27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter: The promotion of trade and commerce with other countries. The Committee is requested to report from time to time on the operation of Australia’s international trade agreements and the development of trading relations and, in particular, upon (a) the probable consequences to Australia of United Kingdom entry into the European Economic Community and (b) the advantages and disadvantages to Australia of the New ZealandAustralia Free Trade Agreement.
– 1 give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
Thai so much of standing order 134 be suspended as would prevent the moving of a motion forthwith for the recision of the resolution of the Senate on 19th August 1971 disallowing the Evidence Ordinance 1971, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 4 of 1971, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1970 and as would prevent such a motion being carried by a simple majority of honourable senators voting.
– 1 give notice that tomorrow I intend to move that the following proposed works be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
The central sewerage scheme for Darwin.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. How does the Government justify the vast expenditure of lives and money and the vast amount of misery in Vietnam to achieve the farcical situation where only one man, President Thieu, is likely to contend the elections? Has the Government made any approach to the Siagon regime about this abysmal lack of democratic process following Australia’s contribution of 470 Australians dead and a great sum of money expended for the so called maintenance of democracy? If VicePresident Ky after being forced out of the election by President Thieu’s manoeuvres decides to stage a coup, which side will Australia support military and economically? Is what is happening in Vietnam consistent with the statement of the Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, that we at least want to preserve the basic cause for which we fought and that it was the right of the South Vietnamese to be able to determine their own future?
-. As honourable senators know we are currently part way through a debate on a defence statement relating to Vietnam and Australian participation and withdrawal of troops. Also we are part way through a debate on a foreign affairs statement. The Leader of the Opposition has chosen to try to wrap up these subjects in a question which requires about 8 answers. I hope that he will do better when he comes to the debate. I will come back in a moment to the question of whether it is contrary to democratic processes to have only one candidate. In any event, the internal, domestic affairs of a nation are exclusively the responsibility and privilege of that nation. I could not imagine even Senator Murphy being happy if some parliamentarian in some other nation started to take us apart for what we do in our domestic and democratic affairs. The second thing I want to say is that there is nothing unique about having only one candidate. If Senator Murphy wants to go into history I could give him the names of people in his own Party who were highly delighted at different times when they were not opposed. So I come back to where I started. This is a highly potent political question which but for the fact that it was asked by the Leader of the Opposition I would not have bothered to answer.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether his attention has been directed to the reported statement of the New South Wales Minister of Justice, Mr Maddison, on the need for a critical examination of State laws concerning infringements of the privacy of the individual? Is it correct that the only current study by the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral of this vital subject relates to data banks? Will the Minister consider initiating both in his own Department and through the Standing Committee of AttorneysGeneral a thorough inquiry into all aspects relating to human privacy with the aim of instituting law reforms to ensure the maximum protection of the individual citizen?
– I did see the statement which was attributed to Mr Maddison. I recognise the merit in the type of inquiry he has undertaken. I think I can safely say that all my endeavours are designed to ensure that the privacy and the rights of individuals, subject to law, are protected and preserved as far as possible. I will certainly undertake an inquiry in my Department along the lines the honourable senator has outlined. I should also say, because his question relates in part to the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General, that the Committee in 1968 did give consideration to privacy in relation to eavesdropping and listening devices. Consideration was given by the Standing Committee to the introduction of legislation which would prohibit the use of listening devices without the knowledge of the persons carrying on the conversation. This matter was taken by the individual State AttorneysGeneral back to their governments. It was not felt by the Attorney-General that uniformity was necessary but, as I understand the position, some difficulties have been experienced in the States. I will undertake to make some inquiries as to what the present position is and I will let the honourable senator know.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether the Royal Australian Air Force has placed an order for the new Project N aircraft which was developed by the Government Aircraft Factory in Melbourne? If so, what is the size of the order? Has the Army ordered any of these aircraft? Have any overseas orders been received for this aircraft?
– At the present time no orders have been placed by the Department of Air for this aircraft. Studies and discussions are proceeding between the Department of Air, the Department of the Army and the Department of Defence on the role that this aircraft could play in both Army and Air Force operations.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the senate and draw his attention to the fact that on 17th September 1970 the Senate carried a resolution relating to water pollution.
To the motion by Senator Davidson that the Senate take note of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution the Senate added the following words: and refers it to the Government for immediate consideration and urgent action in view of the recommendations of the Committee that there should be a national approach to the matter.
I ask: Will the Leader of the Government inquire from the Prime Minister as to whether any Government initiative has been taken on this matter, particularly in view of the fact that the resolution of this chamber referred the matter to the Government for its urgent attention, that the States are already very active in this field and that the object of the resolution and the report, which was to obtain a national approach to the problem, may be defeated if the Government does not immediately take the initiative and co-operate and co-ordinate with the States in the solution of this problem?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI recall the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I have certainly read in part, if not in whole, the Committee’s recommendations. I understand that the report was put down on 17th September last year. I am not aware as to what the processes of government have been in relation to it. I will certainly make inquiries without delay and let the honourable senator know the result of those inquiries.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. Why has the long standing procedure for the charging of Commonwealth estate duty on the estates of deceased persons been altered? In the past the executors of estates usually had finalised their dealings with the State authorities before an assessment was made by the Commonwealth. This was partly because the Commonwealth authority allowed the sum paid to a State as a deduction before making its assessment. It is now the practice for the Commonwealth to make its assessment as soon as possible after the death of the person concerned, which makes it much more difficult for the executors to raise the funds to pay these duties and tends to increase the number of forced sales, which is to the detriment of the beneficiaries. Will the Minister take action to have the previous practice reverted to so that estates can be much more readily administered and with less hardship to a large number of people?
As a result of this matter being raised with me at a different level by Senator Lawrie, I obtained some information on it. I have a very long explanation to give. I feel that it would be inappropriate to give it at this would prefer to put down the answer at the stage when the Senate is dealing with quesions on notice. It is in fact a long and technical answer. Although this is a very important matter, I do not think it would be in the interest of the Senate to give the answer at this particular time. I will give it later in the afternoon.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. As a West Australian I am concerned about the naval base at Cockburn Sound. Can the Minister advise me of the number of type of vessels which will be operating from that base when it is completed? In view of the fact that there are at present insufficient dry docking facilities in Western Australia, will these facilities be developed at this base?
– The naval base at Cockburn Sound is due to be completed in 1975. It is at present planned to include in it an armament depot which will be capable of supporting 4 escort ships and 3 submarines for periods up to 12 months. In addition, it will be capable of providing support for the Royal Australian Navy and allied units and it would be suitable for the berthing of nuclear powered vessels and the minor servicing of their conventional equipment as distinct from their nuclear equipment. The Navy has no plans at present for dry docking facilities at this base nor has it plans to provide facilities for the time being for the servicing of nuclear propulsion ships. It is not envisaged that patrol boats will be based there in the foreseeable future, but the facility will be capable of supporting patrol boats.
– I address my question to the Minister for Health. In view of the parlous financial position of old people’s homes throughout the Commonwealth, some of which are in almost desperate straits, can the Minister say whether it is proposed further to assist these institutions financially?
– If the honourable senator is referring to nursing homes, that matter is within my responsibility. If he is referring to hostels, that is within the responsibility of the Minister for Social Services. I will give some information on the assumption that the honourable senator is referring to nursing homes and is interested in nursing home benefits. Nursing home benefits are currently payable at the rate of $2 a day or $14 a week for patients requiring ordinary nursing care, and $35 a week for patients requiring intensive care. About 44 per cent of nursing home patients receive the higher rate of benefit. I should stress that Commonwealth expenditure on nursing home benefits has reached nearly $52m a year. I repeat that the ordinary rate is $2 a day, and $5 a day is paid for intensive care patients. However, it is recognised - and this is the point to which the honourable senator was referring - that nursing home charges have risen on average from $45 to $65 a week, with the result that some patients are faced with relatively heavy personal expense. This situation has arisen largely because of increased nursing home operating costs generally and nurses’ salary increases particularly. It is recognised that the position may be aggravated by further salary increases in the near future and 1 am currently having conducted a careful examination of the situation.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise: Is it a fact that Mobil Oil Australia Ltd and H. C. Sleigh Ltd have been granted a licence or permit to export Australian produced crude oil? Has XL Petroleum Pty Ltd applied for a licence or permit to export Australian produced crude oil? Has a licence or permit to export crude oil been issued or refused to XL Petroleum Pty Ltd? If XL Petroleum Pty Ltd is refused a licence or permit to export Australian produced crude oil, will it mean that XL Petroleum Pty Ltd will become insolvent or will have to sell its share of Australian produced crude oil to Australian established refining companies at SI. 50 a barrel? Is the refusal to issue a licence or permit to XL Petroleum Pty Ltd to export Australian produced crude oil an attempt by the Government and the oil cartel in collaboration to squeeze XL Petroleum Pty Ltd out of the Australian oil distribution industry?
– The honourable senator’s question is divided into 3 parts. The latter part, which contains the principal query, rests upon a proposition which the honourable senator asks to be examined in the second part of his question; that is whether XL Petroleum Pty Ltd has applied for a permit, and if it has applied, whether it has been granted. Until I can find out the answer to the second part from the responsible Minister it is quite impossible for me, I think it will be agreed, to answer the third part of the question.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister I remind him that last Wednesday I asked him a question regarding the possibility of Commonwealth aid in respect of storm damage in the Kin Kin area in Queensland. The Minister indicated the procedure necessary to obtain Commonwealth aid. I now ask the Minister whether there are any new developments he can report in this matter.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIt is true that last week Senator Bonner asked me a question about damage caused by a severe storm which had struck in the Gympie and Kin Kin area. I set out for the benefit of Senator Bonner and other new senators the approach necessary in such cases from a Premier to the Prime Minister. I believe that senators of long standing understand the procedure. Such an approach is made when a Premier feels that the relief required is beyond the State’s revenue resources and Commonwealth aid is required. Yes, I have been informed by the Prime Minister that the Acting Premier of Queensland has committed to writing representations along the lines of those made by Senator Bonner. The Commonwealth recognises the tragedy that occurred. The representations have been made in the traditional way by the Acting Premier to the Prime Minister and are now under consideration.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: As Eagle Farm Airport is unable to receive jumbo jets will the Minister consider improving the facilities there to assist the more efficient processing of overseas tourist traffic to Queensland? Will the Minister also consider modernising country airports in Queensland, where the tourist trade is very important, by lengthening and strengthening existing runways whereby more modern aircraft can bc accommodated?
– I have a great interest in the development of Eagle Farm Airport, and the Department of Civil Aviation is carrying out a great amount of work there at the present time in conjunction with the Queensland Government. There is almost total co-operation which I think is quite remarkable. The whole future of Eagle Farm is being carefully examined, including the future of the present terminal. Some expenditure will take place on Eagle Farm in the current year, principally not on the terminal but on associated taxiway development. The honourable senator may be assured that the servicing of the tourist potential of Queensland at Eagle Farm and any other airport having a generally high enough level of traffic, will be looked at most carefully. I do not think I can say more than that except that I expect to go to Brisbane again fairly shortly to make sure that the investigatory and documenting stage of the work at Eagle Farm is progressing as fast as possible.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the Australian Labor Party’s great concern to ensure that parliamentary elections are held in the countries of South East Asia, especially South Vietnam, I ask the Minister: What was the date on which the election was held which resulted in the appointment of Chou En-lai as Prime Minister of the People’s Republic of China? Can the Minister advise how many candidates contested the election? Is the Minister aware whether Mr Whitlam raised this important principle with Chou En-lai during his discussion with the Chinese Prime Minister?
– I think the facts are too well known to invite me to restate them. All I wish to add by way of underlining the facts is that it is a very idle use of question time for the Opposition in the Senate to talk about the candidates for a Vietnam election when elections, as we know them, have no vestige of existence in the Communist parties which are opposing the establishment of democracy in Vietnam.
– I address a question to Senator Sim. It is in respect of notice of motion-
– Order! The honourable senator will sit down. I wish to consider the matter. I have consulted the Deputy Clerk and he advises me that you may ask a question of a senator in the context of a matter on the notice paper only if the senator to whom you address the question is in charge of that matter. I disallow the question.
– But he is. I seek your indulgence.
– The question 1 propose to ask is in reference to notice of motion No. 4 appearing on today’s Senate notice paper and which is in the name of Senator Sim.
Hie PRESIDENT - 1 cannot allow the question. I will consider the matter during the course of the balance of question time and see whether I come to any other conclusion. I disallow the question for the time being.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. What limits will be fixed by the Wool Commission for the 1971-72 season when it opens, having in mind the fixed average price for growers of 36c per lb? Having regard to the Minister’s statement that 10 per cent of the clip would not benefit, what types are included in that 10 per cent?
– I cannot tell the honourable senator what limits will be fixed. I do not think anyone outside the Wool Commission could tell him what limits will be fixed. At a later hour of the day I will be making a statement in this place on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry. In regard to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I think there is an attachment to that statement which shows the position.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to a recent statement ascribed to Colonel McArthur, the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board, in which he suggested that the present high meat prices and strong level of export demand opened the door to the wholesale production and sale of synthetic substitutes and that it would be apathetic, neglectful and irresponsible to ignore this danger? As one step towards protecting the meat industry, will consideration be given to legislating that no substance other than animal protein can be termed ‘meat’?
Thursday last, in response to a question asked by Senator Davidson on this matter, I made the point that the meat boards of Australia and New Zealand, together with the producer organisations in America, had set out on a joint promotion campaign for the sale of lamb, which is now being extended to red meat. I do not want to go over that portion of the question; but, in regard to the portion of Senator Laucke’s question in which he asks me whether legislation will be introduced to outlaw synthetic meats, I would have to approach the Minister for Primary Industry on that matter and discuss it with him before I could give the honourable senator an answer.
– Did the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport notice last week a reported statement attributed to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner and indicating that there will be a substantial increase in freight charges for goods carried on those railways on 1st October? Did he notice that the freight on livestock will be increased by 15 per cent? Bearing in mind the current economic pressures experienced by the depressed rural industries, will he discuss this matter with his colleague with a view to asking the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to reassess this added penalty on primary producers?
– Yes, I saw a newspaper report about this matter, and accordingly I sent a message to the Minister for Shipping and Transport, under whose authority the Commonwealth Railways operate, to find out more, if I could, to aid the Senate if any question on the matter came up. It was said that there was to be a freight increase and an increased charge for the carrying of livestock of the order of 15 per cent, as mentioned by the honourable senator. I do not know anything more than that, except that as a general policy I imagine that the Commonwealth Railways would have to increase freight schedule rates in order to cover the increased costs being imposed on it by the Australian economy at present. I shall refer the query that the honourable senator has raised with me about reassessing the proposed rate for the carriage of livestock, but as the honourable senator understands, at the moment I have nothing official on the subject.
– 1 address a question to the Minister for Health. Taking the figures contained in his statement of last week on hospital and medical fund finances, which show that the existing New South Wales hospital fund reserves of the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia and the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia total $30.5m and that $4m of this sum will be fed back to those funds’ current operations, are we to assume that over the next 7 years the funds’ reserves will be trimmed down to the Government’s announced objective of not more than 3 months’ contribution income? If this comes to pass, can we expect the New South Wales HCF -and MBF membership contributions to remain at current rates for that period? Finally, is it not a fact that instead of following this procedure the
Government could have frozen New South Wales fund rates at the old level and reviewed such rates in 2 years to see what reserves still existed?
It is true that last week in response to a question from Senator Mulvihill I made a statement in relation to the 2 major funds in New South Wales, the HCF and MBF. I said that the more favourable hospital fund contribution rates that now operate in New South Wales, particularly with those funds, reflect in part the application of the Government’s policy to require funds to reduce their reserves to a level of 3 months contribution income. This related to the hospital side and not to the medical side, as I recall it. It is intended that the reserves shall be utilised to the advantage of contributors in a gradual and not precipitous manner. The substantial use of fund reserves in a precipitous manner could lead to a situation where the funds would have to realise on investments prematurely without regard to the market situation. This, in turn, could be disadvantageous and not to the assistance and benefit of contributors. In any case it should be realised that although the reserves of the 2 largest funds in New South Wales total some $30. 5m. this amount of money equates to less than 5 months’ contribution income. So the reserves are not as big as people would think.
An over-rapid run-down of the reserves is not called for by the implementation of the Government’s policy, for the reasons 1 have stated already. The new contribution rates adopted are based on a ratio where a fund benefit of Si. 60 a day is paid for each 10c of contribution per week paid for family membership. Before 1st August this year the ratio was only $1.20 benefit for each 10c contribution. A more favourable ratio has been made possible by the rationalisation of benefit tables and the limiting of benefits to the hospital account, as well as the utilisation of excessive reserves. Really it comes to a question of policy. The implementation of the Government’s policy on the use of excessive reserves is being done in a careful and responsible fashion and in a way that will not weaken the overall financial structure of the health funds. I think that is the predominant thing which not only I but also Senator Mulvihill would wish to see.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance 1971 which was disallowed by the Senate on Thursday last. Is it a fact that Senator Wood gave notice of motion to disallow that ordinance on 29th April 1971, some 16 weeks ago? Will the Attorney-General tell us what action was initiated in his Department to deal with the position that would arise in the event of the Senate’s adopting the motion by Senator Wood?
– I can well understand the concern which Senator Murphy is experiencing because of the view which he adopted last Thursday in supporting the disallowance of this Ordinance and because of the practical problems in the administration of justice which that action has caused. I do not know when Senator Wood gave notice of motion, but I do know that when he gave notice of motion he expressly stated that it was not to be taken as inevitable that the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee would proceed actually to the disallowance of the Ordinance but that notice of motion was given as a holding measure because the time for giving notice had almost expired. Subsequent to that date my Department co-operated fully with the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I think it was subsequent to that date that witnesses gave evidence before that Committee. A considerable amount of written material was placed before the Committee.
Only last Wednesday night a decision was made by the Committee, in the form of its thirty-sixth report, that the recommendation for disallowance of the Ordinance was to be proceeded with. On Thursday the motion for disallowance was debated and was carried. In the course of that debate I did say that I was concerned to point out that ‘there would be consequences which would not redound to the credit of this Senate if this Ordinance was disallowed’. I regret sincerely that proceedings in criminal trials in the Austraiian Capital Territory cannot take place, because of the existing situation, until the present position is rectified. Honourable senators will be aware that today I gave notice of motion for the rescission of the disallowance motion carried last Thursday.
– Did the AttorneyGeneral tell the Senate on Thursday last:
All 1 say is that if the Senate should carry the motion for the disallowance of this ordinance it will restore these ancient laws of New South Wales which still have applicability in the Territory and which it is the purpose of this or iinance to supersede.
In other words, that was the law as at the beginning of this year. Will the AttorneyGeneral now answer my question and tell us what was done, in the 16 weeks from the date on which notice of motion for disallowance was given by Senator Wood and last Wednesday to prepare for the situation in the event of the Senate carrying the motion? We have heard about the discussion which took place. Will he tell us whether any work was done by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department to prepare legislation for introduction in the event of the motion, of which 16 weeks’ notice was given, being carried by the Senate?
– I reiterate that I think that on this issue Senator Murphy protests too much because he and the members of the Australian Labor Party who supported the view that he expressed last Thursday stand condemned, in my judgment, as the persons who are denying to accused persons in the Australian Capital Territory the right to have their cases heard in accordance with the law. I. reiterate what I said in answer to the original question asked by Senator Murphy. In the period between when the notice of motion was given by Senator Wood and last Wednesday strenuous efforts were made by my Department to supply to the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee all the information which that Committee desired in order to make its decision as to whether it would proceed with this motion for disallowance of the ordinance. I understand that it held meetings throughout that period as it gave consideration to this question, and in the event it decided to recommend the disallowance of the ordinance. In those circumstances, it was not until last Wednesday night that I became aware that there was a firm decision by this Committee to proceed with the disallowance of this ordinance, and the record will bear that out. In those circumstances, I repeat what I said earlier, that Senator Murphy is expressing a concern which I believe stems from his apprehension of the problems which his precipitate action of last Thursday has committed to the Australian Capital Territory.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. In view of the increased interest being shown in all facets of the Great Barrier Reef, including reports from 2 commissions set up by both the Federal and Queensland Governments, and the obvious need for research into this area, will the Minister inform the Senate what progress has been made in establishing the Australian Institute of Marine Science near Townsville since it was set up by an Act of this Parliament assented to on 17th June 1970?
– The Honourable senator will recall that the statute to which he refers provided for the setting up of an interim council whose functions were to make recommendations to the Minister with regard to matters related to the establishment of the Institute and on subject matters which included the functions and powers of the Institute, the constitution of the council, the site and seat df the Institute and co-operation of the Institute with the university that is to be known as the James Cook University of North Queensland, and to furnish to the Minister estimates of the capital and recurrent costs of the Institute- I am able to inform the honourable senator that the interim council so set up has made its report which was received by the Minister on 7th July. That report is under consideration, and when the Minister is in a position to make a statement I will have the opportunity of making it to the Senate.
- Senator Brown, earlier this afternoon I said that I would give further consideration to the question that you raised. I have now come to the conclusion that L should acquaint the Senate with the relevant portion of standing order 98. The substance of it is that a question can be directed to a senator who may have charge of matters. The matter on the notice paper in the name of Senator Sim has not been given effect to by the Senate. He therefore is not in charge of it at this juncture. Nevertheless, I am prepared to hear your question and I will give consideration to what attitude I will adopt when I have heard your question. Would you restate it?
– The question directed to Senator Sim, as I said earlier, is in respect of notice of motion No. 4 on today’s notice paper. I ask Senator Sim: Will he describe to the Senate the area of inquiry envisaged in his notice of motion given on 19th August 1971 entitled Japan’?
The president- My ruling is that I will permit Senator Sim to answer the question if he so desires, but I do not wish Senator Sim in answering that question to involve himself in as much speculation as normally would be occurring as to what is going to happen to the Japanese yen. Will you bear that in mind?
– 1 am very happy to answer the question, because in considering a reference on Japan one had to take into consideration the world wide economic power and influence, both existing and potential, of a country such as Japan, and I believe that one could not adequately consider the subject if one circumscribed it to one particular area such as South East Asia, because Japan has a great interest in what happens in the Middle East, of course. Ninety per cent of its oil comes from the Middle East. It is greatly concerned as to what happens in the Indian Ocean and with the policies it develops to encompass all these areas. Therefore I thought it was far better merely to have a simple reference which would enable the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs to study the question of Japan and its relationship throughout the world rather than try to circumscribe it to one or two areas, otherwise we could not adequately deal with the influence and potential influence of Japan on the world scene. recognition of dr william Mcbride
– I refer the Minister for Health to the lack of any recognition whatsoever by the Government of Dr William McBride who discovered the tetragenic effects of thalidomide and who has already been honoured by another country but not by Australia. Will the Minister take up with the Prime Minister the question not only of a personal honour for Dr McBride but also of financial support for the foundation which he proposes to establish?
– 1 shall refer the honourable senator’s question about Dr McBride to the Prime Minister today.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development by saying that as the only honourable senator in attendance on Friday last at the national development conference held in Canberra 1 was greatly impressed by the determination and enthusiasm shown by the delegates from all parts of Australia in arriving at their decisions. As these decisions were classified by the conference as being extremely urgent and, as such, were communicated to the Government and other Party leaders by telegram, will the Minister give an assurance that he too will treat these decisions with the same degree of urgency?
– I, too, was able to attend this conference very briefly. Indeed, I was called upon to deliver a paper for the Prime Minister which was prepared by the Department of National Development. This paper had rather a mixed reception. For my own part, having read it very carefully, I thought that it was both wise and sensible. I do not agree with the opinions expressed by certain local Caesars who had their own views to prosecute. Nonetheless the general conference area was interesting. I have asked for all the papers. I shall see that they are provided to the responsible Minister. I offer an additional comment, that having been involved for a large part of my life in the development of country areas I support the proposition of country development. But we ought not be unmindful of the cost of doing this and of the fact that one cannot order people to do things which one wants them to do.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he will confirm that the Commonwealth Government has announced that payroll tax is one area of taxation from which the Commonwealth will withdraw and that the States will probably take up the tax and increase its incidence. I ask: Was it the practice for the Commonwealth to grant substantial refunds of payroll taxation to certain companies which were involved in export and which demonstrated a capacity to increase their exports? Can the Minister advise the situation in regard to this matter which will arise when the Commonwealth vacates the field of payroll taxation? What provision has the Commonwealth Government made to continue this or similar financial encouragements to exporters? Will the Government ensure that no benefits will be lost to companies which are involved in earning export income?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIt is true that as a consequence of a Premiers Conference there has been a departure by the Commonwealth from the field of payroll tex in favour of the States. As I recall it, it is true also that there was a special concession in relation to certain exporting sides of industry. Then we come to the crux of the issue. I am not in a position to give any information in a definitive way to the honourable senator as to what the States are going to do in relation to that concession. I think this is the burden of the question.
– What is the Commonwealth going to do?
If the Commonwealth vacates the field in that area of taxation it cannot give a concession in respect of something which it does not collect. I shall seek some information from the Treasurer and make it available to the honourable senator. My own clear impression is that a judgment will need to be made by the States in relation to that field of taxation. However, I shall obtain the facts from the Treasurer and make them available to the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will say what plans hrs Department has for airport facilities at Essendon? What is his estimate of the current value of the land occupied by Essendon. Airport?
– It looks as though Essendon Airport will remain much as it is now for about 5 years at least. There have been some suggestions that some of the buildings might be made available for technical colleges and various sporting facilities. Those suggestions have been looked at quite seriously and sympathetically. There is a need for Essendon Airport for general aviation purposes; this is clearly established. I have quite a deal of information on this matter but it is too long to read out to the Senate. What I will do is see that the honourable senator gets the latest information I have which will give him the up to date position.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Knowing his background interest in the subject, I ask him whether he has, since assuming office, had the opportunity to ascertain whether his Department has made any further progress in relation to the question of Commonwealth participation with the States and the legal profession in the creation of a uniform and national legal assistance scheme to ensure that all persons in all circumstances have a reasonable opportunity to take or defend proceedings in our courts?
– 1 am unable to say what is the present position with regard to discussions., which I am aware have been proceeding for quite some time between the bodies which the honourable senator has mentioned, as to the provision of a comprehensive legal aid scheme. However, I should stress that the provision of legal aid is essentially a matter for the State governments because it is in the State arena that most of the administration of justice in this country occurs. My understanding is that in each of the States there has been developing over recent years a legal aid scheme in which members of the legal profession co-operate and in which they render their services at reduced rates, taking some remuneration out of the pool into which costs and other amounts provided by government have been placed. However, 1 shall examine the question to see whether there is an area of operation in which the Commonwealth can assist throughout Australia. I stress that in my view this is a matter in which the responsibility lies primarily with the State governments.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport whether he is aware that the Pak-Poy report dealing with Tasmania’s transport problems has been presented to the Tasmanian Parliament? Will the Minister ensure that a copy is made available to the Commonwealth Bureau of Transport Economics in order to give the Commonwealth a better understanding of Tasmania’s transport problems. Will he also ask the Bureau to prepare a report based on the Pak-Poy report outlining those areas in which the Commonwealth could provide assistance to Tasmania, particularly in respect of shipping services?
– I will direct the question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. The matter raised by the honourable senator is one which we all know is of very great importance to Tasmania.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air and refers to a report which came from the United States of America early last July regarding modifications to the Phantom F4E aircraft and the Minister’s statement that some examination was being made of this report. Has the Royal Australian Air Force completed its study of the United States recommendations to modify these aircraft? Has it been decided to modify the aircraft? If so, will the work be done by the RAAF or the Australian aircraft industry which is now working below its capacity? What is the estimated cost of such work? Will the Australian Government have to meet the cost of the work?
– When this report came out it referred to some information that had been given a long time previously to the committee that was inquiring into this matter. Therefore, to a certain extent the information was out cf date. The Australian Government and the Royal Australian Air Force are well aware of the capabilities of the Phantom and of any little problems encountered in flying it. The modifications to the aircraft that have been spoken of would be only small ones. These modifications will be made if the American authorities agree that they are necessary in the interests of safety. I do not have any details in regard to the other information sought by the honourable senator, but I will make inquiries and, if 1 can give some further information to the honourable senator, I will do so.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. In the session prior to the winter recess I asked a question of the former President, Sir Alister McMullin, concerning the salaries and working conditions of Parliament House attendants. I now ask you: Has any increase in salaries been granted since then? If so, will it be retrospective to 16th June 1971? The attendants work 42 hours a week during a sessional period before overtime rates are paid and, during a recess, 32i hours a week or 3 J hours short of a full working week, which could be easily absorbed during recess. In view of this fact, was any consideration given to having the attendants’ work Public Service hours? If not, will consideration be given to granting Public Service hours to them in order to overcome the anomaly that now exists?
– I am not aware of the substance of the question the honourable senator addressed to my predecessor. I am in the process of making a general examination of the administration of and matters relating to Parliament House. I shall examine the honourable senator’s question and reply to it as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that a company known as Planned Financial Management, which operates from Suite 51, 183 Macquarie Street, Sydney, is advertising an investment sickness plan which purports to make a payment to members of the plan of $500 a month while they are hospitalised? Is that organisation recognised as a bona fide organisation under the national health scheme? If it is not a genuine organisation, will the Minister refer the matter to his colleague, the Attorney-General, for immediate investigation and, if necessary, legal action?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONMy attention was drawn to an article that appeared in the weekend Press in relation to this matter and I sought some information on it I have been told by the Department of Health that the organisation known as Planned Financial Management is not a registered organisation under the provisions of the National Health Act. It is understood that its operations are under examination in the State of New South Wales. It is not an organisation which comes within the terms and provisions of the National Health Act. I have no doubt, from what I have been told, that its operations are being examined by the States.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is the Minister aware that at a meeting of the National Stevedoring Industry Council in Melbourne on Monday, 2nd August special consideration was given to safety measures that should be employed in the stevedoring industry? Will the Minister make available to the Senate a copy of that section of the transcript which deals with safety in the stevedoring industry, particularly the section outlining the submissions of the unions concerning the employment of a safety officer when ships are being worked in Australian ports?
– I will make available to the Senate a copy of that section of the transcript if it is at all practicable to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. 1 ask: Is the Minister aware that last year the United States Senate passed a Bill to outlaw cigarette advertising from radio and television and to strengthen health warnings on cigarette packets? Will the Government now recognise the immense power of advertising in promoting the use of a proven health hazard and take steps to impose a similar ban in Australia or will the great economic forces aligned against such a ban once again prove how much influence they exert on the Government?
– It could be that I would like to give a supplementary answer to the honourable senator’s question, but it may be desirable now to make a short response. There is a voluntary code for the advertising of cigarettes on radio and television. This code, which was announced by my predecessor on 3rd May 1971, is a revision of the voluntary agreement accepted by the tobacco industry, advertising media and broadcasting authorities in 1966. It is intended to shift the emphasis in cigarette advertising away from young people. That is how the concept arose. Under the revised code the advertising of cigarettes on radio and television will not be broadcast when the audience is likely to include large numbers of young people. In the case of television programmes only, there will be no cigarette advertising between 4 p.m. and 7.30 p.m. on Mondays to Saturdays inclusive, or before 7.30 p.m. on Sundays, Christmas Day and Good Friday. Limitations are imposed also on the type of advertising to be broadcast or televised. The code, which is subject to continuing review, will become effective as a code on 1st October 1971
– ls the Minister for Civil Aviation aware that the new, modern and sophisticated method of receival of passenger luggage at Canberra Airport holds up passengers for far longer periods than did the previous simple method? Is this not a retrograde step, particularly in the winter months when passengers are forced to wait out in the elements hoping against hope that their luggage will be in the first batch placed on the conveyor belt?
– 1 am not aware of the position outlined by the honourable senator. I have found that my own luggage has come off the conveyor belt much more quickly, but 1 may well be treated as a special case. If the honourable senator has problems as he has suggested, I shall ask the people responsible for luggage at the airport for an explanation. However, his is the first complaint I have had. If there are other complaints, I shall be glad to receive them.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. You, Mr President, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition will have been acquainted with the fact that the Australian Democratic Labor Party has given notice of its intention to move an urgency motion on 8th September in respect of Australia’s relations with the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China. Item No. 2 on the notice paper under Orders of the Day is the adjourned debate on the statement on international affairs made in the Senate by Senator Wright on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Obviously the subject matter of our urgency motion is canvassed in that statement and the debate on it would be an appropriate vehicle for the carriage of the debate on the substance of the urgency motion of which we have given notice. As to present the urgency motion and then to have a debate on the statement would involve duplication, and even unwarranted use of the urgency motion procedure, I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether he can assure the Senate that the adjourned debate on the ministerial statement is likely to come before the Senate for early debate. If such is the case, we would not proceed with our urgency motion relating to China on the scheduled date of 8th September. We would withdraw that notice of motion on the intimation of the Minister that an early debate is to ensue on the ministerial statement. Is the Minister able to inform the Senate now whether an early debate is likely on Order of the Day No. 2 on the notice paper?
– I am doubtful that this matter should have been raised in that form. However, now that it has been raised I will allow Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson to field the ball.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI will field the ball. Mr President. I do not know whether I will catch it, but I will try. I think that what Senator Byrne has said is fair enough. I think his intention is clear. If we are to have a debate on foreign affairs, in fairness to the Senate, his Party would not want to have a duplicate debate on the proposed urgency motion. I think we would all accept that as a reasonable approach. The substance of the matter depends on some assurance I can give about debating the second item of Government business which is the foreign affairs statement. To that I respond by saying, with complete goodwill, that this is a very important matter and I hope that we can bring it to debate without delay. The first item is the statement on Vietnam. It may well be that we can get the matter brought on reasonably quickly. I will do my best in this regard. We have to bear in mind, of course, that traditionally the Leader of the Opposition in this place will speak tomorrow night on the Budget. We have to try to keep the Budget debate going as best we can in order to keep pace with the other place. I regard the foreign affairs statement made here by the representative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs as a very important statement which we should debate without delay. I will endeavour as best I can, with the cooperation of honourable senators, to bring it to debate.
– 1 ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is the Government planning to take any action against the former Prime Minister and former Minister for Defence, Mr Gorton, to stop his damaging articles appearing in the Sunday Australian’? If Mr Gorton writes so disparagingly of Mr Fairbairn as to call him ‘pedestrian, conservative and slowthinking, without the capacity to pose a competitive threat’, how can the public be persuaded that Mr Fairbairn has the ability to carry out his vital duties as Minister for Defence? Is this statement by Mr Gorton representative of what most Government members think about the third Minister for Defence in 3 months?
Answering the honourable senator’s first question and ignoring the inconsequential second and third questions, the answer is no.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by reminding him that I gave advance warning about the increase in petrol prices. I think that in his reply to me he said: That is very naughty of you’. I now ask the Minister whether he is aware that the
Shell, BP, Esso and Mobil oil companies are directing those in control of their retail outlets to increase the price of petrol by 2c a gallon without approval by the appropriate Government department. As the end result of this premature increase in the price of petrol has been a loss of thousands of dollars for motorists and huge profits for the oil companies, what action does the Government intend to take to secure a refund to the motorists of the additional profits dishonestly obtained by the oil companies?
The question, as it emerged from Senator Keeffe, suggests that it should go to the Minister for Shipping and Transport because it involves an area of technicality, which I do not understand, as to the starting date of the increase. I think that the only way I can get an answer for the honourable senator is for him to refer it to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I suggest that he do that.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities whether his attention has been drawn to an article in a publication called ‘Panorama’, Volume 13, No. 6, the journal of Ansett Airlines of Australia which is made available to all passengers on Ansett Airlines, in which there appears an article attributed to Mr Colin Simpson. The journal claims that he is Australia’s best read and top selling author of travel books. The article states that Simpson castigated the Federal Government over its handling of the tourist needs of the red centre and that a plan for a magnificent hotel right in the heart of Australia, prepared at some expense by a team of American experts, still sits pigeon-holed in Canberra. If this report is correct, what are the facts of the matter? If it is incorrect, what course will the Minister take to correct the false and damaging allegation contained in a publication which is so readily available to tourists and travellers in one of Australia’s two principal commercial airlines?
– The first course of action I will take is to get the magazine and read the article. Then I will see what 1 can do to help the Minister in Charge of Tourist Activities take the matter further.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. As the carrying of the motion moved by Senator Wood on 19 th August leaves Canberra courts unable to try persons for criminal offences and I believe this is a rather serious situation, have the AttorneyGeneral and the Government looked at the possibility of moving quickly to reintroduce the Evidence Ordinance and make it law? 1 feel that we might listen to the Attorney-General–
– Are you giving advance notice that you will vote for it?
– What I am trying to get at is: As we are tossing this matter backwards and forwards while people are. waiting to be tried for criminal offences in Canberra, is there some way by which we can overcome the problem quickly?
– I reiterate what 1 said earlier, namely, that we are in a difficult position at the moment. I regret very much that we are faced with a problem that requires urgent action. Without canvassing the matters that were canvassed last week, 1 believe that the ordinance that was disallowed was one which was modern, up to date and widely acknowledged as a good ordinance, and that its provisions would be of benefit to the Australian Capital Territory. However, because of the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act neither that ordinance nor any other ordinance of similar substance dealing with the same subject matter can be introduced within 6 months unless there has been rescission of the disallowance motion. Because of the difficulties that have arisen, my purpose in giving notice of motion earlier today as to invite the Senate to reconsider the ordinance. I hope that if the Senate secs its way clear to do this the problems we have now experienced in the Australian Capital Territory will be remedied. I trust that all honourable senators will appreciate the advantage and merit of following such a course.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral bring into the Senate tomorrow, before the commencement of debate on his rescission motion, a considered statement by him, in his capacity as Attorney-General, informing the Senate of what options are open and, in particular, in what manner the law can be restored as speedily us possible to the position it was in prior to the commencement of the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance 1971 and whether, in any event, it is possible, if all else fails, to bring in an ordinance which would have a limited time of operation - say 3 months - during which time the Attorney-General would have ample opportunity to introduce legislaton into the Parliament in order to have done by direct parliamentary legislation what the Senate considered ought to have been done? Would it be possible to give us the alternatives and the various methods which are open? In particular, will the AttorneyGeneral consider whether it is possible, as is suggested to me - I am not suggesting this as my own proposition - for the position of those in criminal trials to be met by the repeal of clause 8 of the ordinance relating to crimes - No. 2 of 1971 of the Australian Capital Territory? Would that, in substance, meet the major problem which, it is suggested, has occurred?
– I regard the last suggestion by Senator Murphy as most curious, particularly coming from the leader of a party which has constantly urged that there should be a modernisation of the law, because what would be involved in that suggestion is the repeal of one clause of an up to date crimes ordinance with a view to bringing back into force provisions of the Crimes Act of 1900. I find it curious that the Leader of the Labor Party should be putting forward that proposal. I shall give consideration to the general matters which have been raised by Senator Murphy. I appreciate that, in moving tomorrow the motion of which I have given notice, I must make out a case which has appeal and which is likely to persuade the whole of the Senate. Naturally there will be a canvassing of the merits, but whether or not it will be presented in the form in which Senator Murphy would like it to be presented is a matter which will await my own judgment on what is required in the circumstances.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral a question. Does he know whether it was a majority decision of the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee to introduce the motion the other day for the disallowance of the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance? If he does not know, could he obtain that information and let the Senate know whether it was a majority decision? What has his Department done since Thursday evening in regard to rectifying the situation created by the disallowance of the ordinance, in view of the fact that, as outlined by Senator Wood, the Senate supported the motion to disallow the ordinance not because it had anything against the ordinance but because of the method by which it was being introduced? Would it not have been in order to introduce today that very same ordinance by altering the title only? That was all that was necessary. If the Attorney-General does not agree with me in regard to that, will he inform the Senate what will have to be done? Why could legislation not have been introduced today so that it could pass through the Senate and the House of Representatives and become law tomorrow, without all this nonsense?
– I sense that another honourable senator who was in favour of the disallowance of this ordinance may now have second thoughts about the consequences of the action in which he participated last Thursday. I wish to say with regard to each of his questions that so far as the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee is concerned, it does not appear to me to matter whether the decision was a majority decision or a unanimous decision. The Committee made a decision, which was to recommend to the Senate the disallowance of the ordinance. It came to the Senate on the basis that it was a decision of that Committee. If there is any relevance in the fact that it might not have been a unanimous decision, I imagine that that was revealed in the sense that not all members of the Committee voted in the Senate in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee.
With regard to the second part of the question, it is not possible to reintroduce an ordinance to the same effect as an ordinance which has been disallowed unless a period of 6 months has elapsed or unless there has been a rescission of the disallowance motion. Accordingly, there is no opportunity to introduce an ordinance until one or other of those events has occurred. With respect to the suggestion that legislation might be brought in, I think it should be recognised that the responsibility for the introduction of the legislation into the Parliament is a responsibility of the Government and therefore of the Cabinet. Whilst there are other alternatives which are open to be pursued - I have given notice that one of these alternatives is being pursued - it appears to me that the affairs of the nation should not be retarded by giving to a matter such as an evidence ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory an undue prominence pending, as I have said, the consideration of the alternatives.
– I ask the Attorney-General a question. Did not section 5 of the Evidence Ordinance which was disallowed provide that the New South Wales Evidence Act 1898, the Royal Commissioner’s Evidence Act 1901 and the Witnesses Examination Act 1900 would no longer have operation in the Australian Capital Territory? As the Senate disallowed the ordinance which provided that those Acts would cease to have force in the Australian Capital Territory, why do those Acts not remain in force in the Territory and why cannot criminal proceedings continue under Acts that were in operation before the ordinance was disallowed?
– I am indebted to the honourable senator for the opportunity to elaborate on what will be an address in support of a resolution tomorrow or on some later day. The point I make is that those provisions mentioned in the Evidence Ordinance which were purporting to be repealed by the Evidence Ordinance have now been restored following the disallowance of that ordinance. There were provisions in the Crimes Ordinance which repealed provisions of the Crimes Act, but that Ordinance did not attract the attention of the Senate Regulations and Ordinances Committee, nor did it attract the attention of the Senate. Accordingly, that ordinance is in force and the provisions of the New South Wales Crimes Act which it repealed remain repealed. It was intended that the Evidence Ordinance would replace those repealed provisions of the Crimes Act, but it is ineffective to do so at this stage because of the disallowance of the ordinance.
– I have information that answers to questions on notice are available. I hope that an opportunity will be provided to answer those questions.
– 1 ask the AttorneyGeneral a question on the subject of the disallowance of the Evidence Ordinance. He will understand my interest in this matter as a member of the Committee. Can he inform the Senate whether his proposal today is to facilitate another vote on the motion to disallow the Evidence Ordinance, that is, a vote on the same matter as the vote last Thursday, or is he proposing that the Standing Orders should be so arranged or amended as to enable him to introduce an ordinance having exactly the same provisions as the one disallowed last Thursday? Will he tell me, for the clarification of my own mind on this question, whether it is a fact that having taken a vote last Thursday, which was the last day upon which the Senate could act on that ordinance, no further action can be taken on that ordinance?
– 1 am not sure that I followed through all the ramifications of the honourable senator’s question. As the position stands at the moment there is no prospect of rectifying the situation by way of an ordinance which re-establishes the Evidence Ordinance or any comparable ordinance dealing with evidence matters. However, if the decision of last Thursday were rescinded there would be opportunity and no legal bar to the introduction of a fresh Evidence Ordinance. It is that course which is being canvassed by the notice of motion which has been given.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Is it the position that on Thursday last the Senate disallowed an ordinance on the simple ground that it dealt with matters of such an important nature that the law should be enacted by Parliament and not by an executive ordinance? Are we to understand that despite that decision, the Attorney-General is insistent that the law will be dealt with by ordinance and that the Senate must rescind its decision so that an ordinance in the same terms can be re-enacted by him as Attorney-General, that he is refusing to introduce legislation in order to have the law of evidence of the Australian Capital Territory dealt with by Parliament?
– I again sense that Senator Murphy is giving expression to the concern which he feels about the parlous situation which has been created. I do not accept Senator Murphy’s statement of the position. The position is that we have on our hands a situation of the utmost gravity. Criminal trials in the Australian Capital Territory cannot proceed while there is no Evidence Ordinance adequately to protect the rights of accused persons. That position is due to the fact that last Thursday the Senate disallowed the Ordinance. In those circumstances I conceive my responsibility to be to endeavour to meet the situation as urgently as possible. I believe that the first step which I should take is to ask the Senate to look at the position in the light of what has occurred. If in the light of what has occurred the Senate still believes that this Ordinance should be disallowed, 1 will give consideration to other alternatives.
– Order! This afternoon I have allowed a great deal of latitude in the questioning of the AttorneyGeneral about the matter which has been engaging the attention of honourable senators. The relevant part of standing order 99 reads:
Questions shall not anticipate discussion upon an Order of the Day or other matter which appears on the Notice Paper.
Earlier the Attorney-General gave notice of his intention to introduce a matter tomorrow. Therefore I now rule that further questions on the subject are out of order.
– What understanding did the Minister for Health have with his predecessor, Senator Greenwood, about the effect of the report of the Waterhouse Committee on animal quarantine, with particular reference to dogs? That report was presented to the House of Commons recently.
I can assure the honourable senator that I am a lover of dogs and cats. I know that he is. 1 can assure him that justice will be done. 1 do not know what transpired prior to my takeover from Senator Greenwood. I shall let the honourable senator know what is happening in relation to the quarantine of animals. I recall that last week I made a statement about the quarantine of horses. There has been nothing so far about dogs. I shall ascertain the facts for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Was a thriving poplar plantation of approximately 2,800 acres in the Tumut valley of New South Wales offered for sale, on a worldwide basis, by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority in December 1968? Was the plantation sold? If so, who was the successful purchaser? What was the purchasing price and what were the terms of sale?
– 1 am aware that a poplar plantation existed on, I think, flat river land that was to be inundated upon completion of the Blowering Dam. I believe it was a successful plantation. I know that it was offered for sale. I do not know anything more than that. I shall direct the balance of the question to the Minister for National Development to obtain the details that the honourable senator has requested.
– I ask a question of the Attorney-General in order to clear up a misunderstanding. As I understood the Attorney-General, he said that he was unable to introduce into this Parliament a Bill to cover the position brought about by the Senate’s rejection of the Australian Capital Territory Evidence Ordinance. I do not know of any authority which states that a Minister may not introduce into Parliament a Bill for an Act to cover an ordinance which has been disallowed. I think the Minister said that he would have to wait 6 months. Will he tell me the authority for his statement, or did I misunderstand him?
– Order! Normally the Attorney-General should not be asked to express opinions. On this occasion he may elect to express an opinion. It is a matter for his discretion.
– I think the honourable senator has misunderstood an answer that I gave earlier. I think he will find that the Seat of Government (Administration) Act refers specifically to ordinances and imposes a time bar of 6 months with respect to ordinances.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral have inquiries made to ascertain whether newspaper companies in all States are breaching resale price maintenance laws by forcing newsagents to sell their product at a predetermined price? For instance, if newspaper retailers are charged 5.25c a copy on the understanding that the paper is to be sold for 7c a copy, is this not a classic case of resale price maintenance?
– I will have investigations made with a view of ascertaining the position in the light of the general comments which the honourable senator has made. My recollection is that this issue has been canvassed in litigation in recent times, although I am quite confident that it has not been canvassed before the Trade Practices Tribunal. I have a recollection that the decision arrived at was that it was not a restrictive trade practice attracting the attention of either the Trade Practices Commissioner or the Tribunal. This is recollection only. I will look into the matter and supply an authoritative answer to the honourable senator in due course.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport or to the appropriate Minister. Is the Minister aware that some local government authorities in Queensland are responsible for their own local transport systems? Is he also aware that the imposition of the additional 2c a gallon duty on fuel will cause these local authorities serious financial embarrassment? Will the Minister use his good offices to persuade the Government to exempt such local authorities from the payment of additional duties?
– In the circumstances all I can do is to acknowledge what the honourable senator has asked me to do and to communicate his request to the responsible Minister.
(Question No. 1072)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Can the Minister point to any area of mining operations shown on the map appearing on the back page of ‘National Development’ (No. 2, No. 5, March 1971), entitled ‘Australian Minerals at a Glance’, and prove conclusively that mining companies have indulged in effective conservation work when mining operations have terminated; or alternatively, can the Minister cite any cases where mining companies have been advised that areas are off-limits because such mining projects would create river pollution or provide future dust bowls?
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The control of mining operations, conservation and pollution control within the States of the Commonwealth is the responsibility of the respective State Governments. The Commonwealth has these responsibilities in the Northern Territory.
In the Northern Territory rehabilitation, to the satisfaction of the Government, is a requirement of current manganese mining operations on Groote Eylandt and bauxite mining on the Gove Peninsula.
(Question No. 1107)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Are the rules and regulations covering the management and use of Commonwealth Hostels a classified document? If not, where can a member of the Parliament obtain a copy of them?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Commonwealth Hostels Ltd is a company incorporated in Victoria under the Victorian Companies
Act as a Company Limited by Guarantee and is registered in each other State as a Foreign Company. The rules and regulations covering the management and use of Commonwealth hostels operated by the company are contained in the Company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association, a copy of which is available for inspection at the offices of the Registrar of Companies in each State. Arrangements have been made for a copy to be forwarded to the honourable senator.
(Question No. 1115)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Is Australian mail delivered in Vietnam on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays of each week? If not, is Australian mail held by direction from the Department of Defence, or by the direction of the Postmaster-General?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Most first class mail is delivered to addressees in Vietnam on the day following dispatch from Sydney. With the present flight schedules letter deliveries normally are made on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and occasionally Wednesday. If a serviceman is at a fire support base, on patrol or moving between areas the operational situation may dictate less frequent deliveries. First class mail is not delivered on Sunday or Friday. Second class mail (parcels, newspapers and similar items), which is not carried on all flights, is delivered at least once weekly.
(Question No. 1133)
asked the Minister for
Health, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Residues of Dichlorvos can be found in food if these strips are used in kitchens, particularly where ventilation is poor. In May 1971 Council recommended that the following additional warning statements should appear on the labelling of the strips:
Council, in its Recommended Tolerances for Residues of Agricultural Chemicals in Foods, has recommended a tolerance of 2 parts per million for Dichlorvos in fruits, grains and vegetables. This figure was not exceeded in any of the tests performed by pest strip manufacturers on a variety of foods under normal conditions.
The use of Dichlorvos has been under continuous review by the expert Committees of the Council, which are kept well informed of developments in current research.
At present there is no indication to warrant the discontinuation of the use of Dichlorvos pest strips in Australia, and it is not considered that tests by the Department of Health are necessary to supplement current research.
(Question No. 780)
asked the Minister representing the Post master-General, upon notice:
In amplification of the answer to Question 671 provided by the Postmaster-General to Senator Douglas McClelland, what breaches of television standards 37 to 49 of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, by commercial television stations, have occurred in the last 12 months?
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There had been 69 breaches of the Advertising Time Standards during the previous 12 months involving 10 stations.
(Question No. 871)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1060)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Will the Postmaster-General treat as urgent the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland on 15 March 1971 concerning the stockpiling by commercial television stations of Australian made television films, mainly ‘Homicide’ and ‘Division 4’, for the purpose of obtaining credits for such programmes when the new Australian drama quotas come into effect in September 1971.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator’s question refers to another question by Senator Douglas McClelland on15 March concerning the Australian made television programmes ‘Homicide’ and ‘Division 4’. The honourable senator asked that Senator” McClelland’s question be treated as urgent. A reply was furnished to Senator Douglas McClelland’s question and appears in the Senate Hansard for 6th May 1971.
(Question No. 1080)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
(Question No. 1094)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1157)
asked the Minister representing the Post master-General upon notice:
Manager of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, that the collective opinion of the television industry is that no Australian quota should be imposed which cannot reasonably be complied with by every station; that there are doubts held by several licensees on the wisdom of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board declaring such increases at this juncture; and that many licensees feel too much notice was taken of representations by actors to have drama increased for the purpose of providing jobs for themselves, regardless of public interest?
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1158)
asked the Minis ter representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Is there an agreement between Australia and the Republic of Ireland providing for the reciprocal payment of social service benefits and is there a double income tax agreement between the two countries? If not, will the Australian Government propose negotiations with the Irish Government with the object of establishing such agreements?
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There is no agreement for reciprocity on social security between Australia and the Republic of Ireland. While some interest was evinced several years ago, no formal approach for such an agreement has been made by the Irish Republic and the question whether the Australian Government should initiate such a move has wide implications and involves matters of policy. However, if the Irish Government were to submit a proposal for reciprocity on social security the Australian Government would, of course, consider it.
Nor is there a double taxation agreement between Australia and the Republic of Ireland. The Republic is one of a number of countries to have made approaches to Australia in this respect. These approaches are now under study. The questions whether negotiations should be entered into with these countries and, if so, when, are matters of policy which will be determined by the Government in due course.
(Question No. 1185)
asked the Minister for
Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The Department is concerned particularly with the conduct of the proposed airline operations and with the maintenance of the aircraft to be employed. Operations and maintenance manuals which specify company procedures must be submitted to the Department for approval. The applicant’s proposals for the management of flight operations, including the checking and training of pilots, and the control of airworthiness are also closely investigated.
The Company was told at the time that it would require a very substantial change in the Government’s aviation policy for it to be licensed to operate heavy aircraft on regular airline routes. They were also told that it was considered unlikely that there would be any such substantial change in policy.
The Company, for its part, made it clear at all stages to the Department that it did not intend to carry out any operation without the express approval of the Department of Civil Aviation.
The Department consistently adopts the attitude that, having tendered appropriate advice to the applicant, it is not up to the Department to substitute its commercial judgement for that of the Directors and management of the applicant company and withhold operating authority on that score. Some 19 Regulation 203 services which have commenced over the last 3 years, have been withdrawn because of lack of public support.
(Question No. 1216)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
– Pursuant to section 7 of the States Grants (Independent Schools) Act 1969, I present a statement of payments made to independent schools in each State for the year ended 31st December 1970.
Reports on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Plastic products, etc.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the official report of the Australian Parliamentary Delegation to Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
Earlier today Senator Lawrie asked me a question on taxation and I said that I had a fairly long answer to it. With the concur rence of honourable senators 1 incorporate the answer in Hansard so that it will be available for honourable senators to read tomorrow:
Over the years a substantial backlog of unassessed estate duty returns and accumulated in the Commonwealth Taxation Office with the result that it was often well over a year from the date of death before the duty was collected. This situation was, no doubt, convenient for executors who were unable, for various reasons, to distribute their estates but it worked against the best interests of beneficiaries who were anxious to obtain early distributions, lt also meant that the Commonwealth was temporarily deprived of revenue which should have been collected within a reasonable period from the date of death. Steps were accordingly taken to have estate duty assessments issued more promptly. Even so, the majority of estate duty assessments still do not issue until the State death duty assessments have issued.
The Commissioner of Taxation has given careful consideration to suggestions that all Commonwealth estate duty assessments should be deferred until the State death duty assessments have been issued but he has been unable to adopt those suggestions. In many cases State assessments are held up for reasons peculiar to State legislation. Moreover, as the law requires that estate duty returns be lodged within 3 months of the date of death or within 1 month of the grant of probate, the Commissioner considers that he is under an obligation to issue an assessment within a reasonably short time. The policy is to ensure that, wherever practicable, duty will be paid within 1 year after the date of death.
As the amount of State death duty is an allowable deduction in arriving at the value upon which Commonwealth duly is to be levied, the Commissioner appreciates that problems may arise where the amount of State duty is not quantified prior to the issue of the Commonwealth assessment. Where practicable a deduction will be allowed for the amount of State duty that is to be assessed. If an executor considers that an amount so allowed is inadequate, he may request that the correct deduction for State duty be allowed in due course and that the amount by which this deduction is expected to reduce the Commonwealth duty be allowed to remain outstanding in the meantime. The request would need to be in writing and be made within the time allowed for lodging objections against estate duty assessments, that is, within 30 days of service of notice of assessment of the Commonwealth duty. These applications are granted automatically.
On the matter of payment of the Commonwealth duty, the Estate Duty Assessment Act empowers the Commissioner to allow extended time for payment of duty where the circumstances warrant this. Where he does so, additional duty by way. of interest which would otherwise accrue is automatically remitted if the duty is paid by the extended date. If a Commonwealth estate duty assessment issues before the State assessment, interest would not normally be charged on the Commonwealth duty if it is paid within 1 month of the issue of the State assessment unless that assessment is delayed beyond 1 year after the date of death. In the latter event, the executor would be expected to take steps to pay the Commonwealth assessment within 1 year after the date of death.
It is open to the Commissioner in all cases to allow extensions of lime for payment of duty where he considers that it would be appropriate to do so. I understand that he is always prepared to give sympathetic consideration to requests for extensions of time where executors are faced with lack of liquid assets because of the effects of drought, reduced prices for primary products or associated factors. The Commissioner considers that these procedures should not cause any serious inconvenience to executors in the relatively small number of cases in which it is found necessary to issue the Commonwealth estate duty assessment before the State death duty assessment.
– I present the ninth report of the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– 1 present the one hundred and twenty-ninth and one hundred and thirtieth reports of the Public Accounts Committee. I have a statement which, with the concurrence of honourable senators, 1 incorporate in Hansard.
The one hundred and twenty-ninth report relates to the Treasury Minute on your Committee’s one hundred and nineteenth report which referred to the supplementary report of the Auditor-General for 1968-69. The one hundred and thirtieth report relates to the Treasury Minute on your Committee’s eighty-fourth report which referred to expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund 1965-66. Honourable senators will recall that when the one hundred and sixteenth report of the Public Accounts Committee was tabled in May last year the history, purposes and arrangements relating to the Treasury Minute procedure were outlined. It was stated at that time that your Committee believed the Treasury Minute arrangements had proved their value over the years as an important element in ensuring that, through your Committee, the Parliament maintains an important and significant role in the financial administration of the Commonwealth. The reports that I am tabling today afford further proof of that view.
One particular feature of the Treasury Minute procedure to which I would draw the attention of honourable senators relates to the fact that in reporting a Treasury Minute to the Parliament, your Committee, acting on behalf of the Parliament, reserves the right to make comment on the Treasury Minute, as it thinks necessary. Such comments, taking the form of Committee observations, are included as the final chapter of the Treasury Minute report. In this regard your Committee has not seen a need to make comment on the Treasury Minute relating to the one hundred and nineteenth report. It has seen a need, however, to make two comments on the Treasury Minute relating to the eighty-fourth report.
The first comment to be made relates to an inadequacy of evidence tendered under oath to the Committee regarding a feasibility study proposed for the High Commissioner’s Office in London in 1966 and thought to have been abandoned. Without the benefit of the Treasury Minute arrangement, the full facts of this matter would not have been made available to your Committee. The second matter concerns an interpretation of a matter of principle. This principle relates to the important question of whether, and in what circumstances, departments should seek out their creditors. In its eighty-fourth report your Committee drew particular attention to the failure of some departments to seek out their creditors, the reasons being set out at some length in the one hundred and thirtieth report now being presented. Although the Minute prepared by the Department of the Treasury on this matter may suggest some disagreement with your Committee’s conclusions, your Committee is satisfied that its views and those of the Treasury coincide. In fact your Committee agrees that if supplies have been satisfactorily provided and there is an abnormal delay in the receipt of a claim for payment, it would not be a distortion of the natural course of events for a supplier to be informed that his claim had not been received. Indeed it was such a situation that led your Committee in its eightyfourth report to refer to the need for departments to seek out their creditors.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969, I present the reports relating to the following proposed works:
Northern Territory Development Roads
Tactical Trainer Building at HMAS Watson, South Head, Sydney, New South Wales.
Communications Building at Bendigo, Victoria.
Interim reports on the proposed community college at Darwin and the redevelopment of the Alice Springs hospital were presented to the Parliament during the autumn session. I now present the Committee’s final reports on those 2 references.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) - by leave - agreed to:
That, in accordance with the provisions of the National Library Act 1960-67, the Senate elects Senator the Honourable Sir Magnus Cor mack, K.B.E., to be a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia for a period of 3 years from 19th August 1971.
– by leave - For the information of honourable senators, this statement is being made on behalf of my colleague the Minister for Trade and industry (Mr Anthony). Mr Anthony presented this statement to the House of Representatives last week. Honourable senators will appreciate that where the first person is used it refers to the Minister for Trade and Industry. I am not seeking leave to incorporate the statement in Hansard because I believe it would be the wish of the Senate to have the statement read, having regard to questions that have been asked and comments that have been made here from time to time in relation to the impact on Australia of the European Economic Community and its development.
During the Parliamentary recess I undertook a visit to most of the major trading nations of the world. The timing of the visit was most appropriate, as this year could prove a watershed for world trade, and certainly for Australian trade. Total world trade has expanded quite remarkably since the war. Under the auspices of International Monetary Fund and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, there has been a diminution of barriers to imports and there has been an acceptance of the principle of multilateralism - that is, equal opportunity for all. The spectacular success has occurred in the field of industrial products with trade growing at 10 per cent a year. However, in the field of agriculture, the growth in trade has been relatively much slower and progress towards trade liberalisation almost negligible. In the circumstances, a nation like Australia, which in the late 1940s derived some 87 per cent of its export income from agricultural products, clearly had to adjust its trade. In this we have been successful. Agricultural products now represent only 52 per cent of our exports; manufactures have risen from less than 5 per cent in 1948-49 to 19 per cent now, and minerals have become a significant contributor to our exports. That is the pattern of the past. It would be unduly optimistic, in the light of my overseas experience, to believe that the future holds anything other than a continuing difficulty in increasing the share of agriculture in world trade and hence there is an increasing necessity for us to diversify.
One of the major factors which will impinge upon our trade over the next few years is the decision by the United Kingdom to seek to enter the European Common Market. This is not of course the first occasion when Britain has sought entry. However, it is the first time that the stage has been reached where conditions of entry have been agreed between the Six and Britain. It remains for the British Parliament to make a decision whether or not to accept the terms negotiated. This decision should be made in October this year. The decision is an important one for Britain, for Europe and the whole world. A united Western Europe should bring stability to an area which historically has been the origin of most major world conflicts. All Western countries have acknowledged the value of the future peace and stability of the world if the vision of a unified Europe can be realised. The problem which Britain’s entry causes for Australia arises principally from the fact that the EEC in the field of agriculture remains one of the most restrictive import markets in the world. Against this, Britain probably has been the largest free market for agriculture in the past, and it is the market to which most of Australia’s food exports traditionally have been oriented. The future policies on the British market are therefore of critical importance to many Australian agricultural industries. Therefore, I regard my visit to Europe as particularly useful in a number of ways.
I was able personally to become acquainted with my counterparts in the Governments of Britain and the EEC countries, especially those having direct responsibilities towards the negotiations for Britain to enter the EEC. I was able to find out at first hand just what had been agreed upon in the negotiations and what were the outstanding issues. 1 made certain that the Australian viewpoint on matters of vital interest to us was known to the parties to the negotiations. I was able to assess the significance for Australia of the terms that were likely to be agreed upon in the negotiations. Clearly, we must face the fact that the favoured position we have enjoyed for so long in the British market will disappear. We will face new barriers for our products, raising quite serious problems for some industries. We will need to review the favoured position we currently accord Britain in our market. These matters will bring about quite significant changes in our overseas trading pattern.
As the honourable senators who have followed the statements I made during the visit and upon return will be aware, there was one matter - a very important matter - which disappointed me greatly. This was the apparent lack of adequate arrangements to look after Australia’s trade interests in Britain during the transitional period. Over the years Australia has made known to the British Government, the Governments of the member states of the Community and to the Commission of the EEC, the problems that would arise for Australian trade interests if reasonable conditions of entry for Britain were not achieved. Australia did not claim - as New Zealand could - that irreparable damage could occur to the national economy. I emphasised the point that some continuing access to the British market was needed during the transitional period in order to enable the Australian industries concerned to have time to adjust to the new situation inherent in Britain’s becoming a member of the Common Market.
In my talks with the British Government, 1 concentrated my representations on the lack of precise provisions for the phasingout over the transitional period of the access provided for Australian exports to Britain by our Trade Agreement with Britain. When the Australian Government had previously informed the British Government of its concern about the effects of British entry on Australia, we had been told that Britain would seek in the negotiations, for Australia’s benefit, the longest possible transitional period. For example, Mr Rippon, Britain’s Ministerial negotiator, when in Canberra last September, after having had intense and concentrated consultations with the Australian Government, publicly stated at a speech to the National Press Club - and I am quoting from the official release:
I am well aware of how vital this matter is for some of your farmers in economic and human terms. I promise you that we shall treat it extremely carefully and seriously in close consultation with your Government. This is, when all is said and done, a matter of mutual concern. We have made it plain that we shall seek the longest possible transitional period in which to resolve these initial impact difficulties.
It was therefore with some considerable dismay that in Europe I found that, during the negotiations in May, the British delegation accepted an arrangement which, while affording a transitional period for British agriculture and for raising food prices in Britain, faces Australia with the prospect of possible immediate exclusion from the British market for some of our traditional exports and harsh consequences for many others. Although problems for third countries are foreseen, no specific provision was made which would ensure any firm or predictable degree of access for Australia over the transitional period.
Up till the May negotiations, we had been told that the British were seeking a phasing-in of what is known as the principle of ‘Community Preference’. This principle is inherent in the full application of the Community’s Common Agricultural Policy. It means that suppliers from the member states should be allowed to sell in each other’s markets at prices lower than those possible for suppliers from third countries whose prices are held up to a threshold price level by the application of variable levies. This community preference is not a preference in the generally accepted sense of the word - for example, a tariff preference - because outside suppliers cannot overcome the disadvantage of the preference by lowering their prices. This would only mean an increase in the variable levies.
However, after ‘the meeting in May, we were told that as part of the negotiations the British had agreed that upon entry to the Community - generally regarded as being 1st January 1973 - they would adopt the mechanisms of the Common Agricultural Policy and would apply in full the principle of community preference. Furthermore, British quantitative import restrictions, which give some assurance of access for outside suppliers of some products, would be terminated from that date
This means that for products subject to the Common Agricultural Policy, Australian exports to Britain will face variable levies right from the beginning of the transitional period. Community suppliers will be able to undersell Austraiian products because of the operation of community preference. Quantitative restrictions which have assured access for Australian butter, cheese and apples will be abolished right from the beginning of the transitional period. The one exception is sugar, where Britain had already committed herself under the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement to continue as contracted until 31st December 1974. After that, Australian exports will be subject to transitional arrangements which have not yet been fully worked out. Britain’s adoption of the CAP for sugar also has far-reaching implications of the International Sugar Agreement.
For products which are to be subject to the Common External Tariff, rather than the CAP, the transitional period will provide some relief for Australian exports to Britain, but within 12 months of the operation of the transitional period, supplies of most of the products concerned originating from the members of the Community will receive a preference over outside suppliers.
When I stressed the serious implications these provisions would have for Australia’s exports of primary products, particularly for products like butter and sugar, the
British pointed out that, in agreeing to the arrangements I have just mentioned, they had obtained from the Six an understanding in relation to a safeguard clause to be used in the event of a disruption or threat of disruption of the trade of third countries. This safeguard clause provides that, if circumstances arise during the transitional period in which significant volumes of trade risk serious disruption, the enlarged Community will take effective action to deal with the situation. I have been given to understand this to mean that the enlarged Community would so manage its complicated protective system as to avoid too big or too sharp reductions in the trade of third countries.
The British Government asserts that the safeguard clause will be better from the point of view of protecting Australian trade interest during the transitional period than provisions for the gradual phasing-tn of community preference together with a gradual phasing-out of quantitative restrictions. Honourable senators will recall that whilst in London I referred publicly to the disappointment I had when I learnt of the terms that had been agreed upon in the negotiations. Australia was not party to the negotiations and there was little else to be done. I made strenuous efforts to see whether changes could be made and I also expressed grave concern that we were told of the change in the British negotiating position only after they had agreed to the terms so that we had no chance of influencing the course of the negotiations on this point.
This must all be accepted as history. We must now look to the future. The safeguard clause is what we have to protect our interests. The Australian Government accepted in good faith the statements from the parties to the negotiations that the transitional period would provide for the gradual adjustment by third country suppliers like Australia to the full conditions of access implicit upon Britain joining the Community. Britain has negotiated with the Six the safeguard clause as the way of achieving this. From now on Australia will be taking all possible steps to ensure that if a situation of the kind envisaged hy the safeguard clause is developing, the enlarged Community will take prompt and effective action to remedy the situation.
In my discussions overseas about Britain and the EEC I also reiterated the point previously made that measures should be adopted to ensure that exports from the Territory of Papua New Guinea are not placed at a disadvantage relative to imports into the enlarged Communities from other developing countries receiving special treatment. 1 have already said that Australia could not claim, as New Zealand did, that her economy was dependent on continued access to the British market for one or two primary commodities. By hard perseverence with Britain and the Six, New Zealand was able to persuade Britain to negotiate arrangements for continued, but decreasing, access for dairy products into Britain during the transitional period at least. I think that it should be recognised by all concerned that Australia had decided not to take any action which would hamper the New Zealand Government in obtaining recognition of the very special need to safeguard New Zealand’s trade interests.
We recognised that the decision to join the European Economic Community is for Britain and the other parties to the negotiations to take. We have stressed that in negotiating the terms for British entry and afterwards, the members of the enlarged Community should see to it that the Community plays a full and responsible role in international trade matters consistent with its position of the world’s largest trading entity.
If and when the expanded EEC becomes a reality, it together with those countries who are likely to be associated with it, will ; account for something like 40 per cent of ; the world trade, covering in all about 70 countries. This will be the most significant factor in the future of world trade which could operate in bringing about a new era. The responsibility is a heavy one, and as yet the EEC as such has shown no real signs of acknowledging that responsibility. Amongst the Commissioners and staff of the EEC and indeed amongst the governments of the Six I did find an awakening recognition of the significance of the EEC for world trade and the fact that so far the EEC has created particular problems for trade in agricultural products. However, during the formative years the internal problems of constructing such a vast enterprise have tended to concentrate the atten tion of the countries on their own internal problems. This means that despite the liberal outlook that individuals might have, the decision-making processes of the EEC have resulted so far in inward-looking decisions. It is important to the future of all world trade that, as time goes on, the liberal forces within the EEC make themselves felt more and more, resulting in the adoption by the expanded EEC of more outward-looking policies than in the past.
In the United States 1 also found a concern for the future of world trade related to the policies of the EEC both in protection for agriculture and the spread of new preferential agreements. The other particular concern in the United States is with the protective policies of Japan. These reflect the continuing problems which the United States has been experiencing in its balance of payments which have led to the serious measures which were announced by the President this week. These measures, on the trade side, included the imposition cf a temporary import levy of 10 per cent on about half of United States imports. Happily for Australia, some of our major exports to the United States - beef, sugar, alumina, beach sands, totalling about 70 per cent of our exports are exempt from the levy. However, the measures will have a marked effect on the trade with the United States of other countries such as Japan, and Australia’s exports of raw materials which are processed in Japan for re-export to the United States could he affected.
The one pleasing feature of the United States measures is that they have been clearly announced as temporary, to be removed when the causes of the current problems disappear. It had been feared that the rising protectionist sentiment in the United States, which arose because of the pressures on the United States trade balance, might result in the erection of permanent barriers to trade. This would be a setback to the whole trading world. Since the War the United States has been a leader in all the moves towards freer trade. The obvious answer now to the increasing protectionist sentiment would be a major international move designed to remove the current causes of friction. However, until the immediate and pressing problems are overcome the United States Administration would not be prepared to Undertake to seek from Congress a mandate for such a major international move, Indeed, the climate in the United States is such that it would be difficult for any Bill designed to free trade to succeed.
While in the United States 1 explored the possibility of reopening the question of the United States wool duty which has so long been a thorn in the side of our own trade with the United States. Whilst I received a sympathetic hearing on the difficulties of the Australian wool industry and on the importance for us of some movement in the United States wool duty, I was given clearly to understand that in the current circumstances there was no prospect of legislative action designed to open the way for an agreement leading to the reduction of the wool duty.
I have mentioned the problems which the United States Government feels with the protection used by Japan against its goods. Japan is our most important trading partner and it does maintain protective devices which restrict the imports also of a number of Australian commodities. Although Australia-Japan trade has been growing rapidly in recent years, our 2 Governments are agreed that there are prospects of further increasing that trade through co-operation and mutual consultation. Whilst in Japan I agreed with the Japanese Government to the establishment of a consultative committee dealing with economic matters, primarily trade, which will meet on a continuing basis and at ministerial level to discuss the issues which arise between us. If we face the restriction on our markets in Europe following the entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community, we will need to place increasing reliance on our established ties with Japan, and we must attempt to ensure that this relationship is developed as much as possible.
Whilst overseas I also attended a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, at which Australia was invited to become a member. At that meeting it was agreed to establish a very high-level study group consisting of a small number of very experienced and skilled men to prepare a study on the whole future of world trade. The mere fact that this study group has been established is a recognition that the main trading nations of the world recognise the dangers of the current situation and show a determination to look towards finding solutions in the future. We would expect the study group to report its findings within a year or so and this should be a blueprint towards the future development of international trading relations. It is therefore difficult now to ascertain where world trade policies will lead us in the future. One thing is clear. If the United Kingdom join the EEC then Australia will be on its own. We will no longer have our special trade relationship with the United Kingdom which has proved so valuable to us since the 1930s. I am sure that this country can stand on its own feet.
There is a clear prospect of disruption to some of our great primary industries through the complete or partial closure of their traditional market. This prospect gives us renewed incentives to continue to look elsewhere to develop markets in a world where consumption is expanding, and challenges us to find new ways of dealing with old problems. We may have to look to structural readjustments in some of our industries - a task which requires the joint effort of governments and the industries concerned.
– That is why we want a Royal Commission into the rural industries.
– I note your point. The statement continues: I am acutely conscious that such adjustments involve people - families and communities which have contributed their share to Australia’s prosperity and wellbeing for many years. It may be seen as part of the process of change which in the last quarter of a century this country has been able to accommodate itself to in such a way that people - individuals - have not had to carry the burden alone. If the re-shaping of Europe forces us to that kind of adjustment, it also holds out to us prospects for prosperity.
Since the EEC came into existence its trade with the rest of the world has grown, though not always in the area which we would have preferred; but it has grown nevertheless. Imports into the EEC have grown at the average annual rate of 9.0 per cent. The British, whose market is still enormous, argue that when they and the other applicants join the Community, their influence will be felt by an acceleration of growth of the total Community and that this in turn will have a stimulating effect on world trade.
Though, as I have said, I have reservations about the effect of this union on world agricultural exports, and hence on ours, if the British are right then we as one of the world’s big traders must be among the biggest beneficiaries. We have the raw materials which that vast market accounting for something like 40 per cent of world trade will be looking for. Moreover, if we can sell over SI 20m worth of manufactures on a straight competitive basis in a vast manufacturing country like the United States - as we did in 1969-70- and nearly S800m to all world markets, we should not be pessimistic about our ability to be competitive also in Europe.
Because the enlarged Community will account for about 40 per cent of world trade, we must come to trading terms with this Community. I am confident that we can find ways of doing so even if it has to be in a somewhat different range of products from those which traditionally we have sold to Britain. Whilst I do not attempt to hide the fact that we will have to face increased barriers to trade in these products and make consequential adjustments, I am not letting that fact blind me to the possibilities that exist for Australia in the new European situation. Whilst Australia has so far not got much from its relentless pressure over the last 20 years for liberalisation of agricultural trade, it may well be that a change of the kind that is about to occur was needed to get the results in international organisations, like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and OECD, which have been eluding us for the last decade or more.
– I move:
I ask for leave to make my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– by leave - The Treasurer (Mr Snedden) announced in the Budget Speech provision for deficiency payments, if required, to give wool growers an assured return during the 1971-72 season. Legislation to establish detailed conditions for the payments will be introduced into the Senate in the near future. In the meantime, to remove uncertainty, it is appropriate that I furnish the Senate with further particulars of what is intended.
The course of wool prices in 1970-71 gave the Government cause for grave concern. In the previous year, returns from sales of greasy wool had fallen drastically. This was compounded by severe drought in extensive areas of Australia. Seasonal conditions improved somewhat in 1970-71 but wool prices continued to fall, attaining an average price of only 29.34c per lb, the lowest point in 24 years. Taking into account the considerable increases in costs over the period it was in real terms a far lower price than that which growers were receiving 24 years earlier. In these circumstances it was necessary to consider what action was needed to assist farmers because of low wool prices. I say ‘farmers’ advisedly because most wool growers - other than some in the pastoral zone - derive part of their income from other enterprises, such as beef cattle, mutton, lamb, wheat and coarse grains. For a large segment of the farming community the wool price is an important determinant of income. Indeed, out of Australia’s 200,000 farm enterprises about 90.000 run more than 200 sheep.
Last year at this time returns from wool declined to the point where it was decided to provide up to $30m by way of special emergency assistance. This was made available to wool growers earning more than one third of their income from wool and suffering not less than an 8 per cent fall in their gross returns from wool below the previous year. In the event wool growers received some $2 1.3m, an average of over $1,000 for each person meeting the conditions. The 1970-71 wool selling season opened before this scheme was put into effect and shortly after the opening prices fell to 28c per lb greasy. It was in this context that the Australian Wool Commission was set up to even out fluctuations in the market. It commenced to operate on 16th November 1970. The Commission, after a short period when prices firmed a little, was confronted with a further weakening in demand. From January to June 1971 it therefore held its reserve prices firm at around the December closing levels.
Early in 1971, following an urgent examination of the need for reconstruction in primary industries, the rural reconstruction scheme involving the provision of $100m over 4 years was introduced. In this year’s Budget $40m of this allocation has been made available for the respective State administrative authorities for debt reconstruction and farm build-up purposes. For some farmers this provision will offer a way out of present difficulties.
The extent of the problem in the industry is best demonstrated by the marked decline in farmers’ wool income. Gross returns from wool fell from $839m in 1968-69 to $547m in 1970-71. Four out of the last 6 years have been ones of low income and for many associated with the industry accumulated debts are now imposing an impossible burden. During 1970-71 about 50,000 of the 90,000 woolgrowers were estimated to have had less than a $2,000 net farm income from which to live after servicing their debts. The critical income situation affects not only these wool growers but also the approximately one million people who are wholly or partly dependent on the wool industry in various ways.
The best advice available to the Government suggests that some improvement can be expected in wool prices. Accurate prediction is virtually impossible because of the many factors having a bearing on the price. The recent action by President Nixon to protect the United States’ economy has, moreover, introduced a new and complicating factor in the consideration of prices and the demand for wool in the 1971-72 season. Nevertheless, there has been evidence that the general recession in the whole of the textile industry is passing and trade assessments have been for an improvement in wool purchases in the coming year. In these circumstances, the Government has decided to supplement market returns on wool, to the extent that may be necessary, by deficiency payments. In this way growers will receive on all shorn wool, other than specified types of inferior wool, a return corresponding to an average price for the whole clip of 36c per lb greasy for 1971-72. In metric terms, which are now to be used in the wool trade, this is 79.37c per kilo. This price is significantly above the closing level of the market at the end of the 1970-71 season but, on the other hand, is capable of being reached if the market recovers. The position of the wool industry will again be reviewed in the light of demand and prices ruling towards the end of this financial year.
Honourable senators will be aware that at this level of prices, extensive industry adjustments will still be needed. The assistance to be provided is considered to be the minimum required to provide some counter to the present very serious situation. A return of 79.37c per kilo average will offer a reasonably firm base for immediate planning by producers and others associated with the industry. More generally this assistance will provide the much needed breathing space to enable adjustments to take place without the economic and social disruption which would otherwise occur. It will give time to see what does happen to the market for wool. In addition, it will allow some settlement of unsecured debts in rural communities very dependent on servicing the wool industry.
It is quite unrealistic to suggest that the deficiency payments scheme will impede or hinder the rural reconstruction scheme by encouraging to stay on their properties people who have no long term prospects of viability. The number of people who, unfortunately, will have to leave the industry even at the assured price levels is such as to present a reconstruction task as large as is manageable in one year. Certainly decisions affecting the permanent future of those who can carry on with only a modest price increase should not be made on the basis of price levels which we all hope are temporarily depressed below the long term trend.
It is with these factors in mind that I would like to outline some details of the operation of the deficiency payments scheme. It is intended that use will be made of the existing facilities of the Australian Wool Commission which, as an agent of the Commonwealth, will assist in distributing payments to wool growers through the agency of brokers and private wool merchants. Wool of certain inferior types, amounting to about 10 per cent of the clip, will not be eligible for deficiency payments. These inferior types frequently are not in strong demand and if they bore the full costs of handling and marketing would sometimes be sold at a loss. I table for the information of honourable members a list of the inferior types which will be excluded. With the concurrence of honourable senators I incorporate that list in Hansard.
Deficiency Payments for Wool
List of Inferior Types Excluded from the Scheme
Deficiency payments will be based on a price schedule prepared by the Australian Wool Commission for the various types of wool sold which would give an average of 79.37c per kilo over the whole season for the full clip. The total return for the 90 per cent of the clip which attracts deficiency payments will therefore average somewhat in excess of 79.37c per kilo. This is an average of 38.91c per lb on the 90 per cent of the clip. Following each week’s auction the Commission will calculate the average price for all eligible wools sold at auction during that week. For the same group of wools it will calculate the price which these would have brought if the prices in the schedule had applied, that is, if the full clip were to average 79.37c per kilo over the year. The Commission will convert the difference between these prices into the percentage by which the actual weekly average price received would need to be increased to bring it to a level equivalent to the average of 79.37c per kilo over the year for the full clip. The deficiency payment will be this percentage applied to the gross proceeds from eligible wool sold at auction during the week. In appraising the wool offered at auction the Commission will have indicated the lots of inferior wool which will not be eligible for deficiency payments. The broker on being notified by the Commission of the percentage deficiency payment will calculate for each client the deficiency payment on the eligible wool, and make the payments.
Similar arrangements will apply to wool sold privately. Deficiency payments will be made to growers through private wool selling merchants. The payments will be based on the percentage determined by the Commission from wool sold at auction for the week in which the private sale took place. Where there is a recess in the auction programme the percentage calculated for the last auction week before the recess will apply until auctions recommence. The percentage will be applied to the ex-farm price. For privately sold wool there is the problem that appraisement by the Commission of excluded wools would not be possible without undue interference with the trade. Accordingly, the private treaty merchants will have the percentage deficiency payment reduced to take account of excluded wools, by an amount calculated on each sale, which will depend on the average price of the wool sold. The proportion of the sale value of the wool which will attract a deficiency payment will be calculated so that in broad terms the same result will be obtained as if the wool had been appraised by the Commission and the inferior types excluded.
There will be a necessary amount of documentation to ensure that only wool growers receive benefit of deficiency payments, that double payments are not made on any wool and that the sale proceeds on which deficiency payments are based are the true proceeds. Each wool grower will need to sign a form attesting the price paid for his wool at a sale outside auction. For some direct sales to manufacturers and for exports the Commission will need to appraise each lot of wool and the deficiency payment will be based on the average market price for the eligible wool and the relevant deficiency payment percentage. The intention is that all wool traders who are to pass on deficiency payments will be registered. Such persons will need to agree with the Commonwealth to comply with the arrangements of the scheme and to pass on to the woo (grower or his agent, his entitlement to the deficiency payment. Wool exported on sheep skins constitutes an important part of our overseas trade in wool. The Government considered the possibility of extending deficiency payments to this wool but has decided that as sheep skins are a separate produce from wool they should be excluded from the scheme. In this situation deficiency payments may provide some inducement for growers to shear before sale of sheep. The incentive to do so will depend upon the course of the wool market. Should there be a substantial change in the supply of sheep skins with full wool, the Government may need to consider some action to take this into account. Wool derived from the fellmongering process, buyers’ samples, dealers’ wool, buyers’ resales and commission resales will also be excluded from deficiency payments.
The wool industry has in recent years become increasingly geared to electronic data processing in the calculation of accounts. There will be some delay while these facilities are reprogrammed to allow for the deficiency payment scheme. 1 am confident that for those in desperate circumstances, the broking houses and other suppliers of credit to the wool industry will take into account the additional payment which will be forthcoming. It is expected that the payments will commence in October. These will include all deficiency payments due up till that time whether sale is by auction or by a private dealer. From then on they will be made on a current basis.
After a thorough investigation of the position regarding disposal of wool by producers in the current fiscal year, it has been decided that equitable treatment between growers would be best served by having the scheme run from 2nd July 1971 to 30th June 1972. Any wool sold and delivered by a producer in this period will be eligible for a deficiency payment. The percentage which will be used to calculate deficiency payments on wools sold privately prior to the opening sale of the 1971-72 season will be that applying to wool sold at auction in the first week of the new season’s sales.
Earlier in this statement I referred to the fact that wool exported direct by growers would need to be appraised by the Commission. Where wool has already left the country, if it is to be eligible for a deficiency payment it will be necessary that arrangements be made with the Commission where possible for appraisement as to type and value overseas. Unless suitable arrangements can be made it will not be possible to make a deficiency payment on such wools. Wool growers would have little to gain by attempting to take advantage of the scheme by shearing and delivering wool before the normal time. Prematurely shorn wool in normal trade practice is discounted in price and this would offset the apparent benefit. This aspect moreover will be kept under review and should it appear necessary to avoid advantage being taken of the arrangements in this way, appropriate adjustments will be made to the scheme.
The assured return to producers will be a combination of two elements, the price paid in the market and deficiency payments. As I have already announced, the Australian Wool Commission will continue to be supported by the Government in its market operations on the same basis as in the past season. As in 1970-71, the Government will advance funds for the purchase of wool by the Commission, and against possible losses. Provisions totalling $14m have been made in the Budget for these purposes to be kept under review in the light of experience and regular reports by the Commission. The Government has agreed that the inferior wools excluded from deficiency payments will also be excluded by the Commission from its reserve price arrangements. In 1970-71 the administrative costs of the Commission were met in part by a contribution from the Australian Wool Board towards the cost of the price averaging plan and partly by a repayable Commonwealth Government loan. For this year, as provided for in the Wool Commission Act, a charge which is expected to be of the order of 0.4 per cent of the gross proceeds from the sale of wool will be made on growers to cover the Commission’s administrative costs. The Commission’s costs of administering the deficiency payments scheme on behalf of the Commonwealth will, however, be met separately by the Government.
As I said earlier, the measures outlined above are only part of the Government’s comprehensive approach to the social and economic problems of rural industry. In addition to present measures the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch) will be shortly announcing a scheme for the retraining of persons displaced from rural industry. It is confidently believed that the deficiency payments scheme will encourage confidence and help to re-establish the flow of money which has been interrupted by uncertainty in country areas. It will tend to avoid precipitate action by lenders to realise on their securities. Indeed the whole question of credit is of increasing importance to the rural industries and there are clear indications of a need to re-examine the demand for, and supply of, credit in the rural sector, in these circumstances I have asked for the advice of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics on the adequacy of existing credit facilities.
Mr President, the Government is not happy at the necessity to introduce a deficiency payments scheme for wool. This is an industry with a long tradition of standing on its own feet meeting the fluctuations of the market place. The export income earned by this industry over the years has enabled the development of secondary and tertiary industries and has been of immeasurable benefit to our economy. In the past Australia has indeed ridden on the sheep’s back. Now the industry faces a crisis. While there is reason to hope for improvements in prices above the present disastrously low levels, the development of the synthetic fibre industries around the world means that today wool as a textile fibre faces different and more intensive competition than ever before. Substantial re-structuring and re-adjustments in the industry are inevitable. The purpose of the 1-year deficiency payment scheme is to provide some cushioning of the effects of the price decline so that the re-structuring can take place in a more orderly manner than if the full effects of what can reasonably be considered to be over depressed price levels are allowed free play. In the same way as the full effects of overseas price trends are moderated for our secondary industries in appropriate circumstances by a measure of tariff protection, so it is necessary and justifiable this year, in the judgment of the Government, to provide the wool industry with the assistance represented by the scheme of deficiency payments which I have outlined.
PLACING of BUSINESS
– by leave - Mr President, to help me in my various other activities may 1 move to the placing of business and deal with something under that heading before you deal with the discovery of formal business? There is a motion to disallow an ordinance which has to be dealt with. That will come on almost immediately. After we have disposed of this matter I wish to move that intervening business be postponed until after consideration of General Business. Order of the Day No. 19. That will be some time tonight, presumably.
Senator Byrne - I am a little at a loss regarding the statement on the wool industry just read by the Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman). ls no further action to be taken on that paper? Is not the debate to be adjourned?
– I looked to the Opposition to see whether it wished to do that. Is there an agreement about this matter?
– 1 discussed this with Senator Little and we agreed that as it was part of the Budget there was no need to take note of the paper. There will be legislation before us at a later stage. Senator Byrne did not know that I had discussed this with Senator Little.
– Are you agreeable now, Senator Byrne?
– With respect to Senator Willesee, I think that this is a very important statement and I do not think it would be right for the paper to be passed over unnoticed. I think that formally, at least, we should take note of the paper even though it is part of the Budget.
– If that is so I move:
That the Senate take note of the Statement.
I ask for leave to make my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) agreed to:
That, after consideration of Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, intervening business be postponed until after consideration of General Business, Order of the Day No. 19.
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY PAROLE OF PRISONERS ORDINANCE No. 3 of 1971
Motion to Disallow Ordinance
– I ask for leave to amend slightly the notice of motion relating to the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance 1971.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Perhaps we could pause for a moment to consider this.
– This is the same matter that was dealt with in the House of Representatives, I wish to amend the notice of motion to read:
That section 3 (2.) and section 5 of the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance 1971, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 3 of 1971, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1970, be disallowed.
– I move:
As indicated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) the objection of the Opposition to this Ordinance is limited to section 3 (2.) and section 5. By way of introduction I point out that what this Ordinance seeks to achieve is in line with provisions which are already part of the criminal law of most States. Honourable senators who have time to read in the daily newspapers reports of criminal trials will have noticed from time to time that the presiding judge, in sentencing a prisoner, will set a non-parole period. This Ordinance seeks to import into the law of the Australian Capital Territory the same procedure whereby a judge may impose a minimum non-parole period in the sentences imposed on people convicted in these courts. We believe that this is a sound principle and we do not object to it. What we object to are the machinery provisions in the sections mentioned by Senator Murphy under which it is proposed that this procedure should be carried out. Section 3(2.) states:
A reference in this Ordinance to the GovernorGeneral shall be read as a reference to the Governor-General acting with the advice of the Attorney-General.
Section 5 sets out the method by which a decision by a judge that there should be a minimum non-parole period shall be carried into effect. The relevant portion is contained in section 5(2.) which states:
Subject to this section, the Governor-General may, in his discretion, by order in writing direct that a person, being a person who is serving a term of imprisonment for an offence in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment has been fixed in pursuance of this Ordinance, be released from prison on parole at a time specified in the order, being a time that is after the expiration of that minimum term of imprisonment.
The objection we have to this provision is that it places in the hands of the Executive an unfettered jurisdiction to administer this quite progressive provision which is being imported into the law of the Australian Capital Territory. To underline this aspect we point to the manner in which this is carried out in the States. In New South Wales, for example, the administration of the legislation relating to a minimum parole period is in the hands of a Parole Board. The Parole Board in New South Wales consists of a judge of the Supreme Court, a judge of the District Court, a person who is the Registrar of the University of Sydney, a retired former UnderSecretary of Justice, the Comptroller-General of Prisons, and a businessman who, in this case, happens to be the personnel manager of the Leyland Motors organisation and who also is on the executive of the Prisoners’ Aid Society. In Victoria there are 2 parole boards - one for males and one for females. Both boards are presided over by a Supreme Court judge. Victoria also has a separate special youth parole board.
In our submission, this system of parole boards is a vastly superior system to vesting the power to carry out the decisions of the judges of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory in the AttorneyGeneral. That, in effect, is what it amounts to. We submit that, even though this might be considered to be a purely executive function, it should be treated as a continuing part of the judicial process and, that being the case, it is desirable that it be in the hands of an entirely independent board, such as is the case in New South Wales and Victoria.
It may be said, and it has been said in the debate in the other place, that the Attorney-General, in exercising this power, is in one sense under a greater sanction than ever a parole board is. It may be claimed that the Attorney-General, being answerable to the Parliament, is under considerable pressure to exert the utmost care, humanity and conscientiousness in the exercise of this prerogative because his actions will be subjected to the scrutiny of the Parliament. But, in our submission, this really begs the whole question. Even if the Attorney-General or, as would be the actual practice, one of his officers were to give all these matters the utmost consideration and to examine them with the greatest conscientiousness, they are, by the very nature of circumstances, not as appropriate as a parole board to exercise this jurisdiction.
For example, the Attorney-General who, of course, has many problems on his plate - I do not think I will hear from the Attorney-General any dissent from that proposition - would not, in the nature of things, be able to give to this matter the consideration that would be given to it by a board specially set up for the purpose. In practice the exercise of his function would devolve on one of his officers. In the last analysis, of course, we could assume the Attorney-General would make the decision himself. I am not suggesting, especially in relation to the present Attorney-General, that he would be a rubber stamp for any of his officers. Nonetheless he would have to be guided to a great extent by the recommendation of one of his officers. This is a very dangerous power to repose in some anonymous public servant. How do we know that such a man might not have special ingrained prejudices on some matter or other? He examines these matters in the quiet of his own office. He is not under any sort of scrutiny. He may be a man. for example, who has a view that certain types of crimes are more serious than they are regarded by the community at large.
Let me quote an example of this sort of prejudice. I am not suggesting that this is a political prejudice or anything of that nature. In New South Wales in quite recent times there was functioning in the Wollongong area a magistrate who took a view of driving offences which was quite out of touch with the general community view of the seriousness of such offences. At that time the Wollongong district was subject to a great number of accidents caused by careless drivers, and this magistrate considered that it was his function to deter such practices by the imposition of savagely deterrent sentences. I recall that on one occasion he disqualified a driver for 20 years for having smooth tyres on his vehicle. The decisions of this magistrate were regularly reversed on appeal by the judge who sat on these matters in that district. But that did not deter this magistrate from proceeding with the savage sentences, which were out of all proportion to the offences.
That is an extreme example. I quote it to underline the danger of having the consideration of the fate of a prisoner, who has been condemned to a term of imprisonment, ultimately in the hands of 1 man - whether he be the Attorney-General, applying his mind assiduously to the problem and considering all the circumstances in detail as one would hope he would be able to do but which one doubts he would find the time to do, or whether he be merely one of the Attorney-General’s officers. This danger that there might be a blind spot in relation to certain types of crimes is infinitely less in the case of a parole board of the type I have mentioned as operating in New South Wales and Victoria. After all, one of the most important considerations, especially in the sphere of criminal law, is that in the eyes of the public at large, and especially of people who fall foul of the criminal law, there should be the appearance of justice as well as the existence of justice.
These are the dangers that we see in confining the decision on whether a prisoner who has been sentenced under this legislation should be released at the end of his non-parole period or whether he should serve a longer period. We see the vesting of this power in 1 man - that is what it amounts to - as largely vitiating the progressive feature of this legislation. It might be argued, and it has been argued in the consideration of this ordinance in another place, that a comparison between the Australian Capital Territory and one of the major States, such as New South Wales or Victoria, is not apposite because in those major States the amount of work coming before a parole board is so much greater than it would be in a smaller place such as the Australian Capital Territory that the justification for the parole board which is to be found in those States does not exist in the Australian Capital Territory.
But, in our submission, this also misses the point because, if the principle is established that the parole board is a superior body for carrying out this task, the validity of the argument that it would not have to meet often and, one hopes, would not have a great number of cases to deal with goes by the board. After all, if such a parole board were set up under the chairmanship of a Supreme Court judge of the Australian Capital Territory and with citizens of the type I have mentioned as operating in New South Wales and Victoria, the fact that it would not have a great deal to do would not matter. One does not envisage such a board as consisting of people who have no other functions any more than that is the case in New South Wales and Victoria. Also it must be taken into account that although this is now a small place, relatively, it is growing place and unfortunately when urban communities grow crime appears to increase. Regrettable though it may be, one can envisage that there would be more work for a parole board in the future than there is at present. For these reasons the Opposition considers that these sections of the ordinance should be disallowed in order that a superior form of machinery which has been tested and found adequate in the other States may also be applied in the Australian Capital Territory.
Sirring suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
– The motion is one for the disallowance of certain clauses of the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance 1971. I listened to what Senator James McClelland had to say. J was expecting some representative of the Opposition to second the motion. That does not appear to be the prospect ahead of me. As Senator James McClelland indicated, the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance introduces a desirable and progressive step in the administration of justice in the Australian Capital Territory. In essence it provides that when a prisoner is convicted of an offence a judge shall fix not only the term of imprisonment which he determines is appropriate but also a minimum term of imprisonment. This procedure, which is well established in the States, is one which, at the expiration of the minimum term, enables a prisoner to be given the benefit of being released on parole. He has to be of good behaviour for the balance of the term of imprisonment. This procedure is accepted in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Canada and all Australian States. The system operates also under the Commonwealth Prisoners Act which was passed by this Parliament in 1967 and which relates to the position of offenders who have been convicted of offences against Commonwealth laws.
I think that it should be pointed out that no uniform pattern prevails throughout the States. Queensland, Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria have a system under which, after a minimum term of imprisonment has been served, a parole board examines the position of a prisoner and decides whether he should be released on parole. There is no obligation on a parole board to release a prisoner on parole because he has served the minimum term of imprisonment fixed by the judge who passed sentence. The matter is one for the parole board to determine in the light of the information which is available to it and which it thinks it should ascertain in order to enable it to make a better decision. In 4 States a parole board makes the decision. In Tasmania and South Australia a parole board does not make the decision. To use the general descriptive expression which has been used by Senator James McClelland, the Executive determines whether a prisoner should be released on parole. Under the Commonwealth Prisoners Act, which was passed by this Parliament in 1967 and which was concerned with offenders against laws of the Commonwealth who were incarcerated in State gaols, the position as laid down and as embodied in the enactment is that the Governor-General, acting on the advice of the Attorney-General, determines whether prisoners are to be released on parole. In short form, that is the position which prevails throughout Australia at the moment in the context of the issues which have been raised by this motion.
This motion seeks to disallow 2 sections of the ordinance. What does the ordinance provide? It simply provides that when a person is sentenced a judge shall fix a minimum term of imprisonment. If the judge omits to do so an entitlement is given to the prisoner to apply to the court for a minimum term to be fixed. When the minimum term of imprisonment has been served the Governor-General may decide that the prisoner should be released on such conditions as he determines. Among the conditions which he determines is one which requires the person to be under the supervision of what might be described broadly as a parole officer. The ordinance contains other provisions which provide that if a person breaks a condition of his parole or if he otherwise engages in conduct by which he commits an offence against the taws of the land he may be apprehended, he may have his parole cancelled and a warrant may be issued for his arrest. There is provision for him to appeal against any provision which cancels his parole. There is vested in the Governor-General power to vary or to revoke the conditions upon which parole was granted.
– Does that happen very often in the States?
– I am not able to answer that question as accurately as I think Senator Webster would require. It certainly happens that from time to time persons who are released on parole break the conditions of their parole and are brought before the courts. If they are brought before the courts the obligation upon them can be to serve not only the remainder of the term of imprisonment for which they were sentenced originally and on which they were released on parole but also such further term of imprisonment as may be ordered for the offence which they committed subsequently and which, coincidentally, involved a breach of the original parole.
The objection taken by the Australian Labor Party to the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance is that the Governor-General, acting on the advice of the AttorneyGeneral, has the power to determine whether a prisoner should be released on parole. Senator James McClelland pointed to the fact that in the States a parole board and not the Executive authority makes this decision. I feel that the cogency of his case is weakened to some extent when it is recognised that not all States ha« this uniform procedure. Two States, Tasmania and South Australia, do not have a parole board.
– South Australia has a parole board.
– I am surprised that Senator Cavanagh should say that, because that is contrary to the advice that I have received. I have not the detailed information which he has. If he is correct I must review the instructions which I have received. As I understand the position and on the basis of what I have been told, I make the assertion that 4 of the 6 States have a parole board.
I feel that there are several reasons why the Senate should not disallow this provision and why it should not regard the argument of Senator James McClelland as persuasive. The first is that Senator James McCIelland’s argument proceeds on the assumption that the question of whether or not a person should be allowed out on parole after he has concluded his minimum term of imprisonment is a continuing part of the judicial process and therefore should not be a function committed to the Executive. He has urged that it should be committed to an independent body - independent in the sense that it is not part of the Executive - and that it should be regarded as part of a continuing judicial process, if I remember his expression.
I question whether the fact is that the decision as to whether or not a prisoner should be allowed out on parole is part of the judicial process. The judicial process is involved in the assessment and determination of facts, the adjudication of whether or not a person is guilty and the imposition of a sentence. But once that sentence is imposed the law takes over and thereafter whether or not a person is to serve the full term of his sentence is wholly outside the judicial sphere and is within the area of administration or within the area of executive authority.
In those circumstances I would think that an examination of the functions of the parole boards in those States which do have parole boards which can make the decisions clearly indicates that there is no exercise of a judicial discretion. The parole boards are not judicial bodies even though they happen to be presided over by judges. They are not obliged to act judicially. They are not obliged to observe what in certain areas would be regarded as the canons of natural justice. They are not obliged to bring the prisoner before them. They are entitled to inform themselves in such ways as they think appropriate, and that to me would be an inconsistent way for a judicial body to act if it could be regarded as being a continuing part of the judicial process. In short, the’ parole boards in the decisions they make are acting administratively. They may not be part of the Executive, which is the executive authority of government, but they are certainly not part of a judicial process.
Indeed, it would be anomalous if we were to regard the determination of whether or not a person shall be released upon parole as part of the judicial process because it would indicate that there was a judicial scrutiny which was continuing right throughout the period of sentencing, and that I believe would be inimical to the best interests of what the judiciary is called upon to perform. In short, the function of a parole board, the function of any executive authority which determines whether or not parole is to be granted, the function of the Governor-General in this particular ordinance is to determine whether, in the light of such facts as appear to it to be relevant, that which the law has determined should be regarded as capable of dispensation as that board, executive authority or the Governor-General considers appropriate.
The second reason is, I think, that whatever be the merits of a parole board as a body to make this assessment in the States there is no practical necessity or good commonsense reason why there should be a parole board in the Australian Capital Territory. I am not averse to the concept of a parole board, nor is the Government, but I think we ought to look at it in terms of whether it is a practicable and reasonable proposition. Where a parole board operates in the States, the members of the parole board have acquired expertise because they have been dealing with the problems of whether or not a prisoner should be on parole as a matter of daily or weekly consideration. They have learnt what are the considerations which ought to be applied, and because of the expertise which they have developed they do an increasingly effective job. But that is only because they have a number of cases in which they have to give consideration to relevant issues.
But what is the position in the Australian Capital Territory? It is totally different from the situation which prevails in the States. I am advised that on a recent survey which has been conducted there are at the present time only some 37 persons serving sentences for offences against the laws of the Australian Capital Territory: Of those 37 persons only 2 are eligible for parole. Is it reasonable that we should establish in the Australian Capital Territory a parole board which is designed to consider parole questions in the Australian Capital Territory when the volume of activity which it might reasonably expect to look at is so limited as to make it a relatively superfluous body, unable to acquire the expertise which parole boards in the States acquire, meeting so occasionally as to make the performance of its functions little different from and, I believe, certainly no more capable of being performed than the functions of the Governor-General acting on the advice of the AttorneyGeneral? In short, I fail to see why there is a case made out in the Australian Capital Territory at the present time for a parole board when the volume of its activity must be so limited. I recognise much merit in what Senator James McClelland has said but I also recognise the practicalities of the situation. If and when the volume of criminal activity in the Australian Capital Territory develops to the stage where there is a real need for a body to determine when persons on whom minimum sentences have been imposed should or should not be released upon parole I would give consideration to the appointment of a parole board. But I certainly feel that that case is not made out at the present time.
I think that a further fact which ought to have some relevance with the Senate is the fact that in 1967 the Commonwealth Prisoners Act was passed. That, of course, was legislation which was canvassed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate dealing meticulously clause by clause with what was contained in the Bill. It was not, as we are all well aware as a result of what has happened in recent days, an ordinance which was presented to the Senate for acceptance or rejection in toto, as it were. The Commonwealth Prisoners Bill contains a clause which in its substantive provisions is identical with the provisions which are contained in the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance. Section 5(1.) of the Commonwealth Prisoners Act is identical with clause 5 (2.) of the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance. If one looks at the succeeding provisions of section 5 and clause 5 one finds that there is a comparability.
If it was good enough for the Parliament to pass a law under which the Governor-General, acting upon the advice of the Attorney-General, could direct whether or not a person serving a term of imprisonment for an offence against a law of the Commonwealth in respect of which a minimum term of imprisonment has been fixed should be released from prison on parole at a time specified in the order - I emphasise that that bears the imprimatur of the Parliament - why should the Senate in regard to a comparable provision for the Australian Capital Territory regard that comparable provision as in some way being inadequate or not being effective to be brought into law. I feel that this is a matter which requires more explanation than has been given by Senator James McClelland who spoke on behalf of the Australian Labor Party in support of this provision. I think that if there is to be a disallowance of this provision the consequences should be recognised. I do not want to stress this matter too emphatically because I think it ought to be a consideration which should bear with members of the Australian Labor Party having regard to the consequences which have flowed from the disallowance of another ordinance in recent times. But if this ordinance is to grant a minimum term of imprisonment and thereafter to allow the GovernorGeneral, acting on the advice of the Attorney- General, to determine when that minimum term of imprisonment has been served, whether a person should be released upon parole, the removal from the ordinance of that power means that there is nothing in the ordinance to enable a person to be released on parole. The removal of these 2 clauses simply gives the shell of a provision without anything in it which gives it point or meaning. In short, we would have a power vested in the judge, and a provision for a prisoner to apply to a judge if the judge omitted to act initially, to fix a minimum term of imprisonment. When that minimum term of imprisonment was served there would be no function, no power, no authority, nobody at all to decide what was to be done.
– That could easily be rectified, could it not?
– It is all very well for the Opposition to say: ‘We shall repeal these provisions’, and thereafter to say: ‘Well, it is up to somebody else to fill the vacuum which we have created.’ To me that is not a responsible attitude. We saw that happen last week. As I indicated earlier today, when I come forward with some proposal to deal with that vacuum which is created 1 am challenged because I am not following the course which the Opposition believes should be followed. I believe that while the Government of this country is charged with the responsibility given to it by electors it should exercise the authority which this mandate requires and therefore determine the course. If the Senate - one House of the Parliament - decides that it does not agree with what the Government is doing then I believe that above all else it has a responsibility to decide what it is going to put in its place.
If the Opposition believes that some parole board should be established to deal with the minimum number of cases which are required under the existing application of the Act then I suppose it has some case to justify why such a parole board should be established. There is a commonsense way of looking at this matter. If we do not have the volume of activity such as the States have to warrant the apparatus of a fully qualified law reform body, then why should we not have the system which prevails with regard to the exercise by the Governor-General of the prerogative of mercy which has been operating for a number of years? I think all honourable senators are aware that at the present time prisoners whether they are sentenced under the Crimes Act under laws of the Commonwealth or under laws of the Territory have a right to apply for the exercise of that prerogative. I mention that not because one invites applications but because it is a fact that such applications are made. Advice is tendered to the Governor-General by the Attorney-General. I know that that advice is tendered carefully and after a very full examination of the facts because in my short tenure in this office I have had occasion to examine the position.
– The honourable senator would want them there for life.
– I heard Senator Poyser’s interruption. 1 do not think it adds to the discussion of this problem because it represents an unreal, very political and not helpful approach to the subject. The point is that when these applications are made naturally as much research is made as officers of my Department are capable of making. Their researches come to the Attorney-General of the day. I do not believe that any Attorney-General does not scrutinise what is put before him with the utmost care and in the exercise of his own judgment. From what Senator James McClelland said, he conceded every word of what I said. I do not think it flows from what he said that he ought to contemplate that at some time in the future there might be some officer who does not look at the position in that way. When the material goes to the person who has to make the decision he is given as full and adequate information as can be given. I do not believe that that is an ineffective or inadequate method of coping with the question of whether a person who has served a minimum term of imprisonment should be allowed out on parole. I believe that that is an effective and useful way of dealing with the current circumstances applying in the Australian Capital Territory.
My final point is to be found in clause 5 (5.) of the Parole of Prisoners Ordinance. This is one of the clauses which the Australian Labor Party wants the Senate to disallow. A parole order which is an order made by the Governor-General is expressed to be in these terms: (5.) A parole order -
If the Governor-General makes an order he will make it only on the basis that a person is to be subject to supervision. If the prisoner happens to be - as all our prisoners are - in a New South Wales gaol it is likely that he will be placed under the supervision of a parole officer. The availability of these parole officers is a factor which is taken into account in the advice which is tendered to the GovernorGeneral. If he is not likely to be in New South Wales or another State and is to come back to the Australian Capital Territory then we have a rehabilitation committee - a voluntary body in the Australian Capital Territory - which has members and officers who are capable of fulfilling the roles comparable to those of parole officers and under whose supervision these persons can be placed. We have a system under this ordinance which is designed to accord with the system which prevails in the States and with the provision which the Parliament enacted in relation to Commonwealth prisoners who have offended against Commonwealth laws.
I do not believe that it is to the advantage of the progressive law reform measures which have been appearing in increasing numbers in the Australian Capital Territory to remove from this ordinance the provisions which the Australian Labor Party wants to remove. Not only will it render nugatory desirable legislation but it will create an impossible situation in the immediate future because there will be no ready means within 6 months of producing substitute provisions which would even take account of the matters with which they are concerned. I believe that we ought to recognise that the Australian Capital Territory has laws made for its good government under the provisions of an Act of Parliament which enables the Executive to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Australian Capital Territory. Whilst that provision remains, ordinances such as this are being made and are being made, as I see it, in a style and manner which renders credit to those who devise them - ordinances which in their operation are designed to keep abreast of the desirable changes in State laws. I think it would be a regrettable and unfortunate step if the Senate were to disallow what is accepted on all sides as desirable legislation.
– In presenting his propositions to the Senate Senator McClelland, I thought, expressed by inference a point of view that would be shared by all honourable senators in this chamber. The inference in Senator McClelland’s proposition is that the science of penology today is a developing science to which there must be gradually attracted a great deal of expertise and this can only finally be applied to the regeneration of unfortunates who find themselves in our prisons by bodies expertly equipped in personnel and in the particular disciplines to do the task which is so important. Candidly that is a belief which all honourable senators in this chamber would share. I think it is one that would be shared by all those in the community who are interested in this developing science of penology. Perhaps of all the social sciences this is the one which until now has received the least attention but it is one which in the future must receive increasing attention because of the proliferation of unfortunates - I use the term again - who are cluttering our prisons and because of the social responsibility which rests upon all of us to try to return them to the normalities of life and participation in the ordinary responsibilities of citizenship. However, it is on that issue that I am in conflict with Senator McClelland on the proposition put forward by Senator Murphy.
If we agree that the basic idea common to all of us is that the regeneration of prisoners in the best way and in the shortest possible time is what should affect our decision, it seems to me that the question is whether that is more likely to be affected by the provisions of this ordinance than by an attempt to create a parole board in this community. The proposition is fairly clear in those terms. Senator Greenwood has pointed out certain difficulties which present themselves in the creation, establishment and conduct of a parole board in the Australian Capital Territory. After all, a parole board may be created from a number of people who from their professional disciplines or their social interests have been identified with this type of work and this type of activity. But this is an area of social science which is rapidly changing and in which, due to the contribution of academics and those working pragmatically actually in the field of regeneration of prisoners, there is a developing body of expertise which can be commanded and applied only by those who are constantly working in the field and who have a constant experience before them which they are able to apply, bring up to date and direct to those who may come before them for their guidance and advice. I do not think in all the circumstances in which the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has indicated this board would operate that a parole board in this Territory will be able to accumulate from day to day beyond its commencing point this increasing body of knowledge which is becoming available and which parole boards that have a heavy and continuous workload, that are constantly in session and that are constantly reviewing the position of many inmates of institutions and prisons in the State are able to command.
The position that Senator Greenwood has mentioned is that only 2 prisoners are immediately available for parole. If that is the only work the parole board immediately has before it, and perhaps some months or some years would go before it would again be asked to direct its mind to another matter, there is obviously no continuing body of experience coming to such a board. If the Governor-General were to operate in a social vacuum without advice, without assistance and without guidance, I would say that on the balance of advantages it would be better to accept a parole board even of that kind and subject to those deprivations rather than to leave the matter to the under-instructed decision of the Governor-General acting on the advice of a purely Public Service administrative officer. I understand that is not the position. Actually the parole board of New South Wales will be available for advice and consultation. It would have no executive authority undoubtedly but it would have a body of experts equipped by their professional competence and by their continuing experience to advise the AttorneyGeneral, who in turn advises the GovernorGeneral, as to whether leniency ar parole should be extended in a particular case. If such a board is available it is really the best that one could command in Australia.
It would be foolish if we were to be deprived in this part of Australia of such a body of expert guidance merely on a technicality. 1 see it as very little more than that, lt would be better to have a board deprived of knowledge and experience or lacking in those things but having the technical capacity to parole than to allow the technical capacity to rest in the AttorneyGeneral or His Excellency the GovernorGeneral on the advice of the most expert board operating in Australia. On the balance of advantages I think undoubtedly for the Australian Capital Territory, in view of the deprivations which must come to this board due to the very few people who would come before it over a period of time, that such a board initially would be at a disadvantage and ultimately at a grave and accelerating disadvantage. As the Attorney-General has said, it is not merely that the board releases a prisoner on parole. From then on there will be supervision. That is particularly important with younger criminals and younger men and women are coming before the courts. That is an unfortunate trend in our community. It is important that these young people have the constant care and solicitude of an experienced parole officer.
If within the Australian Capital Territory on the mere technical decision of the Attorney-General advising the GovernorGeneral a young person were released from prison on parole, I do not think it would be wise for him then to be severed from all connection with any guidance, solicitude, care or instruction. I think it would be indefensible. I inquired about this because it would be necessary for us to make up our minds in relation to this ordinance. Probably some parole officer in New South Wales will initally have his services made available and will probably be duly appointed on whatever is the appropriate type and term of appointment to look after young people of this kind. Ultimately as the system develops and as Canberra grows and the unfortunate need becomes greater, a parole officer or officers will be appointed in the Australian Capital Territory.
I know that Senator Murphy regards keenly the question of endowing the Executive authority over the lives and liberties of people. I appreciate that. I feel in this case that it is a solicitude which may be exaggerated on the one hand but, if one were to rest on that on the other hand there would be a tremendous deprivation of this body of knowledge, skill and experience which would by the administrative arrangements which are contemplated, flow from the operation of the ordinance in conjunction with the authorities in New South Wales. It would be a pity if the Australian Capital Territory were to be deprived of that assistance, that advice and that body of expert opinion and great experience. For those reasons the Australian Democratic Labor Party does not see any great merit in disallowing this ordinance. We oppose the motion of disallowance and support the ordinance as it stands at the present time.
– There are some important matters raised here apart from whether the particular clauses of the ordinance should be disallowed. I am disturbed to hear the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) speak as he did a few moments ago. He suggests to the Senate that it should not disallow the portions to which objection is taken because the matter cannot be rectified and because something cannot be done about it for 6 months. The Attorney-General has in effect said: ‘If you were to disallow that pari of the ordinance to which you object von would create a situation which would be harmful. Therefore you should not disallow it’. That argument is one which could be raised again and again. It is virtually a challenge to the Senate not to exercise its powers of disallowance.
If this type of argument were persisted in it could result in increasing pressure being brought to bear in the Senate for matters concerning the Australian Capital Territory to be dealt with by the Parliament itself in the form of legislation and not by ordinances. It is quite apparent that if measures of this nature were brought into the Parliament in the form of Bills we could, if we wanted to change some provision, rectify it then and there by way of an amendment. If we wanted to delete from such legislation any provision in relation to the Executive control of prisoners and substitute a provision for the control of them by a parole board we could do so there and then.
– What about the regulations generally? It would be necessary to have a substitute statute book for ail regulations, even outside of the Territory. How far would the Leader of the Opposition take that proposition?
– As I understand the situation, before the present AttorneyGeneral adopted this attitude, AttorneysGeneral took the view that if the Senate made it clear that it did not want a particular provision in an ordinance - if it disallowed a regulation on a particular basis - they, as the representative of the Government, or the appropriate Minister in the case of some subordinate legislation, take the appropriate steps to meet the will of the Parliament. For example, if a regulation were disallowed on the basis that it was thought that the control of the situation should be in the hands of a parole board, the former Attorneys-General would have drafted a regulation or introduced legislation to meet the Senate’s wishes. The present Attorney-General has in effect said: ‘If you dare to disallow any of the provisions I have made 1 will leave the lot of them in a disorganised state. I am not going to take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation. I am going to leave the situation as it is. You have deprived prisoners of a particular benefit because you want to create a greater benefit for them. You will have to answer for what has happened’. I do not think that that is a helpful attitude to adopt. I do not think that it is an attitude that ought to be encouraged. I would respectfully suggest that it is an attitude that ought not to be adopted on this or any other occasion. I think it would be much better if everyone were allowed to express his opinion and every endeavour were made to ensure that any faults in the law were rectified so that no-one suffered any unnecessary damage because of a particular provision of the law. I think that that is the proper attitude to adopt. I hope it is the attitude that will be adopted in the future.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that it is the attitude I have consistently adopted.
– That does not seem to me evident from the Attorney-General’s remarks. I hope that what he has said tonight can be taken as an indication of the attitude he will adopt in the future. .
It seems to be common ground that, if it is at all possible, the exercising of authority by a parole board is more desirable than the exercising of authority by the Executive. Whether the authority is exercised by the Governor-General on the advice of the Attorney-General or by someone else in the Executive does not matter because it boils down to much the same thing, lt would be far better to have authority exercised by a parole board. What are the arguments against adopting this course? lt has been said that there are only a few prisoners in the Australian Capital Territory, that no expertise is available in this field and that it takes some time to gain this expertise because the opportunities are not available to gain it quickly. It has been said that the parole board system would not work well. It has also been said that we should wait until such time as, presumably, there are more prisoners in the Australian Capital Territory, which would enable us to get this expertise. These do not seem to me to be really sound arguments.
If there are only a few prisoners at this stage it would seem that there would be a better opportunity to get the expertise now. It would not be necessary to have a fulltime parole board at present. There are persons in the law school at the Australian National University who are skilled in matters of this nature. There are psychiatrists in the Territory who would be willing to make available some of their time. There are also other persons skilled in these matters who would be only too willing to provide assistance on a part time basis. Many organisations in the Commonwealth sphere function on a part time basis. Even if there were only a few prisoners at the beginning - no doubt as the population of the Territory grows the number of prisoners will also unfortunately grow - expertise in handling them could be acquired. If we do not allow these persons to gain practical knowledge now of the application of these principles we will find that by the time we get a larger number of prisoners in the Australian Capital Territory we will not have any operative parole board that has the necessary expertise. Why not start now when the problem is small and allow such a parole board to acquire the expertise? It may be found that there are people who would be prepared to fulfil these functions on an honorary basis. They should be allowed to gain expertise in and practical knowledge of dealing with prisoners in the Territory.
Senator Byrne has put forward the proposition that the parole board in New South Wales should be used. The members of that board are citizens of Australia as well as being citizens of New South Wales. I cannot think of any obvious constitutional difficulty in appointing some of those persons to constitute a parole board for Commonwealth purposes. At present they no doubt take trips to the various prisons in New South Wales. They could take a trip every now and then to the Australian Capital Territory if they were appointed to deal with these matters as a Commonwealth parole board. I cannot see how any objection could be raised to that course being followed. These people are still citizens of the Commonwealth as well. If they are the kind of experienced persons who ought to be making decisions of this nature they should be appointed to do so. But I think it would be preferable to have our own parole board in the Australian Capital Territory which is gaining the experience that will be necessary to handle the situation in the future.
We should get in early in this social laboratory that constitutes the Australian Capital Territory. It would be better for us if we were to nip a lot of our problems in the bud before they grow to a serious proportion. A great deal of attention is being paid all over the world to problems concerning the prevention of crime, the rehabilitation of offenders and the protection of society. There has been a national campaign in the United States of America against crime and on crime prevention. From every point of view there is, I think, an urgent necessity to have a focussing of attention by our community on the problems concerning the prevention of crime and the protection of society, especially the rehabilitation of those people who have offended against the laws of society. The Australian Capital Territory has a population of almost 150,000 and it is growing rapidly. Therefore I think that we ought to embark upon what is apparently conceded on all sides here to be the better way of dealing with this problem.
A great deal of concern has been expressed in this chamber about the prac tice of vesting in the Executive functions which would be better performed outside of the Executive. It is very easy for those people who are a part of the Executive to say that it knows the best possible way of handling certain matters, but I do not think that that is always the case. The Attorney-General has not included any provision in this Ordinance which means that it will function for a limited period. As far as this chamber is concerned, once an Ordinance of this nature is made it is permanent. It would not come before the Senate for review at a time when it considered that the case for the setting up of a parole board was overwhelming and irrefutable. As I understand it, no undertaking is given by the Attorney-General that the Government would alter these provisions to establish a parole board when there was a certain number of prisoners or when the population had reached a certain limit. For the reasons I have given 1 suggest that the proposition put forward is a proper one and that the issue concerning a parole board or executive authority ought to be determined in favour of a parole board. I believe that the Government will act properly if the Senate disallows the provisions in question.
– 1 oppose the motion for disallowance of the ordinance. I find it somewhat extraordinary that there should be put to the Senate here tonight a point of view different from that put to us last Thursday when we were discussing the principle of whether a particular measure affecting the Australian Capital Territory should be legislated by ordinance or by an Act of Parliament. Tonight that does not seem to be in question and we are arguing about only a very limited matter. That is whether a discretion should reside with the AttorneyGeneral. For the life of me I cannot understand the argument that there is something improper in vesting a discretion within the Attorney-General but it is quite ordinary or acceptable to vest a discretion in a judicial authority. Should the learned Attorney-General become a judicial officer tomorrow it would be quite acceptable for him to exercise this function, but while he sits here as a senator and as AttorneyGeneral, a Minister of the Crown, it is felt that he should not have this discretion.
It has always puzzled me that this sort of attitude should be adopted. I wonder whether Attorneys-General who are translated to the bench go through a purification process to turn them into a different type of judicial animal. For the life of me I cannot see why a person who is capable of holding the office of AttorneyGeneral cannot exercise in the same manner, with the same background and legal theory, his discretion as a lawyer irrespective of whether he is AttorneyGeneral or a judge.
– Who decides?
– As I understand the position, the decision is eventually taken by the Governor-General in Council on the advice of his Executive Council, but that does not really bear on the problem which faces us at the moment. As I understand the argument of the Opposition it is that we should have a parole board within the Australian Capital Territory to deal with a limited number of persons. But who would comprise such a parole board? It has been the general experience in the States that a parole board preferably is headed by a judge. The position is somewhat difficult in the Australian Capital Territory where, if I am correctly informed, in the main there is but one judge. He would be both the judge who imposes the sentence and then the head of the parole board which would consider whether a prisoner ought to be paroled.
I understand that in the States a. deputy chairman is deliberately appointed to parole boards so that if a convicted person comes up for a parole hearing before a parole board headed by the judge who convicted him, the deputy chairman conducts the hearing and not the permanent chairman. I think all senators will agree that this is a reasonable proposition. I am also informed that it is common practice within State jurisdictions for a member of a parole board to be the State ComptrollerGeneral of Prisons. He is a person experienced in the handling and rehabilitation of prisoners. The difficulty in the Australian Capital Territory is that the Commonwealth does not have a prison here and Commonwealth prisoners are kept within the State of New South Wales. Where, then, would we draw on the expertise of an Australian Capital Territory
Comptroller-General of Prisons, as such a person does not exist?
For the reasons I have stated, I cannot see why we should attempt to impose in the Australian Capital Territory circumstances parallel with those in the States when in fact the situation in the Australian Capital Territory is not truly parallel with the situations existing within State jurisdictions. 1 think the onus is on the Opposition to show that within the Australian Capital Territory exists precisely the same situation as is found within the 6 States. As precisely the same situation does not apply within the Australian Capital Territory as is found in the States, we should not attempt to impose upon the Australian Capital Territory exactly the same type of parole system as operates within the 6 States. The Australian Capital Territory situation is peculiar to this area. Therefore there is justification for employing a different method to deal with situations which are not found in the 6 States.
I have no hesitation in allowing to be reposed in the Attorney-General of the day, no matter who he is or to which political party he belongs, the confidence that by his training and instinct he will exercise his quasi judicial functions in a quasi judicial manner. Judging by some of the remarks of honourable senators opposite my confidence would be misplaced, but I do not believe so. I think our confidence can safely be reposed in most persons who are properly trained in the law and have some respect for it. If that is so, why is there such a flurry about the situation we are discussing? I listened last Friday to the debate on this matter in the other place. It was a fairly short debate.
– I was travelling in a motor car through kangaroo country. When driving through the wide open spaces one needs something to keep awake and for that reason I was listening to the debate in the other place. With respect to the members of the other place who participated in the debate, only the very learned and distinguished lawyer who represents the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) in that place adequately summed up the situation. I am referring to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr N. H. Bowen). He summed up in a very short speech, lasting only about 7 minutes. It is a great pity that some honourable senators opposite who have participated in this debate did not analyse that speech. As I understand the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the figures for July indicate that there were 37 Australian Capital Territory prisoners, 2 of whom were eligible for parole. Are we to get ourselves into a complete fury and flurry and disallow an ordinance over 2 persons?
I was interested to hear the learned Attorney-General at question time earlier this afternoon point out that this is the national Parliament. We represent about 12 million people here and we should be dealing with the problems of the nation. How much time is the Senate to devote to a mere enclave of 120,000 people in Australia?
– We spent a good deal of time in discussion on the Australian Capital Territory tax on lavatory seats.
– That is right. One would imagine that there are no pressing national problems within the community. Perhaps there is none. After all, we have had 20 years of Liberal Government so that most of the problems will have been solved. I suppose when there is good government for so long the Opposition must go about a lot of nit picking in order to find subjects for discussion. How much time must the national Parliament continue to devote to what really are very parochial affairs? With respect to members who sit in this Parliament at present, I think our predecessors were far wiser when they passed the Seat of Government Act and in effect said: ‘The national Parliament has far too much to worry about than the mere affairs of the Australian Capital Territory. Let the Executive do this by ordinance and let the Parliament get on with the job for which is was created’. Therefore, I regret that on this Tuesday night we have now spent so much time arguing about this matter.
In my opinion at no stage has the Opposition advanced any reasonable, sensible, logical or valid argument for these 2 parts of the ordinance to be disallowed. It cannot be justified on philosophical grounds. It cannot be justified on practical grounds. In fact the Opposition has no ground at all on which to oppose this motion. I hope that the Senate will stay with the Govern ment and defeat the motion moved by Senator Murphy.
– in reply - I shall be very brief in replying to the submissions that have been put. I do not propose to waste any time attempting to dissipate Senator Withers’ bewilderment at the difference between the functions of a lawyer who happens to be the Attorney-General and those of a lawyer who happens to be a judge. All that the honourable senator did by making those observations was to indicate to the Senate that he had no idea of the distinction in a democratic society between the Executive and the judiciary. Nor do we on the Opposition side of the chamber consider it parochial and unworthy of the attention of the Senate to be concerned about the affairs of a mere 150,000 citizens of Australia. We make no apology for our interest in the concerns of the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory. We will continue to exhibit this interest and attempt to ensure that the democratic process is not eroded bv this growing practice of dealing with matters by ordinance when they should be dealt with by legislation.
While the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) was speaking I was able to check on one of the propositions he advanced in support of his contention that parole boards were far from being universal institutions throughout Australia. I had not, of course, put my argument as high as that. I had merely said that in the 2 most populous States, New South Wales and Victoria, a system of parole boards had been found by experience to be a superior system for dealing with this problem than the vesting of this discretion in the executive arm of government. Senator Greenwood, in attacking this proposition, said that in South Australia they did not rely on such an institution as a parole board. I was able to check with no less an authority than a person who happens to be a member of the present parole board whi-‘h was set up in South Australia in April 1970. There is a parole board in South Australia headed by a former judge of the South Australian Supreme Court. Mr Justice Chamberlain. It has as its members a Mr Gard, who is Comptroller of Prisons: Mr Baker, a representative of the Chamber of Manufactures; Dr Pulsford who, I believe, is a psychiatrist and, of course, my informant, a Miss Herriott, who is a member of the Trades and Labour Council. I do not put that argument any higher than to say it re-enforces the general submission I made that experience in the greater part of Australia is in support of the superiority of parole boards to deal with this problem.
– I gather that the South Australian parole board does not make a decision. Is that your view also? Did you check on that?
– I am informed that it carries out the same functions as those performed by the parole boards in New South Wales and Victoria. It was no part of my submission, as I thought was suggested by the AttorneyGeneral, that in any narrow technical sense parole boards are to be considered as judicial bodies. Obviously the distinctions made by the Attorney-General between a judicial body, properly so-called, and the parole boards are valid distinctions. All I was saying was that it is a continuation of the judicial process to have the superintendence of a sentence imposed by a judge in the hands of a body which would have some judicial guidance such as is given to parole boards in the States I have mentioned. After all, if the original imposition of the sentence is part of the judicial process - surely nobody, including the AttorneyGeneral, would quarrel with that proposition - the superintendence of that sentence after it has been imposed should surely be considered to be a continuing part of the judicial process. It was only in that limited sense, not in any precise lawyer’s sense, that I was suggesting that a parole board is a part of the continuing judicial process.
It seemed that the Attorney-General and Senator Byrne accepted the principle of parole boards and that the argument against having a parole board in the Australian Capital Territory is based on what the Attorney-General called practicable and reasonable procedures. His argument went something like this: In the States parole boards are exercising a daily and weekly task in considering the problems of paroles and, therefore, are enabled to acquire an expertise which could not be expected of a similar board in the Australian Capital Territory which would have to deal with only a minuscule number of such cases. So the argument of the AttorneyGeneral was that a parole board set up in the Australian Capital Territory would not acquire this expertise and, therefore, would not be a very useful body. Surely this prompts the question: Where will the desirable expertise be located in the system he advocates? If the Attorney-General is to be charged with exercising this task and is to deal with these problems only once or twice in a year, or as infrequently as was suggested, surely the charge can be levelled that the Attorney-General entrusted with the task will never acquire the expertise either. So in what way is the cause of justice served by having an inexpert AttorneyGeneral handling the matter instead of an inexpert parole board?
If it is claimed that there is so little work for a parole board in the Australian Capital Territory that its existence would be superfluous, as is suggested by the Attorney-General, surely the answer, as was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), is that we are not advocating setting up some high-sounding body which will be occupied for only 2 or 3 days a year and will have nothing to do for the rest of the time. After all, the parole boards in Victoria and New South Wales are not staffed by men whose sole function is to act as members of the parole boards. I cited the names and the occupations of the people who are on the parole board in New South Wales. I will repeat them in order that it may be seen that they are all busy people with many other functions. One of them is a judge of the Supreme Court of New South Wales. He happens to be a judge who sits in the matrimonial causes jurisdiction and disposes of hundreds of divorce cases in. the course of a year. Another is a district court judge who has the usual lists of a district court judge. Another is the Registrar of the University of Sydney. Another is a former Under-Secretary of Justice. Another is the present Comptroller-General of Prisons.
Surely the mere recital of those names and the functions that those people perform is sufficient to show that the task of a parole board is not necessarily a full time one. We are not suggesting that the parole board which we would like to see set up in the Australian Capital Territory should provide sinecures for some halfemployed public servants. We merely suggest that people capable of carrying out the functions that are appropriate to a parole board are abundantly available in an area with such talent as the Australian Capital Territory has, and that they could perform a valuable social duty, in addition to the other social duties they carry out, in their capacity as members of the parole board. If a parole board is a superior type of body for dealing with this problem, it matters not that it will be employed for only a small portion of the time.
Finally I would like also to touch on the point raised by Senator Murphy in response to the reproach that we have heard from the Attorney-General tonight not only in respect of this ordinance but also in respect of another ordinance which the Senate disallowed last week. The novel proposition seems to have crept into the Attorney-General’s thinking that in some way or other the responsibility devolves upon the Opposition for creating some sort of chaos in the area that was sought to be covered by an ordinance if we have the temerity to disallow it. That is an argument that could be used against the Opposition exercising its duty - not its privilege; its duty - in respect not only of ordinances but also of any legislation that comes before this chamber. Our duty, as we conceive it, is to examine any legislation, whether by way of ordinance or statute, which is brought before us by the Government. If we consider that this legislation does not properly meet the problem it is designed to meet, it is our duty to oppose it and, if possible, to have it defeated. If there is any responsibility for any ensuing chaos or any ensuing mess in any sphere of government, it does not attach to us for having done our duty in opposing this legislation; it attaches to the Government for having introduced legislation that does not meet the needs it was designed to meet.
That the motion (Senator James McClelland’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority .. .. 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 4 May (vide page 1334), on motion by Senator O’Byrne:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
(9.19) - Let me very quickly give the Senate the historical background to this motion which appears at page 31.25 of today’s notice paper. On 4th May I put down a ministerial statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). The statement was headed ‘Appointment of Assistant Ministers’. In the statement I informed the Senate that it was the intention of the Prime Minister to appoint Assistant Ministers. At the conclusion of my remarks a very brief debate ensued. The extent of it was a motion by Senator O’Byrne ‘That the Senate take note of the statement’, and his remark in these terms:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later date.
However, there was a cognate debate on another matter related to the appointment of an additional Minister and something on the subject of the appointment of Assistant Ministers was said during that debate. My reason for bringing this matter forward tonight is that a statement was made last Thursday by the Prime Minister to the
Appointment of effect that Assistant Ministers were to be appointed. A number of members of the other place were named and Senator Marriott also was named as a person to be appointed as an Assistant Minister. On Friday in the other place, while we were not sitting, a debate ensued as to the wisdom or validity of appointing Assistant Ministers or attempting to do so while items remain on the business paper. I expressed the view, in which the Government concurred, that whilst the matter was disposed of in the other place on Friday, the appointment of a senator as an Assistant Minister should stand over so that I could raise the matter in this place today, which is the first available opportunity, with a view to disposing of it so that the appointment of a senator as an Assistant Minister could go ahead.
That is the background. It is relatively simple and I state it merely so that there will be an understanding of why the matter has been raised tonight. I propose to refer now to the matter of substance relating to the appointment of a senator as an Assistant Minister. I inform the Senate that I sought from the Prime Minister the appointment of an Assistant Minister in the Senate, for reasons which T shall now state. It is worth recording that in the Senate we have 5 Ministers in a Ministry of 27 and that one of those Ministers - myself - in addition to being the Leader of the Government in the Senate is a Cabinet Minister.
– That is a big job, being Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI think it is, and but for the co-operation that I receive on all sides I do not think I would be able to cope with it. The truth of the matter is that in a Ministry of 27 there are 5 Ministers in the Senate, whereas if we go back to the time when there was a Ministry of only 19 there were 5 Ministers in the Senate, 2 of them being in the Cabinet.
– I think there were 15, were there not?
– There might have been fewer. Since that time the tempo of government in Australia has increased. As Australia has grown up, as we have taken a more important role in the scheme of things throughout the world,
Assistant Ministers 277 as Australia has become more sophisticated and more developed, as ours has become a country in which we have expanded in all the disciplines, the sheer pressure and weight of work has become much greater than ever before. Those honourable senators who have been here a long time know that the demands made on their time as senators are much greater than they were 10 or even 5 years ago. If we consider various officers of the Senate such as the Leader of the Opposition or the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party even honourable senators opposite would agree that it is not arguable but is demonstrable that the demands on them are far greater than ever before. If one accepts that the demand applies equally to those who sit to the right of the chair one must accept that the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Ministers who sit behind him have a tremendous additional volume of work. Quite frankly, I have no inhibitions about seeking the appointment of an Assistant Minister in the Senate.
– Does the Minister think that Senator Marriott can stand up to it?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am sure that he will; he comes from Tasmania where there is a sturdy and rugged race. I am sure that he will do a good job. I do not want to bring personalities into this, but I make the point that the Assistant Minister will give tremendous aid, not only to me as Leader of the Government in the Senate but also to everybody else in the Senate. There is a whole number of ways in which he will be able to assist me. It so happens that I am the Minister for Health and that I have taken over a new and heavy responsibility.
– The Minister still looks healthy.
– I feel fairly healthy. The question is whether Senator Marriott will be healthy after assisting me for a while. The preliminary step in the appointment of an Assistant Minister is to have him sworn as an Executive Councillor. That responsibility does not come directly within the parliamentary context and it is not a matter over which Parliament has any direct control. But after that step the next move is to induct him into the role of Assistant Minister. Because I want to get on with 24 August 1971 this I say merely that to have an Assistant Minister in the Senate will be to the advantage of us all. It will help us all to be more efficient and competent in disposing of the work that we have to do. I think there is an unanswerable case for assistance in the Cabinet and in the Ministry generally.
– Is the Minister able to indicate what type of duties the Assistant Minister will perform?
– Yes, but I do not want to be precise on this subject at the moment. We need first to have him appointed as an Executive Councillor. Then, after the Senate has disposed of the motion ‘That the Senate take note of the statement’, I can inform the Prime Minister of the Senate’s decision on the matter and we can move into the next step.
– You might be able to shed more and more as you go on.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONOn that subject let me refer quickly to the Department of Health. I have been told that the order of correspondence directed to the Minister for Health, as distinct from the Department of Health, runs to 5,000 or 6,000 communications a year. I am oldfashioned enough to believe that there is good reason to respond to that correspondence. If there is a need for someone to write to me, there is a need to respond. In some cases an inquiry will need to be processed before an answer can be given, whereas on other occasions a stereotyped answer will suffice. There is a huge volume of work in the Department on that score alone. Even the most stern critic would agree with that. Senator Georges should not look at me like that.
– Why not add to your staff?
Some day Senator Georges might progress to another role and realise the major responsibility carried by a Minister. The matter is a fairly serious one. I think it would be fair comment to say that even my sternest critic opposite and even the most vociferous of my critics would recognise that the task of Leader of the Government in the Senate is a very important one. It requires a great deal of cooperation and hard work. It would not be pos sible for me to perform that task if I did not get that co-operation from leaders. If we have an Assistant Minister, I believe that the work of the Senate and the process of government in the Senate will be carried out far more expeditiously than it is at present. I hope that tonight we will dispose of this motion to take note of the paper so that I can report to the Prime Minister and the Government in order that the next step in the matter may be taken.
– The issue of whether Assistant Ministers should be appointed raises some important constitutional questions. These have been dealt with previously in Parliament. They have been dealt with in the other House. The question arose in a similar way in May 1952 when the appointment of Parliamentary. Under-Secretaries was suggested. The then Speaker of the House of Representatives took the view that it was not proper - meaning that it was not constitutional - that Parliamentary UnderSecretaries be appointed. Put in simple terms, he was relying upon a provision of the Constitution that any person who holds an office of profit under the Crown shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. He indicated that the question was not to be decided on whether the member receive money. He stated:
The test is whether he holds office, because a man may profit from the holding of office under the Crown without receiving money.
I am referring to volume 212, page 818 of Hansard. He was asked this question:
Can you inform the House, Mr Speaker, of the authorities, constitutional or parliamentary, that you consulted to find support for the opinion stated by you in this House about the status of Under-Secretaries?
Any honourable member who cares to do so, may read in May’s ‘Parliamentary Practice’ that certain members of the House of Commons were debarred, in 1945, from sitting in the House because they had accepted certain offices under the Crown and that certain other members were so debarred in 1950. Honourable members will also find much relevant information in the report of a committee of the House of Commons which, in 1941, was charged with the duty of discovering the state of the law with regard to the holding of offices and places of profit under the Crown. The report of the committee contains some strong statements, and the point is made that it does not matter whether a member receives money or not.
The test is whether he holds office, because a man may profit from the holding of office under the Crown without receiving money.
– The Queen’s Ministers are expressly excluded from the operation of section 44 of the Constitution.
– Yes. Speaker Cameron continued:
In the authorities to which I have referred, case after case is discussed very fully, and opinions are expressed very distinctly. It is shown that several eminent parliamentarians, including Lord Palmerston, were disqualified from holding seats because they had accepted office under the Crown although no fee or emolument was attached to those offices.
Under section 44 of the Constitution any person who holds any office of profit under the Crown, or who receives any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth, shall be incapable of being chosen or sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. There is an exception to that. The sub-section which I just read does not apply to the office of any of the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth. The subsection goes on to deal with pensions and so on. The section of the Constitution dealing with Ministers is contained in a provision which is set out in Chapter II. That Chapter deals with Executive government. Section 64 states:
The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
I pause there. It is important to note that the officers are to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish. They are not merely Ministers; they are officers to administer departments of State. The section continues:
Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
The provisions appear to mean that it is not enough to be a member of the Federal Executive Council. A Minister must be appointed to administer a department of State. Ministers are officers appointed to administer departments of State. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council. They shall be Ministers of State. I understand that the Assistant Ministers are not to be treated as Ministers. They are Assistant Ministers. They seem to be in a different category in that they are not appointed to administer departments of State. It is stated that they will not receive any emolument. In any event it would appear that the non-receipt of an emolument might not be a matter which would be sufficient to protect their membership of this Parliament, including the Senate. I raise these matters because they are very serious matters. At this stage I am not intending to be dogmatic about what the position is. All I say is that a very serious doubt must be raised as to whether a person who is not appointed a Minister of State to administer a department of State is a Minister within the meaning of section 64 of the Constitution.
– You do not think he is a Minister of State because he is a member of the Federal Executive Council?
– No. Ministers of State shall be members of the Federal Executive Council. That does not operate in reverse. A person can be a member of the Federal Executive Council without being a Minister of State. My understanding of the position is that a considerable number of members of the Federal Executive Council are not Ministers. Certain former Ministers are members of the Federal Executive Council. Not all former Ministers are members. To be a member of the Federal Executive Council does not mean that that person is a Minister. A Minister shall be a member of the Federal Executive Council.
– I think you are putting the cart before the horse. If you are a Minister you might administer a department. You are not a Minister because you administer a department. That is the way I read it, anyhow.
– You may read it that way, but it states:
The Governor-General may appoint officers to administer such departments of State of the Commonwealth as the Governor-General in Council may establish.
Such officers shall hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General. They shall be members of the Federal Executive Council, and shall be the Queen’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth.
That is the way it reads. It does not read the way in which Senator Byrne suggests. I repeat that this is a very serious question. It has been raised in the other place, and it was raised in 1952 after a similar action, and it is raised again here. I do not want to go further and be dogmatic on the question except to say that it is clearly a question of some moment. Whatever other view might be put forward I do not think that anyone could assert that the status of a person who becomes an Assistant Minister in the circumstances outlined by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Sir Kenneth Anderson) is not an important question. If there is a serious question which may affect the membership of such a person, how is such a question resolved? It is probably reasonable to say that noone would want to see another person in a difficult position. Standing order 38 of the Senate Standing Orders states:
A Committee, to be called the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications, to inquire into and report upon all questions as to the qualification of a senator chosen or appointed in accordance with section 15 of the Constitution or as to the validity of such choice or. appointment, and as to the vacation of his seat by any senator, shall be appointed at the commencement of each Parliament. . . .
It then stipulates a certain manner in which the appointment is to be made, and it has certain ancillary provisions. So under the Standing Orders there is provision for a Committee to inquire into and report upon all questions as to the vacation of his seat by any senator, which appears to be in broad terms. In the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1962 there is provision for the Court of Disputed Returns. Under Division 2 - Qualifications and Vacancies - section 203 provides:
Any question respecting the qualification of a Senator or of a Member of the House of Representatives or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament may be referred by resolution to the Court of Disputed Returns by the House in which the question arises and the Court of Disputed Returns shall thereupon have jurisdiction to hear and determine the question.
Section 204 provides:
When any question is referred to the Court of Disputed Returns under this Part of this Act, the President if the question arises in the Senate, or the Speaker if the question arises in the House of Representatives, shall transmit to the Court of Disputed Returns a statement of the question upon which the determination of the Court is desired, together with any proceedings, papers, reports, or documents relating to the question in the possession of the House in which the question arises.
That means that there is probably some method of determining this question with some finality. The provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act does not seem as broad as that in the Standing Orders. It may be that the provision in the Commonwealth Electoral Act contemplates that there is an actual vacancy. It may mean that in this instance the senator would have to assume the office before it could be said that there was a vacancy and the question would then be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns. I may be in error in that respect. It may be that the Court would entertain a question relating to a vacancy even if the situation had not actually arisen or could be claimed to have actually arisen. But I think that the Court would take the view that the vacancy would have to be alleged to exist before the question would be determined.
The provision in the Standing Orders seems to be wider. It provides for an inquiry into and report upon questions as to the vacation of his seat by any senator. It would seem that that is capable of being extended to a vacancy which had not yet occurred but might occur in certain anticipated circumstances. Of course, if we wanted to we could refer a question to that Committee or some other committee in any event, notwithstanding any restriction or supposed restriction in the ambit of the Committee. My suggestion is that it would be wise if this matter were looked at by the Senate as rapidly as possible. I would think that the statement by the Minister ought to be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications. I understand that it has not met for a very long time, but that would seem to be the appropriate committee.
– It is probably 60 years since it met.
– It has not met yet, has it?
– I think it did meet earlier to consider a question of whether a senator could properly be appointed under section 15 of the Constitution. Because the supposed vacancy had arisen out of a general election, the ultimate wash-up was that both the Senate Standing Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications and ultimately the High Court held that there should be a general election and not an appointment under the provisions of the Constitution. But we have a serious question here and it ought to be resolved. These matters have been resolved in other parliaments. I would suggest that the obvious course would be to resolve it before the assumption of office as Assistant Minister. We are not in control of the assumption of office. If the Government were to go ahead I do not suppose we could do anything about it. I am not suggesting this to impede the Government’s action. I am suggesting it as a cautionary measure.
No doubt an Assistant Minister could assist a Minister in all sorts of ways without actually being appointed to an office. He would not be losing any emolument in the ordinary sense. It may be wise to get some sort of an answer on the matter before he is actually appointed to the office. I suggest that the matter be referred to the Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications. As a matter of caution the Government ought not to proceed to appoint the Assistant Minister until there is a determination by such a Committee, otherwise the matter may reach the stage where, if an adverse determination were made, it would mean a forfeiture of office, which ought to be avoided if possible. If that can be done there is no reason for any chance to be taken if it can be avoided. As that would seem to be a reasonable course that is what 1 suggest.
It may be that I could propose that course now to the Senate or seek the opportunity at a later time. Perhaps the sensible course may be to add in some way that the question be referred to the Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications. I am not dogmatic about the matter. If it is thought that a special committee should look at it, that should be done. I do not know that the issue should be determined here. The Senate is not a useful place for a technical argument on the matter. It ought to be done by some committee which has the assistance of officers as reports are to be made and perhaps advice is to be gathered from various sources which are open. That cannot conveniently be done here. I immediately put that suggestion to the Government.
While that is being considered I shall speak on the general question. I agree with what the Leader of the Government in the Senate says about the pressure in this place. Certainly there is some need for an alleviation of the pressure which falls upon Ministers in this chamber under the procedures which we are adopting. It may be that with the growth of the committee system a lot of the questions and some of the work may be channelled to that system. The difficulties which arise could be met in other ways. There seems to be a tendency ever to increase the number of Ministers. I think we have seen the number increase from 25 to 26, then from 26 to 27, and now we are to have a number of Assistant Ministers. The Senate does not seem to be doing very well out of this situation. We have only 5 Ministers here representing 22 other Ministers as well as handling difficult portfolios. It is almost farcical to expect a Minister not only to handle his own portfolio but also, on the average, to answer on behalf of 4 other Ministers. This is why the system is not working adequately. In the other chamber there are 22 Ministers. On the average they have to represent only one-fifth or one-quarter of a Minister from this chamber.
The task becomes extremely difficult tor the Ministers here. Perhaps the easiest solution would be to appoint more Ministers here and fewer in the other House. The other place seems to be overcrowded with them and the Senate chamber simply does not have enough of them. There is an imbalance which ought to be corrected. 1 do not know that this is corrected by appointing Assistant Ministers in this manner. We do not know what their real responsibilities are. A statement was made on 4th May by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. He said:
I emphasise that Assistant Ministers will not be able to take political responsibility in the administration of any department.
If they are not able to take political responsibility then it is difficult to describe them as Assistant Ministers or as lessening the burden on Ministers in any manner at all. The functions of conducting correspondence, making inquiries on a Minister’s behalf and receiving deputations are responsibilities which have to be taken either by a Minister who can accept the responsibility or by someone on his staff. People in departments, whether they are senior officers of the department or the secretarial staff of the Minister, are supposed to conduct correspondence. They are the people who ought to be doing that kind of work. If other work is to be done it ought to be done by a person taking ministerial responsibility. It seems to us that this half way house is not satisfactory. We do not know how Assistant Ministers are going to fit into the scheme of things. Are they going to handle Bills? Are they going to answer questions which are asked during the Committee stages of a Bill? The Leader of the Government shakes his head. I understand that in the other House information was given that they would be handling Bills and answering questions during the Committee stage. This means that there will be less responsibility by the Government to Parliament.
This is a breakdown in the responsibility of the Executive to Parliament. It means that more and more second rate Ministers will be answering questions and dealing with what will tend to become even more a second rate Parliament. If we are to have responsible government then it ought to be responsible directly to Parliament, represented by persons with political responsibility. Today although it may seem that we have a small number of Assistant Ministers there is nothing to stop the growth of that number. One introduces a principle and one accepts this as a quantitative change, but who knows what the numbers are going to be in a few short years? The suggestion is made - I think there is some substance to it - that the number of Assistant Ministers will mean that always a Prime Minister will be able to command the loyalty of a great number of persons simply because they are Ministers or Assistant Ministers and he will ensure his continuance in office. That means that not only in his own Party will the ministerial or assistant ministerial positions be used as plums but also in this Parliament we are going to have more Ministers and fewer ordinary members. There will be more chiefs and fewer Indians.
– Under circumstances like that we get on all right in our Party.
– That may be. That indicates the correctness of the position that when one has that kind of situation one tends to obtain complete cohesion and unity throughout the whole of that grouping. That is not as a parliament should be. A parliament is a place where there has to be debate. There has to be difference of opinion. The more monolithic it is made by everyone having a position, the more difficult it is for a parliament to carry on effectively. What may apply inside a Party is not something which should apply throughout the whole institution. If these ministerial positions start to spread through the Government ranks I think that in a parliament such as ours there will be a tendency which is not going to make Parliament healthy. I think it is an unhealthy development to have the proportion of Ministers to members of Parliament that we have. Whatever may be said of other countries I do not see the necessity for so many Ministers in the Parliament. I see the difficulty in this chamber. I do not question that. I think that there probably ought to be 7 Ministers in this chamber but I do not see the necessity for 27 Ministers and then the number of Assistant Ministers which are proposed.
– There should not be any Ministers in a House of review.
– That may be proper also, and it may be that we could usefully change our procedures. While we are adopting the methods we have and have Ministers the system should be made workable and 1 do not think it will work as well with these Assistant Ministers. We will see more of them because if one can command the allegiance of the Assistant Ministers in this manner, one is increasing the centralised power of the Prime Minister. What is to be convention? Is the convention to be that the Assistant Ministers must vote with the Government? If that is so it is a very serious matter. No-one so far has answered this question. What is to be the status of the Assistant Minister? Do we regard him as a member of the Ministry who simply must not vote against the Government? Is he bound to vote with it? If he votes against the Government will this be a repudiation and will he automatically put himself outside the Ministry. If that is to be the convention it is a very serious matter for the Parliament.
What if the numbers increase? What is the status of these persons? We have not been told. We are told they are not to take political responsibility in the administration
Appointment of of any department. Are they to take political responsibility here for what they do? Are they in some way to answer a question and take over from a Minister at some stage? We have not had the answers and I do not think it is satisfactory that the matter should proceed in this way. Apart altogether from the constitutional question as to whether such a position would conflict with the Constitution in the sense that a person who becomes an Assistant Minister would vacate his office, the Opposition disapproves of the appointment of Assistant Ministers. I would suggest that the position of the Senate would be met by a more appropriate balance of Ministers in the House of Representatives and Ministers in the Senate. I have indicated the disapproval of the Opposition to the appointment of these Assistant Ministers. I think that the appropriate course would be to have the constitutional question decided separately.
I do not mind how the matter is dealt with but I would be prepared to move now that the question be referred to the Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications whilst at the same time indicating that I am ready to accept any alternative proposal for referral to some other committee or a select committee. If that is acceptable perhaps the matter could await the report of that committee. I indicate that if my proposal for referral of the question is not acceptable to the Senate I would like to deal with this matter, leaving aside the Constitution, on the basis that the Opposition disapproves of the appointment of Assistant Ministers. With that understanding and as an addendum to the motion moved by the Minister that ‘he Senate take note of the statement, I move
At end of motion add - “, and refers the statement to the Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications to inquire into and report upon a question as to the vacation of office by a Senator, namely, whether, if a Senator is appointed an Assistant Minister of State, his place shall become vacant”.
– Are you choosing that course?
– Yes. 1 move that as the appropriate course to take indicating that if that amendment were defeated I would then move the further amendment that the Senate disapproves of the appointment of the Assistant Ministers.
Assistant Ministers 283
– The Government will not accept the amendment which has been moved by Senator Murphy. It will not accept it because in the view upon which the” Government has acted it is unnecessary to refer this constitutional question as posed by Senator Murphy for inquiry by any body. Equally it feels that the way in which Senator Murphy has couched a political attack upon the whole concept of Assistant Ministers is one which would defeat any objective consideration of this proposal by a committee of the Senate. I would further add that having regard to the language of standing order 38 which establishes the Committee on Disputed Returns and Qualifications it would be highly inappropriate for the Senate to take unto itself the question of determining whether the position of a senator had been vacated. I would have thought that where a senator’s constitutional right to sit in this chamber is conferred by the Constitution, the High Court is the appropriate body charged by the Constitution with the duties of interpretation. It would be an unreal situation if this Parliament or any one House of the Parliament were to decide whether or not a senator had the qualifications to remain in this chamber. I believe it would be mischievous to embark upon an inquiry on the assumption that this Parliament or this chamber does have that power.
I sense that the issue which has been raised by the statement we are debating has 2 aspects, one being the propriety or otherwise of the executive Government having a number of Ministers and, in the light of what is proposed, a number of persons who will assist Ministers. That is an issue which lies pre-eminently in the field of those who are charged with the responsibility of government and I would have thought that the judgment of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in this area is one which deserves the utmost respect. As I understand the position, the volume of work, the complicated character and many-sided nature of the various duties which devolve upon Ministers are such that some assistance for some Ministers is highly desirable. i do not think there is one honourable senator in this chamber who would challenge the proposition that if assistance can be given to the Leader of 24 August 1971 the Government in the Senate it is not only assistance which is long deserved but also assistance which will make his working life easier than it has been and facilitate the workings of this chamber. That is the nature of the role which Assistant Ministers are to perform and in this place there is one Assistant Minister to be appointed with the specific obligation of assisting the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
I would sense that the case which is made out for the appointment of Assistant Ministers is one which is well sustained and which in any event we on the Government side would seek to justify. We think the justification is easily made. When one considers the various arguments which are raised by Senator Murphy they have a somewhat hollow ring to them. He suggested that the appointment of Assistant Ministers would make the structure of government monolithic, that it would add to centralisation and that it would raise the question of whether a person who was an Assistant Minister was obliged by convention to vote with the Government. As if that were a matter which would be of concern to members of the Australian Labor Party, particularly as it never gives its members the right to vote contrary to the Party’s wishes! I should think that it would be a hollow sort of argument to suggest that the efficacy of the Parliament might be diminished in some way if this convention were not able to be departed from on some occasion. It is a curious view to adopt by a Party that will never allow its members to depart from its chosen course. Of course the members of the Opposition like to laud those supporters of the Government who feel in conscience from time to time that they must depart from their Party’s view. The criticisms which have been expressed by the Opposition are political criticisms and as such they can be met.
I would suggest to the Senate that there is no weight in the argument that Senator Murphy has put forward. Although he has posed the existence of a constitutional problem, I feel that it is a constitutional problem without any weight. It has been posed by Senator Murphy without, I would suggest, due regard to what his leader said in the House of Representatives and in the face of overwhelming opinion that there is no constitutional problem with regard to the appointment of Assistant Ministers, parliamentary under-secretaries, parliamentary private secretaries - whatever they may be called - to whom no emoluments are paid. As I recall, Senator Murphy referred to a statement made by Mr Speaker Cameron in the House of Representatives on 22nd May 1952. Of course, the statement made by Mr Speaker Cameron was an assertion that took up only approximately half a column of Hansard. He was replied to subsequently by a number of eminent authorities to whom Senator Murphy has made no reference whatsoever. Let us consider what was said by Sir Arthur Fadden, the Acting Prime Minister at the time, who immediately followed Mr Speaker Cameron. I shall quote part only of what Sir Arthur Fadden said, but it is the only relevant text. He said:
The legal position under our own Constitution has been examined by the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), who has advised that, in his clear opinion, the 4 Parliamentary UnderSecretaries do not, in law, hold an ‘office’ at all . . .
The then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, subsequently made a ministerial statement - on 27th August 1952 - in which he made it quite clear that there was no problem in terms of constitutional propriety in regard to the appointment of Assistant Ministers. I seek the indulgence of the Senate to refer to excerpts from the ministerial statement made by Sir Robert Menzies. He said:
With the approval of the Cabinet, I decided that we should appoint certain members of the House to assist Ministers, and to describe them as parliamentary under-secretaries. The terminology is, as 1 have indicated, not important. The members concerned are paid no salary and perform no executive act which a Minister is by law required to perform. In brief, they cannot sign executive minutes, nor can they under any act of this Parliament be substituted for the Minister himself. The parliamentary under-secretary receives no payment beyond his salary as a member of Parliament. When he is performing some service for the Minister to whom he is attached he is naturally re-imbursed for the expenses reasonably incurred in the course of that performance. His duty is, under the direction of his Minister, to make inquiries, to conduct correspondence when authorised to do so and, from time to time, to receive deputations on behalf of his Minister. There is no novelty aba.t this. Our predecessors in office very properly obtained the services of private members for similar purposes in a variety of departments and on a variety of occasions.
Mr Speaker has raised the question whether the appointment of a private member under these circumstances constitutes his appointment to an office of profit under the Crown. My’ colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), has already stated to the House the view of the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Spicer), who has advised that in his clear opinion a parliamentary under-secretary does not in law hold an office at all, still less an office of profit under the Crown, and that his appointment is in all respects constitutional. With this opinion I entirely agree. It would be strange indeed if the opinion were otherwise. Several members of this House perform duties which are of a special kind. We have for many years had Government and Opposition Whips. Until the recent legislation, following the Nicholas Committee’s report, Government Whips have always been provided for out of the Cabinet fund. Nobody thought that such a Whip occupied an office of profit under the Crown, because the simple fact was that he owed no duty to the Crown, except that which he owed in common with other members of the Parliament. He had, in fact, a responsibility to his own Ministers and party in the Parliament, and was remunerated accordingly.
At a later stage in the ministerial statement Sir Robert Menzies said: . . it has been suggested that a parliamentary under-secretary in sharp distinction from the other gentlemen to whom I have referred, is disqualified as the holder of an office of profit under the Crown. As I have indicated, the Government completely rejects this view, and for 2 reasons. The first is that the parliamentary under-secretary does not occupy an office under the Crown, but has in fact a position analogous to that of a parliamentary private secretary in the House of Commons. The second is that if, contrary to our clear view, he is to be treated as holding an office, it is certainly not an office of profit. True, the parliamentary under-secretary, is awarded travelling expenses as a fair recompense for what would otherwise be out-of-pocket expenditure in the performance of his work. But so are many members of this Parliament. Take, for example, the Chairman of the Public Works Committee. He receives no additional salary, but he receives an expense allowance.
I know that I have read a fair segment of a ministerial statement to the Senate, but I did so because it is in clear language and it has a conclusion which I believe ought to be respected. The then Attorney-General, Senator Spicer, and Sir Robert Menzies both expressed a clear view that there is no constitutional impropriety.
– The position of Whips, the Chairman of the Public Works Committee and so on is different, is it not? It has been said that their duties are duties that they owe to the Parliament. They are not attached to the Crown in any way; the duties they perform are in the nature of parliamentary duties.
– If Senator Murphy were prepared to argue this sub ject on a legal basis he could make a point of what he has just said by way of interjection, but that is not the answer to this problem because a host of positions held by members of Parliament are not in that sense parliamentary. There are statutory committees on which members of Parliament hold office and receive travelling expenses and out-of-pocket expenses as a reimbursement for the duties they perform. These members of Parliament, because the statutes establishing the committees so prescribe, receive no specific emoluments. There are several such bodies.
Those honourable senators who are interested in this subject could look at the Dairy Produce Export Act, the Dried Fruits Export Control Act, the Canned Fruits Export Marketing Act, the Honey Industry Act, the Meat Industry Act, the Wine Overseas Marketing Act and the Apple and Pear Organisation Act, all of which have provisions to the effect that if a member of Parliament is a member of the board he will not be paid a salary, fee or allowance but only such expenses as he actually incurs. Quite apart from these committees, we all know that there are members of Parliament who serve on a number of committees to which they have been appointed by Ministers and who perform a valuable service in respect of which they receive out-of-pocket expenses or advantages which are designed to compensate them for the travelling expenses they incur, but in respect of which they receive no emolument.
If there is point in what Senator Murphy has said I should have thought that he would have been questioning at the very time the right of these people to sit in the Parliament; yet I believe that any such questioning would be entirely unwarranted and unjustified. I do not think that there ought to be any such question because the legal opinion which is available is, as I understand the position, unanimously of the view that no question of impropriety has arisen. Therefore, why should there be any question of constitutional impropriety in the case of Assistant Ministers who receive no salary or emolument but simply receive only out-of-pocket expenses?
This matter was debated in the House of Representatives only last week. I challenge
Senator Murphy’s statement that the question which he has posed to the Senate tonight as one of some delicacy and real import was in fact raised in the House of Representatives. I wish to direct to honourable senator’s attention a few statements made in the other place. At page 440 of Hansard of the House of Representatives for last Friday Mr Hughes, the honourable member for Berowra and former Attorney-General, is reported to have said: there arises no doubt in my mind as to the perfect constitutional propriety of this proposal.
My predecessor as Attorney-General and now Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr N. H. Bowen, said in language as precise and clear as that used by Mr Hughes:
Put simply, the question is this: Would these Assistant Ministers forfeit their position as members of this House or of the Senate, in the case of senators, because they hold an office of profit? Would they be holding an office of profit? Provided they do not receive any emolument it is my opinion that they would not.
Turning to the remarks of Mr Whitlam, the Leader of the Opposition and Leader of the Australian Labor Party, one finds that that position is accepted by him. Mr Whitlam said:
I said this morning that I respected the view of the former Attorney-General, and 1 also respect the same view expressed by the first AttorneyGeneral whom the present Prime Minister appointed. It is years since I looked at this matter on the Constitutional Review Committee. But I would not be disposed to dispute their view.
Where then is this constitutional impropriety? Where is this great question that ought to be referred to the Committee of Disputed Returns? Where is the authority to which Senator Murphy would refer to sustain his point? Senator Murphy simply raised a point and suggested that involved in it was a great question that ought to be looked at. I say that that is a mischievous attitude because he gave no warrant or authority to back it up. He embarrasses those appointed and creates doubt in their minds as to whether they should hold the positions. I feel it is unworthy of the way in which this whole question should be approached. Indeed, I feel that one must have some doubt as to what is involved in the questioning by the Opposition of the appointment of Assistant Ministers. What was said in the House of Representatives last Friday deserves as much publicity and exposure as can be given to it. In the course of the debate Mr Uren, the honourable member for Reid, said that the 6 Assistant Ministers should not be appointed. He said that Parliament as a whole should be responsible for determining whether the appointments were necessary. Mr Clyde Cameron interjected.
They should not be appointed until we get some help.
Mr Uren replied that the Opposition needed some assistance and the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) then said:
Can I put this to you? Is what you are putting to me that if I will give you some additional technical assistance to help you in the performance of your functions, you will withdraw the amendment?
Mr Uren indicated that the Labor Caucus would examine the Prime Minister’s suggestion. However, a study of last Friday’s Hansard of the House of Representatives shows that the position taken by Mr Whitlam was quite the reverse of that taken by Mr Uren. Mr Whitlam gave a positive indication that as far as the constitutional proprieties were concerned and the righteousness or otherwise of appointing Assistant Ministers, all that the members of the Labor Party were concerned to do was to get a little bit of assistance for themselves. So much for the high principle and elevation of Parliament as an institution. So much for the fine words which ring hollow when one finds out the intention behind them. Mr Whitlam said:
The Prime Minister asked, if I recollect correctly, whether he-
Meaning Mr Uren - would drop the amendment if assistance were-
Mr McMahon interjected
I said: ‘Are you putting the proposition to me?’
Mr Whitlam said:
Are you putting the proposition to me that if assistance were made available to the Opposition executive you would drop the amendment?’ I authorised the honourable member for Reid to accept what I took to be an offer.
One can imagine the incredulity of Mr McMahon. He said:
Can I straighten this out? What you are saying is that you were putting to me that if I were prepared to let you have assistance you would let this go through without objection?
Mr Whitlam answered yes and then Mr McMahon made this proper comment:
So you have no objection whatever, in terms of principle or on any other basis, to this paper and to the action now being taken by me? All you want is to do a deal?
Mr Whitlam, to make it quite clear, said:
If assistance is made available to the Opposition executive this amendment will be withdrawn.
When the Labor Party chooses to adopt that attitude to matters which it regards as most important in terms of the parliamentary institution I think its words stand exposed for the hollow sham and mockery that they are.
– The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) started his contribution by saying that Senator Murphy had made a very political speech. After listening to the Minister I wonder who made the most political speech. It does not require the exercise of any great judgment to decide. A lot of angles are attached to this matter. I do not wish to enter in great detail into the constitutional problems. I am disturbed that there is a constitutional doubt and I would like to see it resolved, beyond any reasonable doubt. The Attorney-General does not seem to think that there is any constitutional doubt. People before him have thought that there is. Senator Murphy has doubts. What is wrong with completely dispelling those doubts from our minds? The Attorney-General said that if this matter were to be decided it should go to the High Court. It could well finish up in the High Court if the committee suggested by Senator Murphy, or any other committee or the Senate decided in that way. However, I hope that the Attorney-General is not suggesting that we should rush into the High Court on the meagre information we have.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) referred to a time when there were 19 Ministers. I think there were 15, but that is not important. He said that every additional Minister had been appointed from members of the House of Representatives and not from the Senate, and therefore Assistant Ministers are required. I believe that his argument would have logically led to the suggestion that we would want more Ministers in the Senate. That would have been a vastly different story and I cannot see how the Opposition could very well criticise that suggestion. It could be said that there are too many Ministers already, but that is a completely different argument. The question of whether Ministers should be appointed from the Senate is not relevant because we already have them. People sincerely hold the view that there should be no Ministers in the Senate, but the fact is that that point was decided many years ago in this place.
I suggest to the Government that its timing in appointing Assistant Ministers was exceedingly bad, in view of the minor troubles that have arisen in the Liberal Party. As I said the other day, timing is the art of all politics, and the Government must expect some criticism when it fails to appreciate the significance of timing. ‘The books on the centre table obscure my view of the smiling face of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, but from what Senator Murphy said, it seems that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson shook his head when Senator Murphy said-
– I think that was a misinterpretation.
– Was it? I will raise the question now of whether Assistant Ministers will sit in on committees. I certainly will not quote as extensively from Hansard as Senator Greenwood did, but when I do quote I shall quote it all and not leave out bits as the honourable gentleman did. The Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said:
Again taking up what Sir Robert Menzies said in that statement, there are occasions when it would bc of great assistance to a Minister if his Assistant Minister could, during the Committee stages of a Bill, sit at the table of the House and represent his Minister in the discussion of clauses and amendments as they arise. I shall be consulting with the Presiding Officers on this matter to ascertain whether, to achieve this, an amendment of Standing Orders will be necessary.
I ask honourable senators to think about those words for a moment. Is it not evasion of ministerial responsibility, particularly in this place? From time to time, on rare occasions, I have seen Ministers accept amendments put forward by the Opposition. Is not another tier being inserted into this process if you have an Assistant Minister? It may be Senator Marriott today and somebody else tomorrow. It may be 3 or 4 senators in the future. I do not know. The personality does not really matter. The Assistant Minister can say: ‘I can hardly accept this but I will talk to my Minister’. I think you will introduce into this situation an evasion of ministerial responsibility. Probably this is the most critical time when a Minister should be exercising responsibility.
– Order! In confor mity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– On 4th May this year in company with my colleague Senator Cavanagh, and supported subsequently by Senator Hannan and Senator McManus, I raised a few points on how our immigration policy was being operated. I referred particularly to the conferring of permanent domicile on certain people from Asian countries. The gist of my remarks centred on people who qualified in Australia as nurses, accountants and teachers. On 4th May 1 instanced the case of a nurse Lau. In the final analysis she returned to Hong Kong. The basis of my objection at the time was the failure of the Hong Kong authorities to recognise her nursing qualifications. I argued that on her return to that country she would be neither fish nor fowl so far as her profession was concerned. If I gained nothing else from the agitation at that time I must say that the Hong Kong authorities retreated to the extent that, notwithstanding the argument advanced that she qualified in a hospital of less than 300 beds, she was accepted into the nursing fabric in Hong Kong.
My colleague Senator Cavanagh subsequently took the matter a little further and got into the realms of who was a sponsored student and who was a private student. In the resultant discussion we developed an argument about students returning to their homelands, particularly to Malaysia. Apart from the odium of the Australian Minister for Immigration of the day in some instances having to order deportation consideration must be given to another product of these systems. One of them is the selfish Australian angle of whether these people would be a future vital component of the Australian work force. There is the question whether the student or graduate would be gainfully employed in his own country. Over and above this there is solid evidence, as in the case of Malaysia, that there is extreme discrimination between those of Malayan origin and those of Chinese origin.
That is the broad picture. Senator Greenwood, who replied on behalf of the Government, pointed out the general position and claimed that there was reasonable opportunity for these people in their own countries. As a matter of fact, in one or two of the subsequent rejections I received from the then Minister for Immigration and subsequent Ministers in that portfolio the point seems to be that if the people tried hard enough when they returned to their own countries they would be able to find employment.
I want to make 2 comments about this. All of this happened during the parliamentary recess. I know of several cases in respect of which people supplied me with not less than 10 photostat copies of rejections by employers. Some of the people concerned were accountants and some were in the other fields I have mentioned. The Minister, Dr Forbes, said that this did not prove very much and that if a lot of the employers who rejected the applicants granted them a personal interview the situation would be different. The moral of his story was that if these people went back to their homeland and started from there all would be well. The Minister went a little further and said that despite all of these suggestions, we have obligations to the countries from which these people have come. A very eminent educationist, Tom Roper, pointed out in an article in the Review’ of 27th June that Daphne Keats of the Australian National University and Mary Hodgkin of the University of Western Australia had carried out very intimate surveys into the future of people returning to those countries because Dr Forbes had argued that all would be well and that if they showed perseverance their talents would be utilised fully. Despite that, the Mary Hodgkin survey indicated that 37 per cent of the Asian graduates said that the employment in which they were engaged in their homelands was not contributing to the needs of their countries.
Let me relate the submissions to a statement made by Dr Forbes in News Release No. 28/71. In referring to non-Europeans eligible to settle in Australia he said that they have qualifications of positive value, usually at professional level. Against that background I wrote to Dr Forbes on 9th July, early in the recess, and pointed out to him the problem besetting New South Wales regarding the overseas recruitment of teachers. I said that this was an opportune time to grant permanent domicile to any product of our universities and teaching colleges rather than to play the person concerned on a string and extend his permit to remain in Australia from year to year. Let me say, free of any political partisanship, that on a previous occasion in 1966 the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, and the then Minister, Mr Opperman, were on the same wave length as regards flexibility. Notwithstanding criticism last week, the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party made very clear its attitude on the infusion into the work force of these people, the criterion being ability and not country of origin. Against that background I made my plea to the Minister on 9th July. I quoted the case of Mr Edward Tsang - File No. N67/5790 - who at present is an assistant at the Fairfield Boys High School which is in a very heavily populated area of metropolitan Sydney. So far I have had no reply from the Minister. I take this opportunity tonight to instance this as a typical case of Asian countries failing to absorb trained people returning to them. Speaking from the perhaps rather selfish Australian angle, these people could play a vital part in replenishing our diminishing teacher work force. I could apply this argument also to the nursing profession. Only tonight I was talking to some of the supervisory staff at the Canberra Hospital where, with some of my colleagues, I was visiting Senator Fitzgerald. Staff personnel impressed me with what they said about the tremendous turnover in nursing staff.
I sum up my submissions tonight by saying that the time is opportune for the Minister to do more than pay lip service to immigration in his news releases. Authoritative people in this field have conducted surveys and have proved that 37 per cent of these students, whether they have taken part in government or private student pro grammes, obviously are not being gainfully employed in their own countries. Some will go to Canada and others will go elsewhere. All we get is the odium for not using their talents to the full. Many of them honestly feel that in view of the status they have acquired they would be much better employed in making a positive contribution here.
I strike this note of caution. Irrespective of which Party is in office it could be said that a certain number of migrants will enter this country in a given year. But I am talking of 1971 when we have extreme under-staffing throughout the educational systems in most of the major States. The position of nursing staff too is never perfect. 1 quoted earlier the case dealt with in a particular file. I believe there is not the slightest reason why the Minister should not take an inventory and apply a blanket ruling to every application from various senators in the categories I have mentioned. I cannot understand some of his recent statements. I invite honourable senators to look at the booklet entitled ‘The Evolution of a Policy’ written by his predecessor. On page 11 there is a tabic showing the number of people given permanent domicile from 1967 up to 1970. In 1970 only 1006 people were granted resident status. In 1967 the number was 1500. Yet Dr Forbes in a statement in the Melbourne Age’ recently referred to about 10,000 Asian migrants coming in. On the one hand he is talking about the intake, whilst on the other hand there is a problem in relation to the outflow. Surely it is time he showed a little statesmanship and made a broad statement to the effect that in virtually all the cases I have mentioned permanent domicile will be given. This request docs not relate to fields in which we have surplus manpower. I believe that, as far as our long range attitude to and our image in Asian countries generally are concerned, we would be in a much better position if he did that.
Whilst I have deliberately quoted only 1 case tonight - I know that Senator Greenwood will convey it to the Minister for Immigration - I have 4 other cases. One is that of an accountant. The Minister will appreciate that, as some of these people are going back to Malaysia, they do not want their names mentioned. They feel that because of the undoubted hostility that exists between the 2 races in that country their position would be prejudiced. The point I made is that when 1 made general complaints in May the attitude adopted to me was: ‘You are talking in generalities’. In view of the submissions from leading educationists, plus the further deterioration of education generally as exemplified by the admissions by the New South Wales Minister for Education, Mr Cutler, and the overseas recruitment campaigns in the British Isles and Canada, I think this is an ideal time to accede to the request not merely in these 5 cases but in those which I am sure other senators can produce.
With all due respect to the argument that was advanced by Senator Greenwood in May, I believe that events have left the Government standing flat-footed. The Opposition has indicated its good faith by various utterances by its spokesmen. I do not expect Senator Greenwood to be empowered to make decisions on the cases I have mentioned; but I strongly suggest to him that it is time Dr Forbes answered in full my letter of 9th July, based on the points of view I have expressed tonight.
– I had hoped that there would be more Government senators in the chamber. I want to talk about something with which I believe only the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) can cope.
– There will be even fewer soon.
– I realise that Government senators are having a joint caucus meeting in an endeavour to belt the Democratic Labor Party and Independent senators into line so as to enable the Government to get its new Assistant Minister in the Senate. 1 make an appeal on behalf of 7 young men who will face a court in Brisbane at 10 a.m. on Friday, 27th August 1971, charged with various offences under the National Service Act. I make this appeal knowing that over the years some people of conscience have elected not to comply with the terms of the Act and that many of those young men are no longer in Australia. 1 also make the appeal in the knowledge of the announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) a few days ago to the effect that by Christmas this year there will be no Australian troops in Vietnam, except possibly a few advisers. Various numbers have been cited by various people; but it appears that the number will be between 25 and 40. Apart from these advisers, everyone will return to Australia. This country is now in the very unhappy situation that 474 people have already given their lives in a war which this Government knew could not be won when it entered into it in the early 1960s. If the troops are not brought home before the end of the year, it is almost certain that another 25 or 26 will be killed before the withdrawal. That will make a nice round figure of 500.
These young people to whom I am referring are all decent types of lads; but in conscience they feel that they cannot comply with various sections of the Act. I name them publicly. Gregory Anthony Cash of 31 Arkaright Street, Wavell Heights, aged 21 years, has been charged with having failed to register in January 1971. He is a student at the Queensland Institute of Technology. He is also the Secretary of the Queensland Institute of Technology Students Union. He is a member of the Pastoral Council of St Elizabeth’s Church, Ekibin, Brisbane. Graham Edward Cathcart, of 17 Essex Road, Indooroopilly, aged 20 years, failed to register in July 1970. He is a student teacher. Colin James Beasley, of 11 Barrhead Street, Wavell Heights, aged 20 years, failed to register in July 1970. He is a student at the University of Queensland. John Lawrence Giggens, of 40 Day Road, Northgate, aged 21 years, failed to register in January 1970. He also is a student at the University of Queensland. Daryl Nixon of Brisbane is an apprentice printer aged 20 years. He failed to register in January 1971. Kenneth John Howard, of 17 Essex Road, Indooroopilly, is a cook aged 22 years. He registered in 1969 but failed to attend for a medical examination in August 1970. Ken Ferrier of Toowoomba failed to register in January 1971. He is a student at the University of Queensland.
These lads are all decent young Australians. None of them has said publicly, to my knowledge, that he is a pacifist; but all of them have some objection to various provisions of the National Service Act. In essence, they feel that they cannot become involved in the Vietnam war. I am calling on the Attorney-General, in his mercy, to take the appropriate steps - as far as I know he is the only one in Australia who can take the appropriate steps at the moment - to have these charges withdrawn. There are many reasons, but I think none is better than the fact that this country has now elected to withdraw from the Vietnam conflict. Surely to goodness the prerogative of mercy can be exercised in this regard by having these charges either postponed indefinitely or withdrawn completely. I now leave the matter with the AttorneyGeneral.
(10.47) - I am sure that Senator Mulvihill is very well apprised of our purpose in allowing persons into this country from overseas countries to pursue their studies. These students are allowed entry into Australia not to enable this country to benefit from their activities but to enable these people to acquire skills and then to take them back to their homelands for the further benefit of their homelands. I believe that over the years Australia’s contribution in this way has been well recognised. I think it would be wrong for the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) to act in any way other than one which is consonant with the overall objectives.
Since 1966. of course, the students who have come into Australia have had to undertake in writing that they will return to their own country after they have completed their studies. I think Senator Mulvihill well appreciates that there is a need for some exercise of discretion in regard to these matters. The Minister has accepted and does exercise a discretionary judgment from time to time. It would be difficult to visualise how the system would work humanely and fairly without some such discretion. But, having said that, I point out that it must inevitably follow, just because of the character of discretionary judgments, that opinions will vary as to whether in some cases the right decision has been made. It is one of the responsibilities which the Minister carries as part of his load that he makes the decisions as he sees the position. I can only say that in the financial year 1969-70 some 461 students were granted resident status. They were under an obligation to return home, but circumstances arose in which it was unreasonable or inhumane to require them to leave Australia, and therefore they were granted resident status.
I think every honourable senator will have had some experience of the problems of and the pleas that are made by overseas students who have become attached to life in Australia, who sense that they have a vocation for which there is ample opportunity in this country and who would like to remain here. Yet they are obliged under the terms under which they came here initially to return home. As I have said, we all make our applications to the Minister for his consideration. I would sense that we recognise the problems which the Minister has in making decisions which are fair and right in all the circumstances. In the light of what I have said I do not think I can do more than say that 1 will arrange for what Senator Mulvihill has said to be conveyed to the Minister. I am quite sure that the Minister will give weight to what the honourable senator has said and that he will consider the particular case which was cited.
As I understood what Senator Keeffe said, he stated that he could not say that any of the young men to whom he referred were pacifists but they were persons who, for some reason or other, had some objection to the National Service Act. He said that in conscience - I wonder what those words really mean - they could not comply with the Act. There is an obligation under that Act that young men of a certain age shall register for national service. The vast majority of Australians - I think the figure taken out by the Minister for Labour and National Service for the last 12 months indicated well over 98 per cent - required to perform their service do perform their service. I should have thought that it would be totally unfair to the 98 per cent or more of young men who, in circumstances where probably, if they were left to their own choice, they would prefer to do anything rather than register, not to indicate that those who are not prepared to register are not immune or are not subject to the full processes of law enforcement if they do not obey the law.
I cannot see in anything which Senator Keeffe has said a reason for treating these young men as in any way different from other young men who have chosen to adopt a course in which they express objection to the National Service Act. If the honourable senator had raised some considerations 1 certainly would have looked at them, but the simple plea that in conscience these people could not obey the National Service Act is no basis for not allowing the law to take its course. If they were conscientious objectors in the sense that they had a conscientious objection to the bearing of arms or to any form of military service they would have had ample opportunity to apply to the court for an exemption. But if these persons choose not to do this, possibly in the light of what Senator Keeffe said because they do not have any such conscientious objection, it seems that no exception should be made under the law for them,
– You have distorted what I said.
– I trust that I have not misinterpreted what the honourable senator said; I trust that I have dealt fairly with the case as he raised it. I shall look tomorrow at the Hansard record of what was said, but as 1 recall the honourable senator’s remarks I can see no reason for taking any action other than to let the law take its course.
Senator KEEFFE (Queensland)- Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. I regret having to do this, but the Minister has deliberately distorted everything that I said in order to put his own views on the subject. It is quite obvious that it is completely useless to make an appeal to him to exercise any mercy because he does not even know what it is.
– I realise that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) today has had a very busy day. If after such a tiring day he makes a mistake, as alleged by Senator Keeffe, I think we should have some compassion for him. Even if he will not now give consideration to extending justice to those who cannot comply with the National Service Act, perhaps tomorrow on reflection after having a rest from his busy day he might adopt some other attitude. I have entered the debate for the purpose of saying that Senator Keeffe has brought up a very pertinent point which has not been considered by the Minister. The honourable senator said that 7 men are to be prosecuted for breaches of the National Service Act. In conscience they did not feel that they could comply with the Act. That indicates that they had a conscience. They could not register or make application for consideration by a court as conscientious objectors because their very consciences rebelled against the Act. Therefore they were unable to proceed with the first step.
Despite that fact that they cannot take the first step, such men may have conscientious reasons for not serving in any conflict or for not taking up arms. Because of their early conscientious objection they are unable to comply with the requirements of the Act by making an application to the court. Because there were such men in our community we amended the National Service Act so that where it comes to the knowledge - or some other word with which I disagreed at the time - of the Department of Labour and National Service that there may be a conscientious objection, the Minister can set up the procedure for establishing the existence of a conscientious objection, even where there is no application by the person. Senator Keeffe must have said sufficient tonight to raise in the Minister’s mind the possibility that in the 7 cases referred to there was a conscientious opposition to serving in any conflict, although no application was made. We amended the Act to permit the Minister to refer such a matter to a court, not to prosecute someone but to examine whether that person had a conscientious objection.
In a series of questions last week I asked whether consideration would be given to a reduction in the gaol sentences imposed on Charles Martin from South Australia and Geoff Mullen from New South Wales. I shall refer mainly to Charles Martin as I am more intimately aware of the details of his case. He is in gaol and he expects that with the benefit of the remission to which he is entitled under South Australia law, which applies to persons sentenced in South Australia under the National Service Act, he will be released by Christmas. Last week 1 asked whether, because there is to be a reduction from 2 years to 18 months in the length of service required of those who are called up for military service, and the alternative to service in the Army is a gaol sentence, consideration would be given to reducing to 18 months gaol sentences already imposed under the National Service Act. I gathered from the reply to my question that consideration was being given to the introduction into the Parliament of an amendment to the Act for the purpose of achieving the reduction that seems to be justified in the case of national service. I asked further whether special consideration would be given to the application of a reduction to men already in gaol, and I referred particularly to Charles Martin who possibly has already served a sentence of 18 months.
In the reply to my question I was told that on an application being properly made consideration would be given to a recommendation to the Governor-General on whether there should be a pardon for Charles Martin and Geoff Mullen. I notice that the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Hurford) approached Charles Martin on this question. I think it is an indication of Charles Martin’s courage that he said: ‘I am opposed to the National Service Act, I am opposed to the McMahon Government, and sticking up for my conscientious belief. I am not going to ask the McMahon Government for any concessions. For this reason 1 do not feel that I am able to make the appropriate application to the Minister’. Surely this man is making a sacrifice. Because of his conscientious beliefs he is not prepared to comply with the amended Act and seek an inquiry to determine whether he should be in gaol or whether he should ever have been in gaol. I am of the belief that at all times he had a conscientious objection to service of any description. This matter has never been considered. We amended the Act for the purpose of considering such cases. It is of no use the Minister getting on his high horse-
– Because he is tired.
– Because he is tired and saying that those who do not comply with the Act deserve all they get and that it would not be fair to the 98 per cent who do comply with the Act if special consideration were given to the 2 per cent who do not. We amended the Act to cover that 2 per cent. They are deserving of protection. Their cases are deserving of examination. The Minister should do his duty in accordance with the Act and look into the matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 August 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710824_senate_27_s49/>.