27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Health advise the Senate of the occupations of members of the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness and the period of each member’s appointment?
Yes, I shall be happy to provide that information. Rather than wait to present it in the Senate, I would be perfectly happy to have the information sent direct to the honourable senator, if that is his wish.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that wool prices quoted by private wool sellers in some overseas countries are at a considerable discount below prices now payable at auction in Australia? As the Australian Wool Commission bought 37 per cent of the offering at Albany and 30 per cent of the offering at Sydney yesterday, does the Minister consider that it would be an advantageous move to send a trade mission to the wool buying countries of the world in an endeavour to sell the ever increasing stockpile of Australian wool held by the AWC at prices comparable to those being quoted by overseas sellers?
– 1 do not think we need to send a delegation from Australia to sell some of the stockpile of wool. In recent times the Australian Wool Commission has been very busy trying to sell wool all over the world, and in addition to that we have the benefit of the Internationa] Wool Secretariat promoting the use of wool. Last year the AWC endeavoured to sell a large quantity of wool to China and, I understand, to some eastern European countries in response to tentative offers made by agents acting on behalf of those countries. Unfortunately those sales fell through, because offers were made in respect of wool which had been bought originally through private buyers and which was offered to those countries at a price some cents lower than the price at which wool was offered by the Australian Wool Commission. I shall draw the Minister’s attention to the honourable senator’s question. If any further information is available I will provide it to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I ask: Has he now had an opportunity to read the judgment that was given by Mr Justice Forster in the Northern Territory Supreme Court last Monday relating to an interpretation of the powers of the Northern Territory Legislative Council? If so, does he have anything to add to the answer that he gave to a question I asked of him last Tuesday?
– I have had an opportunity to read the judgment that was given by Mr Justice Forster in the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory on Monday of this week. As I recall, the answer which I gave to the Senate on Tuesday was that, on the information then available to me, the nature of the judgment distinguished between the inquisitorial powers which are traditional to the Houses of Parliament of Westminster and the investigatory powers which are in aid of legislation. Insofar as the view which I have heard expressed in this chamber is concerned - that Senate committees are in aid of the legislative function - I would adhere to the views I expressed earlier and would not wish to change them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Firstly, is the Government aware of the testimony of Yuri Krotkof, given under the name of George Karlin - a high ranking officer of the KGB before his defection in England in 1963 - to the Internal Security SubCommittee of the Committee on the Judiciary of the United States Senate on 6th and 10th November 1969, which was released publicly on 28th December 1970? Secondly, is the Government further aware that Krotkof fully identified Wilfred Burchett, the Australian journalist whose return to Australia in March 1970 was the occasion of much public controversy, as not only a paid agent of the Chinese and Vietnamese Communist parties but also as a Soviet KGB operative, to which position Burchett was appointed in 1958, in the KGB’s Special Department which was responsible for all foreign correspondents in Moscow? Thirdly, is it a fact that in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 20th February 1970, Burchett said in an interview with Mr Ron Saw: i tried again, tried to get an Australian pass port in Moscow when Keith Waller was there. Keith was very sympathetic and he tried hard for me. but Canberra still said no.
Arthur Calwell and Jim Cairns have both tried to help. Jim asked 9 questions in the House asking if the Government intended to make any charges against me, but he didn’t get anywhere.
Fourthly, what position did Mr Waller occupy at the time of Burchett’s admission to Australia? Fifthly, if the Government was aware of these matters, will the Minister state what officer or officers of the Department, of Foreign Affairs were responsible for facilitating Burchett’s return to Australia on 1st March 1970, and his unhindered departure from Australia in the same month?
– Order! I think that that is a suitable question to put on notice.
– I direct a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. In view of the continued silence of the Minister for the Interior in the face of fierce agitation by the Postmaster-General’s Department for the construction of a communications tower on Black Mountain, I ask: Will he give an assurance that if a request emanates from a group of Canberra citizens for an investigation of the proposal by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment he will defer making any ministerial decision until such an inquiry takes place?
– It is really not within the province of the Minister for the Interior or myself to offer the assurance that is being sought by the honourable senator. The request for such an assurance should, I think, be addressed to the PostmasterGeneral. The Minister for the Interior has already informed those people who have seen him on this matter that it is his understanding that all of the issues surrounding the need for, the design and construction of this facility will be examined in due course by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works. The hearings before that body would seem to offer a traditional and very good forum for the advancement of any views for or against the proposal.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. With the proposed reduction in national service training from 2 years to 18 months and in Citizen Military Forces training from 6 years to 5 years, can the Minister inform the Senate whether personnel who volunteered to serve in the CMF for 6 years in lieu of 2 years’ national service training and who have served tor 5 years or more will be permitted to resign after 5 years’ service? Will they be automatically discharged or will they have to serve the full 6 years?
– To ensure that the answer to the honourable senator’s question is firmly based, I shall have to check the matter with the Department of Labour and National Service. I shall give the honourable senator an early response.
– Does the Minister for Health agree that ambulance services throughout Australia, such as the St John’s
Brigade, perform a life saving community function both as vital agents in carrying an ever increasing number of road accident victims to hospital and in the transport of urgent domestic medical cases? Can the Minister justify the . exclusion of annual subscriptions to these organisations as a taxation deduction? Will the Minister liaise with the Treasurer with the objective of including this important item as a tax deduction in the near future, as I believe this would encourage greater financial support which is so desperately needed by these ambulance organisations?
– I think it would go without saying that the ambulance services perform a very commendable service. The honourable senator mentioned the St John’s Brigade in particular. For the most part those organisations come in some way under the jurisdiction of the States. The question should not have been directed to me as Minister for Health but as Minister representing the Treasurer. Therefore I shall direct the question to the Treasurer with any suitable comments that I may like to add.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Government agree that there is considerable confusion in world capitals arising from the unilateral decision of the Government of the United States of America to impose a 10 per cent surcharge on all imports? Will this decision affect the Australian economy? Does the Government intend to make a statement on this issue and allow the Parliament to debate the deteriorating world economic position?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe decision taken by the Government of the United States of America to impose a surcharge on imports has been linked to a significant degree with the monetary considerations of various nations. As the Senate would know, the Treasurer is currently overseas having discussions at the highest level about these problems. 1 have no doubt that when the patterns are clear and when the decisions have been formed,, developed and discussed by the Government an appropriate statement . will be made by the
Treasurer on his return from overseas. This matter is very complex and would not lend itself to discussion at question time. 1 would agree that at an appropriate time the broad issues involved are matters which may well be discussed by either - this chamber or another place.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say whether any research has been conducted or is being conducted into the development of powdered orange juice or other citrus juices, which powder would readily mix with water, similar to other instant drinks? If there has been no such research and as there would be a large potential market for such a product, both locally and overseas, will the Minister recommend to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or some other body that such research be conducted for this could prove of immense value to the Australian citrus industry?
– I would doubt that there has not been some research into an important question such as this, but .what that research is I cannot state at this time. I shall certainly draw the Minister’s attention to the question, find out what information is available and let the honourable senator have it.
– Has the Minister for Air seen the finding of the. United States District Court that the president of a company supplying parts for the Fill Aircraft . was guilty of conspiracy to conceal defective, parts used in the plane? Is he aware that disputation exists as to which aircraft have been fitted with these defective parts? Can the Minister assure the Senate that none of the Australian F111Cs are equipped with any of the defective parts supplied by . the. convicted manufacturer?
- Senator’ Keeffe asked me a similar question yesterday. When I gave him an answer I indicated - that although ‘ this company makes parts for all the Fills we believe that the parts used in our, aircraft dp not contain any defective welds..
– How can you be sure of that?
– We have already carried out an inspection. I then went on to say to Senator Keeffe that I had been seeking further information and that I had been assured that as we understand the position at this time there are no defective welds in our aircraft. But should the Government make a decision in December to take these aircraft, further inspections will be carried out before we take delivery.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities or the Minister for Shipping and Transport a question relating to the Eyre Highway and the support from various tourist organisations, the Australian automobile associations, and the governments of South Australia and Western Australia for a formula entailing Commonwealth financial assistance to provide for the sealing of the remaining sections of the Highway. I ask the Minister: Have the representations from these bodies, including those made during the tourist Ministers conference and since, been further considered by the Government? At the present time is any formula being considered by the governments concerned which might allow an early determination as to whether the whole of the remaining section of the Eyre Highway can be sealed?
– It will be noted that yesterday on behalf of the MinisterinCharge of Tourist Activities I tabled the annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission. I have not had a chance to read it fully yet but I shall look at it later today to see whether there is any reference in it to the Eyre Highway. Specifically the honourable senator asked me whether any formula had been arrived at between the governments concerned to try to overcome this problem which has been referred to in the Senate on a number of occasions by honourable senators from South Australia. I understand their concern and Senator Bishop’s continued interest. What I shall have to do is find out what progress has been made and whether any formula has been established. I know that there have been communications because I have referred to them, but beyond that I cannot go at the moment.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I refer to ‘The Clutha Project’, a publication which is a background prepared by Clutha Development Pty Limited. It states that an off-shore marine coal loading facility some 4,000 feet out to sea off the village of Coalcliff will be connected to the shore by a trestle structure standing on steel piles and that the terminal will be located in a State and Federal controlled roadstead. Will the Minister tell me how it comes about that Clutha Development Pty Limited is able to state apparently that there has been Federal approval for this project, which has been greatly disputed in New South Wales, to be constructed on territory which belongs to the Commonwealth? Has the Government, in fact, given any approval in any manner to this project proceeding?
– I listened carefully to the comments of the Leader of the Opposition. Naturally I would not have in my hands the background note about which he talks and which was issued by Clutha Development Pty Ltd. The honourable senator referred to a comment in that background note about a coal loading tip on” a roadstead which he said the company had stated was to be put down in CommonwealthState territory.
– I referred to a State and Federal controlled roadstead.
– I have those words, for which I thank the honourable senator. Is this an assumption on the part of the company? Is this what it believes or does the background note indicate that approval is to be given by both authorities? It is not clear to me. I will have to find this out for the honourable senator. I know the background of some of these problems. I know a little about the public controversy. I always thought this was a State matter but the reference the honourable senator makes will lead me to ask the Minister to what extent the Commonwealth is involved.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. By way of preface, I refer to a promise made by the then Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, on 8th September 1970 to introduce legislation regulating the conduct of the general insurance industry and to a statement made in the Senate by the Leader of the Government on 20th May last in response to a question from me to the effect that it was hoped that legislation would be ready for introduction during the Budget session. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the comments of Mr Daryl Dawson, the inspector of the affairs of the defunct East Australian Insurance Co. Ltd that the provisions of the Victorian Insurance Act were completely inadequate to afford any reasonable protection to policy holders who deal with a newly established insurance company involved in the comprehensive insurance of motor vehicles? Further, has the Minister read Mr Dawson’s opinion that this is, for constitutional reasons, a problem which is probably more appropriately the responsibility of the Commonwealth than of the States? Can we expect the promised Commonwealth legislation regulating the insurance industry to be introduced during this session?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, I remember the generality of the statement which I made in May. Currently I have rend certain items in the Press. I think that the 3 questions which the honourable senator poses should be referred to the Prime Minister, particularly the question as to proposed legislation. I am not in a position to give an answer here. I shall certainly have the question processed without delay. 1 hope to obtain an early reply.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science aware that it is the stated intention of the Tasmanian Education Department in 1972 to keep the number of teaching staff approximately 200 below the accepted minimum level required to maintain existing educational standards? In view of this stated intention will the Government consider making a special grant of about SI. 2m to Tasmania specifically for the employment of teachers?
– General information leads me to believe that the Tasmanian Education Department will have to impose some limitation upon its teaching facilities due to limited finances. Whether there is any validity in a figure of 200 as suggested by the honourable senator I have no means of confirming. With regard to the request for a special grant, I shall make one or two brief observations. Firstly, it will be remembered that in the last 2 years the Commonwealth has increased its general grant to all States from S2,400m to $3,200m, an increase of 33i per cent in that period, and a considerable part of that is devoted to State educational needs. Secondly, Tasmania is the recipient of a special grant which is the subject every year, since it was instituted in 1933, of a recommendation by the independent Commonwealth Grants Commission. Thirdly, no request on the part of any State for a special grant can be acknowledged unless it is made by the Premier of the State to the Prime Minister.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for’ Trade and Industry: What current action is being taken by the Government to meet the situation which will arise in relation to Australia’s overseas trade should the United Kingdom enter the European Economic Community? Has the Government taken steps to prompt the United Kingdom about the fact that Australia currently purchases twice the cash value of goods from Britain that that country purchases from Australia? What advantage is being sought by Australia due to that trade situation and the likely replacement of British sellers to the Australian market? Can the Parliament be confident that departments involved arc very alert to this present condition? Will the Minister request the Government to place before the Senate a straightforward stater ment on this most important matter so that Parliament and those in industry who may be affected can contribute to current thinking on the subject?
– Not very long ago I put down a statement in this Senate on behalf of the Minister for Trade and Industry which alluded to a number of matters concerning the Australia-United Kingdom trade position, particularly the possible entry of the United Kingdom into the European Economic Community. To my own knowledge, having not very long ago been over in the United Kingdom, I know that the Australian view has been pressed most forcibly. I know that the figures the honourable senator referred to relating to the particular trade situation between ourselves and the United Kingdom have been pointed out to the British Government and are continually referred to by the various people involved in Australian trade at governmental levels. To my knowledge the departments are alert to the factors the honourable senator mentioned. I think he has a very clear understanding of how important this trade with United Kingdom is to us; it is equally true that it is important to the United Kingdom. These things have been said and are continually being said. Equally T am sure that Australia, for its own part, has to make a stronger stand in the Community and I am sure that steps are being taken to that end.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to a statement made by Mr P. Giles, Secretary of the Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association of Victoria, that up to 40 Victorian private nursing homes would close by the end of October because of increasing costs and empty beds which are not occupied because of these costs? Will the Minister treat this matter as extremely urgent and provide an immediate substantial increase in Commonwealth subsidies to registered nursing homes?
Yes. if the statement is the one that is referred to in the Press this morning, 1 have seen it. I think it is true to say that a certain situation is emerging in relation to hospital costs consequent upon awards that have validly been given. It is true to say that 1 am critically looking at this situation, as has been requested. At this point of time I would not want to say anything more than that but I am critically looking at the situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Is the experiment in daylight saving, which is due to commence in the eastern States at the end of October, to apply to the ACT? If the answer is yes, how is it proposed to be implemented - by Act of Parliament or by ordinance?
– I do not know and I shall have to find out.
– ls the Minister for Works aware that employees of the Commonwealth Department of Works met at the plant pool at Garbutt yesterday afternoon and carried a resolution requesting that notices of dismissal to be served on 8 employees be withdrawn? Is he also aware that the employees concerned claim that friction between departments, and departmental inefficiency at the planning level, are responsible for the dismissal notices, not a shortage of work? In view of this informawill the Minister conduct a further inquiry with a view to retaining the services of the employees now under threat of dismissal?
– I inform the honourable senator that I am not aware of the meeting to which he referred or of the resolution attributed to the men, but as soon as it is communicated to me the matter will be considered.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry read a report in today’s Australian’ that the Australia to Europe Shipping Conference may exert pressure for a review of freight rates owing to loss of wool cargo since the Australian Wool Commission has been buying huge quantities of wool and stockpiling it? Will the Minister assure the Senate that any attempt by the Conference to increase wool freights will be strenuously opposed by the Government to ensure that the agreement negotiated by the wool industry last July is adhered to?
– I have read the article referred to by the honourable senator. I think it refers mainly to the fact that cargo space was made available to lift wool from the sales that have already been held, but due to the buying-in policy of the Australian Wool Commission the amount of wool that was expected to be shipped has not as yet been shipped. However, I take note of what the honourable senator has said. 1 remind him that over the past few months strenuous efforts have been made by the wool industry and the Government to oppose an increase in shipping freights. I think that policy will be continued by the Department. I will ensure that the Minister for Shipping and Transport is made aware of the honourable senator’s question.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Is it a fact that 200 Commonwealth police carried out a raid at 5 o’clock this morning on Union House in the grounds of the Melbourne University? Is it a fact that keys were offered to the police to gain entry but were refused? Were keys also available from the fire protection unit on request but not availed of by the police? Is it a fact that to gain entry the police smashed some 30 doors and other property? ls the Commonwealth responsible for the repair of the damage caused to the doors and other property in the raid by the police? Is the Minister aware that Mr Bell, Registrar of Melbourne University, early this morning commended the students for their conduct during the raid? Will the Minister provide the Senate with specific answers to the following questions? How many Commonwealth cars and police were used? What time was spent by them on the raid? What were the total costs in terms of wages and salaries paid for the operation? What is the total cost of the repair of the damage caused by the police? What purpose did the raid serve?
– It is a fact that at an early hour this morning - about 5 o’clock - a force of approximately 100 Commonwealth policemen attempted to enforce warrants for the arrest of certain persons who, according to information available to the police, were in the premises at or just before the time that the police arrived. It is not a fact that keys were offered to the police. Indeed, from the information available to the police it was apparent that the university authorities were. not prepared to offer any initiatives by way of cooperation. It is a fact that about three quarters of an hour after the police had gained entry by breaking down 2- doors to gain access to the building, and in the building had broken down other locked doors to ascertain whether the persons they sought were there - that is about three quarters of an hour after entry was initially effected - some persons offered keys to the police in order to open other doors. That offer was accepted and no further action was taken until the keys were presented, as they duly were.
I am unable to say how many doors were broken, other than that 2 were broken in order to gain entry and a number in the building were also broken. It is not. a fact that the Commonwealth is responsible for the damage that was caused. It is apparent from Press comments throughout the week that the persons sought were being concealed within the University by the Students Representative Council and by other people who purported to have control over that area of the Union Building. If persons harbour people for whom it is known warrants for arrest have been issued and if it is indicated that if the police seek to arrest those persons they will be resisted, it appears to me that those responsible must bear the consequences of what, in the circumstances, was a discreet and restrained attempt to effect an arrest.
If in fact - I am unable to say whether it is so or not - the Registrar of the University commended the students on their conduct throughout this raid, I would say only this: No student was injured because, as I have said, the Commonwealth police exercised commendable discipline and restraint under extreme provocation. I further say that 2 policemen were injured and had to attend hospital. In respect of one policeman, upon whose head a steel framed chair was thrown by a student as a result of which he had to have stitches, the student concerned has been charged wilh assault occasioning bodily harm. In the circumstances as they are known to me, 1 would consider it surprising that anybody in a position of authority could say that the students exercised commendable restraint or that their conduct in harbouring these people . . .
– They were not there.
– … is the type of citizenship we would expect in due course from university students. By interjection it is suggested that the students were not there. I have seen in the Press photographs of the students who were in the university at various stages throughout the week. I have seen statements by the students that they proposed to be at the university throughout the week. Intelligence available to the Commonwealth Police Force indicated that they “were in that building last night. I have also noticed that the same students have been saying: ‘It is extremely difficult, when you are offering yourself for arrest, to be arrested’, lt seems curious, therefore, that they should flee every time the police seek to make an arrest.
I can also inform Senator Brown, in answer to his long question, that 3 buses, 4 motor cars and one equipment vehicle were used to transport the 100 policemen to the site. As to the cost, I am unable to give him that information at this stage. If he really believes that the time of the Commonwealth Police Force should be taken up in assessing what overtime costs were involved, I will obtain the information for him; but I should certainly say that there are more useful activities in which the Commonwealth Police Force could be engaged. As to the purpose of this exercise, it is my function, as I see it, as far as possible to ensure that the law is enforced. The Commonwealth Police Force, to the limits of its ability, will ensure that the law is enforced and, where there are warrants for arrest, that the people to be arrested are arrested.
- Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question?
– Yes, Senator Brown, I will allow a supplementary question to the Attorney-General if you wish to seek further information.
– Yes, I do. Will the Attorney-General be good enough to answer the specific questions if I place them on the notice Dar>er for him?
– Senator Brown asked me a very long question which I noted as he was asking it. I think I have answered every question he asked except the one about the total cost. If he wishes to raise further matters, naturally it is his right to put a question on the notice paper. If he does so, I certainly will arrange for a response to be given to him.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that administrators of homes for the aged in Tasmania arc expressing considerable concern regarding the financial crisis affecting the homes, some of which are facing closure due to lack of finance? Is it not a fact that many of the homes for the aged have to depend on charity in order to balance their budgets? In view of the financial difficulties facing these homes, will the Government give further financial assistance to them?
– I think that the Minister for Health earlier gave an indication of the knowledge and awareness of the Government as to the problems facing a number of homes in which aged persons are cared for, and-
– He did- not refer to homes for the aged but to nursing homes.
– And where people are in receipt pf nursing home benefits. It is difficult to ascertain, particularly in the light of the honourable senator’s interjection as I was responding, precisely what types of homes he is referring to. Insofar as they are aged persons homes, the Commonwealth practice has been to make a contribution to the capital cost. This has been a very generous contribution. Consideration is given to any matters which are raised with respect to the running costs of these homes and I will pass that aspect of the honourable senator’s question on to the Minister for Social Services.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. I refer to a recent statement by the Minister for the Navy that certain unions were demanding the right to put persons in positions of employment in our naval dockyards without the management having the right of scrutiny or to say who is to be employed. I ask the Minister: What are the unions concerned? Are any of the officers of these unions members of the Communist parties? Will the Minister inform the Parliament of the steps that will be taken to ensure that the 6 light destroyers planned for the Royal Australian Navy are built expeditiously in Australian shipyards?
– I will need to seek information on this question. I will refer it to the Minister for the Navy and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Australian Meat Board’s annual report for the year ended 30th June 1971 disclosed the potential threat of meat substitutes to the Australian meat industry as a competitor which could have an adverse effect on the future of this industry? Did the Australian Meat Board recommend to the Minister earlier this year that it would be desirable that uniform labelling be introduced to ensure that the word ‘meat’ should not legally appear on any package unless the package contained a recognised animal meat product? If so, can the Minister inform the Senate as to what action has been taken by the Government and the stage that that action has reached?
– Yes I saw the annual report by the Australian Meat Board. The report stated that the Board was conscious of the threat being posed by the development of synthetic or imitation meats. It was making every endeavour to alert the industry to the dangers of this development. It made the point that immediate legislation was desirable to prevent the use of the word ‘meat’ in connection with the importation, manufacture or sale of any product other than a recognised meat product.
In April of this year the Australian Meat Board and the Minister for Primary Industry wrote to the State Ministers responsible for primary industry asking them to examine their respective legislation concerning the labelling and description of such products to ensure that the misdescription with respect to the use of the word ‘meat’ does not occur. Currently, the States are reviewing their legislation. The Federal Minister for Primary Industry is in the process of writing to the Minister for Customs and Excise to seek an examination of relevant import regulations to ensure correct labelling of imports of imitation or synthetic meats.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: What is the proportion of assisted migrants who are flown to Australia and to what extent does Qantas Airways Limited participate in this programme? Has the fall in the profitability of Qantas Airways Limited been due to the cutback in the immigration programme? If so, will the Government take action to reduce assisted passages by sea which may operate to the detriment of an Australian owned Government transport system?
– The Government took action quite some time ago to bring as many migrants as possible by air rather than by sea and the proportion of migrants carried to Australia by Qantas Airways Limited is very high. The exact figures I shall have to obtain for .the honourable senator. It is true that the decline in Qantas’ profitability is due, to a very limited extend, to a decline in the number of people being flown to Australia under the assisted passage scheme. The effect is not very marked.
– Will the Minister for Civil Aviation, who is to be the Acting Minister for Immigration, arrange to provide for the Senate next Tuesday a statement of the existing policy of the Department of Immigration in relation to people who are entering or passing through Australia in possession of New Zealand passports?
– As will bs appreciated, my state of knowledge on this subject is perhaps not as good as one might hope it will be in 6 weeks time when, 1 am told, I will give up the job of being the Acting Minister for Immigration. However, I do have with me a quite long paper which refers to a specific case in which I imagine the honourable senator is interested. Perhaps I could show him that after we have finished question time. If he then still feels that it is necessary to have a general statement on policy we could perhaps have this material elaborated to cover a wider area.
– Could we have it incorporated in Hansard?
– Not at present, because there is too much of it and I have not had a chance to read it.
– Has the Minister for Civil Aviation recently visited the Townsville Airport? If so, was his aesthetic sense in any way affronted by its stark treelessness? In view of the fact that last week was Plant a Tree Week in Queensland, will the Minister consider arranging for the planting of a few trees in the environs of the Townsville Airport and air base?
– I can recall being in Towsville not long after I became the Minister for Civil Aviation and thinking then that the terminal building needed some improvement. Since then the building has been improved and I was very impressed with the change when I was there last. The state of treelessness is due not only to the Department of Civil Aviation; it is due also to the general configuration of the plain and landscape around Townsville. There would be an attraction in having more trees around the Townsville Airport. I plan to go back to north Queensland in November and, provided I can find a suitable tree, I shall plant one myself.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation inform the Parliament pf the total acreage to be resumed on the Many Peaks Range for the construction of radar and other installations for use by the control section of Townsville Airport? Can he advise also where access roads are to be built and whether the area to be resumed will be enclosed by protective fences? Is the Minister aware that this is one of the remaining fauna protection areas in the Townsville district?
– 1 shall look into that matter. I shall get the papers out, find out what is happening, and on my way through to Cairns in, I think, the middle of November, to present the Fire Service Shield to the winning group in Australia, I shall, stop at Townsville and personally look into the matter.
– My question to the Leader of the Government relates to price control and the fact that in South Australia, as the Minister knows, price control has recently been extended. I remind the Minister that the Western Australian Government also recently introduced price control in that State. Is it a fact that the South Australian and Western Australian Governments have requested the Commonwealth Government to consider promoting talks between the Commonwealth and the State governments to consider basic price controls? Is the Minister able to say whether this matter has been considered by the Government and whether it may be accepted by the Government?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe last part of the question clearly relates to a matter of policy, but as to the first part of the question I can say that I have not been informed whether representations have been made. I shall seek that information for the honourable senator.
– My question ls directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Is he able to inform the Parliament of the value and nature of work carried out at Townsville by every private contractor on behalf of the Department of the Army during the past year? Will he name the firms concerned? If this information is not readily available, will the Minister undertake to obtain it as a matter of urgency?
– I shall see what I can find out from the Minister for the Army for the honourable senator.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral in a position to inform the Seante whether the legislation which has been passed by the New South Wales Parliament in connection with the famous Clutha Development project purports to deal with off-shore territory which is within the legislative power of the Commonwealth or with territory as to which there is a dispute about whether it is within the legislative power of the Commonwealth? If he is not in a position to do so now, will the Attorney-General look into the matter with a view to making a statement to the Senate.
– I would find some difficulty in answering the Leader of the Opposition’s question because 1 am not aware as to whether this legislation does have the possible effects to which he adverts. In one sense the answer might be arrived at by simply looking at the terms of the legislation itself. If the answer should appear from such an examination, I am quite sure that the Leader of the Opposition would not wish me to take the matter any further. On the other hand if it involved interpreting the scope of the State legislation and determining whether that legislation intrudes into a legal area, I would nol be able to assure him that I would give expression to any opinions which might be formed. I say that because I do not think it is appropriate to give legal opinions in response to questions and this would certainly involve that type of opinion. 1 understand the Standing Orders are designed to . prevent such an opinion being given. But, having said that, I will look into the matter and if I feel, subject to the reservation I have given, that something can be said I will let the Leader of the Opposition know.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Is he aware that during the past week Melbourne newspapers have reported that among those people who are allegedly mounting a protective guard against Commonwealth police at the University of Melbourne were union delegations and housewives’ committees? In the process of attempting to apprehend the lawbreakers hidden at Melbourne University have the police collected any evidence indicating that unauthorised persons were on the campus? If the news reports to this effect are proven true it would be impossible for the University authorities to deny knowledge of this fact. Would the Commonwealth then take action to charge those authorities with harbouring persons for whom warrants for arrest exist?
– There have been suggestions as to the possibility of bodyguards - protective guards - being provided for persons for whom warrants for arrest have been issued. In particular, I refer to the recent statement of the President of the Victorian Labor Party. There have been suggestions and it is known that on occasions representatives of the organisations to which the honourable senator referred have been in the company of the persons whom the police are seeking. I am unable to say whether such people were in fact at the university. But I think it should be stated that of the persons being sought at the university, that is, the persons for whom warrants for arrest have been issued, only one is a student at Melbourne University and, as he is a post graduate student, there is some doubt as to whether he in fact attends the university. But the other persons have no connection at all with the university. They are therefore persons from outside the university who are being harboured within it. In amplification I should state that the police were this morning able to effect an arrest of one person for whom a warrant had been issued, that person being not one of those who has publicly declared in the last week that he is inviting arrest. The person whom the police arrested was found hiding in a store room. At the same time the police seized a substantial part of a transmitter which had been operating unlawfully and in respect of which a search warrant had been issued by a magistrate.
– In the absence of the Leader of the Government in the Senate 1 direct a question to the Acting Minister for Immigration. I relate a reference in the Department of Immigration’s News Release 40/71 dealing with the Immigration Advisory Council’s study targets to notice of motion No. 6 standing in my name and concerning social service transferability, and ask for an assurance that this motion be given speedy transmission to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.
– The question is directed to a combination of the portfolios of Immigration, Social Services and Health. Senator Mulvihill asked me for an assurance that a motion of his dealing with the transfer of social service entitlements be transmitted to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare. I shall look at the whole process involved. I am anxious to do what I can to help the honourable senator, but this seems to be a rather confused operation. I shall need to look into the matter to see what can be done.
– In view of the number of spies who have been around the chamber this morning, I preface my question to the Attorney-General by referring to the answer which he gave to my question on Tuesday last, 28th September, regarding the allegations by Senator Gair that there were Soviet spies and sabotage in the trade unions and the Public Service. The Minister promised to check the statement and discuss the matter with Senator Gair. Has the Attorney-General had this discussion with Senator Gair and has the honourable senator provided him with any evidence to support the allegations of sabotage?
– I have not yet had the time to talk with Senator Gair.
(Question No. 1113)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Trade and Industry has provided the following reply:
(Question No. 1350)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
– On Tuesday last Senator Keeffe asked me a question and in reply I said that I would refer the matter to the Minister for Supply to obtain an answer. The question was in these terms:
Were 14 ex-Royal Australian Air Force Vampires sold to Westair International of the USA for a total sum of $11,000? Have they been resold or are they about to be resold for a sum well in excess of the purchase price? Why are obsolete RAAF aircraft always sold at bargain prices when the firms buying them in job lots are then able to make enormous profits at the expense of the Australian Government?
The Minister for Supply has provided me with the following information:
Public tenders were called in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, by the Department of Supply for 16 Vampires ex-RAAF. Ten aircraft were complete with engines, though not flyable. The other six were airframes only. Twenty-eight tenders were received. An Australian company submitted the highest bid for two of the complete aircraft. The balance were sold to Westair International as second highest bidder - $1142 each for the complete aircraft and $470 each for airframes, a total of $11,956. Westair indicated in their tender that the aircraft were to be exported. I am not aware whether they have been or are about to be resold. I understand that 13 aircraft have already been shipped from Australia, and the remaining one is still being worked on by Westair’s agent.
I have no knowledge of RAAF aircraft being purchased at bargain prices and resold at enormous profits. Surplus defence aircraft are normally sold by public tender widely advertised in Australia and overseas. The disposals authority satisfied itself that the market has been adequately tested by the tenders. Normally the highest offer for each aircraft is accepted. The purchaser may undertake restoration work before reselling and would need to recover this cost as well as the purchase price, transportation costs, selling costs, etc., before making any profit. If the honourable senator has any specific case in mind I would be pleased to provide any details that might possibly be obtainable.
– On 7th September 1971 the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, in reply to question upon notice No. 1146 by Senator Willesee, gave figures for the number of juveniles of various age groups held in Papua New Guinea gaols on 15th May 1971. The number of prisoners aged 11 was there stated as being 12. This figure is incorrect. There were no prisoners of that age in Papua New Guinea gaols at that date.
(Question No. 1202)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Technical aspects of frequency requirements and sharing criteria for space radio services also were studied and new procedures and arrangements determined and promulgated. General international acceptance of these views was received.
All objectives of the Australian brief were achieved.
It should be noted that when the People’s Republic of China launched its first satellite on the 24th April, 1970, the frequency, used was within the band allocated to the standard frequency service in which space research services are permitted to operate.
(Question No. 1204)
asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice:
On how many occasions when jet aircraft did operate within the curfew hours was permission given by
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There are however, occasions on which flights are obliged to operate within the curfew period in order to cater for the unusually high traffic demands at certain times of the year, such as Christmas, Easter and school holidays. These flights receive my special approval only when I am convinced that their operation within the curfew period is essential to provide for the needs of the travelling public. I do whatever I can to try to achieve the best balance in a difficult situation, in the best interests of the public. In addition to the flights that I approve, authorised officers of the Department of Civil Aviation approve flights which, through unforeseen delays justify approval, on short notice, to intrude into the curfew period. The reasons for these approvals are given in (2).
Of these flights, 133 infringed the curfew by 15 minutes or less.
(Question No. 1297)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1351)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Prime Minister announced in March also that the Government had made available a grant of $12,000 to a Committee comprising interested non-governmental organisations, which was set up on the initiative of the United Nations Association of Australia. This grant has assisted the Committee in carrying out educational activities in each State.
As part of the programme to observe the Year, the General Assembly of the United Nations recommended to all governments that they should make as one of their objectives the signature and ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Australia has already signed the Convention and active consideration has been given by the Commonwealth and relevant States alike to the removal of the few remaining elements of legislation which may not be compatible with the provisions of the Convention. In this connection, the reply which I gave to Question No. 3669 (Hansard, page 1220) is relevant .
(Question No. 1383)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Wagner Industries Pty Ltd manufacture transceivers designed for commercial use, but which can be modified for amateur use. It is understood that, this company markets a 100 watt transceiver suitable for amateur use which retails for $783.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scholarships Board for 1970.
– Pursuant to section 19 of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Act 1970-1971, I present the report of the Anglo-Australian Telescope Board for the period 1st September 1967 to 30th June 1970.
” HOUSING LOANS INSURANCE CORPORATION
Senator WRIGHT (Tasmania- Minister for Works) - Pursuant to section 39 of the
Housing Loans Insurance Act 1965-1966, I present the seventh annual report of the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964-1970, I present the seventh annual report on the administration and operation of that Act for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the annual report of the Department of National Development for the year ended 30th June 1971.
– Pursuant to section 32B of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Power Act 1949-1966, I present the twenty-second annual report of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Authority for the year ended 30th June 1971 together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Coporation Act 1970-71, I present the first annual report of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Tariff Board Act 1921- 1966, I present the annual report of the Tariff Board for the year ended 30th June 1971. The report is accompanied by an annexure which summarises the recommendations made by the Board and shows the action taken in respect of each of them.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Meat Industry Act 1964- 1969, I present the thirty-ninth annual report of the Australian Meat Board for the year ended 30th June 1971, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Canned Fruits Export Manufacturing Act 1963-1970, I present the forty-fifth annual report of the Austraiian Canned Fruits Board for the year ended 31st December 1970, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1971, I present the twenty-third annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the year ended 30th June 1971 together with financial accounts and the report of the Auditor-General on those accounts.
– I present the report from the Joint Committee of the Australian Capital Territory on proposals for variations to the plan and layout pf the city of Canberra and its evirons
Ordered that the report be printed.
Debate resumed from 29 September (vide page 1001), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Willesee had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted because the increased charges are against the national interest and because the Bil] docs not provide for (a) the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board; and (b) the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its Authorities.’ -
– When the Senate adjourned last night, Mr Deputy President, I was speaking about some of the charges levied by the Postmaster-General’s Department in country areas. I regret very much that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), the Minister in charge of this Post and Telegraph Bill in the Senate, apparently thought himself aggrieved in some way when we reached the stage of adjourning. I was talking about country interests. I suppose many honourable senators can recall that one of the prize exhibits at country shows is the display of very large cow pumpkins with not very much in the middle. The Minister reminded me of this scene last night. This is one of the attitudes he has adopted since being elevated to the Ministry - and I refer to the size of his head. I regret if I offended him personally in any way but’ if he takes fatherly advice from the Opposition he might look at some aspects of this and stop getting off the deep end every time he feels put out because of something or another.
I would like to elaborate to a small degree on some of the complaints I raised last night about the lack of availability of services in country areas in Queensland. Queensland is one of the forgotten areas so far as television is concerned. Only in comparatively recent times has equipment been provided to enable Mt Isa and places between Mt Isa and the coast to have television at this time or in the foreseeable future. There are communities of some thousands of people in the Torres Strait area who not only do not have television but do not have even an adequate radio service. On numerous occasions we have asked for the establishment of such a service. We do not need to have a powerful transmitter in the Thursday Island-Torres Strait area but we do need a transmitter. We have debated before in this chamber the lack of television facilities for the Territory of Papua New Guinea. Whilst radio broadcasting services have been improved to some degree, the introduction of television, at the fairly small cost that has been quoted on a number of occasions, would be of tremendous value to the people in that developing country.
It is significant that the south-western area of Queensland has not been catered for in any way at all so far as television services are concerned. One has to live in parts of this area to know that it is frequently io< possible, particularly during the day time, to obtain radio broadcasts on the average type of transistor or the average type of home set. While we are complaining about the amount of money being spent in some directions, I think it was Senator Lawrie who said last night that the profit of the telecommunications section of the PMG’s Department will be brought up to $53m. He complained that one of the reasons why the Post Office could not show adequate profits was that the wage bill was going up continuously. If one examines the details of this Department one finds that the wage bill is not of major importance. In fact there are plenty of underpaid people employed by it.
The federal divisions of Kennedy and Maranoa, apart from the Leichhardt area I mentioned earlier, are 2 of the areas most neglected by this Department. I suggest, in all sincerity, that a proper survey ought to be made. It is significant that both those divisions are represented in the other place by members of the Australian Country Party. I frequently go into the Division of Kennedy. This area is within my political ambit because as members of the august upper chamber we are entitled to travel anywhere we like within our State or within this country. I avail myself of this right and speak frequently w*”’ people in these areas. However, it. is significant that if I complain about the lack of telephone, radio and television facilities in the divisions of Kennedy or Maranoa - but particularly in the former division - I am attacked immediately by the Country Party representatives. Apparently they are quite satisfied to put up with these inadequate facilities and do not speak out on behalf of these people.
Our local candidate for the division spoke at Mount Isa recently and the sitting member accused him of going over his head and asking for telephone facilities. The candidate came to me, because it was the only way that some action would be taken. I could mention other things that have happened in this area. Somewhere from the depths of the deep south the voice of the local member comes over ‘Open Wire’ or whatever is the name of his radio programme. I remember on one occasion we were arranging housing for Aborigines. The local member said: ‘Keeffe cannot come into my area and take my Aborigines. They are mine.’ He still left them without housing. That is exactly the way this man behaves in respect of television, radio and telephone facilities. He is prepared to apply that general attitude to all fields. 1 can speak with some authority about my home State of Queensland. The general attitude of the Country Party in relation to these facilities was verified here last night by Senator Lawrie when he was speaking in this debate. I suggest that the amend-, ment moved by the Opposition is the only practical approach to the great question of telecommunications generally and associated activities of the Postal Department. I sincerely trust the amendment will be carried.
– Having regard to the desire of the Government to complete discussion on these Bills today, as we are to deal with General Business this evening, I will endeavour to limit my remarks on them as much as possible. Before dealing particularly with the Post and Telegraph Bill I would like to reply to a charge made against me last night by Senator Willesee that I had been dishonest in connection with the attitude of the Australian Democratic Labor Party to postal Bills on previous occasions. I say now quite definitely that I have spoken against every Bill providing for increased postal, telephone and telegraph charges that has come into this chamber since I have been here. The introduction of such Bills has become a regular practice in recent years, almost an annual practice.
A review of them will show that what I have said about my attitude to them is correct. On 4th May 1967 A Post and Telegraph Rates Bill was introduced and passed in the House of Representatives. On Monday, 8th May I publicly stated through the Australian Press that I and my colleague Senator McManus intended to do our best to prevent the passage of the legislation and that we hoped that the Australian Labor Party Opposition in the Senate would support our efforts.
The Bill was passed in the House of Representatives, came to the Senate and on 12th May 1967 was debated here. Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, in indicating the position of his Party made it very clear that he and his Party were also opposed to the increase. I want to be as brief as possible about this matter. In voting on the Bill the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party combined to defeat the Government by 25 votes to 24. A second Bill was introduced in the House of Representatives on 17th May. On Friday, 19th May, the last day of the sitting before the winter recess, the Senate dealt with the second reading of the Bill and an amendment was carried. The amendment, moved by Senator Murphy, provided that the Bill be deferred for 6 months. The Democratic Labor Party and Senator Turnbull voted with the Opposition to carry the amendment by 26 votes to 24.
In the course of my remarks on that Bill I indicated that the Government could achieve its purpose by regulation in the coming recess and thus introduce increased rates and charges. My remarks prompted Senator Murphy to take appropriate action to prevent that being done. He moved a motion that in the event of regulations being introduced for that purpose, the Senate should be summoned. Senators of the Democratic Labor Party put their signatures to a requisition for that to be done. By majority vote, the Senate was subsequently called together to deal with the regulations that were introduced.
We were brought here at a great deal of expense to the taxpayers and once again we discussed the postal charges. At this special meeting of the Senate the Government introduced 2 postal Bills, as is the customary practice, and we discussed them on 19th September. By this time the Opposition’s stand had changed. Members of the Opposition had decided not to oppose the measures any further. Divisions were called for by the DLP and Senator Turnbull and the voting was 22 to 3. A question can readily be asked: What happened to the Opposition? On that occasion 22 Government supporters voted against Senator McManus, Senator Turnbull and myself.
Members of the Opposition walked out of the chamber after all their play and display regarding the iniquitous and unjust increases in charges inflicted on the public by the Postal Department. They walked out of the chamber and left the DLP and Senator Turnbull here to vote against the measures. In recent times we have heard a lot from Senator Willesee about the need for an inquiry into separating administration of the postal services from the Public Service Board. I remind him that I endeavoured to have’ this whole subject explored. I sought permission to move an urgency motion relating to the establishment of a statutory corporation or authority to control the operations of what is known as the Postmaster-General’s Department. I could not receive the support of the Australian Labor Party. Because there were only 2 of us - Senator McManus and I - I was not able to obtain permission to have that motion debated. Subsequently I informed the Senate about the proposal. I supplied it with information regarding the commission that was set up in Great Britain to make an examination of the postal services in that country. 1 told honourable senators something they had never known before. 1 informed them of the findings of that commission.
In the course of that speech I suggested that the revenue of the Post Office should be paid not into the Consolidated Revenue Fund but into a trust fund that would be operated by the Post Office itself. I also advocated autonomous control of the Post Office and that it should not be subject to the directions of the Public Service Board. I am glad to say that the Government at least gave effect to my suggestion that the revenue of the Post Office should not be paid into the Consolidated Revenue Fund. So, the things about which Senator Willesee spoke were initiated by me in debates on earlier Bills in this chamber. It ill becomes him to charge me with dishonesty in this connection when he was a party to bringing the Senate back to debate the increased postal charges and then, when the matter was brought to a head, he and his colleagues were Isd by the nose, as it were, from this chamber and they refused to vote against those measures. It is like Satan reproving sin for him to stand up in this place and reflect upon my integrity in this matter.
I have told the people in this chamber and out of it that there is something radically wrong with the Postal Department. I can recollect the time when it was the great revenue producing department of Australia. As I have said before, it is now almost an annual event for the charges to be increased. I have read what the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) has said and the explanation he has given for the increased charges. There is no doubt that there is a good measure of truth in it. We have to understand, in relation to all these departments, that the standard of living of the public servant is tied up with his effort and his measure of production, and that the go slow tactics, the strikes, the holding up of the mail and all the other similar things that have been done frequently in recent years are not helping to keep costs down.
– Do you think they would be a major cause of the problem?
– They are a big contributing factor. If the public servant, or, for that matter, anyone in the community believes that he can maintain his standard of living and not contribute to it by his own personal effort and by giving a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, which is good old Labor policy, he is not doing justice to himself, his fellow citizens or the community generally. What was said in the course of the debate last night in criticism of the rates substantially meets with my approval. But, being a responsible member of the Parliament, 1 have to recognise that the Government has to adopt one of two alternatives: It can increase the rates for those who use the Post Office services - the people who send letters and telegrams, use the telephones and so on - or it can add the cost to the income tax paid by everybody irrespective of the quantum of business that he does with the Post Office.
I deplore the increases in postal rates. 1 believe that it is very unfair to impose heavy telephonic charges on the people in the outback of our country. I have said this before in this chamber. I have related it to the railway deficits over the years. Although the non-paying lines in the country areas were contributing so much to decentralisation, the railways departments were required to carry the cost of those lines while the lands departments or other departments received the benefit from their efforts. The same applies in regard to postal services, lt is particularly unfair that people who are prepared to go out into the backblocks of this country and live there under great disadvantages and adversities should be penalised so much by heavy telephone costs.
I deplore the increases in postal charges particularly as they apply to organisations engaged in raising funds for approved charities and educational purposes. Surely somebody should be ready and willing to subsidise the Postal Department in some way in order to remove the necessity la impose these additional postal charges on such organisations. Throughout Australia many charities are engaged in raising funds for organisations that are doing good Christian and humane work in the care of the aged, the sick, the spastic and others. They have to resort to art unions and other forms of raising money. They have big postage bills. They send out leaflets and tickets - and almost invariably they enclose an envelope with a stamp on it for the return of the butts - as well as result slips.
The same is done for educational purposes. I refer to organisations such as Boys Town which are doing an excellent job in trying to rehabilitate the youth of the community. Yet almost every year they are faced with additional postal charges. What is happening is that the PostmasterGeneral, metaphorically speaking, is putting his hand into the collection bag of those laudable organisations and taking away some of the donations or subscriptions to them. They are being handicapped and disadvantaged because of this. Perhaps this is not an area that the Postmaster-General’s Department can subsidise. But let the Treasury do something about it. Some survey has to be made of the Postal Department because the position appears to be deteriorating.
If taking the Department away from the control Of the Public Service Board and making it a corporation - I am not setting myself up as an authority or a person in a position to say whether that would be good or bad may provide a remedy let us examine it. This was done in Great Britain. In Australia we have examples of organisations such as TransAustralia Airlines and the telecommunications section of the Postmaster-General’s Department. They have autonomous control. They appear to be doing all right. All I ask is that a more serious and more positive examination of the position should take place, lt is not good enough to find year after year that the Post Office is in the red and to continue to increase charges in respect of postal, telephone and telegraphic services. At the end of the next financial year it will be found that the position of the Post Office is no better and this medicine, which is not very palatable, must be again administered.
A number of other parts of this Bill do not meet with my approval, and in common with most people I object to them. I object not so much on my own behalf - at least for the time being - but on behalf of the general public. As one honourable senator said last night, the telephone has become almost an indispensible unit in domestic life. People would have laughed 25 years ago if it had been suggested that the telephone was an essential. Anyone who had a telephone when I was a lad was among the rich in the community or was a business executive whose firm or company had paid for the installation and other costs. Things have changed. Years ago, the same thing could have been said with respect to refrigeration, or even ice boxes, particularly in a State like Queensland. Honourable senators would be surprised to learn how many people hung on to the old canvas bag to provide a cool drink and to the butter cooler for butter. That was the extent of their refrigeration. The situation today is different. Thank God our facilities have improved a bit and that conveniences such as refrigeration and air conditioning units which make life more comfortable and more agreeable are available.
I wish to foreshadow an amendment that I propose to move to the Post and Telegraph Bill 1971. As honourable senators know, I can only foreshadow my amendment at this stage because the amendment moved by Senator Willesee is already on the stocks. My amendment will call for the reference to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations of the following matters: The relationship between the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Public Service Board; the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development; and the establishment of a public corporation to replace the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
My foreshadowed amendment differs from the amendment moved by the Australian Labor Party in that I have broadened the scope of my amendment to include the question of the establishment of a public corporation. This is a matter which has received my attention for some time. Those senators who were here in 1967 will remember that the Australian Labor Party refused to assist me to raise this matter for discussion as a matter of public importance. As a matter of fact, the Australian Labor Party on a number of occasions has called for the establishment of such a public corporation. However, in its amendment this year it has not done so, and I wonder why this is so. Has the ALP gone cold on this proposal? Is it not prepared to examine the proposal for its worth? Is it content to allow the present situation to continue? It has been left to the Australian Democratic Labor Party to attempt to have this proposal examined. Whatever might be the attitude of the ALP, the Australian Democratic Labor Party will not abandon its support for this proposal.
As I have said already, I am not in a position to know whether or not this proposal, if adopted, will prove beneficial or advantageous. But I believe, because of the experience in Great Britain, that this proposal is worthy of examination and consideration by a qualified committee of this Senate. Honourable senators are aware that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has yet to have members appointed to it. However, it is only a matter of time before this will happen because the Democratic Labor Party, for one, has informed the President already of its nominees in respect of those standing committees to which members have not yet been appointed. The Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations is, I believe, the appropriate committee to examine these subjects.
I might point out that my foreshadowed amendment does not constitute a formal reference of those matters to the Committee. A separate resolution of which notice would need to be given would be required in that respect. I did examine the possibility of achieving this reference by way of an amendment at the second reading stage but was advised that this was not possible. Therefore if my amendment is carried - and I see no reason why the ALP should oppose it - I will give the required notice of the formal resolution to refer these matters to that Committee,
In conclusion, I say that this Bill is a part of the Budget. My colleague, Senator McManus, and I in 1967 were prepared to reject a Bill relating to postal charges. We carried our opposition as far as we could until we were deserted. We were prepared to pursue it to the end because we believed that that Bill was not a money Bill in the true sense of the language of our Standing Orders. It was a Bill to increase postal rates and charges. But when a Bill proposing such increases is associated with the Budget, according to my interpretation it is in a different category. That is why we cannot support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee which seeks the withdrawal and redrafting of this Bill because we are conscious of the fact that this would have a delaying detrimental and disturbing effect on the entire Budget. That is our stand on this matter. We cannot support Senator Willesee’s amendment. I have already foreshadowed the amendment that I will move.
– I propose to support the amendment that has been moved by Senator Willesee. I am interested in the foreshadowing of a further amendment by the Austrlaian Democratic Labor Party which has adopted almost the same type of tactic that has been followed in the past when we have dealt with Bills relating to post and telegraph charges. I do not wish to waste the time of the Senate by going through all of the charges that Senator Gair made against the Australian Labor Party, as the main Opposition, in the first part of his speech. But 1 think that a few points should be brought to the attention of honourable senators so that they may appreciate the Opposition’s position, and to illustrate the way in which the Australian Democratic Labor Party., while endeavouring to make its points, has supported the Government and has not supported the Australian Labor Party. I do not want to go through the-
– We cannot go out into the passage way. We cannot support you there.
– I was quite prepared to give Senator Gair the courtesy of an uniterrupted -
– I was only helping the honourable senator.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had mentioned that I proposed to speak in favour of the amendment moved by Senator Willesee, Before doing that I intend to take just a few moments to answer some of the propositions that were put forward by Senator Gair who spoke just prior to me. lt would take too long to trace through ali the situations which have developed over the years with regard to the Democratic Labor Party’s support of the Government and its opposition to the Australian Labor Party, and the occasions when it has supported us against the Government. I wish, therefore, in the few minutes that I propose to devote to this question: to refer to the debate of 30th September last year on the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill 1970 which sought to increase postal charges. On that occasion Senator Willesee moved an amendment to the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’ in these terms:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, . insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn and that in the opinion of the Senate a Joint Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the .desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business . of the Post Office.
Honourable senators will appreciate that the effect of moving that amendment was to remove the approval of the Opposition to the Bill as it was before the Senate. The journals of the Senate record that subsequent to the debate the question That the words proposed to be left out be left out’ was put, that the Senate divided and that the result of the division was 22 in favour of the amendment and 24 in opposition to it. The 24 in opposition to the amendment were composed of government supporters and members of the Democratic Labor Party.
– Read out their names. Let us hear them.
– Order! I remind Senator Poyser that Senator Wilkinson is a very able debator and needs no assistance from him.
– I appreciate my colleague raising any points that 1 might have missed. I have referred to the Democratic Labor Party en bloc. The honourable senator has expressed a wish that their names be read out. As they are recorded in alphabetical order it is necessary to pick out the names of members of the Democratic Labor Party who opposed the motion. They were Senators Byrne, Gair and McManus.
– What about Senator Little?
– He was away. On that occasion our amendment proposed that the Bill be withdrawn because we felt that the increased charges which were proposed were not right. Our amendment was defeated, and the Democratic Labor Party then moved a further amendment. I want honourable senators to appreciate particularly the wording of the amendment proposed by Senator Gair on that occasion on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party, because prior to the suspension of the sitting today for lunch, he did not mention the wording of the amendment. His motion was in these terms:
At the end of motion add ‘and that in the opinion of the Senate a Joint Select Committee should be appointed to inquire into the desirability and practicability of removing the Australian Post Office from the administrative influence of the Public Service Board and of establishing a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office.’
Debate ensued. It will be appreciated that in moving this amendment the Democratic Labor Party was agreeing to the Bill being read a second time; all that it wanted was the addition of a pious resolution at the end of the motion ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’.
We were opposed to this amendment. We had said all along that we did not agree with passing on to the public of Australia increased post and telegraph charges including increased postage on letters and postcards, increased charges for local and trunk line telephone calls, and increased television and radio licence fees. It was proposed to increase all these charges and the Australian Labor Party said that it would oppose the increases. Honourable senators will note that the motion proposed by the Democratic Labor Party would not, if carried, have defeated the motion “That the Bill be now read a second time’: it was proposed to add words to that motion. When the question was put ‘That the words proposed to be added be added’, of course we voted with the Government. We were not prepared to accept this amendment.
At this stage the Senate had not voted on the motion for the second reading of the Bill; we had dealt only with the amendments. When it came to the motion for the second reading the Labor Party voted solidly against the motion, but the Democratic Labor Party voted in favour of the proposed increased charges. On that occasion also the vote was 24 to 22. 1 think I should bring to the attention of honourable senators that the Democratic Labor Party, and particularly Senator Gair, campaigned in Queensland during the last Senate election campaign and made as a particular point their opposition to increased post and telegraph charges, but when the issue came down to a vote they did not oppose the increase.
Let us look a little further and see what happened when we reached the Committee stage. There were 5 divisions on amendments or in opposition to various clauses being carried, but in each division the Democratic Labor Party supported the Government, whereas on each occasion we opposed the Government. This is the record which should be remembered by honourable senators when they hear the half truths that were stated by Senator Gair. Some of the things he said were true enough, but he did not state all the facts. For this reason 1 have referred to one particular instance and have stated the facts. I mentioned earlier that I proposed to deal with the amendment, which I think is extremely important. I have spoken here before, and I do so now, as an old employee of the Postmaster-General’s Department.
– An ex-employee - not old.
– Yes. I have spoken against the increases on several occasions and have asked that an inquiry be held into the separation of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department from the Public Service. I want first to direct particular attention to the words of the motion proposed by Senator Willesee. It reads:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, Insert - the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted because the increased charges are against the national interest and because the Bill does not provide for (a) the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board and (b) the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any Slate and its Authorities.”
I want to deal first with part (b) which relates to the charges which the Government proposes to impose throughout Australia. It is not generally known - I have mentioned this matter before but my remarks have fallen on deaf ears - that payments made to superannuitants are provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department and not by the Government. Most superannuitants feel that their contributions, which amount to about 37 per cent, are supplemented by a payment of about 63 per cent by the Government, but that is incorrect. Anyone who looks at any of the financial statements of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department will see that superannuation is recorded as charge upon the Postmaster-General’s Department. Superannuation payments will amount to something like $30m this year. Most people in the Post Office believe that this amount is being provided by the Government. Indeed the Government allows the false impression that superannuation is paid by the Government itself to prevail when it is in fact a charge against the Postmaster-General’s Department.
Another charge to which I wish to refer is the tremendously important one of interest. Interest charges will amount to a little over SI 40m this year. Incidentally, these two items account for $170m-odd of the total expenditure of some $800m on the part of the Postmaster-General’s Department. It can therefore be seen that a very significant amount is going in interest charges and superannuation payments. Let us have a look at this question of interest charges. In the days before the PostmasterGeneral’s Department’s financial situation came down to a one line entry in the Treasurer’s yearly balance sheet there was a full report on the financial situation. Often the Post Office was shown to bc a viable concern making a profit. That was very satisfactory from the Government’s point of view because the profit went into consolidated revenue and was lost as far as the Post Office was concerned. Yet any amount that was advanced by the Government for capital works or running expenses was charged as a loan to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and interest had to be paid on it.
In effect, very high rates of interest have to be paid on something that was partly a profit in a previous year. Interest of a little over 5 per cent is being paid on some of the older loans. I suppose that would not be considered to be too bad by the people who have to pay 8i per cent on loans these days. In fact, some people have to pay between 13 arid 15 per cent on hire purchase commitments. But, although some of the older ones have been charged at an interest rate of 5 per cent, the more recent loans have been charged at an interest rate of 7 per cent. The loans which have been made by the Government are of money paid to it in the form of income tax. The Government has obtained this money at no cost to itself, but it charges 7 per cent interest when it passes the money on to the Postmaster-General’s Department. It is astounding to think that the interest on these loans should be passed on to the public in the form of increased postal and telephone charges and television and radio licence fees. I think it should be remembered that, although SI 70m was swallowed up in charges imposed on it by the Government, the Postmaster-General’s Department last year made a loss of only $2m. An amount of $25m was lost on the postal side but there was a profit of $23m on the telecommunications side. If the interest and superannuation charges were removed from the balance sheet of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department it would be well in front. There would therefore be no need for any increase in charges for the services it provides. The ‘charges to which I have referred are against the national- interest.
The Opposition has proposed in its amendment that the Postmaster-General’s
Department be severed from the control of the Public Service Board. I want to mention one very significant fact in this regard. A few years ago the Post Office decided, in the interests of efficiency and better relations with the public it serves - and, in my opinion, serves very well - that it would decentralise. It decided to send its divisional offices out into country areas so that they would be close to the work they had to perform for the public and to the complaints and inquiries that were made by members of the public. This method of decentralisation was fairly costly but it was reasonably effective. The expenditure involved was put up with because it was thought that tremendous advances were being made. The Post Office has now decided that it will reverse this decentralisation trend. It has now decided to return those divisions in large numbers to the main centres. I think the only division in the State of Western Australia which will remain in a country area is the southern division, which will be situated at Bunbury. The one at Albany and the one at Geraldton, which is the north west division, will be brought back to Perth. The same thing is going to take place in the other States, which have a much larger number of divisions because larger populations are involved.
I have in front of me figures which indicate that the cost to the areas where these divisional offices have been functioning, from the point of view of the spending power of the families in those areas is going to be tremendous. Some figures have just been handed to me regarding the position in New South Wales. In practically every case where a divisional office is moved the pay of the staff of those offices of well over $200,000 also will be moved from that area. This will mean that not only the workers but also their wives and families will not be spending in that area. But, more than that, it will mean that their children will not be attending school in that .area and the services which are normally required by an area in which there is quite a large number of people will have to be depleted.
I think it is rather significant to note that the three areas in New South Wales on which a decision has not been made as to where the centre is to be when these divisional offices are brought together happen to be areas which are within electorates held by Ministers of the Crown. That is rather significant, I think, in view of the reorganisation which has been proposed. I have no doubt that, in terms of absolute efficiency, it was desirable for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to examine whether the provision of these facilities could be made less costly, but sight is being lost of the fact that in adopting this course of action the Department is inflicting tremendous hardship on the areas from which these divisional offices are being removed.
I deal now with the cost of television and radio licences. I have mentioned this subject before. A previous Minister, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin, was not able to appreciate my point and did not comment on it. I hope her successor might be prepared to say something on it. Television and radio receivers are used not only for pleasure, instruction and enjoyment by the public generally but are used also for other purposes. One of the very significant purposes for which television and radio are used is education in the schools. I believe that not very many senators watch the television science programmes or listen to the radio broadcasts which are presented for the benefit of the schools and are directed to the schools. The cost of presenting these programmes has become one component in the licence fee because the cost is chargeable against the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I believe that in cases such as these financial assistance should be given by the Department of Education and Science. It is quite obvious to me that these are services which properly belong to that Department and, as such, that Department should have some responsibility for the cost of providing the service.
The next matter which disturbs me concerns radio services also. Australia runs a very efficient and well regarded service. As a matter of fact, it is considered to be one of the best in the world. I refer to Radio Australia. It is listened to by only a few people in Australia. Its programmes are directed to listeners overseas. But its cost is met by the licence payers in Australia. Radio Australia transmits for practically 24 hours a day, and the cost must bi tremendous. Because it is partly information for the world and partly propaganda, I suppose - and I do not think there is much wrong with that - part of the cost of Radio Australia should be charged against the Australian News and Information Bureau. This is part of its service and it is done for nothing. It should be chargeable partly against the Department of Foreign Affairs because it is doing part of that Department’s work by creating a better knowledge of what Australia is thinking and doing.
Superannuation has been included in the charge on the Postmaster-General’s accounts. A tremendous amount of interest is paid. The cost of both those adds up to nearly 25 per cent of the expenditure incurred by the Postmaster-General’s Department. We should look at what is being done for other departments at no cost to those departments. If we take into account all the points that have been mentioned I believe that we will find that the increases are not justified. If we look at the cost of letter deliveries and so on I think we will find that the loss incurred is easily covered by the profit made by the telecommunications service. The Department charges reduced rates for newspapers. Press telegrams, small bulletins by educational authorities and similar items. These are not a profitable activity, but the Department is prepared to charge that reduced rate because it believes that those items are part of the cultural education of the community. We are paying for it. They should not really be a charge against the Post Office, but they could be included as a charge and the cost could still be met out of the profit made at present by the telecommunications side of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
I shall not deal with Senator Gair’s amendment because it is not properly before the Senate at this stage. The Opposition amendment asks that the main Bill be withdrawn and redrafted. This would not create any hardship for anybody. The withdrawal and the redrafting of the Bill would mean that for a little while longer people would not have to pay extra for postage, for telephone rentals and for local and trunk line calls. This would be the only effect if the Bill were withdrawn and redrafted. We believe that that should be done because the Bill is against the national interest. We believe that in the redrafting the Bill could contain some provision about an inquiry into the possibility of the severance of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board. This has been advocated for a long while. The need for such an inquiry has been proved by the actions of members of the various associations and unions in the Post Office. I have spoken of the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and the States. I have mentioned the cost of decentralisation. In view of the points that I have put, I support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee on behalf of the Opposition.
– Order! Before calling Senator Greenwood, I remind honourable senators that the Minister is addressing himself to the amendment and therefore is not closing the debate.
– The Senate is debating the Post and Telegraph Bill and the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill and an amendment moved to the first Bill. I think we have heard from the Opposition a lot of discussion about matters which, in a broad sense, are related to what these Bills are concerned with and much of that has been misleading, selective and therefore slanted. I think it is prudent to return to what the main Bill is really concerned with. It is concerned to increase charges with regard to the telecommunications service and with regard to the postal services. When one looks at the telecommunications service one finds that the basic telephone rentals are to be increased by $8, $6 and S4 respectively for the 3 types of rental charges made. The service connection fee is to rise by $10 to $50. The cost of local telephone calls will increase from 4c to 4.75c. There are some other increases, which I do not detail. When one examines the postal services one finds that the basic letter rate is to be increased from 6c to 7c for the first 1 oz. Parcel rates will increase by an average of 10 per cent for domestic and 20 per cent for overseas services. There will be increases in the overseas airmail letter rates and an increase in the charge for aerogrammes. That is what the Bill is concerned with. - At :the outset I think it is prudent to consider ‘ why it is necessary for these charges to he increased, because that is the point, if there be any point, in the Opposition” seeking1 to ‘oppose this Bill. There should not be any doubt that because the Opposition “has moved an amendment its real purpose is not apparent. The nature of the’’ ‘amendment is such that its members will be voting against the Bill. When an Opposition1, Which” would claim to be the alternative government of this country, is prepared ‘-to say that it will vote against a measure, I think it is incumbent upon its members to’ say why they should vote against it and what they would put in its place. On that score, we have heard absolutely ‘nothing from any of the spokesmen on behalf of the Australian Labor Party. The reason why the Government has found it necessary to increase these charges is because there have been increased costs-:- basically ‘higher wage costs. In a series of statements the Government has given its justification: >
I , think it was Senator Gair who put very neatly the 2 alternatives facing the Government: Either the charges are increased so that those who avail themselves of the- service1 pay more for the service, which they receive or taxation is increased to spread the burden to everybody irrespective of the usage which is made of the. service. The Government has taken, the view that it will charge those who use the services the extra amounts which those services must cost because of increased expenditure in the running of the operation.
There has been a steep rise in costs following the 1969-70 pay increases, and there has been no choice but to increase these charges in the 1970-71 Budget. When he introduced the new charges in 1970 the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) forecast that there would be a loss on postal operations of $9m and a profit on telecommunications of S39m in 1970-71. The continued upward trend in wage rates and other costs led to a $25m loss on postal operations and a $23 m profit on telecommunications services. So there was a net loss over the last year of $2m. The basic reason for that - I think that this is amply demonstrated but readily ignored by the Opposition - is that the costs of running the operation have increased, and basically they have increased because award determinations have increased the wages to about 112,000 employees engaged in the Post Office. Spiralling labour rates have been a growing problem.
Let me set out the position in recent years, as it indicates the character of the problem in respect of wage increases granted. In the year 1965-66 the full year effect of wage increases was $15nr, in 1966- 67 the full year effect was $21m; in 1967- 68 the effect of wage increases was S27m; in 1968-69 it was $19m; in 1969-70 it was $65m; and in 1970-71 it was $77m. I am not arguing the merits or otherwise of wage increases because that is not what I am concerned about in this debate. I am concerned in pointing out that this has been the level of wage increases in recent years. One should say that these increases are beyond Post Office control. I have extracted a statement which shows arbitration determinations for the year from the beginning of July 1970 to the end of June 1971. The statement shows the determination number, the date when the determination came into effect, the staff who have been affected, what the cost was in 1970- 71 and what the cost will be in the full year 1971-72. It shows that the effect of these determinations amounted to $24m in 1970-71 and in the full year 1971-72 will amount to $77m. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I incorporate this table in Hansard.
I said that it was beyond the control of the Post Office to limit these wage increases. With the exception of the rises for the non-official postmasters which was a simple flow on from other awards, these increases have been granted either by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission or by the Public Service Board or the Public Service Arbitrator. There have been some consent determinations following agreement between the Board and the staff associations concerned.
One must anticipate also that there will be some continued upward increase in costs in the current year, and this was the position as it appeared at the beginning of 1970-71. Unfortunately, the magnitude of the pay increases granted in 1970-71 was beyond possible expectation. To give one example, the 6 per cent national wage increase added $32m to the costs of that year. But this is one of the factors which the figures I have indicated that the PostmasterGeneral has to live with. Over the years, notwithstanding the tremendous increase in costs, there has been a growth in productivity. Just to give one example of the type of improvement which has been effected, over the last 10 years the number of postal staff to handle a 40 per cent rise in traffic has risen by only 21 per cent. The telecommunications staff has risen by 30 per cent to install and maintain 75 per cent more telephone services and to handle 80 per cent more calls. One can only say that without these quite substantial achievements costs, and possibly charges, would have had to rise further.
In the circumstances which I have been outlining there has been a need to provide the extra revenue which will enable the Post Office to function on a basis where the charges made will enable it to continue its existing services and also to maintain that development which is necessary to ensure that an expanding operation gives community service. The variations which are proposed this year are estimated to bring in additional revenue amounting to $35m and S69m in 1972-73. If those charges had not been made on the forecast of the Postmaster-General, there would have been a loss of S36m in the current year.
When the Opposition seeks to move an amendment which in effect invites the Senate to reject this Bill it ought to carry with it some obligation to indicate how it would enable the Postmaster-General’s Department to meet this loss and what it would do in the circumstances of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department not being able to raise this extra revenue. We have not heard one word from the Opposition on that point. One could categorise it as irresponsible, and the only reason why one does not do so is that it is so frequently said of the Opposition that one fears repetition. But it is fair to say that there is an attitude of mind on the part of the Opposition that it should oppose, that it should criticise but should never say what it is going to do and hope that that in itself is an adequate argument. The people of Australia have shown over 22 years that it is not an adequate argument.
The amendment which has been moved by the Australian Labor Party simply provides that the Bill should be withdrawn and re-drafted because the increased charges are against the national interest. Why are they against the national interest? In what way are they against the national interest? What charges would be in the national interest, from the point of view of the Labor Party? The amendment goes on to say that the Bill should be withdrawn because it does not provide for the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board. Listening intently, as one did, to what Senator Willesee said last night, one found that he lacked any argument as to why this separation should be made, except possibly that the Public Service Board regards the Postmaster-General’s Department as a little too big for its operation.
The second reason why the Opposition believes the Bill should be withdrawn is that the application of telephone charges in areas designated for accelerated development is not provided for. I propose to say something in due course on that point. I have instanced this matter because what the Government has done is sustained by the figures which have been given by the Postmaster-General and which are available to all honourable senators. What we have received from the Australian Labor Party is simply a blanket rejection of the proposals without any indication as to what it would do to rectify the situation. I suppose it is no excuse to say that that is a typical approach.
There are few other comments which have been made in the course of the debate to which I should refer. The Post Office over the years - I think Senator Willesee certainly conceded this - has been providing a growing range of services and meeting a vaster range of community demands. Of course, in recent times a number of new postal services have been introduced to meet the new and varied needs of the community. In particular there has been the priority-paid mail service for urgent inter-capital city mail. This service has been much faster and more reliable. Extensions to the service are now being finalised. The domestic air parcels service provides a rapid movement of goods around Australia. The surface air lifted service is an intermediate overseas mail service which allows Post Office parcel customers to use economical loading on Qantas Airways Ltd instead of the much slower sea mail service. These services are typical of some of the improvements which have been made in recent years. They represent the approach of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to a changing pattern of demand and changing needs which flow from different interests and different emphases. But as the Postmaster-General has constantly said, the service cannot be provided irrespective of cost. It is the Government’s responsibility to see that a reasonable balance is maintained between usage and cost. In 1968-69 the Government decided that the frequency of deliveries in suburban and country areas should be reduced to once daily. I know that there has been a general feeling which one cannot avoid noticing.
– Is that part of the increased service?
– If the honourable senator will let me explain, possibly I am about to be of assistance to him - if it is assistance that he is seeking. There has been concern in this area. One naturally hears this concern expressed when one talks about the activities of the Post Office. It was found that the volume of mail which was available for the second suburban and country delivery was very small. Very often it was received far too late for business purposes on the day of delivery. Accordingly it was felt desirable that if during the course of the day a service could be provided which was as adequate as the service provided before, then undoubtedly it was more efficient to provide that service. With a rearrangement of schedules it was possible to include in the morning delivery quite a proportion of the mail previously delivered late in the afternoon. To me this indicates an improvement of efficiency which should be regarded as an advance notwithstanding that there is only one delivery in place of two.
We must recognise that changes are taking place. Maybe the future of the postal services could be quite different from the pattern which we have come to experience in recent years. It is inevitable that with the changes in the way people approach what they regard as their needs there could be changes in the way the Post Office performs its functions. In recent times staff increases have been restricted to a minimum in order to minimise the increases in postal costs. With the rapid growth in wage costs it has been impossible for postal costs to be offset by any greater productivity. The future financial position of the postal service is therefore a matter of some concern. Changing community habits place less reliance on small shopping centres with a consequent effect on the patterns of postal business. For example, there is a decline in the use of many street letter receivers in metropolitan residential areas and in small post offices in suburban corner shops and country villages. Many of these facilities are highly uneconomical but efforts to withdraw them are met with strenuous protests even though not many people are affected. These facilities are still provided and they are part of the high costs which are involved.
I have heard from honourable senators opposite the lament that these services should be maintained. If the Labor Party is prepared to maintain the facilities and pay the costs then I think it should fairly and squarely indicate that that is what is involved in its proposals. But if these services are to be maintained then the Labor Party cannot have it both ways. It cannot say that it wants this Bill withdrawn and the charges which it will impose removed and, at the same time, expect to maintain all these costly functions. Changing customer habits cannot be ignored. The Post Office must look for cheaper alternatives which meet postal customers’ needs in a reasonable way. Those remarks are by way of general comment on the way in which the Post Office currently is operating. Senator Willesee, in the course of his address supporting his amendment, chided the Post Office because, as a business undertaking, it had to pay interest on the millions of dollars which it borrowed. I think that this year, according to the Estimates, the Post Office will borrow $255m. Of course, on the money it borrows it is required to pay interest. Senator Willesee felt that it was wrong that interest should be paid. When I struggled valiantly - by interjection - to ascertain from Senator Willesee whether it was the policy of his Party that interest should or should not be charged, he declined to answer. If the Opposition feels that interest should not be paid let it come out and say that interest should not be paid. Let it indicate that the borrowings on which interest is paid is an amount which it will charge to the taxpayers.
– The way the Government is going we will all be paying interest.
– It may be that Senator Poke finds the situation a little unpalatable. I think that if the Labor Party were franker with the people of Australia it would find itself in a much more satisfactory position. But the Labor Party cannot say that interest should not be charged when it is prepared to leave its own policy in doubt.
– It is correct that these Bills need to go through today if they are to have effect?
– All I say in response to Senator Murphy’s interjection is that the Government does want these Bills to go through. Government members have declined to speak on this measure in order to facilitate its passage. The fact that the Labor Party has had approximately 4 speakers on this measure, whereas the Government has had none, is no reason why the Minister who is in charge of the measure cannot reply to points which have been made. That is what I am doing. I do not think that the pressure tactics suggested by Senator Murphy should be used as a means of preventing people from speaking and saying what has to be said in justification of the measure. We are in a debating chamber. I know that Senator Murphy has urged this consideration on us before. I think that if points are made in debate the opportunity should certainly be allowed for those points to be answered. I notice that there has not been any mildness in the way in which the Opposition prepared its points and endeavoured to attack the Government. I feel that in instances where the Labor Party has left itself open there should not be any novel leniency on my part. But I was dealing with the aspect of interest.
The Post Office finances its expenditures from its revenue and from moneys borrowed from the Treasury. As I said, this year it will borrow $255m. Other Government business undertakings either pay interest or pay a dividend at a specif c rate. As far as the Post Office is concerned, the Government regards it as a business undertaking. Therefore it should be conducted as a business undertaking. It is required by the Government to pay interest on its borrowings at the long term bond rate.
– That is not a department, but a business undertaking.
– I notice that Senator Wilkinson draws a distinction between a department and such business undertakings as may be commissions. Yet I know that the thought of the Australian Labor Party is that, in effect, the Department is something which is separate and that it should be a statutory commission. I cannot believe that the Labor Party’s argument depends solely on whether the Post Office is an autonomous department in the sense that it is a one-line entry in the Budget papers or whether it is a commission which would likewise have a one-line entry in the Appropriation Bill. It has been argued - I think this is really what the Opposition would say if it were asserting the viewpoint that interest should not be paid - that as funds are provided by the Government from general Commonwealth revenues and as those revenues, in the main, are derived from taxation, the Post Office should be exempt from interest, as such a charge amounts to double taxation. I do not know whether that is the point of view of the Labor Party but if it were to maintain that interest should not be paid, then I think that is the argument it would have to put up. But we are still waiting to hear its policy.
On the other hand, interest is a cost and is treated as such in fixing charges for Post Office services otherwise the service would - to the extent that interest is not paid - be underpriced in comparison with other community goods and services. Thereby it would make a disproportionate demand on national resources. If the Government did not receive a return on funds advanced to the Post Office public revenue would be that much less. Because it would be that much less taxation would have to be that much higher to ensure that the given level of total Government expenditure is maintained. They are the viewpoints which the Government puts forward as to why interest is charged. I was challenged constantly by Senator Willesee to state why the Government charges interest and I have stated it.
– Is it in lieu of taxation?
– I have stated the reasons and I am not going to answer a short interjection when I have indicated precisely what those reasons are. I do not attempt at this stage, Mr President, to deal with the aspect of whether the Public Service Board should be denied control of the Postmaster-General’s Department in the sense contemplated by the Opposition’s amendment because, as I said, we have not heard an argument in support of that proposition. One can only ask: If the Public Service Board were not responsible for what is almost 50 per cent of the Government’s work force, who would be responsible for the determinations which govern the conditions and rates of pay of the personnel of the Post Office? There are over 100,000 persons employed in the Post Office and there is at least ability in the one controlling body separate from the actual Postmaster-General’s Department, which in a sense is the employer, to fix the rates and conditions which are to apply. This system has grown up over the years and has been sustained by Government inquiries on a number of occasions. I again say that if the Australian Labor Party feels that there should be a severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the Public Service Board it is incumbent upon that Party to give some indication of what it would put in its place; otherwise this has been negative criticism.
A number of criticisms have been levelled in the course of the debate and they seem to be concentrated upon the second part of the Labor Party’s amendment which refers to whether the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been doing enough for country people. I heard last night the speech made by Senator Primmer and I was a little surprised at the type of argument he used to sustain his case. It is not good enough simply to indicate that for half a dozen country businesses the costs of their postal and telephone charges is $2,000, $3,000 or $5,000 a year. I think one has to know what proportion of total expenses is represented by postal and telephone charges and how and in what way these charges affect the profitability of the enterprises. It is all very well for Senator Primmer to say that because the cost is so great it should be cut down. We must be able to relate the cost to the total expenditure and the profitability of the businesses. Simply to urge that these costs be cut down, to my mind, is a carious concept for a Labor Party member, for what he is doing is urging a case for greater profitability.
– If you had your way you would cut the service ofl at the end of the tram line.
– If the case is to be sustained it has to be sustained by arguments with more weight than those the honourable senator raised on this occasion. If one examines the record I suggest there has been a tremendous amount of useful innovation and improvement for the benefit of country people. Most of what has been done is due to the pressures which members of the Parliament have brought to bear from time to time on the Postmaster-General and his Department and I know that pre-eminent amongst those people are our colleagues in the Country Party and those Liberal Party representatives from country electorates. We on the Government side know the sort of pressures they bring to bear in this general area.
Let us look at a few of the things that have been done. We have special telephone charges for country subscribers. In metropolitan areas there is a basic rental of $55 and in country regions it will be either $37 or $27 depending on the number of subscribers. There is a differential there which works in favour of the country person.
This represents a percentage differential of either 33 per cent or 51 per cent according to the area in which the telephone is connected. Country telephone services on the average are more costly to provide and again this is an indication of the differential benefit which the Government is able to provide. There is less concentration of services and longer distances from the exchanges to the subscriber’s premises and it is this cost factor which has to be borne in mind. Having regard to what it costs to put the services in, the benefits granted are quite considerable in money terms. One must recognise that at the present time metropolitan subscribers, quite fairly I think, subsidise country subscribers.
Much of the comment and suggestion of recent times indicates that in some way there should be a uniform trunk charge throughout the whole of Australia or in a particular area. But if this were to benefit the country subscribers only the present automatic telephone system would require tremendous changes at great cost in order to discriminate between concession and non-concession calls. That in itself would be time consuming and also would be tremendously costly. On the other hand if the uniform charges were to apply for all trunk calls for everybody and if the present revenue levels from trunk calls were to be maintained, it is obvious that short distance calls would have to be increased in price and long distance calls would have to be reduced in price. That is where the issue arises. How high would short distance calls have to rise in order to get a reduction which would be of benefit for long distance calls? Unless one can see that this would be in the range that is broadly acceptable to the people of Australia we would not be able to achieve that flat, outright objective in the way that is so frequently sought.
If people’s calling habits remained the same as they are now, to give an example, the short distance calls would cost 3 to 4 times as much as they cost now. Many people would be disadvantaged. Many of the long distance calls which would reduce in price are made between capital cities and are therefore not closely related to the decentralisation issues. It is not to be supposed that calling habits would remain the same. If there were a flat and relatively small charge for any call right throughout
Australia there would be a tendency for fewer short distance calls and more long distance calls and the telephone network would have to be restructured in order to cope. That, of course, would involve a tremendousely high cost which would increase whatever uniform fee might be determined. Until the trunk networks were restructured callers would meet congestion, particularly for long distance calls.
In short, to undertake such an exercise, even if it were possible on the basis of reasonable cost, would involve such pressure on the existing telephone network that it would not be able to cope with the increased traffic and we would have a situation comparable to that which happened in New York in 1969 which virtually bought the telephone services of that great city to a halt for quite some time. If we were to have a 7c local call it would amount to a 23 per cent reduction across the board for all trunk charges. If local calls were 10c it would amount only to a 37 per cent reduction across the board. That really would not help the decentralisation issue to the extent that people claim something should be done to assist it because the basic reduction in charges would be for inter-capital calls. That is the type of situation which we face.
When one considers the work done in extending automatic exchanges throughout country areas, the reduction in cost to people changing from non-continuous exchanges to the automatic exchanges in recent years, the differentials in cost which are provided and, in effect, the very substantial hidden subsidy which country subscribers receive from the metropolitan subscribers and the costs they pay, it is unreal and untrue to say that the Government has ignored the claims of people in country areas. If it is suggested that more should be done, I mink it is incumbent upon those who make that plea to indicate precisely what would be done and how the cost of doing it would be borne, because it is only when one approaches a subject in that way - and it is a government’s obligation to approach every issue in that way - that a measure of responsibility is raised.
Many other matters have been mentioned but I am conscious that I have already taken a considerable time in dealing with a number of matters, each of which was raised by the Opposition. I hope I have given a response relevant to the matters raised. I am sure that particular matters raised by some honourable senators can be pursued by questions, by inquiry to me outside the chamber or by inquiry direct to the Postmaster-General’s Department. I do not speak to the Democratic Labor Party’s proposed amendment because it has not yet been moved. I indicate that we will oppose the Labor Party’s amendment.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Willesee’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
– by leave - I move:
At the end of motion add - but the Senate is of the opinion that, as soon as possible after the appointment of the members of the Committee, the following matters should be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations -
the severance of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the control of the Public Service Board;
the establishment of a public corporation to manage the business of the Post Office; and
the application of special telephone charges in those areas designated for accelerated development by agreement between the Commonwealth and any State and its authorities.’
– I will be very brief, because the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has indicated that he would like this measure passed this afternoon.
– But he talked so long himself that nobody else is given a chance to speak.
– Order! Senator Poyser, when Senator Wilkinson was speaking I remarked that he was able to get along without advice from you and I think that is equally applicable to the speech of Senator Willesee.
– Thank you, Mr President. It is very clear that the basis of the amendment proposed by the Democratic Labor Party is the tactic used by a DLP senator on a previous occasion. Whoever votes for the proposed amendment votes for the Bill and the increased charges. I hope 1 made it clear on behalf of the Australian Labor Party when moving my amendment that we opposed these Bills because we are opposed to the increased charges. We added as a rider that because of all the other activities of the Post Office today we were moved to make our proposal. The Senate in its wisdom has rejected that proposal and it is now a dead issue. Under any other than the present circumstances we would be prepared to support the points raised in Senator Gair’s amendment. If he likes to give the necessary notice and move this as a motion, say, next Tuesday, we will support it. We do not want to pre-empt him. We do not want to take any kudos - if he thinks there is some attached to this. We leave it completely in his court. If he moves this as a motion, we will support it. That will ensure that the matter will go to the Committee for investigation. But, obviously, when we have said that we are opposed to these increased rates and that we will not vote for this legislation, we cannot support this amendment, because it seeks to add certain words at the end of the motion “That the Bill be now read a second time’. This means that if we voted for this amendment we would be voting for this Bill and therefore for the increased charges, and that is exactly the opposite of what we want to do. So, we cannot support this amendment. But we will support this wording if Senator Gair likes to divorce it from the legislation to increase postal charges. We are opposed to the increases in postal charges. We want that to be completely clear. I advise those people who wish to support the increases in postal charges to vote for Senator Gair’s amendment.
– I indicate briefly that the Government will oppose this amendment. The Government’s opposition to it is based not upon the flimsy grounds suggested by Senator Willesee but upon the ground that the Government has the responsibility of determining the way in which the Postmaster-General’s Department shall be administered and that is an obligation that the Government does not discharge to a committee which, by the nature of its inquiry, would be a reflection upon the Government’s administration. Naturally, in the course of this debate the Government has heard much material to which it will give consideration in its examination of future developments in the Postmaster-General’s Department But, for reasons which are substantially those that I advanced earlier on the merits, the Government will not support this amendment.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
That the Bill stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 14 September (vide page 687), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill was debated as part of the cognate debate on this and the Post and Telegraph Bill. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), who represents the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) in this place, has invited much criticism of his replies because of the very weak nature of them. But as he has asked that we hurry this Bill through because the GovernorGeneral may have other duties, we will not debate the matter any further.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Honourable senators will be aware that this and the Post and Telegraph Bill have been debated in a cognate manner. I merely point out that this is the Bill that will increase the charges; this is the Bill that will enable the telecommunications side of the Postmaster-General’s Department to double its profit - not its loss - of last year. For that reason the Opposition will call for a division and oppose the Third reading.
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 687), on motion by Senator Greenwood:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition opposes this measure. I know that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood), who represents the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) in this chamber, has an appointment that he wants to keep. I am very sorry that the Opposition’s approach to this matter could prevent him from keeping that appointment. I know also that the Parliament is geared to a computer system and that the Government wants this Bill to be passed by tomorrow.
– Well, the Government wants this Bill to be passed today so that the increased charges for which it provides will become operative tomorrow. I think I should at the beginning make a comparison between the second reading speech in this chamber of the Attorney-General and the second reading speech that was made by the Postmaster-General in the other place in relation to this matter. I do not know why there is a difference between the verbiage used in this place and the verbiage used in the other place in relation to this Bill, but there is. There is no difference in the intent of the Bill, but there is a difference in the wording used by the responsible Ministers in each chamber. In his second reading speech in the other place the Postmaster-General made some reference to a station at Darwin - I forget offhand what type of station it was - but no reference was made to it here by the Attorney-General. I do not know why.
It is rather interesting to note that on almost every occasion during this session on which the Government has introduced a Bill Ministers have made some reference to wages being a major factor in the increased expenditure which has been incurred. In fact, one could say that the Government would seem to be obsessed with the desire to emphasise at every opportunity its claim that all the ills from which it suffers are the result of increased wages. I have heard this story for the past 50 years. I can go back into the 1920s when the employers used exactly the same type of propaganda. In those days every increase in costs was said to be due to wage rises. In the Depression years the expression over-production and under-consumption’ was used freely. A little later on the old bogy that wage increases were the cause of all our ills again cropped up. At that time it was said that until wages were stabilised we would be faced with some form of inflation. It was not called inflation in those days. That is a word which has been coined in more recent times. Still and all, the meaning in those days was exactly the same as it is today.
I do not accept nor do I think anybody on this side of the House accepts the proposition that all our financial ills are the result of increased wages. I would like the opportunity to debate that aspect on another level at another time. I do not think it is appropriate to discuss it during the debate on this Bill. But I do wish to put on record my opposition to the Government’s attitude that wage rises are the only factor, as I said before, in the necessity for increased expenditure.
I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to retain its policy of not expecting blind persons and schools to pay a fee for a broadcast listeners’ or television viewers’ licence. That is commendable. I think we should endeavour to allow those people who depend almost solely on radio and television for a little bit of entertainment to do so at a minimum cost. The Government has put forward the argument that the increase from $6.50 to $8 a year in the broadcast listeners’ licence fee runs out at approximately 3c a week. I admit that the increase runs out at about that figure. But I would point out that it is the normal pattern on all measures introduced by the Government of late for it to say - whether it be a pensioner or an ordinary taxpayer who has to pay the increase - that it is an increase of only so much a week. No matter what the increase may be - whether it is only 3c a week or $1 a week - it all has to come out of the pockets of the pensioners and the workers. For that reason I would condemn the Government for increasing these fees.
I sometimes wonder when watching some television programmes why we have to pay an increased amount for a television licence. In fact, I think we should be paid to look at some programmes, particularly those programmes on commercial television stations which feature an advertisement in which Mrs Jones is saying that a particular brand of soap is better. I think it is terrible to have to watch these advertisements.
I notice that the combined receiving licence fee is to be increased from $20 to $26.50 a year. It is interesting to note that there has been quite an increase in the number of combined licence fees which have been issued. An examination of page 45 of the 39th annual report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will show that in 1969 - I will give the approximate figures - slightly in excess of 2 million combined receiving licences were issued. In 1970 approximately 2i million were issued. In the financial year ending 30th June 1971 slightly in excess of 2i million were issued. It is interesting to note the increase from year to year. For instance, there was an increase in 1969 of some 97,000 on the figure in 1968. The increase of 97,000 in 1969 was reduced to an increase of 85,000 in 1970. The approximate figure for 1971 is 62,000. We must expect that this trend will continue. The number of licences will increase but the percentage will decrease. As licences are combined this trend will continue. A few minutes ago I mentioned that we oppose the Bill because it seeks to increase certain rates. The increase in the combined licence to $26.50 will mean an increase of approximately 50c a month. This is an increase of 12c or 13c a week. To some people this is only a small amount, but the cost to the listener or viewing public has increased and this increase will be a severe blow to the pensioners and to people on low incomes.
I would like the Minister to make some comment on the quality of reception in certain areas. In Tasmania there are only 2 national stations but there are commercial stations. It was necessary for a number of translator stations to be installed so that people in outlying areas could get reception. South of Hobart, in the Cygnet and Dover areas, viewers can get the commercial station only very seldom. The reception is not good. In the main they get the national station. Is anything being done to carry out a survey of that area to see whether the installation of a translator station might help, what might be the best type and what would be the cost involved? I do not know whether anything has been done in that direction. I would like the Minister to say whether that is being done. I would also ask the Minister to make some comment on the situation on King Island. I have not been in contact with King Island for a period. I know that at one stage there was quite a controversy about the residents having to pay a full TV licence fee and getting only a partial picture and very often getting no picture. I would like some comment on that issue.
I sincerely hope that I have not provoked the Minister into making a reply to this debate as long as the reply he made to the debate on the Post and Telegraph Bill. If he does he will miss his appointment. When the Minister was replying to the debate on the Post and Telegraph Bill he accused the Labor Party of putting nothing in its place. He said that we did not advance a policy. I suggest to the Minister that it is not the responsibility of the Opposition, in a debate such as this, to advance its policy. We are here as an Opposition. We are here to criticise Government policy. I think the Minister is aware that we make our policy known following our Federal or State conferences, as the case may be, and during election campaigns. When we are debating Bills of this nature, although we may be invited by the Minister, we do not feel obliged to advise him or the Government of the extent of our policy on any issue. I think we should, and we mostly do, give sufficient of our policy to fit the particular Bill. I think we did that with the Post and Telegraph Bill. I think we did that with this Bill. We oppose the increases. That is all we have to say. We have nothing to say as to what we would do if we were offering an alternative. We offer no alternative. We oppose the Bill because it seeks to increase certain rates.
– in reply - I think it is fitting that Senator Poke should finish on the note that he did. It was a negative aspect and what he had to say was negative. I think the case made by the Government for increasing these charges is well sustained. We have indicated that there has been an increase in the cost of providing the national broadcasting and television services during the past 3 years. In that 3-year period there has been no compensating increase in the fees payable for the licences which, by law, people have to obtain if they possess a broadcast or television receiving set. The cost of provision of these services in 1968, when licence fees were increased last, was $60m. Currently the expenditure is approximately $82m. In those circumstances either the persons who receive the benefits are expected to pay for those benefits or the cost is spread over the whole taxation field.
One can suppose only that Senator Poke feels that the cost should be borne by the taxpayers. He will not suggest that that is the area from which the extra revenue should come because apparently that is a secret which the Australian Labor Party will keep up its sleeve and about which it will inform the public in its own good time, if it ever does. I have categorised that approach as a negative approach. On this Bill I say, as I said on other Bills, that if the Opposition is sincere in its opposition to Bills and is acting responsibly it carries an obligation to explain where the necessary revenues will be obtained in order to meet the expenditures involved. Certainly that is the approach which the Government has adopted. If one looks at the accounts one sees that the moneys received from the licence fees are paid into Consolidated Revenue and that the expenses of the national broadcasting and television services are not related directly to the revenues received. However the approach has always been to link them in terms of expenditures and receipts.
The Government is moving as quickly as possible to provide an outstanding national broadcasting and television service. The current seventh stage of television expansion involves the establishment of 38 low power stations. When that stage is completed there will be a coverage for 98 per cent of the population. Senator Poke raised 2 matters on which he sought a reply by me. One concerned Tasmania and the other concerned King Island.
– Which is part of Tasmania, incidentally.
– One concerned Tasmanian reception generally and the other concerned King Island reception in particular. At present I am unable to give him an answer about the first matter. Those who advise me have noted what has been said. I am sure that we will be able to provide an answer in due course, if not in the course of this debate. I understand that it is expected that as from February 1972 a receiving station will be established on King Island which will overcome the problems of reception that have been experienced in the past. The Government feels that it has sustained and justified the case it has brought forward for the increased charges which are contained in the Bill.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I wish to raise a matter concerned with television and broadcasting licences. This matter was raised recently in a question to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood), who represents in this chamber the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme), concerning the procedure adopted by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in the televising of programmes. The particular matter concerns the action taken by the Board in issuing to all commercial television stations a notice which contained a direction that until further notice interviews or performances involving Messrs Dave Allen, Peter Cook and Dudley Moore must not be transmitted unless the material has been pre-recorded and passed for transmission by a responsible station executive. It does seem that this is an extremely serious matter which involves the rights of the individual, the rights of the public as television interviewers and those concerned with freedom of speech, and the proper execution of powers under the Broadcasting and Television Act. Of course, it relates to the rights of the licensees and the duties of those who are broadcasting matter from television stations.
I do not want to enter into the question as to whether or not what was done by these 3 gentlemen was offensive. It certainly appears to have been offensive to some people, and I understand that an apology was made by the station concerned. So let us leave out of consideration whether their conduct was proper, because it seems to have been accepted that it was improper. But the incident occurred on one occasion. What has happened is that a direction has been given in respect of the persons concerned. This is an extremely serious matter which affects the right of freedom of speech of stations and of persons. Without going into its technicalities, the Broadcasting and Television Act gives certain powers to the Postmaster-General which, of course, are subject to the control of the Parliament. He may from time to time, by notice given by telegram or in writing, prohibit the licensee from broadcasting or televising any matter of any class or character specified in the notice, or require the licensee to refrain from broadcasting or televising any such matter. That was not done. First of all, no such direction was given in relation to the matter. In the next place, it was not done by the Minister. There is a power in relation to individuals. This is clearly set out in the enactment as will be known by those who have had time to study this situation. A learned professor who has had the opportunity to study the Act in relation to this incident has given his opinion. The power available here is a power strictly confined under section 1 19 of the Act. It states: (1.) Where-
the Board has reason to believe that a person -
The Act further provides: (2.) If the person fails within the period specified by the Board to show cause to the satisfaction of the Board, the Board may, by order -
Under the Act a person is not to act in contravention of the order. That section seems entirely appropriate for the situation with which the Board was confronted. Parliament has curbed the possibility of arbitrary action by the Board by requiring it to give a person a hearing before an order is made against him.
– I rise to order. This is a Bill relating to licences for broadcast and television receivers. The Bill purports to amend a number of sections. It does not purport to amend section 119 which Senator Murphy has read. As I understand it, section 119 does not relate to licences for broadcast and television receivers. I do not understand the honourable senator to be foreshadowing an amendment which could be looked at in terms of what he has said and which would fit in with the Bill. It is a speech at large directed to the Bill as a whole. It is not related to licences for broadcast and television receivers in accordance with the title of the Bill. While not wishing to restrict in a proper forum at a proper time the sort of argument which Senator Murphy is raising, I think he is embarking in an area which is already the subject of inquiry by the Postmaster-General and in which other sections come into play. Essentially I raise the point of order on the basis that section 119 is outside the scope of the Bill, otherwise there would be no point in having the title of the Bill as constrained as it is.
– Speaking to the point of order, I am sorry that we have to have our attention diverted. I would not have been very long in putting the matter. The Bill is very general. It is not restricted to the amendment of the particular section. It is a Bill for an Act relating to licences for broadcast and television receivers. It is in the broadest terms. I am speaking about something which clearly deals with licences for broadcast and television receivers. In opening the matter I mentioned that it concerned the rights of persons who were licensees of television receivers and the rights of people to receive where there were proper operations in relation to receivers. With respect, I suggest that the Bill is so wide that this matter is comprehended within its scope.
The purpose of the debate in committee is to relate speeches to a particular item in the clauses of the Bill and not, in this case, to the title of the Bill. If the honourable senator can relate what he is saying to a clause which is the subject of the proposed amendment he will be in order.
– I can relate this matter to the Bill by saying that it is related to the clause which provides for an increase in licence fees. That is a proper subject matter. There is a proposed increase. Should there be an increase in circumstances such as this where the rights of television viewers are being affected? I do not know whether the Attorney-General will persist in his point of order. I suggest, with respect, that it would be easier for me to finish. Such a matter could be raised during the third reading of the Bill. I suggest that where there is a measure to increase finance by increasing the licence fees, the rights of the licensees come into question. I relate my speech, therefore, to those provisions of the Bill. I could nominate some clauses which provide for increased charges. That is the basis of my remarks.
– The honourable senator may proceed.
– A very serious matter arises when persons have had directed to them a notice that in their character as persons they shall not appear on any kind of live television for an indefinite period. The notice is not restricted to any particular matter. Whatever the nature of the offence, it does seem a very serious matter touching the freedom of every one of us if this practice can be carried out. Clear provisions have been set out in the Act governing the way in which persons should be dealt with if they have given offence on radio or television. I suggest it is very bad that this situation is continuing. Some of the persons involved are in Australia only temporarily. It is quite clear that the Board has not purported to deal with a particular programme or any specific matter which someone proposed to televise. On the contrary, the Board has purported to deal with a class of matter - that is any interview or television appearance involving one or more of 3 named people - and to bind anyone who, in the indefinite future, may wish to televise a matter of that class.
I think it is important that as far as possible the freedom of the Press be extended to radio and television. We know that there must be certain regulations because not everybody can have a radio and television station, as they can have a printing press, if they have the finance. But, in the circumstances, the freedom of radio and television stations should be extended. It seems that this is a most serious matter which should be dealt with. My understanding is that the situation, is still persisting notwithstanding that it was raised in this Senate earlier in the week. I would like a complete explanation of how this situation came about and what action is being taken to deal with it properly in the light of the requirements of the Act. An assurance should also be given that in the future the Board will stay strictly within the requirements of the Act. Alternatively some explanation should be given of how this can be done in conformity with the Act in order that steps may be taken to ensure that what seems to be a breach of traditional freedoms of expression may be corrected. I am not endeavouring to condone what happened or enter into the question of whether there was offensive conduct in the first place. I am not concerned with that. What I am concerned with is the action that has been taken. It seems to me that such a general ban upon persons could hardly be justified when there are procedures available in the Act which seem entirely appropriate to deal with the case.
(4.36) - In the circumstances, which we all appreciate, perhaps I cannot respond in as much detail as the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) would. I certainly will see that the views expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) are conveyed to the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme). I understand that the decision was taken under the provisions of section 99 (2.) and that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board could have invoked section 119 of the Act if it had elected to do so. According to the information I have, the Board acted in the way it did in order to protect viewers from further offences from the persons concerned. It could do this only by adopting the course it took. In the circumstances I can only say briefly that my advice is that the Board acted under the provisions of section 99 (2.) and that I will undertake to see that an explanation in more depth on the points raised is provided to the Leader of the Opposition.
– I thank the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) for that information. It seems to me that section 99 (2.) would not be sufficient in view of the specific provisions of section 119 which are designed to deal with exactly such a situation. However I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) put:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 797), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) begins his speech, perhaps I could point out that there are 3 Bills covering much the same matters. They are the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill 1971, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1971 and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill 1971. Honourable senators have an explanatory document relating to these 3 Bills and I invite the Leader of the Opposition to consider whether we might have a second reading debate covering the 3 bills.
– The Opposition is agreeable to that course. I propose to address myself to the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill 1971 and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill 1971 and Senator Devitt will deal with the substance of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill 1971. These 3 Bills are of the same character and their purpose is to increase pensions payable under their provisions in accordance with certain decisions announced by the Government. The problem in respect of the 2 Bills to which I am directing my remarks - and I understand that it is also applicable to the third Bill - is that because of the effects of inflation the value of the various pension payments has been greatly decreased. It would be socially unjust not to restore the value of those pensions. The Government has taken the view that from the pension payments should be isolated the amount which is related to the government contribution and it should be upgraded in order to counter the effects of inflation on that part of the pension. Assuming a situation in which the Government contributed 70 per cent to the fund, that portion would be upgraded. Similarly if the Government contributed 60 per cent, that portion would be upgraded.
Another way in which it can be done is to calculate a notional salary payable to a person holding a certain classification in the Public Service, based on his share of each pension in existence as at 30th June 1971. That has to be notional because he would have retired from that classification. Changes in his salary since his retirement are taken into account. This principle runs through the parliamentary retiring allowances scheme. The government portion is updated, but I feel that the whole should be updated. When a fall in the value of a pension or superannuation payment occurs because of inflation, one would think that there should be an updating of the whole.
– Take insurance policies.
– I understand that to some extent this has happened in respect of insurance policies. It was intended that bonus payments would in some way keep up with inflation. I suppose the truth is that they do not, which means that people acquiring insurance policies are slipping behind. I understand that some of the great superannuation funds operating in the community are probably unable because of inflation to meet the demands of social justice and will be unable in the future to provide the same value of pension as they have provided in the past. This is a very serious matter and I think all honourable senators realise that. That is why the Senate has referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare the possible introduction of a national superannuation scheme and the methods of financing and operating it.
It is quite clear that people receiving pensions or superannuation payments are suffering heavily from the effects of inflation. This measure is designed to meet that problem in part for those persons. I do not know that it is a sufficient endeavour, but it is some endeavour to meet the problem and we support it. There is no opposition from us, but we think that the problem must be faced as a whole. There should be a rational solution to the problem of inflation as it affects all these persons. I believe that the community will have to endeavour to achieve the result that people retiring through illness or age receive as superannuation benefits or retiring allowances amounts sufficient to enable them to live at the standard at which they lived when working. A standard lower than that should not be acceptable in the community and I do not think we have achieved it.
This Bill illustrates that we do not have a system which provides that standard for the persons affected. It is necessary to introduce Bills to cover persons belonging to Commonwealth schemes in order to correct what otherwise would be the natural operation of those schemes. I think all honourable senators will agree that we ought, to have something better than this ad hoc method of readjustment some years after the problem has occurred. Benefits should be tied so as to rise in accordance with rises in an index; for example, the index of average weekly earnings or some cost or price index. That is clearly a solution.
We cannot continue to allow inflation to erode the amount which persons have relied upon when they have entered retirement as sufficient to allow them to live in dignity and comfort. The fact that these amounts are eroded means that they have a constantly declining standard of living. Their outlook is affected as well as their comfort. We support the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill and the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances (Increases) Bill, to which I have addressed myself. Another member of the Opposition will speak in relation to the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits (Pension Increases) Bill.
– I will be brief in dealing with these 3 Bills, because one principle is common to each of them. I have one or two comments to make to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) to be noted for future occasions. I am emboldened to make those comments by a passage in the Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
As I have already said when introducing the Superannuation (Pension Increases) Bill, the Government will be examining simpler methods of adjustment which would produce more equitable results than the notional salary method of adjustment adopted in this Bill, with a view to future application on a regular basis.
I ask the Minister whether, in the time that has elapsed between the making of that statement in another place and now, progress has been made on which he could comment. I think we are all worried about this whole question of a notional system, particularly ex-members of the Services and members of the Services who are even more closely affected. Perhaps the Minister could give us at this stage some idea of the thinking of the Superannuation Board and himself. We would be given an opportunity for constructive debate and criticism, not now, but by the people who will be the eventual beneficiaries.
I have several comments on the notional system. This is an admission that inflation is earing so badly into superannuation schemes that something has to be done. It is not new. It has been done several times before. The weakness of this scheme is that it devolves on the government of the day to decide, or the department to suggest to the government, that it is time this scheme was re-examined. I think it is now 4 years since the last adjustment was made, is it not?
– It was made in 1967.
– Yes, 4 years. That is a long time, particularly when a person has retired. Under the Act, a person can retire at 66 years of age. Perhaps it is not long from 20 to 24 years of age, but I imagine that from 66 to 70 years of age would seem to be a very much longer period. It seems to me that something ought to be done for the people who are affected by this system. After all, some of them have paid into the scheme for 50 years of their working lives, and they have a limited amount of life left. It seems to me that a period of 4 years is far too long and that this matter should be put on a better basis. Perhaps the pensions should be reviewed annually or every 2 years. Perhaps the Government should say that adjustments will be made automatically when the amount drops below a certain figure or a certain percentage of some index. I do not want to suggest a percentage.
There is something which I would like to see done and which would perhaps be the ultimate; but I concede that it may present some problems departmentally. The Government has admitted already that this situation is recurring because of the inflationary spiral. The Government says: We are prepared to acknowledge this and to increase the government supplement’. Should not that be written into the Act so that it will operate automatically at one of the given points? There is no argument of principle about this. The Government is doing it now. It is just a question of whether the Government will take the next step and let everybody know where he stands. I believe that as far as possible the rule of law should be written into all legislation; that things should not be left to the whim of the department or the Minister or government of the day. I believe that this is a broad principle that could be written into the Act at this stage.
There is a weakness in the scheme. Under the notional system the Government pays its supplement. During a person’s industrial life he pays about 30 per cent and when he retires the Government supplements that to the extent of 70 per cent. Incidentally, those are rough figures because it does not necessarily work out at 70 per cent; it can work out at 60 per cent. I do not want to go into the accounting side of it at this stage. The attitude that the Government is taking is: ‘We pay in our section, but the pensioner cannot be paid that in full because he is not paying in his section’. When a person has retired, how can he do that? He is no longer receiving a salary from which he can pay his contribution. His pension is based on his salary during his industrial life; but when he retires he is no longer receiving his salary and therefore he cannot pay his contribution. If the person lives long enough to reduce the value of the 30 or 40 per cent that the Government expects him to contribute, it is obvious that the graph then runs down pretty rapidly, because his contribution is based on what the Government expects him to be able to live on for the remaining years of his life, after the 30, 40 or in some cases 50 years he has spent in the Public Service. So, this partial system is operating against the pensioner.
The cruel part of it is that the system is bedevilled by one or two factors. One is that the citizen who has had a large family or has incurred sickness or other heavy expenses is the one who is unable to take out all the units to which he is entitled. Incidentally, it is probably time the Superannuation Board looked at the unit system itself. It has many bad features. This second factor is quite beyond anybody’s control: The fact that we have had rapid inflation over the last few years means that when a person becomes entitled to additional units as a result of moving into a higher salary bracket, because of general salary increases or because of the rapid expansion of the Public Service providing opportunities for promotion in the latter part of his industrial life, he has to pay a very high rate for those units. It is not unusual now to see $70, $80, $90 or $100 a fortnight coming out of the pay of civil servants for superannuation. This is getting out of all proportion. The Board has grappled with this problem at times by using other systems with respect to units. But I do not think they are working out successfully.
My final point is that I do not think the Government’s public relations on this matter have been very good. When the period since the last adjustment extended into the fourth year, many people - not only myself but members from all sides and both Houses of the Parliament - were making inquiries, until finally we received answers to our questions. I know that I received one in which the Government said definitely: ‘We will be looking at this matter in the Budget’. Obviously the Government must have known that there was a fair amount of disaffection on the part of the people receiving pensions and also their former trade union associations. The Government ought to have made it clear even before last year’s Budget that if it did not propose to deal with the matter in that Budget it certainly would deal with it in the next one. The Government should not have wailed for the probing to take place before it finally came clean and told us what the story was. In the interests of the Superannuation Board, that would have been a very good public relations exercise. We support this legislation, of course, because it implements what has been the system up until now. But the Government itself has said that it is not particularly happy with this notional scheme. So I am wondering whether Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson could indicate what the Government has in mind for the future. We support the 3 Bills.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (5.1) - in reply - I do not think there would be very much, if anything, that has been said by either the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) with which I or anyone else in this chamber would disagree in broad principle. It is true that these 3 Bills represent a charge against the revenue of $ 11.6m this year and $15. 5m in a full year. It is true also - I do not think this is arguable - that, because of the effluxion of time between the last rime this matter was dealt with, in 1967, and our coming to look at it again, there is some degree of hardship, particularly for the contributors. Of course, this problem is not peculiar to superannuation schemes; it rears its head in other schemes and other circumstances.
Senator Willesee referred to the notional system. He would be a stout-hearted Minister who, off the cuff, would embark upon an exposition of that system. Senator Willesee has had more experience of these matters than i have had, because in other years he represented other people and had some knowledge of them. In responding to what he said about public relations, I acknowledge that a statement was made that this matter had to be looked at. 1 recall that, very naturally, discussions were held with the professional officer and various other groups associated with the Commonwealth Public Service in relation to this issue. I asked the officers here with me to refresh my memory on this, and they confirm that my memory is fairly accurate. I recall that the professional officer groups favoured the notional system in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Whether they would have favoured the notional system if we were reviewing the matter more frequently and trying to keep abreast of other movements rather than letting the matter go for 4 years, I would not know. But I understand that in the discussions that, very properly, took place the professional officer groups tended to favour the notional system, in these circumstances, as the one more likely to give equity to the pensioners involved.
I do not know whether they would have taken that view if, for instance, we had a fixed system. I do not think any of us would disagree that it would be desirable to have a fixed system so that adjustments would become almost automatic and would not be involved in the legislative process. If they are involved in the legislative process, I think there is a tendency for adjustments not to be made as often as they need to be made. I did state in my second reading speech that the Government was concerned to determine whether a better scheme could be evolved. In these circumstances the notional system has developed.
As I have stated, I will not embark upon an exposition of this system. 1 hope that Senator Willesee will not question me fully on the prepared paper thai I have here on this subject. I will hand it to him later. I have tried to have this matter reduced to its simplest form. When these Bills have been disposed of and this paper has been circulated to honourable senators, I will be perfectly happy to ask the Treasury to provide further explanations of the system that may be sought. The note that I have states that under the notional salary method of adjustment the employer’s share of pension is increased to reflect increases in pension entitlements that have occurred after the pensioner’s retirement. This is done by comparing the pension entitlement al retirement with that of a person employed at the selected adjustment date - 30 June 1971 on this occasion - who holds the same classification or grading as the pensioner held when he retired. It may be necessary to go back 10 years to establish this rate. It could easily be that period. This is done to find comparable circumstances. Let me give now a simple example. If the pensioner was a lineman grade 2 at retirement the pension unit entitlement at 30th June 1971 of a lineman grade 2 is determined. The pension increase that is payable is the Consolidated Revenue Fund share - $65 per annum - of the pension units by which the pension entitlement of a lineman grade 2 has increased between the date of the pensioner’s retirement and 30th June 1971. From this amount is deducted any earlier pension increases that the pensioner has received. As well an adjustment is made if the pensioner did not retire on his maximum pension unit entitlement. So, this is the equation that must be arrived at.
The notional system is one with many complexities. Nevertheless, the most equitable manner of dealing with this matter is represented by the Bill that is before the Senate on this occasion. The Government and, I am sure, the professional officers concerned, will be looking for a system that is less complicated. Certainly I think that it is unarguable that it would be desirable to have the scheme adjusted more frequently than on the 4-year cycle that we have had. I am grateful that the Opposition will give a speedy passage to the 3 Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from Committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– Mr Deputy President, I rise at this time as I did not obtain the call, because of my slowness in rising to my feet, at the second reading stage. I wished at that time to indicate that my Party supports the Bill. Our support is clear now that the Bill has progressed to this point. On behalf of my colleagues, I commend the Government for its action on this matter. Honourable senators will recall that on 7th April of this year on behalf of my Party I proposed for discussion a matter of public importance. That matter referred inter alia to the urgent need for an immediate adjustment of superannuation payments to former Commonwealth employees in accordance with the ‘Notional Salary
Adjustment Scheme’ and for incorporation in the Superannuation Act of provision for regular review of the level of payments. I do not think that I need add any more than that. We are happy that the Government has taken note of our proposition and, indeed, of the decision of the Senate in this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 797), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 16 September (vide page 798), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– This Bill makes certain adjustments to introduce some measure of relief to those who are dependent upon retiring allowances which are based on values at the time they were last adjusted. I say ‘some measure of relief because it is not complete relief. I hope that in the case of further changes such a lengthy period will not be allowed to pass before an adjustment to allowances is made in respect of retired members or their widows or dependants.
I understand that after 1967, when the last adjustment was made, there was a change in salaries. If the same kind of procedure is followed in respect of future changes in salaries the people covered by this Bil) might have to wait a long time before receiving the benefit of an adjustment. I hope that does not occur but that if there is any adjustment of salaries in this place prompt steps will be taken in regard to persons affected by the principles which are enshrined in this enactment and that their allowances will be brought into line with whatever changes are made. But even if that were done, the retiring allowances would not be brought entirely into line. As I understand the system, only 70 per cent of the retiring allowances would be affected by any adjustment to deal with inflation on or cost of living adjustments. Actually the allowance is not related to the cost of living; it is related to salaries.
If we are dealing with only 70 per cent of the allowance and are updating it in accordance with current salaries, it seems that there will not be a very satisfactory adjustment for those persons who are in receipt of the retiring allowance if the updating is done just before salaries are about to be adjusted; they will wait for a very lengthy period and then, immediately before salaries are to be further adjusted, an adjustment will be made to bring the allowance into line with salaries. Presumably salaries are now undergoing a review and, presumably, they will be adjusted. I should think that wherever this principle applies, whether it is in relation to superannuation generally throughout the Commonwealth or in relation to persons who arc affected by this Bill, the adjustments should be made promptly in the light ot any alterations that are made to salaries. 1 hope that the Government will bear that in mind.
(5.18) - What Senator Murphy says has some validity. Some very obvious injustices have been allowed to develop under this legislation and if is proposed by this Bill to correct those situations. That remark does not cut across the generality of the points which were raised by the honourable senator and which I dealt with in my reply to the debate on the second reading of this Bill. I do not know what the future holds. I know what 1 hope the future holds, but 1 do not know what will happen. Therefore we cannot, in deciding these allowances, take into account what might happen in the future. I feel that all the points that have been made have much validity and I find myself in disagreement with very little of what has been said.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill gives effect to the Government’s decision to reduce the period of full time national service from 2 years to 18 months, as announced by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on the 18th August. National service has been and continues to be a significant element of the effort expended to ensure the maintenance of an effective defence capability in this country. Adopted at the end of 1964, its immediate purpose was to increase within an acceptable time span the essential strength of our Army from its then low level of 23,000 men to a level that would be adequate to allow the Army to fulfil its role in national defence.
Subsequent developments have fully vindicated the Government’s judgment. Since the introduction of national service, while the increase in the volunteer clement of the Australian Regular Army has been at an average rate, in round terms, of 1,000 men a year resulting in a strength of some 28,000 men at 30th June 1971, the actual annual increase has been decreasing, particularly since 1969 and, indeed, there was a fall in the volunteer element in 1970-71. In the same period the national service scheme has provided more than 51,000 men. More than one-third of the Army has comprised national servicemen. A secondary objective of the national service scheme is the encouragement of stronger Citizen Forces to ensure the support that the regular forces will require in time of a defence emergency. To this end men can elect at the time of registration for national service to undertake part time service in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to full time national service. At 30th June last more than 12,000 men were serving part time in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to national service and almost 2,000 had already completed their Citizen Force obligations, normally extending over 5 or 6 years. Notwithstanding that fewer national service registrants have been opting for Citizen Force service, optees still comprised 35 per cent of the CMF at 30th June last.
Equally relevant in any realistic and complete assessment of the contribution of national service to our defence manpower is the position of our reserve forces. Fully trained former national servicemen on the Army Reserve total some 21,000 men, or over 70 per cent of the total strength of the Reserve. Contrary to what has been said in another place by Australian Labor Party spokesmen, this is surely a significant contribution. In summary, to 30th June last 51,000 national servicemen have been called up and enlisted; they have comprised more than one-third of our full time military forces. Thirty-five per cent of the Citizen Military Forces are national service optees and over 70 per cent of the Army Reserve are fully trained former national servicemen. Yet it is, I observe, an essential plank of the Labor Party’s defence platform that national service should be abolished. Compulsory military service is traditionally a subject of controversy in Australia: in that context the national service scheme has general opposition in certain sections in the community. Nonetheless, the majority of Australians continue to support it and this includes the vast majority of those affected directly by the requirement it imposes for compulsory military service. Whatever a man may say or do up to the stage at which he is called up, the real test is surely whether or not he reports for service at the time of callup. As at the 30th June 1971. 6 men had been imprisoned for failure to report and render service and 96 other men had failed to report and render service and their cases had not been finalised. These included cases where prosecution proceedings had been approved or commenced, including where warrants had been issued for the man’s arrest, and conscientious objector cases awaiting hearing.
This compares, as I have said, with 51,000 men called up and enlisted. Or, taking the most recent year, 1970-71, those who failed to report for service without reasonable cause represented considerably less than 1 per cent. An additional 3 per cent were granted total exemption as conscientious objectors. But as against this, 9 per cent of the national servicemen who were called up and enlisted were volunteers; they sought to be enlisted as national servicemen and were accepted.
National service was not introduced because of Vietnam. It was introduced in November 1964 but national servicemen were not sent to Vietnam until 1966. National service has not been maintained for 7 years solely because of Vietnam. In fact, of all national servicemen called up only one-third have served in Vietnam. National service cannot be discontinued because we are withdrawing from Vietnam. Were it to be abolished now the Army would be reduced, virtually overnight, from 40,000 to 28,000 men, a level which no-one, even in the Labor Party, has accepted as adequate. Yet, I note, immediate abolition has been proposed by that Party which, of course, if it is serious, is nothing less than irresponsible. It is vital that national service be maintained because the alternative would be a significantly reduced full-time military force unable to meet its defence obligations. This would be unthinkable for this Government.
The Government and the Opposition both accept compulsory military service in principle. Neither is opposed to compulsion as such. It is a plank of the Labor Party’s defence platform adopted at the Launceston Conference that it would retain the right to raise a national service force should the security of Australia be threatened’. Where the Government and the Labor Party differ however - and differ markedly - is as to the circumstances in which compulsory service may be necessary. The Labor Party’s attitude is one of rigidity; it is therefore inadequate and this is one of the lessons of history. There has been mention of the policy adopted by the Labor Party permitting a graduated response, but, in view of what I have already said about the effect of their policy in real terms, 1 ask what it is that that graduated response would be based on - the 28,000 men comprising the volunteer element of the Army - that is inadequate and it admits it. Labor would raise a force in the national interest only under threat of defence emergency. The Government, however, has adopted a more flexible approach than would be possible for a Labor government encumbered as it would be by domga imposed on it from outside. As the Prime Minister said recently, the Government continues to stress the importance of volunteers as the basis of our Armed Forces. However, if Australia’s defence manopwer requirements cannot be met by volunteers, any government would invite condemnation of its policies if it were to refuse to require men to serve, for this would entail dependence on an army of inadequate strength. No responsible government could act in this manner.
The Labor Party’s policy apparently presupposes that the men which it would hastily draft in an emergency could be trained to the necessary proficiency in a sufficiently short time. However, I remind the Senate that the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party, its defence spokesman, averred on 19th August that ‘a soldier can be fully trained in 6 months’. 1 only mention in passing that in practice the number and range of specialists which a modern army demands often take considerably longer than this to train before they can serve in a full capacity. But, in any case, is 6 months a realistic period on which to base a nation’s long term defence preparedness? By the time Labor’s conscripts were ready the emergency they were to meet could have become a catastrophe for Australia.
The Labor Party is committed, after abolishing national service, and I quote recent comments by the Deputy Leader of the Party, to ‘take appropriate measures to build strong forces by forming a volunteer army’. One would have expected an alternative government to adopt a more responsible attitude to the need for continuing defence of national security and to ensure that it was, in fact, achieving strong forces through the measures it would take to attract volunteers before it placed our defence interests in jeopardy. Moreover, any judgement cannot rest solely on any short term trends; too much is at stake for that. The essential issue is one of defence preparedness.
Recent statements of Labor Party spokesmen taking up the cry for an all-volunteer army have obviously had in mind the report of the Gates Commission in the United States. Honourable senators will know that the report proposes all-volunteer armed services for the United States through substantial pay increases for its members. The Commission states that the viability of an all-volunteer force ultimately depends on the level of military pay, entry standards and conditions of service. It judged that the level of pay was a paramount influence in the rate of recruitment and in its investigations it relied heavily on the economists’ concept of elasticity - in this case the elasticity of supply. Its investigations led it to project that a 10 per cent increase in pay would produce a 12.5 per cent increase in the rate of recruitment.
Current research in respect of the Australian scene indicates, however, that the elasticity of supply of volunteers to our Army would not be so high as has been estimated for the United States. One obvious factor is the relative difference in our levels of unemployment. In recent years in the United States the level has averaged 4.4 per cent, with a peak of about 6 per cent. This compares with the average level of 1.3 per cent and a peak of 1.8 per cent in this country. Moreover, the Gates Commission itself observed that in a growth economy similar to our own civilian employment can be expected to be relatively more attractive than military service.
Essentially, these facts point up the differing situations that exist in Australia and America. The basic recommendation of the Gates Commission was that pay for recruits should be brought into line with civilian pay levels and that this would have a substantial effect on recruitment levels. It identified service pay as being about 60 per cent of comparable civilian pay and its recommendation was not therefore without justification. But this is not the position in Australia. The pay of servicemen, including national servicemen, is already aligned with civilian pay scales with a loading to compensate for the particular conditions of Service life. Whether pay increases would result in the forces required has yet to be demonstrated in the United States. Bear in mind, too, that the Gates Commission was contemplating a situation where the United States Armed Forces were to be reduced overall by 25 per cent. Our situation is quite different and such a decrease would reduce the Army to the existing level of volunteers, 28,000 men, which is not considered adequate for our needs.
In summary, in the present Australian context national service is an indispensable factor in maintaining the Australian Army at a size adequate for our defence obligations. The Opposition is not opposed to conscription in principle but it could only use the power in a predetermined and circumscribed situation. Such an approach is completely unacceptable to this Government and, I believe, the people of Australia. The Opposition would ignore the consequences and leave us without an adequate Army while they set out proving whether volunteers could be obtained. The Government is not prepared to place Australia’s defence effort at risk. Nor is it so foolhardy as to believe that we can train men for a few months, then conscript them in an emergency and that all will be well. As the Prime Minister said when announcing the changes which T am about to discuss:
We must maintain a defence capability that is evident both to friendly countries and to potential enemies and which we could develop in adequate time should more immediate threats arise.
That goal cannot currently be achieved without national service. When the Prime Minister announced the reduction in the period of national service to 18 months he referred to the fact that we face a changed situation from that which existed in 1964 when national service was introduced. That is to be expected; that the overall framework within which defence manpower requirements are determined should change is inexorable. And while it is now judged that the full-time strength of the Army can be reduced by some 10 per cent by reducing the period of full-time national service, national servicemen will still represent some 30 per cent of the total Army manpower, 12,000 out of 40,000. The reduction in the number of men serving fulltime in the Army will not diminish the
Reserve of more than 20,000 fully trained men that national service maintains in the community, indeed the number will increase. The decision to introduce national service, a decision which was not without courage, has been proved by the successful manner in which the scheme has provided the manpower that the Army needs to fulfil its role in our national defence strategy. There have been changes affecting that strategy; the. Government recognises that. Nevertheless national service must be retained. The present Bill gives effect to this logic.
Let me turn now to the National Service Bill itself. It provides specifically for a reduction from 2 years to 18 months in the period of full-time national service. It also deals with matters consequential upon that reduction. There are also other related changes in the national service scheme which do not require legislation and I propose to refer to them as well so that the Senate will have a complete statement of what is involved.
As I indicated, the Government has reviewed the changed situation bearing on our defence manpower requirements and concluded that the number of men serving full-time in the Army can be reduced by some 4,000 by reducing the period of fulltime national service from 2 years to 18 months. In future all men called up for full-time service with the Army under the national service scheme will normally be required to complete 18 months full-time service. As to men currently serving when the legislation comes into effect, their obligation will also be reduced. However, it will not be practicable to simultaneously discharge all men who complete their required service immediately the Bill becomes operative. The Senate will appreciate that this is because of the complex arrangements involved including the return of men from Vietnam and the administrative tasks entailed in discharge. There is to be a phased discharge programme involving approximately 8,000 men over some 3 months. In brief, the discharge programme will be: (a) men who were called up in September 1969 are being discharged at the normal time, namely 30th September 1971; (b) those called up in January 1970 and originally due for discharge at the end of January 1972 will be discharged on 15th November, that is 24 months early; (c) those called up in April 1970, and originally due for discharge in April 1972 will be discharged on 9th December, that is some 44 months early; and (d) those called up in July 1970 who will complete 18 months service on the 7th January 1972 will be discharged on that date, and equally men called up after July 1970 will likewise be discharged on completion of 18 months.
In equity, all men who were included in the same Army intake are to be discharged together. I am sure honourable senators will agree that those who have been serving overseas should not be treated less favourably than other men.
There will no doubt be some men who when they entered the Army arranged their personal or business affairs on the basis of an anticipated absence of 2 complete years. An early release might in their case be to their disadvantage and provision is being made for them to continue their service, up to the original period, if they wish to do so. All the men that I have mentioned, whether or not their service extends beyond the new standard period of 18 months, will be eligible for reestablishment benefits in the normal way. National servicemen currently have a total liability for service of 5 years. Two years of this is full-time with the Army; they then serve, usually with the Regular Army Reserve, for a further 3 years. Alternatively, men may. upon completion of their period of full-time service, volunteer and be accepted for service in the CMF for not less than 3 years. The Government has agreed with its defence advisers that the total commitment of 5 years should not be reduced. With the shorter period of full-time service, the period on the Reserve or the CMF will normally be 34 years. This will maintain at the present level the number of men serving full-time or already trained for call-up in an emergency.
As is well known, it is a feature of the present national service scheme that all men can elect to serve part-time in the Citizen Forces as an alternative to full-time national service. This encouragement of stronger Citizen Forces is, as I have already indicated, to provide for the support that the Regular Forces will require in a dme of defence emergency. Men opting to serve in the Citizen Forces have been required to complete 5 or 6 years part-time service depending on whether or not they had completed 12 months membership and efficient service prior to their registration for national service. Provided they complete the required period, of service satisfactorily, they are granted indefinite deferment of their liability for national service. Upon reduction of the period of full-time national service consideration was necessarily given to the parttime alternative. As the Prime Minister has announced there will in future be a single period for part-time alternative service which will be applicable to all men, namely 5 years. Such service will involve 165 days in total and reduction beyond this would not be equitable vis-a-vis full-time service. The single period will considerably simplify the option of Citizen Force service and will, therefore, be of benefit to young men when registering for national service.
Service in the full-time Forces in Australia or continuous full-time service in the naval, military or air forces of an overseas country, count towards the period of national service liability in Australia. In practice where men have already completed 15 months service they have not been called up. This meant minimum service with the Army for 9 months. In future the period of previous service precluding call-up for national service will be at least 12 months. It would not be appropriate to relieve men of any national service obligation where they had served a lesser period. While this means a reduction in. the minimum period of their full-time service to 6 months, the men in this group will also be required to continue on the Reserve for 34 years in the same way as other men.
From the inception of the present national service scheme the penalty for the most serious offence against the Act. that is failure to render service, has always borne a direct and equivalent relationship to the period of service for which men are liable and which is as far as practicable uniform throughout Australia. This relationship will be maintained and the period of maximum imprisonment correspondingly reduced with the reduction in the period of full-time service. This will apply notwithstanding that men may have been liable for 2 years full-time service at the time of their failure to report for service. Likewise once the legislation becomes law, men currently imprisoned for this offence will be deemed to have been sentenced for 18 months instead of 2 years and therefore eligible for release on the completion of this period of imprisonment less the normal remissions for good behaviour applicable under State law.
In summary, the Bill now before the Senate implements the Government’s recent decision that, while current circumstances permit some reduction in the size of the Army, national service must be maintained to ensure adequate forces for Australia’s defence needs. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator James McClelland) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m.
General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business After 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 9th September (vide page 654), on motion by Senator Murphy.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When this debate was interrupted on 9th September I had commenced to deal with 2 points which I said went to the nub of the whole argument in regard to this very difficult and vexed problem. I had commenced to speak about the situation which arises when some people convicted of murder are a threat to the community even though they are incarcerated for life - they are a threat to their custodians, possibly to the police who are required to come into support their custodians, and to the community if they escape. I think we have had a very clear example of this type of convict in recent weeks in the Attica situation in New York State. In my previous remarks I referred to cases involving people of this character. One was in England and the other was in my own State of Western Australia in recent years. I put forward the view quite seriously and firmly - that this is not a fanciful proposition - that in this day and age where there appears to be in the community an increase in violence of all kinds and for various purposes we should take note, very serious note, of these aspects of the problem and the people that we and governments have to deal with. I do not propose to say any more about that aspect of the problem. It is one of the 2 basic issues which arise.
I turn now to what I feel is the other basic issue. It was put very firmly, very clearly and very eloquently by Senator Carrick. As I said in my previous remarks in this chamber, my own conviction on this subject, which I have held for many years, did waver to some extent after listening to Senator Carrick’s argument because I feel that it raised one of the fundamental issues. I think the point could be summarised in Senator Carrick’s own words at the end of his speech - I think this was fundamental to his approach; he said it several times during his speech - when he stated, as recorded at page 636 of Hansard:
I finish where I started. I ask: Is the test of this Bill that there can be a legal right to take life? I answer for myself: No, because I believe that capital punishment commits the crime it seeks to punish. I think the challenge to us all is to reduce violence.
As I have said, this is a fundamental question because if one answers ‘No’ I think one must come to the conclusion to which Senator Carrick came. But if one answers Yes’ one does not necessarily have to oppose the Bill; but, of course, it docs make a very great difference to one’s freedom of action as to whether one supports it. I believe that this fundamental question Is there a legal right to take life?’ should be expanded thus: ‘Is there a legal or a moral right to take life?’ It seems to me that the answer clearly is yes. I believe that Senator Carrick in his own speech indicated certain cases where there is clearly a legal right to take life.
I would say for myself - one can speak only personally on these very deep moral problems - that there is also a moral right to take life in those cases where the law has permitted it. Those cases are possibly more in number than even Senator Carrick would have conceded. The obvious case is that of self defence, which I concede Senator Carrick dealt with. There is in law the right in certain very restricted circumstances, we know, to take foetal life; abortion is permissible under Australian law in certain very restricted circumstances. Without expanding the area in which abortion is legal, I just deal with the very restricted law on that subject as it stands and has stood for many years. Under Australian criminal law there is the right in certain circumstances to take life - not only in the early stages of pregnancy but also in the very later stages when there is no question whatever as to the very real existence of life.
We then have the right in law to take life in wars. Indeed, there is an obligation to do so. Therefore I would say that in many recognised and many wider cases and situations than we might think there is this legal and, I would say, moral right to take life. Despite Senator Carrick’s firm answer to the question which he raised, which I concede is fundamental to the whole subject, I believe that if one answers in the affirmative the approach to the whole problem presented by this Bill becomes very different indeed from that which its supporters have argued. I have already said that in my view this Bill, when it seeks to abolish capital punishment as a sanction under any laws of the Commonwealth and for any offence to which it might apply, does raise in a fundamental way the whole problem of punishment. It raises also many practical problems in regard to the nature of the laws of the Commonwealth and the administration of them.
During the course of this debate Senator Withers has indicated some of the very difficult problems that arise as far as punishment is concerned. I have also referred to some problems of that kind earlier in this debate. I believe that the problem of an appropriate punishment for murder or indeed for other offences should be considered in the light of the degrees of murder and of the heinousness of many of the crimes which are already covered by the death penalty. We must remember that this Bill seeks to abolish the death penalty right across the board. We are not only concerned with the abolition of the death penalty in relation to murder but also in relation to treason and some other crimes. I think that under the Crimes Act a crime which carries the death penalty is assisting the enemy in time of war or when there is a threat of war. As Senator Carrick has mentioned some crimes on aircraft would carry the death penalty. Heaven knows, we are facing up to and we will have to face up to other earnest issues in relation to criminal behaviour in aircraft. I refer to cases of hijacking. I believe that these are all fundamental problems once we concede that we are not precluded from maintaining and carrying out capital punishment by any basically moral or philosophical prohibitions.
In Australia we have not given anything like proper regard to degrees of murder. This is a form of experiment which I think we should look at. In the United Kingdom in 1957 the Homicide Act brought in some new and quite revolutionary defences to the charge of murder. In essence different degrees of murder could be found although the Act did not deal with the matter in the American term of first degree, second degree and so on. But it did have some of these practical consequences. It also sought to deal with the question of, and to limit, cases where the death penalty was applicable. It introduced the concept of what was called ‘capital murder’. I do not stand here to defend the actual provisions of the Homicide Act of 1957. T concede that the way in which the Act worked is less than perfect. It was the subject of heavy criticism, particularly from judges of the High Court in England who had to administer it. But I believe the Act is well worth looking at to see why tt did not work, whether changes could be made which would make it a workable proposition and whether it could impose limitations on the occasions when capital punishment is to be retained as the sanction for murder.
I believe that one of our greatest practical problems in administering the criminal law in Australia has been the absence of adequate rules not only in relation to the defence of ‘insanity’ but also to provide a defence or defences for people who are suffering from some degree of mental incapacity which is less than any degree of insanity either by legal standards or psychiatric standards. Another feature of the Homicide Act in 1957 was the introduction of a concept of diminished responsibility as a defence to murder. As I have said, there are many aspects to this problem which deserves much greater consideration at the parliamentary level in this country than it has been given. But I come back to the essential problem before us in this Bill and that is punishment itself - the concept of punishment and the nature and varieties of punishment which are appropriate in the 1970s. I believe that we are very far from giving a modern consideration to this problem. I do not believe that it can be solved in an easy way at all. I am sure that other honourable senators who have spoken on the matter believe that there are more fundamental problems in relation to this question of punishment than simply the abolition of capital punishment.
Before I conclude my remarks on the second reading of this Bill I shall briefly advert to one or two other arguments which have found prominence in this debate and, indeed, in the whole debate on the subject of capital punishment which has raged throughout the Western world for well over a decade. I can hardly think of any subject, either legal or political, in which there has been a higher level of debate nor greater attempts to reach some conclusions from statistical methods, and by other forms of proof and so on. I believe that all attempts have, in the end, left the question unproven one way or another. Of course that is why debate has continued to rage and why we are still in such great disagreement on the matter. 1 believe that in the end this is a subject upon which one has to make one’s own personal, moral judgment. Undoubtedly, one of the considerations is the deterrent effect of capital punishment. No discussion of this subject is appropriate without some brief recourse to this matter because it is the argument which is most firmly put forward by those who feel as 1 do on the issue and those who believe in retention. I must concede that all the efforts that have been made and all the statistics that have been produced do not prove the argument that capital punishment is a deterrent. As I have said, this matter has been fully canvassed not only in this country but also in the United States, Great Britain and other countries. One cannot say definitely, one way or the other, whether it is or is not a deterrent. I hasten to add that the statistics do not prove one way or the other whether life imprisonment is a deterrent, either, for murder or for any other crime.
– Or any punishment.
– Or, indeed, whether any punishment is a deterrent for any crime no matter what we in our own hearts believe. That is why 1 say again and again that the whole matter of punishment Ls the very basis of our problem. I think one has to concede that in this debate on this subject there must be other factors which are influencing the minds of people in coming to their decisions. One cannot exclude from consideration the question of what is regarded as fair and appropriate punishment for a particular crime. In some cases people say: ‘Oh, this is retribution; this is revenge’, and so on. If one is honest with oneself one has to face up to the fact that these factors inevitably play a part and certainly play a part in the minds of ordinary members of the community who look to the legislators, the law makers and law enforcers to satisfy some of their innermost feelings on these problems. Therefore I do not think it is appropriate to run away from these issues that inevitably arise in connection with this problem of punishment.
Perhaps I have been too ready to run away from these very fundamental psychological aspects of the problem and too inclined, probably, to be influenced and swayed by people such as Senator Carrick. It may be called rationalisation, but I believe that capital punishment should be retained as a last resort to deal with the type of murderer I have mentioned already in some detail - the man who is not going to be controlled, who is not going to be a meek and mild prisoner for the rest of his life and who may revolt in prison, may escape and may be a threat to the community, to the lives of other people, including those who are required to keep him in custody as best they can. 1 believe that this in itself is a firm justification for the retention of capital punishment on the statute book.
I concede that, believing this, there are practical problems which have to be faced. I have mentioned some of these problems. I have mentioned that we ought to be looking at degrees of murder, that we ought to be looking at some further defences and perhaps a concept of diminished responsibility. We have to look at ways and means. What are the proper ways and means of determining whether a person is to be subject to capital punishment? We probably ought to look at what is the appropriate form of capital punishment. Many of these practical problems arise and numerous suggestions have been made as to the way in which they may be dealt with. The question arises as to whether juries ought to be given some powers to recommend in these cases. If they are not, who should be the people to decide this? Is it good enough to leave it to the Executive? Are its methods appropriate, and so on?
These questions merely scratch the surface of the problems that arise in connection with capital punishment. I, Mr President, in opposing this Bill, believe that the subject should not be left as it is. I think it is urgent for these problems to be faced by us. As members of this national Parliament it is our obligation to face up to them. I would like to see, at a very early date, this whole subject canvassed deeply and fully by means of the committee system that the Senate is adopting in respect of so many problems facing the nation. I hope that some consideration will be given at a very early date not only to capital punishment but to the whole subject of punishment. I know that a modern code of criminal law is being processed at the present time and no doubt it will come before this Parliament. Perhaps that would be an appropriate moment to deal with this subject. I see no signs whatever of any really fundamental thinking and work being done on the subject of punishment and I hope that we in the Senate can accept that responsibility at a very early date.
– I wish to participate briefly in the debate on the Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1970. I recall that we debated it on a previous occasion, some 3 weeks ago. It seems to be the rigid decision of members of the Opposition not to contribute to the discussion. I wish to register my consciousness of the absence of any of the leadership of the Opposition while the debate on such an important matter is proceeding. The Senate is engaged in discussing a very important matter which I believe is an important artery upon which society depends.
I am quite in approval of those who seek to increase the humaneness of the criminal law and we are all proud of the improvement of the criminal law over the past 2 centuries. But, Mr President, I believe that very sober and balanced judgment is required in considering whether a Bill in the universal terms of this Bill should receive the approval of a House of the national Parliament. I say that because this Bill does not lend itself to a discussion of degrees of criminality, reserving the ultimate penalty of capital punishment for the gravest crimes; it, with one sweep, says that a person shall not be liable to punishment of death for any offence in the Commonwealth or any of its Territories.
The first thing my mind directs itself to is the question of deterrence. At the background of the whole of our principle of punishment for crime is the purpose of deterring other crime. Until somebody can convincingly prove that the existence of the sentence of capital punishment is not a deterrence against crimes of violence, I would think that a parliament elected to protect the people who constitute the society should be very cautious before accepting a Bill in these wide terms. 1 have reminded myself of statistics compiled on the question of whether the existence of a death penalty operates as a deterrent. If one applies a little experience in the criminal jurisdiction, in the professional sense, together with ordinary honest judgment, it must be difficult for anybody to assert that the existence of the death penalty does not operate as a most compelling deterrent.
Anybody who has experienced the atmosphere of a capital trial, as I have on several occasions, always for the defence, can never subscribe to the view that an atmosphere of fear and apprehension is not engendered by the mere fact that a verdict of guilty at that trial leads to the inevitable sentence of death. I have seen the most composed persons absolutely in terror of the prospect and it defies human experience to deny that the existence of that awful sentence of death operates as a most compelling deterrent against violent crime.
In the criminal law, as I understand it, nobody advocates the elimination of the defence of self-defence. As I further understand the law, attempted killing by a criminal justifies killing by the victim if he can defend himself with sufficient alacrity. Is it to be the principle that the person assaulted has the right to kill but if the criminal succeeds in his purpose and gets in before the victim, society, preserving as it most carefully does one of the most cherished systems of justice in human history, scaling the evidence and giving ali care before a jury is invited to convict, is not entitled to visit on that criminal the condemnation which would have been fully justified at the victim’s hands? Is it to be suggested that if attacked I may kill my attacker and yet society, if the killer succeeds in beating me to the draw, after proper judicial process may not exercise that same right? Yet those who propound this Bill deny it as a weapon for the protection of society. To me that principle in this Bill completely denies the validity of the universal proposition.
The next point I wish to stress is that we are dealing with this matter in the Senate, a House of the federal legislature, and the responsibility for the general formulation of law in this Commonwealth constitutionally belongs to the States. In this field the States have exercised the primary and inalienable responsibility, recognised ever since the Constitution was brought in by our High Court which will only in very special circumstances grant leave to appeal from decisions of State courts of criminal appeal. This is in recognition of the fact that criminal law enforcement to be effective must be recognised to reside in its own particular field, and the States have that primary responsibility.
The next proposition 1 wish to pui before the Senate is that the Bill seeks to apply its terms to all territories including Papua New Guinea. Any honourable senator is invited to correct me if he has more recent information, but my latest advice is that the declared will of the local representative assembly of Papua New Guinea adheres strongly to the retention of the death penalty. But passing those things by, one has only to reflect upon the view that it would revolt the just mind to refrain from appropriate punishment by death of the criminal who has killed in cold blood a pregnant woman; who has murdered little children for sensuous rape-
– The man could be ill.
– Of course - and the law can provide very carefully to exculpate that man. 1 am speaking of the vicious criminal for whom I would reserve this horrible penalty - the ultimate penalty lor the ultimate crime. In Tasmania soon after the Second World War a sane man was charged and happily 1 was relieved of the obligation to defend him. Upon his conviction the Labor Government of the day enforced the death penalty on that man who had assaulted a little girl for sensuous rape, had carted her body for 3 miles and hidden it in a cemetery. Let that pass as a specific illustration. My Lai comes to mind, if committed in circumstances of clear proof of murder.
Would one say that death was not the only appropriate punishment by which a respectable society should express a verdict of justice? I point also to the hijacking of aeroplanes leading to death and the abduction of people as seen in a series of kidnappings of ambassadors recently; but let not the rank be any consideration. What about those people who murder in Northern Ireland for one side or the other tonight? Who will go into the clock and who will go into the grave depends on whether the person attacked gets in the first shot. What an irresponsible society it would be that would not defend itself by visiting the ultimate penalty upon proved murderers, found to be of sound mind. For 300 years the British law has abstained from hanging a person whose mind has been proved to be unsound.
I come now to the two compelling situations that deny the universality of the proposition in the Bill. If society is to protect itself as an ordered society, not for cowards but for courageous men, and equally courageous women and children, it must protect the man who must go against a criminal gang in the line of law enforcement and could be murdered when carrying out the obligation of the law. A policeman may be discharging his duty when a criminal takes a firearm, axe or any other unequal weapon and murders him. The law is the real protection of the members of this chamber, their families and the community. If we are to have a criminal law and any part of it is to be supported by a prison system or a system where officers have a legal obligation to guard offenders, there is always a temptation to those imprisoned collectively or singly to take an unequal advantage of those officers. We saw that illustrated in the instance of what happened to one of our officers near Rabaul recently.
– Have you ever considered how society may have treated the individual?
– Responding to Senator Cavanagh’s interjection as I understand it, I say that society stresses the value of all individuals and that the anxiety of society not for him alone but for every individual in it is ever present day by day. Few people rejoice, when they rise in the morning, and say: ‘This is Heaven and all that I shall meet today will be brotherly love and beautiful fellows’. Of course society demands of us forbearance of our fellows - often odd fellows and fellows who have criminal tendencies yet are not criminals.
But it is the deterrent against allowing people to give way to impulses under which they might murder those in the society who offend them that I am putting to honourable senators. The officer of the law, whom this Parliament requires, as it has directed, to enforce the law against the criminal by keeping him under lock and key or by taking him to some place of imprisonment and confining him there, is the man from whom we withdraw the protection if we say that if the prisoner assaults the officer and murders him the officer should not have the benefit of the deterrent that comes from the existence of that penalty. Society is challenged to dissolution unless we reserve this ultimate penalty for the man who murders a prison officer or a police officer, each of them acting in execution of the law which is the protection of our society.
Having established, I submit, an unanswerable case for the rentention of the death penalty for the ultimate cases, I go on and recognise that it is very probable that the law could be improved by substituting alternative permissible penalties for lesser criminal acts than the ultimate act of vicious murder to which I have referred. I wish to add only one comment: So far I have dealt with the civil law. But unhappily in the law jungle of this international world we are not free of the prospect that some of our men will be required to participate in warfare. When men are engaged in military duties they are subject to military law. In that situation there are such crimes as desertion in the face of the enemy, sedition and treachery. The circumstances in which some of those offences could be committed have most important consequences for the body of troops of whom the defaulter is one. I have yet to be persuaded that there are not cases for which the penalty of death is properly reserved, as it is today, for punishment. For those grievous reasons I will vote against this Bill.
– I believe that we all are indebted to Senator Wright for the arguments he has placed before this chamber. In his concluding remarks he challenged those who hold a different point of view on the issue that is before us to answer them. Let me say at the outset that in the final analysis we will hold different points of view. 1 am not so completely sure that my own point of view is right that my mind is closed to the arguments of others. On this question I believe that it would be foolish for any of us to adopt that attitude. I am dealing with what I consider to be the fundamental principle rather than the Bill itself. When I talk of the abolition of capital punishment I talk of it in the field of civil law. I have to admit that I have not exercised my mind or my conscience as to how the death penalty would apply in the circumstances Senator Wright outlined, namely, in time of warfare when treason and treachery are involved and when the wellbeing of a whole nation and the lives of perhaps thousands of men who are serving their country can be endangered by the act of treachery of one individual.
I come now to the fundamentals of the argument and the differences between crimes. I throw back at Senator Wright an argument that he used towards the end of his speech. A criminal, in desperation, on the verge of arrest by an officer of the law, may produce a firearm that he took with him to the scene of the crime and kill the officer of the law. That is one kind of crime. But, if he were to pick up an iron bar or something that happened to be lying close handy and strike the policeman with it and kill him, 1 would argue that that was a different kind of crime. I think the law makes some allowance for that. We must admit that all of us - members of Parliament as well as criminals who may be committing crimes - are human. A person may never have intended to use violence, but the instinct of self-preservation may operate in a moment of extreme panic and cause him to grasp something, throw it or strike with it and kill. Is that a crime of the same degree as that of somebody who takes a firearm with him for the purpose of killing anybody who interferes with him? I suggest that it is not.
The fact that the victim was a policeman acting in the execution of his duty may have a sentimental connotation and may invoke the sympathy of those of us who recognise that we as a community give these men a horrible job and pay them inadequate wages to apprehend criminals and to preserve law and order. There are those in our community who want to demean the hard working men who happen to be policemen and who hold that those men are less than the best in the community although they perform one of the finest and most difficult tasks on behalf of the rest of us. I am not one of those. 1 am on the side of the policemen. It is unfortunate if a man happens to be a policeman when somebody, in a moment of desperation and when driven by the instinct of selfpreservation, kills him. But in my view the invoking of the extreme measures of the law would not be warranted in those circumstances because it is a fact that all of us have built into our system that instinct of self-preservation which, just as it can take over when it is right that it should do so to enable us to protect ourselves when we are legitimately engaged in our everyday activities, can take over when we are criminals committing crimes against society.
When we talk about punishment and whether or not it should act as a deterrent, to see the matter in the right perspective we must say something about the crimes themselves. The Minister for Works suggested that in the extreme strain of imminent execution the tremendous terror faced by the person to be executed indeed must be a deterrent. But those people do not know that extreme feeling of terror until that actual moment arrives and the crime has long been committed. If we wish that moment of terror or those moments or hours of extreme terror to act as a deterrent against crime in our community, we must go back to the more primitive age when executions were displayed publicly. Thus everybody can see the moments of terror. Of course, if we begin to think like that–
– And enjoy it.
– I do not need your assistance. Senator Georges.
– I was only pointing out-
– These are . my own thoughts on a specific subject, and 1 need no help from you. The point that I make about this whole subject is that if we adopt that procedure and we put on public display as a deterrent the execution of those who have committed these crimes, surely we must return to the days of the torture chambers, the public displays of the bodies, even hanging in chains from the gibbets, as happened in England in a more primitive age. I do not think that anybody would suggest that we should do that as a deterrent. Despite the point of view put by the Minister, I do not think that the moments of terror of those to be executed act very much as a deterrent at all.
Thinking about this subject, I do believe that some crimes of violence - the most coldly calculated and thought out crimes such as the hijacking of aircraft or the holding to ramsom of a child to extract money from its parents - are such that the deterrent of a death penalty in itself would operate. These crimes are coldly thought out. The advantages and gains which may flow to the perpetrator of the crime from the deed that he commits are reckoned as a matter of cold clear thinking. Surely he takes into account the possibilities of apprehension and the penalty that will be imposed if he is apprehended.
– He never thinks that he will get caught.
– That may be an excuse with some people. But I think that many of these crimes are committed by people who are sufficiently intelligent to know the dangers. They weigh the risks and finally decide to take the chance. Whilst I concede that the honourable senator may be right in many instances, there must be some instances in which the possibility of being caught is considered. If they were not considering the possibility that they may make a mistake these people would not take such care to plan so that they will not be caught. That is my thinking on that point.
These views do not apply to some of the crimes which arouse the indignation of most of us and indeed almost bring a desire for revenge. These are crimes of impulse and passion. In regard to these crimes that can almost be described as impulsive, it is unlikely that the death penalty in itself would constitute any deterrent whatsoever because I do not believe that the crime is approached with cold reasoning. For that reason, I do not think that the perpetrator of such a crime gives any consideration at all to what penalty he may face for committing that crime. Those are my thoughts on some of these prominent arguments which are used when this question is discussed in Parliament, in the Press or anywhere else. I wonder whether I am right in coming to the conclusion that I have reached with respect to some modern crimes, such as the hijacking of aircraft, that we should abolish the death penalty for civil crimes, although the hijacking, for personal gain, of an aircraft with hundreds of people on board may not be considered to be a normal civil crime. I do not think that I really have to make up my mind about that matter because the one reason that has caused me finally to be opposed to the death penalty for civil crimes is one that has not been mentioned in this chamber.
I am one who is concerned about the method by which we execute. In more primitive ages, so it is said, the criminal was given a jug of hemlock which he had to drink. In those days civilisation required those criminals to execute themselves by the simple act of drinking a jug of hemlock. Today, we have many and various methods of execution throughout the world. But, in the final analysis, the basic fact is that somebody has to do the job on behalf of society. My greatest concern is not with the criminal who is executed but with the brutalisation of the mind of the person to whom we give the job of execution. However needed by society an execution is, and however much one may argue that a person should be executed, I ask: What have we done to the man who pulls the rope? What have we done to the man who presses the button?
Senator Georges is trying to interject but his simplifications do not attract me at all. I am trying to get at the grass roots of this matter. I do not wish to repeat a lot of jargon and slogans that somebody else has pumped out as propaganda to win an argument. 1 am trying to illustrate the point that, in this final act, in trying to equate punishment to a terrible and awful crime society, may be perpetrating something against somebody who is not associated in any way with the crime but who, perhaps desperate for a job, accepts the responsibility of becoming a public hangman.
How many people can that man hang before he becomes completely mentally brutalised? If he does not become completely mentally brutalised, how much does he become destroyed from within because his profession is the taking of human life?
– That argument has very little weight when war is discussed in the same breath.
– That may be so for the honourable senator but not for me. In war, a man has a spirit of self-protection and all the instincts of mankind which drive him to do something that he must do - and he does it. But when a man is employed to hang, for a week or so before the execution he knows the job that is in front of him. He is not involved in the matter personally. His safety and security are not at risk. His instincts are entirely different. For the same reason, his mental approach must be entirely different. An honourable senator has interjected that he must be a born killer. I do not accept that at all. He is no different in our society from you or me. Nobody is a born killer any more than anybody is a bom saint.
This is my concern: If we accept as a general principle in our society that we will hang, that we will electrocute or that we will adopt some other action for the eradication of the life of a person who has taken a life, should we nol be concerned about the person who finally must do the job of execution? If we believe in execution, should we not be the first to volunteer? If nobody else in our society is prepared to pull the rope and to hang a person, should not I. if I am one who believes that it should be done, be the first to volunteer? Because I could nol volunteer. I mast fall down on the side of those who say that in respect of civil crimes at least - this is my view - we should not persevere with the death penalty. For that reason. I propose to vote in support of the Bill.
– 1 have made known in a previous debate my beliefs on capital punishment. As the Parliament is the ultimate court in the land where the representatives of the people have the opportunity and the responsibility to express themselves, I believe that I should take part once more in a debate on the subject of capital punishment. I do so partly because I regret that we have not heard speakers from the Opposition side of the chamber, although this is a non-Party debate, and because it assumes that, having come to a conclusion collectively, that is the end of the matter. I believe that everyone in the community has a right. 10 examine this question, to examine himself with regard to it, and the reasons why he reaches a certain decision and the basis of his conviction. 1 think this debate is important because a study of this question of crime and punishment, and what is the ultimate punishment, leads along paths that can contribute very valuably to our ideas of punishment as such as part of our society. Why do we punish? How do we punish? What is the effect of the punishment on the people inflicting it and on the people receiving it? Because I believe that there are great areas of doubt in the minds of people, I think we need to bring to this debate more than a machinelike decision that we will do this or that.
One of the matters that concern me is one that has been raised already in this debate. I refer to the theory of deterrence and punishment as a deterrent. Although our colleague Senator Wright says that the study of the evidence does not support one side or the other as to the value of deterrents and that he had come to the conclusion that there was some deterrent value in punishment, my study of the matter leads me to conclude that, on balance, there is no deterrent value in punishment. If this is so, this would lead us to a recasting of a great area of our thinking with regard to the law and with regard to our whole system and basis of punishment in this society.
Consider the offence of drunken driving. I can recall when this was regarded as an escapade, that drunken driving was something in which young fellows, and others not so young, might indulge. But gradually we have come to look upon drunken driving more seriously and to regard it as a more serious crime. Punishments for drunken driving have been increased, but has this reduced the number of crimes or offences of drunken driving? 1 remember when the fines for drunken driving were doubled in one act. For perhaps a couple of weeks there was some effect, but today the number of offences for drunken driving is greater than ever. The punishment has not had the desired effect.
When we consider the whole question of penalties for driving offences, what is the punishment for a driving offence? The ultimate punishment is death, on the spot. Does it deter? If we look at the road accident figures we must come to the conclusion that people are not at that time deterred. They might on sober reflection think: ‘What a fool 1 was’. This leads to the example mentioned by Senator Wright of his impression of deterrence in a court of law. The situation in a court of law is far different from the situation at the point of time when a murder is committed. By the time the matter has come before the court the murderer might have been convinced of the enormity of his offence and at that time he might be afraid, but the significance of the punishment is whether it affects the man at the time he is about to commit the offence. I do not believe that it does and I cannot find any evidence to support the view that it does.
But beyond this, I am greatly concerned with the morality of using punishment as a deterrent. Do we punish A to prevent B from committing a crime? Is this moral? Should I punish a man for what another man does? I think the unanimous opinion is that a man should not be punished for what another man does, but if we should not punish him for what another man does how much more important is it that we should not punish him for what somebody else might do? Surely this is the thinking behind using deterrence as a reason for punishment. In the field of law with regard to behaviour on the battlefield civilised countries have rejected the idea of the execution of hostages, which is simply the application of a form of deterrence. In that case a group of people are being PUSnihed for what some other people might or might not have done. I think we need to look very carefully and very clearly at this question and search our thinking and our reasons for punishment.
I believe that this debate is a valuable one if we use it for the purpose of examining why we do things. I am convinced that I should support the Bill for the abolition of capital punishment. I believe that there are crimes far worse to society than murder. 1 believe that it is worse to degrade a fellow human being. I believe that it is far worse for gain to introduce a person to the use of drugs which will destroy him morally, spiritually and physically. It would be far better to kill another human than to degrade, belittle and destroy him while he still has the remnants of life about him so that he becomes just a thing and not a person. This, to my mind, is a greater crime. Yet we tend to treat murder as the ultimate. I do not think it is the ultimate crime. I can think of other crimes against society which are far worse. For these reasons I support the Bill.
I believe that there is some suggestion of an amendment being proposed. If the amendment will lead to a clearer understanding of the reasons why we do things in our community I would be prepared to consider supporting it. However, I should not anticipate it at this stage because I have not seen it, although I have heard that some consideration has been given to it. If this will contribute to our thinking and understanding of why we punish people, which is the whole basis of our law enforcement with regard to punishment for crimes, it will be a step forward in a civilised approach to these matters. I would eagerly look forward to a debate on this aspect of the Bill.
– One is always a little hesitant about entering into a debate that is as complex as this one, involving as it does not only life and death but also the attitudes of people and the responsibilities of those whose job it is to see that legislation is framed and laws enforced. At the outset I want to express ray disappointment that there has not been a greater contribution to the debate on this Bill by members of the Opposition.
– The debate has been going on for 3 nights, but it looks as if a vote will not be taken on it because the supporters of the Government are stalling the debate.
– This Bill was introduced by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). I should have thought that, if there was any degree of deep support for the measure which he has put forward, his supporters would have come forward. I should have thought that if his supporters could not come forward in an alternate number they would have at least come forward in a token number if they felt that they were unable to come forward in full strength. I again express my disappointment that we have not had the advantage of the considered opinion of honourable senators opposite on this Bill.
Measures of this nature devolve upon all honourable senators the responsibility of making a personal decision. They are therefore called upon to give such measures deep and serious consideration. Involved in measures of this kind are decisions which encompass motives that spring both from the mind and the heart. Involved in decisions of this kind are matters of social concern and spheres of difference in degree. Of course, there is always the intrusion of emotion and overtones in the background of religious beliefs and convictions. New thought and study and international opinion also have an influence. All of those matters impinge on any discussion concerning capital punishment. So, unless one has developed an early or a traditional clear cut opinion on this subject, the matter of urging a conclusion only confuses the issue. Discipline in making a decision must be shown in an issue which is an important as the one that is before the Senate tonight.
The main arguments involved in this issue have been repeated over and again. They have been applied to invididual cases and a diverse number of circumstances. In my view there seemed to be 2 main groups of argument. One argument which has been referred to a number of times tonight, and the one which I suppose is the most obvious, is the question of the deterrent. I have long held the view that capital punishment is not a deterrent. In my view its deterrent effect does not enter into the awful and indescribable moment when a crime which attracts punishment of this kind is about to be committed and all the forces of anger or revenge or similar feelings have built up to a point of no return. Associated with this matter, of course, is the view that capital punishment is a form of retribution for the crime which many feel is the most serious in our statutes. Whether murder is in fact the worse crime that can be perpetrated by man against man is, of course, a matter of debate, but many people believe it to be so. However, it is a situation with which we have to live and which we have to handle.
The other broad groups of argument - it will be recalled that I referred earlier to 2 groups of argument - poses the question whether capital punishment should be abolished on humanitarian grounds. Those people who are opposed to capital punishment on humanitarian grounds point out that a judicial decision involves the destruction of another human life and that there is always the possibility of a miscarriage of justice. There is also no hope of any rehabilitation of an offender. Associated with this matter is the situation which was referred to earlier this evening by Senator Little and which I have noted, that is, the effects of the carrying out of capital punishment on the person who is appointed by the state to do so. What kind of effect does it have upon his thinking, upon his life, upon his relations with his fellow citizens in the community and upon his own home. But a law is a law. A decision has been made and someone has to be appointed to carry it out. Are we to continue in this day and age with a situation whereby we of the state, we of the government, we of the parliament, we of the community appoint a person to carry out something that we would not do ourselves?
I want to refer also to the effect that capital punishmment has upon those people who, in one way or another, are called upon to make a decision relating to it. In this respect I am not speaking lightly; I am speaking from some personal experience. I suppose other honourable senators have also had the experience of serving on a jury. Some years ago I was a member of a jury on a murder trial. The whole trial took a few days. At the end of a great deal of evidence the judge, addressing the jury from the bench, said at the conclusion of his remarks: ‘You will come back with a verdict of guilty or of not guilty. If you come back with a verdict of guilty I shall have to pronounce the senfence of death’. Having said that he went on to say: ‘But you must remove this complex entirely from your minds’. To those people who are skilled in the art of the courts and whose vocation - it is a high vocation, too - it is to work in this sphere that may be easy enough or, if it is not easy enough, it may be considered to be an exercise which they must carry out in the spirit of their vocation. But to those of us who are not skilled in the art of the courts, who have not had this kind of experience and who have not been called upon to exercise this kind of discipline it is not easy to respond to this kind of injunction from the bench.
Coming back to the 2 arguments to which I referred earlier, I would make the observation that very little has changed insofar as the validity of both sets of argument are concerned. I suppose it is true to say that, in the final analysis, decisions of the question of capital punishment are to a very large extent - in the lay world, anyway - made on an emotional basis. But while these arguments remain the same and while there is a tendency to make decisions on an emotional basis, I think it also must be recognised that we are living in an age when a higher standard of education applies and there is a much greater and wider ranging discussion on social matters and other matters of this kind. It is also true to say that people will be influenced by the way in which the details of a crime are made known to them. It may be through one of the media or in the telling, but at the same time the way in which it is conveyed has an influence.
I return to my reference to the fact that a higher standard of education, wider knowledge and a deeper understanding of the whole purpose of living and of life gives more people within our community greater powers of discrimination and wiser judgment. People no longer grow up in the traditional pattern and no longer have what might be described as a rigid view of the subject, that view probably having been passed down from generation to generation. So in the present situation of a more enlightened society, as I think we could rightly call it, we are able to recognise and distinguish the various emotional factors and the various human values to which I have referred and apply them to human affairs with what I am sure is a reasoned and dispassionate point of view.
The Bill seeks the abolition of capital punishment in the Australian Capital Territory. It could be argued that the incidence of crime in the A.C.T. for which capital punishment is prescribed might be small in comparison with the incidence of similar crimes in the States and overseas. As the A.C.T. is administered by the government of the day and as it is very properly regarded in many ways as a model for Australia and for other countries, it may well be that the Bill gives a good opportunity to look at the situation in terms of responsibility and of setting a standard, because the deep content of this issue is not only whether capital punishment should be abolished but it is in the attitude of people, in the attitude of this Parliament and in the attitude of people who speak within the Parliament.
No less a person than Winston Churchill in the days when he was Home Secretary referred to the importance or influence of the thinking, mood and temper of the public. He said:
The mood and temper of the public with regard to the treatment of crime and delinquency is the unfailing test of the standard of civilisation of any people.
I paraphrase that. The thinking with regard to the treatment of crime is the unfailing test of the standard of civilisation of any people. The question is this: Is capital punishment the mood and temper of the majority of Australians or is the thinking of Australians opposed to the long, slow and agonising psychological torture which is involved in the whole process of the death ser.tence from the time of pronouncement to the final execution? Is this the unfailing test of the standard of civilisation of our people?
This is not to say that we as a race, as a nation or as a people condone crime. We place great value on human life and we are aware of the special dangers to which the protectors of society are exposed. Murder and any form of serious crime will always be viewed with abhorrence by Australians, but the public recognises that a large proportion of serious crimes such as homicide or murder is what are called crimes of passion and crimes by people who have reached a point of no return. Little if any comfort accrues to the relatives of the victims of these criminals if capital punishment is carried out. f submit that it would be socially and economically preferable to compel a person who has been found guilty of homicide to make such restitution as is possible to society. The necessity to make some restitution is economically and socially sound, but I look further than that because 1 believe that such a requirement can be of greater value in changing attitudes in society than the application of capital punishment.
Much greater knowledge and much wider experience of human behaviour are known and are available at present than were known or available previously and it is possible for better treatment to be devised. There is much more to the subject than that because not only treatment but also the whole sphere of prevention calls for a greater attention to the range of social problems which tend to breed delinquency and crime. In this process of prevention not only governments, police and law enforcement officers have a responsibility but every citizen has an area of responsibility and a distinct part to play in solving the total problem in regard to this issue of capital punishment. Certain honourable senators who have spoken in the debate have given this subject their time and attention and have discussed it both from a social point of view and from a strictly legal point of view, but it needs to be said that the subject does not end in a series of pious phrases. Perhaps in my limited way I have used too many of these already. I feel, like other senators who have spoken in the debate, that as a senator I should stand in my place and say something on this subject because it is of considerable moment and considerable importance to our nation.
Many people desire the retention of capital punishment on the statute book, but at the same time they feel a little reticent about its implementation. I think everybody understands that feeling. At this stage I cannot accept this because I think one has to reach a decision. Further implications in relation to capital punishment open up the whole philosophy of punishment, which was raised very thoughtfully the other evening by Senator Withers. The whole subject of punishment and the whole structure of what society may demand of people who endanger it or who offend against it need to be appropriately and suitably examined. In my view capital punishment tends to perpetuate the practice that some think it cures. The matter is one for wide study because the implications are involved. They concern life and death, the legal and moral responsibilities of people who are close to a given situation and decision as it relates to men at war and medical men who in the treatment of people hold in their hands the balance of life and death. All those matters are totally associated and related to the wide and complex problem of crime and punishment.
Much further study is needed. My role is inadequate, but I cannot turn down the responsibility of thinking about this subject and saying something about it. I hope the Bill will provide ways and means for further community activity and study on the subject for I think quite firmly that capital punishment should be removed from our statute book.
(9.28) - I am not speaking in any capacity other than that of a senator reflecting very briefly on a private senator’s Bill introduced by Senator Murphy on 22nd April 1970. I am speaking only because I understand that the vote on the Bill is to be a free vote and because it would be reasonable for me to express a view about the
Bill. I have not prepared myself to make a big debating contribution. I have had the opportunity of listening to a number of speeches. They have indicated to me that a great degree of research and preparation has gone into the speeches made by certain senators. I express my misgivings about the Bill. If we were debating a motion, that would be an entirely different matter. We could be talking about a broad principle. Here we are talking about a Bill which, if passed, as it may well be, will go by way of message to the other place. This is a Bill for an Act to abolish capital punishment under the laws of the Commonwealth. Everybody has said that we are dwelling on a matter of momentous and tremendous importance. If we take out the preamble which reads: ‘Be it enacted by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty’ etc, and if we take out the short title, all that is left of the Bill are the following 3 clauses. The first of those clauses reads:
This Act applies throughout the whole of the Commonwealth and the Territories . . .
That is descriptive. Clause 3 reads:
A person shall not be liable to punishment of death for any offence.
The final clause reads:
Where by any Act, Regulation, Ordinance or other law it is provided that a person shall be liable to punishment of death, the reference to punishment of death shall be read, construed and applied as if the penalty of imprisonment for life were substituted therefor.
If we were debating this matter on political lines - we are not tonight - I would move that the Bill be withdrawn. If the proposer of the Bill wished to re-present it as a viable Bill, at least it would be presented with some substance to it.
I could dwell upon many aspects of this Bill, and 1 will come back to a couple of aspects which point up the tremendous danger of a Bill of this nature. For my part, in almost every case I would not be in favour of the death penalty. But I am no lawyer. Even as an ordinary citizen, reading things that people ordinarily read, one gathers that there are various degrees of homicide or murder, if you like.
The punishment which might be applicable to one case obviously might not be applicable to others. I could never for the life of me be one who would subscribe to the death penalty where a person in circumstances of complete emotion committed the tragedy and the folly of murder. 1 could understand, and I think anybody could understand, that an act of murder could be committed in circumstances of great domestic emotion, lt could be committed in a circumstance of family trouble. lt could be committed in a whole series of circumstances relating to the health of the person. He could do something which is apparently murder in terms of the law but not. in the sense that we would understand it. a premeditated aci of murder. We talk about certain degrees of murder or killing. It would be inconceivable to me for the death penalty to be applicable if, for instance, a person committed an act of murder in one of the situations I have described. I believe that the death penalty should remain for certain cases of treason, for instance. It should apply in circumstances where a person, for monetary gain, did something which may destroy a nation and destroy the love, affection and humanity of thousands of people.
– And their lives, too.
And their lives, by an act of treason. I would retain the death penalty against that situation arising. There are other circumstances in which I could conceive of punishment of death. 1 could accept punishment of death in the case of, to express it in television terms, the hot gun killer - the man who kills not in a state of emotion but for money, whether it be Si 0,000 or some other sum. Having planned the crime, he goes away, gets the money and he kills, not because he has any regard for the person he murders, not because he gives even any thought to it, but because he is getting a payment. If he succeeds with one he will do it again. I would not have any scruples about applying the death penalty to a paid killer. I would leave it in the statute book for that reason. I cannot abide any provision for the death penalty for any offence at all. If the Bill provided for the abolition of the death penalty in cases of psychological disturbance, emotional disturbance, sickness or circumstances in which almost 98 or 99 murders out of 100 take place, I could accept it. Having shared my life with men who have given their all for their country, to have any concern for me lite of a person who would sell bis country for money would stick in my craw. I believe he would be better disposed of.
– lt might be better to separate him from society. That might be the greater punishment.
The honourable senator will appreciate that that is a matter on which we all have a view. 1 balk at treason. I balk at the paid killer. I want to come back to other circumstances in which I argue you could not apply capital punishment or in relation to which I would not want to be seen to be advocating the retention of capital punishment. That is why I say that this Bill is too narrowly drawn. The fourth clause of the Bill is concerned with substitution of imprisonment for life. What does that mean? Does that mean for the whole of a person’s natural life? Does that mean for a term at the Governor-General’s pleasure? Does that mean for 20 years or 14 years on probation? Does that mean that a person who is a killer will be allowed out of prison with the possibility of killing again?
If this Bill had refinements written into it, if it provided that for a certain type of killing the punishment could be for the whole of his natural life and he was never to be released, I could understand it; but I cannot accept the Bill in its present form. I think it is too narrow. I am speaking purely in a personal way. In most cases I would be against the death penalty but I would retain it in relation to other cases. Anybody may argue and prove a certain point, whether it be right or wrong, but 1 believe that for the type of person I had in mind the threat of the death penalty is very real. In the final analysis, the blood killer, the hot gun man, is a coward when he faces the moment of truth. I believe that if he had the death penalty on his conscience as a possible consequence of his actions it would have a salutary effect. That is all I want to say. I believe that the Bill is badly drawn. I would have thought it would be better to put up a proposition on a wider canvas. If so the Opposition might have received more support than the Bill obviously will attract.
– In this debate I have listened to some very unusual arguments on the effect of penalties. There has been all sorts of sidestepping on the issue as to whether people are really in favour of capital punishment. Straws have been split this way and that way. To me it comes down to a simple issue: Are we in favour of capital punishment for people who do not deserve to be allowed in the society of the human race? I have heard one of my colleagues on this side of the chamber. Senator Prowse, say that punishment never does any good and that it never stops anything. Of course this is a theory which is bandied about very often by idealistic people or people who have a soft feeling towards criminals. But in my view punishment does have an effect on people. Senator Prowse spoke particularly of the problems relating to motor cars and asked how these problems could be solved.
We had an example in Queensland - I think Senator Gair may have been Premier at the time - when the late Mr Dan Kearney was the magistrate in Toowoomba. When people were found guilty of drunken driving they had no option. They were put in gaol for a month. I think Senator Gair would agree with me when I say that Toowoomba possibly became one of the best behaved cities in Australia because of the strength of the magistrate of that city. That is an indication that punishment, exercised strongly and firmly, will have an effect. One of the great troubles today is that there is too much leniency in our courts. The action of some of the judges would make one’s stomach retch because of their weakness. They give long terms of imprisonment to people who commit dastardly crimes such as killing but then, of course, the parole term is about half the term of imprisonment.
– Is the honourable senator going to be generous with somebody else’s time?
– You let them out and they repeat the crime.
– That is right. The point is this. Senator McAuliffe, who is a fellow Queenslander and for whom I have regard-
– Queensland was the first State to abolish capital punishment, but there were times when I should have liked to have had it.
– Yes. If the judges really imposed the term of imprisonment which they should have then I believe that we would have had some of these people out of harm’s way for a longer term and this may have had a more beneficial effect. I feel that strong punishment must have an effect. An honourable senator just interjected to the effect that if you let them out they will do more harm. This has happened on several occasions. Many honourable senators will recall the time when a man attacked 3 models in a park in Sydney. He was put in gaol. Then, as a result of the kindness of the judge this person’s parol term came up and he was released before serving his full term. What did he do? He walked into a school and, if I remember correctly, he killed a teacher and a little girl student of that school. This happened because that individual was allowed to move in the society of the human race.
The sympathy which has been extended in this debate by a number of honourable senators has been extended towards the guilty person. I have not heard much sympathy extended to the person who has been murdered. When one sees the types of crimes that are committed and the sort of people who commit them, I think there is only one solution and that is to get rid of them. Honourable senators have read of cases in which an elderly woman in her 80s has been attacked by an individual who has walked into her home, bashed her, probably raped the poor old soul and killed her. Do honourable senators want that type of despicable individual to remain in this society of human beings? There is only one thing for them and that is to exterminate them. We read of cases where people have attacked young women and men. What have they done? They have cut them into pieces. A more dastardly action one could not think of. Really it is almost impossible for one to read of types of murders which have been committed because of the disgusting way in which murdered people have been treated by criminals. So far as I am concerned, there is only one solution and that is to get rid of those people.
– Put them aside. Do not kill them.
– Yes, there are various ways of killing them.
– No, 1 do not agree with killing them.
– The honourable senator is opposed to hanging them but he likes the electric chair.
– Possibly hanging may be abhorrent to some people but there are other ways in which this punishment can be carried out. There is the electric chair. Another easy way is to give them an injection and they are gone in a few minutes. Veterinary surgeons do this quite regularly with animals and there is no difficulty about it. The individuals we are speaking about are no better than animals. In fact, I think animals would put them to shame. Why do we want this type of person to remain with us? In the animal kingdom, if a member of the group plays up and is not of a certain order the world of nature gets rid of that animal out of the group. But here we are talking of keeping such absolutely brutal people within human society.
I feel that when we think of this situation our sympathy -and thinking should be directed, not to the preservation of people who destroy others but rather to the people who have been brutally butchered and murdered. What can be done as a retribution for their loss of life? I think that the one treatment for people who perform an extreme act of brutality and kill people is - put in simple terms - to exterminate them. The world will be all the better for that act. We should not want those people among us. They are not people. They are lower than that by far. There is only one place for them. They should be given the electric chair, the needle, a bullet or whatever is necessary to get rid of them. If they are allowed out of gaol - as I think Senator Gair interjected - they will only kill more people. If any of those people did something like that to someone very near and dear to us in our homes we would be spitting chips and saying: ‘Let us get rid of them. Let us exterminate them*.
– That is vengeance.
– It would not just be vengeance or revenge. It would be something close to us and we would recognise the terrible state of certain people who are supposed to be human beings. Such people should be got rid of because they are of no value to this human society and race.
Therefore, I support the retention of capital punishment. To me, it is the extreme aspect of punishment. It should be used strongly in cases which richly deserve capital punishment.
– Order! I remind the Senate that the Bill we are discussing has been under the heading of Genera] Business, Order of the Day No. 1, for a long time. The question before the Senate is that the Bill be read a second time. I call Senator Greenwood.
– I rise but not to express the viewpoint of the Government. On this side of the chamber this measure has been treated as a serious matter requiring debate and one concerning which individuals, because of the strong feelings they hold, should be free to express without any inhibitions whatsoever - expressed or implied - the way in which they desire to cast their vote. But I feel that this is an issue upon which I should rise and express a viewpoint. Of course this is an area in which opinion throughout the community has been changing through the years. In 1947 a gallup poll in this country showed that 68 per cent of the community favoured the death sentence for a person convicted of murder, 24 per cent favoured a gaol sentence and 8 per cent were undecided. In 1967, which, according to the material available to me. was the last year in which a gallup poll was taken on this subject in this country, 43 per cent of the community answered that they favoured the death penalty, when asked what should be the penalty for a person convicted of murder, 46 per cent favoured a gaol sentence and 11 per cent were undecided. In those circumstances one can only say that opinion in this community is much more evenly divided than it was before. If one were to seek to ascertain the majority opinion in Australia, the issue cannot be said to be beyond doubt. On the other hand f feel that this is an issue upon which a fairly evenly divided community is no guide or criterion, nor should it be accepted as a criterion, as to what should be the prevailing penalty. This is an area in which, for the sake of society, one would hope to have a view which is widely held and is representative of the community at large.
A further factor in the consideration of why this opinion has changed is that abolitionists, by the very nature of their motivation, are articulate and propagandist. They are concerned to change the existing position. The world’s literature is full of their writings. But those who seek, for a variety of reasons, to retain the death penalty are persons who do not find it easy to speak in favour, in a propagandist form, of the retention of the death penalty. They speak because the occasion arises and they are required to justify their point of view. That is the way in which this issue has arisen here in this Senate. People who normally do not stump the countryside talking about the retention of the death penalty are prepared to express a point of view when faced with the issue. I would remind the Senate also that, notwithstanding the prevalence of the view throughout the community for abolition of the death penalty, recent events have occurred which have caused thinking people to ponder.
What is the position as disclosed by the events in Attica prison in New York? Persons sentenced to life imprisonment, with no hope of being released, know that there is no sanction to prevent them from doing whatever their mood or their sense of circumstance or necessity dictates. This is a problem which society must face and I feel, in the context in which we are discussing this matter, it is a question which has remained unanswered. There is also the type of situation, referred to by the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) and others, in which there are crimes which the community regards with horror and about which society must sense that its own sanctions and rules demand that they be stamped with society’s abhorrence. There is a problem if we sense that any crime can be committed and in the name of humanity we are charitable to the wrong-doer. I wonder what sort of society we would create if that was the prevailing viewpoint.
I think we ought to recognise also at this time - ‘this follows in a sense from what I have just said - that we are in an era of lawlessness in which there is an increase in crime and we ought to be prepared to focus our attention on law enforcement and the protection of society.
It may be that the retention of the death penalty ought to be looked at, particularly in the early 1970s, in the light of prevailing circumstances, because I believe that they are different from the mood of the 1950s. They are certainly different from the mood of 30 or 40 years ago.
Having said that by way of general approach to the subject, I oppose the second reading of this Bill. I oppose the Bill because it is far too sweeping. I think it leaves too many questions unresolved. I have touched upon some of those questions. We know there is a widespread feeling in the community that if the death penalty is to be invoked it should be invoked sparingly. When one looks at the record of what has happened in Australia over the last 20 years one finds that this issue ought not to arouse the controversy that it has aroused. I have had the officers of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library extract a statistical table relating to persons convicted in the higher courts for murder in the period from 1956 to 1969. It shows the position State by State and gives an Australian total. It is not the surest statistical evidence of the conclusions I seek to draw from it. Indeed, the information contained in the tables does not support conclusions but it does provide points which ought to give us cause to ponder. It does strike nt the argument, so commonly accepted, that the death penalty is not a deterrent. This information shows that in the 14-year period over which the statistics ranged there were 451 convictions for murder throughout Australia and in that time there were 6 executions. Therefore 1.3 per cent of all the convictions led to an execution. We know that there has been no execution in Australia since 1967. Perhaps the way I have put those figures is not altogether fair to the existing legal situation because the death penalty has been abolished in New South Wales and Queensland.
– It was abolished a long time ago in Queensland. That was the first Stale to act in that way.
– Queensland was the first to abolish it and I think it has been abolished in New South Wales for 30 or 40 years. The point is that if one excludes those States and considers only the convictions in the other States one finds that, out of 451 convictions, 289 occurred in Queensland and in New South Wales and 162 occurred in the remaining pars of Australia, the 4 States plus the 2 Territories. The executions having occurred there, they represent 4 per cent of that total. It is because the executions represent a very small percentage of the total number of convictions for murder that I wonder why the death penalty has caused the concern that it has amongst so many people.
There is one other point which ought to be drawn from these figures. If one takes the figures for the 2 Stales where the death penalty has been abolished one finds that in New South Wales in that 14-year period there were 217 convictions for murder. The next State is not Victoria; it is Queensland where there were 84 convictions for murder. In Victoria, a much more populous State than Queensland, there have been only 72 convictions for murder. The point I am making is that these figures suggest that in those States where the death penalty has been abolished the number of murder convictions is infinitely higher than in those States where the death penalty has not been abolished.
– That is not a valid argument.
– Would not the coroners’ verdicts be a much better test than convictions?
– I am presenting an argument and if I do not respond to interjections it is because members of the Opposition have refrained from speaking in this debate and I think it is a poor show when, having had 2 full nights in which to speak, they seek by interjection and noise to prevent a point being made. I accept that they do not agree with it.
– There have been murder cases in Queensland in which the guilty parties have confessed that they brought the victim from New South Wales into Queensland because there is no capital punishment in Queensland.
– On the point made by Senator Gair, it is quite obvious that in some circumstances, according to confessions, the death penalty is a deterrent, and nothing could be clearer. I suggest that the figures which I have had extracted are at least worthy of examination, not for possible explanations of why the death penalty figures are so high in those States but because they are figures which ought to be looked at. This whole question of deterrent punishment requires a consideration which it has not been given. I am talking not only in terms of the death penalty but also of many other punishments for offences. I know that on this particular issue it will strike a responsive chord in some members of the Opposition, but one might ask: What is the purpose of committing to gaol for a term of 2 years persons who have offended against the National Service Act? I have heard that question raised from time to time. Is it proper that persons guilty of driving offences should be treated as criminals in the same way as persons who commit the traditional crimes of burglary, assault, larceny and so on?
These issues were raised quite pointedly by Senator Withers and I do not think that generally speaking they have been taken up. There is a need to examine what are in this day and age the purposes of punishment and whether the deterrent aspect does not have wider application than generally it is supposed to have; and possibly in other cases whether it has less impact than is generally supposed to be the case. The nature of crimes and the relationship of imprisonment to types of offences is certainly an area in which there ought to be some study. Such matters are raised by this measure because it sweepingly, without any exception, seeks to substitute the penalty of life imprisonment for the death penalty.
What is the current position in Australia in the area for which the Commonwealth Parliament is responsible? I understand that there are 4 situations in which the death penalty may be imposed. Section 24 of the Crimes Act, a comprehensive section, provides:
– (1.) A person who -
specified by proclamation made for the purpose of this paragraph to be an enemy at war with the Commonwealth;
A person who destroys an aircraft to which this Part applies with intent to cause the death of a person or with reckless indifference to the safety of the life of a person is guilty of an indictable offence punishable by death.
The circumstances of a crime in 1963 persuaded this Parliament to give effect to the provision in the language I have read. The Geneva Conventions Act of 1957 maintains in subsection 4 of section 7 that for the sort of offences against humanity which are laid down by Geneva conventions the death penalty or life imprisonment may be imposed. They are the areas in which the death penalty applies throughout Australia at present. This Bill without exception, without qualification and indeed without consideration of whether in any of those cases the death penalty is to be imposed, would substitute the penalty of life imprisonment. No consideration is given in the Bill to the feeling of society or what might be done to protect, society from a feeling it has that if the death penalty is abolished there is an unresolved situation.
There is a disquiet in the community about events which have occurred in the United States of America, such as those recently occurring at Attica prison. There is a disquiet in the community at the horrible crimes which occurred in California and for which Charles Manson and his associates were convicted. There was a widespread sense of horror at the Moors murders in Great Britain in 1966 and there is a horror of certain crimes which occurred in Victoria within the last 12 months and in respect of which appeals to the higher courts are pending. These are crimes which society regards not only with repugnance but with abhorrence and we would be less than a proper society if we did not stamp them with the mark that they are crimes which we thoroughly condemn and denounce. Society must be prepared to assert its real feelings in these matters.
Lord Denning today subscribes to the view which prevails in the United Kingdom against the death penalty. In the middle 1960s he expressed views which I sense convey the thought which 1 am trying somewhat inadequately to put across. He said:
Punishment is the way in which society expresses its denunciation of wrong doing; and in order to maintain respect for the law it is essential that the punishment inflicted for grave crimes should adequately reflect the revulsion felt by the great majority of citizens for them. There are some murders which in the present state of opinion demand the most emphatic denunciation of all, namely the death penalty.
Lord Denning also said:
In my judgment - I have expressed this opinion before - the objects of punishment are not properly described as being solely deterrent or reformatory. There is retribution, by which 1 mean that in order to maintain the respect for law and order in this country, society itself, and the courts of law in their punishments, must express the revulsion which the ordinary citizen feels towards grave crime. Indeed, as we all know, in the present «i«te m opinion come crimes demand the most emphatic penalty of all.
I believe that our society should not lightly discard those points of view. If we are to discard them, it should be done only after the most thorough consideration. We must recognise that on this issue there is a risk of polarising opinion in the community where it would be inadvisable to do so. We must recognise that there are crimes which, if we do not mark them out in a most emphatic way, cause a disquiet and leave a sense of dissatisfaction. Yet there is a feeling, and we have heard it expressed in this debate, that there is something quite wrong in any deliberate taking of life, that it offends the Christian ethic and in one sense is no better than the crime for which expiation is being sought.
What I have said is not an elaborate examination of this proposal. I repeat that I am expressing one view. I feel that what we have heard from senators on this side of the chamber represents a very considerable contribution to debate, literature and a general study of the subject, because there have been some very considered and well expressed views. 1 regret very much that the Opposition chose not to come into this debate. I think that on nights when General Business is the right of the Opposition, to have 2 successive nights in which not one Opposition speaker has entered the debate is a denial of the debating function of this chamber. Is it to be said that because the Labor Party has a policy noone is prepared to get up to sustain it? Is it to be thought that if the Labor Party ever has an opportunity to espouse its policy with the prospect of carrying it, the Party will not regard the public as worthy of being told what that policy is, or as being entitled to have some justification of it?
I think it is deplorable that since Senator Murphy moved this motion on 29th April there has not been one speech by a member of the Opposition in support of the measure, the subject of the motion for the second reading. In the same time we have had 12 speakers from the Government side and we have reflected what forever will mark the differences between our parties, namely, a freedom of expression -
– How could they speak when they have a policy of abortion on request?
– I was saying that the parties on this side of the chamber have a freedom of expression and this debate has revealed that in striking fashion. I can only say that the unanimity of view by which members of the Opposition are always bound has never been revealed more strikingly than by the silence in which they have been encased on this occasion.
I believe that this is an issue on which the areas I have canvassed ought to be considered by the Senate, and considered at greater length. Accordingly, I seek to move the following amendment - and I will have to ask for leave in order to move it:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, and insert: the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for inquiry and report as soon as possible after the appointment of members of the Committee.
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-I asked for leave because, although the Standing Orders would permit me to move without leave a motion for the reference of this Bill to a select committee, I feel that we have a standing committee to which it could properly be referred but I can move in that way only with leave because notice of motion has not been given. What I propose to do now is to state quite clearly and emphatically that I will give such notice of motion immediately this debate is adjourned, if that be the wish of the Senate. I therefore move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 move:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
In doing so, I point out that a Bill in a similar form to this one was introduced into the Senate on 21st March 1968, when leave was given, and was debated on 14th May 1968 on the motion for the second reading moved by the late Senator Cohen. The debate was conducted extensively in the Senate on that night and adjourned until 4th June 1968, when the motion for the second reading was carried by the Senate by 24 votes to 21. The measure passed through the Senate with no point being taken as to any difficulty about its wording. Apparently, it seemed to everybody, including the then Attorney-General, that the Bill was in perfectly proper form.
– No. There were several objections on questions of form.
- Senator Wright suggests that, but I suggest that the record reads otherwise. Whatever might have been said as to some of the wording of the Bill, no suggestion was made-
– That is what Senator Wright said. He said that there was an argument about the wording of the Bill.
– Hansard of the 4th June 1968, at page 1395, records that the motion for the second reading was carried by 24 vo res to 21 and that the question was so resolved in the affirmative; and then the record merely shows:
Bill read a second time and reported from Committee without amendment and with the certificate of the Chairman of Committees required by standing order 215; report - by leave - adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cohen) - by leave - read a third time.
No necessity to amend the Bill existed. It presented no difficulty. As far as I can understand, no real difficulty has been suggested tonight. If there were a difficulty it could be dealt with in the Committee stages.
This Bill was introduced in this form in the Senate on 21st April 1970. The Bill was, I think, read a first time on 22nd April 1970. Because of the processes of this Senate, an item takes an extremely long time to come on. When the first Bill left the Senate, it went to the House of Representatives. My recollection is that it was introduced there by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). After some debate I think that the matter was buried in the House of Representatives. I am open to correction on that point, but that is what I understand the progress of the Bill to have been. It was introduced here in April 1970 and it has taken a long time to come up for debate.
All sorts of devices are available in this place for burying matters, delaying them or stalling them in various ways. Only 24 hours are available for debate on each General Business night. If a speaker wishes, he may use an hour of that time. No doubt exists that the Government can make it extremely difficult for an Opposition or any private member to get anything through here. I see a number of Independent senators present. They ought to remember that if one sets out to do so one can, without actually opposing something or without voting against it, by the use of the forms of the House delay the passage of a measure. Government supporters, wishing to bury a matter, can keep on talking on the Thursday evening. Somebody can talk for an hour. We have had the prospect before of some Government senators standing here on a Thursday evening and deliberately wasting time. They knew they were doing that. But they were asked to do so. They just stood here and wasted time by talking and talking.
– That does not do you much credit.
– I am not saying that that has happened with respect to this Bill.
– As long as that is quite clear.
– I am saying that I have seen it happen and Government senators know that it has happened. They have stood here under instructions and just talked out time.
– Not only Government senators.
– I am talking about the very small amount of time available on General Business nights. This time can be wasted. As I have stated, this Bill was read a first time on 22nd April 1970. It came up again on 29th April 1971. It was debated here a few weeks ago; it has been debated again tonight. It is quite evident that a number of Government speakers wanted to address themselves to the Bill. If Opposition speakers also spoke, this matter could drag on for months.
– You must be fair. On this Bill, no Government senator has spoken at great length. You know that 12 senators have spoken in the short space of 2 nights, speaking as they wished as they saw the situation.
– That may be true; but the complaints were coming from Government senators that Opposition senators were not speaking in the debate. The Opposition has very little time available in this chamber to put forward its own measures. We wish to have heard here not only this measure but a great number of other measures that we propose. The Independent senators and the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party are entitled to have matters heard. They are entitled to have decisions taken on matters that they raise. It is important for us to have decisions taken and, if we want decisions taken, we are entitled to refrain from debate. But we should not be subjected to the abuse that came tonight together with the suggestions that we did not believe in the matter -
– Are you immune from criticism?
– . . . because we did not have speakers on the Bill. This matter has taken a very long time to come before the Senate. A similar Bill was buried in the House of Representatives after we had succeeded for the first time in having it carried here. It has taken us a long time to bring the matter before the Senate again. It is now 18 months. We have introduced the Bill and the second reading speech has been delivered. Many members of the Opposition wanted to speak on this measure-
– Ha, ha!
– Senator Greenwood thinks that this is a laughing matter.
– You have had 2 nights.
– The AttorneyGeneral thinks that this matter of life and death is a laughing matter. Many members on the Opposition side wished to speak in this debate. They refrained from speaking for the very reason that if they spoke the chance of our getting a decision on this matter with a vote on it would be postponed and postponed. They refrained from speaking. If anyone says that there are inhibitions, 1 say that of course there are inhibitions. This is the inhibition that they had. They were willing to give away their right to speak or their desire to speak in order that a decision might be reached on this matter. Very well; they refrained. I understood - it may have been in my innocence and my misunderstanding of the matter - that a decision was to be reached this evening. That is what I was given to understand.
– An arrangement has been broken.
– I had no warning whatsoever that the Attorney-General proposed to do what he did. No opportunity to reply to the motion that he moved was available. It is not a motion on which debate is allowed. I do not think that what he did was a very satisfactory thing to do. But it was done. I would hope the Senate would so deal with this matter that it could come on for debate as we propose. I do not think that it should be buried by being sent away in this fashion. A similar measure was passed once before by the Senate. I would hope that the Senate would so deal with the matter as to enable the Bill to be considered on the next available occasion and a vote taken. Those who believe that a decision ought to be taken - and I think a decision can fairly be taken - should vote for my motion.
Senator Davidson has said , and I think rightly , that most of the arguments that have been canvassed here are well known. Decisions from the United Nations down have been mentioned. The arguments are clear.
– What is the attitude of your Party to the ‘term of his natural life* aspect and as to whether that would be a better amendment to your Bill? What is your attitude to that aspect? Is that not a matter that could be usefully debated?
– If the honourable senator wishes to move an amendment in the Committee stages of the Bill, it is quite open to him to do so.
– 1 am not suggesting that that is my view. I am just taking that aspect as an example.
– There is nothing to stop such an amendment being moved. We have not reached the stage of considering what amendments should be moved during Committee. This is the second reading debate on this Bill. A similar Bill has been dealt with by this Senate and passed. If the honourable senator wishes to improve upon the Bill it is open to him to move an amendment. No-one would seek to deter him from doing this.
What we are concerned with is the device used to postpone the second reading of the Bill. If the honourable senators who have indicated their approval for the Bill mean what they have said - and I think that they do - I do not believe that they should be diverted from voting. I suggest to them that what they ought to do is vote to have the matter come on. If it cannot be dealt with this evening conveniently, it would come on to be voted upon, if my motion is carried, in a fortnight’s time. I would suggest, with respect to honourable senators, that this is the course that ought to be taken. If they support my motion, this matter will remain at the top of the General Business list and will come on for debate in a fortnight’s time, fs General Business night in the Senate to be treated as a matter for contempt?
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to pursue a matter that I had intended to raise with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson several nights ago. I refer to the evasiveness of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in refusing to give any clear cut understanding of the full details of the land transfer involving the Sydney Harbour foreshores which has been talked about for well over 2 years. I took the trouble to make a comparison between this and the transaction way back in 1867 when it took only 9 months for the United States of America to purchase from Russia the State of Alaska. The point I am making is that on 5th May 1970 I addressed a question to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson on this subject and he told me then that he expected that the matter would be finalised very shortly. Subsequently, on 20th October 1970, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson referred to correspondence between the Primier of New South Wales and the Prime Minister. I should say that this period encompasses both the John Gorton era and the subsequent William McMahon era.
Finally, last week in the New South Wales Parliament the Minister for Lands, Mr Lewis, in reply to a question by the State member for Manly, contended that the offer made by the Commonwealth Government to hand the land over on a leasehold basis was unacceptable. I am not taking sides in this squabble as to the finer points of the transaction, but I am suggesting that the time has arrived when the people involved should be given some fair idea of the terms and conditions of the transaction.
Well over 2 years ago I had an opportunity, through the co-operation of the Department of the Army, to have a helicopter survey of the Holsworthy military area. I understand that the exchange which is envisaged involves about 550 acres of harbour foreshore land and about 30,000 acres of Army land in the Holsworthy area. More than 12 months ago the Minister for the Army (Mr Peacock) was cooperative enough to inspect the Moore Park Engineers Depot and to discuss with officers of Eastern Command whether this area would be involved in the swop, i noted tonight that my colleague the Opposition Whip, Senator Poke, challenged the co-operation and sense of fair play of the Government and its keeping of undertakings. I do not indict the Minister for the Army on this matter, but on the occasion to which I have referred he pointed out to me that negotiations were at a delicate stage, as a result of which I made no public utterances on the subject. However, I do take umbrage at the inaccuracies that seem to be occurring.
If we retrace the history of this matter to 14th September, in the other place the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) referred to what was happening, and the Prime Minister said in reply:
Also I have in preparation a letter to the Premier of New South Wales informing him of the conditions of tenure, the size and shape of the land that is to be released and various other matters of an administrative kind. I will let the honourable gentleman know as soon as that letter has been sent. . . .
I do not know what filing system is adopted by Senate Ministers. Senator Douglas McClelland and I have featured this matter every time we have discussed the estimates for the Services. We have bombarded Ministers in this place, including Ministers who reside in New South Wales, with questions on these subjects. If Hansard keeps records of answers by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who is a New South Wales senator, this will be apparent. I suggest that when I raise this matter in this place I am entitled to receive the same sort of letter and information as apparently Mr MacKellar has been given. I go further than that. There has been much reference to the powers of Senate committees. I have told many of the conservation groups that if I am not given further information in the next fortnight the only logical way for me to get it will be by using the powers of one of the Senate committees to subpoena people. Believe me, it would be the greatest day of my life if I were a member of Senator Condor Laucke’s Committee and we were able to subpoena the Prime Minister and make him tell us why he and the Minister for Lands in New South Wales and his fellow Liberal, the Premier of New South Wales, cannot because of childish petulance reach unanimity on the release of the people’s land.
I have argued in the Senate on many occasions that if the United States could transfer land from Washington to the States without all this haggling, it can be done here. Everybody has been tremendously patient about it. I do not even accept the thesis of the New South Wales Liberal Minister for Lands, Mr Lewis, that the land must come back to the sovereign State of New South Wales without any conditions to ensure that L. J. Hooker Ltd, or somebody else, will not be able to acquire it for high density housing. I believe that whether we are dealing simply with the harbour foreshores or whether the Holsworthy military complex also comes into it, it is not necessary for us to be told half truths or for a cloak to be put about the matter. I am like a 1971 Diogenes with a lamp, trying to get at the truth. This is what my remarks boil down to tonight and this is the plea that I make to the Senate. I realise that there is not a Minister who is a New South Wales senator here at the moment, but I point out that I am not castigating them. However, I feel that when the Parliament resumes next Tuesday I should be entitled to know, at least from Senator Cotton or Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, whether he will table the contents of the letter referred to by the Prime Minister in replying to the honourable member for Warringah. If that were done it might indicate that some clear-cut decision has been made. Perhaps even maps could be produced.
– Has the honourable senator asked for a copy of that letter?
– I was trying to point out in the early part of my remarks that I was simply suggesting that there was some, inadequacy in the Prime Minister’s office in the method of filing communications. If material is available for honourable member A, it should be available also for senator B. I represent the whole of a State and I am not asking for something that is impossible. We should be taken into the Government’s confidence and told what is happening. I repeat, in winding up, that I make the very strong plea that when we come back next Tuesday I be given information on this subject. Failing that, and although it might test the validity of the powers of Senate committees, I shall raise the matter with the appropriate Estimates Committee when it is dealing with the Prime Minister’s Department. Although I am not a member of that Committee I shall exercise my rights to the full to get the full story. For the time being I leave the matter at that.
– Being new to this place I am a little concerned about what Senator Murphy said just a while ago. I would be very disappointed if I felt that the Government was in any way adopting methods, such as suggested by Senator Murphy, to prevent me from talking on my subject of probate. I sincerely hope that what was done tonight by an honourable senator on this side of the chamber was not an attempt to prevent a motion relating to the Death Penalty Abolition Bill from going through. I felt that the debate was a good one and I had hoped that the vote on the second reading or third reading of the Bill would have been taken. I sincerely hope that what Senator Murphy said was not true. If it was true I am afraid that I might have a little more to say about it.
– I have only one comment to offer in regard to the remarks of Senator Negus. If he follows the processes of that debate through I think he will be absolutely convinced as to the bona fides of the Senate. I turn now to the remarks of Senator Mulvihill. I regret very much that he used the word ‘evasiveness’ at the commencement of his speech in attributing an attitude to the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon). Senator Mulvihill made reference to the Hansard record of a debate in the other place in which, as I understood the situation, a letter alleged to have been sent by the Prime Minister to the Premier of New South Wales was said to have been made available to Mr MacKellar, who is the honourable member for Warringah. I only ask whether Senator Mulvihill asked for a copy of that letter to be made available to him. I should think that it probably would have been made available to him on request.
Perhaps i should indicate to the honourable senator that the question of the resumption of land on the foreshores of Sydney Harbour by the New South Wales Government has been under continuous consideration during the time I have been in the Ministry. Any decisions which have been reached from time to time have been made public. I do not think that there has been any occasion on which improper attitudes could be imputed to members and supporters of the Government. I should think that if a letter on a matter of public importance is made available to one member of the Parliament it would, on request, be made available to any other interested member of the Parliament. I can see no reason why this letter would not have been made available to Senator Mulvihill on request. I shall refer this matter to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). Any further advice he has will no doubt be made available when the Senate meets again next week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 September 1971, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1971/19710930_senate_27_s49/>.