27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) look the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, ls it a fact, as reported in the ‘National Times’ last Sunday, that at a recent public meeting the Liberal Party candidate in the by-election for the division of Murray expressed strong opposition to Australia’s involvement in Vietnam and conscription? Was he expressing official Government policy? If so, will the Government make an immediate announcement that it no longer supports the war and will withdraw Australian troops in the near future? If he was expressing a personal opinion, does the Government believe that it is inviting further disunity in its ranks if he is elected to the Federal Parliament?
– ] have not seen the article and therefore I am not in a position lo comment on what somebody is reported in the Press to have said during an election campaign. Over a long experience of political life I have read some extraordinary statements attributed to people in relation to political campaigns. Such statements are not peculiar to my Parly.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Can we now accept the assurance given by the former Minister for Defence in a Press release on 19th February that any action to phase out civil action projects in Vietnam would be contrary to Government policy and that a reduction of civil action was not in contemplation? Will the Australian Army, in accordance with Government policy and the former Minister’s assurance, maintain civil action activities in Vietnam?
– The former Minister for Defence made the attitude of the Government in relation to civil aid in Vietnam abundantly clear in a hand-out statement at a Press conference. 1 have nothing to add at this time. The situation was made quite clear to everybody, and I should think that Senator Cavanagh, with his keenness, would have read the statement already.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Works in that capacity and also in his capacity as Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. I refer to the reported proposal to demolish one of Adelaide’s historically beautiful buildings, the bank which has been occupied by the Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Ltd, in King William Street. As the building appears to have adequate facilities for accommodating the High Court in Adelaide, will the Minister examine the possibility of acquiring this handsome building? Also, will he agree to study submissions relating to this possibility and to confer with his colleague the Attorney-General on the matter?
– I have no knowledge of the proposal to demolish the building which has been referred to, but J happily accept the honourable senator’s suggestion that it be examined with a view to ils possible use by the High Court. 1 have no doubt that my colleague the Attorney-General also will be interested to examine the matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Did all the countries to which DC3 aircraft are now being donated as part of our foreign aid programme request that such aid take the form of aeroplanes? Will the Minister tender copies of the written requests seeking such aid? If the requests were made orally, will he advise the Senate which representatives of each of the countries made the requests?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI will seek from the Department of Foreign Affairs the information requested by the honourable senator. If the honourable senator chooses, he can place his question on the notice paper, but I will undertake to obtain the information, in any event.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation, relates to complaints by residents of Elizabeth and the Edinburgh area about noise occasioned by flights for the training of pilots of Qantas Airways Limited. In view of the many complaints which are now known to the Minister about noise and other possible hazards involved in such flying operations what action is being taken to restrict them to a minimum and to exclude as far as possible night training flights in the area? Will the Minister investigate possible alternatives to the present situation? Can he also indicate on which date the operations will cease in South Australia?
– 1 think the honourable senator’s question can be divided into 3 parts. The answer to the middle part is that I will certainly investigate what is happening and possible alternatives. I will see what can be done about transferring more training flights to Avalon. I am not aware of a great number of complaints. Indeed, none have come to me, but I am grateful to the honourable senator for his advice that such complaints have been made. As to a date when the situation might be improved, I cannot give one now but I shall look into the whole matter and see what I can do to overcome the problems of the people of Elizabeth and Edinburgh.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether the Commonwealth Government has received a request for financial support to be given to pear growers in the Goulburn Valley area of Victoria. If so, when was the request received? What factors prohibit prompt action by the Commonwealth Government in this matter? Will the Minister acknowledge the extreme urgency of the situation as some fruit growers in the Goulburn Valley area face serious financial hardship?
– I understand that the Commonwealth Government has now received an application from the Victorian Government for financial assistance to be given to pear growers in the Goulburn Valley area. I am not aware of the date on which the application was received or of any obstacles preventing immediate action by the Commonwealth. However, I can assure the honourable senator that the Government at present is studying the submission and is pushing ahead as quickly as possible with that study.
– Can the
Minister for Air advise Hie Senate whether the Australian people will see flights of 4 Fill A aircraft next month? Is there any truth in reports that the Prime Minister overruled objections by both himself, the Minister for Air, and the former Minister for Defence on this matter and that the United States Air Force is now sending the Fill aircraft to Australia for the period 1st April to 6th April next? Alternatively, will the arrival of those aircraft in Australia be deferred until certain matters are determined in the Government parties?
– The honourable senator has his question very mixed up. It is a fact that discussions took place between myself and the former Minister for Defence subsequent to discussions with the Chief of the Air Staff, when a proposal was put to the Prime Minister that an invitation be issued to the United States Air Force to send Fill aircraft to Australia.
– Did you object to that?
– I did not say that I objected. The Americans agreed that the Fills should come to Australia for the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the Royal Australian Air Force. They are sending 4 Fills which will be in Australia in the early weeks of April. They will be on display on the ground at Fairbairn and Richmond RAAF stations.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories aware that the desiccated coconut industry in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea employs about 700 persons and makes a highly significant contribution to the Territory’s economy? Are the 3 major sources of desiccated coconut for Australian use Papua and New Guinea, Ceylon and the Philippines? Did Ceylon devalue its currency in 1967 and did the Philippines devalue its currency on a floating basis in early 1970? Did these actions place the New Guinea desiccated coconut industry in a disadvantageous position because New Guinea currency is tied to the Australian dollar? Does the Government give assistance to other similar industries in New Guinea? Will the Government consider granting some form of assistance or price support to the desiccated coconut industry in the Territory so that it can continue its role as a vital economic unit and employer of labour in the Territory?
– lt is well known that the desiccated coconut industry is a significant industry, especially to the indigenes of Papua and New Guinea. The devaluation of the currency of Ceylon and the Philippines and its effect on the continued operation of Australian currency are matters upon which ( would like the Minister for External Territories to give a direct answer. I will refer those parts of the question to him with a request that he give the matter early consideration.
– I cannot agree with the figures to which the honourable senator refers because I do not recall having seen them in detail, but I shall certainly draw the attention of the Treasurer to the honourable senator’s question.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he can give any indication when there will be a second payment on wheat delivered to the 1 968-69 pool.
– I cannot give any definite indication to the honourable senator, 1 can give only the general situation. The first advance on the 1968- 69 pool, to which there was a record delivery of approximately 5 1 5 million bushels, was paid. The first pool debt to the Commonwealth must be repaid and sufficient credit funds accumulated before any second advance can be made. I understand that early in March the Australian Wheat Board liquidated, or was supposed to liquidate, its debt on the pool to the Commonwealth. It is expected that sufficient funds to make another payment will be available within a few months. As soon as that situation is reached everything will be done without delay to try to get the money to the growers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether L. dopa will be available as a restricted national health service benefit for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease when the new pharmaceutical benefits are listed on 1st April next. If the answer is in the negative, will the Minister explain why?
– J have some information concerning this matter from the Minister for Health. The honourable senator asks whether L. dopa will be available as a restricted national health service benefit. My reply to that question is yes. I also inform the honourable senator that it is anticipated that L. dopa will become available as a restricted pharmaceutical benefit as from 1st April 1971.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry any knowledge of a lamb marketing scheme, prepared by the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, aimed at obviating the existing position which compels Australian farmers to market lambs on the local market at or less than the cost of production? The scheme was to be placed before farmers’ organisations in other States for consideration, and eventually before the Commonwealth Government. If this proposal has not been placed before the Commonwealth Government already, will ‘.he Government cause an investigation of this proposal to be made with a view to ensuring an improvement in the unsatisfactory economics of the lumb industry in this country?
-! understand that a number of farmers’ organisations in Australia, including the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, have submitted lamb marketing proposals to the Australian Meat Board. At present the Lamb Marketing Investigation Committee of the Australian Meat Board is examining a number of these schemes. This Committee was set up to look at all aspects of lamb marketing both within Australia and overseas. That is all the information that I can give the honourable senator. No doubt the scheme he has in mind is being investigated.
– 1 ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health, although I think my question involves the Minister for Social Services also, ls the Minister aware that, according to the President of the Association of Victorian Homes and Hospitals for the Aged, which Association covers 32 homes, the Chief Executive of the Church of England Diocesan Mission, the Catholic Vicar for Social Welfare and the Manager of the Salvation Army Social Services Department, homes and hospitals for the aged and children in Victoria are, due to inflation, critically short of funds and in most cases are reducing their services and the number of their patients? As government-sponsored institutions are unable to fill the gap and as the State Government, because of austerity measures, has no funds to relieve the need, will the Commonwealth examine this problem and seek to prevent the closure of homes and orphanages, which cannot be replaced?
– I have seen some comment on the matters raised by the honourable senator. I understand well his concern about these matters. As 2 Ministers are involved, I think it would be most appropriate for me to obtain from each a detailed reply to the honourable senators question.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration comply with my request of 25th February last and make an authoritative statement on the British Immigration Act, with particular reference to the definition of patrials’? Furthermore, does the Minister for Immigration contemplate further con sultation with the British Home Secretary on this very complex situation?
– The honourable senator is seeking information about the provisions of the British Immigration Bill. Before the Senate rose on 25th February I promised him that I would take up this matter with the Minister for Immigration. This I have done. The Minister informed me that this matter comes within the jurisdiction of the Prime Ministers Department. The honourable senator’s request has been referred to that Department for consideration and reply. As soon as 1 hear that information has been given to the Prime Minister’s representative in this chamber I shall inform the honourable senator who will be able to obtain the information.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate urge his Government to have a full scale and proper inquiry made to ascertain the financial needs of the Commonwealth and State police forces, both for the present and for the future? Will the Commonwealth make available to the various State governments specific sums for the sole purpose of meeting their commitments in this area?
The honourable senator asked a question about an inquiry into the financial structure of the police forces of the Commonwealth and the States. He suggested that special funds should be made available to the State governments. Let me take the question in 2 parts. As to the Commonwealth, there are no problems at all associated with that. There is an obligation on the Minister concerned to have due regard to the needs of the Commonwealth Police Force. That is only a minor part of the question. I would think that that would be safely in the hands of the relevant Minister. As to the States, they all have sovereignty over their own police forces. Whilst I am sure that they would be happy to receive funds from the Commonwealth, I am equally certain that they would resent any intrusion into their responsibilities in respect of their police forces.
– This is the subject of a report by a committee.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThere is a circumstance which, no doubt, has prompted the question. A special adviser was brought to Australia by the Victorian Government to give it advice in relation to the Victoria Police Force. As I read the headlines and some detail of the report, that special adviser has made a very comprehensive report and recommendations to the Victorian Government.
– lt also refers to outstanding crimes.
– That is another element of which I had not thought. I thank the honourable senator for reminding me of it. In any event, 1 believe that the lines of responsibility are quite clear. In the Commonwealth-State financial arrangements, the States make their normal representations for funds to cover their services. They also have their own taxing capacity. 1 believe that responsibility for the State police forces is clearly within their own province. As to whether, in the aggregate, they receive enough funds for nil their services, that is the question-
– You are anticipating the report of the special committee.
Not really. 1 do not intend to canvass it. 1 am perilously close, as the honourable senator will appreciate. I believe that this is clearly within State responsibilities. Overall, if the Stales think that they have not enough funds for their services and they can obtain more from the Commonwealth, no doubt they will make representations.
– ls the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that no bus service to the city is presently provided for overseas passengers arriving at the Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Darwin airports and that as a result incoming passengers are obliged to participate in an unseemly scramble for taxis and hire cars as soon as they clear customs? As all these passengers carry very costly tickets, will the Minister take steps to end this unfortunate situation?
– To my personal knowledge, there is a bus service from the Sydney Airport. I have been looking into it because I have not been satisfied that the access between the international terminal at the Sydney Airport and the city is as good as it should be. One has to appreciate that taxi and bus licensing is a matter for the State authorities, who are trying to improve the situation in Sydney. I am not aware that this statement is true of Mel-, bourne, Darwin or Brisbane, but 1 shall certainly find out about the situation there. I thank the honourable senator for the question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. When can we expect a report of the inquiry into the recent collision at the Mascot Airport between a Canadian Pacific airliner and a Trans-Australia Airlines airliner? Why is there a delay in presenting the report, especially since rumours are circulating alleging a serious breach of regulations by the overseas airliner?
– I think the Senate will be familiar with the process by which any aircraft accident of a major character or a minor character is investigated. The investigations are made by the air accidents branch of my Department which reports only to the Director-General and through him to me. These investigations take quite a long time. In the end, comments or statements about other countries and their operators of aircraft in the form of companies or individuals may well be made. Extraordinary care is taken to investigate every facet of an accident and to be as accurate as possible. I cannot give a date on which the report will be issued but I can assure the honourable senator that it is being prosecuted very vigorously indeed and will be published as soon as possible. In accordance with past practice it will bc tabled in the Parliament.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise inform the Parliament whether it is a fact that a DC3 airliner, owned by Mr H. A. Fisher of Sydney, has been impounded by the Department of Customs and Excise in Darwin? Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether the plane has remained at Darwin for 2 years? Can he state the reasons for impounding the aircraft? ls it owned by an Indonesian company and is this the reason for the refusal of the Department to allow it to leave Australia? Is it also a fact that the plane originally was purchased in New Zealand for S 15,000 and that the Department of Customs and Excise has now put a value of S45.000 on it?
– I am nol familiar with the activities of the Department of Customs and Excise in regard to the aircraft that Senator Keeffe has mentioned. I remember some time ago, perhaps in my first month as Minister for Civil Aviation, seeing some comment about a DC3 aircraft at Darwin which was being kept there because of some dispute over ownership. I cannot go further than that. I will have an inquiry made this afternoon and get what information I can for the honourable senator from my own Department and from the Department of Customs and Excise.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence explain the statement in the Press release of the then Minister for Defence on 21st February that the guidelines for civil action in 1971-72 issued by the Commander of the Australian forces in Vietnam, MajorGeneral C. A. E. Fraser, had been, in part, misunderstood? What were the guidelines issued by Major-General Fraser and what is the proper interpretation of them?
Having regard to all the circumstances and because 1 am not completely informed on this matter I think the question should be put on the notice paper. If that is done, I will attempt to get an answer as quickly as possible.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the recent bomb attack on the home of Senator-elect Gietzelt in New South Wales. Will the Minister cause special investigations to be made into this incident with particular emphasis on the extent to which the outrage was politically motivated and the precautions that might be necessary to protect people who have been democratically elected to the Commonwealth Parliament? Will he also see that whoever was responsible is brought to justice speedily? I ask the Minister ‘ to do these things, because they are very important to democracy within Australia.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am sure we all agree with Senator Bishop’s suggestion that this was a monstrous outrage, even against any person, lt is even more terrible when it happens to somebody who has been democratically elected to be a senator or to a person who has been democratically elected to any office in which he serves the community. I know that Senator-elect Gietzelt and his wife and family have been terribly distressed. All of us can appreciate this because down through the years some of us have received threatening telephone calls and have been threatened with certain things. Obviously this incident could be considered only as being an attempt to murder, and nothing less. There is clearly only one intent in the mind of a person who puts a bomb close to a bedroom in which people are sleeping. ! agree that every effort should be taken to bring the person responsible to justice. I am quite certain the State police are doing everything they possibly can to investigate this matter. I will refer to the appropriate Minister that part of the honourable senator’s question which suggests there should be some Commonwealth investigation, and I will get a reply for him.
– I direct another question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. While we are waiting for the report on the collision at Mascot Airport, what is being done to see that inexperienced pilots from overseas do not land aircraft at this or any other Australian airport?
– I cannot respond directly to the question. It is in the nature of a reflection on a person from another country who is engaged in. a fairly responsible exercise, and I suggest it should go on the notice paper.
– Will the Minister for Supply tell the House how many planes, excluding the Fill, have been purchased by the Department of Supply for Government departments since 1st January 1965? For what departments were the planes purchased? How many were new and how many were pre-owned? Were all purchased by tender, excluding the Jetair DC3s? If not, what other purchasing methods were followed?
– I will get the information for the honourable senator and make it available.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the statement that was made by the former Minister for Defence in the House of Representatives be made also in the Senate? If that will not be done will he advise whether, in view of the many conflicting statements that have been made, it is true that the Australian Army in Vietnam is in revolt against the Government’s policy in relation to civil aid in that country? What civil aid work is being carried out in Vietnam? What is the reason for the dispute between the Department of Defence and the Army?
– The answer to the first part of the question is no. The statement was made by Mr Fraser. It was a personal statement. I understand that at present a debate is going on in the other place. I can imagine no circumstances in which the statement would come to this place for discussion. To talk in terms of revolt in relation to the armed forces of Australia, as the honourable senator did in the second part of his question, is tragic. He selected a most tragic word to use. It shows a complete lack of appreciation and understanding of the English language and, by its very nature and use, reflects upon the magnificent service being given by the armed forces in all circumstances. As to the third part of the question in relation to civil aid, I have promised Senator Cavanagh that I will get some further information and I certainly will get it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In spite of the fact that what I said in my previous question may be a reflection on an overseas individual or an overseas airline, does he not consider the safety of Australian citizens to be sufficient cause to take immediate action to ensure that inexperienced personnel employed by overseas airlines do not land at any Australian airport?
– The question reflects Senator Georges’ judgment of experience and inexperience to whichI cannot contribute anything except to say that we do not give any issue other than air safety first priority. We regard that as the pre-eminent issue in civil aviation. We always work to that end. Our actions are designed, and they always will be, to achieve that end and to sustain it.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry tell us the respective dates on which trade discussions were commenced between the Australian Department of Trade and Industry and representatives of the Rumanian and Yugoslav governments? Were tractor imports on the agenda for discussion with the representatives of each of the countries mentioned? Were any special privileges given to Rumania to commence production of UTB tractors in Melbourne which were denied to Yugoslav tractor manufacturers to produce tractors in Australian based factories?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI have been informed by the Department of Trade and Industry that formal trade discussions with representatives of the Yugoslav Government commenced in October 1967 and with representatives of the Rumanian Government in May 1967. In relation to the second part of the question, specific commodities were not discussed during either of the discussions. As to the third part of the question which related to special privileges, no privileges were given to the Australian owned company handling UTB tractors, in connection with the sale of Rumanian tractors in Melbourne. No Yugoslav tractors are manufactured or assembled in Australia so far as can be ascertained.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. How many surplus or obsolescent aircraft owned by Government departments have been sold in Australia since 1st January 1965? How many were sold by public tender or auction and how many were disposed of in private deals?
I will obtain the information sought by the honourable senator and make it available to the Senate.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry. As the Australian negotiators have now returned from negotiating a new international grains agreement has the Minister any statement to give to the Senate on the possible implications of this agreement for the Australian wheat industry?
I do not have a statement to make today. I will make some inquiries. If a statement is made available during the next few days I will certainly read it in the Senate.
– For our enlightenment will the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Senate of the safety requirements imposed on the pilots of overseas airlines operating in Australia?
– If the honourable senator places his question on the notice paper I will get a detailed tabulation of the qualifications required of people who fly overseas aircraft into and out of Australia. I do not think I should do any more than that.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I ask: Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government is pressing the Australian dairy industry to suggest an appropriate scheme for the limitation of the production of whole milk? Is it a fact that the stocks of butter in Australia at the present time are at a low level? Has one exporter of butter from Australia found it necessary to acquire stocks of butter from New Zealand to fulfil export orders? Will the Minister cause a review to be made of the Government’s requirements in relation to controlling the production of whole milk and then make a clear statement as to the prospects of increasing the production of this product in Australia?
– I understand that it is not expected that Australia will reach the target it set itself last year for the production of butter. I also understand that the quota applied to dairymen in Victoria was increased because this situation was prevailing. I do not have any detailed information in regard to the other matters raised by the honourable senator. However, I shall bring his question to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Will the Minister inform the Parliament how many DC3 aircraft there are in Australia and its Territories? Where are these aircraft located and who . are their owners?
– The honourable senator’s question will, of course, have to go on notice. To my knowledge DC3 aircraft are located in various parts of Australia and there are some in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. If the honourable senator wants a precise answer to his question he will have to place it on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Does the Minister see any wisdom in advising all Commonwealth departments and statutory authorities that there is in existence a Commonwealth Fire Board which has expertise in giving advice in relation to fire protection? Will the Minister advise the Senate which Commonwealth departments or statutory authorities have not used the services of the Commonwealth Fire Board?
– 1 would be amazed if any Commonwealth departments or statutory authorities were not aware of the existence of the Commonwealth Fire Board. Whether they have availed themselves of its services is another matter. I will seek to find out who have in fact made use of the services available. I will not presume to tell any Commonwealth department or authority that the
Commonwealth Fire Board exists because I should think that that would be an affront to such department or authority.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air and Minister for Civil Aviation. Will the Ministers inform the Parliament of the total cost incurred in the use of planes of the VIP squadron for flying Ministers and Liberal Party members of the Government to Canberra to participate in meetings of the Liberal Party which were held on 8th and 9th March 1971? Were any planes owned by the Department of Civil Aviation used for the same purpose on this occasion? If so, what was the cost involved?
– For my part I shall certainly obtain the information for the honourable senator. To my knowledge no Civil Aviation aircraft were used.
– Today I have made an aircraft available to a Minister in order to exercise his ministerial responsibility and I have made an aircraft available to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.
– J desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise whether it is a fact that 80 per cent of table wine consumption in Australia is in the lesser priced flagon trade? Is it a fact that the wine sales figures for the December quarter of 1970 as issued by the Bureau of Census and Statistics reveal heavy decreases in comparative figures for the previous year in this vitally important section of the wine trade which has the heaviest incidence of the across the board wine tax charge of 50c a gallon? As decreases in sales in this section have direct bearing on the ability of the wine industry to process the rising tonnages of grapes being produced from increased plantings, will the Minister have an investigation made into the grape growing and wine making industries, vis-a-vis the effects of the excise charge thus far evident.
– One would share the apprehension of the honourable senator from South Australia that the December quarter sales of flagon wine have shown a down turn. Without being an expert in this field one can understand that this decline would have a significant effect on .production planning and the vineyard operation. I cannot go any further than that. The honourable senator has my assurance that I shall take the matter up with the responsible Minister. I shall ask him what he can do about the situation and whether he will give any further facts and figures which may aid the honourable senator in his pursuance of this matter.
– Has the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities observed statements appearing in the Press that proposals for new and large modern hotels designed to accommodate a hoped-for tourist influx have now been cancelled? Are these statements true? If so, what are the reasons and can the Government do anything to provide this accommodation which is so necessary for the expansion of tourism?
– A statement in the Press to the effect that a proposal for a large modern international hotel in Sydney has been dropped because an examination has shown that, economically, the building and the operation on the proposed basis would not compete with alternative investment has come to my notice. The Commonwealth has given consideration to the question of insufficient accommodation within the industry which has recognised the need for expansion to cope with the increased tourist influx which will grow naturally but with an impetus because of the Boeing 747 aircraft traffic. But as yet the Government has not been able to adopt any policy such as exists in Fiji, New Zealand and other tourist countries of granting concessions to people who build hotels and motels. I think it will be acknowledged on reflection by honourable senators that the appropriateness of such concessions in the Australian community must be considered in relation to the Australian system of taxation for other industries. Their appropriateness in Australia has to line up with that criterion. Nevertheless, the matter is under active consideration. I am well aware of the constant representations being made by the industry for concessions to enable hotel construction in
Australia to compete economically with comparable enterprises overseas.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government been drawn to suggestions that the report of the committee on the crown of thorns starfish plague is to be shelved? Does the Minister recall that I asked a question 2 weeks ago concerning the report of the joint committee which was set up by the Commonwealth and the State of Queensland to investigate the problem further?
– 1 recall the question asked by the honourable senator on 25th February in relation to the delay in tabling the report of the joint committee and consequential matters. 1 sought information and as at yesterday’s date I had received a communication from the Prime Minister’s Department in these terms: ‘I understand that the joint committee established by the Commonwealth and Queensland will be reporting in the next few weeks’. I suggest, therefore, that the report is going on and that it can be expected very shortly. That answers the second part of the question asked by the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. What is the employer and employee relationship between the Commonweatlh and those persons who are appointed to the boards of management of statutory authorities such as the Australian Film Development Corporation? In such a relationship has the Commonwealth Government a liability in respect of personal injury caused to those individuals while they are in the course of carrying out Commonwealth Government business?
– The honourable senator has referred to members of statutory boards created by the Commonwealth. In the ordinary situation the relationship would be between them and the boards, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, but the Commonwealth would then have some general responsibility for the boards. As to the rights of members of a board for compensation for personal injury by acci dent during their employement, one would have to consider first the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act and, secondly, the Air Accidents (Commonwealth Liability) Act. I would have to verify the exact terms of those Acts and the operation of the latter Act, but I shall be pleased to do that and to supply supplemental information to the honourable senator.
– My question is again addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether the first discussions on the purchase of DC3 aircraft from Jetair Australia Ltd took place between the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mr Alexander Barton of Jetair Australia Ltd? If the 2 persons named did not conduct the preliminary negotiations, will the Minister name the 2 persons who were involved in such preliminary discussions?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI shall seek this information for the honourable senator from the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I rather thought that this matter was covered in a general sense in the statement made on this subject, but 1 shall obtain a particular reference to it. While I am on my feet I ask honourable senators to co-operate to bring question time to a reasonable conclusion as I am most anxious to get on with the business of the Senate. If possible I should like to make a real impact on the business paper today.
– I will accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Government in the Senate and make this my last question. I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Minister for Supply: Has the contract entered into by Jetair Australia Ltd and the Department of Supply relating to the purchase of DC3 aircraft been finalised? If not. is it still the intention of the Government to complete the deal?
In all the circumstances, I think that question should also be placed on the notice paper. J hope to be able to give the answers tomorrow.
(Question No. 604)
asked the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice:
Has Mr S. Davey, a Field Research Officer of the Aboriginal Advancement League of Victoria, been refused permission to enter reserves at Derby and Broome in Western Australia for the purpose of discussing employment conditions with persons living on the reserves; if so, and as Mr Davey is a person of good repute and has devoted his life to the cause of Aborigines, will the Minister use his good offices in ensuring that restrictions of this nature are not placed on Mr Davey in the future.
– The Minister in Charge of Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have had the honourable senator’s question referred to the responsible Western Australian authorities who advised that they refused Mr Stan Davey a permit to enter Aboriginal reserves in the north of the State.
(Question No. 809)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Have fines imposed on the owners of foreign fishing vessels, for poaching off the Queensland coast, ever been paid; if so, what has been the total amount collected in fines and court charges.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
Yes. All the fines and court charges in respect of foreign vessels and fishermen convicted in Queensland for offences against Commonwealth fisheries laws have been paid. The total amount was $6,060.50.
(Question No. 858)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
– The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 861)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 718)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
In view of the various drought cycles that have plagued portions of this continent during the last decade, can the Minister provide an analysis of land usage indicating, on a State basis -
the amount of land under rural production in 1960;
the amount of land under rural production in 1970;
the amount of land removed from rural production and allowed to return to normal bushland habitat;
any pronouncement by his Department indicating what amount of rural land should be set aside as buffer regions to offset increasing dust bowls.
Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In May 1970 an Australian Arid Zone Research Conference under the aegis of the Standing Committee on Agriculture was held at Broken Hill. Some150 research workers, representatives of lands administration authorities, and pastoralists, attended and discussed a large number of subjects, including the management of arid lands. My Department, however, has made no pronouncement regardingland use in arid areas.
(Question No. 805) Senator McCLELLAND asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 809) Senator KEEFFE asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Have fines imposed on the owners of foreign fishing vessels, for poaching off the Queensland coast, ever been paid? If so, what has been the total amount collected in fines and court charges.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. All the fines and court charges in respect of foreign vessels and fishermen convicted in Queensland for offences against Commonwealth fisheries laws have been paid.
The total amount was$6,060,50.
(Question No. 825)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senators question is as follows:
(Question No. 826)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 829)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 837)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry:
From which countries and in what amounts has Australia imported fish in each of the last 5 years?
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 839)
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In view of the present economic situation, inquiries are currently being made to determine whether suitable leased premises are available to meet needs for a reasonable period of time.
Should leased premises not be available, design work will proceed on a departmental building to be erected on the site of the existing post office. The commencement of construction will depend on the level of capital funds allocated for departmental works and the relative priorities of project to be undertaken.
– On 16th September 1970 Senator Rae asked the following question, without notice:
Will the Minister draw to the attention of the Minister for the Interior recommendations made by the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution in relation to the urgent action necessary to be taken in Commonwealth territories to control and reduce the problem of water pollution? Will the Minister ascertain whether any steps are being taken to implement any of those recommendations?
The Minister for the Interior has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
I am keenly aware of those recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution which concern the Commonwealth Territories for which 1 am responsible.
The Committee’s recommendation that the Commissioner of the proposed National Water Commission should, amongst other duties, be responsible for the administration of water matters within the Commonwealth Territories is contingent, of course, on the establishment of such a Commission which is a matter for joint consideration by the several State governments and the Commonwealth.
On the question of control, the administrations of the two mainland Territories are associated with the Australian Water Resources Council and its technical committees which in some important areas already carry out a number of the functions proposed for the Commission.
With regard to the Committee’s recommendation that urgent consideration should be given to the preparation of adequate legislation to control water pollution in the Territories, substantial control is possible through existing legislation and administrative procedures. Where powers arc not adequate, action is being taken to determine the nature and extent of the measures necessary to ensure proper control.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first lime.
– I move:
The Bill now before the Senate provides for the payment of a bounty at the rate of 4c per pound with a maximum payment in any one year of $200,000 on cellulose acetate flake produced at registered premises and sold for use in the manufacture of cellulose acetate rayon yarn on and after 1st December 1970. The present Bill amends the Cellulose Acetate Flake Bounty Act 1956-1970, the operation of which was terminated by proclamation on 30th November 1970 and extends the bounty payment at the new rates until 31st December 1973.
This Bill and the termination of the operation of the Cellulose Acetate Flake
Bounty Act 1956-1970 follow the Government’s acceptance of the Tariff Board Report on Vinyl Acetate: Cellulose Acetate Flake (Interim Report: Industrial Chemicals and Synthetic Resins - Review) of 30th June 1970 in which the Board recommended the rate of bounty and maximum annual payment prescribed in this Bill. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator O’Byrne) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17 February (vide page 1 1 7), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second lime.
– The Bills of Exchange Bill has been introduced because of the change in business operations of banks. The principal Act. which is dated 1909. provided the necessary measures for controlling bills of exchange - the main method of conducting business at that time - and a number of other ancillary matters. Over the years, with developments in banking techniques, the emphasis has changed from bills of exchange to cheques, as was pointed out by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) in his second reading speech. In 1965 Mr Justice Manning, who chaired a committee which inquired into the act. brought down a report which, if implemented at that stage, would have required further amendment of the Act because of the very rapid changes that were taking place in banking operations at that time.I refer particularly to the introduction of computers into banking operations. By the use of computers it was possible to keep track of accounts and cheque operations in a way which was not possible before. From the report of Mr Justice Manning and from the developments that have taken place, it is obvious that the Act should be amended because most business operations of banks are conducted by cheque now.
I am a little concerned that only one section of the Act is sought to be amended at this time. I believe that the Bill could have been held over a little longer in order to bring up to date all sections of the Act. Clause 3 of the Bill divides the Act into 5 parts, comprising 101 sections. The main intention of the Bill is to do away with the necessity for endorsements on cheques in certain circumstances. The Bill does not apply to endorsements or to the necessity for indorsement in all cases. Bankers will be relieved of the necessity for insisting on endorsements in certain cases only. Although the Bill sets out to protect banking operations conducted under the new sections 88b to 88e inclusive, I am a little concerned about the rights of persons conducting business with banks; they should have been protected more adequately. I have spoken to some bankers about this matter. The alteration will effect considerable savings in the operations of banks. As far as I can see and as far as the Opposition has been able to determine, the alteration will not affect the rights of persons who have accounts with banks.
The Opposition does not propose to oppose the Bill. We think that it would have been desirable for the Bill to have been held over a little longer and for a comprehensive change of the Act, based on Mr Justice Manning’s report, to have been made. But, as this Bill has now come forward and will produce many economies and savings of time and manpower in the banks, we consider that, of itself and on its own merits, it is a desirable innovation. The Opposition supports the Bill.
– The Senate is discussing the Bills of Exchange Bill, which will be a contribution towards a refining of the requirements relating to money cheques which are now. by law, required to service all cheques marked ‘to order’. In dealing with bills of exchange, and in particular with what the ordinary citizen recognises as a cheque, there have been accepted levels of endorsement for security of ownership of a bill or cheque. The instructions which a client of a bank may write on a cheque form the legal basis as to their being carried out. Various instructions, such as in writing to whom the funds noted on the cheque are to be transferred, cause a great deal of work in the form of some level of scrutiny by bank staff. The client’s instructions must be carried out. So, one finds that in the case of an ‘order cheque the payee noted thereon must endorse the cheque before it can be accepted for payment.
This Bill seeks to provide that where a cheque marked ‘to order’ is paid into the account of the payee, as noted on- the cheque, no endorsement will be necessary for the instrument to be valid. This amendment apparently derived from a report known as the report of the Manning Committee, to which the second reading speech refers. I suggest that, with the increasing use of cheques for the transfer of money from one person or body to another, simplification of the method of transfer is necessary to reduce the work created by unnecessary legal requirements. Private business today is involved in a significant time loss in dealing with cheques upon which thi; instructions are deficient or creative of unnecessary scrutiny. The saving in time created by the proper use of a bill of exchange is of the utmost benefit to private people and industry.
In conjunction wilh comprehensive amendments which are to be put to the Parliament and which will deal with the use of cheques and other bills of exchange. I would advocate that amendments being made to ensure that penalties for misuse of those bills be increased substantially. The tendering of cheques which have no funds to back their issue is an increasing hazard of modern business. Police fraud squads in every State are occupied to great lengths in following through cheque transactions and attempting to bring to law those who mishandle or misuse bills of exchange. For instance. I understand that there is an abortive effort generally by the law to bring to justice an individual who issues a worthless cheque - one which at the moment of issue was not in fact backed by any credit whatsoever - because provided the payer cun assert that he expected funds to be available upon presentation of the cheque he can avoid the consequences of legal restraint. This is a developing trend amongst those who have cheque books but no intention of using the cheques as they should be used. The measure now before the Senate does nothing to alleviate the fraudulent actions of some people but it does tend to offer a saving of time and effort on the part of those who receive order cheques and pay them into their own accounts. On that basis I support the Bill.
– This Bill is one of probably a series of Bills we can expect with the development of the modern commercial society and the application of modern technology to business processes. It is an interim measure in anticipation of a final Bill which will deal with the whole system of the drawing, negotiation, presentation and honouring of cheques in the commercial community.
In the modern world cheques arc assuming a completely new place. Even people who formerly were considered to be of rather humble economic circumstances today have not only savings bank accounts but cheque accounts. Cheques are more liberally used throughout the commercial community and the social and domestic communities, and if we remain addicted to ancient and obsolete commercial processes the time consumed in processing them will reach astronomical proportions.
Anticipating this position, the Manning Committee was constituted to look into the use of cheques and it is proposed that a comprehensive measure will be introduced following the presentation of its report. While that report is in the process of being put into operation, apparently there have been developments in the method of processing cheques and in the application of technology to cheque control. We were told that the prospective Bill was technically difficult to draft but we have an assurance from the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) that the matter has now been commended to the First Parliamentary Counsel and that with the lines laid down it will be possible to draft and implement these controls. In the meantime it is necessary to provide, as a salutary operation, for a situation which will be finally dealt with in the final comprehensive measure, lt will deal with the proliferation of cheques and the unnecessary labour and expense involved in adherence to the ancient requirement that cheques made payable to order be endorsed.
The implications of the signature of a payee on the back of an order cheque are rather complicated. They are the subject of many judicial decisions, and of variations and mutations of decisions. In general terms the signature is a protection to the parties concerned and it is a custom that has been honoured and preserved for that reason. It is found in the modern world that the protection afforded is altogether undue in the light of the fact that the bulk of the cheques negotiated are paid into the payees’ accounts. Apparently this cumbersome procedure has been persisted with unnecessarily. The object of this Bill is to dispense with this in the circumstances set out by the Minister. Once this is done certain implications and certain legal situations arise and these also have to be dealt with. Therefore consequential amendments to the Bills of Exchange Act have to be provided for also. In the circumstances and without unduly keeping the Senate engaged on a matter which is of an interim character and which will receive the concurrence of all parties in the Senate because obviously it provides for modern commercial developments, the Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its consideration of the Bill. 1 do not wish to say anything further in explanation of the technical provisions of the Bill because they were carefully dealt with in my second reading speech. My main reason for rising is to comment on the remarks made by my colleague Senator Webster about offences relating to valueless cheques and to explain to him that that subject does not take any place in this Bill, lt is the subject of the criminal la.w which no doubt will receive attention when the major Bill is introduced after full consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 18 February (vide page 148). on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition approaches this Bill with considerable concern. We know full well that overall there, generally has been a bipartisan attitude to the fundamentals of our immigration policy, but we feel that in this very vital matter of the attainment of a reasonable form of communication between all Australians and a better appreciation of the English language by certain sectors of the migrant community, something further should be done. We believe that it is not sufficient merely to give tacit support lo this Bill. Therefore I move as an amendment to the motion, ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’:
Leave put all words after ‘that’. Insert “whilst not refusing to give the Bill a second reading, the House condemns the Government for the delay in providing a comprehensive programme of migrant education, adequate finance facilities and capital equipment, including buildings’.
An amendment in similar terms was moved when the Bill was before the other place. As I go along I hope to indicate to the Senate that when this legislation was before the other place the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) left a number of things in the air.
I know that my colleague. Senator Poyser from Victoria, will support me when I say that I do not think the Government altogether appreciates the magnitude of this problem. I am not here to throw any bricks at educationists but I believe that the Bill lacks any machinery by which effective advisory committees could be set up to marshall the views of the various parents and citizens groups in the States. I think they are a very vital adjunct to the State school systems and to some of the independent schools. I would like to sec the creation in all States of a broad advisory committee.
Applying the proposal to my own State, I believe that senior officers of the New South Wales parents and citizens associations could play a vital role. In addition we could also co-opt onto the committee some of the post-war migrants who, in the hard competitive world in which we live, have made good, together with their counterparts from the employer groups. I mention Henry Pietracci an official of the health and research union, and 1 am sure that some senators from Victoria would know Bill Nowak, a post-war migrant secretary of the Pastrycooks Union of Victoria. People of that calibre, linked with educationists, would bridge the gap that exists. I have discussed this matter with prominent people in New South Wales such as Mrs Backhouse, president of the New South Wales federation of parents and citizens organisations; Mrs Miller, a former vicepresident of the organisation, who is active in the central western suburbs of Sydney, and Father Collins of the Catholic education organisation in Sydney.
As I see the situation, the Government in its wisdom is creating a fairly skilled apparatus and providing sufficient funds to attract the education technocrats. That is good to a point, but in practice will it work? What about the migrant mothers? What about a lot of the workers in industry? Take the case of a man aged between 20 and 30 years. His only interest - 1 do not say this disparagingly - is to go to the football on Saturday or Sunday and then return to his apartment. A much greater effort should be made to get such people into English classes. I am sure that Senator Davidson and others will agree with me when J say that far too many Australians moralise on this matter. When you go overseas for the first time and hear no other language spoken but the mother tongue of the foreign country in which you happen to be and you do not know what is going on, it makes you very humble. My proposal is not a matter of lecturing people, lt is an attempt to devise the most effective method to make the principles contained in this Bill work more effectively.
I believe that there is a gap between what is done by the parents and citizens organisations and what is done by the Government. Let me illustrate my point. In the Concord area of New South Wales which is in the Lowe electorate Mrs Miller, who is extremely active in the parents and citizens organisation, and many other mothers have been trying to get members of the Greek community and others to meet together on a coffee and cake basis to break the ice and lead eventually into the attendance of those people at night English classes. They have had extreme difficulty. Numbers have dwindled over a period. We of the Opposition fear that the Government will fashion an extremely technical weapon in the matter of education of migrants, but unless it can get the parents and citizens organisations and some of the ethnic groups to play their part the Gov ernment’s tools will not operate at maximum efficiency. That is why we hold distinct reservations about the effectiveness of the Government’s proposals.
In winding up the debate in the other place the Minister for Immigration, when referring to remarks about encouraging the participation of employers in allowing employees time to attend classes, made one admission. He said: i must report that so far we have not met with adequate response.
I have spoken to officials of the Vehicle Builders Employees Federation which has a big intake of migrant labour. The situation is spotty. Some big industries are doing a good job; others are not. I. express the view of the Opposition, and perhaps of honourable senators on the Government side as well, when I say that there must be a stronger effort to place responsibility. In canvassing our suggestion for the setting up of State advisory committees I have mentioned a number of successful trade union officials who were post-war migrants, and I have mentioned also officers of the parents and citizens organisations and others from independent schools. I believe that some employers in industries which have a high migrant intake could be co-opted to serve on the advisory committees.
To prove the point. I have named deliberately, with the approval of Senator Hendrickson, a couple of trade union officials because the unions to which they belong have many female members. They could encourage many union members to attend the classes. In New South Wales I have in mind Peak Freen’s biscuit factory in the western suburbs of Sydney. I should like a check made to see what facilities ate provided for women employed there to learn English. I have been critical about the Hestia brassier factory at Burwood for other reasons. In the absence of anything specific when the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who represents the Minister for Immigration, is replying to the debate. I suggest that a lot of the employers in the clothing industry be asked what they are doing to provide facilities for their women employees to learn English. An advisory committee such as I have suggested with its varied personnel would really be effective. I believe that people who have a bilingual capacity and know the fundamentals of English but who do not necessarily have the imprimatur of the local teachers federation have been used in the State of New York. I suppose that it should be far from me as a trade unionist to suggest dilutation in any profession or calling, but I do believe that this is a way in which this gap can be breached.
An article which was published in the U.S.A. on 28th December in the ‘New Leader’ deals with the problems which were experienced in the U.S. with the American Indians. In the 1880s some of the Indian tribes undertook their own educational systems. Thousands of Indians became bilingual and their educational progress was much better than it was in later years when the American Government decided that American schoolteachers should be put in and the Indian heritage disregarded. I think this was summed up very effectively by Leonard Covello, New York city’s first Italo-American school principal. He said that around the 1910 period the Italian language was completely ignored. He went on to say that he did not recall Italy being mentioned in the schools. Poland, Yugoslavia or Greece could be substituted for Italy and the same position would apply.
I notice that Senator McManus is listening very attentively to me. I think that he will agree with me when I say that it is essential to get across to these people in the right manner when teaching them about the Australian heritage, but there has to be a blend. They should not be isolated from their earlier cultures. The fact that the Scottish community in Australia may celebrate New Year’s Day or the Irish community in Australia may celebrate St Patrick’s Day does not mean that their Australian nationalism suffers. I believe that if we create barriers, as some of our over ardent educationalists sometimes do, people will get their backs up. As a matter of fact, the acquiring of the English language has often been most successful in small migrant groups in country areas which have had to battle for their own survival. I am not questioning country hospitality. I am merely saying that there has not been an attempt to deprive them of their native cultures.
I am sketching a very broad picture. I do not think that there is anything wrong with the principles of the Bill. It is just that some of the things I have been advocating this afternoon have been hammered out repeatedly at citizenship conventions. I am sure that the Government is fully aware that the success or failure of this legislation depends on the co-operation given by the State governments. I have been critical of the inbuilt attitudes of the State governments. They seem to feel that big brother in Canberra is looking over their shoulder. Most of the educational systems in the States have their own syllabuses. While some of them look upon the parents’ and citizens’ associations as a sort of spur-
– Busybody associations.
– I think the honourable senator said that in jest. I am sure that he will agree with me when I say that they perform a very effective role in providing the extra militancy teachers need to get better conditions in their schools. In my own street in Concord there are a large number of Greek and Italian women and children. I have made spot checks on these females and I am sure they are having very happy home lives. But when I have suggested to the women that they should go out at night to attend English classes they have just smiled at me and said that they are quite happy as they are. I do not believe in compulsory political indoctrination but the point that concerns me is that if the husband, who is the person who communicates with the outside world, is sick the wife is in a desperate situation. This is the theme that I am really trying to hammer home in relation to this particular problem. It would appear from the intelligent interjection from Senator Milliner that he appreciates the position in regard to parents’ and citizens’ organisations. Father Collins of the Catholic education section has assured me that teaching aid is welcomed in the western suburbs of Sydney such as Seven Hills, Blacktown and Wentworthville but when I asked him what role he was playing in relation to the education of the mothers, I gathered from his response that, for economical reasons, nothing is being done. I question whether we are going to get the response that we should in these areas.
The Minister for Housing said in her second reading speech that the migrant education programmes will be provided at an annual cost of $4m. I would like this amount to be broken down so that I can see just where the money is going. I do nol know whether it will be possible for the Minister to give me the actual figures in her reply. Another matter in which 1 am interested in the use of cassette tape recorders in high school classes. Whilst 1 am on the P and C theme I should point out what has happened in relation to a book called ‘English and I’. which is regarded as a best seller in this field. 1 do not know the ratio of copies to students, but I know that some of the P and C organisations which have their own photocopying machines have been able to photocopy this book and break it up into sections. In this way they are getting maximum use from it. The point is. of course, that these photocopying machines were bought by the P and C organisations through the activities of their own women members. The Minister may consider dangling a carrot in front of these P and C organisations. If a P and C organisation decides that one afternoon or night a week it is going to have a convivial meeting with refreshments and have teachers along to blend in with the social side perhaps it should receive a subsidy for its overheads. I appreciate that it may be argued that public money is being made available for instruments of education but I am deliberately putting up this suggestion to see whether it would be possible to get a maximum attendance of migrant mothers at these classes. These are the people I am interested in.
Whilst I am on this subject I wish to pay tribute to the officers of the Department of Immigration in Sydney and their counterparts in the other States for the manner in which they handle the crash programme of higher grade English classes. 1 know that they are extremely dedicated men. I suppose that finance is the limitation on their activities. I know that the criterion which is applied is whether the migrant received the equivalent of a high school education in his own country. I appreciate that it might be argued that it is a waste of effort if the person being taught does not have the IQ to take advantage of the sophisticated educational programmes. 1 do not think that I am treading on the corns of anyone in Sydney by saying that the law has been stretched to meet requests which I have put up. An ambitious girl who was working on, for the want of a belter term, a conveyor belt in a clothing factory once said to me: ‘I have not had the necessary high school education, but I believe that if I am given the opportunity 1 will obtain a much better vocabulary and may graduate into another field’. She had in mind. I think, a clerical calling in the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is to the credit of the Department in Sydney that, as a result of a couple of last minute withdrawals by people whom one would define as having the European equivalent of the higher school certificate, she was elevated to the position and made good at it. Just because someone has received a limited education does not mean that he should be required to stay in the cellar. These people can sometimes lift themselves up if they are given the opportunity to do so. I believe that it should be possible for somebody to be recommended to attend these courses, even the more progressive ones. I may be using a trade union analogy, but I believe that if an official of say the pastrycooks union sees somebody in his calling who has ability he should be able to have that person upgraded into one of these courses. 1 know that Australia’s immigration policy is under scrutiny at the present time. One of the ways in which to allay fears is to help people acquire a working knowledge of the language of the country in which they are living. In this way they will become more efficient units. I believe that this will answer some of the unfounded criticism which has been made of our immigration policy. We all know that often when economic changes occur and caution is suggested it is not suggested on a racial basis. Rather with competition for jobs among people racialism and bigotry manifest themselves. That is one reason why all of us have to watch the position very closely. As I stated earlier, the Minister has not answered some of my comments, particularly the one about bilingual instructors. In addition to some of the groups I mentioned which could be coopted there is no reason at ali why some of the ethnic groups could not be used in this field. I know many of them have their own cultural evenings which is all to the good.
In a time of war one notices the establishment of a host of advisory committees. In the field of immigration where there have been some other problems these committees have been created to advise the Department. 1 know that honourable senators may suggest that in broad terms the Good Neighbour Council is one such committee. I think this Council has its place in the immigration firmament but I believe that in the main it is preferable to have people under 45 who have made good in open competition. Some of those people because of their practical experience could be used in this field. That is the general attitude which we of the Australian Labor Party take on this broad situation. We realise that obviously this is not a problem which can be solved overnight.
In order to illustrate this point I refer to a parents and citizens committee in the Sydney Western Suburbs which engaged in this field on its own initiative. The committee started off in a very small way. lt thought it would take 1.2 enthusiasts. After the third meeting the number was down to 5 and then it dropped to 3. This is the problem which one faces. I do not see any reason why the Department could not coopt the editors of ‘La Fiamma’, the Hellenic Herald’, the ‘YugoslavAustralian Journal’ and possibly one of the Hungarian papers. Then these people could feel that they are participants in giving advice. I know that often in their editorials they suggest that this should be done and that that should be done. One theme which seems to run through the whole project is the ability of these people to get right down to the grass roots and maintain the enthusiasm of the potential student of English. Here is a point which is not dealt with in the Minister’s second reading speech: Let honourable senators consider the work pattern of many young migrants, particularly in recent times with the cessation of the Snowy Mountains project, and look at some of the big projects which are going on at the present time in north western Australia where there is a high ratio of migrants to native born in the work force. I often wonder whether some of the big overseas firms are taking the same attitude as some of the major producers in the motor car industry. Are they prepared to give more than lip service to migrant education?
I know the Minister will agree with me that one of the problems in the Northern
Territory is that although the Department of the Interior handles education matters, in the strict sense there is no equivalent to a State Education Department. If honourable senators follow the case histories of men who arrive in Australia and go from hostels they will find that many of them follow the higher wages in isolated areas. This is a time when, because of the lack of entertainment, with trained teachers they could be educated. I hesitate to use this analogy but one might consider the practice that was adopted in the prisoner of war camps. I think Senator O’Byrne has mentioned on different occasions that when people have gone to isolated areas they have taken up other interests. It was not pointed out in the Minister’s second reading speech in this chamber nor by the Minister in the other place when he replied and spoke of lack of co-operation from some employers just what we are doing in the Northern Territory and other isolated areas. I believe that when people arrive in this country if there were maximum cooperation by the employers we could get somewhere with the problem. I know the varied pattern which exists and I do not for one minute underestimate it.
I have mentioned one or two ethnic groups. I. have been talking to people from the parents and citizens associations. They have pointed out, as the Minister knows, that we have a Turkish community. That gives us another problem. When speaking to me Father Collins has mentioned the problem of people from the island of Mauritius. There are so many of these constantly changing patterns. If one looks at the position in Canada - quite apart from that in the United States - one finds that Canada has not made this problem the sole preserve of educationalists. I do not for one moment suggest that they have a skilled role to play. Perhaps one could call the parents and citizens associations and other groups the whips to get the people there. I emphasise to the full to the Minister that this amendment which I have moved on behalf of the Opposition is based on a feeling that this problem is getting away from us. It is only by going on to the workshop floor or into the migrant mother’s kitchen by the direct approach that we will be able to obtain the full value of this project which the Government has suggested. It is on that basis that
I move the amendment of which I have given notice.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Senator Mulvihill,I must point out that the amendment you have moved to the motion for the second reading is not in order.
-I suggest thatI substitute the word ‘Senate’ in lieu of the word ‘House’ in the amendment as I first gave notice of it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - I suggest that you seek leave to amend your amendment to conform with the requirements of the Senate. The amendment would be in order if you amended it to read:
At the end of the motion add - but the Senate condemns the Government for the delay in providing a comprehensive programme of migrant education, adequate finance facilities and capital equipment, including buildings’.
– I seek leave to amend my amendment along the terms you have suggested.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment.
– I submit the amendment in the following terms:
Whilst not refusing to give the Bill a second reading the Senate condemns the Government for its delay in providing a comprehensive programme of migrant education, adequate finance facilities and capital equipment, including buildings.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - This does not meet the requirements of the Senate. As I have said, an amendment in the terms I have suggested would meet the forms of the Senate.
– I seek leave for the amendment I have moved to be altered.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted for that to be done.
– The Immigration (Education) Bill which is before the Senate today is a comprehensive one. The Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) said during the second reading speech that the Bill related to the total area of migrant education. Of course it is an education measure. It is designed for both children and adults and it also provides for intensive courses and full scale courses. The Bill is even more comprehensive when it is recognised that it is designed for migrants and some people who are in particular need and who might be described as ‘former migrants’. The Bill describes them as ‘certain other persons’ which means certain naturalised Australians and the Australian born offspring of migrants who require English instruction. Although the measure comes from the Department of Immigration and was introduced by the Minister in the Senate representing the Minister for Immigration, it is also affiliated with the Department of Education and Science. That Department assists with the devolpment of the programme, particularly in the establishment of committee workings. These committee workings are in the nature of an advisory capacity and include representatives of State education departments. The Bill also contains a number of clauses which deal with living allowances, the employment of teachers, the training of teachers, the general arrangement for the classification of schools and the all important area of research.
The Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council is one of the institutions associated with the Department of Immigration whose special task and assignment is the integration of new settlers into the Australian community. The Bill which is now before the Senate is one of the vital measures associated with the integration of the new settler and the integration of the migrant community into the total Australian community. When we talk about integration we recognise that it is very desirable - indeed, essential - for adequate integration and for what I would call successful adjustment to life in Australia. Those of our migrants who may be described as new settlers in this country should be able to express themselves in the language of their new country and in our case that is the English language. This is important for a number of reasons. It is important from a psychological standpoint and also it is most important from an educational point of view that a new settler should be able to communicate adequately with the native-born Australian population and with all the institutions that go to make up the Australian community
In the sphere of education, in this way mutual understanding takes place. There is learning and the new settler acquires the essentials for what people sometimes refer to as a healthy adjustment to the new environment. But more particularly, through communication in English the new comer is able to understand and appreciate various customs, habits and colloquialisms. He is able to participate through newspapers, radio and television and is able to identify himself with the Australian way of life. More importantly in the matter of integration the need to learn the English language shows up in the area of family welfare. It is important that migrant parents, who are adult people and therefore might not have learnt English in their native country should be able to communicate very freely with their children at their various age groups and various levels of experience. This takes on a new importance when it is recognised that children, by virtue of their going to school or having an association with Australian-born children, have a distinct advantage in acquiring a knowledge of the English language rather more rapidly than their parents. This has an effect on the parent and child relationship and on the total family integration into the Australian community. In cases where parents might not have successfully acquired a measure of the English language, situations can arise where there is misunderstanding and sometimes estrangement. In some cases we have heard even of what may be called a conflict.
Moving from the personal situation through the family welfare situation, one comes into the area of employment. Migrants who speak English with some degree of fluency generally have better chances not only of progressing in their work but also of finding more suitable employment. The acquisition of the English language can assist a migrant worker to obtain employment with a wider range of employers and can open up avenues of promotion and advancement which are to his ultimate advantage. In the long term it is not desirable to have within our
Australian community groups of people, newcomers or migrants, who are isolated from the rest of the community by one or other of the language barriers. This puts them outside the mainstream of community activity, but also it deprives them of regular communication with the general Australian community. The Bill which is before us provides for a comprehensive programme of English language education facilities which are vital to the integration of migrants.
In a study of this kind I suppose it would be essential also to refer to the question of a migrant’s understanding of the law, his obligations to the law and, truly, his privileges under the law. If he understands English he is able to understand the basic requirements of citizenship and is able to deal with everyday situations which bring him into contact with our legal and administrative institutions. So a knowledge of English is essential for an adequate integration in all areas to which I have referred. For these and many other reasons it has been the policy of the Government, ever since the beginning of our large scale immigration programme, to provide in varying and expanding degrees English language instruction to nonEnglishspeaking migrants.
I should like to look for a few minutes at the background to the measure which is now before us. What I say now has some relationship to the amendment which has been moved by the Opposition. For some years the Commonwealth has been concerned about the difficulties encountered by migrant children and adult migrants in learning the English language. In 1968, on the initiative of the then Minister for Immigration, Mr Snedden, arrangements were made with the New South Wales Government for a division of research and planning within the New South Wales Department of Education, lt was arranged that the division should work in cooperation with the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science and with the Commonwealth Department of Immigration. The division was to undertake an investigation into the effectiveness of the existing provisions for teaching English to migrant children and adult migrants. Obviously it was only a pilot survey, but it was complemented by other surveys undertaken by the Department of Immigration into the whole matter of language problems at that time. The important thing revealed by these activities was a keen desire among migrants for the provision of more opportunities for the development of conversational skills.
Adult migrants who have long since left school may not be so actively concerned with correct grammar and things of this kind, but they were looking for more opportunities to develop conversational skills. 1 think the emphasis here is on the words ‘more opportunities’. Usually adult migrants are busy in employment, setting up homes, attending to the welfare of their families and the development of their life generally and it is not always possible for them to fit into a private educational programme. Such things as hours and distances come into it. Consequently, there was a desire for more opportunities for the development of English communication. The findings of the surveys indicated also that an adult migrant with inadequate English faces a number of situations of difficulty, to which I have just referred.
In relation to migrant children it was pointed out that many of them, in both government and independent schools, were handicapped by some difficulty with the English language. Of the 50,000 migrant children surveyed, 32 per cent had this kind of problem. The greatest area of problem and the most frequently occurring type of difficulty involving 76 per cent of the migrant school children involved was in the comprehension of English and difficulty in reading and speaking. In short, this comes back to what I said at the outset when I referred to communication. Difficulties in reading, writing, speaking and comprehension persisted throughout the surveys, and these are points which are dealt with by the Bill now before the Senate. Taking the matter of communication a step further, the subjects most affected by a migrant child’s difficulty with English were those in which some form of communication was involved.
Looking briefly at the adult education field, and referring again to the surveys and to the Government’s programme, the provision of an education service to enable adult migrants to learn the English language goes back as far as the beginning of the post-war immigration programme in 1947. The start which was made in those days has been developed into what we now know as the Australian situational method. This method seems to prefer a pattern involving the use of phrases and sentences rather than a grammatical translation in words or groups of words. The sentence pattern is also set into context by everyday situations. Bringing this whole matter up to date, I refer to the policy speech by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) in 1969 when he made an announcement concerning the Government’s intention to take further initiatives in promoting and accepting responsibility for undertaking the expansion of English education programmes. The Prime Minister referred to 3 headings at that time. He said that the Commonwealth had undertaken the responsibility for financing the expansion of existing facilities for the instruction of adult migrants; the provision of intensive full-time English language courses for those who must know English in order to follow occupations; and special classes in existing schools for migrant children of all ages to ensure that they achieved the education to which their intelligence and natural skills entitled them. These were reflected in the speech of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch) in another place on 23rd April 1970. On that occasion the Minister said:
New areas of need have become evident, and whilst there have been practical reasons in the past to concentrate on speaking and understanding the English language, the comprehensive programme now proposed will provide for more emphasis in the future to be placed on reading and writing English, on meeting the individual needs of migrants and on their citizenship education. In recent years there has been increasing concern over the extent to which migrant children are handicapped by English language difficulty - particularly in school subjects in which verbal communication between pupil and teacher plays a predominant part.
Two important points emerge from that statement, the first of which is (he importance of the English language to migrants, and the second of which is that this legislation contains effective methods to deal with something that is rather more than a language problem. Looking first at the importance of the English language to migrants one might well ask: ls English necessary? In that respect I refer to the background paper of Professor Connell given last year at the Austraiian Citizenship Convention. Professor Connell titled his paper ‘Education for Adult Migrants’ and in it he said:
The genera) purpose of education is to enable a person lo become more effective in the society in which he lives. To do this, it should provide him, broadly, with four kinds of opportunities: to communicate his thoughts effectively, lo understand thi’ way in which his society functions, to prepare adequately for a vocation, and to develop and maintain his physical well-being. Communication, social understanding, vocational preparation, and physical development are the basic ingredients of all programmes of general education. They apply to the education of all citizens, including migrants.
Three background factors to the question of whether English is necessary are communication, social understanding and vocational preparation. A recent survey of unemployed male migrants indicated that language problems are the most common single factor involved in a migrant’s securing suitable employment. The survey established that unfortunately not all the migrants subject of the survey had attempted as actively as they might have done to attend English classes. In studying this area we enter the field of the mental health of migrants. A survey of migrants admitted to psychiatric hospitals showed that language difficulties were a major contributing factor to breakdowns. Apparently male and female migrants were particularly affected when isolation occurred, lt was established that early breakdowns occurred much more commonly amongst migrants who could speak little or no English. I support the reasons put forward by Professor Connell as a general answer to the question: ‘ls English necessary?”
The second point that arises in dealing with that question is that more than a language problem is involved, because it cannot in the whole sphere of communication be separated from the larger problem of integration. Language is a part of culture. Words are meaningless unless accompanied by an understanding of the society in which people live. To learn the meanings and concepts of English words is to understand only part of what I might call the host culture; that is, a culture that is different from that of the pupils. Concepts, ideas, habits, expressions and values are all part of the cultural area. An important consideration is whether migrant children, to whom this Bill particularly refers, face special problems because of what I have seen described as a culture conflict. Most writers on the subject of integration refer to the frequent occurrence of what I will call inter-generation tension or intercultural tension, which may lead to a point of culture conflict.
Australia is not the only country to experience this conflict and is not the only country to carry out surveys and to establish means of dealing with it. A big study in this field has been proceeding for some time in the United States of America. The many clauses of the Bill provide great opportunities. They open up not only the whole world of communication but also the flow of educational, social, vocational, health, cultural and mental benefits, and of course the benefits of citizenship. These flow from the process of integration of a newcomer into the Australian community. Undergirding the education programme outlined in the Bill is the matter to which I referred at the beginning of my speech, and which will contribute to the programme’s ultimate success. I have in mind the important steps that are being taken not only within Australia but also overseas at what in migrant terms is the preembarkation stage, lt is not always possible to carry out surveys in a great number of areas of an education programme, and they would not necessarily contribute to the effectiveness of such a programme.
In Europe the Inter governmental Committee on European Migration arranges a vast range of class and correspondence instruction. I have seen it first hand, as other honourable senators who have visited Europe in the last 2 or 3 years may have seen, the work carried out by ICEM in the interests of migrants to Australia in respect of the English language and communication. In Turkey, Greece, Italy, Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Yugoslavia and elsewhere a variety of classes and courses dealing with the English language are conducted, some by ICEM, some by the Department of Immigration and others in association with various agencies and instrumentalities. They all form part of the background of an effective attempt by the Australian authorities to ensure that migrants to Australia at least have an opportunity to acquire a knowledge of the English language and an improvement in the general area of communication.
The Bill also deals with reception centre activities, courses in industry, and the use of radio and television. References occur to language laboratories, capital equipment, living allowances, the provision of teachers and the important sphere of research. Research must be constantly undertaken and confidently pursued. The area of language includes not only scholastic progress but also the educational process. Needs change as the pattern of migration and population occurs and develops. In the United Kingdom the Birmingham Education Authority has developed one of the leading research centres in the area of the English language and communication. It has what it calls a resource centre. Techniques are being developed there for a programme of migrant language instruction. 1 suggest that such techniques could well have application to Australian requirements.
In total immigration is an area of national activity which is undergoing a series of changes and studies at present. Complex questions are involved in determining an optimum size and distribution of population. A cost benefit analysis could enable the Government to structure an immigration programme in accordance with population considerations. The many efforts made over the years in our immigration programme are reflected in the Bill. In contradiction to the terms of the amendment proposed by the Opposition migrant education has proceeded in various forms and degrees of intensity over the years. It has not commenced only with the introduction of this Bill. Rather is it receiving confirmation by this Bill.
Senator Mulvihill properly pointed out that on visits to European countries we are confronted with embarrassment because of our inadequacy to communicate. I sometimes wonder when we refer to the necessity to train migrants in the English language whether it might, not be a good idea for some of us, if we could find the time and the opportunity, to acquaint ourselves rather more with the languages of the countries from which migrants come to Australia. This has an area of difficulty, as I found personally only last week-end when I was endeavouring to make myself understood to a group of German people. Integration is a two-way process. We talk about the integration of migrants into the
Australian community. We need to develop an appreciation of their own language. As I said just now, if our circumstances and our time pattern allow we would do well to have some knowledge of their language, what it means to them and how it affects their general culture. This would mean also a very welcome growth of the ethnic groups in the Australian community as they assist to make the migrant feel at home and to feel a greater degree of stability as he moves into the Australian community. This also is involved in the total study not only of the English language but also of all other languages.
I think we should say that the Bill is concerned not only with either education or immigration policies as such but also with fundamental social rights These rights have been set out in the United Nations Universal Declarations oi Human Rights. As immigrants are confronted with the impact of social and economic upheaval they and their children must make a rapid and complete adjustment to a new society, to new attitudes, to new values and to new resources, all of which are different to what they have previously experienced. I suggest that the main objective of the Bill is the human well being of the new citizens in the Austraiian community, to enable them to take advantage of the opportunities which Australia provides.
In reference to the amendment moved by the Opposition, I refer honourable senators to the speech of the Minister for Immigration when concluding the debate in another place. He referred >o the fact that expenditure on immigration education has been mounting progressively through the years, and with it the services provided. The Minister pointed out that expenditure this year on migrant education represented an increase of 166 per cent over the funds available last financial year. A recital of an increase in funds does not necessarily mean that there has been a greater extension of the facilities, but from the incidence which I have quoted and from my knowledge of the programme it is true in this case that the extra money which has been spent provides not only for an extended range of educational benefits but also for a greater number of people to receive those benefits. In these terms I support the measure.
– 1 am not quite sure why I am entering this debate, except that I have a feeling that I would like to be able to say in a year or two: ‘I told you so’. It seems to me that this Bill stinks of Parkinson’s law. lt is very difficult to attack a Bill like this because everyone believes in the motives behind it. However, I do not think we have studied this Bill hard enough and have discovered all its details. So it will be passed, as we pass these things in this chamber, because it is a good thing to have, and no-one will worry very much about it. But it is obvious to mc that Parkinson’s law is being allowed to operate in the Department of Immigration. Do not tell me that it has not already been decided that there will be a First Assistant Director-General (Education), that he will have a First Assistant Secretary, that there will be five or six other positions in charge of different little sectors to cover various countries, and so it will go on.
This is already the position in London, of course, lt may not be amiss if I tell of what happened when I was in London recently. I rang up the Director-General in London, or whatever his title is, and asked him for some information. He said: ‘Oh, no. That is not my department. Ring up the First Assistant So-and-so.’ So I rang up the First Assistant So-and-so. He said: ‘Oh, no. That is not my department. Ring up the First Assistant Another So-and-so.’ So I rang up the First Assistant Another Soandso - this is my fourth call - and I was told: ‘No, Mr Jones deals with that.’ So I rang up Mr Jones. I said: ‘Are you Mr Jones?’ He said: ‘Yes.’ I said: ‘Are you a First Assistant?’ He said: ‘No.’ So I said: Why am I wasting my bloody time with you?’ Obviously he could not be anyone of importance if he did nol have the title of a First Assistant. 1 had to contact 4 people in Australia House just to make one simple query.
That leads me on to another question which I do not suppose I will be permitted to expand upon. If the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) wishes to launch an economy campaign he could cut down the staff of the Public Service by half and save $2£m straight away. He could cut by half the staff employed by the Department of Immigration in London as well. I have the feeling that under the provisions of this
Bill we will fmd a lovely little sub-section of the Department growing up. We have been told already that it is growing financially and that it will cost $4m a year to run. That is nonsense, lt will cost $6m to S8m each year, as we know from the manner in which the departments are run.
Another little clause in the Bill provides that the Minister for Immigration may arrange for the conduct of research projects designed to improve the content of courses. Of course, we have so many Ph.Ds floating around without jobs now that this will be a lovely source of employment for some of them. One will be employed and another will be employed to find out how teachers should undergo a course of instruction to teach. One would think they would know by now how to teach. So I have the feeling that there will be a tremendous increase in the sub-section of the Department of Immigration involved wilh education of migrants. That makes me very suspicious of the Bill. The COS involved also makes me very suspicious of the Bill, as well as the fact that it is intended to have training courses for teachers. Apparently teachers need to be taught how to teach migrants. That may be fair enough. I suppose teaching an English child to speak the English language is different from teaching a German child to speak English. But it seems to me that there is nothing specific about this in the Bill.
What will this money be spent on? Who does the Government really envisage it is for? Obviously it has somebody in mind. When these things are provided for in a Bill one finds that the job has already been filled, that the Department is ready to spring up and so on. The Government has some idea where it will spend this money and it already has plans for it. So I view the whole thing with suspicion, even though 1 think it is a good idea. However, it will be a terribly expensive method of teaching migrants. I go so far as to say that nearly all migrants should not be allowed into Australia until they can speak a reasonable amount of English. I think the trouble with migrants in Australia is that too many of them do not understand English. We should insist that they learn English before they come here. Knowing how the Department of Immigration works, gaining approval to be a migrant to Australia is not a rapid process. Surely it should be made an order that people who are intending to come to Australia should learn English in the 6, 12, 18 or 24 months for which they are waiting. I do not think any adult should be allowed into Australia unless he has enough English to understand what is happening around him. This is not so important with children because they pick up languages much more quickly. Even today in the national ghettos, if you want to call them that, or communities a great number of old people still cannot understand a word of English. I do not think this should be allowed for a moment. However, that is only my view.
Also under the Bill it is intended to have courses designed to impart an understanding of the rights and duties of an Australian citizen and of the way of living of the Australian people. I do not think anyone could tell me how to explain to a migrant what happened in the other House this afternoon and how that is part of the course of living of Australian people. I do not think anyone understands what happened there today. It seems to me that we are about to build up another subdepartment, in which case there must certainly be a First Assistant Director-General (Art of Living), Department of Immigration. Then he will have another little office and will start his little empire going. So I view this Bill with grave suspicion. I think it is a pure example of Parkinson’s law in operation. I believe we should stop taking these migrants unless they can speak English.
In Athens the Department of Immigration had a very good system. I do not know whether it is still in operation. It is 5 years since I was there, on a private trip. When I was there I visited the immigration centre. Intending immigrants live in the centre and learn English and Australian cooking, whatever that may be. An international cook book that I read contained Australian recipes for such dishes as kangaroo patties and kangaroo tail soup. If there is such a thing as Australian cooking, it is taught to intending immigrants at the immigration centre in Athens. The centre is a very good one. It teaches immigrants what their future will be like when they get to Australia. I recommend such centres. I would not care how much was spent on them because I think they are really worthwhile. To me the rest of the Bill seems too vague and too comprehensive and to be pure, utter and sheer empire building.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill. We have some reservations on it, but they do not go as far as the reservations expressed by the Australian Labor Party. Its reservations have been expressed in an amendment criticising the Government. The Bill tries to make the problem of communication between many new citizens and people who are here already simpler than they have been. I think the Bill has been forced upon the Commonwealth because of the growing deficiencies in State educational systems which have dealt with the problem of integrating new settlers into our community and with the problem of educating children who have a deficiency in the English language. In the great majority of cases that deficiency is overcome very rapidly when the young children concerned attend school. I know that in Fitzroy in Victoria, which State 1 represent, there is a school capable of giving crash courses in English. Chinese students have complained to me that because of their lack of knowledge of the English language, they were unable to absorb even the rudiments of the education that they came here to get.
Today in a country such as the United States of America it is possible to train a team of people to travel to the moon and to tramp upon it, but it seems that in our associations with other nations, through the United Nations, nothing practical has been done to rationalise this problem of lack of communication because of language barriers. It could well be that the people who were enthusiasts for Esperanto have changed their ideas. We have not heard as much of them as we used to hear. Individual national languages will not be replaced by some agreed upon international language that can be understood by all. The United Nations should be allowed to spend the money to be expended if this Bill is implemented and the money to be expended by the implementation of similar Bills in other countries to have one common language taught in all schools in the world so that this communication barrier will not exist. Tourists, travellers and people who migrate because of world upheavals such as those that have been occurring have a great need for international communication.
At the moment this lack of communication is a local problem brought about by the influx of a large number of migrants into Australia. The problem has been pushed right before us. Their integration into our community is much more difficult because of the communication barrier. So we say that we have to take extra steps to teach them English. The wheel may turn anil the grandchildren of the people whom we bring here and teach English with so much difficulty may migrate from this country.- because of a different set of world circumstances, and the process of breaking down the communication barrier has to start over again. The third or fourth generation, who have learnt the newly acquired language of their ancestors, for one purpose or another may migrate. In the United Nations an attempt should be made to get a common agreement that in all schools in all countries a common language, which everybody can understand, as well as the national language will be taught.
This is where we get the division between the ideal and the practical. If I may say so, Mr Acting Deputy President, some of your remarks were couched in terms which were the ideal rather than the practical. Senator Turnbull suggested that we should ban from coming to this country people who do not speak English. In the main, we do not bring people to this country as individuals: we bring them as families or as family units. It would have been a dreadful thing for our immigration programme if we had rejected many of the fine families which have come here and which are now successfully integrated because perhaps the mother - in most cases it would be the mother - did not have a knowledge of the English language when she came here and did not. in spite of the encouragement we offer, learn the language of her adopted country.
The problem is a passing one; it passed with a generation. Migration is bigger than the generation that comes here. Migration is planning the future of a nation, not the present generation. To some extent the people that are brought here ar? unimportant. Perhaps in the immediate post-war years we lost an opportunity to gather a large number of people who would have been very splendid migrants because the circumstances of war had driven them, in European countries that were under occupation, to ways of life which we, in our isolation from the tragedies that war can create, could not understand or condone. We said that they would not make suitable citizens. We had people examining their credentials most assiduously to ensure that we would not be contaminated by somebody who had been forced to live the type of life that most of us would prefer that neither we nor our children would have to live. But that is in the past. 1 made that point to indicate that we should not go to the extreme suggested by Senator Turnbull and impose on intending migrants a certain standard of the English language. We pride ourselves that we speak English, but in parts of England it is very difficult to make oneself understood because of the type of English that we in this country seem to have acquired.
We should not enforce a rule that would prevent adult migrants from coming here because they were not proficient in English. Let us pause to consider what being proficient in English means. It is easy to be able lo say ‘cat, rat, mat’ and things like that but more is needed to make oneself understood in any country. An educated programme of the language is seldom of very much assistance when it comes to conversing in the local jargon that is accepted by people in some countries. One has to live in a community before one can become fluent, able to understand and to be understood in that language. What is taught in schools covers a very limited field, ff we imposed rules that did not permit migrants because of their lack of knowledge of the language to come to this country, our migration programme would have suffered tremendously and this country would not have developed to the extent that it has today. Its future expansion would be seriously interfered with by a rule such as that. We would not agree with thinking along those lines.
I am certain that Senator Turnbull, in his profession, has to overcome this problem of lack of communication due to the language barrier. This is one of the difficulties brought about by immigration. Great stress is placed upon this lack of communication. The only person who can tell the doctor exactly where the pain is is the person who is experiencing the pain. It must be very difficult for a man in the profession in which Senator Turnbull was to communicate with a woman from a European country who has never been required to mingle outside her own family circle after migrating here. Most of her communications with our community have been through her children or her husband. He has to go out and work to earn a living. Although he might not pass a standard test in English, after mingling in the community he knows sufficient of the language to get by. But very often the woman is isolated in her own family circle. If she is ill and has to explain her symptoms to a doctor, it is very difficult for her to do that proficiently through an interpreter. She is the only person who can really explain her symptoms. T suppose that this is a problem with which we will have to live for this generation.
The Bill accepts what should be a Commonwealth responsibility, lt is the Commonwealth that has implemented the immigration programme and is responsible for it. As a representative of the State of Victoria, I suggest that too much of the responsibility for the subsidiary problems that emanate from the immigration programme has been placed upon the States as an added burden. It is true that the States have been compensated financially and helped to meet the expense. But one of the contentions of the leaders and elected governments of the States at the moment is that the provision has been inadequate for the actual expense in which the States have gradually become involved. I refer particularly to those States in which the rate of migration has been much higher than in others.
This Bill will not do everything. 1 do not suppose that the Minister would say that it was expected to do everything. But at least it represents the acceptance of a responsibility. 1 hope that the fears expressed by Senator Turnbull do not come to fruition and that the money will be spent in a practical way. In most instances the most practical way will probably be through the existing educational institutions, and particularly the State educational institutions. For those reasons, we support the Bill. We make the suggestion that the Australian Government be the first government in the world to make a move on an international basis - in these years of rapid expansion, perhaps we face the problem more than do other countries - for some international language to be agreed upon and taught in the schools of this country and every other country in an attempt to overcome this problem of communication which is so tremendously expensive and which limits our enjoyment of the facilities which are now available as they have never been available before and which will become increasingly available in the future.
As people travel from country io country they should not have this barrier of communication between them and the great majority of the people of the country that they happen to be visiting. We know that an education programme such as this will not reach everybody. But the education systems of the nations of the world are expanding and becoming more proficient. Instead of tourists or migrants going from country to country and being understood by very few members of the community in which they find themselves, they should be able to be understood by the majority. We make that suggestion as a practical proposition for the Government of our country to put to the governments of other countries.
It would not be our purpose to support the amendment. We doubt that there is justification for the Opposition, the corner party or the independent to condemn the Government on this matter on the basis that too little has been done. When rill is said and done, governments are subject to pressures by all people who are interested in public life and politics. In the 3 years I have been here I have not heard of any specific instance in which any of us have been condemning the Government because it has not taken sufficient action in this regard. Neither have we been moving urgency motions and endeavouring to get these things done by giving the Government the nudge that was necessary. Individuals have interested themselves in the problem. This is always the case within the framework of all political parties. I know that Senator Mulvihill would be the first to agree with me. He has interested himself in the protection of our flora and fauna. If the Government has been slow in soma respects in that field, he as an individual - quite apart from his Party - would have every justification for saying: ‘I am in a situation in which I can condemn the Government for not listening to me over the years’.
Bui. whilst there has been criticism in this field - there always will be criticism of governments because that is what oppositions and corner parties are for - I do not know that any of us could claim that we are justified in expressing our approval of the Bill and then saying that we condemn the Government for the delay in providing a comprehensive programme. I believe that there has been a reasonable approach to the programme over the years. Perhaps it has not been enough to satisfy everybody. But there has been sufficient success to justify our saying in the international sphere that Australia as a whole has done a good job in this field and, having done a good job, we now seek to do a better one as other problems are beginning lo emerge and to become more obvious to all of us as a community.
One reason is that we now have more migrants here than ever before. Possibly a greater contributing factor is that we arc now bringing migrants from countries with which hitherto we as a country have had very little contact. This could be said in relation to the recent influx of Turkish migrants who are now coming to this country in greater numbers than ever before. Perhaps the only time when we have had a lot to do with Turkey as a nation was in the 1914-18 War, when we happened to be specific opponents of that country and for some time some Australians of that generation came into contact with Turks in that way. We have been drawing our migrants more from European centres in many of which English is taught in the schools. I refer to Holland its an example. That has been of great assistance to us. It probably makes for more easily assimilable migrants. They were better places from which to obtain migrants. But that source is drying up. If we want to persist with our immigration programme - there are those of us who feel that Australia has no future without an immigration programme - and if we are spreading our net much wider now, problems will certainly arise.
I believe that this Bill results from the problems becoming more obvious as a result of that and as a result of the financial starvation of the States which means that they arc not able to do as much over the whole field as they have been doing in the past. Perhaps the States were using funds that were meant for education in general to provide crash courses in English to enable people from other countries - particularly children - to cope more readily with the education system in this country. In our view, those are the reasons for the Bill. We have made some practical suggestions to the Government in an effort to achieve a bigger concept of what this problem means to future generations. If possible, we should achieve some international agreement. This must start somewhere, and Australia seems to be the country which more than any other has this problem. We support the Bill and hope that it passes.
– (5.35) - in reply - I thank all honourable senators who spoke during the debate on this Bill for their support and for the interest they have taken not only in this measure but in migration generally and the problems which face people who come to live in Australia. I noted the points made by Senator Little and his suggestions for overcoming the great language problem. I hope, as he does, that some solution to it will be found. We all recognise that it is a very difficult problem.
– It is a long range problem. It will take a couple of generations to overcome.
– Yes. The points raised by Senator Little are of great importance and I will ensure that they are brought to the notice of the Minister for Immigration (Mr Lynch). Senator Mulvihill raised a number of points. I will endeavour lo reply to each one. If the information I have is insufficient I shall endeavour to get further information from the Minister and convey it to the honourable senator. He queried the details of expenditure for 1970-71. For pre-embarkation and shipboard instruction S200,000 has been set aside. Other figures are as follows: Adult programme in Australia, Si. 4m; full time intensive courses, $600,000; child migrant education programme, $1.8m. The total is $4m. Those are round figures, merely approximations, but I think Senator Mulvihill will understand that they refer to the points he inquired about.
Senator Mulvihill spoke with real thought about maintaining enthusiasm and encouraging people to continue learning. The move to part time accelerated courses of instruction - that is in the mornings, afternoons and evenings - which condense into courses ranging from 16 to 20 weeks the former 18 months continuation programme, is intended to maintain interest and to avoid the high abandonment rate which has been a feature of the continuation programme. I think this is a very real problem. Some people feel the courses go on and on. I believe these accelerated courses will overcome this very real problem which Senator Mulvihill raised. The honourable senator referred to cooperation between State Departments of Education. I wish to inform him that under the adult programme an agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments in 1951 gave the State Departments of Education a specific role in the operation of the adult programmes. The new child programme requires substantial co-operation and activity on the part of State Departments of Education and of the independent school authorities. I think this answers the point he raised about co-operation in carrying out this programme.
Senator Mulvihill referred to the Canadian experience and asked whether I could provide some information on it. The Australian migrant education programme is not confined only to language instruction but includes also social and orientation courses. These commence in the source country before embarkation. This is an important point. We have some information on the Canadian practice but intend, when resources permit, to make a closer study of it and of practices in other large migrant receiving countries such as Israel. These matters are under consideration. Senator Mulvihill referred also to cassettes. They constitute one of the items of equipment which the Commonwealth provides to Government and independent schools under the child programme. The schools can select from an approved list the items of equipment which they find most suitable to their needs. Some of them prefer tape recorders and others prefer cassettes and other items of equipment. They do have the right of choice. The approved list is sent out and they select what they require from it. Naturally they select the equipment most suitable for the work they are trying to do.
Senator Mulvihill referred to parents and citizens associations and the work they do. I think all of us recognise the work done by these bodies throughout the Australian community. In replying to the comments Senator Mulvihill made I think I can well say that because of the extent to which the Commonwealth is now providing items of equipment and materials the resources of the various associations can be used for other purposes. This helps them in a very real way. The honourable senator was anxious to get some information about employers.
– I suggested an advisory committee.
– You referred to the work being carried out by employers and I think you said that there was an inadequate response from industry.
– I quoted what the Minister said in another place.
– Classes at work sites have been part of the normal continuation programme for migrant education in the Australian community. Currently 70 classes are being held in factories in Sydney and Melbourne. They are held in the employees’ time. We have been endeavouring to encourage employers to provide classes at work in the employers’ time but so far there has been little response. Only recently we have interested the Building Workers Industrial Union, New South Wales Branch, in providing classes in the employers’ time at building industry job sites in Sydney. Nevertheless the Department of Immigration has had useful discussions with representatives of employer federations and the trade unions. It is proposed also to develop special courses of instruction oriented to the needs of our particular industries - for example, underground workers in mining centres. It is believed that the education of migrant workers in both language and citizenship should be a normal part of the personnel management practice of all major employers of migrant labour, and I hope it will not be too long before this is a reality. I think we all recognise the importance of these points which have been raised.
Senator Davidson covered a great deal of what I intended to say in opposition to the amendment. I acknowledge his concern about many of the matters covered in this debate. I was interested in the points raised by Senator Turnbull and I want to refer to what he said about teacher training courses. These are being conducted in cooperation with the State Departments of Education and the Commonwealth Department of Education and Science. Usually these are of 4 weeks duration. They are designed to instruct the special teachers appointed by Government and independent schools in the particular requirements of teaching English as a second language to migrant children of varying ages. The training course involves also instruction in the socio-cultural backgrounds of migrant children. We believe that this understanding is important. Instruction also is given in the use of audio-visual and other essential items of equipment. The cost of the 10 training courses to be arranged this year will not exceed $30,000 and some 300 special teachers will have received this special training. I think that answers the point raised by Senator Turnbull about the training of teachers and the very excellent work they are doing in these particular areas which is so important for these people. It helps migrants to understand and to live in this country more happily.
I want now to reply to comments made by Senator Little. I agree with his remarks rejecting the proposition put by Senator Turnbull not to admit migrants until they have some working knowledge of English. I think Senator Little answered that suggestion very effectively and I will say no more about it. Senator Mulvihill referred also to an air advisory committee. He proposed an advisory committee comprising representatives of ethnic groups. This matter needs a great deal of consideration. I noted the points he raised and I know of his interest in this subject. I think the best thing I can do is to put the points he raised before the Minister. I will report Senator Mulvihills concern about these things and I will get a detailed reply from the Minister. If I cannot give it to him personally I will see that the information is conveyed to him after this debate.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was replying to questions raised earlier by honourable senators relating to the Bill now before the Senate, and I had promised to refer to .the Minister for Immigration those questions which I felt I was not able to answer or which it was not proper for me to answer. I refer again to the amendment which has been moved by Senator Mulvihill and confirm that the Government, finding it totally unacceptable, opposes it.
The Opposition has charged that there has been inordinate delay on the part of the Government in introducing a comprehensive programme of migrant education. I think that this was answered adequately by my colleague, Senator Davidson. I remind honourable senators that the proposed amendment ignores entirely the substantial measures which have been taken since the early days of postwar migration by this Government, and by its predecessor, to develop a comprehensive programme of migrant education. I remind honourable senators of the education officers who have been appointed in overseas countries, of shipboard education programmes, of continuation classes after the arrival of migrants and of the radio and correspondence courses which have been designed to reach adult migrant communities in Australia. These have been constantly under review. The position has never remained static. Surveys in concert with the States were involved and some time had to elapse to enable us to marshal the facts and to inform ourselves of the areas of need before programmes could be implemented. The surveys which were made were relevant not only to adult migrants but also to migrant children in the schools.
As has been stated already in this House and by the Minister in another place, in February 1960 a special committee of the Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council submitted a report on the progress and assimilation of migrant children in Australia. This involved a study of both pre-school children and children in primary and secondary schools, a survey of schools in which migrant children .were enrolled and consultation with the teachers who were dealing with these children very closely. It was the Department of Immigration, I remind the honourable senator, which took the initiative again in 1962 in conducting a survey of abandonment from migrant education classes in Victoria. In 1967 and 1968 further steps were initiated. There was the planning of a major survey of the education needs of both adult and child migrants. This led to the report which has been referred to previously on the situation of migrant children in schools in New South Wales and which has provided such an important basis for the new initiatives in child migrant education. Surveys were undertaken concerning the special needs of migrant women and of adolescent migrants. With the experience which has been gathered through the years, the steps which have been taken have led to the current policy designed to develop accelerated forms of instruction to supplement the long term continuation programme, and the need for specialisation through courses of instruction oriented towards the particular needs of individual groups of migrants.
It is significant that it was not until towards the end of the 1960s that the States themselves began to appreciate the need for special and additional measures for migrant children. In large measure this situation has developed as a result of an increase in the intake of non-English speaking migrant families. There was also, as a result of the surveys undertaken, a much better appreciation of the very real problems which existed. It is wrong to say that nothing has been done because there has been continuing work, a continuing review and continued appreciation of what is required in our immigration programme.
The second major point in the amendment concerns the lack of financial assistance for the provision of capital equipment, including buildings. This is a very important aspect and it is important, therefore, that I repeat to the House some points which the Minister has raised already because I believe that they should be placed before honourable senators. An opposition can always enjoy the luxury of criticising the Government for failing to spend money or to extend services. But after all, we have to accept the responsibility for raising the money to finance such programmes. Therefore, consistent with the funds available - this is the important thing - programmes have been developed which include the provision of capital equipment of the language laboratory type to all schools where special teachers are employed.
This year expenditure on migrant education represents an increase of 166 per cent over the funds available last financial year. The funds available this financial year have been sufficient to provide equipment at 277 schools. This does not represent all of the schools where special teachers are employed, but I think it is important to note that the first need is for special teachers, for essential teaching and learning materials, and teaching aids of the less sophisticated type. Laboratory type equipment also is desirable and of very great advantage in teaching those pupils although it is not essential.
To this stage the Government has not been able to accept that buildings, and classrooms in particular, should be a charge to the migrant education vote. There are reasons for this with which I will deal in a moment. First let me say that immigration is not totally a Commonwealth responsibility. It is a partnership with the States. While the States have had the responsibility for bearing the costs of the social infra-structure resulting from immigration, they have not called for any halt in the programme. The Government maintains that funds for classrooms are not a proper charge to the migrant education vote for several reasons. Firstly, funds under the programme are not without limit. In response to the requirements of the States the funds available have already been fully committed in meeting teachers’ salaries and in providing schools with language laboratory type equipment. Secondly, the accommodation requirements of schools cannot be attributable only to newly arriving migrant children. Expenditure on additional classroom space is appropriately a charge to the States’ capital works votes. Thirdly, as a result of decisions taken at the June 1970 Loan Council meeting, the States received a substantial increase in 1970-71 in funds available for capital works. Finally, current restraints on
Government spending provide further support for the view that immigration funds should not be used to finance capital works in the States.
I thank those honourable senators who have spoken in support of the legislation. I inform the Senate again that the Government opposes the amendment which has been moved by Senator Mulvihill and supported by members of his Party. The Bill before the House is a very important one. The work that is being done by the Department of Immigration, by the people who are teaching migrant children and by the people who are assisting adult migrants in the great difficulties which confront them in a new land is of tremendous importance. Not only are we assisting the migrants in the field of education, we are helping them also to live happily and to enjoy their lives as citizens of this country. I thank the Senate for having speedily accepted the legislation.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Mulvihill’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Bull) Ayes . . . . . . 25
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) read a first time.
(8.17) - I move:
The intention of this Bill is to amend the financial provisions of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946-1968 to provide for the implementation of revised financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the Overseas Telecommunications Commission as from 1st April 1970. The section of the Act relating to retirement conditions are also to be amended with this Bill. The financial arrangements between the Commission and the Commonwealth have been governed by the provision of the Overseas Telecommunications Act, which arc essentially unchanged since being drafted at the Commission’s inception over 24 years ago. Finance has been provided by Treasury advances on terms fixed by the Treasurer, which have always included liability for interest. Income which the Commission may accrue was exempted from taxation and the derived net profit from the Commission’s operations has been used each year as directed by the Postmaster-General following the concurrence of the Treasurer. Up to and including 1967-68 the direction has been that the net profit be retained by the Commission.
In the first 151/2 years of the Commission’s operation, Treasury advances totalled $4.4m and retained profits in the same period only $4.7m. Six years later, however, the retained profit had risen to$29.5m whilst Treasury advances totalled $22.5m. Such was the position as at 31st March 1968. This significant change, coming as a direct result of the employment of coaxial submarine telephone cables and satellite communications as well as an increasing use of services provided by the Commission, has emphasised the need for a review of the financial arrangements. Despite tariffs that compare more than favourably with world rates, and a relatively heavy and continuing programme of capital expenditure on new and replacement assets, there has been a significant build-up of cash from profits and depreciation recoveries. In these circumstances, Mr President, it is proposed that the financial relations between the Commission and the Commonwealth be altered to provide: (a) that the nature of the Commonwealth’s investment in the Commission be varied - from interest-bearing Treasury advances to capital; (b) that the Commission’s income be subject to taxation; (c) that in lieu of the interest that has been paid in the past on Treasury advances, a dividend be paid each year on capital. A commencing rate of 7i per cent is proposed; and (d) that the Commission’s requirements for new capital investment, additional to retained profits, be provided from the Budget or from authorised borrowings.
Conversion of existing Treasury advances to capital and transference from the Commission’s retained past profits of an amount sufficient to bring the initial capital to S35m will achieve the reconstruction of the capital structure. At present Treasury advances to the Commission stand at S17.5m, following repayment of $5m to the Treasury in 1968. The proposals were designed for introduction in the financial year which began on 1st April 1968 but, for a number of reasons, this was not achieved. On the recommendation of the Commission, and with Treasury concurrence, the Postmaster-General directed that in respect of the profit derived from that year, $6.47m be paid to the Commonwealth Treasury. This represented a payment in lieu of income tax and of a dividend on the Commonwealth’s funds employed. For the year ended 31st March 1970 provision has been made similarly for a payment of $6.9 lm to Treasury.
The proposed financial arrangements are similar to those for other Commonwealth statutory business undertakings. It is anticipated that the Commission will require only modest drawings of new capital from the Commonwealth whilst there will be from time to time a need for a review of the level of capital. There is provision in the Bill that the Postmaster-General, with concurrence of the Treasurer, may direct the Commission to transfer further amounts to the capital account from retained profits. Mr President, the Bill also seeks to amend section 24 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act. This section determines the conditions under which the retired. Whilst prescribing a maximum age of 65 years for male officers, female Commission’s officers may retire or be officers at the present time must retire on attaining the age of 60 years. This restriction on female officers is to be removed and, in cases suitable to the Commission an officer, male or female, who has attained the age of 65 years may continue in the Commission’s service for a period not exceeding 12 months. These amendments provide conditions which are similar to existing provisions in the Commonwealth Public Service Act. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Willesee) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 February (vide page 230), on motion by Senator DrakeBrockman:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As the Australian Labor Party does not oppose the passage of the Sugar Agreement Bill I consider it unnecessary to speak at length on its provisions. However there are one or two aspects which I wish to examine. In the course of my remarks I want to refer to the way in which members of the coalition Government speak of the Sugar Agreement. When they speak of it they give all the praise to the present Ministers. I want to remind them of their reading of history because it is an established fact that since the 1920s successive Queensland Labor Premiers have carried on the traditions of the Sugar Agreement to the advantage of Queensland and obviously of Australia. Their understanding of the origin of the Agreement is limited as, I submit with respect, is their understanding of its operations. They speak with great enthusiasm of present day Ministers who, in their opinion, have done so much to advance the interests of the sugar industry but rarely do they praise and give credit to those in the State particularly those who have had so much to do with the Agreement.
I do not wish to take any credit from any member of the Federal Government or of the Federal Ministry, particularly Sir John McEwen who has done a good job on this issue. Nevertheless he merely had to improve on the foundations of an excellent agreement. Whilst I pay tribute to the work he has done I also pay tribute to those in the State sphere who had done so much before him. It is obvious to me that members of the Federal Government know little of the organisation of the industry because again they speak in glowing terms of the organisation of the industry. If only they knew it they are speaking in glowing terms of socialism because this industry has shown the way socialism can work to the advantage of ail concerned. The industry has worked and will continue to work in the future with the socialism element. If honourable senators do not accept what I say then I shall read a section of the second reading speech of the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman), who in this chamber represents the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Nixon). It reads as follows:
The text of the 1969 Agreement as subscribed to subsequently by the 2 governments and as now contained in the Bill before honourable senators is consistent with what the Prime Minister said. For example, under the new Agreement, which will run for 5 years, the State of Queensland -
That means the Government - on the one hand, will continue to control the production of raw sugar and will make available, as a matter of priority and at stated maximum wholesale prices, refined sugar and sugar products to meet Australian needs. The Commonwealth of Australia, on the other hand, will continue its embargo on the importation of sugar and of the sugar products, golden syrup and treacle. The maximum domestic wholesale prices for sugar and sugar products as were prescribed in the Supplemental Sugar Agreement 1967 have been continued under the new Agreement.
That is an example of government working with people in the industry, regulating the supply of sugar as it is required by the demand from the world. I wish something of that nature had happened in the wool growing industry. If it had it would not be in the parlous situation it is in today. How much sugar will be produced is determined when we ascertain the demands of the world. Then we strike the amount which is required to be grown. I suggest to honour able senators that if they examine the industry they will find that quite clearly it has the socialist element and it has had it ever since the Agreement was originally formed.
– When was that?
– That was in 1919- 1920.
– Does the honourable senator know which government was in power then?
– It was the Labor Government. Whilst I take no credit from those who in recent years have been responsible for this Agreement, I pay great tribute to those who were responsible for it in its formative years. We recognise that they were the architects and builders of the present Agreement and we appreciate how important the Agreement is to Queensland and Australia. Under the Agreement we earn millions of dollars, which is to the advantage of Australia.
In the sugar industry supply is rigidly controlled to meet demand. This control, which is exercised by people working in the industry and by the State and Federal governments, is to Australia’s advantage all the way through. I should mention also that in 11 years there has been one increase only in the price of sugar in Australia. When we consider that this increase was of lc per lb and when we consider also the increased costs brought about by inflation during that period we realise that the industry is on a very sound basis. It has been estimated, although I have not proof of these figures, that the costs borne by cane farmers have increased by 26 per cent over that period of 11 years. I repeat that it is to the credit of all those concerned in the industry that notwithstanding the inflationary trend the price of sugar in Australia has increased by only lc per lb in 11 years. The main reason for this stability in the industry is that production is tailored to demand, in addition to which there is a continuing examination of all aspects of the industry in order to make it more efficient. The industry has geared itself to mechanisation, which again is to the advantage of the industry and to Australia generally.
I have found from talking to some of the cane farmers with small assignments that inflation has been a real problem for them. Apparently they will continue to find it so. But this is no fault of the industry. They have told me that their main problem is brought about by the cost of parts for machinery and that it is the increased cost of those parts which is affecting them more than anything else. One cane farmer told me that parts for his machines have increased in price by as much as 80 per cent over the last 10 years. That is a substantial increase to be borne by a grower on a small assignment. I believe that Australia would be in a favourable position today if the wool industry adopted a pattern similar to that provided for in the Sugar Agreement and tailored its output to the demands of the industry.
Notwithstanding the fact that the sugar industry has progressed, I believe that it would have been in a far better position if governments in the past had given greater consideration to water conservation. The only time we talk about water conservation is during periods of drought, but when we have rain people seem to forget all about it. Recently in Queensland there has been an abundance of rain in many areas in which we need it, particularly in the coastal areas. Yet millions of gallons of water have run away through the rivers to the sea. It is a national disaster when we see good precious rainwater running away to the sea to be wasted when, within a few short years, we will require additional water. Any honourable senator who has seen the cane farms in the area around Bundaberg will know how great is their demand for water. Not only the cane farmer but all people in the surrounding area depend on water for their livelihood.
Two years ago, because of the shortage of water, the crop had to be turned into the ground. There is no diversification of industry in that area, as a result of which the whole area is dependent on a good season for sugar. In the years to come we will pay for our neglect to conserve the water which is available to us. I suppose that in the future there will be problems associated with the European Economic Community and that if Great Britain joins the European Common Market we in Australia will be in difficulties in a substantial number of our industries. It will be interesting to see how the Sugar Agreement will be phased out in the event of Great Britain’s joining the ECM. Cane growers have expressed great alarm about their future. Because there has been no diversification of crops and they have relied solely on sugar, if Britain enters the ECM their future may be in jeopardy. Nevertheless, because of the way in which they have conducted the industry in the past, we have every reason for confidence that they will be able to adjust themselves to the requirements of the future.
Before I conclude I should like the Minister to inform me why it has taken so long for this measure to come before the Senate. It was introduced in another place on 4th March 1969 and it is an important Bill, not only to Queensland but to the whole of Australia. I fail to understand how the Government could have allowed almost 12 months to elapse before bringing the measure before Parliament again.
– They have been having a. few disagreements.
– It is true that there have been disagreements, but also there have been leisurely recesses. Honourable senators might recall that the parliamentary session last year finished in about: November. The Opposition asked that the Parliament continue to meet, but the Government said no, and so we adjourned until February. Yet many honourable senators, including Government supporters, wished to continue the session to attend to the business of Australia. The Government was able, by sheer weight of numbers, U> say: ‘No, we have finished the session, and we will recommence when we believe that we should do so.’ As a result of developments within the last day or two I suppose that some Government supporters would suggest that it would have been better had Parliament not recommenced until about August or September this year. Nevertheless, I believe that the Government owes tothe Parliament and to the people of Australia some explanation why a measure which is known to be so important to Australia should be introduced in March 1969- and not brought on again for a period of 12 months. On behalf of the Opposition I indicate that we offer no opposition to the Bill. However, we do offer the criticism, that I have levelled. I trust that the SugarAgreement will be of advantage to thecane growers of Queensland and to the advantage of Australia as a whole.
– I wish to say a few words in support of the Bill, the purpose of which is to ratify the Sugar Agreement. I had the pleasure last Friday of attending the cane growers’ annual conference in Brisbane. The conference, which was opened by the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony), is continuing. I should like to reply to a few points made by Senator Milliner. I would not wish to take credit from any of the previous Ministers, Premiers or governments of Queensland for what they have done to build up the sugar industry and the Sugar Agreement. (Quorum formed)
I was saying that there have been 2 parties to the agreements - the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government - over a period of about 50 years. During the greater part of that time a Liberal-Country Party Government has been in power in the federal sphere. A good deal of the credit for sugar agreements negotiated over that period must go to the Government.
– To whom?
– To the Commonwealth Government, for making the sugar agreements possible. Senator Milliner did not fully understand the position that obtained in 1919 when there was a world shortage of sugar. Sugar was rationed in the Australian shops and the Prime Minister of the day is reported to have said to the Premier of Queensland: ‘If your State will undertake to provide all the sugar for Australia’s domestic requirements I will guarantee to protect your industry indefinitely.’ That marked the start of the sugar industry which has since increased so much in size and efficiency. Senator Milliner asked why provisions similar to those we are debating could not be applied to the wool industry. I point out to him that the wool industry does not have a home consumption price. If it did, its situation would be a lot easier.
Senator Milliner said that much more should have been done in Queensland in the area of water conservation. I remind honourable senators that when we were debating the Burnett irrigation scheme last year attempts were made by honourable senators opposite to hold up its introduction. The purpose of this Bill is to continue the sugar agreement practice which has existed since just after World War I. The present agreement has run for almost 2 years, but that does not affect its validity. Any delay by the Commonwealth Parliament in passing the necessary legislation does not affect the agreement. Once it is agreed and signed, it has the force of law.
The new agreement provides for increased payments by the Queensland Government towards the domestic sugar rebate. It is not generally realised that the Queensland Government is providing $924,000 annually towards the domestic sugar rebate as assistance for Australia’s fruit canning industry. It is contributing also towards the overseas rebate. The sugar industry is in a fairly satisfactory position at present because of current prices. I checked the London price of sugar in today’s Press. It is £Stg50 a short ton. About 4 or 5 years ago the price was as low as £St&13 or £Stg 14 a short ton. On those figures the industry seems to be in a fairly profitable position but many other factors should be taken into consideration.
Sugar growers incurred a debt of $23m through loans by the Commonwealth Government to support the local price when it was so low overseas. The industry is repaying the loans and will repay them in full. Many sugar growers have deferred commitments for machinery replacements. Machinery for use in the sugar industry is very costly and the growers have found it necessary to defer their purchases. They cannot be deferred forever and big expenditure will be necessary in future for machinery. During a period of low prices many growers incurred debts. That period coincided with a time of expansion. Those debts will have to be repaid.
– I rise to a point of order. I call your attention to the state of the House, Mr President.
– A quorum is present.
– I thank the honourable senator for endeavouring to keep an audience here for me while I am speaking about a very important industry. Other problems must be faced by the industry in the future. Senator Milliner referred to the possibility of Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community. However, despite all these problems I believe that the industry has a bright future. If current prices are maintained the industry will develop. There is no certainty that there will not be further expansion when the world market is enlarged. The important point to keep in mind is that the sugar industry is keeping a large population in the coastal area of north eastern Australia, and that is very desirable. We hope that this situation can be maintained for a long while to come. I have very much pleasure in supporting the Bill and I hope that it will have a speedy passage.
– Bills of the nature of that now before the Senate have been debated here on other occasions. This ‘Bill deals with one of Australia’s major industries. Usually a Bill such as this requires explanation at the instance more .particularly of honourable senators who represent Queensland, and to some extent honourable senators who represent New South Wales, as the great bulk of our sugar is grown in Queensland and northern New South Wales. Very often our good friends from other parts of Australia do not properly understand the economic condition of the sugar industry and the role it plays in the Australian economy. A home consumption price is determined for the sugar industry so that exports of sugar may be sold at prices determined by agreements or on the world’s market, the free market, which will return an economic dividend to people engaged in the production and processing of sugar.
Very often it is not understood by our good friends in the other States who are required to pay the higher domestic price that it is necessary to sustain not only an industry but also part of the continent of Australia. When the world price for sugar is below the Australian home consumption price there is a natural tendency to criticise the existence of the machinery by which the home consumption price is determined, but there have been occasions when the world market price has risen above the home consumption price. In that circumstance, of course, the Australian consumer receives the benefit of the situation and not so many complaints are heard.
The Queensland sugar industry is important not only to Queensland and the people engaged in it but is also of tremendous importance to the Commonwealth of Australia. About 8,000 farmers are engaged in the industry, the bulk of them in areas north of Brisbane. I refer particularly to the Moreton district, Nambour and Mossman. Some sugar growing also takes place in northern New South Wales. It is substantially the sugar industry that has kept the coastal area of northern Queensland populated. It is in the interests of the Commonwealth that the eastern littoral of Queensland and the northern part of the Commonwealth should be populated and settled by people engaged in an industry which is economically viable, gives them sustenance, enables towns to be developed and viable communities to be established, maintained and continued. I am sure that our good friends in other parts of Australia are conscious of the great role the sugar industry is playing in the Australian economy in general, and in the settlement and the maintenance of settlement over the continent of Australia.
We must remove the misconception that the sugar industry is a sort of pot of gold industry. That is not so. The sugar industry is a viable, efficient, rural industry. It is an industry which, of all the rural industries, is perhaps the most conspicuous in self discipline. That discipline is traditional. It is supported by the co-operation of the grower, the miller and the governments of Queensland and New South Wales, who by an ingenious system of determination of areas of production, of assigned lands, of cane to be supplied to the mills, of farm peaks and of mill peaks regulate the amount of sugar that may be produced in any 1 year to attract the best price which is available. The sugar produced is divided into certain pools, the sugar produced within the peak attracting the best price and the balance attracting prices outside the contractual or fixed home consumption prices.
The sugar industry abides within self imposed discipline and statutory discipline. This system of discipline was conceived back in 1915 or thereabouts by the then Labor Government of Queensland, and it has been continued ever since. But it is not merely the discipline in the sugar industry that has made the industry so economically viable or so competitive. It has achieved success because of the continued development of efficiency in the growing, milling and selling of the sugar crop. With the assistance of the Bureau of Sugar Experimental stations in the development of new types and varieties and the continuous dedication of scientists to the elimination of diseases, the Queensland sugar industry has remained in the very forefront of sugar efficiency throughout the world. Therefore in good times and in bad the sugar industry of Queensland, though the sugar is produced at white labour wage levels in a high cost country, has been substantially able to compete with countries which produce at a very much lower wage level. That is a reflection of the efficiency of the industry at the growing, processing and marketing levels.
In more recent times the Queensland sugar industry has experienced many vicissitudes. It has moved from a position of very great stability to a position of some uncertainty. Some years ago there was a major expansion of the industry in expectation of continued high world prices. Unfortunately, that level of prices did not persist and great difficulty was experienced, more particularly by new growers who were introduced into the industry. However, with great fortitude the sugar industry has passed these problems and has maintained its production. The main outlets for the sugar industry in Australia are these: First, there is the sugar which is sold on the Australian market for domestic consumption. That amounts to probably 400,000, 500,000, or 600,000 tons a year. (Quorum formed.) That is the third quorum which has been called for the last quarter of an hour. Since I was the speaker when only one was sought, I would not think that I have driven honourable senators away from the chamber. Nor, of course, can I claim to have reattracted them to the chamber.
Although the debate might appear to be of interest to Queensland only, as I said earlier it is of conspicuous importance to the whole of the Commonwealth of Australia and I would hope that all honourable senators would be attracted to participate in or to hear it. I refer more particularly to my friends on the Opposition side who apparently have not seen fit to respond to the call for the quorum, which was raised by one of their own colleagues. There may be some reason why they are not here; perhaps they are involved in some meeting. But that is the unfortunate position.
As I was saying, the Australian sugar crop is substantially sold, as it was in 1969, for Australian consumption. In that year 660,000 tons were sold for home consumption. Under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement we sold 335,000 tons to the United Kingdom, and under a particular quota we sold to the United States 165,000 tons. Our total exports for 1969 were 1.406 million tons, with exports to Canada amounting to 159,000 tons and exports to New Zealand amounting to 101,000 tons. I think they are all short tons. Those figures indicate the pattern of the sale of Australian sugar. As one examines the figures one can see how important each component of the selling pattern is. I refer to the maintenance of a home consumption market and then the retention of the contractual markets, which would be those under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement, the quota to the United States, the quotas to Canada and New Zealand, and then of course the major, sale of sugar recently made to Japan. When all those factors are taken into consideration the bulk of the Australian sugar crop is accounted for, but each of those components is of tremendous importance. If any of them were to diminish or to fall, the Australian sugar industry could be in very considerable trouble.
Unfortunately, troubles do face this industry. I had the opportunity recently of attending, as my friend Senator Lawrie did, the opening of the Queensland cane growers conference in Brisbane which was opened by Mr Anthony and which in turn was addressed by the senior vice-president and junior vice-president of the Queensland Cane Growers’ Council. Those latter two gentlemen drew attention to a number of difficulties facing this industry which, as I have said, in the ordinary conception of the Australian people is totally free from problems. When we note the difficulties as presented by those gentlemen we realise how vulnerable this industry is. We must retain the Australian home consumption market and the home consumption price. This is the very basis of the existence of the Australian sugar industry. With a fair return on sugar marketed for home consumption, we are able then to negotiate contracts at acceptable contractual prices in other parts of the world.
I will deal with three or four areas specifically. The first is the United States of America, where we now have an increased quota. That has not been easy to obtain and it is not always easy to retain because, after all, the United States has obligations, political and otherwise, in other national areas. It attempts to discharge those obligations, particularly to the developing countries and more particularly to developing countries in South America. Therefore there is always a degree of uncertainty, of vulnerability, in our market in the United States. However, we have obtained an increased quota in the American market. Contractual arrangements such as we have with Canada and New Zealand are possibly much more stable and much more permanent. One of the great problems that faces Australia is the emergence of the European Economic Community and the probable and almost certain participation of Great Britain in the European Common Market. That is one of the really grave problems.
As I have pointed out, we sell an enormous amount of sugar on the British market. That is a contractual arrangement. That contract will persist until 1974. After that, if Britain enters the Common Market, there will be a period of merging, of diminution and of phasing out in which gradually the quota will be dissipated and Australia will have to look elsewhere for an alternative market for that amount of sugar. The consequence of this could be very severe indeed. If that market were to disappear completely and if that amount were to be unloaded suddenly on the world markets, the International Sugar Agreement under which Australia and other countries sell on the free market internationally would be totally disturbed. Therefore, it is probable that the Agreement will be phased out.
Recently I had the pleasure and honour of participating in an Australian delegation which visited a number of Eastern and Western European countries and particularly of making a visit to Brussels to have discussions with representatives of the Common Market countries. Subsequently the delegation visited Great Britain. The future of the sugar industry and of the Australian sugar contractual quota with Great Britain were raised, more particularly in Britain. I am of the opinion that Great Britain, if it wants to enter the Common Market, will not be able to extend any particular solicitude to Australia in relation to its contractual sugar agreement under the British Commonwealth Sugar Agreement after 1974. I am satisfied that the Common Market countries are quite rigid and unrelenting on this. Europe will be in a position to be a net exporter of beet sugar, which is comparable with cane sugar.
Great Britain will be given no opportunity to retain the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement. If Britain asks for any consideration to be given to it and if that consideration is given, it will possibly be given to underdeveloped or developing countries of the British Commonwealth rather than to Australia which today, by virtue of discoveries in many fields of primary production - I do not mean rural production only, but metals and other things - has a developing and diversified area of production and export. For that reason, with some degree of cynicism perhaps, Australia will be given no particular solicitude. I do not think Britain will be in a position to ask for any. If it is asked for, I do not think it will be granted.
In those circumstances, what can we do? We must face the situation that the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement will be phased out after 1974 and that we shall have to find alternative markets. I suggest that at least we should attempt to get a longer period of phasing out than is contemplated at the moment. I do not think the period of phasing out has actually been specified, but a not unduly long period would be conceived. I think we should ask for a longer period.
– What would happen if Castro made up with the United States?
– That could present a problem. Cuba is what might be called a sugar economy. There is a great deal of international sympathy for what might be called the sugar economies. Those are the comparatively undeveloped countries which are substantially, if not totally, dependent on one crop - in this case, sugar. Cuba is in that position. Cuba is selling substantial quantities to the Soviet Union. It used to sell substantial quantities to the United States. In recent years the Cuban sugar industry has not produced sugar as efficiently or in the quantities that it formerly did. I think I am fair in saying that. Cuba produces tremendous quantities of sugar. If the American market were open, for political or other reasons, literally there would have to be a cutback of quotas, including the Australian quota which was 165,000 short tons in 1969. The quotas of other countries would be pruned back similarly. That could be a danger to the Australian industry.
The Australian industry could be vulnerable if such an event occurred. It could be particularly vulnerable if Britain joined the Common Market, because of the attitude of the Six to the retention of the British Commonwealth Sugar Agreement and because of Britain’s attitude, springing from the demands of necessity and the pragmatic requirement that if it wants to join the Common Market it cannot expect to do so on terms that are totally unacceptable to the Six. In those circumstances, as we have expanded the Australian sugar industry following the report some years ago of a committee chaired by Mr Justice Gibbs and as a lot of capital has flowed into the sugar industry, it is most important that by one means or another we retain and expand the present level of production and that we retain the present level of commitment to the industry in personnel, in capital and in other ways.
We sell a great deal of sugar to Japan. We sell that by contract and on terms which are satisfactory to the Japanese. They are not easy bargainers. They demand, as people in commerce are entitled to demand, their standard and their price. If our other markets fall away, I think we have to look at the relations between Japan and Australia. Queensland particularly has to look at these arrangements and see whether it is possible to expand our sales to Japan. Obviously there is a tremendous opportunity here, but at the moment the balance of trade between Japan and Australia is extremely adverse to Japan. We cannot expect Japan, which is already buying tremendous quantities of our base minerals - iron ore, aluminium and others - to continue doing so freely and without discipline while at the same time we impose heavy tariffs on Japanese imports such as motor cars and electrical goods.
Therefore, if it becomes a matter of the preservation of a major industry such as this - and it is responsible for the settlement of a large area, of the continent of Australia - Australia will have to be regarded as what might be called a single industry economy, just as Cuba is regarded in that sense. Various parts of Australia., and particularly of Queensland, are substantially single industry economies. That industry is the sugar industry. Internationally, that proposition will not be accepted as applying to Australia, as a whole, but we may look at that proposition on a national basis and decide that if we have to protect this area we have to make agreements with potential sugar customers, particularly Japan which wants to export more of her secondary products to this country. Therefore, the matter should be one of concern to the Commonwealth Government and to the Queensland Government.
I personally and the Party for which I speak would persist with our suggested attitude that if Japan is prepared to buy more of our sugar there should be a reciprocal lifting of any excessive tariffs on certain items of Japanese production so that, redressing the balance of trade, we can assure an increased sugar market for Australian production. That seems to be not only wise but also fair and just. It may well be the solution to our problems. I think that in many cases Australian manufacturers have had substantial tariff protection against products from other countries, including Japan. If Japan is prepared to buy our primary products, minerals and other goods, there is no reason why sugar should be excluded. If the Japanese are prepared to buy more, I think they should be given some corresponding tariff advantages in relation to some of their secondary exports. I certainly believe that this is something which should be in the contemplation of the Government, as I am sure that it will be of great concern to the Australian sugar industry.
This Bill deals particularly with the home consumption price. It is part of the rather intricate but very viable pattern of organisation of the sugar industry in which, by agreement between the State of
Queensland, the State of New South Wales and the Commonwealth, the national crop is acquired and then a price is determined which shall be the home consumption price at various rates and on various terms and conditions on which the Australian people shall pay for their sugar. This is the first principle of the Bill: By statute to renegotiate this agreement which has now gone on for many years and which has been renewed from time to time. The other aspect of the Bill is to increase the rebate that is granted to those who use sugar in processing jams and other things where those things are to be exported. A rebate is determined so that they can compete fairly with similar overseas products which are processed with sugar produced at a lower price.
The home consumption price is a reasonable thing for the protection of this industry. Generally speaking, I do not think the Australian people believe that in the context it is an unduly high price. I am satisfied that, whatever the resentments or misunderstandings may have been years ago, today the Australian people accept it as a fact of Australian life that, without any undue profiteering, the domestic price paid for sugar today is a not unfair and not unreasonable price. But if the Australian consumer is being asked to pay what might be called a somewhat artificial home consumption price he must be satisfied that he is not being exploited by an industry which is wallowing in wealth and in which the producers are extraordinarily wealthy and without justification are receiving artificial price support. I think it is an accepted fact that that is not the case. The Queensland industry is efficient. It is disciplined. It is an industry of economic viability and economic strength. It is not an industry in which great sums of money are made and enormous wealth is accumulated.
– What savings were made in the port of Mackay when the waterfront work force was reduced?
– I think the honourable senator is referring to when the manual handling of sugar was eliminated and bulk handling came in. Of course, there would be a saving; but the capitalisation for the introduction of bulk handling was very considerable. I am sure that the honourable senator, like other honourable senators, has seen the enormous facilities which are necessary for the bulk loading of sugar.
– And the statesmanship of Fitzgibbon, the Federal Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation, in accepting it.
– I do not discount that. Nevertheless, it is one of the inevitabilities of life, whether industrial or economic life, that if that position had not developed and if bulk loading had not been permitted there would have been such a loading of cost on to the sugar industry that ultimately the industry might well have collapsed. Then there would have been a total displacement of labour both in the sugar industry and on the wharves. After all, if the turnround is extraordinarily slow shipowners are not interested. Over the years we have seen a diminution in the number of ships visiting Australian ports, particularly northern ports. Much of that was due to the slow turnround of ships and to the economic disadvantages as a consequence of it.
– Ships would not come into Bowen.
– That is what I am saying. Had the ships been required to be there for the manual loading of sugar and had bulk loading not been permitted, ultimately there might have been great difficulty in having the sugar lifted at all. So, if Mr Fitzgibbon or any other officer of the Waterside Workers Federation cooperated in this matter, it would have been a co-operation springing from a recognition of the realities of the situation and the ultimate consequences that might have come to the waterside workers in the absence of such recognition.
On this question of the sugar price, Mr Anthony, in speaking in Brisbane the other day, indicated in fairly firm terms that it was not proposed to vary the domestic price at the moment, recognising, as I recognise, that the sugar industry has to bear the additional costs of inflation just as other industries - primary and secondary, but more particularly primary - do. Although there would be justification for increased prices in that industry as there has been justification for increased wages - demands that might be resistable - he indicated that an industry that is prepared to exercise discipline could well exercise restraint in this matter. I was at the gathering at which he spoke. Perhaps there was an element of disappointment amongst the growers who were represented there. But I did not hear any particular complaints or any howling and whining about it. It was accepted as a fact of life - and very greatly to the credit of the organisation concerned.
– When was this?
– It was in Brisbane.
– When was this gathering held?
– Only last Friday. The members of that organisation apparently have accepted that as a fact of life. They would have preferred a higher price and they thought it was justifiable. I would probably share that view. Nevertheless it was one of these restraints that the industry is prepared to accept. Mr Anthony was not able to hold out any expectation .that the position might be varied. The industry is conscious of the dangers that face it and of the difficulties that are presented to it immediately. I take the liberty of reading some short extracts from 2 of the speeches delivered in support of Mr Anthony’s speech by the senior and junior vicepresidents of the Queensland Cane Growers Council at that meeting on Friday. The senior vice-president, Mr Row, said:
It is important, however, to keep the present industry prospects in clear perspective. Although we have enjoyed a satisfactory No. 1 pool sugar price in 1969 and a similar final price appears in prospect for 1970, it must be remembered that the industry is by no means on the crest of a wave of prosperity. In fact, it might be said that the industry is climbing out of a trough of considerable adversity experienced during the years 1964 to 1968.
Your own Government-
He was speaking of Mr Anthony’s Government - . . was instrumental in helping us to maintain some semblance of viability by means of loans totalling $23m and through devaluation compensation. This financial assistance prevented the industry as a whole from suffering the sort of structural damage from which it may have been virtually impossible to recover in any reasonable time, at the level of cane price likely to be received.
During this half-decade of bare existence operation, the industry was forced to practise a number of economies which did not accord with sound management practices. For instance, equipment which is normally subject to heavy use was unable to be replaced at the appropriate times.
The result is that growers are now faced with abnormally high replacement costs which leave very little change from current cane prices.
In other words, this is a period of consolidation for the industry and we will need several years of good sugar prices and favourable seasons before we will be back, on a sound footing.
I mention this because this Bill asks the Australian people to accept an additional burden of cost for producing Australian sugar at above world prices. Therefore, it is only just that the Australian people should know the condition of this industry as justification for the maintenance of this supported price. In the light of the statement I have just read and the denial to the industry of an increased price for home consumption sugar, the industry is still prepared to go ahead on its present level and, in spite of all the disadvantages to which it has been subject, to retrieve itself within the present price and return structure of the industry. Mr Row went on to say:
It must not be overlooked that the price paid to growers for their cane is no higher today than it was 10 years ago. This is not a very edifying truth for the average cane grower.
It is a fact of life that the price has not changed for many years. Mr Row continued:
Therefore, Sir, the industry may find itself in a position in which it looks to the people of Australia to continue the long established policy of a reasonable price for a high quality and readily available product.
That seems a very reasonable attitude. I believe that, in making that appeal to the Australian people, this industry will not be disappointed. I think the Australian people recognise that it is a worthwhile industry, it is not an industry that is exploiting the consumer, it is merely receiving the support necessary to maintain its viability and in the light of uncertain world demand this is the only solution for continuing a proper economic level within the sugar production industry. The junior vice-president, Mr J. T. Elliott, said:
The industry records its appreciation of the financial assistance which the Government has made available each year since it decided not to devalue in sympathy with sterling. We have made a further approach for the 1971 season . . .
There was a very severe disability for the industry in the refusal of Australia to follow sterling down. The Commonwealth did come to the party with assistance that was welcome and appropriate. But it was not extravagantly provided; nor was it extravagantly demanded. Those in the industry feel that the impact of that failure to follow sterling down is still being experienced in the industry and that similar assistance should be forthcoming. There are growers who are suffering hardship by comparison with the rest of the industry because of their level of indebtedness, the size of their farms, drought, below average CCS. content or some other factor related to business activities which is preventing them from operating as an efficient unit. I mention those things because these were restrained speeches by the presidential officers of the Cane-Growers Council. They were made without undue complaint. The speakers put the position fairly before the Minister and the Australian people, as I am attempting to do tonight. 1 do not propose to speak further on this Bill. We welcome the renegotiation of the Agreement between Queensland, New South Wales and the Commonwealth for the maintenance of the domestic price for sugar and for the increase in the sugar rebate. We feel that this industry is making a tremendous contribution but we are concerned about its future in the light of the advent of the European Economic Community. I think we can do something to try to persuade the community to accept a longer phasing out period. Following discussions I had overseas I propose to put in a certain quarter a proposal as to how this phasing out period might be extended.
For the reasons I have mentioned the Democratic Labor Party supports the Bill. We commend it to honourable senators from all States. We welcome their acceptance of the principles embodied in it. It is a repetition of principles which are now traditional in the sugar industry in its relationship to the Commonwealth. We look forward to the day when an expanded sugar industry and a more assured international market can provide a level of prosperity in the industry that may gradually result in the diminution of the artificial price and thus provide sugar at a cheaper price while preserving the economics of the Australian sugar industry. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill and commending it to honourable senators.
– I join with other speakers in supporting this Bill. I do not go along entirely with what Senator Byrne said, particularly his reference to Japan. The sugar industry is one of the industries of which Australia can be proud. At least we can be proud of the fact that today it is not in the position of the wool industry, the wheat industry, the egg industry or the dried fruits industry. In the main, whatever primary industry you name, with the exception of the sugar industry, is in tremendous financial trouble. One must give credit to those who led Queensland over the long years - people like Ryan, Theodore, Mccormack and Forgan Smith, not forgetting Senator Gair for the part he played in maintaining this Agreement and looking after the industry.
There used to be a rather small beet sugar industry in Victoria. For some years prior to World War II we were allowed to grow beet sugar around the town of Maffra to serve the Gippsland portion of my State. Then the war came and the land around Maffra was used to grow vegetables. The manufacturing plant was converted to dehydration plant to treat the vegetables so that people in our armed forces and our allies could be fed.
Earlier in this debate we heard an Australian Country Party senator sing about the virtues of the control of this industry. I ask honourable senators on the Government side: If you can control this industry why can you not do the same to others? I do not mean all others. The honourable senator said in an interjection that there was no home consumption price for wool. That is true. But there is a home consumption price for wheat. The price of eggs and dried fruits is fixed. The price of butter also is fixed. But all those industries today are in such a financial mess that one wonders why we have so much opposition from our friends on the Government side of the chamber when we speak of planned production in industry. I agree with Senator Byrne in that I do not think the people in the big cities of this nation disagree with paying a home consumption price for sugar. That price, of course, is lower when the sugar is used in jams and preserves and other commodities that Australia needs. The thing that worried me greatly with this industry a few years ago when there was a marked increase in world prices was that those who controlled the giving out of land for sugar in Queensland foolishly extended the acreage. The high prices at that time were due to the fact that Cuba, a great sugar producing nation, was having a bad crop. What happened later? When Cuban sugar came back onto the world markets, together with the production of the Philippines, another big sugar producing country, those who went into sugar production in Queensland for the first time were in very dire straits.
– Only a few years ago there was a repetition of that.
– Senator Gair, as was said earlier, attended the big international sugar meeting in 1953. One should not argue about sugar production or sugar control with anyone who has been the Premier of Queensland because it was the Queensland Premiers who, in the main, kept the industry as it ought to be. I was surprised by Senator Byrne’s remark about Japan increasing its sugar imports from Australia. He said that we should consider what Japan takes from this country. Japan or any other country does not take from this nation anything that it can produce itself in sufficient quantity to feed its own people or to feed into its factories and then to sell to the world in the form of manufactured goods. No-one would dream of saying that Japan buys coking coal for its furnaces from Australia simply to suit Australia. No-one should think that Japan imports iron ore from Western Australia simply to suit Australia or Western Australia. In world commerce today it is impossible for each nation to balance its Budget so far as imports and exports are concerned. I respect Senator Byrne but I hope that he does not get his own way. We do not want to reduce our tariffs and allow into this country Japanese goods manufactured under conditions that we do not want here so that Japan may buy extra tons of sugar. I am certain, on reflection, that he does not agree with that. Therefore I hope that in the representations he implied that he will make to some people, whether they be Ministers in this Government or persons occupying some other position, he does not use for his argument the claim that because Japan buys wool, iron ore, minerals, sugar and now beef we should go out of our way to meet Japan Let us hope that our exports to Japan uplift the standards of her people to such an extent that she will buy an appreciable amount of the primary products that this country has in abundance and for which, apart from meat, we now have extreme difficulty in finding a market.
I agree to a large extent with the other matters that Senator Byrne mentioned. I doubt whether the north of Queensland would have been populated as it is today if it were not for the sugar industry. One has to look also at the defence aspect.
– The sugar industry originally was worked by the kanakas.
– It was. I am glad that my friend has put me on that train because it is something on which I could spend at least 10 or 15 minutes. The kanakas were bought into the country by the Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd and were put out of Queensland not by a Labor government, as history shows, but by a government which was then classed as a Liberal administration - I use a capital L - which is something different from the name some people adopt in their politics today. When one thinks of the growth of this industry - Senator Byrne said that 8,000 farmers were engaged in it - one recognises as one goes north just what sugar means to the north of Queensland.
This industry could strike difficulties in the future. I understand that if certain people on the Ord River had their way they might grow sugar. Whether they would find a market for it or whether they would be able to process it is their concern, but it has been mentioned. What will happen in 1973 or 1974 when New Guinea has its independence? We then will not be able to say to the people of New Guinea: ‘You cannot grow sugar cane.’ From what I have read, the climate and the soil of New Guinea are extremely suitable to the growing of cane. No doubt we will be anxious to protect our own industry.
– We still use New Guinea cane to improve our varieties.
– Who could be a more able interjector and a greater help than Senator Byrne when he says to me that we are using New Guinea cane to improve our varieties and, no doubt, our production? I shall not say any more except that I wish the industry well. I hope that this country never gets into such a position that it believes that because Japan buys A, B or C from us we have to buy D, E and F from her when to do so will undermine the conditions of the people of this country.
– No-one said that.
– That would be the only result if we lowered tariffs on our industry. I notice that this Agreement has been signed by the Prime Minister of this country, on the one hand, and by the Premier of Queensland on the other hand. I understand that it has to be signed in the presence of the parties. I do not wish to raise old troubles but I am disgusted to think that the signatures were witnessed, on behalf of the Commonwealth, by a secretary in an office and, on behalf of Queensland, by the State Minister for Primary Industries. No doubt this document will be studied in other parts of the world, and one would have expected that common sense would have been used. However competent a certain person may be - I admit that person is very competent - when a document is signed on behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia let it be witnessed at least by a person who has some standing in the public life of this country.
– in reply - I welcome the fact that the Senate is not opposing this Bill and I thank the honourable senators who have contributed to the debate. That we are dealing with a very important industry has been evidenced in the contributions which have been made by honourable senators, 3 of whom I note come from Queensland. I noted also the contributions made by Senator Lawrie and Senator Kennelly relating to the cost of production within the sugar industry, and Senator Kennelly’s comparison of the sugar industry with the wheat industry. I remind Senator Kennelly that the wheat industry is not as fortunate as is the sugar industry in that it is guaranteed only 60 million bushels for home consumption and 200 million bushels on the export market. The rest of the crop is sold at the price the world will pay.
– In fact you gamble.
– That is the unfortunate part. The sugar industry has been canvassed widely by the honourable senators who have taken part in the debate and I do not propose to cover the ground they have traversed. However, I should like to say for the record that this Bill has 3 main purposes. The first purpose is to present to the Parliament the text of the Sugar Agreement 1969 concluded on 23rd October 1969 between the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of Queensland. Under the terms of the Bill the Sugar Agreement 1969 is approved by the Parliament. However, such approval is largely presentational in nature since the Sugar Agreement 1969 is expressed to take effect upon execution rather than, as formerly, on receiving parliamentary ratification. This changed procedure was decided upon at the time in the light of the circumstances when the 1969 Agreement was made.
The second purpose of the Bill is to give effect to the obligation of the Commonwealth contained in clause 13 of the Agreement to continue the embargo on the importation into Australia of sugar, golden syrup and treacle. The Bill’s third purpose is to give specific authority, as contemplated under section 62b (3.) of the Audit Act, for income earned on investments from the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee Fund to be paid to the credit of the Fund. The Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee Fund moneys were channelled in August 1966 into a head of the Commonwealth Trust Fund. This procedure has not been availed of previously by the Committee so that there was no necessity for a similar provision in the Sugar Agreement Act of 1962.
Those are the 3 main purposes of the Bill. I believe that it only remains for me to reply to Senator Milliner who asked why it has taken so long to introduce this measure into the Parliament. Although this Bill has been with me in my office for some time now, I am quite sure that the delay in its introduction has been due only to the pressure of other parliamentary business. However, I would like to point out to Senator Milliner that the important thing is that this delay has not hindered in any way the operation of the new Sugar Agreement. It came into full force and effect upon its signing in October 1969. A further point is that the delay has not hindered the operation of the embargo which was imposed by the Sugar Agreement Act of 1962 on the importation of sugar. It will continue until the Parliament itself has dealt with this Bill. Therefore, although there has been a delay in the introduction of the Bill the embargo has continued and it will not cease until the Parliament says otherwise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– by leave - I move the following amendment to the motion on the notice paper relating to Estimates Committees:
Leave out paragraph (c) relating to the Estimates Committees and insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph:
The additional Estimates, as contained in the Papers presenting the Particulars of Proposed Provision for Additional Expenditure, should be referred to the Committees in the same manner as the annual Estimates.’
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 24 February (vide page 288), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Defence Pay Bill 1971 is one of the most curious pieces of legislation to come before the Senate for many a long day. The Bill is described as a Bill to validate certain payments made to or in respect of members of the defence forces between 1961 and 1963, and to civilian employees of the Royal Australian Navy up to June 1969. The background to the Bill is investigations made by the Joint Parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts, and reported upon to the Parliament in 1960. It was as a result of a conscientious application to its duties that the Public Accounts Committee drew attention to this anomaly, which involved the sum of S50m. It was considered at the time that payments for certain extra allowances of a wide variety could be provided for by the issue of regulations, but this was found to be technically unlawful. I should say that it is a sad reflection on the administration of the Service departments that this type of ambiguity should have been perpetrated in the first place and then perpetuated for such a long period of time.
It is a very interesting insight into the elasticity of the Treasury that the sum of $50m can be found from the appropriations for purposes for which no legal authority exists. If this matter had been dealt with at the time of the unlawful payments much more emphasis would have been placed on the principle involved, but the effluxion of time has dulled the edge of parliamentary and public criticism that most surely would have been directed at those responsible for allowing such a situation to develop. The Opposition can only hope that it will be a rare occurrence that legislation such as this will be introduced to validate actions of 7 to 10 years ago. This is retrospectivity in its most elastic form. The matter has been raised that this legislation was prepared for submission to the Parliament without the courtesy being paid of advising the Public Accounts Committee that the recommendations of its 50th, 52nd, 65th and 102nd reports had at long last been acted upon. This is an example of the need for continual vigilance to ensure that ministerial responsibility is exercised over regulations that can quite easily bypass the Parliament and, in particular, that the regulations of the Services shall be available for strutiny by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee.
This measure is necessary to adjust a technical situation that arose some years ago. The explanation was given that not only a lack of staff in the Parliamentary Draftsman’s office but also the rather monumental amount of research work that had to be done when this anomaly was discovered were the cause of the delay. I do hope, and I am sure that honourable senators opposite will agree with me, that legislation to validate an action such as this on the part of the administration will not come before the Parliament very frequently. In the light of my comments I would point out that the Opposition does not oppose this measure.
(9.48) - I thank Senator O’Byrne, who spoke on behalf of the Opposition, for the speedy passage of this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– 1 rise to make a plea on behalf of the Northern Territory Reserves Board in relation to considerable procrastination that seems to have affected the Department of the Interior in making a firm decision about the northern area national park. I wish to preface my remarks because I think that honourable senators are well aware that over a period in connection with the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory there has been considerable laxity or laziness by the Department in making any firm decision. As a matter of fact, Senator Cotton representing the Minister for the Interior is aware that last year during the meetings of the Estimates committees I questioned his officers about when they would make a decision and proclaim either the Mount Kelly region or the Jervis Bay area or both as national parks. The answer I have been receiving is that the matter is in the custody of the Commonwealth Government and I have nothing to fear. But, of course, conservationists generally are of trie opinion that there has only to be some major mineral discovery and then one finds that certain pressure is exerted on the Department of the Interior to make exemptions. That is the broad picture I paint as far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned. Before I go on to my main subject, I point out that on 16th February 1971 I listed question number 819 on this very subject because during the hearings of the Estimates committees last year I was assured that the Government was on the verge of a decision. I have been hearing this term ‘the verge of a decision’ for the last 3 years when I made a field inspection of the Mudgee Creek area with officers of the Department of the Interior.
I do not wish to anticipate the Minister’s answer but, in a general sense in connection with wild life and kindred land reserves, I have been told that the Government is waiting for a decision or recommendation from the House of Representatives Select Committee on Wildlife Conservation. As one who has testified before that committee I have a fair degree of confidence that it will come down with some far reaching recommendations. But it will not be much use that Committee recommending a large expansion of acreage if, in the intervening period, particularly in respect of land under the control of the Commonwealth Government, there has been a weakening of vigilance and as a result mining interests have moved in. My submissions tonight were prompted by representations from Mr O’Brien a member of the Northern Territory Reserves Board. I could keep the Senate on a filibuster for a long time but I will not in deference to honourable senators’ feelings.
– The honourable senator has only 2 Labor members in the House.
– I might take the attitude of the Prime Minister. I don’t take kindly to threats.
– Two of the honourable senator’s colleagues called quorums tonight.
– I have clashed with the honourable senator before on this point. I have been very frank. I shall deal with the matter, chapter and verse if that is the way the honourable senator wants it. (Quorum formed.) When interrupted I was making a plea on behalf of the Northern Territory Reserves Board about an overdue decision being made in regard to a national park in the northern area of the Northern Territory. The sequence of events goes back to 6th April 1965. It is studded with replies that the matter is being looked at. On 25 th October 1965 the Director of Lands advised that there was a conflict of interest between the Board and commercial buffalo interests. There was a conflict of interest between the Board and the Wildlife Advisory Council. It is rather apt that I quote the Prime Minister tonight. On 20th April 1966 in the Senate, Senator
Gorton representing the then Minister for Territories replying to me said:
The Northern Territory Reserves Board has requested the reservation of a Northern National Park. Two areas are involved, one of 1,185 square miles and one of 1,290 square miles-
He stated that the Government was sympathetic but of course there were other interests to consider. This saga of procrastination has gone on ever since. During the year 1966 the Board pointed out to the Administrator its concern. I saw the Administrator when I was in the Northern Territory with Senator Byrne on the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. We were told that if something were not done a lot of this land would be alienated. The Board submitted an alternative area. Still nothing was done. On 17th October 1966 further representations were made. On 12th April 1967 the Board became desperate and submitted 4 proposals to the Administrator and the then Minister for the Interior. The first submission was for an area of 2,475 square miles. Alternatively, the second proposal was for an area of 800 square miles. The Board then scaled down its objectives and suggested 800 square miles plus 200 square miles to the north. Still nothing happened. In Jannary 1968 there were discussions between the Board, the Administrator and the Acting Administrator. We were told that there were no barriers to the reservation. I know that Senator Georges is an avid conservationist. He will appreciate this point: The Board suggested it would settle for 1,000 square miles. But still nothing happened. In November 1968 the Department of the Interior brought Mr Sam Weems a United States conservation expert seconded from the New South Wales parks advisory committee to the Northern Territory. He was wildly enthusiastic about something being done. This is when the erosion developed.
On 27th January 1969 pastoral leases were granted over the Mudginbarry area of 427 square miles. There was a further invasion into this parkland. More pastoral leases were granted over the Munmarlary area of 396 square miles. On top of that the mining interests began to show their teeth. On 30th March 1969 authority was granted to prospect to Noranda Aust Pty Ltd. On 3rd May 1969 we had the amazing situation where the Minister for the Interior approved in principle the reserva tion of 1,000 square miles as a national park. He did not tell the Board this. It was more or less defined as a Press statement. The Chairman of the Board had an interview with the Minister in Alice Springs. Time went on. On 16th May 1969 we were told that we were on the verge of a clear cut decision. Between 10th June 1969 and 25th August 1969 three further mineral leases were granted. Then the Board wrote to the Minister again and asked for an early decision. A letter was received. The Board wrote to the Administrator on 18th November 1969 and outlined the whole of the history which I have deliberately, in deference to Senators Branson, Greenwood and Webster who has left the chamber, compressed. The fact of the matter is that the Board gave a complete list of all these events and said that it was time a decision was made. I know that Senator Georges feels just as irate as I do about the cavalier treatment of requests that are received.
What I have not told honourable senators is that way back in 1965 or 1966 a weekend seminar was held at the New England University, at which time we were told by the Board that it had received a letter from the then Minister for the Interior saying that big things were happening. Yet it takes the Department of the Interior 6 years to make a decision. I hasten to point out that I draw a very sharp distinction between officers and Ministers. I think it can be said that if these officers were given freedom to act many of their dreams would become realities, but for some unique reason when these matters reach the various Ministers they seem to go no further. I am not suggesting that the dreams have been completely jettisoned, but I fail to see why it has taken 6 years for a clear cut decision to be made.
To return to November 1969, a pre-planning committee was to have made a comprehensive report to the Minister on what was to be called the Alligator River National Park. The committee referred to ingredients of scenic grandeur and used other lovely phrases which roll off the tongue, but there was not positive decision. Then came a report from a geologist, who shall remain nameless, who said that no minerals of commercial value were known to exist in the proposed national park area. If that was the case and there was no pressure from the Department of National Development, why was there no decision? I know that at any time the Department of National Development would sell our national heritage, as I have said to Senator Byrne during meetings of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution.
A fundamental reason for these issues not being resolved is that we have not had a Minister for the Interior who would stand up to the Minister for National Development. This has been the root cause of the delay. Senator Cotton does not hold either of those portfolios so he can remain an innocent bystander. This is the trouble with the Government at present. On the matter of the Alligator River National Park we did not have a Minister for the Interior with guts enough to tell the Minister for National Development not to interfere. I believe that the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who is also Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities, could play a part by lining up with the Minister for the Interior against the Minister for National Development in presenting matters to the Cabinet. Senator Georges agrees with me because he knows that this is a fact.
– We do not want to split the Cabinet any more.
– No. To wind up on this point, on 26th November 1969 firm authority was given to Geopeko Ltd to do further prospecting in this area. Also on that date further mineral licences were granted to Project Development Corporation Ltd. On 24th February 1970, in an interview with the Minister for the Interior, the chairman of the Northern Territory Reserves Board was informed that the Minister had approved in principle the setting aside of 1,000 square miles for a national park. To show what can happen to reduce this area to be reserved as a national park and as a corollary to what I have said tonight, I have with me a map which shows what has happened to the area which formerly was to he a national park. I think Senator Cotton will agree with me on this because I virtually telegraphed my punches on this matter by giving him a preview of this document, as a result of which I felt confident that I could expect a clear and concise answer from the Minister for the Interior. I am sick of the expressions ‘in principle’, ‘on the verge’ and ‘early consideration’ in answers to questions on this subject. I remind the Senate that at one time the proposed park was to cover an area of 2,475 square miles, but I see now that it is down to 1,000 square miles. For goodness sake let us know its size and give us an ironclad assurance that this area will be completely segregated and free from the ravishment of mining interests.
– Perhaps I could reply now to Senator Mulvihill as Senator McClelland intends to deal with a matter which will concern another Minister. I must say that I am delighted to stand among my fellow senators as a thoroughly innocent person. It never occurred to me that I was. I should like to carry this thought with me for the rest of my life, with some distinction. I am one of the people here who acknowledge that Senator Mulvihill has a very genuine interest in conservation and national parks. I respect him for it because I have rather similar interests. This is apart from the representation that I have in this place for the Minister for the Interior. As Senator Mulvihill said, during the discussions by Estimates Committee D he raised these matters with officers of the Department of the Interior, and also he saw me this afternoon with some of the material that he proposed to deal with tonight. I sent that material to the Department and requested that if possible we should have something with which to answer the honourable senator to his satisfaction this evening. I have not received that information and therefore I must say that I regret that I cannot be more forthcoming. However, the honourable senator has my assurance that I would like the Department to let me know what is proposed should be done about these things because there has been some lapse of time. In saying this I do not in any way blame anybody. I had a little to do with this kind of problem in earlier years and I know that sometimes it is a long job to have an area dedicated as a national park It is not an easy matter. This situation is typical of what happened in the forestry area in which I spent a large part of my life. It takes a long time sometimes to have Crown land declared as a State forest. There are complications. I have not said this to excuse the delay but simply to explain what little I know about it, I shall do what I can to get the information for the honourable senator.
– I wish to speak about a matter concerning the Northern Territory. I refer to the lack of adequate medical facilities available to workers on Groote Eylandt at a mining project which apparently is solely owned by the Broken Hill Pty Co Ltd and which is covered by a Northern Territory ordinance. This matter was brought to my attention by Mr Gillman, a Commonwealth organiser of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, who recently visited Groote Eylandt on behalf of his union. He, his union and members of his organisation are very concerned at the inadequacy of medical facilities available to workers engaged on heavy construction projects at Groote Eylandt, and facilities available to their dependent families. Shortly, the history of the matter is as I shall now state.
In 1966 the mining venture at Groote Eylandt got under way and the Amalgamated Engineering Union, on behalf of its members, negotiated an award with the mining company. The union brought to the notice of the company the situation that existed in relation to the inadequacy of medical facilities then available. Apparently at that time the only medical facilities available were those provided by a nursing sister, with provision for a call back to the Flying Doctor Service if any form of emergency existed. But since 1966 a township has sprung up on Groote Eylandt and the population of the town has increased substantially. I have been told that the medical facilities at Groote Eylandt have not been improved in order to keep pace with the increase in population that has taken place. Apparently at this stage the population is still dependent most of the time on a nursing sister, and a doctor makes calls of about 4 days’ duration about once every 3 weeks. From the Flying Doctor base at Gove to Groote Eylandt takes about 40 minutes flying time, and Darwin is about 2 hours flying time from Groote Eylandt. In the event of an emergency occurring and a doctor being required, if it is not at a time when the doctor is making one of his 3- weekly calls it is necessary to call in the
Flying Doctor service. So it would take 40 minutes for the doctor to get there from Gove and another 40 minutes to return to Gove, or if he came from Darwin it would take him 2 hours to get there and 2 hours to get back to Darwin.
I remind the Minister that these men are engaged in mining operations and heavy construction work. On behalf of the union I raised the matter with the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes). In the Minister’s reply of 27th January 1971 he said that at present there is a population of about 750 at Groote Eylandt, comprised of 250 GEMCO workers, 300 construction workers and about 200 dependants. He said that in addition about 50 other people are concerned with prawn processing and about 800 Aboriginals and 30 Europeans are on settlements. Although the Minister states that there is a population of about 750 on Groote Eylandt, on his own figures the population is about 1,630. As to medical facilities, sisters are stationed at Umbakumba and Anguru missions and at Alyangula township and regular clinics are held by the sisters at those centres.
Groote Eylandt is visited every 3 weeks by a doctor from Nhulunbuy and more often if necessary. Urgent evacuations are arranged either to Gove or Darwin Hospital, depending on circumstances. The Minister said that he would investigate the matter further. After I again wrote to him, on 5th March he replied that the medical centre from which Groote Eylandt is served is Gove and that it is intended to station the sixth Dove aircraft in the Northern Territory at that centre. The Minister wrote:
This Dove aircraft is expected to be overhauled by DeHavilland at Bankstown during March and will be in service at Gove as soon as possible thereafter.
As I have said, no definite time has been set. The Minister went on:
A hangar for this aircraft is practically completed and accommodation for flying personnel is to be provided by Nabalco in Gove township. With the commissioning of this aircraft at Gove and completion of the hospital there it will be possible to provide an improved medical service for Groote Eylandt.
The doctor from Nhulunbuy usually stays 4 days and also visits the island at other times when the need arises. In fact, in the last 6 months of 1970 an additional visit was made during six of the eight 3-weekly periods concerned. I think the Minister’s own statement indicates the necessity for more adequate medical facilities to be made available at the island, especially in view of the fact that the men there are engaged in mining and heavy construction work and that 1,630 people live within the immediate area.
Whilst it might be very desirable to have another aircraft stationed at Gove to operate in the area, the fact is that these pioneering people in a frontier area of Australia are engaged in heavy industrial and mining operations. They follow a very hazardous occupation which at any hour of any day could bring about an emergency situation. I suggest that they are entitled to better medical facilities than those which are intended to be provided by the present Government. I appeal to the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin), who in this chamber represents the Minister for Health, to do all she possibly can to ensure that the Northern Territory Administration and the Minister for Health seriously and sypmathetically consider the reasonable and just request made by the industrial organisation on behalf of the people. As quickly as possible improved medical services should be provided at Groote Eylandt.
(10.15) - I have listened very carefully to Senator McClelland’s speech. I recall that on an earlier occasion he expressed concern about Groote Eylandt.
– It was during the sittings of an estimates committee.
– Yes. I understand from the correspondence quoted by Senator McClelland that further consideration has been given to the provision of increased medical services. I appreciate the point made by the honourable senator about this isolated area in which a number of people are engaged in industry. I understood the point he made about the possibility of an emergency arising. I will be pleased to place before the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) the points raised by the honourable senator and his request for further assistance if that can be made available. I shall see that the Minister gets all the information referred to by the honourable senator.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 9 March 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710309_senate_27_s47/>.