run, and if private enterprise considers that an abattoir can be run economically in Canberra it is up to private enterprise to make a reasonable bid for the abattoir. I hope that in the time that is left before the abattoir is closed private enterprise will quickly make its offer. If it considers that the whole setup is adequate it should make a proper offer to the Government and then the taxpayers’ expenditure in that place will not be wasted.
– If a select committee is set up do you think the Government should proceed with its plan?
– I am coming to that point. I do not think there is time now for a select committee to conduct its investigations and make its report before the date on which the Minister has stated the abattoir will be closed, that is. 27th June. This is not a decision which has been made very quickly. It has emerged from the report which was given to the Minister in 1966 by the interdepartmental committee and the Minister has, for the best part of 3 years, been making these noises, shall I say, to the effect that the abattoir may be closing.
– He could wait another 6 weeks.
– Why keep putting it off? It is a governmental decision.
- Senator Turnbull has just found time to read two papers on it.
– This is the point. It is a governmental decision, it is not a ministerial decision, and the Government decided some time ago that the abattoir was not a thing for the Government to keep operating. It would be better for private enterprise to take it over. I think private enterprise has had a good deal of time to make its offer. I beg again that it make another offer - a more realistic offer - and not expect the taxpayers to give away the asset which the Government has provided for the people of Canberra up to now. Certainly the abattoir has done a good job. lt is estimated by the intergovernmental committee that a third of the meat provided in Canberra is killed at the abattoir, but I think here there is a misunderstanding in this respect. The report of the Advisory Council estimates that 68.7% of the carcass meat consumed in Canberra is killed at the abattoir. Honourable senators will agree that there is a difference between the quantity of carcass meat and the total quantity of meat consumed in Canberra; and whereas the Government is quoting the total quantity of meat the Advisory Council, to my way of thinking, is quoting the quantity of carcass meat, which is not the entire quantity of meat consumed in Canberra.
– Why did the Government spend so much money on the abattoir a few years ago?
– The Government spent money some time ago to try to bring the abattoir up to a reasonable condition. Chillers were put in and they are adequate, but it is now found that manual killing is not sufficient. It would cost another $0.25m to bring the abattoir up to a reasonable condition now. I agree that it would be better for private enterprise to undertake this sort of work, and quite obviously if a realistic bid came in from private enterprise it could be done.
At the same time the butchers of Canberra are concerned at the loss of this abattoir. There is another system which is operating very satisfactorily in the States and I recommend this to the butchers of Canberra. The butchers in some States are killing their own meat. They act as wholesaler and retailer at the same time, and this system is working extremely advantageously for the growers, the butchers and the consumers. I suggest that perhaps some of the butchers in Canberra might get together, form a co-operative and make an offer to the Government to take over this abattoir. 1 think it would be greatly to the advantage of all the people in Canberra is a cooperative were operated on this basis. The thing that we have to realise is that there are new trends in the supply of meat. This debate has been carried on mainly between men. I maintain that the housewives of Australia have gone ahead of the men in understanding that there are new trends.
– The meat has to be killed somewhere.
– I beg your pardon? So many honourable senators are interjecting that I cannot hear them all at once.
– Are you going to cook it on the hoof?
– No. I think we will find a very adequate way of cooking it, probably extremely economically and quickly. We are very efficient people.
– You do not claim to be a housewife, surely?
– Indeed I do. The honourable senator should ask my husband what he thinks. However, I want to finish here. I think we should come up to date and understand that there are ways of having stock killed which will satisfy all the people. This would be the answer to the problem and I hope that if private enterprise will come forward with an offer the Government will give sympathetic consideration and satisfy the people of Canberra that their requests are being met in this way.
[9.17] - I rise to oppose the motion to appoint a Senate select committee to inquire into the Canberra abattoir, but I do want to say that I have listened with a great deal of interest to all the points that have been raised. One of the matters which seemed to me to need comment was the suggestion that this matter has not been well considered by the Government, has not been well investigated and was not given detailed consideration before decisions were made. Because of that feeling I want to talk of the history of the events which have led up to the decision by the Government to dose the slaughtering facilities at the abattoir as from 27th June this year.
I go back a few years to 1957-58 when the Canberra abattoir was supplying 86% of the meat consumed in the CanberraQueanbeyan area. By 1959-60 the percentage had dropped to an assessed 60%. This trend, where the Canberra abattoir continued to produce a decreasing percentage of total meat requirements, has continued throughout subsequent years. I would like to make it quite clear, because there has been a point made of this, that this assessment is made on the amount of meat consumed, the throughput and the population, and I again want to put some of these points before the Senate.
I should like to make it quite clear what is the correct assessment of the output of the Canberra abattoir as it relates to the meat consumed by people in Canberra and Queanbeyan. We have heard from time to time that this percentage is as high as 70% . Nothing could be more incorrect. In fact, one assessment, widely circulated, disregarded the large amount of non-carcass meat - my colleague Senator Buttfield made a point of mentioning this - that comes to this area from approved abattoirs. The correct assessment, as I have already stated in this House, was 36% and this has been based on well established information such as the known throughput at the abattoir, the Commonwealth Statistician’s figure for average fresh meat consumption and the population figures for Canberra and Queanbeyan. I think that these are important figures to be considered by the Senate.
– Whose figures are they?
– These are the figures which I have just given to honourable senators. The figures have come from the abattoir, and there are the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures for average fresh meat consumption and, as I said, the population figures for Canberra and Queanbeyan. As the population of Canberra and Queanbeyan increase this output from the Canberra abattoir will continue to represent a decreasing percentage of the total meat required. Its importance as a source of meat supply will become less and less and this leaves no justification for spending relatively large sums of money when we are quite satisfied that alternative supplies are adequate and will continue to be available.
In July 1965, the Government decided to establish an inter-departmental committee. This committee has been referred to tonight and on previous occasions. It comprised senior and experienced representatives of the Departments of Health, the Interior, Primary Industry and the Treasury and the National Capital Development Commission. The committee was to examine and report on the future development of the Canberra Abattoir.
– Was the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council represented on the committee?
– No. I have given the Senate the composition of the committee. Perhaps the honourable senator did not hear me. Would he like me to repeat it? I said that the committee included representatives of the Department of Health - a very important body; the Department of the Interior which I am sure the honourable senator will agree has a very real interest in the matter; the Department of Primary Industry, the Treasury and the National Capital Development Commission. The inter-departmental committee was formed to examine and report upon the future development of the Canberra abattoir. This committee made a comprehensive and detailed examination of the matter and had discussions with a wide range of persons associated with the meat industry.
– Which committee is this?
– I am referring to the inter-departmental committee.
– Do we have the report of that committee?
– It is not available. However, I will give the Senate some aspects.
– Is it a secret document that has not been released?
– I shall give some points which I think will answer many of the questions that the honourable senator has in mind. I make the point again that the committee made a detailed examination of matters and had discussions with a wide range of persons associated with the meat industry. It also had discussions with other persons interested in or affected by the operations of the abattoir. These are surely important persons. The committee’s first report was made available and considered in detail by the Government in August 1966. 1 will now give the Senate some of the considerations which were exposed by the committee. The committee did not make decisions: it brought out certain points. The first consideration was the inability to support Government expenditure of the funds necessary to bring the abattoir up to an acceptable standard because of the excess capacity existing in New South Wales country abattoirs and the stock supply position in surrounding areas. Secondly, the committee observed the general acceptance of the principle that it is cheaper to transport fresh meat in modern vehicles rather than transport livestock over long distances for slaughter. I think my colleague, Senator Bull, made a point of this when he spoke earlier. Thirdly, the committee drew attention to the adequacy of the supplies of meat for the CanberraQueanbeyan area under the present free trade arrangements and to the fact that the prices payable appeared to be determined having regard to the prices at which imports were available.
– What report was this?
– I have already told the Senate that it was the report of an inter-departmental committee. Perhaps the honourable senator was not listening. If we were to listen to some of the points they might interest him. Fourthly the committee reported that an abattoir was not essential for the development of Canberra and that, with the availability of modern refrigerated transport, abattoirs could be located at considerable distances from market areas without any adverse effect on the quality of meat transported. Lastly, the committee dealt with the aspect of regional areas continuing to supply the national capital with goods and services, such as meat producing facilities, particularly if the enterprises have already demonstrated capacity to meet a growing demand and maintain a high standard of operation.
– Whose report is this?
– As I have already mentioned this about three times, it seems unnecessary to repeat it again. I think I will get on with the points I am raising. In view of the conclusions reached by the committee and after giving the matter full and careful consideration, taking all factors into account, the Government decided that the undertaking could be more appropriately conducted and developed by private enterprise than as a government instrumentality. So the Government, very rightly I believe, and with a real sense of responsibility, decided that tenders for the sale or lease of the abattoir as a going concern would be called. Tenders were widely advertised by the Government on two different occasions but on neither occasion was it considered by the Government that a tender was acceptable. The question of the future of the abattoir was further considered in the light of the inability to dispose of the undertaking on reasonable terms as a going concern. Here I emphasise to the Senate that further consideration was given to this matter by the Government. The Government concluded that tenders should be called for sale or lease of the chilling facilities for use as a meat hall or other food preservation activity. This was announced concurrently with the announcement in February that tenders received in response to the second advertisement were not acceptable.
Following several representations which had been made - I stress this because of the suggestion that the Government has not considered all aspects or all representations made by people interested - the Government agreed to reconsider the matter and arranged for the inter-departmental committee, which had originally considered the question, to review the matter. Earlier in my remarks I referred to the aspects the committee had brought out after its original inquiry. The Government agreed that the committee should again review the matter. This was done and the committee reported to the Government that, in general terms, the overall circumstances governing the operation of the abattoir and the supply of meat to Canberra and Queanbeyan had not changed in any material way since the committee’s report in 1966. The greater proportion of the local wholesale meat supply was still being supplied from sources other than the Canberra abattoir at competitive prices. Because of the relative stability of throughput at the abattoir and population increases, the percentage represented by outside supply had increased. This, again, I think is a point that has been referred to not only by honourable senators on the other side of the House but indeed by senators on this side of the House. Therefore, the Government did reconsider the matter. As I have said, it sought a further report from the inter-departmental committee and then came to the conclusion, after deep consideration, that the slaughtering facilities should be closed down from 27th June next.
The Government also decided that the chilling facilities should be kept in operation at least until such time as it was known whether an acceptable offer would be received from their sale or lease. In arriving at this decision the Government considered that it was not now an economic proposition to continue the abattoir operation at standards appropriate to a modern abattoir, nor was this necessary to be attempted. Modern full service abattoirs at Cootamundra, Goulburn and other towns in New South Wales are all readily accessible to Canberra and there is excess capacity in many of these abattoirs. Here again we are very much indebted to Senator Bull who spoke tonight about these other abattoirs. I would also mention that Canberra, in recent years, has been drawing meat supplies not only locally but also from such centres as Blayney, Wallangarra, Maitland, Byron Bay and Homebush as well as Goulburn and Cootamundra.
– I rise on a point of order. Under the Standing Orders is a senator in order to read a speech to the Senate in a normal debate?
– Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– I have very good notes here. 1 thought the honourable senator would be very pleased to hear this information. I believe that Senator Bull raised the point that there is considerable excess capacity in many of the country abattoirs in New South Wales, particularly in those provided on a regional basis. We have to think of this matter not only in the local areas but surely in the wider areas. These abattoirs are having difficulties and this situation could continue for some years. We know that these abattoirs are all tremendously important to the towns and districts in which they are situated.
– I will move for an extension of time.
– I do not think that the honourable senator will need to. 1 think also that we should go on to another point raised tonight in the discussions concerning this matter. 1 refer to meat prices. The Government’s considered view on this matter is that the closure of the slaughtering facilities at the abattoir will not be the cause of an increase in prices. This view is based on carefully assessed trends evident over a number of years. During the period from December 1958 to December 1968 retail meat prices in Canberra generally have increased at a slower rate than those in Sydney. 1 draw the attention crf the Senate to the fact that this is in an environment where an increasing percentage of meat was coming from sources other than the Canberra abattoir. One very important point has been raised by various people. This of course is -
– Where are the other abattoirs?
– 1 have already enumerated them. 1 enumerated them one after the other until Senator Cavanagh objected. He did not want to hear about all of them. He got them just the same. I.f the honourable- senator would like me to go through them all again, 1 can, but I have made my point on that aspect of this matter. Now I wish to speak about something which I believe is of concern to us all. f believe that every honourable senator is concerned about the problem of those who may Jose employment as a result of the closure of the abattoir. I want to inform honourable senators that they can be assured that the Government is and will be doing everything that it can to settle the retrenched employees in suitable employment. I consider that departmental employees will be offered alternative Government employment. The Department of Labour and National Service will be sparing no effort as far as employees of private operators are concerned. Every effort will be made to assist those who have been employed in the abattoir to obtain suitable employment.
I want to stress the next point again. This Government has given every possible consideration to all aspects of the matter in making its decision. It has, as 1 have brought to the notice of the Senate tonight, considered this matter over a long period. It has considered the representations that have been made to it. It has considered the report of the interdepartmental committee. Its decision has not been arrived at quickly or suddenly. It has been reached after a very great deal of consideration of the matter by the Government. The Government was unable to obtain a satisfactory offer for the purchase or lease of the abattoir as a going concern. Clearly, the expenditure of large sums of money by the Government to modernise the abattoir could not be justified. I. emphasise that by weighing all of the matters which have been brought to its attention the Government has made its decision after very deep consideration and, indeed, in the best possible interests of those concerned. I have placed all ot these matters before the Senate. I cannot see that any real purpose would be served by the establishment of a Senate select committee which, 1 believe, would only traverse again the ground which has already been exhaustively covered in all these ways that I have mentioned to the Senate tonight. So, in opposing the motion for the establishment of this Senate select committee, I strongly urge that it be rejected by the Senate.
– The Senate may well ask: ls there no limit to the arrogance of this Government? The Canberra abattoir is a matter which concerns the people of this Territory. It concerns the people of the surrounding areas. It is a matter not only of whether the abattoir should be continued, whether the people of Canberra are entitled to have their meat slaughtered at that abattoir, whether those interested in the meat industry whether on the side of butchering or on the side of the employees of the abattoir should be entitled to the continuance of this facility; but also is it an important matter concerning representative government. We have the fact before us that the elected members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council resigned in protest against the activities of the Federal1 Government in regard to this abattoir. So, it becomes a matter beyond the question of how meat is to be slaughtered in Canberra.
Here is what the Advisory Council said earlier this year. I think this statement was made on 31st March of this year. The members of the Advisory Council said that they regarded the Government’s decision to close down the slaughtering facilities to be so gravely detrimental to, and a blatant disregard for, the welfare of the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory that, in discharge of their responsibility to those citizens, they resigned in protest against the Government’s decision to reject the Council’s recommendation. Also, they referred to the Government’s refusal to take their advice on financial and other matters and stated that, because of the rejection of their considered advice on the retention of the abattoir and the repeated failure of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) and the Government to have any regard for the advice tendered by the Council on other matters pertaining to the government of the Territory, they had no other course but to resign.
They said that they concluded that as such a crisis has never before been precipitated in the 39 years history of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council the gravity of the present situation of the administration of this Territory of 120,000 citizens should be apparent to all and that, by their resignations, they earnestly hope to bring about an honest reappraisal of the government of the Australian Capital Territory, a change of attitude on the part of the administration and an opportunity for the future elected representatives of the citizens of the Territory to have an authoritative say in the conduct of their own affairs as is enjoyed in all other democratic communities, and that to continue in office in the present circumstances would not only be intolerable but also be a disservice to the citizens of the Territory who, by the Council’s mere existence, would be deluded into thinking that the Government was allowing them, through the elected members of the Council, to participate effectively in the Territory’s legislative and administrative processes. The elected members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council said that the citizens of the Territory are being governed by decree and administrative processes over which they have no control1, either electorally or otherwise, and which have completely denied them their democratic rights.
Notwithstanding that, the Government, through its Minister for the Interior and, I think principally, its Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), just wiped the elected members of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council aside like a dirty rag. The elected members of the Council who represent the people of this Territory - some 120,000 citizens - meant nothing to the Government. That was not the end of it, because joined to the protest of the Advisory Council on this matter were the protests of the surrounding local councils of Queanbeyan, Cooma, the shires of Yarrowlumla and Goodradigbee as well as those from district graziers associations, representatives of stock and station agents, and members of Parliament including the Australian Labor Party member for the Australian Capital Territory, Mr J. R. Fraser, Mr Munro, the Liberal Party member in the other place for the surrounding district and the member for the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, Mr Mauger. Protests came also from the Australian Capital Territory Trades and Labour Council, various trade unions and public service associations, butchers associations, wholesale and retail bodies, other community associations, the executives and branches of the Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party, chambers of commence and the newspapers in the area - the ‘Canberra Times’, the Courier’ and the ‘Sunday Post’. The Government is prepared to wipe aside like a dirty rag all of these organisations and representative bodies. I suppose this is the first time that a Federal Government has succeeded in getting itself up against every political party. The Government has done a really fine job on this occasion. Not only is the Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party against it. but the branches of the Liberal Party in the area are against it. Every organisation is against it.
– I am against the Government on this matter.
– As Senator Turnbull reminds me, here in the Senate itself the Independent senator is against the Government.
– It is surprising that we are doing so well outside Canberra.
– Senator Greenwood is a man who always comes forward with a good thought on these occasions. He says: It is surprising that we are doing so well outside Canberra’. He says, in effect: ‘What does it matter what the people of Canberra think? It does not matter whether the whole community is against us on this issue. We can afford to forget these people. Let us run them over because the latest gallup poll shows that, we are in front. Let us steam ahead. Let us steamroller over the people and forget them.’ How long do honourable senators opposite think any government is going to last when it adopts this attitude towards the people? Here is the overwhelming opinion of the people of Canberra on a matter which is surely a local matter. Honourable senators will remember that because of the attitude of the Government on taxation matters, the people of Canberra are not allowed to have any control over how their taxes are raised. Yet on this matter of local concern honourable senators opposite want the Federal Government to steamroller over the people when virtually the whole opinion of all the representatives in the Territory is one way.
The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) gets up and says: ‘Let us forget that because we have had an interdepartmental committee*. That is the magic thing. This is very interesting. The document which I have before me, which was issued by the former elected members of the Advisory Council and which was supported by all the bodies supporting them, refers to this interdepartmental committee as a secret one. So far as I am concerned, it is a secret committee. I have not been able to read its report. Senator Devitt, who is a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory has not been able to read it. When does the report of this secret committee become available? Senator Bull told us tonight - and I would accept what he says unless he wants to correct it - that the committee is on strong grounds. I asked him: ‘Have you read the report?’ He said ‘Yes’.
– I will correct my earlier statement. I have read the findings of the interdepartmental committee.
– Senator Bull says that he has read the findings of the committee. I do not know whether the report has been made available to anyone else. The people in the area have said that it is a secret report, that it has not been made available to them. Why should the Government, on a local matter which is of importance to the people of Canberra, proceed on the basis of a secret report? That is where it is rich. The Government says: It does not matter what you want. We have a secret interdepartmental committee report and we will act on that.’
We come to the stage where representations are made to various members of Parliament. Representatives of various bodies have come along, no doubt to members of the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Labor Party. The Chairman of the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council, as he was, and others have come along and said: ‘This is a terrible injustice we are suffering. Can you do something for us?’ The two Labor senators on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and. the Labor Party took the view that this matter ought to be looked into. We took the view that it was reasonable to give notice of a motion that the matter should be referred to the Joint Com*mittee on the Australian Capital Territory. We know that the Minister for the Interior (Mr Nixon) has to refer the matter to the Committee, but we asked that in the meantime the Canberra abattoir should continue because we wanted to debate the matter in the Senate.
What happened when notice of motion was given requesting that the future of the Canberra abattoir be referred to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory? Before that matter could come on for debate, a junior Minister in the Government announced outside the House that the Government would not accept the proposal. This was before the matter was debated in this legislative chamber - one of the coordinate Houses. The Minister said, in effect: ‘The Senate can be treated in exactly the same way as the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. We are not interested in what you resolve. We are not even interested in the arguments you put forward. We are not even going to bother to wait until you debate the matter.’
– Who announced this decision?
– The Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) announced it. One reads it with disgust at its impudence. If ever there has been impertinence and contempt of a House of Parliament, it was the way in which that announcement was made after a motion was placed on the notice paper in the Senate. Before the Senate even had a chance to consider or debate the matter, the Minister said: ‘I do not care what you say. We are not going to do it. It is not going to be done by the Government.’ So now the Government is saying, not only to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council but also to these other bodies: ‘It is immaterial what the House of Parliament says, what arguments can be advanced here or what commonsense might arise. The Government is going to close, the abattoir whether you like it or not.’ If that is not arrogance, what is? Faced with that situation - the Minister not being prepared even to await the decision of the Senate on a motion to request the Minister for the Interior to refer the matter to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory - the reasonable course seemed to be to seek the appointment of a Senate select committee. Could anyone imagine a more reasonable motion being put forward by Senator Devitt and Senator Toohey than to ask the Minister for the Interior to refer the matter to the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory? We were left with the alternative of saying: ‘If the Government is not going to do that, the alternative is for the Senate to set up its own committee to inquire into the matter.’
The Government is ashamed to join the committee. It is suggested that there should be six members on this Senate select committee. As I understand it, because of other commitments, neither the members of the Democratic Labor Party nor the Independent senator are desirous of joining this committee. Therefore, it is left to the Government and the Opposition to appoint six members to the committee. The Government is to be given the opportunity to supply the chairman who, in the case of equality of voting, would have the casting vote. There is provision that if the Government does not see fit to appoint any members to the committee, the committee may proceed.
The question of the publication of evidence was raised by Senator Marriott. The Senate has power to authorise the publication of evidence given before a committee and the documents laid before it. In this instance it is proposed that the evidence be published, but the committee is to be authorised to determine whether it is in the public interest that certain evidence should be published. Someone may say that the evidence he is to give is a private matter or that it is a matter of business which he does not want revealed, and the committee may determine that that evidence or certain documents should not, in the public interest, be published. It is a matter of cutting down rather than making it worse for witnesses who come before the committee. The whole matter is left so that the committee, whenever it thinks it desirable in its discretion, acting in accordance with public interest, may determine that particular evidence ought not to be published. Otherwise, whatever is said or laid before the committee “may be published.
In terms of the motion the committee would be expected to proceed promptly and expeditiously to inquire into this matter which has become, not a mere local matter, but a question of whether this Government is entitled to treat the representative bodies as it has treated them; whether it is entitled to treat this House of the Parliament as it has so far treated it; or whether the Senate is going to insist upon its supervision of the administration, and whether it will step in and curb the arrogance of the Government in administering a local body as it has been administered in this instance. I ask the Senate to support the motion moved by Senator Devitt.
– in reply - I do not wish to detain the Senate for any great length of time, but there are one or two things that I think I should say. First of all, I wish to mention Senator Bull’s reference to the report of the interdepartmental committee. It was my understanding that earlier in the debate Senator Bull had in fact indicated that he had had access to the findings of the committee and had read the report. However, he was good enough to confer with me on this matter and to indicate to me that that was not so and that that was not the intention of his comment. What he intended to convey to the Senate was that his comment was based on the findings as given to the Senate on Friday last by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) in replying to the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 3). I accept Senator Bull’s assurance.
Nevertheless, the report of the interdepartmental committee is a secret document. One would have thought that this chamber, having regard to its position in the parliamentary system of this country, had an obligation, apart from anything else, to weigh all the facts of the issue. On the one hand there appears to be a secret interdepartmental committee report which is not available to us. On the other hand there is a report prepared by a responsible elected - I underline the world ‘elected’ - body. I refer to the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council. That report is available for public examination, and as I have already mentioned on two occasions it involved the labour of 600 hours, so I do not think we ought to dismiss it out of hand. The fact that there are two reports in existence in relation to the one matter, one of them being available for public examination and the other not being available, ought of itself to be adequate and sufficient reason for this chamber to take upon itself an examination of the issue.
Senator Turnbull raised the question of decentralisation. From the time of my first speech in this chamber I have lost no opportunity to raise the purported approach of this Government to the very important question of decentralisation. Yet, in this instance, by one stroke of the pen it is proposed to wipe out that concept in a community which has no voice in its own affairs. That must surely be wrong. It is important for the good government and good management of the Australian Capital Territory that the Advisory Council be reinstated by some means or other and at the earliest possible opportunity. I sincerely hope that if the Senate agrees to the establishment of a committee to inquire into this matter, we may see as a result of its activities a return to the situation where the Australian Capital Territory has an elected voice in its own affairs.
I turn now to the amendments which I have put forward, and I refer particularly to the second of them. This relates to the possibility of a health hazard arising should the abattoir continue to operate. In regard to that matter, I suggest that the Senate select committee if appointed could go into the situation at an early date, and I imagine that it would not take very many months to produce a report to the Senate. We have gone through the recent summer with the abattoir operating under the present conditions. That being so, it is not asking too much that for the few months of winter when the health hazard would be substantially reduced, the abattoir should be permitted to operate.
There are many things that one could say, particularly in regard to the speech of the Minister for Housing who represents the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), in regard to statistics of one kind or another. I think it should suffice if I simply debunk one of the theories put forward and leave the rest of the matters to the judgment of honourable senators. The Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council in a statement on 31st March, under the hand of its Chairman, Mr Jim Pead, commented on a statement attributed to the Minister for Health, who, be it remembered, had issued the instruction that the abattoir was to close on 27th June. The Minister had stated in a Press release:
It has been assessed that Canberra abattoir was now providing no more than 36% of the meat consumed in Canberra and Queanbeyan.
Later, in the same statement the following appears:
Dr Forbes said it was not possible to state exactly what proportion of Canberra’s meat consumption was slaughtered at the abattoir.
What is the position? Is it 36%, as the Minister said in the first place, or is it an indefinite and inconclusive figure, as he said almost in the next breath? I listened very attentively to Senator Bull’s comments. He spoke as a representative of or a spokesman for the graziers. As his speech proceeded I thought that he made out a much better case than I did for the retention of the abattoir in Canberra. I know something of the problems of the country abattoir, but surely an industry which puts through 10 million lb of meat cannot really be regarded as a small country show.
In my days as a local government administrator I had as one of my responsibilities the management and control of an abattoir, and I know something of the problems that exist in relation to the operations of a public utility of that kind. Much emphasis has been placed on the economic viability of this undertaking but nobody who has spoken against the proposition that we on this side have put forward, has come up with an answer to my contention that right up to this time the abattoir is an economic undertaking and, I think, is still making a profit. I suggest that under proper managerial control it will make a quite substantial profit, and this surely must completely debunk any argument that can be brought forward on the basis of the economics of the abattoir.
I come to my final proposition. We have two reports on the one subject, one of them a secret report which has not been made available to us but which probably should have been made available. However, I am not going to canvass that point at the moment. Then we have a report by the representatives of the people of this community, and that report has been made public. So far as I can determine from what has been said here in the course of debate, the two reports are in conflict in regard to figures of production and various other matters. I think that there is only one way in which to resolve this situation. A responsible House of the Parliament of this country, having a responsibility that is thrust upon it because of the fact that the people of the Australian Capital Territory have no elected representative body, surely is bound to accept the obligation to determine who is right and who is wrong.
Senator BULL (New South Wales)- by leave - I wish to make a personal explanation.I refer to the interjection by Senator Murphy when I was speaking about the inter-departmental committee. The honourable senator asked me whether I had read the report and I believe I said yes, but I was referring actually to the report that Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin had read. It will be remembered that she read some of the findings of the inter-departmental committee on Friday last. I had a copy of that. It was not the inter-departmental committee findings that I had, and I would like to correct any impression to the contrary which honourable senators may have gained. I wish to thank Senator Devitt for referring to the matter in the way that he did.
That the motion (Senator Devitt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Anderson) agreed to:
That further consideration of General Business be postponed until after consideration of Government Business.
Debate resumed (vide page 1939 ) .
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinnerI had been detailing the way in which the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act had been amended over the years. 1 pointed out that over a 12-year period there had been changes in the way in which oil exploration had been carried on in Australia and that the Government’s legislation had been responsible for those changes. Since 1953 approximately $548m has been spent on the search for oil in this country. Of that sum approximately §90m has been provided by way of subsidy by the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth has provided an additional sum of $3.7m which has been allocated to the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Division of National Mapping.
– Do you think that money has been well spent?
– I am grateful to Senator Webster for his interjection. Whatever facilities the Government has provided have undoubtedly been of encouragement. I was about to say that the facilities of the Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Division of National Mapping have been available to those who have been interested in examining the geological structure of certain areas. From the information obtained such people have been able to further their own researches.
The present situation is distinctly different from that which prevailed in 1967 and in the earlier years when the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act was amended. Let me illustrate the difference. In 1961 a sum of $500,000 was spent on off-shore exploration and a sum of $I7m was spent on on-shore oil exploration. In 1967 expenditure was heavily in favour of on-shore exploration. The annual statement for 1967-68 presented pursuant to the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act showed that in 1967 a sum of $47m was spent on on-shore exploration and a sum of only $28m was spent on off-shore exploration. The figures for 1968, expressed as estimates in the statement for the year 1967-68 - I assume they were fairly close to the mark - show that in that year a sum of only $24m was spent on on-shore exploration while a sum of $56m, or double that of the previous year, was spent on offshore exploration. It will be seen that there has been increasing activity in the off-shore areas. Doubtless this was precipitated and encouraged by the tremendous successes which had been achieved in the Bass Strait area and the more recent discoveries off the coast of Western Australia.
The growing interest off-shore has changed significantly the type of research which has been undertaken in more recent times. Therefore there is need for a reassessment of the way in which the Act operates. There is an obvious need for further discoveries. A statement made quite recently by the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) indicates that, whilst Austrafia is on the way to self sufficiency and therefore on the way to saving each year a considerable proportion of the cost of importing crude oil, there is a need for further discoveries. In a Press statement of 22nd April, the Minister said:
On the present expected indigenous crude oil production the reduction in f.o.’b. payments for imported crude oil in 7 fiscal years 1967-68 to 1973- 74 would approximate to the nearest million dollars:
At the last mentioned amount the figure would remain stable and unless there are further discoveries of crude oil in Australia it may be suspected that not only will there be a further increase in the savings on our balance of trade but also there is likely to be a drop in the savings which the Minister indicated in the figures that he gave. So it is absolutely imperative that what has happened so far should not be regarded as the achievement of self-sufficiency. There is still a positive need for more discoveries to occur and until these discoveries are made the objective of an Australian oil industry cannot be realised. It is for this reason that every incentive, I believe, must be placed in the way of those who are interested in pursuing the search for oil in this country. The Petroleum Search Subsidy Act is one positive Government inducement to people to undertake the search, knowing that they receive from the Commonwealth Government a proportion of what they spend.
The measure very shortly provides these things: Firstly, the subsidy will apply broadly as before to all on-shore exploration. Secondly, it will apply to Australian companies or companies with an Australian interest engaged in off-shore exploration but to no other companies. It is assumed, of course, that overseas companies, or Australian companies with a large overseas component or partnership, will continue the interest which they have long displayed and pursue the search for oil in off-shore waters. It is obvious that these companies are prepared to spend enormous sums of money not readily available from the Australian loan market in this search for oil. If I may refer, Sir, to the statement which was made by the Chairman of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd at the annual general meeting of that company held on 8th September 1968, there is an illustration of the enormous costs involved not only in searching for oil but also in promoting the necessary facilities for discovery. The Chairman said:
The combined expenditure of Esso and ourselves on oil and natural gas exploration and development in the areas in which we are mutually interested, from the commencement of work to 30th June. . . .
That is, to 30th June 1968 - . . amounts to approximately $73m, and a lot more money has to be spent before any revenue will be obtained. Because of the terms of our agreement with Esso, the great bulk of the cost of exploration work has been borne by that company so that our expenditure is a good deal less than one-half of the $73m. However, the initial development expenditure of which we pay half will include a further $2l0m, made up of $31m for the Gippsland Gas Processing Plant, and $24m for the Long Island Point Fractionating Plant, on top of off-shore expenditure exceeding $93m and pipelines costing in the order of $62m. In addition to this initial expenditure, it is likely that further investment of the order of $55m will be required to complete the overall development plans for the Martin, Barracouta, Halibut and Kingfish fields to cater for anticipated production requirements after production commences.
So it can be seen that there is an amount of approximately $300m to be expended before any of the Bass Strait oil and natural gas will return revenue to those who are producing it. When we recognise that these are the money terms which are involved in the search for oil, this shows up in sharp relief those who maintain that Australia ought to be interested or that there should be an Australian equity in these companies.
– Is that $300m from now or S300m from the beginning?
– It is $300m from the beginning up until the time when revenue is being produced by the company. I am certainly in favour of Australians having an opportunity to participate and encouragement being held out to Australians to participate in the exploitation of Australian resources, but it is a pipe dream to suppose that that objective can be readily secured where the amount of money which has to be spent is of the order which the Esso-BHP partnership has had to expend in order to produce revenue. Even when the cost of the exploration with which EssoBHP was concerned amounted to $73m we could not find that sort of money readily available on the Australian loan market. Accordingly we recognise that the bulk of the exploration in our off-shore waters must come from overseas companies. This must be the pattern if we are to have as part of our exploration process the intensive exploration which is the only way in which it is likely that we will be able to find oil.
That, Mr President, was by way of some explanation of the fact that it is anticipated and believed that off-shore exploration will be continued by overseas companies - we hope in conjunction with Australian interests - because they recognise that the prospects of finding oil after the discoveries in Western Australia and Bass Strait are promising. The Bill provides for certain repayments of subsidy to be made out of income when the income is earned and not on demand. It brings all types of drilling into one category and describes them as exploration drilling. It also provides for continuation of the operation of the Act for a further 5 years. The positive benefit which will flow from this measure is that it will indicate, first, the Government’s desire to continue this subsidy and to promote, as far as it can, a continuance of the search for oil. Secondly, it will indicate that on-shore exploration is to be encouraged, because there is no alteration to the traditional subsidy arrangements for on-shore exploration. Thirdly, it will indicate that in the off-shore areas hereafter the subsidy will be available to Australian companies and not to overseas companies. The Bill, of course, lays down a formula as to how that distinction is to be made.
The essence of the Government’s proposal is that the off-shore exploration will continue in any event and therefore there is no need for the subsidy, but because of the limitations imposed upon Australians who seek what is essentially risk capital from the Australian public they will get some assistance in the way of subsidy. I consider that it is a proposal which indicates a desirable Government objective and also brings into focus the broad policy which the Government is endeavouring to encourage with regard to Australian participation. It will not assist overseas companies when they do not require assistance but it will assist, in the hope that there will be benefit flowing from this and an increased participation by Australians, those Australian companies which are engaged in off-shore exploration. I think it is further relevant to place the petroleum search subsidy proposals alongside the other allied activities and decisions of the Government over the past few months.
I stressed earlier, when I was detailing the various amendments which had been made to the Act over the years, the fact that in 1965 a price of SUS3.50 had been fixed as the price which the refineries were to pay for Australian crude oil. I think the relevant Australian price at that time was $3.19. It is significant to appreciate that that price was fixed by the Government after a Tariff Board hearing because the local producers at Moonie and Barrow Island were having difficulty in finding purchasers for their crude oil since the purchasers who normally purchased from overseas were able to import oil at about $1 less than the price the Moonie and Barrow Island producers were requiring and therefore were refusing to take the crude oil from the Australian sources.
It was for that reason that a Tariff Board inquiry was held and that the price was fixed, with the Government incentive added, at SUS3.50. That ensured that the Australian product could be used because it was allied to an excise which ensured that it would be used. As the quantities coming from the Barrow Island and Moonie fields represented something less than 8% of the throughput of the Australian refineries, that was a production that the refineries could take and absorb without choosing to pass on any increased cost which might have flowed from the fact that they were paying more for a segment of their crude oil. When the discoveries were made in Bass Strait and the refineries in Australia were required to take much larger quantities than they had been receiving previously - indeed they are required to take all the Australian oil pro duced - it was obvious that there would be an increase in the price of petrol if the refineries had to take approximately 60% of their throughput from Australian sources.
Therefore, the Government was faced with a situation in which it could have said: Let there be an increase in the price of petrol. We are pursuing the objective of an Australian oil industry. Although we can import crude oil more cheaply, in the interests of promoting our own industry it is desirable that the price of petrol should rise.’ Of course, that is a pattern which has been followed in the United States of America and which has been followed in this country with regard to other commodities. Alternatively, the Government could have taken some other course whereby, instead of raising the price of petrol, the price payable by the refineries to the local producers was reduced in some way. A difficulty with which the Government was confronted was that the price that had been fixed in 1965 was to run until 1970.
It was in those circumstances that the Government negotiated with Esso-BHP to see whether there could be some reduction in the price. Esso-BHP agreed to reduce the price from SUS3.50, which had been the fixed price, to SUS2.48. In return, it received an assurance that from 1970 until 1980 there would be a formula price and there would also be an assured market in Australia for all the oil the company could produce in this country, subject to the limit of Australia’s requirements. It was in those circumstances that the Government took one of the practical steps open to it and achieved a rationalisation of a position that otherwise could have been damaging to Australia both politically and economically. As I see the matter, the Government is to be complimented on what it has done.
As far as the future is concerned, from 1970 onwards a formula price fixed after consultation with all the persons concerned in the production, refining and distributing of petroleum products in this country, which has been fixed at SUS2.06 a barrel, assures a return to the local producers and at the same time permits the refineries to purchase on a basis which those who have examined the position say will involve no increase in the price of motor spirit.
It is in this context of a continuing appreciation of the objective of an Australian oil industry and of the necessity to consider from time to time the various decisions that are part of the pursuit of that objective that the Government now introduces these amendments to the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act. I have indicated the broad outline of the Bill. I believe that it will serve the obvious purposes that it is designed to serve. But I believe that above all else it indicates the awareness of the Government of the continuing changes in the search for oil in this country and the willingness of the Government to adapt its measures to the requirements of the particular situation.
– in reply - I rise to support this Bill, which is designed to continue the subsidised search for oil in Australia for the ensuing 5 years. With that aim in view, the Government has brought down this legislation, which makes some amendments to the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act. I start by saying that this subsidy, which the Government introduced in 1959 to encourage the search for oil, was introduced following the discovery of oil at Rough Range in October 1953 and the exultation that took place immediately following that discovery but after which a further seven or eight holes drilled immediately adjacent to the Rough Range No. 1 hole were unsuccessful. In fact, following the Rough Range discovery the search throughout Australia was unsuccessful and was diminishing.
It was only by granting a subsidy of up to 50% of the cost at that time in respect of drilling and seismographic work that the Government was able to keep not only overseas companies but also some Australian participants interested in the search for oil in Australia. The next discovery was made in 1963 or 1964 at Cabawin. That was followed by the Moonie discovery, which in turn was followed by the discovery at Barrow Island by West Australian Petroleum Pty Ltd. Then, 2 or 3 years later there was the discovery of the very rich Bass Strait oil and gas fields by Esso-BHP. I say to the Senate that had it not been for the Government giving the incentive for oil search in Australia by way of subsidy we may not have had the com panies that were operating continuing their search, and oil could have been a dead issue in Australia today.
So, the reason why the Government has brought down these new amendments to the Act is to continue the payment of subsidy for a further 5 years. I have a lot of material that I wanted to use but in view of the fact that Senator Cant and Senator Greenwood have delivered very interesting speeches here today I do not think I shall speak any further. Whilst I cannot agree with everything Senator Cant said, I agree that the debate has been useful. I thank all honourable senators for the support they have given to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 - by leave - taken together, and agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 - by leave - taken together.
– If it is convenient to the Committee, I will take together the amendments I propose to move to clauses 5 and 6. If this course is followed only one division will be necessary. Clause 5 reads in part:
Section 7 of the Principal Act is amended - (a)…….
by inserting after sub-section (4.) the following sub-section - (4a.) A proposed operation that is to be carried out in connexion with the search for petroleum in a submarine area is not eligible for approval under the last preceding sub-section unless the Minister is satisfied that natural persons ordinarily resident in Australia -
are to pay, in whole or in part, the costs incurred in or in connexion with the operation; or
are beneficially interested, directly or indirectly, in the capital of a corporation that is to pay, in whole or in part, those costs.’.
Clause 6 reads in part:
Section 9 of the Principal Act is amended -
by inserting after sub-section (1.) the following sub-section - (1a.) An agreement in respect of an approved operation that is to be carried out in connexion with the search for petroleum in a submarine area may provide that the subsidy shall be an amount equal to such specified part (not exceeding the part that would, but for this sub-section, bc applicable) of the costs referred to in the last preceding sub-section as the Minister thinks fit having regard to -
if natural persons not ordinarily resident in Australia are to pay those costs in whole or in part - the extent to which it appears to the Minister that such persons are to pay those costs; and
if natural persons not ordinarily resident in Australia are beneficially interested, directly or indirectly, in the capital of a corporation that is to pay those costs in whole or in part - the extent to which it appears to the Minister that such persons are or may be so interested, and the extent to which the corporation is to pay those costs.’; and 1 move:
In clause 5, in proposed sub-section (4a,) leave out ‘a submarine’, insert ‘any’.
In clause 6, in proposed sub-section (1*.) leave out ‘a submarine’, insert ‘any’.
The purpose of the amendments is to make the conditions for the oil search subsidy on-shore the same as they are off-shore. I suggest that if the Government thinks that it is good policy to encourage a greater Australian content of or interest in offshore areas, which are the most expensive areas for exploration and the ones that would be most difficult for the small Australian companies to go into, it is equally right to encourage the Australian companies to have an interest in the on-shore areas where perhaps they are more capable of undertaking exploration work. That remark is subject to what I said in my speech on the second reading of the Bill, that there are areas available for Australian companies.
It seems to the Opposition that the Government’s policy should have been the reverse of what it is, that it should have provided encouragement for a greater Australian equity in areas into which Australian companies were more capable of entering, that is, those areas where exploration is less expensive, rather than insist on paying no subsidy or very little subsidy in respect of areas where the small Australian companies would have very little ability to operate or even to pay a 51% share of the operating costs. When it is considered that the operating costs off-shore are four or five times greater than they are on-shore, it seems to us that there will be very little opportunity for a small Australian com pany to become active in this area. It seems to us that the off-shore area will be dominated by the large companies which have the resources and the risk capital to enable them to go into this expensive area. If the subsidy is payable in respect of an on-shore area, where operating costs are cheaper, on a similar basis to the payment of a subsidy for off-shore exploration, it is probable that sufficient risk finance will be generated in Australia to encourage Australian companies to take a greater share of the onshore areas. That is the purpose of my amendments which I hope will commend themselves to the Committee.
As we will be dividing on these amendments very soon and there will be no opportunity to discuss them further as they will have been passed, I should like the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) to tell me what is meant in clause 5 by the words ‘are beneficially interested, directly or indirectly’. Proposed sub-section (4a.) of section 7 reads:
A proposed operation that is to be carried out in connexion with the search for petroleum in a submarine area is not eligible for approval under the last preceding sub-section unless the Minister is satisfied that natural persons ordinarily resident in Australia-
are beneficially interested, directly or indirectly, in the capital of a corporation that is to pay, in whole or in part, those costs.
What is meant by ‘indirectly interested’? I have gone through the Minister’s second reading speech and all I can see that may give a lead to what is meant by this expression is where he says, referring to the discretion of the Minister in respect of whether the subsidy is payable:
For the purpose of exercising this discretion it is intended to define an Australian company as one which is incorporated in Australia and in which the beneficial ownership is at least 51% Australian, lt will be up to a company to prove the extent of Australian beneficial ownership, but if the company can show that certain shares are available to the Australian public, these shares may be considered as beneficially owned by Australians.
This is extraordinary language for a Minister to use. He says that if the shares are available for beneficial ownership they will be counted as going towards making up the 51%. He continued:
Any company which satisfies this definition, or any Australian individual, carrying out off-shore exploration alone would receive subsidy at the rate of 30% of costs.
In the first place there is a very big discretion reposing in the Minister to decide whether the subsidy is payable, what the amount of the subsidy will be and what works may be subsidised. But in addition to that the Minister says in his second reading speech that if the shares are available to the Australian public those shares may be considered as beneficially owned by Australians. I cannot understand what is meant by that expression. The shares may be offered on the open market, in which case an Australian shareholder might need to have a lien over them in order to purchase them. They would need to be shares which are not open for sale to the general public; otherwise they could be bought by overseas investors. They would almost need to be in the hands of people who had the beneficial ownership in the enterprise. I cannot understand the language used by the Minister, nor can I understand what he means by the expression beneficially interested’. He does not say owned’; he. says ‘beneficially interested, directly or indirectly’. I think the Minister should give an explanation of what is meant by this term in both clauses.
– I have listened with interest to the arguments introduced by the honourable senator in support of the proposed amendments to clauses 5 and 6 of this Bill. In effect, the Opposition wants a subsidy to be paid only to Australian companies whether they be engaged in off-shore exploration or on-shore exploration. The Government’s purpose in introducing the Bill is to pay a subsidy to all companies searching for oil on-shore in Australia but to pay a subsidy of 30% only to Australian companies searching for oil off-shore. The Government is anxious to encourage the continuation of exploration on-shore and it feels that the best way of doing this is to offer a subsidy to all companies engaging in this activity. Despite the fact that the search for oil in Australia has been going on since, one might say, the end of the Second World War, as yet no large quantities of commercial oil have been found on-shore. The only significant discoveries have been those off-shore in Bass Strait. Therefore the Government believes that it should subsidise all companies search ing for oil on-shore, and that is why we are not prepared to accept the amendment.
The honourable senator asked the meaning of proposed new sub-section (4a.) of section 7, which reads:
A proposed operation that is to be carried out in connexion with the search for petroleum in a submarine area is not eligible for approval under the last preceding sub-section unless the Minister is satisfied that natural persons ordinarily resident in Australia -
are beneficially interested, directly or indirectly, in the capital of a corporation that is to pay, in whole or in part, those costs.
By way of example I mention the interest held by Broken Hill Company Pty Ltd in Haematite Explorations Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of BHP which is doing the exploration work in Bass Strait. The honourable senator said that he believed that Australian companies would not be able to participate in any of the areas off-shore because they had all been taken up. I remind him that after the first 6 years, 50% of the area for which an exploration permit has been granted must be surrendered. After a further 5 years, 50% of the remaining area must be surrendered. The surrendered areas then become available to others, including Australians and Australian companies if they desire to tender for them.
I should like to mention also that in view of the fact that the search for oil off-shore has been so successful many companies with large amounts of capital have been floated in Australia with a view to undertaking farm-in oil exploration propositions in certain areas. In this way, Australian companies are gaining an interest in off-shore operations. Each well or geophysical survey may earn them an opportunity to participate in a farm-in proposition in a particular area if they so desire. I think the honourable senator will agree that in the last 6 months a large number of companies have been floated for the specific purpose of obtaining an interest in an off-shore area. I repeat that, as we have been so successful with off-shore operations in Australia, this method is being offered to Australian investors of obtaining an interest in off-shore areas. I regret to say that, on behalf of the Government, I am not able to accept the amendments proposed by the honourable senator.
– I rise to support the viewpoint put forward by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott). It appears to me that what has been proposed by Senator Cant does have some of the attributes of an unreasoning and unexplained prejudice against overseas companies being eligible for any subsidy assistance. The position is that the Act, as it will be amended by the clause as it stands, will ensure that on-shore exploration will continue to receive a subsidy, as it has done since 1957. The figures in the last statement issued in accordance with the Petroleum Search Subsidy Act clearly discloses that expenditure on onshore exploration has dropped by almost 100% over the period from 1957 to 1968. In those circumstances, if the Act is to be looked upon as an Act designed to facilitate exploration in an area where exploration is lagging, then obviously the area in which it is required is on-shore exploration.
If it is a fact that both overseas companies and Australian companies are showing less and less interest in on-shore exploration, then the interest which is being shown by overseas companies will be still further diminished if they are to be denied any part of the subsidy which is being made available. This situation does not apply in the off-shore areas because there is every indication that there is a tremendous incentive for people to get into off-shore exploration. For that reason, which is additional to what the Minister has stressed, I feel that there is sound policy behind this particular provision even though, superficially and without examining the underlying reasons, it might appear that there is a particular provision applying to on-shore operations which does not apply to off-shore operations, without any apparent logical reason for it. I suggest to the honourable senator that a consideration of the matter will indicate there is a sound policy behind the clause as it stands, wherein it limits the ability to give only part of the subsidy to exploration in off-shore areas. There is another matter which I desire to raise. I wish to ask the Minister, in the light of the wide discretions which are given to him under this clause, how it is proposed to indicate the guide lines or the criteria upon which the Minister operates. What is currently intended is set out in the Minister’s second reading speech, but it may be that with the passage of time those intentions will manifest themselves in another way.
– There might even be a change of Ministers.
– lt might be for the reason which Senator Little suggests.
– Or a change of government.
– Or, as he also suggests, a change of government, but 1 am surprised that he would be interested in that eventuality. It does appear that all that the Minister is to do under the section is to make such application of part of the subsidy as is required to be paid as he thinks fit having regard to a number of variable criteria, and one of them is to what extent a person is beneficially interested directly or indirectly in the capital of a corporation, where that person lives out of Australia. In these circumstances it is a very broad and, I say with respect, a somewhat vague way of imposing the limitation which the Act is designed to impose. I suspect that the matter is quite clear from what the Minister has said in his second reading speech, but I would like some assurance from the Minister, if he is able to give it, as to how this will be publicised and made known so that people will appreciate that there is a fixed rule which the Minister will operate.
– I was not quite satisfied with the answer given to me by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Scott) with respect to the meaning of the words beneficially interested indirectly’. As I raised it earlier, I join with Senator Greenwood in questioning the wide discretion that is given to the Minister under this legislation and the vagueness of that discretion. I think that this is a matter that should be cleaned up so that not only can it be publicised to the general public and the people who are interested in the industry but also so that this Senate will understand what the legislation is that it is asked to agree to. Senator Greenwood said that my proposition had an element of discrimination in it. Now, the amendments that I have moved are to make the on-shore conditions exactly the same as those that apply off-shore. That is the purpose of the amendment; to get the conditions uniform in the whole of the industry and to encourage Australian ownership both on-shore and off-shore.
In case there is any thought in anyone’s mind that the Opposition is attempting to discriminate in this, I point out that the Minister has said that what he proposes to do with respect to the off-shore operations was not to subsidise in any way the overseas investor and not to subsidise in any way the foreign capital that is brought in to do exploration work off-shore, but to subsidise only the industry off-shore - I will speak in the maximum without going down the scale - to the extent provided by the Act if there is a 51% Australian content in the beneficial ownership of any exploration operation. The Minister does not think that that is discrimination, because in his second reading speech, as I have just indicated, he says:
Although, as I have just indicated, we intend, in respect of off-shore operations, to extend certain benefits to Australian and not to foreign companies, we do not regard this as a discrimination against the foreign companies. The foreign company will carry on its business and operations on the same footing as any Australian company. What we are doing fs’ extending to the Australian company some special financial assistance at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. To do this helps the Australian companies but does not hinder any foreign company. Therefore I think it fair to say that our policy remains one of not discriminating against foreign companies engaged in the search for petroleum. In fact, we will continue to encourage them both by the on-shore subsidy provisions and by the other features of our petroleum exploration encouragement policy to which I have already referred.
Now, how can the honourable senator say that because I moved an amendment which will apply exactly the same conditions onshore as apply « off-shore - and the Minister says that off-shore he does not discriminate against the foreign companies - =1 am discriminating against the foreign companies?
I think the honourable senator would have to put some more forceful argument than that to convince anybody that the Opposition is attempting to discriminate against the overseas companies. However, when the Minister spoke he mentioned the number of oil companies that had been floated in recent times. Approximately $33m has been subscribed through the stock exchanges with respect to oil exploration companies, but I think the Minister should give this a little more consideration, because I consider that the great bulk of these corn- are gambling on the provisions of section panies are gambling at the casino. They 77a and 77aa of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. They cannot lose by taking out shares in the oil exploration companies. This is not risk capital being put in for this purpose; it is being put in for the purpose of saving taxes. There would not be more than 10% or 15% of the companies which have been floated for oil exploration purposes which would be genuine exploration companies. I join issue with the Minister holding up to the public the number of companies being floated as an indication of the activity in this industry, because it is an activity at the casino, not an activity in an industry.
The Minister also said that Haematite Exploration Pty Ltd was the exploration company in Bass Strait. The simple facts are that Haematite farmed out its areas to Esso to do the exploration work, and when Esso found oil Esso took out a licence to operate in that area. Haematite, as the subsidiary of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, had to farm back into its own area, and it was able to farm back in on the basis of a 12i% royalty or a 50% interest, bearing its fair share of the development costs but not the exploration costs. It is quite wrong for the Minister to say that Haematite is the exploration company in Bass Strait. Esso is the exploration company in Bass Strait.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Temporary Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I have said all that I want to say with respect to this. I hope that the Senate will agree with the amendments that I have proposed because I think that if my amendments are carried the genuine small Australian operator that has some risk capital to invest will be able to get into an area that he is able to handle within the limitations of his financial strength.
– But he still can. This Act does not take it away from him. Your amendment does not alter his position at all. It is not an argument in support of your amendment.
– I do not think a subsidy would do anything because, as 1 have already said, there is no acreage. 1 do not think that the Government will encourage fur.ther incentive for Australians to get into the field of oil exploration during the life of this legislation. It has been said in this debate that at the end of 6 years half of the area held will be surrendered; that at the end of another 5 years another half will be surrendered; that at the end of another 5 years another half will be surrendered; and that under this legislation a company will get down to a minimum of sixteen blocks. But the legislation before us runs for only 5 years. I am not going to presume that the Government will bring down fresh legislation in 1974. During the term of this legislation there will be no surrenders in off-shore areas. It is useless for any honourable senator to say that under this legislation acreage will become available to enable Australian companies to get in.
– But there is acreage on-shore.
– This is acreage that noone wants, otherwise it would be taken up.
– This is the point of the subsidy - to encourage people to take it up.
Senator CANT They will be encouraged to go anywhere where the prospects of finding oil are good. Irrespective . of what subsidy is paid they will go to the prospected areas to search for oil. The Government can pay as much subsidy as it likes. It can pay the whole cost if it wants to in the areas that are not prospected. But the companies will not waste their time going there; they will go somewhere else. So it is quite useless to make these suggestions. Mr Deputy Chairman, I commend the amendments that I have moved to the Senate.
– Senator Cant stated that companies are floated in Australia with no intention of searching for oil. I would like to advise the honourable senator that this is a rather broad statement because many companies have been floated in Australia, as I mentioned earlier, with the sole intention of searching for oil in this country. I admit that companies engaged in oil1 exploration receive tax concessions under section 77a of the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act. Companies also receive concessions for the amount of capital they contribute by way of payments made upon allotment of shares or upon calls. This is a total deduction against income tax for the year in which they spend the money. This is one encouragement that the Government has given to companies for a number of years to encourage people in Australia to invest in the search for oil in this country.
I think it is gratifying to see that we have people in Australia now who are interested in putting capital1 into companies that are anxious to search for oil and which have every intention of spending money to get farm-in propositions off-shore and onshore. I believe that through this legislation which will encourage people to put capital into oil search Australia will be able, in the near future, to participate in some oil strikes. Senator Cant asked me to comment on the percentage of Australian companies engaged in oil search. He wanted to know the participation of Australian companies and others in this field. I shall give the- honourable senator full details from the second reading speech of the Minister for National Development (Mr Fairbairn) which I think covers the whole of the subject.
– I have read the second reading speech.
– The second reading speech sets out quite cl’early what is happening.
– Do not read it again if the honourable senator knows what the speech is about.
– I think in fairness to the Minister whom I represent I should read it as an answer to Senator Cant. The Minister said:
For companies that do not satisfy this definition the rate of subsidy would be determined as a part of 30% dependent on the percentage Australian ownership, with the same provision regarding shares available to the Australian public. For example, a company which is 40% Australianowned and which carries out an operation alone would receive subsidy at the rate of 40% of 30% and that equals 12% of the cost of the operation.
For partnership arrangements on off-shore areas the rate of subsidy would be determined as a part of 30% dependent on the extent in which
Australians contribute towards the total cost of the operation, whether this contribution be by an Australian company or through the Australian ownership in a company which does not satisfy the definition of an Australian company. Examples of how this arrangement will work are:
That is, half the 30% plus one-fifth of the remaining15%, which would be another 3%, and that would make up the 18%.
Now that I have answered the honourable senator, I hope that we can go to a division.
– I would like to know whether the Minister will refer to the publicity which will be given to the guidelines under which the Minister for National Development is proposing to work?
– We will be putting out instructions in the form of guidelines to operating companies as to how these percentages will operate.
That the amendments (Senator Cant’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator T. C. DrakeBrockman
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses agreed to.
Remainder of Bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Scott) read a third time.
Senate adjourned at 11.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 June 1969, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1969/19690603_senate_26_s41/>.