27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senatorthe Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-I wish to give notice that tomorrowI intend to move;
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969. the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report:
The redevelopment of No. 2 Stores Depot. Royal Australian Air Force, Regent’s Park. New South Wales.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the law of evidence in the Australian Capital Territory.
Senat or PRIMMER - I am not sure to whom I should address my question andI shall leave it to the appropriate Minister to answer. What physical precautions are taken at airports of entry into Australia to prevent the spread of animal diseases such as foot and mouth disease into this country? Would it be possible for any person to enter by such airports without being checked out?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONGenerally the responsibility for the quarantine laws is that of the Department of Health. 1 sometimes receive criticisms on the ground that we are so rigid - and thank goodness we are - in applying our quarantine rules and laws, particularly in relation to diseases which are obviously transferable in special ways. Our laws being what they are, I do not believe that the likelihood of a disease of this nature getting into Australia is very high, and thank God it is not. I would be happy to provide for the honourable senator and the Senate a document, which we will not need to debate, giving a wide comprehension of how the quarantine rules apply. I hope that I am able to provide this information quickly, perhaps by tomorrow.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that more passengers use Cairns Airport than most other airports in Australia outside of the metropolitan areas? As the present facilities at Cairns are entirely unsatisfactory and can best be described as non-existent, will the Minister inform the Senate whether there is any planning to meet the future airport needs at Cairns, and if so what is the estimated cost and when is the development likely to commence?
– I do not think it is a fact that more passengers use Cairns Airport than any other airport outside of certain unnamed airports in Australia. I think there are other airports in Queensland busier than Cairns Airport. I have been to Cairns Airport and do not really quite find myself able to agree with the comments made by the honourable senator. But if he has a complaint about this position I will have it looked into and I will see what can be done, if anything needs to be done.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware of frequent allegations that the existing multiplicity of voluntary medical and hospital benefit oragnisations is extremely costly and inefficient in terms of duplicated overheads and costs of advertising and that a single national fund would be preferable? Is it a fact that the 1969 Nimmo Committee on health insurance conducted a detailed investigation into this aspect? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate of the Nimmo Committee’s finding on this matter?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONWhat Senator Carrick says in his question in relation to the Nimmo Committee’s report is true. I do not propose to read from the report. We all have it as a document. That Committee’s views on this matter can be found in paragraphs 14.1 and 14.2. I will paraphrase them. I am sure, Mr President, that you would like me to do it that way. The Nimmo Committee did, in the course of its inquiries, examine criticism directed to the number of registered medical and hospital funds. The Committer found no support at all lor the often expressed view that the number of different organisations adds to the cost of the scheme. The operations of a large number of friendly society and closed funds were examined. It was found that their service to contributors was extremely good and that they had been the most successful organisations in keeping management expenses within proper limits. The Committee considered that these organisations should be encouraged to continue.
– 1 direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Government concede that in the last 23 years the average citizen has accumulated a greater amount of worldly goods? Does the Minister agree that the hire purchase procedures have been used largely by workers to make such purchases? In view of the admitted unemployment existing ali over Australia, has the Government given any serious consideration to the proposal of the Australian Council of Trade Unions for a moratorium or legislation to protect those out of work from losing their purchases made under current hire purchase agreements?
I think it is unquestionable that there has been a significant accumulation of worldly goods in Australia. The honourable senator referred to a period of 25 years. I note that this Government has been in power for 20 of those years. It is equally true - this can be documented - that the deposits of members of the working community in our savings banks are at an all time high. 1 think we are in agreement on that. I suggest that the part of the question that relates to the implications of the present economic situation and hire purchase be placed on the notice paper. If that is done, I will refer it to the Treasurer for a reply.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts a question. What progress has been made in considering the reports of the Senate select committees on air pollution and water pollution? Are any of the recommendations in those reports likely to be implemented in the near future?
– I think that in answering the honourable senator’s question I should preface the general answer I give by indicating that the question of the area of Commonwealth constitutional responsibility in regard to matters of water pollution and air pollution is hedged with much doubt and many problems as to its extent. Nevertheless there is a great deal of activity which can be undertaken by way of discussion, co-operation and initiation of action with the States, and that is the area in which a considerable amount of work has been undertaken.
With regard to the report of the Select Committee on Air Pollution, action has been taken by the Commonwealth and the States, through the Australian Transport Advisory Council, in respect of the Committee’s recommendations on the control of motor vehicle emissions. Secondly, the National Health and Medical Research Council, which has been established by the Commonwealth, has established an air pollution control reference sub-committee with the terms of reference to inquire into and advise on ambient air quality standards and emission standards for air pollutants. Tn addition to that activity, which is clearly with the co-operation of the States, the Minister for Health initiated action shortly after the report of the Committe had been presented and his action has been considered by representatives of other departments. A report on its considerations is currently being finalised.
The Australian Water Resources Council, which comprises Commonwealth and State Ministers who have responsibility with regard to Australia’s water resources, has given very extensive consideration to the report and to each of the recommendations of the Senate Select . Committee on Water Pollution. The Council has expressed views upon those recommendations. The Government has not yet completed its examination of the report of the Council, but I am informed by the Minister whom I represent that during the current sitting of this Parliament he expects to be able to make a statement with respect to it.
– I preface a question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, by saying that no doubt he is aware of the financial assistance granted during 1971 to certain cooperatives and companies concerned with the canning of fruit. Is the Minister aware that, perhaps largely due to those grants being made, Tasmanian fruit canning concerns are finding it difficult to compete with canning concerns on the mainland and to sell at a profit Tasmanian canned fruit whilst giving the grower a reasonable return? If the Minister is aware of the difficult position in which the Tasmanian fruit industry is finding itself, will he ask the Government to make a specific grant to the Tasmanian Government to aid the Tasmanian companies which arc concerned with canning fruit and so aid an industry which is extremely important to Tasmania?
– I am aware of the problems that have been emerging in relation to the Tasmanian canned fruit industry. I believe that the modus operandi forbringing these problems before the Treasury should be by directing them to the Minister for Primary Industry who naturally would be making the representations to the Treasury. I feel bound to say that very often questions which arc directed to the Treasurer are the responsibility of various other portfolios and that those questions would be better directed to the portfolio concerned. When a question comes from a portfolio to the Treasury it has all the background information and all the historical notes that are required and all the representations that have been made, whereas if it is done direct to the Treasury by way of a question asked in the Senate it perhaps lacks the complete story. That is not meant as a reflection on any honourable senator who has put a case, but it seems to me that the question would lack all the necessary background that the Treasury would wish. I will have this question re-directed to the appropriate portfolio.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.Is the Government aware of an increasing disparity between people on high incomes and those on low incomes? Is the Government aware that a major cause of this disparity is the all round percentage increases that are awarded to employees irrespective of income? What consideration has the Government given to this problem and what action does it intend to take to remove this mechanism of inequality?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONClearly that question will have to be referred directly to the Treasurer because it touches on the whole broad principle to which I take it the honourable senator referred, but I am not certain that he really appreciated the implications of some elements of this question in that certain groups have sought significant increases by means outside the normal system of conciliation and arbitration. I think he is really aiming at the broad principle and for that reason I will direct his question to the Treasurer.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the general public appreciation of the Government’s decision to restore to manufacturers the taxation concession known as the investment allowance or, more correctly, the special initial depreciation allowance? As this benefit will result in a rising demand for new manufacturing equipment and a modernising of production equipment-
– Order! Senator Webster, what is your question?
-I ask: Will the Government consider extending this benefit to other areas where the renewal and updating of equipment would lead to greater efficiency in all areas of the production of goods and services?
It is an historical fact that at the recent Premiers Conference, and subsequently, an announcement was made by the Prime Minister relating to the restoration of the investment allowance.I will send a copy of the statement to the honourable senator if he wishes me to do so. As a consequence of the decision to bring the investment allowance into operation again, legislation will be necessary in this and in the other place. I should think that ample opportunity will be afforded the honourable senator then to express any views he might have on the widening of the application of the allowance.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Health. In view of the very strong criticism expressed by Dr Milner, the Government’s senior specialist on drugs of dependence, to the effect that Austraiian doctors are prescribing unduly on demand drugs which regulate moods and, therefore, make motorists accident prone, has the Minister raised this matter in his numerous consultations with the Australian Medical Association?
– There is in existence the Drug Evaluation Committee as well as other committees which deal with drugs. This is a very topical subject. I receive many letters from senators and members of the other place seeking, on behalf of constituents, a wider application of certain medicines. Whilst the pharmaceutical schedules provide that doctors can prescribe in certain dosages, in other cases in which the doctor is prepared to indicate the circumstances the dosage can be given over a longer period than otherwise would apply. Senator Mulvihill has raised a very important matter. Without reflecting in any way on the views expressed by Dr Milner - I am talking now in the generality - I. would not like the honourable senator or anyone, else to think that the matter of the quantum of availability of medicines or drugs is not constantly under review. In fact, the matter is currently being examined.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. Are spare parts for the FI 1 1 aircraft being purchased from the prime contractor for the supply of the aircraft - General Dynamics Corporation - or are they being purchased direct from the subcontractor manufacturing them?
– The RAAF purchased its spare parts for the Fill aircraft from the United States Air Force. I might say that we have purchased only one year’s supply of spare parts.
This question arises out of a report that appeared in today’s newspapers, and I hope that the Senate will give me leave to make a statement on the matter at a later hour of today.
– 1 ask the Minister for Health: ls it a fact that action has been taken to arrange a seminar to discuss a recommendation made by the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse concerning reporting in the news media in relation to drugs? If such a seminar has been arranged, will the Minister inform the Senate when the seminar will be held, whether it will be open to the public and whether adequate steps will be taken to publicise it?
Yesterday I issued a Press statement which 1 hope will be given significant publicity. As mentioned by Senator Rae, my Department has arranged a seminar directed towards responsible reporting by the mass media on the effects and use of drugs. The seminar is to be held in Canberra next Saturday and Sunday, 26th and 27th February. About 60 journalists, academics and educationists from all States will attend the seminar. The journalists will represent major metropolitan newspapers and radio and television networks. The seminar is being held as part of the Government’s national drug education campaign. I expect - indeed, I hope - that nearer to the date of the seminar, and certainly following it, extensive newspaper publicity will be given to it and that the views expressed in the seminar will be given wide publicity by the mass media. I could read to the Senate the names of all those who will participate in the seminar, but I do not think I need to do that. I issued a Press statement yesterday, copies of which will be circulated to all honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives. I hope that it will be given the widest possible publicity because of what we are trying to achieve in this field.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport endeavour to obtain for me as a matter of some urgency the figures of unused passenger accommodation in Australian National Line ships to and from Tasmania in the months of November and December 1971 and January 1972? Will he ascertain also the loss of revenue consequent upon these vacancies and the reasons why passengers were unable to secure bookings when substantial numbers of berths were believed to be available? Senator COTTON- Yes, I certainly will.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service a question which perhaps could be directed also to the AttorneyGeneral. In the 1970 report of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission did Sir Richard Kirby refer to the need for 2 additional commissioners to be appointed? Was one appointment only made in the ensuing 12 months? In his 1971 report did. Sir Richard Kirby express the urgent necessity for .a new appointment of a- commissioner and a further judge to replace Mr Justice Gallagher? Has any appointment been made, as requested? If not, when will the 2 appointments be made?
– I have a quite clear recollection of reading the references in the Chief Judge’s report under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to which the honourable senator has referred. I have no recollection of the particular vacancies mentioned by him, but I shall ascertain from the Minister what proposals for filling these vacancies he is prepared to disclose at present. Until appointments are made these naturally are matters as to which discretion must be exercised in the publication of facts.
– 1 preface my question to the Minister for Health by reminding him that yesterday I asked him about the Government’s concern at the failure of an overwhelming number of general practitioners in New South Wales to observe the most common fee. The Minister in answering my question pointed out, among other things, that the figures he had produced and the Press statement be had released last month indicated that the figure for observance of the common fee in New South Wales had dropped to about 53 per cent from about 74 per cent for the previous 3-month period.
– That was for consultations.
– Yes, for consultations. Will the Minister now admit that the figures which he released indicated also that the observance figures for the most common fee for home visits by general practitioners dropped from 67 per cent to 35 per cent in the same 3-month period and that therefore, certainly in that respect, the overwhelming number of general practitioners are not observing the most common fee?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI was very careful yesterday - I hope Hansard picked this up; I am sure it would - and I said that for consultations the figure had dropped from 74 per cent to 53 per’ cent. The honourable senator’ was quoting from my document which said also that for home visits the figure had dropped from 67 per cent, pre-July, to 35 per cent. That is the point that the honourable senator is making now.
– That is an overwhelming number.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON I think the honourable senator is playing with words. He was quoting from my published document. I have nothing to hide because I was the person who produced the information.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, concerns Bangla Desh and falls into 2 parts. Is the Government aware of an application reported to have been made by the Government of Bangla Desh to join the Commonwealth of Nations? If so, what is the present position of the application and what action, if any, has the Australian Government taken on it? The second part of the question is: Will the Australian Government use whatever means it can to influence the Government of Bangla Desh to protect the lives of the members of the non-Bengali minority population in Bangla Desh?
– Yes, (he Government is aware of the application of Bangla Desh to join the Commonwealth of Nations. The matter is under active consideration by our Government. With regard to intervention in aid of protection of minorities, that too is being closely watched.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. How did the Prime Minister justify his action in opposing an increase to the workers of Australia during the national wage case of 1972 when in late 1971 he sought by way of legislation a salary increase for himself of approximately $120 a week?
I think the honourable senator should put his question in the right perspective. The variation in parliamentary salaries was sought also for senators. If the honourable senator did not agree with that course his question would have some substance. Since he did agree with it I do not think his question has validity.
– T ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that there is a time lag of about 2 weeks between the subjection of a patient’s claim to a health insurance fund means test and the time when insurance is granted. Does the Minister acknowledge that this situation can lead to hidden costs which are quite considerable even in the case of those people protected by the subsidised health scheme?
There is a time lag but I would not like to be categorical about it at question time. I certainly will respond about the extent of the time lag. In every walk of life a time lag must result in some hidden costs. 1 would like to respond in some depth to the question tomorrow after receiving advice from my advisers about the approximate times involved and perhaps T will be able to expand upon how the process works.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to a recent statement by Mr Jeffery Penfold-Hyland, President of the Wine and Brandy Producers Council of Australia, that the coming vintage could be of the order of 340,000 to 350,000 tons of grapes with an estimated surplus over wine makers’ requirements of some 40,000 tons? Pending determination in regard to the removal of the 50c per gallon excise on wine, what steps are being taken by the Government to facilitate the processing of the estimated surplus? Is the Minister aware that in similar circumstances in South Australia some 7 years ago the State Government came to the rescue of the grape growing industry by providing assistance in processing the surplus? Will the Federal Government give early and urgent consideration to this matter in view of the imminence of the vintage and provide such assistance as would ensure the processing of the total crop?
– 1 am aware that there will be a considerable carry over in the wine grape harvest. It has been estimated by the Department of Primary Industry that the harvest will be in the vicinity of 350,000 tons. lt has been estimated also thai the intake by the wineries will be in the vicinity of just over 300,000 tons, which more or less coincides with the figure given by the President of the Federal Wine and Brandy Producers Council of Australia Incorporated. I can say to the honourable senator only that there has been an interdepartmental inquiry into this matter and at the present time the Minister for Primary Industry has commissioned an independent committee of inquiry headed by Professor Grant from the University of Tasmania. I am aware of the action taken by the South Australian Government some 7 years ago. I think that the best suggestion I can offer the honourable senator at this moment is that I will draw the attention of the Minister for Primary Industry to the action taken by the South Australian Government and put to him that perhaps he could ask Professor Grant and his committee to have a look at this matter and see what they may come up with in the way of suggestions whereby the Commonwealth can give assistance to the industry.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that when interest rates were increased about 2 years ago interest rates on housing loans were increased also? Is it also a fact that when interest rates were decreased recently no decreases were made in the interest rates on housing loans? Docs the Government intend to reduce the crippling interest rates which are now operative in the housing loan field?
It is true that there has been a recent reduction in interest rates. Having said that, I think the balance of the question should be referred to the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. I preface the question by asking the Minister whether he. is aware that if he rings Corporal Sanson on 310915, extension 95, he could be allowed to join the Tigers and fire a machine gun, throw a grenade or fly in a helicopter? Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the name of the person or the advertising firm which drafts such advertisements? Does the Minister agree that public messages of this nature are hardly likely to attract recruits to the Citizen Military Forces?
I am only the representative of the Minister for (he Army in this place, so of course I am not aware of the matter referred to.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the matter of the rise in the price of steel by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd which has given rise to much controversy. T refer to one aspect of this matter, and that is the differing statements issued on behalf of BHP and on behalf of the Government as to what was put to BHP by the Government in relation to this matter. Will the Leader of the Government table in the Senate a copy of the letter which the Prime Minister stated yesterday he had sent to Sir Ian McLennan of BHP on 23rd December 1971 on this matter, and part of which he quoted?
– I represent various Ministers in this place, including the Prime Minister. Obviously the question should go on notice.
– I ask the Minister for Air: Is it a fact that the laser beam delivery system for stand-off bombing has been specifically designed for atomic bombs? If that is so, why is the Royal Australian Air Force carrying out an examination and why is the Department making an evaluation of this system when, in answer to my question yesterday, the Minister said: ‘We do not intend to have a nuclear weapons capacity in our aircraft’?
– The laser beam delivery system was introduced to give greater accuracy and to help with pinpoint bombing for the use of conventional bombs, lt has been tried out in Vietnam. My Department has watched these studies closely, both in Vietnam and in America. The system has nothing to do with nuclear bombs. Yesterday, the honourable senator got me into a situation where he was asking me about conventional bombs and he tied this up with nuclear bombs.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is it a fact that in order to obtain control of certain iron ore reserves in Western Australia, Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd entered into an agreement with the Western Australian Government to construct by 1978 an integrated steel works at Kwinana to produce one million tons of fabricated steel a year? Has BHP recently announced an increase in expenditure on plant at the Newcastle works amounting to $82m? Has BHP announced the possible closure of the steel works at Kwinana at the end of March? In view of the potential closure of the steel works at Kwinana, can the expenditure at Newcastle be justified?
– 1 believe that this question should properly be directed to the Minister for National Development. I ask the honourable senator to place the question on notice on that basis.
Is the Minister for Health aware of a recent announcement in the New York ‘Times’ that the United States National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, after a year long study, has decided unanimously to recommend that all criminal penalties for the private use and possession of marihuana be abolished? Is it a fact that the Commission decided that the cost to society of current penalties outweighed the danger that might occur from liberalising present restrictions? Is his Department influenced by the findings and decisions of the United States National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse? Is he likely to recommend that the Australian Government should therefore legalise marihuana?
– Is the
Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of reports that migrants in the Northern Territory are paying up to $190 for jobs at the Nabalco bauxite mining township on the Gove Peninsula? Is it a fact that investigations made by a prominent union official in Darwin have revealed that both the Department of the Interior’s Welfare Branch and the Commonwealth employment section of the Department of Labour and National Service are implicated in the racket? Can the Minister indicate whether an investigation will be made into the allegations and a report of the findings made available to the Senate?
– The honourable senator’s question will be referred immediately to the Minister. As it involves reference to another department, after consideration by that department 1 shall ask for an especially early answer.
– Has the Minister for Health seen an article in the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 21st February in which the Australian Labor Party shadow Minister for Health, Mr Hayden, criticises the Government’s health scheme and explains the Opposition’s alternative proposals? Are Mr Hayden’s claims accurate that a family man in Victoria earning $10,000 a year pays only 60c weekly after claiming his tax deduction for medical and private ward hospital insurance, while a family man earning $3,000 a year has to make a net payment after tax deduction of $1.05 weekly for medical and public ward insurance?
– I have seen the statements in the Press attributed to the Opposition’s shadow Minister for Health. I propose to respond at an appropriate time to his statements in a fairly forthright way with respect to the totality of what was attributed to him. I do not wish to spoil the happy occasion but I say this: I reckon that I can drive a battalion of bullocks through his propositions with respect to health in this country. But the Senate must wait for my response. 1 only hope that, in these circumstances, those sections of the Press that publicised these statements so widely will respond by publicising what I have to say about this matter when the time comes.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Health, is couched in similar terms to the question asked by Senator Guilfoyle. However, the 2 questions are different. Will the Minister confirm or deny reports that the existing rates of marginal taxation relief on health insurance funds mean that the effective cost of subscribing to the present top scale hospital and medical benefits table at family rates, which amounts to nearly $120 a year, is only slightly more than $90 for the person earning $3,000 a year and, by contrast to show the total injustice, only about $52 for the person earning $12,000 a year?
Again, something in relation to the health scheme has been taken out of context. This is one of the criticisms that 1 will be making when 1 present my statement on the Labor Party’s proposition. For that reason, 1 will not respond at the present time to the question asked by the honourable senator. lt is pretty easy to pick a section of the community in isolation and to build a story loaded with emotional implications around it in relation to variations in the taxation and health scales. But, when analysed, the proposition will not stand up. One of the basic ingredients of the present scheme is that it is a scheme for all the people of Australia. One does not pick out a section in isolation and suggest that the scheme is destroyed because that section or any one section is out of balance with the Other sections. Our taxation system is based on a number of gradations. A number of other provisions operate under this principle. When people pay insurance premiums there is a similar result. The whole concept of Labor’s approach is the thing that 1 criticise. Tn fairness, when I make my criticism I will do it under my own name, I will seek to have it published and I will do it in my position as Minister for Health.
– Has the Minister for Health examined in recent times English newspapers carrying advertisements warning of the dangers to health of cigarette smoking? As it is not Government policy to warn the public of the dangers of cigarette smoking or to prohibit all advertising of cigarettes, will the Minister undertake to have his Government compel all cigarette manufacturers at least to add a warning note to all their advertisements to the effect that smoking may be injurious to health? If the Minister wishes, I will make the advertisements to which I have referred available to him.
– I would like to receive the advertisements. The question of smoking is a most topical subject. I received in recent times a deputation by a group from the medical profession who postulate - and 1 think with complete justification - that a link exists between smoking and health. This was made on the basis of studies that have been done by various health groups ail over, the world, including the World Health Organisation and our own National Health and Medical Research Council.
– Why do you not do something about it?
The position is that there are certain provisions which are within the competence of the Commonwealth and certain provisions that are not. The banning of advertising is not within the competence of the Commonwealth. But it is within the competence of the States to put a complete ban on advertising. The Slates have the same power to ban television and radio advertising as well, if they chose to do so.
– They should ban grog.
I should imagine that excessive consumption of alcohol would be injurious to the health of people. But there are other things as well. The fact is thai the question which Senator Keeffe has put to me is topical- It is one upon which I have received a deputation, as well as a vast volume of documentation. This matter is currently being examined.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has yet taken any action in response to an urgent request to it from the National Development Conference which was held at Canberra in August last year?
– That is a very general question which 1 think I will have to direct to the responsible Minister.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health, ls it a fact that complexity and confusion have arisen in the operation and use of the national health scheme because the Government has failed to supply free hospital services to needy people who almost inevitably turn to outpatients treatment rather than to private medical treatment?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONIf complexity and confusion , that is alliteration, is it not , do apply, they should not apply in the circumstances to which the honourable senator refers. After all, the number of hospitals per se over which the Commonwealth would have control could be counted almost on the fingers of one hand. The Commonwealth has hospitals only in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. Perhaps I could rattle off the names of the places with hospitals over which the Commonwealth has control in the Northern Territory. They are Darwin, Katherine, Tennant Creek and Alice Springs. In a situation where there is an arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States in relation to hospitalisation, in certain circumstances patients get free hospitalisation and the States receive a subvention from the Commonwealth. So the generality of the question does not quite stand up to examination. If the honourable senator wants to embellish his question and narrow it down more precisely, he could put it to me again tomorrow. I will give him an appropriate answer if it is available to me. If not, I will have his question studied.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. Will the Minister give consideration to allowing the establishment of the Northern National Park in the Northern Territory or is he inflexibly committed to the destruction of this area and its objects of Aboriginal art by mining interests, in opposition to the Northern Territory Legislative Council?
– My understanding is that this matter is under study by the responsible Minister in conjunction with people who are expert in this field. I will direct the honourable senator’s question to the Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Can the Minister state whether the original site for the Lord Howe Island airport is to be adhered to or does he now propose a new site to encroach on the lagoon area?
– I do not have a report which gives me the accurate information except that 1 can tell the honourable senator that we have had officers over there studying the proposed site and a possible extension of it to accommodate aircraft of slightly larger capacity. However, I will direct the honourable senator’s query to the Department and try to have an answer, if I can, by tomorrow.
– 1 desire to ask the Minister for Health a question arising out of a question he was asked on drug advertising. I ask: Has the Minister considered the report of the Senate Select Committee on Drug Trafficking and Drug Abuse that the Commonwealth should not accept expenditure on drug advertising, including tobacco, as tax deductible, as this would be a method under the control Of the Commonwealth of restricting the advertising of harmful drugs? Has the Minister for Health made any recommendations to the Government on this particular matter?
The answer at this point of time is no. lt is true that the Committee’s report is under analysis and consideration; but, giving a direct answer to the categorical question, I have not yet made any recommendation to the Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As it is recognised that the reintroduction of the investment allowance will prove to be a financial bonanza to employers in industry, will the Government be equally generous to workers and allow costs incurred by them in travelling daily to and from work as a legitimate taxation deduction?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe investment allowance is one issue. The honourable senator, along with his colleagues, will have an opportunity at an early date to declare where they stand in relation to it and the development of industry in Australia. The second matter - the allowance of a deduction for expenses incurred in travelling to and from work - has been raised before; in fact, it has been raised on a number of occasions in the Senate, lt is a separate issue. I will have it referred to the Treasurer for a reply.
– 1 ask a further question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. By way of preface I refer to an assurance he gave my colleague Senator Donald Cameron in regard to aspects of employment in the Northern Territory. I now ask the Minister: Will he give an equally speedy response to Question No. 1806 which was placed on the notice paper yesterday and which covers similar aspects of the case expounded by my colleague from South Australia?
– With pleasure.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that it has been claimed that it will soon be possible to make completely computerised profiles of each person in Australia? Will he confer with State Ministers with a view to establishing a data bank tribunal and inspectorate, the licensing of data banks containing personal information and preventing the misuse of information from any data banks, particularly as regards the right of access to files kept by credit companies, so that wrong information can be corrected?
– I am not aware of the basis of the honourable senator’s question, but I am interested in the scope he has elaborated in the course of asking it. I will give consideration to the matters he has raised.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Has the review of the incentive system for petroleum exploration been completed? If so, will he publish its conclusions? If not, as the review was promised for last year, when may it be expected?
– J understand that a lot of work has been done on the review of the incentive system. Whether it is yet complete I am not sure. Therefore I do not want, to give a positive answer. What I can undertake to do is to ask the Minister for National Development what stage it is at and how soon it can be made available.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service ask that Minister to have incorporated in the monthly statistical supplement on employment the same detail for the district employment offices in the metropolitan areas as is provided for the non-metropolitan districts?
– 1 shall ask the Minister to examine the practicability of the suggestion in the honourable senator’s question.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts whether it is a fact that the infant mortality rate for Aborigines is 6 times higher than the rate for other Australian children. If this is so, what research is being carried out into the cause of this great difference in the death rates and what form is the research taking?
– I am not sure whether I am the person to whom this question should be directed appropriately or whether it should be directed to the Minister for Health. I will undertake to ascertain whether the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, whom 1 represent, or the Minister for Health is the appropriate Minister and I shall supply an answer to the honourable senator.
– Perhaps 1 might repeat the question for the benefit of the Minister for Health. I shall expand it a little. The question now directed to the Minister for Health is this: The Aborigines camped outside Parliament House have aired as one of their legitimate grievances the heavy death rate for Aboriginal infants.
Results of previous surveys have been published. Can the Minister tell us in approximate terms the extent of the problem and what is being done by his Department?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am sorry that my attention was diverted when Senator O’Byrne asked his question. The circumstances relating to the infant mortality rate for Aborigines in the Alice Springs area are being examined. Practical ways of meeting that situation are being studied. Approximately a fortnight ago I visited Alice Springs for the second occasion in relation to this matter. On the first occasion I arranged for the purchase of a motel in that area. I went there to open it about a fortnight ago. It has been converted to a centre which caters for Aboriginal children. The children are no longer held in a children’s ward at the Alice Springs hospital where the susceptibility to cross infection was particularly bad. They are now treated in a convalescenttype establishment. Their treatment in that establishment has taken a tremendous load off the Alice Springs hospital, particularly the children’s ward where there were problems of cross-infection among Aboriginal children. That is only one detail in the broad canvas of the question.
A medical team went to Collarenebri to study the work of a doctor living in that area who has expressed certain views about the type of treatment that should be given to the children in that area. The team of very highly qualified medical and departmental people has been sent into that area to conduct a study group in relation to the treatment carried out by the doctor concerned. That is the second isolated point thatI bring out. I think Senator Murphy and Senator O’Byrne would appreciate that it would not be appropriate for me to give an off the cuff answer about the mortality rate of Aboriginal children, particularly those of a very young age. I shall get a considered reply from the experts in my Department. I undertake to do that without delay.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Health. He referred to the medical team that went to Collarenebri to do a test. I understand that the test is on the injection of vitamin
C to relieve scurvy. Could the Minister tell the Senate when that report will be available?
– The test will be on a medical theory about the injection of certain vitamins to cure certain diseases. I would not like to narrow it down to scurvy. When I reply to the previous questionI will give an answer to the question that Senator Keeffe has asked.
(Question No. 1333)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question, based on information provided by State and Northern Territory authorities, is as follows:
(Question No. 1400)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Has the movement of persons between the Palm Island Aboriginal Reserve and the mainland been restricted because of an outbreak of hepatitis or other contagious disease; if so, will the Minister make immediate inquiries to ascertain the extent of the outbreak and arrange a special grant from Commonwealth funds to cover cases of hardship if the outbreak is of major proportions.
So that no-one will be alarmed,I thinkI should say that this question was asked on 28th September 1971.
– The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question from information received from the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs:
The movement of persons between Palm Island and Townsville was never restricted in any way due to the outbreak of hepatitis or other contagious disease.
The State Department of Health arranged for the population to be immunised with ‘gammaglobulin’ and a thorough inspection made of all Public Health facilities and particularly to matters relating to critical aspects of personal hygiene.
(Question No. 1605)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
– The Minister for External Territories has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1633)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senators question:
(Question No. 1777)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Have 400 companies been incorporated in the New Hebrides during the last 12 months and do most of them carry out business with Australia; if so, will the Treasurer, as a matter of urgency, have the activities of these companies investigated and ascertain if there is any loss to Australia by way of taxation and other Government charges.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand that there has, in recent times, been a marked increase in the number of companies incorporated in the New Hebrides which is, of course, an area in which Australia has no jurisdiction.I do not, however, have information available to me which would enable me to confirm the number of companies involved or to indicate the countries with which the companies’ business activities are related. The Government would be concerned if it were possible for persons to avoid Australian tax through arrangements which involved New Hebrides companies and the Commissioner of Taxation will, of course, in his administration of the taxation law, be investigating whether arrangements of this kind are effective of their purpose.
(Question No. 1463)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
SenatorDRAKE-BROCKMAN- The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Late in 1970-71 the Wool Commission commenced leasing storage space in Australian Wool Board’s stores and some of the wool purchased by it is now being held in these stores. The cost of leasing the Wool Board stores varies between individual stores as the rentals charged by the Board differ according to the standard of storage facilities.
Overall, the cost of storing the Commission’s wool in the Wool Board’s stores is slightly cheaper than the brokers’ stores, which compensates for added handling charges incurred in moving the wool from brokers’ stores to Wool Board stores.
(Question No. 1521)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, South Australia - 0.49c per kg.
Western Australia - 0.60c per kg.
Tasmania - 0.38c per kg.
Western Australia - 5.0c per bale
Other States - no charge
Western Australia - 0.22c per kg.
In other States charges have been reduced by 0.45c to 0.66c per kg.
New South Wales - 0.66c per kg.
Victoria and Western Australia - 1.09c per kg.
Queensland - 0.22c per kg.
Tasmania - 0.44c per kg.
South Australia - charge reduced by 0.22c per kg.
Bulk Classing -
New South Wales - 0.22c per kg.
Victoria and South Australia - 0.65c per kg.
Queensland - 1.54c per kg.
Western Australia - 1.10c per kg.
Tasmania - no change
New South Wales - 2.21c per kg.
Victoria and South Australia - 1.99c per kg.
Queensland - 2.43c per kg.
Western Australia - no change
Tasmania - 0.88c per kg.
Star Classing -
Western Australia - 0.22c per kg.
Queensland - no change
In other States reductions of between 0.18c and 0.22c per kg.
New South Wales and Western Australia - 0.22c per kg.
Queensland - no change
In other States reduced by 0.22c per kg.
Weight Adjusting -
All States - 50c per bale
Prior to the increases since October 1970, the last adjustments to the majority of these charges were made in 1964 and 1966. (2). No. The increases in a number of woolselling brokers’ charges since October 1970 reflect the general rise in costs throughout the economy and it should be noted that in many cases charges were reduced. Indeed, recently balance sheets of several wool-selling brokers have revealed a substantial reduction in the profitability of wool broking.
(Question No. 1543)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice:
Will the Government relate the results of research being undertaken by the North Australian Rubber Mills of Brisbane, regarding a four-day working week, to the urgent need for a recreation and sports policy for Australia, in view of the anticipated increase in leisure resulting from automation, reduced working hours and daylight saving.
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The results of the experiment in shorter working hours at the North Australian Rubber Mills are not yet known. However it would not be possible to draw from one experiment conclusions about the adoption of a four-day week for universal application.
Nevertheless it is agreed that the need is increasing for people to be trained in ways of making the most effective use of leisure not only through sport but also through cultural pursuits, hobbies or other recreational activities. There is. however, some doubt that the promotion of such activities is rightly a Commonwealth function.
(Question No. 1616)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1618)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has furnished the following reply:
(a) 7th April 1971.
(Question No. 1785)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What extra return would have been paid into the Dairy Equalisation Fund per pound of butterfat, if the quantity of butter represented by butteroil sold to milk reconstitution plants in South-East Asia had been sold on the United Kingdom market during the period 1st July 1970 to 30th June 1971.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Dairy Produce Board has advised that had the butteroil which was sold by Australia to overseas milk plants in 1970-71 been sold in the United Kingdom in the form of butter the extra return to the Equalisation pool on the quantity of butteroil involved would have been 15.6 cents per lb butterfat.
However the Board has pointed out that in assessing the significance of these markets to the industry there are other important considerations involved apart from the immediate return. The sales 1o milk reconstitution plants in South-East Asia were commenced tcn years ago as pari of. a deliberate policy by the industry of seeking out and encouraging the development of alternative markets as an insurance against Britain’s entry into the EEC.
Iiic South-East Asian markets are not able to absorb butler and cheese in the same manner as the United Kingdom market and as a consequence it has been necessary over the years to develop specialised products to meet their requirements.
The development of the markets for butteroil to milk reconstitution plants has at the same time led to the development of worthwhile markets for skimmed milk powder which is further consideration in assessing the significance of these markets to the industry. In 1970-71 the Board exported 13.064 tons of butteroil and 35,987 tons of skimmed milk powder to milk reconstitution plants in South-East Asia. Prior to 1970-71 the Board’s South-East Asian plants paid higher prices to Australia for butteroil and skimmed milk powder than other markets which were under heavy pressure from EEC supplies at subsidised prices.
As well as participating in the profits of the plants wilh which the Board is associated the industry has been securing for itself through the medium of this trade a firm position for the future in Smith-East Asian markets in competition with other major dairy exporting countries. Whereas prior to 1963-64 Australia supplied less than 3 per cent of the canned milk market in SouthEast Asia, by 1970-71 the market shares of the Board’s joint venture operations in the respective markets were: Cambodia 95 per cent; Manila 15 per cent; Indonesia 80 per cent; and Thailand 50 per cent.
– I have received the following letter from Senator Murphy:
I give notice that I shall move today that the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until the next day of sitting at 10.59 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
The desirability of establishing a national organisation to prepare for and deal with the effects of natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts, cyclones and earth movements.
Is the motion supported? (More than the number of senators required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places)
– I move:
I do so for the purpose of enabling a debate on a matter of urgency, namely:
The desirability of establishing a national organi.sation to prepare for and deal with the effects of natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts, cyclones and earth movements.
Australia is a land which is subject to recurring natural disasters. From the beginning of our history and perhaps long before the white man came here Australia has had natura] disasters. Stories of disasters have been passed on through Aboriginal tales. Certainly since the white man arrived here we have been subject to such disasters. There was a drought in 1789, I think it was, which affected the early settlement, and since then we have had major droughts occurring at irregular intervals. Hardly a decade which has passed has not been characterised by some major drought in some part of Australia. There is hardly a decade without some major bushfire. We have had floods, particularly along the nor h coast of New South Wales and in the Northern Territory within recent times. We have had cyclones in the last month or two. In recent times in this country we have had earth movements. Therefore we must regard ourselves as occupying a country in which natural disasters of considerable magnitude are not to be regarded as a surprise. They are ordinary occurrences which are to be expected and against which we should prepare because preparation is necessary. Relief machinery is needed because these disasters have involved considerable loss of life and property in the past.
Australia is not peculiar in this respect. This is a worldwide problem, some countries being subject to more disasters than others. We do not really have any national organisation to cope with the disasters we suffer. We tend to treat these as matters for the States and local government areas. When the disaster is of sufficient magnitude the Commonwealth naturally, when asked, gives some assistance but there is no real machinery to enable this to be done on an orderly basis. People do not know exactly what they should do in an emergency. We have no simple and orderly machinery which could swing into action and which would enable one to know what would be done if there were a disaster of a certain magnitude. If we had, the executive could take the appropriate action. There would be coordination throughout this Commonwealth so that different parts of the machinery that is available in an unco-ordinated fashion could be brought together. We do not have the machinery that would be available if disasters were regarded in the way that they are in some other countries.
This failure is not peculiar to Australia, as T said. The disasters are not nor is the absence of national machinery. There is a need for it all over the world. The failure to provide properly for it was mentioned by the then Secretary-General of the United Nations on 13th May 1971 when he issued a report entitled ‘Assistance in Cases of Natural Disaster’. That report called attention to 3 areas where international action is particularly important, namely, the application of science and technology to predict disasters, pre-disaster planning and preparedness, and the need to establish a focal point in the United Nations system to co-ordinate international relief measures in major disasters. The report emphasised the need for a national plan for emergency action in all disaster prone countries, and Australia is one of them. The report said:
The United States of America is one country where there is a definite system for coping with national disasters. The Federal Disaster Act of 19S0 has as its basic concept: . . to provide an orderly and continuing means of assistance by the Federal government, the States and local governments in carrying .out their responsibilities to alleviate suffering and damage resulting from natural disasters, repair essential public facilities in major disasters. . . .
The Act defines major disasters to include, as we would expect, floods, droughts, fires, hurricanes, earthquakes, storm or other catastrophe in any part of the United States which is or threatens to be of sufficient magnitude to warrant disaster assistance by the Federal Government. They have a Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness who is responsible to the President and who co-ordinates all Federal activities of disaster relief. In carrying out this relief he may call upon all manner of organisations such as the Corps of Engineers, the Bureau of Public Roads, and the public health services. In fact, he can direct any Federal agency to carry out all disaster work of which it is capable. He also arranges finance for emergency repairs, and the construction of public facilities.
A recent example of the way in which the Office of Emergency Preparedness works is contained in a report of its action during hurricane Camille in 1969. Part of this report is reproduced in New South Wales Civil Defence Bulletin April 1971. Hurricane Camille is described as one of the most savage storms ever to strike the mainland of America. The areas affected were the Gulf Coast of Mississippi and Louisiana. More than 100 members of the President’s Office of Emergency Preparedness were involved in marshalling Federal response to ‘this massive disaster. It can be seen from the report that the Office of Emergency Preparedness is not simply an organisation which co-ordinates from the centre as it were, but it is also responsible for actually taking command of operations in the field. In the case of Camille the organisation’s regional headquarters in the general area of the hurricane took control of relief and rescue work. Later on a special headquarters was set up at a point where better immediate co-ordination and control could be effected. During the relief operations this involved the Army, the Corps of Engineers, the Airforce, the Navy, the Office of Civil Defence and many other organisations. Apart from actually co-ordinating relief and rescue operations the Office of Emergency Preparedness set up arrangements for immediate financial assistance for the affected areas.
However laudable the efforts may be in Australia - I do not want to say that people have not done the best they could in the circumstances within the areas of their responsibility when they were invoked - we simply do not have the kind of national organisation that exists in America and which we should have here. In Australia the only State which might be regarded as having an effective civil defence headquarters is New South Wales.
Perhaps it is invidious to differentiate between the States. Perhaps 1 should say instead that there is some kind of effective organisation in New South Wales. The remainder of the States have appointed a few permanent officers with powers ranging from overriding responsibility in the event of a disaster or attacks upon the civil population, but these people have little more than training and advisory func tion.*.
Whatever may be the defined tasks of these small headquarters it seems pretty obvious that they could not cope with a major disaster in their areas. There is a Commonwealth Director of Civil Defence who also has under his control the civil defence school at Macedon in Victoria. The total personnel, including those in the school, amounts to some 60, on the information which I have obtained. The Director’s task is to foster the development of civil defence organisaions within the various States by providing training and guidance. The Commonwealth assists the States in the provision of specialist equipment, including nuclear detection instruments, protective clothing, communications, etc. The school has been active since 1956 and it trains both permanent civil defence officers and volunteer personnel from the States in special fields such as fire fighting, first aid, communications, rescue work and so on
In New South Wales there are approximately 60 people in the permanent organisation. That organisation has been under the direction of Major-General Dougherty who has established an operational headquarters capable of managing the resources of the State in the event of disaster, and a large volunteer organisation has been built up and is capable of going into action quickly in the even of need. This organisation has regional controllers, wardens, first aid personnel, rescue workers and wireless operators. 1 understand that the number of people involved is in the order of some 10,000. One of the features about the New South Wales civil defence organisation is that in the event of nuclear attack it is intended that wide powers be given to the Director. Some legislation to this effect has been introduced but as yet has not passed through the Parliament of New South Wales. It may involve some problems of lack of compensation and there may be some other apparent defects in the legislation. But if it is passed, broadly it will give the Director full powers of operational control and co-ordination of activities in time of emergency.
That principle adopted in New South Wales lor control ;md co-ordination is different from that adopted in most oilier Slates, the only exception being Western Australia. The normal system is that the civil police undertake co-ordination and control. This may have some advantages in that people are used to taking directions from police. In Victoria, for example, the Chief Commissioner of Police is the man responsible for putting into effect any measures taken in an emergency under the State disaster plan. In Queensland the new disaster organisation is designed to coincide with the police inspectorates throughout the State. In the event of disaster, committees are established within the 13 Inspectorates by the senior police officer and planning is carried out in advance by these committees which consist of men from essential services such as works, health services, fire services and so on. Should a disaster occur in his area the senior police officer immediately takes charge of the operation. Queensland also has adopted the principle that immediately a disaster occurs a senior Cabinet Minister will be sent to the spot with powers to expend funds and seek other assistance as may be required. That may effect some liaison with the State Government.
From the point of view of Federal planning in Australia for natural disasters, it can be seen that each State has its own system. Whether this is basically wrong - it might not seem to be - it would appear that the Commonwealth Director of Civil Defence has no function either to assist or to control and co-ordinate federal aid which might be required to help out. In other words, compared with the American system, there is no permanent body associated with the planning of assistance at the Federal level in the event of disasters of major magnitude. That is not to say that the Federal Director would not take keen interest in what was happening. I suppose he would do as much as he could in times of disaster and in between. However, there is no executive power to help in the event of disaster hitting a State. Any help which comes from a Federal Government is almost invariably on an ad hoc basis and must be at the request of the State authorities. It is not sufficient that this be the basis upon which this nation approaches national disasters. Great natural calamities might strike at Queensland in the form of a cyclone, or Tasmania as happened in the case of the great bush fire, or somewhere else in the form of an earthquake. These things affect the whole community. They are national matters and Federal assistance should not rely upon some ad hoc kind of approach where everybody is, of course, sympathetic and there must be various kinds of voluntary assistance. Action is required to be taken for planning and co-ordination in the event of a disaster.
We really need to accept the proposition that we are going to have these disasters. We are not going to have them regularly, but they will occur irregularly. We do not know when they might strike. But one thing is certain: We will have these disasters. Some disasters of a catastrophic nature strike immediately. Of course, as the honourable member for Dawson (Dr Patterson) pointed out recently in a speech in Queensland, there are the other kinds of disasters which are insidious in their onset and occur over a period. They are disasters such as great droughts which affect large parts of this country. The defects are obvious if we consider the deficiencies in the system from the point of view of the lack of general co-ordination in the event of a disaster. The bushfire disaster in Tasmania in 1967 took everyone by surprise. The reaction by local authorities was certainly very quick, lt was realised that fire fighting and technical assistance from the armed Services, in addition to that which could be provided by local armed forces, would be of advantage. Requests were made and aid was sent. An organisation at the Federal level which could assess the disaster situation immediately and authorise aid as the circumstances demanded could have been of very great assistance.
One would have thought that the disaster at Townsville caused by the cyclone Althea is another case from which lessons could have been learnt. I understand that Senator Keeffe will be speaking in some detail about 1his. This was another example of everybody trying to do his best. But there was not a national disaster organisation which could assess the situation and see to it that such occurrences were dealt with as national disasters, which they are, and not as disasters simply for Townsville or for Queensland. These are matters we should deal with as Australians, not merely in the provision of funds. In the past, the Commonwealth has said that it will provide funds. There is no law to cover this. The Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) may correct me if 1 am wrong, but as 1 understand the position he has said each time that it is understood that if an application is made in due course the Commonwealth will provide money on the basis of how much is provided by the State. Why do not we have a law to cover the provision of funds so that people will know where they stand in the event of a disaster?
If it is wanted to differentiate between disasters, let there be class A disasters and class B disasters. But in the event of a declaration of a disaster as class A, let it be known what the Commonwealth will be prepared to provide in the way of relief. The money may be spent on restoration of homes and businesses or for the removal of stock and so forth. Let it be laid clown beforehand, because we can chart out a future course from the events of the past. Without dealing with any particular situation in the past regarding requests for Commonwealth assistance, it appears that where at the Federal level there is no definite system of planning and co-ordination against national disasters, there will always be confusion when a major natural catastrophe occurs. The State system might work all right, but the additional help which it might receive could be of vital importance.
I return to the scheme which operates in the United States of America. I would like to quote from an address by Mr C. R. Patterson who is the national co-ordinator for civil emergency matters for Canada. What he said is reported in the April-May 1971 Canada Emergency Measures Organisation ‘National Digest’. He said:
What started out to be a response to the implications of war on North America, has now exapanded to the point that emergency activities carried out by the Office of. Emergency Preparedness and the Office of Civil Defence in connection with hurricanes such as Camille involved everything from the debris clearance, emergency public health measures, treatment of the injured in emergency welfare services, through such complex situations as the provision of post disaster employment, the redevelopment of local businesses and industries, and provision of credit with respect to their immediate needs. These two agencies are also involved in the development of new homes and the financing of commercial activities, community problems such as the redevelopment of power, water and sanitary systems. In other words what is happening is an immense focusing of Federal, States and municipal resources into an extraordinary capability to most disaster situations.
In speaking about his own organisation in Canada. Mr Patterson said:
So you see, civil emergency planning has new concepts of response, new concepts of responsibility, new concepts of organisation, new concepts of public participation, new concepts of degree of co-ordination.
We are seeking to bring to the attention of the Senate, and certainly to the attention of the Government, our proposal that the Government go into this matter. Let us see whether a national disaster organisation can be evolved. That will mean cooperation with the States and local government authorities, but surely this is a desirable objective. If what can be done by such organisations in the United States, Canada and one or two other countries which have established effective organisations can be of value to their people, surely we in Australia ought to do the same. This matter transcends party politics. I do not think anyone here differs on the need to prepare for the eventuality of the natural disasters which must come. I do not think anyone here differs on the need to do everything that can be done to assist the victims during the occurrence and after it. It is a question of what machinery should be established. Surely it is common sense that the Commonwealth ought to get together with the States and local government authorities and try to set up the necessary machinery.
If an earthquake occurred in Brisbane or in Sydney and it was beyond the capacity of the State concerned to deal with it, we would then have a national organisation which could mobilise right throughout Australia the activities of the other States. Perhaps we might be able to use aircraft which could fly straight in. There could be mobile hospitals available immediately.
Doctors could be organised around the country so that if a serious emergency occurred it would be known who was in line to go and what kind of signal would be given to doctors so they would be ready to go to some other area. The fire fighting services and even volunteers would be involved. There would be a national plan to deal with the various eventualities to cope not merely with the incidence of death and wounding in disasters but also with the other aspects, such as financial matters, which need to be dealt with in order that the life of the community may go on. We put this plea to the Government so that we may set about this matter on an all-party basis which means, in effect, a non-party basis. This matter ought to be engaged in as a great national endeavour. Let us set up this organisation so that we can do the best possible for those who are affected and for our nation in the event of other natural disasters which we must expect to occur.
(4.35) - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), having gone through the mechanics of parliamentary procedure, has proposed for discussion as a matter of urgency:
The desirability of establishing a national organisation to prepare for and deal with the effects of natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts, cyclones and earth movements.
I do not offer any criticism of the wording in the generality. The Leader of the Opposition admits that he is using the vehicle of a parliamentary procedure to express a view in relation to how natural disasters should be dealt with in Australia. He makes the point, I think very properly, that Australia is a big land mass and is a country if not prone at least susceptible to the vagaries of the seasons, particularly in terms of Mood, storm and tempest and bush fire and, to a lesser extent, the other elements to which he has referred. He says, in effect, that because we meet a national disaster situation in an ad hoc fashion we tend to deal with such a situation in an ad hoc way. He suggests then that we should give consideration to the proposition that we create a body - presumably a Commonwealth body but at any rate a body to operate across the face of the Commonwealth - to meet these disastrous situations as they arise. Let me look at this proposition, lt is not a new proposal. lt is true that the Leader of the Opposition has brought the proposition up to date by reference to what has happened in more contemporary times in the United States of America and Canada. But it is not a new proposal. We have dealt with similar proposals in this place. I think that the late Senator Cohen raised it-
– In 1968.
Yes, in 1968 and Senator Murphy raised the matter again subsequently. We have had debates on this matter. 1 notice in the records, in the very few moments that I have had to put my mind to this urgency motion, that-
– We raised it, too.
Yes, the Australian Democratic Labor Party has raised it at another level.
– It is certainly not novel.
– No, it is not. At all times when the Senate has debated this subject the debate has been of a fairly high level. This is the present situation: The Commonwealth Parliament and the State parliaments operate under the Commonwealth Constitution. The States have sovereignty. The powers which the Commonwealth has in our nation are powers which were given to it by the States. Those powers are limited under the Constitution and the residual powers remain with the States. What may have been done under wartime conditions has a different constitutional application, I say without developing the matter very much, from what we are confronted with now. Reference has been made to Canada which is a federation. The situation that arises there is the reverse of that in Australia and references to Canada therefore are not necessarily applicable. The position in the United States, to which I will refer in a moment, may have some overtones of alteration that we would not be able to apply here.
In the context that the proposal that we should establish a national organisation for the reasons outlined in the motion is not a new one, it is appropriate to remember that this concept was raised at Premiers Conference level as far back as 1959. Perhaps the overtones of more recent times were not present. Recently more disastrous situations have arisen. But this matter certainly was raised at the Premiers Conference in 1959. Whilst certainly at that time some of the Premiers were thinking more in terms of a fund rather than an authority, essentially within the concept of establishing a fund there must be an authority to administer that fund. The Premiers, after debating this matter at Premiers Conference level in 1959 - I think that I had this reference incorporated in Hansard on the last occasion when we dealt with this matter - did not react to the concept in the way of accepting the suggestion of the etsablishment of a fund and an authority.
That brings me to reflect on what happens now and how the present arrangements work in principle. The States have their sovereignty. They exercise control over local government authorities which are the bodies closest to the circumstances of disasters when they occur. In passing, it is not unfair to refer to the fact that the references made by Senator Murphy to the body to bc created spell out that the work that will bc done by this organisation will be carried out in close co-operation with State authorities and local government bodies. I think that those are the words that were actually used. I am paraphrasing, but I think that is what was said.
So the situation is that the States have their responsibilities and their revenue raising capabilities. But when a State believes that a disaster has occurred which in its judgment primarily in the first instance is a national disaster in respect of which it believes rf has not the resources, the ability or the financial resources to deal with the situation with the speed and urgency needed, that State has access to the Commonwealth. It does not have access in the simple way that we all have access to the Commonwealth, that is, through a department, through a member of Parliament or a Minister or in any similar way. A State has direct access to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia. In that way that State has access to the absolute source of power. That access is not limited by any of the restrictions that might be inherent in or involved with an authority responsible for handling national disasters. The State concerned has immediate access to the Commonwealth through the Australian Prime Minister.
The records show - and if 1 have time 1 will refer to them a little later - that where the Commonwealth accepts that indeed a national disaster has occurred the resources of the Commonwealth then are channelled to the State concerned which uses those resources as it feels it is best capable of doing. It is worthy of note in passing that the aid of this type given to Queensland in 1970-71 through this system was $14.365m. 1 have no doubt that in the current financial year, having regard to the tragedy of the disasters that have occurred in Queensland, the assistance that will be provided will be significant. The procedure is such that the system operates in the very way that Senator Murphy has suggested the schemes in Canada and the United States work. The process of the flow of assistance in Australia is through the national Parliament to the local government level. In the United States, the concept is different because the role of the President is different from that of our parliamentary institutions and our State and local government authorities.
In considering this motton we are discussing the merit or the efficacy of establishing a national authority to deal with national disasters. The only basic difference at this point in time as I see it between what we are doing and what Senator Murphy is suggesting that we should do is this: If an authority is set up, obviously that authority must conform with certain statutory provisions, requirements and limitations of our laws and if it is to be set up in such a way that it will not be served in terms of revenue direct from the national Government, obviously it is established with some means of raising revenue. I wonder - and this is the burden of what I am saying under one heading at any rate - whether the creation of another bureaucratic organisation would be any improvement on the set of procedures we have at present. I do not know. I suppose the gravaman of the point we are making is whether the creation of an authority would expedite and be more efficacious than the procedures we have at present. I do not think it would. 1 think it would tend to slow down the machinery and tend to be hidebound by a requirement of an Act of Parliament which created it and constant limitations produced by circumstances which we do not have at present. While f accept that it is a good idea to have a discussion on this matter, I do not think that the proposals up to this point of time as put by the honourable senator - and that is not a criticism of him because this is a pretty wide subject for an urgency debate for which we have a limited amount of time - have been proven.
After all, the Commonwealth is the supreme governmental power in the nation, lt can pull the lever and call to meet its demand all the avenues of government and all of the avenues of departments. Equally the Commonwealth, by the pressing of a button if it wills, can call emergency aid from the armed Services - the Army, Navy and Air Force. In fact, this has been done, particularly in modern times, when helicopters and fast vessels have been called in to give help. The armed forces have the ability to give immediate service in critical situations. They have done a magnificent job for Australia. So the Federal Government, through the exercise of its supreme power in relation to its own Services, can call in this kind of aid. The Commonwealth also can call in Commonwealth departments to assist as required. Even the Commonwealth Department of Health can quickly call to meet its demand special services, for instance, in the field of drugs or medical aid. These sorts of service do not have to be co-ordinated in the sense that a new authority would have to be established to do this kind of work.
The influence of the Commonwealth is spread over the whole of Australia. An authority set up in Canberra would not have all the services that Senator Murphy suggested would be needed. The Commonwealth Government has all those services. As I have said, it is the government that can press a button and put those services into action. The State governments, which act as an agency for the Commonwealth, and which make claims for aid and assistance, have through their departments tremendous resources at their disposal. The States also can draw on the resources of local government, as mentioned by Senator Murphy when he was speaking about the
American scene. Therefore I say (hat the system that we have at the moment would not be as clumsy or cumbersome and would not be as much loaded with the implications of management as the system proposed by Senator Murphy.
I concede that an alternative to the present system would have to be canvassed. However, if Senator Murphy’s proposition had been that within the framework of a particular department of government there should be a co-ordinated setup. I would have thought that his case would have far greater validity. But I think that the case has not been proven yet. I believe that we should have this discussion and that various points of view should be put. I believe that some evaluation should be made of what has been said. 1 would not be averse to this subject being raised again because when we hear the other person’s point of view we can go away and evaluate our own judgment on these sorts of things. I am of opinion that the procedure that we have between the Commonwealth and S’ate governments to deal with the national calamities which regrettably do occur is generally expeditious. This procedure operates between the first person in the land in terms of political positions and the Premiers, who are the first citizens in their respective States, and flows on through them to municipalities. It is a system which enables expeditious action, when needed, to be taken. The States do not go to the Commonwealth and say: ‘Under section 64 of the Calamities Act we call upon you to provide certain things for certain organisations’. Governments say: ‘We will do the job’. They do it with all of the power and the legislative resource which they have. They have the capacity to operate in this way.
I would not like to see at this point in our history a new authority created - a new authority which is to be an amalgam of the Commonwealth and the States. As I have said, the creation of an authority was looked at by the States as far back as 1939 and they saw that inherent, in such a proposition were all sorts of problems. I think this is why the States did not respond to the proposition. Senator Murphy has not canvassed the question of whether the authority would have the right to raise its own revenue. That would be an implication in itself. He has not canvassed whether the authority would be run by Commonwealth funds or by State funds or whether there would be a form or an insurance against storm, tempest and calamity.
– I contemplate really that the Commonwealth ought to be providing the funds for such disaster relief. Perhaps the Commonwealth and the States could pay a general sort of compensation. But I am not dogmatic.
– I know that the honourable senator is not. I merely make the point that the honourable senator has not canvassed those situations so it is difficult for us to make a real judgment on what has been proposed. Nor has the honourable senator indicated, as I understand it, what was being done in the Canadian and the United States scene in that regard, although I thought he did say that bodies could go to the President for special financial aid.
I do not wish to develop my argument beyond that. 1 summarise by saying that I believe the system we have is effective because the line of communication is from the Prime Minister through the Premiers to the local government authorities. I believe that the Commonwealth in its own right, whether through the armed Services, through the aid of Commonwealth departments or indeed through all government departments, has the capacity to bring to bear with speed and precision the assistance that is necessary. I believe in turn that the Commonwealth, through assistance from the States, has a tremendous capacity to bring about effective relief. Moreover, I believe that the Commonwealth has an advantage when making a judgment as to how this relief is to be given at the source of the disaster. 1 believe that a local government authority, with all its knowledge of its own area, would be a far more logical body to ask for aid than would some statutory authority based in Canberra and, presumably, with its flanks in the various States. Such an authority would have to go to the source to get the information it needs so that justice could be done and so that associated things could be done in the right proportion.
I haw a document - I will not incorporate it in Hansard - but it indicates that since 1950, when the scheme began, up to the end of the last financial year, the Commonwealth has made to various disaster areas grants of the order of $135m. That has been done under the system I have portrayed.
– It might be helpful if you incorporated that table in Hansard.
– I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
– In 1970-71, for instance, when we had disaster in New South Wales the Commonwealth provided $5.2m. Victoria - that wonderful State which never seems to suffer any of these types of disasters - received the modest sum of $43,000. Queensland received $14,365,000. That State had disasters of real magnitude. Other States received modest amounts. South Australia did not make any claim at all either in that year or in 1969-70.
The point on which I conclude is that I believe that the arrangements that are entered into between the Commonwealth and the States can be efficient and are demonstrably more efficient than would be one more statutory authority which, with the best will in the world, would need to go back to the very place in which this matter is being administered now in order to do the job that we are doing. So, at this point of time I do not say that I oppose this proposal. ‘Oppose’ would be the wrong word to use. We are having a debate on proposals in general. Perhaps I could use a legal term and say that the case has not been proven at this point of time. It may well be that after this debate today we could have another debate on a subsequent occasion when some new elements might be introduced into the proposition that is being put by Senator Murphy.
– I know that it is a cliche in a debate such as this to quote Dorothea Mackellar; but I think it is appropriate, for a more significant reason than that it is a rather apt quotation to describe Australia as a land of sapphire misted mountains, of drought and flooding rains. That confirms the point that was made by Senator Murphy and acknowledged by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, namely, that droughts, floods and other disasters are endemic in this country.
One of the basic fallacies in our attitude to the whole question of the relief of natural disasters is that we refuse persistently and consistently to accept this as a fact of life in this country. Droughts, floods and bushfires are as much built, into the cycle of Australian life as are many other things. Until we recognise them as a permanent feature of our life and recognise that they should be met by permanent remedies - instead of always referring to disasters as if they spring suddenly and unexpectedly out of situations, as if they are never likely to occur and as if they occur only by some amazing chance, which seems to be our mental approach to this problem - we are never likely to find it necessary to devise a formula to handle them. Perhaps the most important consideration in Australia is that we must develop a new national mental altitude to these questions. We must accept these disasters as part of Australian life and we must move to accommodate them, to provide against them and to alleviate the consequences of them, both in a national community sense and in an individual sense.
National disasters, of course, are not to be classified purely as those few things to which I have referred in making some denotation of the term. For example, I first raised this matter some years ago when I was campaigning on the Gold Coast in Queensland where there had been substantial erosion. The erosion of a beach which is the great commercial asset of a tourist area is as much a natural disaster to that area - to the traders who operate in the area, the land holders and the entrepreneurs who expend and commit their money there - as a major drought or a major bushfire is to another area.
– We put that to Senator Wright 2 years ago.
– -Yes. Therefore we must widen our concept in all these matters. We must deepen our attitude. We must develop altogether new positions when we consider these matters. Another aspect that has to be rethought is this: We think of the relief of natural disasters only in terms of rectification or the compensation that follows the occurrence of a disaster. I most certainly do not consider that any such approach to matters of this kind is adequate.
Let me refer to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s proposition that we do not want another bureaucratic authority, as he suggests is implicit in Senator Murphy’s matter of urgency, to handle this matter. I regard the responsibility of the authorities in relation to disasters in Australia as involving also the necessary measures either to prevent their occurring or to ameliorate their consequences should they occur. Therefore I take it that dealing with erosion of the beaches on, say, the Gold Coast in Queensland is not merely a matter of filling sandbags and doing things like that in an effort to save property threatened by the erosion of the sea when the disaster occurs.
It is a matter, with technical co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States and with finance from the Commonwealth, of seeing what engineering skills can be employed to avoid the occurrence of such a disaster. In other words, this must not be purely a negative matter. A body such as Senator Murphy contemplates would have at its disposal a great body of technical skill which would be available throughout the year and through all the years, would direct its mind and its attention to areas where disasters were likely to strike, and would move to avoid them so far as was humanly and technically possible.
If an area was prone to bushfires it would receive particular technical or engineering attention in order to prevent a disaster striking there. The provision of groynes would receive attention in the coastal areas. Near the Gold Coast in Queensland the State of New South Wales, in its wisdom, decided to build a bar in the vicinity of the mouth of the Tweed River. That has had a very big and very disastrous effect on the movement of sand to the north and has resulted in a denuding of the sand on the major beaches north of the Tweed River as far as the town of Southport. This is something that can be rectified only by Commonwealth and State co-operation in the preventive sense. When that situation was examined within the secretariat, the national body, in co-operation and co-ordination with the States concerned, would attempt to devise engineering techniques which would satisfy the commercial and tourist demands of the State of New South Wales in the vicinity of the Tweed River while nol prejudicing the contiguous areas in the State of Queensland across the border. In the absence of such co-operation, it would be a matter beyond the constitutional power of any one authority to get co-ordination and co-operation.
This is a matter in which the Democratic Labor Party has been particularly interested. 1 know that all parties represented in this chamber have, in some way or other, made their contribution and presented their suggestions by way of select committees, standing committees or other committees of investigation. This is probably the first positive motion of this kind that has come forward. I would like to quote - not because I want to make political capital out of it, but as a matter of historical record - what the Democratic Labor Party said in its policy speech in 1969. It was perhaps the first and only party in Australia to put forward a definite proposition on this matter for adoption by the people of Australia at a general election. Senator Gair, in the course of his policy speech in 1969, said:
I am disturbed at the way in which various emergency situations - requiring both State and Commonwealth liaison and action - have been badly handled in recent years.
Drought relief is a current example of the confusion and time-wasting which often occurs.
What Australia needs is a permanent secretariat, consisting of State and Federal officials, ready to anticipate and study natural disasters, evolve contingency plans and act as the co-ordinating body when asked to.
That was a positive proposition. I am delighted that the proposition referred to in the motion is one that harmonises with a proposition that we have enunciated. I suppose we can assume that if the matter were referred to a parliamantary committee, whether it be a committee of this chamber or a joint parliamentary committee, there is little doubt that such a committee, deliberating, investigating and taking evidence, would recommend the establishment of some kind of a national co-ordinating body. One prime example of what would be likely to emerge from the investigations conducted by such a committee is the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. It investigated a somewhat similar proposition - the natural destruction by substantially human agencies of our water courses, our waterways and our littoral water. That Committee recommeneded that there should be a national body to co-ordinate the activities of the Commonwealth and the States in this field. 1 think that if a committee were appointed to investigate this matter it would come up with a similar proposition. Therefore I see no point in our retracing our steps and again putting the proposition that was put some years ago by the late Senator Cohen, which was debated in this chamber, that there should be Senate committees or other committees of inquiry. I think the time has come when we can take as a fact that the solution which would present itself to anybody now investigating this matter would be the creation of a national authority to co-ordinate with the States to handle the problems.
Recently in Townsville there was a disaster of tremendous financial consequences, of very great community and social consequences and one which brought many personal disasters in its wake. Honourable senators and honourable members from another place visited those areas in their moments of sadness and disaster. I had the sad opportunity of doing that. Anybody who went there must have realised how unprepared, in the general sense, that area was for that disaster and how unprepared any similar area would be if a similar situation were to arise in the future. There were examples where the method of building - that is, the architectural and constructional method of erecting houses and buildings - proved to be inadequate in the conditions. Whether that was an actual defect in building construction I do not say, nor am I competent to express an opinion on that. The point is that in areas of that nature particular building techniques might be required and certain standards might have to be laid down. That is the type of thing which must, in the positive sense, be undertaken by a national body which co-ordinates with the State authorities. The matter is noi merely one of alleviating the consequences of a disaster when it has occurred; the matter is one of being equipped in every way to avoid those consequences, to meet them and to mitigate what otherwise might be immense damage. If authorities had given to builders their expert knowledge on the method of construction of buildings in those areas, if authorities had advised builders of the building techniques to be employed in those areas and if those techniques had been enforced by the disciplines of law. undoubtedly there would have been considerable mitigation of the damage suffered by many people. As it was, in an area prone to frequent cyclones, but fortunately not regular cyclones, people used the orthodox methods of construction. Then, no doubt because of the high cost of insurance against that type of disaster, many people were uninsured. f am sure that a co-ordinating body such as we contemplate would recommend methods by which people would be encouraged to mitigate against the possible consequences of natural disasters. Is there any reason why in an area that would be declared a disaster area, due to flood or cyclone, insurance premiums paid for protection against the consequences should not be taxation deductions? That is one thing that occurred to me. That is the type of positive thinking which I would like to see emerge from a body such as the one contemplated and from the existence of such a body. If such premiums were taxation deductions immediately the people would co-operate by insuring themselves within their financial capacity. They would receive a taxation rebate for the premiums, the same as life insurance premiums are taxation deductions. The people would be financially structured to mitigate against the financial consequences which, in many cases, are so disastrous. Because the premiums for such insurance were high very many unfortunate people were nol insured.
– Did you say that the premiums should not be tax deductible?
– They should be lax deductible in the way life insurance premiums are tax deductible. People would be encouraged, within their reasonable financial capacity, to provide against the financial consequences of a disaster such as this.
– For insurance purposes would a cyclone be classified as an act of God? Could it be insured against?
– I would suggest that an area in which there had been a regular occurrence of cyclones - not frequently but regularly - could be declared a cyclone area. That would be a matter of legal definition only. One can insure against storm and tempest. Many people did insure against storm and tempest but did not insure against cyclones. They thought that they were covered, but unfortunately they were not.
– They did not insure against loss caused by rainwater.
– Yes, thing’s of that nature. That is the type of thing that could be studied by a national body, one of whose tasks would be to devote itself to what is now an inbuilt part of Australian life and something which should be provided for, just as social security is provided for as an inbuilt part of Australian living today. Therefore we commend the mo’ ion. We would hope that it would receive the support of the Senate and that, if carried, the Commonwealth and the States might co-operate to achieve the intention of the motion.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I support the motion moved by Senator Murphy. We are debating the desirability of establishing a national organisation to prepare for and deal with the effects of natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts, cyclones and earth movements. Over the years several disasters have taken place in this country. It is not so many years ago that there was a disastrous earthquake in the west. The Tasman- ian bushfires were only 3 or 4 years ago. The type of bushfire that hit Tasmania is quite prevalent in Victoria. Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland are prone to periodic cyclones of greater or lesser magnitude. New South Wales, as was mentioned by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), is frequently threatened by floods. j I want to deal briefly with some of the incidents in Queensland during the current season which we know as the wet season or the cyclone season. There have been 4 cyclones. The were: Althea, which appeared as a speck in the ocean some days before Christmas 1971; Bronwyn, which appeared on the scene about the end of the year or very early in the New Year; Wendy, which weaved its way down the coast; and Daisy, which appeared off the coast of Queensland and which did considerable damage in some areas. I will deal with cyclone Althea in some detail in a moment. Bronwyn brought devastating rain to much of the country that had already been wrecked by the first cyclone, Althea. Wendy and Daisy caused major damage to beaches, beach walls, etc. along the Queensland coast. The combined force of these 2 cyclones caused considerable damage on the Gold Coast, on the Sunshine Coast and in areas north of the Sunshine Coast. They also caused considerable damage to some of the non-surf beaches in the Brisbane area.
Unfortunately, the weather bureau in Queensland has been whittled down by big business. For some years northern Queensland in particular and Queensland generally received fairly long range notice of cyclones. However, the people who run the tourist business in Queensland are most upset that the type of prior warning that has been given out by the weather bureau may keep tourists away from the State. I think that is a rather fallacious argument because if people are coming to the State they are coming for the climate, and if there is a cyclone thrown in they are prepared to accept that with it. Nevertheless, the weather bureau leaflet which was published carried the heading: ‘Cyclones are killers’. This has been whittled down to something like: ‘These breezes are a nuisance but they will not kill you’. So the cyclone season, at the behest of the tourist industry, has been reduced by 2 months. Whether the weather is inclined to take notice of the combined forces of tourism, I would not know. Nevertheless, this is something the Government should look at. If a sector of private industry can interfere with the weather in this way, it is time for the establishment of the kind of organisation that Senator Murphy has advocated.
Let us look at the devastation caused by the cyclone which has become famous under the name Althea. On 24th December at about 7.30 a.m. all of those who were in the range of the cyclone knew that something was about to happen because it was at that time that the first sheets of iron and other movable objects started to fly. By 8.30 a.m. - I think the clock at the Townsville aerodrome is still fixed at 8.26 a.m. - almost the whole of the town was without power, and a few minutes later the only power available in this town of 70,000 people was in the power house itself. At about 4 o’clock on that day the Townsville area and the district was declared a disaster area. Had we then had a national organisation, as Senator Byrne mentioned a few minutes ago, this is when we could have thrown everything into action. At this early stage in my contribution 1 want to pay tribute to a number of people and organisations. I refer to the Northern Electric and Townsville Regional Electricity Board; the city council workmen; radio station 4TO which was about the only one able to operate effectively because of damage to all other lines of communication; the Army which did a fantastic job in spite of the babblings of one Independent member of Parliament, and the Royal Australian Air Force.
There was some suggestion that looting was bad. The real looters were a percentage of the insurance companies and a percentage of the master builders who are still trying to loot. In other words, they are over-charging. Some of these people are fly by nighters. Some have come into the district to get the pickings because insurance money, when it is involved, is fairly certain money. This is one of the unfortunate things that should be controlled. We could probably control a lot of this if we had a national organisation which could be rallied in time of national disaster.
Perhaps the other unfortunate thing was that Althea, before the breezes had died, was made an honorary member of the Liberal Party. The first person from the south to come into the area was the Premier of Queensland who held a conference with those who were co-ordinating effort and with those who were interested in what was happening in the district. Although the State Deputy Leader of the Opposition lives in Townsville, he was not invited to participate in any of the discussions talcing place. By accident he found out that the meeting was on, even though an Independent member had been organised to be in attendance and the local city council sent a council vehicle to pick him up. That kind of thing should not exist in time of disaster.
When the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) arrived a day or two later the same thing happened to Federal Labor representatives. We were not invited to participate in the discussions. It was only after one of those unfortunate incidents when both myself and Senator Georges, who was present, had to express our disgust that we could not place our point of view before the Prime Minister that we were allowed eventually into his august presence. At that time the Prime Minister said that there would be no limit to help by the Commonwealth. An article in. the local newspaper of 27th December 1971 carried the heading: ‘No Limit to Help by Commonwealth’ and went on in these terms:
The Prime Minister, Mr W. McMahon, on Monday night pledged unlimited Commonwealth finance to repair the trail of havoc left by Cyclone Althea. . . . ‘The State, Federal and bocal governments have got to get on with the job of trying to reconstruct the area as quickly as we can’, Mr McMahon said.
When this fabulous assistance had not appeared some days later I forwarded a telegram to the Prime Minister asking what was happening. He replied:
As to Commonwealth financial assistance, as has already been announced, the Commonwealth will provide assitance of a $1 for $t basis with the Queensland Government for the relief of personal hardship and distress resulting from the cyclone. This relief includes assistance for meeting essential repair to houses and repairing and replacing essential items of furniture and personal effects to the extent required to provide reasonable living conditions for those in necessitous circumstances. As to financial assistance in connection with restoration of damaged public assets, the extent and nature of Commonwealth assistance will be determined in accordance with normal policy when details of die necessary restoration expenditures are provided by the State Government.
We wanted, and we had available, 200 building tradesmen at the very minimum who were prepared to come into the Townsville area between the Christmas and the New Year period on a voluntary basis to carry out reconstruction work, but the master builders on the co-ordinating committee denied them the right to come into the area and carry out this building work. Had there been, someone in auhority, had there been a national organisation which at that time could have rallied a State or a nation, there would have been hundreds of homes with very much less damage than was caused to them when cyclone Bronwyn followed a few days later because it was the second cyclone which brought the rain influence and up to 50 inches in the Townsville area and up to 70 inches in the water catchment area. As a result, there was tremendous flood damage as well. Townsville’s water supply was cut off. The tidal wave associated with the first cyclone cut off some of the water supply, al least to my suburb.
A rough estimate is that damage may reach as high as $40m plus. No-one at this time has made a proper assessment of the damage. The insurance companies assess it at $25m. That is their payout. The city council’s estimate for the reconstruction of 2 streets is $300,000 and for general repairs $1.3m. The sea wall alone will cost $679,000 to repair and probably much more by the time people get around to it. Council authorities say that it could be as high as $800,000. The local rock pool, which is the only open sea pool which is usable in the Townsville area, will cost $23,000 to repair, and the council has said that it will not repair it unless there is a Commonwealth grant. To clear up Queen’s Park will cost $12,000 and the work necessary on Anzac Park, the main park on the sea front, will cost $27,000. These are amounts of great magnitude to repair th damage caused by one cyclone in a highly populated area. Such a cyclone may not happen again. In fact a cyclone pressure of this type has not happened in this area since the early 1900s. This is the first visitation we have had in this heavily populated area. Cyclone Ada, the one which struck further south a year or two ago, had similar pressure but was of a much smaller size.
Out of the disaster fund that was established by the Queensland Government very much less than $500,000 has been paid. In its generosity the State Government has said that pensioners may have a grant of up to $4,000 or $5,000 and borrow to make a total up to $9,000 but they must pay the servicing charges on it. Consider a pensioner drawing a pension of $15 or so a week having to pay back $6 in servicing charges - he is not getting anything in return for it - plus the normal rates which in older suburbs amount to $3 or $4 a week, plus his electricity and/ or gas and he has $4 or $5 a week left to live on. On paper it looks to be a fantastic scheme but the practicalities are that it is not even a feasible scheme because it is not fair to the people who have nothing. Some people say: ‘Why do they not insure against these things?’ A pensioner or a low income family cannot afford insurance against storm and tempest or against rain water damage. lt appears that one of the insurance companies involved is now bankrupt and will not be able to make any payments, but some insurance companies - a minority - have whittled away at claims made by defenceless people and said that they will have to pay so much towards the cost of repairs. When these people took out their insurance policies no-one told them anything about depreciation, nor was depreciation mentioned when they were persuaded to pay additional premiums for extra cover.
A national disaster fund is deserving of very deep investigation. It may be that we would be able to finance the fund from ordinary taxes, or perhaps it would be necessary to implement a special tax. But in whichever way it is financed, it must provide also for the civil defence organisation. I am not complaining about the activities of the civil defence organisation in Townsville at the time of this disaster when it was obliged to act in very difficult circumstances. The civil defence organisation is well equipped to handle insurrections. If there had been a landing on Magnetic Island by some enemy the organisation could have handled the situation, but it could not cope with a cyclone. Perhaps with its equipment, consisting of water bottles and gas masks, it could have done a good job, but because of the cheeseparing policy of the Government it had no other equipment with which to work. 1 propose to cite a couple of comments made at a recent Returned Services League conference held during the last weekend in January at Charters Towers. The newspaper report of the conference refers to Mr Lionel Towner, our local RSL delegate, and mentions that he told the conference that oil and petrol for the Townsville Civil Defence Organisation’s vehicles had, until a short time ago, been paid for by a supporter. The report continues:
Another man, Mr P. Toohey of Collinsville, claimed that Collinsville and Bowen civil defence workers had been forced to pay for fuel and repairs to their gear.
The report goes on to say:
Another Ingham delegate, Mr J. Pearson, said that there was a remarkable lack of interest in civil defence organisations throughout the north, with the exception of Townsville.
Why do we wish to vole for administrative funds when there is a complete lack of need tor these funds other than in Townsville.’
He was presenting the other side of the picture, ft is the people of the civil defence organisation who need the help. They need vehicles of the right type and an organisation with teeth. My leader mentioned a few moments ago that a Queensland State Minister had been placed in charge of the disaster area. This is true, but he was unable to reach the area. It was impossible for him to get to Townsville because he was isolated in his own country town. There are numerous other things that I could mention, but no doubt we will have an opportunity to deal with them during debates this session.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I am concerned with the problem of disasters in Australia. I have been associated with the drought in the western areas of Queensland and, as Senator Keeffe would know, with the disaster that occurred in Townsville. I see a certain amount of merit in the proposition stated by Senator Murphy if it will mean that we will be able to streamline or co-ordinate the services that exist at present for handling disasters. I would not be so happy if the proposition meant that complete Federal control would be involved and that funds to cope with disasters were to be provided by the taxpayer. There is a great danger in taking the responsibility away from the individual and putting it on to the taxpayer in circumstances of this kind. The insurance companies concerned with the disaster in Townsville estimate that their claims will reach as high as $2Sm. I have some recommendations to make in regard to the insurance of houses. In my view it is absolutely necessary that the individual accept responsibility not only to ensure that he has insurance cover on his property and contents but also that the insurance cover is adequate.
– But the pensioner cannot afford that.
– I am coming to that. I propose first to deal with the proposition advanced by Senator Murphy. The individual has a responsibility to make sure that he has protection against things such as droughts and cyclones. These are events which do not just happen overnight; we all know that they are going to happen. It is the individual’s responsibility to take all precautions against such an event. If the cost of these disasters is to be passed on to the taxpayer and the Federal Government has to come to the party, and if everyone knows that he will be compensated for any damage, obviously people would not take the necessary precautions and would not bother to insure against such an event. He would not bother to insist that his building complied with the regulations or that building structures would withstand cyclones. Consequently it would cost the nation a fortune.
I invite honourable senators to consider the position in relation to primary industries. A primary producer finds it impossible to insure with an insurance company against flood damage to crops or to get insurance cover on livestock, simply because no-one can assess after the event whether the disaster was responsible for the loss and no-one is able to assess the value of the articles lost. In the event of
I flood livestock might have been carried hundreds of miles down the river, so after the event no-one is able to assess whether adequate precautions were taken by the landholder to look after his stock. It is for this reason that the primary industries of Australia have to carry their own insurance against occurrences of this kind. In some circumstances it is unfortunate that people who have taken adequate precautions still have been hit, but this is one of the risks that one takes in primary industry. But in the case of housing and businesses in towns the responsibility is still with the householder or owner of a business to take adequate precautions.
Senator Keeffe mentioned the plight of pensioners. I appreciate that many people in the community cannot alford the high cost of insurance cover against storm and tempest or flood damage. But this is where the State government could come into the picture. In Australia responsibilities are still with the States. The Slates want the power to con’ rol their own affairs and to deal with local government problems. These must remain matters for the State. Senator Mulvihill, who is now trying to interject, wants to hand all these matters over to the taxpayer so that no-one would have to worry about his house being washed away because the taxpayer would pay for it. That is the attitude adopted by the honourable senator. Let us get down to the basics of this proposition. In Queensland there is the State Government Insurance Office which has a monopoly in some areas, especially in the case of workers compensation. It would be in the interests of State governments, particularly in Queensland - I do not know what the situation is in other States - to subsidise pensioners and others not in a position to pay for insurance cover against storm and tempest. That would be much cheaper for the Government in the long run. This would be the way to handle the situation. For God’s sake let us not take from the individual his responsibility to take adequate precautions. If we do that we will be in the situation where people will not care because they will know that they will be paid for anything that is damaged.
– What would it cost the Government?
– It would cost millions of dollars if primary producers also were brought into the scheme. Let us face it, primary producers are as much entitled to the taxpayers’ money as any other members of the community. If the scheme proposed by the Opposition were adopted we could find in some western areas in lime of drought that people would be encouraged to say: ‘1 have 6,000 sheep but I shall let them die because the taxpayers will pay for them.’
– Now, just a minute.
– They are not all so dishonest as the honourable senator.
– What would happen then? What would a Government instrumentality say to a landholder on drought stricken country when he could not afford to feed his stock if he had to be compensated for his loss of stock and lack of income for the year.
– We had this experience in the past.
– That may be so, but the responsibility is still on the individual to take every precaution. Do not let us have a situation in which an individual can say, if he so desires, that he does not have to worry. That is what I am afraid of. We know there are people building in flood areas in our cities. The floods go through some of those areas every few years; yet the people stay there. If they were to be recompensed by the taxpayers every time they were flooded they would not bother to move away from those areas. It is hard enough to get them out now. Of course, there is a problem on the Gold Coast but let us face it; people there were prepared to build right on the foreshores. This may be the fault of the people themselves or the fault of the local government authority at the time which allowed it to happen. But we all know that we cannot help these people unless the trees and normal growth is left undisturbed. We would have to build great walls to protect the shores. The damage on the Gold Coast is due to the fact that all the tree growth was removed prior to building. Now the taxpayers have to come to the rescue and pay for all the damage that is done.
By all means let us have an organisation to advise the people or the local authorities concerned that they should not do this and should not do that or otherwise certain things will happen. As I said when I began my speech, I do not disagree with the principle behind the idea put forward by the
Opposition so long as it does not involve the expenditure of a terrific amount of money and eventually create the position that everyone can go to a common coffer and be recompensed for any losses incurred. I can see real danger in such a proposition.
My time is limited and 1 want to refer to a few things associated with the Townsville cyclone. Senator Keeffe would have inspected most of the area affected. Anyone who has inspected the area would know without doubt that quite a few of the older homes were well built. Obviously building inspections had been carried out. These homes withstood the cyclone, lt appears that most of the homes destroyed in Townsville were either the very old ones or the very new. Their destruction was due mainly to bad building technques used by spec, builders or jerry builders. Naturally the people bought them after they were completed. They did not see them being built and did not know the workmanship that went into them. A lot of these homes were not properly tied down. I was watching one home at the time and saw the entire roof go off. It was blown over 2 streets and landed on another home. I inspected the timber in that roof and went back to the house afterwards to inspect it. There was one nail every 5 or 6 feet to hold that roof onto the top beams of the house. It had not been skew nailed and had not even been bolted clown at the corners. The anchor bolts which were supposed to hold the roof down were put under one brick.
– That is either crook private enterprise or crook builders.
– Whatever it is called, I am saying that we should not expect the Australian taxpayers to have to pay for this sort of thing. Construction should be better and the supervision should be stricter. There should be much more inspection. The local authority is responsible for this in that area. Senator Keeffe mentioned also the lack of information given to people who take out insurance cover. Everybody before taking out an insurance cover should know exactly what the cover entails; whether they are covered for storm and tempest, or water damage, or whatever it may be. Another lesson we learnt in the case of that cyclone - the same would apply when there is heavy rain or flood conditions - is that there should be adequate supplies of tarpaulins and polythene sheeting available. This was invaluable for the protection of property within a house which had lost its roof.
I would like to have a good look at this proposition moved by the Leader of the Opposition because it was expressed in pretty broad terms, lt may mean that there should be some sort of organisation that will assist in co-ordinating and streamlining the work of disaster committees or local organisations. I agree fully with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson that there are no better people to handle things in a disaster than the local people. I would hate to see a bureaucracy in Canberra having full authority to say what will be done in another area.
– But you accept that principle in other respects.
– Senator Mulvihill will be able to speak later on and I hope that the kangaroos will still be hopping at that time. The proposition of the Leader of the Opposition would have to be more detailed before I would say yea or nay to it. He mentioned what is done in Canada and the United States but they do not have the same sort of federal system that we have here. Their’s may be similar in certain respects but the powers held by the States in this country make it difficult for the Commonwealth to have full control. There would have to be State and local government compliance for the Commonwealth to set up some organisation. All parties would have to be in agreement. I accept the fact that there is a need for some authority which would learn the lessons of past disasters and which could use the information gained, together with modern technology, to combat these things with greater effect. We find always during disasters that it is quite a while before the organisations get working and in that time a lot of damage occurs that could probably have been avoided.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Order. The honourable senator’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.42 to 8 p.m.
– I support the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) in order to enable the Senate to discuss the desirability of establishing a national organisation to prepare for and deal with the effects of natural disasters such as fires, floods, droughts, cyclones and earth movements. Prior to the suspension of the sitting Senator Maunsell, who is a representative of the Australian Country Party from Queensland, opened his remarks by saying that he sees some merit in the proposal put forward by the Labor movement if it means a streamlining of the organisation that we have at the moment for the purpose of coping with national disasters. Apart from a financially starved and inadequately equipped civil defence organisation I do not know what instrumentality there is in existence, either on a Slate basis or on a national basis, to cope with any of the national disaster problems that seem to be recurring now like hardy annuals.
Senator Maunsell then went on to say that the establishment of such an organisation or the implementation of such a scheme could cost the country an enormous amount of money. From recollection, I think he used the words ‘a fortune’. He suggested that people might not insure their property, that people might not build according to building regulations or might build in flood affected areas. Indeed, he went on to make what I considered to be a most extraordinary suggestion, especially from a member of the Country Party, namely that some graziers in time of drought might let their sheep and cattle die of thirst in order to receive financial assistance from a national disaster fund. The honourable senator went on to say that the responsibility is on the householder to take adequate precautions against lost at a time of flood, fire, drought or cyclone. It seemed to me that when he was concluding his speech he was knocking any idea he might have had at the beginning of his speech about supporting the scheme.
The fact is that collectively drought, fire, flood and cyclone are costing Australia a substantial fortune now. Not only do they occur but also there is not one single authority, either national or State, which can step in and accept responsibility for coping with a disaster. But while Senator Maunsell cogitates and agitates in his own mind whether or not an authority of the kind suggested by the Labor movement in this debate should be set up, let us go ahead and consider the constructive matters involved in such a scheme.
There is no doubt that since Australia was settled by Europeans, and doubtless well before that, this land has always been affected with the terrible scourges of fire, flood and drought. It appears that these n,.t:i al scourges, or national scourges, have been of greater frequency in recent years. This is so particularly in Queensland, which has suffered the effects of eve ones. The same situation applies to Western Australia in relation to earth tremors such as the one it experienced some 3 years ago. Certainly our nation is not immune from the impact of such national disasters. Unfortunately the Federa! Government has been lacking as to taking action in advance so that when such problems confront this nation we would be ready to cope with these ravages as much as is humanly possible. We can always be certain, as has been suggested by every speaker in the debate from this side of the Chamber, that there will be more droughts, more bush fires, more floods and more cyclones, each and every one of them being a disaster of magnitude for individuals who are immediately involved and each one being a calamity for the nation as a whole.
Let me deal firstly with the problem of drought. We must bear in mind that Australia is the world’s driest continent. History records that in the century between 1855 and 1955 Australia lost an estimated 132 million sheep because of drought. We all know of the great drought that occurred in the 1890s which put so many people off the land. Indeed, according to the social history of this country, a drought was in existence from about 1836 to 1886. We all know that there was a terrible drought in the 1940s and more recently in the period 1966 to 1968 when the State that I represent in this Parliament - New South Wales - was particularly affected. Hardly any rural area of Australia, particularly the northwest, the west and the southwest of New South Wales, escaped the rigors of the long dry period at that time. Twenty-six pastoral protection areas in New South Wales were declared to be drought areas, in addition of course to the Australian Capital Territory.
The severity of the drought with its heartbreaking effect on the man on the land and its drastic consequences to Australia can best be understood and appreciated when we remember that at that time for the first time in our history the irrigation areas of Mumimbidgee and Coleambally in New South Wales were included in the areas declared as drought areas. The meteorological history of the western division of New South Wales shows it to be essentially an area of almost invariably low rainfall and inevitably recurring drought. When a drought is eventually broken quite often it is broken, to use Dorothea Mackellars words, by flooding rains. This was particularly so in the northwest of the Slate of New South Wales after the long hard dry of 1966 to 1968. Towns near Narrabri, Inverell, Moree and Gunnedah were under water if not for weeks then certainly for days because the banks of the Macintyre, the Gwydir and the Namoi were overflowing. I can well remember being at Kempsey 4 or 5 years ago when every river on the coast of New South Wales from the Tweed in the north of the State to the Hunter at Newcastle was overflowing its banks. People were moving their cattle, their furniture and all their possessions to higher ground. The tremendous, pitiful problems which were occasioned to farmers, particularly small farmers, and to workers and their women folk and children hit one very starkly indeed.
Speaking about the north coast of New South Wales, I mention now that someone should do something pretty soon to open up the bar that has developed at the mouth of the Hastings River at Port Macquarie. With the siltation that has occurred, the entrance to the harbour is now very hazardous and indeed dangerous. I think 1 am correct in saying that 3 people lost their lives there during the Christmas period. When the next flood comes, people living in the vicinity of the Hastings will bc in a calamitous situation. I appeal to the Government to take up this matter with the Government of New South Wales to see what action, if any, can be taken by the 2 governments acting together.
Generally, after the flooding there comes another hot spell. The grass is longer, the bush is thicker and it is now an annual event, as it were, for bushfires to be sweeping throughout some part of Australia. In January 1937 about 70 people were killed in Victoria by a bushfire. There were 1,300 homes destroyed and the damage in those pre-war days was estimated at about $30m. In New South Wales in the Blue Mountains area in 1944, 1957 and 1969, a mere 2 years ago, hundreds of homes were destroyed. Young people who had moved from the metropolitan area of Sydney to the Blue Mountains because they could not afford a block of land closer to Sydney, who had built their homes and were struggling to buy and maintain them and obtain furniture, suddenly found their houses destroyed by the scourge of a great bushfire. I think it was my colleague, Senator Keeffe, who mentioned that in 1967 we had the tragic fires in Tasmania with an enormous amount of damage to properly, livestock, fodder, homes, factories and other buildings. Of course, still worse was the tragic loss of life.
I have mentioned these matters only to indicate the necessity for a national organisation of the type we are suggesting in this urgency motion to be used practically on an annual basis, to swing into action immediately such a tragedy occurs. Senator Murphy has mentioned, and we all know, that several other countries have plans or have implemented plans to deal with natural disasters. But it appears to us that because of the negative thought of this Government, Australia has no plan at all. New Zealand has a national calamity insurance fund in operation. Canada, Japan and the United States of America all have organisations of a like nature. Indeed, under the Federal Disasters Act of the United Slates provision is made for cooperation between the Federal Administration of the United States and the States of that country. Not only is that machinery there for action as soon as a tragedy occurs, but also the machinery is constantly on call. The Opposition says that it is about time that something of a like nature was done in Australia.
True it is, as 1 mentioned earlier, we have a civil defence organisation. The members of that organisation, working in a voluntary capacity, do a magnificent job for this country having regard to the paucity of funds and the inadequate equipment made available to them. But generally speaking, the way in which we tackle these problems of natural disaster on a national scale is on a voluntary basis. Frankly, it is not good enough. Perhaps, with effective planning by well established research groups such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, universities, farmers organisations and the meteorological bureau, they all could be geared for the purpose of undertaking research into these problems. The Federal Government, in conjunction with the States, should move in advance of future national disasters. Apparently, there is at least one person on the Government benches who supports our proposal, or who did so before he was elected to the Ministry. The Minister for the Interior, the honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt), in his maiden speech in the House of Representatives on 21st August 1969, suggested that a national drought authority should be established whereby the Commonwealth and States could get together on a permanent basis to take all possible steps under their joint powers to plan ahead to meet the problem of major droughts.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I suppose that we should be somewhat grateful that Senator Murphy has introduced this urgency motion so that this matter which is of national importance may be discussed in the Senate. I have listened to most of the debate but I have not up to this stage been able to understand what we are talking about. We seem to be talking about 3 different areas. There is the financial area, to which some honourable senators have alluded. There is the physical area of how one deals with the matter, and there is the area which Senator Byrne mentioned. That is, I suppose, a conservation problem. He said that the erosion of beaches or pollution of waters was also a national disaster. I think I have listened to all the speakers from the Opposition. I am left with the impression that they did not quite know which area they were talking about, either. There seems to be a mixture of financial and physical aspects of this matter. I ask: What are we talking about? Is the only problem the setting up of a natural disaster fund? Are we worrying only about the financial side Or are we worrying also about the physical effects of a natural disaster? Until the Opposition spells this out it cannot blame us on this side of the House for being somewhat confused as to what Senator Murphy’s motion is about.
Senator Maunsell spoke just prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner. After dinner. Senator Douglas McClelland attempted to take Senator Maunsell to task for what he had said. As I understood Senator Maunsell’s speech, he was pointing out the difference in the philosophical approach of those who sit on this side of the chamber from those who sit on the other side. I think it is fair to say that the members of the Australian Labor Party always have believed that somebody else should do everything. That somebody else is the Government, a committee or an organisation of some kind or other. But it is always somebody else. It is never the individual who is involved. As 1 understood Senator Maunsell’s speech, he was saying that no matter what governments do- whether in a physical or a financial sense - when one of these calamities hits us it is a case of all hands to the pumps. There is an obligation on all of us as individuals or as members of voluntary organisations, within the terms of our normal employment, to do something to alleviate the effects of a natural disaster. This is something which the Opposition completely overlooks.
Who are the people immediately involved, regardless of the kind of natural disaster that occurs? They cannot be members of a national organisation situated in Canberra with a lot of fancy regulations, plans and all the rest. The people who must first turn out are members of the police force, electricity workers to make electrical installations safe, the employees of the post office to restore communications, those employed at the water supply facilities to make certain that people have water to drink and those engaged In the transport industries, whether they be railway workers or persons who repair roads and bridges. These are the people who normally look after those things which make our lives worth living. They have to restore these services. Who better than they can get to work to restore these services which have been destroyed by fire, flood or cyclone? This is what they have been trained for all their lives. They have the equipment. They have the know-how. Surely these are the people to whom, we should turn initially to restore normal living standards within a community.
Naturally the work of these people is overlaid by the work of other people. Naturally, when one suffers a disaster one needs outside assistance. But I put it to the Senate that it is assistance and not the takeover of the normal functions of persons trained for these disasters that is required. Who is better equipped than the local ambulance officers or members of the local medical profession and hospital staffs to deal with such a situation? The local fire brigade would have training for this purpose. Of course it would need assistance. If the disaster is in the form of a fire, who would be better able to look after that fire than those persons who have spent a lifetime fighting fires in a particular area? Who would be better suited to take over the responsibility? If the Commonwealth is called upon for assistance it must be called upon for assistance in 2 areas. One area is financial assistance. I do not think any person in this ‘chamber can condemn or criticise the Commonwealth Government for its attitude to financial assistance in respect of natural disasters over the last 22 years. The other is physical assistance.
When it comes to physical assistance, the Commonwealth has the resources of the armed Services, if they are so close as to be able to send their servicemen into action. I believe that an argument may well be put forward that members of the armed Services should be trained in some way to provide assistance in areas which suffer natural disasters. This is not said in criticism of what the armed Services does at present. But, Lord help us, I have sat in this place long enough to have heard the Opposition say that the strength of the armed Services ought to be reduced or that so much money should not be spent on defence. For goodness sake, the Opposition most make up its mind. If we are not to have the armed Services to do this work, whom are we to have? Do we wish to go hack to the days of Chifley’s - what was it called - Allied Works Council or Civil Construction Corps, Which would be a nonsensical organisation in peacetime? Surely the armed Services are the only group to cope wilh a natural disaster. In this sort of situation one wants discipline, organisation and know-how.
How will these requirements be superimposed by some director of natural disasters situated in Canberra, with regional directors all about the place, drawing no doubt upon the talents of officers in all sorts of odd departments to meet the needs of a situation of this sort? For instance, the director might call upon the Department of Primary Industry to determine how to deal with electricity supplies in a drought stricken area. We know how people drift around the Public Service. We would not obtain in a national disaster department the same sort of expertise as is to be found in an instrumentality whose personnel operate in these areas in normal times.
After all, local authorities have a fair amount of expertise in situations of this type. One imagines, listening to honourable senators opposite, that local authorities do not suffer occurrences of this type all the lime. In local authority areas, bridges collapse and trees fall over roads. Local authorities have emergency work gangs. This is part and parcel of the normal life of the local authority organisation.
– A local authority has bush fire brigades, too.
– Yes, bush fire brigades are called out constantly. The fire brigade is always on the job. Gas employees are called out to repair mains at all hours of the day and night. This is part and parcel of the services that local authorities provide. When a national disaster strikes, local authorities need back-up support. They do not need someone else coming in to tell them how to do their normal job of work. This is the first point on which the Opposition must make up its mind. I believe that a responsibility falls on individuals to help themselves. If my roof is blown off in a cyclone, what am I to do? Am I to ring up some bloke in
Canberra and say: ‘Put my roof on’, or do I scratch around as best I can and put some plastic over it, or go to the local store for my needs, or borrow from the local railway department, a tarpaulin off a wheal truck and stick it over my roof? This is the kind of situation on which the Australian nation was built. It was not established by rushing off to Canberra and asking it to pick up responsibility for some disaster that has happened.
A fair amount of emotion is engendered in discussing national disasters. But who is to blame for some of these disasters? Let us look at fires. I do not know whether this claim is true or false, but a national park in the Stirling Ranges in Western Australia was burnt out some week or 10 days ago. Volunteer fire fighting groups were down there fighting for days, risking their lives, lo combat this fire. Farmers turned out to help to cope with this disaster but whom did the chief of the first brigade blame for this fire? He blamed the conservationists because, over the last 3 years or 4 years, the local bush fire group, including farmers among the volunteers, have sought to carry out in their own time and at their own expense some controlled burning in this national park. But the conservation groups have so grown within the metropolitan area that they have terrified the authorities into refusing permission for this burning to be done. What happened? Not only was a farm burnt out but also was a national park almost destroyed. Will one of the people from such a conservation group become the chief commissioner of national disasters, situated in Canberra? The prospect terrifies me. I prefer to leave activities of this sort to people who live in the areas affected because they are the people who know what they are talking about.
How will we deal with floods? None of us knows when a flood is coming. The only bloke of whom I know who was aware that a flood was coming was Noah. Does the Opposition think that under its scheme there will be some person stationed in Canberra with more knowledge than Noah? I put it to the Opposition that it is not on. 1 turn to droughts. Droughts have occurred in this country for all sorts of reasons. You, Mr Deputy President, as a practical farmer would know that the average Australian farmer in these times is able to cope with droughts. He knows more about fodder conservation. We know a good deal more about water conservation. We have the capacity these days to move animals from area to area. We have a greater capacity to provide water and fodder. Although droughts may be of longer duration these days, the farmer is better able to cope because he is better mechanised and better able to move his stock.
How the devil do we control earth movements? If an earth movement comes, as 1 understand it, it comes in a flash and a whole town may be destroyed. Telecommunications usually are destroyed. How is a director of a national disaster organisation in Canberra going to do something about this problem? What happens in fact is that neighbours move in. The local community assists. This is the only way in which a country can cope with the immediate physical effects of any national disaster. No Government instrumentality will deal with the immediate problems. 1 return to what I said originally. This is an ideological conflict which has always existed between the Government Parties and the Opposition. We disagree as to whether a responsibility rests on the individual in the community to help himself or whether a person just yelps to Canberra to do the lot while the individual sits on his backside.
The other point that has been overlooked in this debate concerns what might be known as the individual disaster. What do we do about him? It is all very well-
– Leave him to the Senate.
– I am not an individual disaster yet. I suppose the greatest national disaster which could befall us would be the election of a Labor government. That would be a national disaster, and some director in Canberra will not be able to fix that.
– Could we insure against that?
– I would like to be able to insure against it. I would like to be able to call out the fire brigade. That event would be far worse than floods, fires, droughts, cyclones and earth movements.
But what about the individual disaster, the case of the farmer who is wiped out in one fire? Does anybody care about him? What about the individual farmer who has his crop destroyed? Does anyone care about him? I picked up today’s edition of the West Australian’ and read of a farmer, I think at Moora, who by some quite peculiar accident - it was not an act of God, admittedly - lost most of his stud cattle through poisoning. He has had 10 years work of breeding and raising cattle wiped out. To him, that is a personal disaster. Does anybody care about him? People could not care less. It is stiff luck for him. The fact that he may go broke will not excite us. But if the cattle of SO or 60 farmers were poisoned, that would be a national disaster. Why? Is it because 50 votes are involved? I put it to the Opposition: How many of these disasters are disasters because of the votes involved in them? We do not seem to care about the individual who is burnt out, flooded out or who suffers some earth movement. We do not care over much about the individual disaster. There might be a lot more to be said for us sitting in the Senate if we did not worry so much about the national disaster but worried about the individual involved in the national disaster, and that we looked upon any individual suffering an individual or collective disaster as a disaster.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I support to the hilt the proposal that has been expounded by Senator Murphy. Listening to Senator Withers, I thought that he was tossing with the double headed penny that we all know about and which we associate with the Country Party. None of us underwrites the difficulties that people on the land have experienced. But if we took his argument to its logical conclusion - that is to say, that people got off their backsides and helped themselves - how would he reconcile it with the fact that the leaders of his Party advocated Commonwealth measures concerned with rural relief? He cannot have it both ways. We are not questioning the right to be given relief but we are talking in this debate about prevention.
Senator Maunsell gave one classic illustration that is an indictment of the capitalist system. He mentioned farmers’ stock that went down the rivers to their death. He then brought up the matter of insurance companies and the onus of proof. Is that not an indictment of a government - a Liberal-Country Party government - that is unable to tighten up the insurance laws? The Government knows that it has a certain degree of Federal authority, which may be only of a supervisory character, to tighten up on the turks and perks about which Senator Keeffe has already spoken. Strangely enough Senator Maunsell’; denunciation of the position and his contention that disasters were attributable to providence were a complete indictment of the shortcomings of private enterprise insurance companies. I can assure Senator Withers that we would be delighted to see that people in the plight of Senator Maunsell’s friends got justice in respect of their claims.
Let me take this matter a little further. Honourable senators opposite talked about everyone for himself. Senator Keeffe mentioned the lurks that go on with spec builders. This is the free enterprise economy. Honourable senators opposite talked about ‘big brother in Canberra looking over their shoulder’. Mind you, they are happy on the one hand with the apparatus - the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and all the other appendages in Canberra which give them technical knowhow. So they should get it. On the other hand they should not scorn this apparatus. They take what is good out of it and then sneer about it. I throw out a challenge to Senator Withers and Senator Maunsell. Their top leaders - the Minister for Trade and Indus! ry (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Nixon) - and all the other senior Ministers sit down with the top brass in Canberra - the cream of the Public Service. Of course, these people are not infalliable; but I know that when members of the Country Party want to use their knowledge and cajole them on certain plans that those members have developed in order to keep this precarious unity between the liberals and members of the Country Party, they do not smack them in the face. Those members are delighted to get their advice. So let us remove all this hypocrisy. All we are suggesting, and what Senator Murphy had in mind, is (hat the spirit of creative federalism should be allowed to operate.
It is very nice to talk about the pioneering spirit mentioned by Senator Maunsell. Every time an economic depression occurs it is not much use talking platitudes and going to one’s local bank manager and telling him how, by the sweat of one’s brow, a particular piece of land had been cleared. The bank manager is interested only in profits and I do not blame him for that; he is part of the banking system. 1 blame the people in the board rooms in Martin Place, Sydney, and in Collins Street, Melbourne When this particular economic problem arises a lot of country people become militant That is why there were demonstrations and people from the country went out on to the streets. They had every reason to do so. But some Country Party senators - 1 except Senator Prowse from this statement because I know he has a different view - are culpable. The Minister for Air (Senator Drake-Brockman) smiles across the chamber. He has a particular case because he represents a Service ministry. I remember an occasion on which we were dealing with the Defence estimates and representatives of the Government told us that a considerable number of helicopters had been acquired. I suppose the development of helicopters is one of the good things that has come out of the war in Vietnam. People have learnt to use helicopters in all sorts of situations. Senator O’Byrne and 1 attended a forestry seminar about 4 years ago and we learn i a lot about the techniques of bushfire fighting. We were told certain things about the restrictions on the mobility of helicopters. I think it will be agreed by anyone who has read the trade aviation journals of recent times that because of certain modifications helicopters are much more manoeuvrable than before.
I asked Senator Drake-Brockman on one occasion what role the Services play in bushfire spotting. He said: ‘Senator’ if we are asked we will be in it’. That gave a broad idea of what the Services would do. This is just the very idea of creative federalism. We arc emphasising the idea of prevention.
Honourable senators can talk about the various Slate forestry services. 1 have a very high regard for them and have inspected them on numerous occasions and as a result 1 know what they can do. But honourable senators opposite are always very happy to have a dig at the trade unions and point out that there is a demarcation dispute between say, the boilermakers and the fitters. But how silly this is. They say such a dispute might concern only one workshop, ls it not much sillier, because the Services get a little prim, that one has to ask them for help? One has to go through many channels of Command in order to get this help although there are young pilots doing rookie courses al Point Cook and in other areas who could be used. 1 am quoting what certain instructors told me 4 or 5 years ago. I would not quote what was said to me by the present instructors because honourable senators opposite might feel that they were being contaminated by Socialism. But the fact is that this is what was told to me in conversation 4 years ago. Those people have admitted to me that there are many ways in which we could vary some of the courses. They have suggested thai we could utilise the pilots on spotting courses. Similarly there are many ways in which patrol vessels could be used in cooperation with various S’ate authorities.
I have been talking about the prevention angle. Other honourable senators have talked about beach erosion. The Minister for Works (Senator Wright) will remember the classic case that occurred in the Barton or St George electorate, about which Senator Douglas McClelland was concerned, and which involved a beach erosion problem. This is where this Government practices its doctrine of expediency.
– The erosion took place at Brighton.
– As Senator Douglas McClelland has pointed out Brighton was the particular area. At that time I was concerned about the town at the mouth of the Shoalhaven River. An election was pending and the Government made a gesture in the area that Senator Douglas McClelland knows a lot better than I do. But there was a different situation down in the Shoalhaven area. We had a demarcation dispute involving not the trade unions but no less a person than the New South Wales Liberal-Country Party Minister for Works, Mr Davis Hughes, and the Commonwealth Government. The argument was whether money that the Commonwealth was prepared to expend would come under river restoration or flood mitigation. The result was that the Shoalhaven Shire Council never got all the money it wanted because the Minister stood pat on it. In this case Senator Wright got caught with a bumper. Senator McClelland and I again raised this issue. In a letter to me Senator Wright said that he would get the views of the New South Wales Premier who was no less a person than Sir Robert Ask in. Of course, Senator Wright thought that Sir Robert would go along on this private enterprise doctrine of Senator Withers and say: ‘We do not want Canberra Aid’. But Sir Robert did not say that. He said that he agreed that the Commonwealth should do something.
We have talked about Federal systems. The United States of America has a Bureau of Reclamation which uses the United States Army Engineers Corps. This body engages in a tremendous amount of flood prevention. I am not talking now about the idiotic reference to Noah forecasting a flood. I am talking about how one staves off disaster. We are not like King Canute and we realise that we cannot stop the waves coming on and on but we can blunt the effect of a disaster whether it be by utilising the helicopters in the spotting of fires or by other means. We now have a bureau of research on beach erosion. I have a document written by Alec Mitchell who is the Deputy Chairman of the Soil Conservation Authority of Victoria. This is an article on the conservation of coastal dunes. Mr Mitchell has pointed out that at the moment in Victoria 75 per cent of the people live within a 25 miles radius of the sea. He proceeds to give a learned discourse on the concept of sand dunes. Undoubtedly that gentleman has wide knowledge of the subject.
But what I am getting at is that none of us is able to share. All the States have their own little bailiwicks. Only when something serious happens can we get them together. This was made plain to members of the Semite Select Committee on Water Pollution and they will appreci- ate what I am saying. The Minister for Shipping and Transport has talked about the lovely idea of co-operation with the States. He said that everything was all rightin regard to oil policy. Then we had the ‘Oceanic Grandeur’ disaster which Senator Keeffe mentioned. What did the Government of Queensland, which has a political affinity with honourable senators opposite and not with us do in that emergency? The Premier of Queensland certainly is not a socialist. I think Senator McAuliffe will agree with me there. What did the Premier of Queensland say? He published a report and what he said about the failure of the Department of Shipping and Transport was exactly what Senator Ridley and 1 said as members of the Select Committee on Water Pollution. As a matter of fact, Senator Byrne agreed with us.
We are not arguing about whether something is Australian Labor Party policy or Liberal Party policy. What we are saying is that as members of the national Parliament we should not sell Canberra short. This is a difficulty that Senators Maunsell and Withers have. They seem to have an inbuilt inferiority complex. They seem to think that everybody in a Commonwealth department is a con man or is trying to trample the States’ sovereignty into the dust. That is not the situation at all.I know, and so does Senator Wright, that when we have a big enough problem and we try to get the States together we have to use the carrot. That is what Senator Murphy had in mind. There are so many ways in this field of creative federalism in which the States can be given leadership, such as by providing technical know-how. This is the point in regard to some of the matters that Senator Douglas McClelland mentioned. He referred to cleaning up some of our rivers. Obviously, as the years go by and the silting up continues we will have serious problems. One of the tragedies is that I can go to many little shire councils on the north coast of New South Wales - I assure honourable senators thatI do not go there to try to convert the shire councillors and get them to become members of the Labor Party - and yet strangely enough people at that level have a greater appreciation of what the Commonwealth Government should do than have the people in Macquarie Street in Sydney or Spring Street in Melbourne. They are looking for leads.
Senator Murphy did not put forward specifically any idea of a bureaucratic apparatus. He pointed out that the theme today is creative federalism. I assure honourable senators that I am not quot ing from the’New Statesman’ or ‘Nation’; I am quoting no less a person than Lyndon Baines Johnson, the former President of the United States. In Canada and the United States, under federal systems, Ottawa and Washington do much more than Canberra does. I do not blame the federal system. Many senior officers in Commonwealth departments would like to do much more. The utterances of Senator Maunsell prove that in so many fields more could be done. In no field could more be done than in regard to the lurks associated with insurance companies. I can remember when Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin was here and on another occasion when Senator Greenwood was in the chamber raising with them questions about racketeering in regard to car insurance. I said that Canberra could do something, and they reared away from that suggestion as though it were a bumper bowled by Lillee, the Western Australian fast bowler. That ought to impress Senator DrakeBrockman. Honourable senators opposite know that the Commonwealth has the necessary power. Senator Maunsell bleated, quite rightly, about someone’s stock going down the river. But he and his colleagues are not game to attack the citadels of capitalism which are epitomised in the racketeering insurance companies. This afternoon Senator Murphy blazed the trail. I thought we had converted members oft he Democratic Labor Party. I say to honourable senators opposite that if they want to make an election issue of this matter we will welcome it. Finally, let me tell Senator Maunsell that on Saturday morning I will be at a meeting of the Kangaroo Protection Society in Sydney, and I will quote him with relish.
– We really had the run-around from the last speaker, Senator Mulvibill.
– The hop-around.
– We had the hoparound, we might say. I do not thinkI will be at the meeting on kangaroos on Saturday morning. 1 wish to refer to the actual words of the matter of urgency raised by Senator Murphy. He mentions ‘a national organisation to prepare for and deal with’ certain things. I wish to consider this matter on the basis of those 2 separate points - ‘prepare for’ and ‘deal wilh’.
The matter of urgency calls for centralisation of control or a national organisation. Australia is a big place. Some sort of national organisation which Senator Murphy claims suits other countries may not suit our land. We have found out by actual experience that most of the problems that we have with floods, fires, droughts and all the other natural disasters are handled much better on a local basis. In other words, we leave them to the local people. This Ls part of the 3-tier system of government - the local authorities, the State governments and the Commonwealth Government. Centralised control tends to establish a centra] organisation. People can say what they like, but it tends to build up; it tends te grow; and usually it tends to refuse to depute authority or power. The effect this has is that if somebody is in a remote part of Australia he has to ring headquarters in Canberra and say: ‘There is a big fire out in this area. Have we permission to attack it? Although people say that that cannot happen, that is the ultimate of what can happen with centralised control. In regard to the first part of Senator Murphy’s matter of urgency - ‘prepare for’ - he mentions fires first. Fires are usually local and short-lived, but they can cause considerable loss of life and property. How can people actually prepare for them, except by constructing more fire breaks, or giving more encouragement to the construction of fire breaks and the removal of fire hazards? We have just heard Senator Withers explain that in Western Australia some of the local people around a national park wanted to protect it from fire by burning fire breaks. What happened? They were prevented from doing that, and the fire hazard built up to a much greater extent and there was a disaster.
Floods usually are not on a State-wide basis but in some of the major rivers and streams. They are usually short-lived, except in a long river system. They are difficult to anticipate and to prepare for, unless action is taken over a long period. The next type of disaster mentioned is cyclones. The part of them which does the damage appears only in a very restricted area. The cyclone that hit Townsville recently, for instance, did great damage in only a very narrow strip - an area only a few miles wide. Cyclones are very shortlived, but they do a tremendous amount of damage in a few hours. The work of restoring property immediately after a cyclone has hit must be left to the local people; there is nobody else to do it. Communications usually break down. In Townsville even the radio stations were out of action for a while, f would like to tell an old story about cyclones on the north Queensland coast in the days before radio. After one cyclone was over and the telegraph lines were repaired, the first delayed message that came through was the cyclone warning.
The other disaster mentioned is earth movements. They happen in a few seconds, as has been explained. Sometimes they are followed by fire. Fortunately, they are very rare in Australia. The words ‘prepare for’ are used in the matter of urgency, but 1 do not know how one prepares for an earthquake. The other type of disaster mentioned is droughts. Sometimes they are local, but very often they are widespread and of long duration. They have a very insidious effect because they are very different from the other disasters.
I come now to the second part of Senator Murphy’s matter of urgency - ‘deal with’. Apparently this relates to action after the disaster. The first phase in a major disaster, apart from droughts, is rescue work, which must start as soon as possible and can be done only by the local people; there is nobody else there. The next phase is to bring in outside assistance. This has always been done with the utmost speed. In the past, as soon as the State concerned applied to the Federal Government for assistance, it was readily given. The armed Services are usually asked by the Federal Government to help. In Townsville the Services did a very good job. We have heard it mentioned already that the Opposition does not believe that we should have armed Services. Then the Opposition says that we should establish a national organisation. If that organisation had the powers that organisations in some overseas countries have, it could order the armed Services to take action in a disaster. How absolutely ridiculous such a state of affairs would be. No government would allow any organisation, individual, commission or body to tell its armed Services what action to take. I think that would be ridiculous.
– Why would a government not do that?
– No outside organisation has the power to order any country’s armed Services about.
– What about the establishment of a Commonwealth disaster fund?
– This is my speech. You will have a chance to make yours.
– Were you not present when I made my speech? You do not know what you missed.
– I was here when the honourable senator made his speech. The proposition of having a centralised organisation that can order the armed Services about will not work. It is not feasible. The next phase, as has happened in many instances, is to provide food, to get the homeless people into shelter and to restore services and communications. The final and longest phase is to get things back to normal. Then we come up against some of the things that have been mentioned already. I refer to the lack of insurance and the various forms of insurance. People have fire insurance policies, but those policies do not cover storm and tempest damage or damage caused by water and other things. There are quite a lot of problems connected with insurance. It is after disasters such as this that the local, State and Federal authorities combine to organise the rebuilding.
I refer again to the problems associated with a drought. It is a slow and insidious type of calamity. One of the problems associated with a drought is that nobody knows how long it will last. If one were reasonably sure that one would have to make provision for the drought to last only 1, 3 or 6 months, tha: would make a very big difference. A drought is like a flood and all other disasters. No-one knows when there will be a flood. No-one knows when the drought will break. In a drought the livestock naturally are the worst affected. The loss or failure of crops can cause great economic hardship to the people concerned. In the past there has been no trouble getting the local, State and Federal authorities to co-operate to organise the various services that are necessary in times of drought - to provide fodder and to provide transport to take starving stock to better pastures. At what point is an area declared a drought area? In many cases this is very hard to define. When rain has fallen a declaration that the drought no longer exists in the area is necessary.
Some calamities can be covered by insurance, some cannot. Grain growers and fruit growers, through their respective organisations, can insure against loss caused by a hail storm, for instance. I deal now with the point on which Senator Maunsell has been attacked. I think the people who attacked him misunderstood what he said. It is not possible to insure livestock against drowning in a flooded river because there is no way of proving that they are lost. The mere fact that they were washed down the flooded river is not evidence that they are lost. That is the ruling. A large proportion of those washed away probably come out alive further downstream. The owners cannot get them back. The owners cannot prove that they are lost, unless the owners produce the drowned carcass. That is what Senator Maunsell said when he made his speech.
Cyclones occasionally strike the Queensland coast, but they very seldom strike twice in the one place. They are a bit like lighting. It is said that lightning never strikes twice. I think Senator Keeffe said that it is many years since Townsville had a cyclone or a disaster of the type that it had recently. Modern weather reports usually give some warning of an impending cyclone. There is considerable publicity about it. I point out that in the past the Queensland coastal resorts usually close in January, February and March - during the cyclone season. With better roads and better rail and air services they now operate all year. It has been mentioned-
– I take a point of order. Mr President, I draw your attention to standing order 406 which states emphatically that no senator shall read his speech. Senator Lawrie has read the whole of his speech. I respectfully draw your attention to the relevant standing order.
– f wish to speak to the point of order.
– Order! Does the honourable senator wish to address himself to standing order 406?
– I do. The Chair did not stop Senator Keeffe when he quoted directly from notes the whole time that he was speaking.
– Order! I am very conscious of standing order 406. I know that there are some offenders in this chamber. They are not all on my right. 1 have been listening wilh some interest to Senator Lawrie. 1 realise that he is speaking from notes, but he is not reading his speech. There is no substance in the point of order. 1 will bear Senator Keeffe’s point of order in mind the next time an honourable senator is on his feet.
– I do not read from notes.
– 1 was not referring to Senator Keeffe.
– Thank you, Mr President. Storm and tempest insurance is available for properly damage caused by cyclones and storms, but there are always a number of people who do not carry this type of insurance. Some are unable to pay the premiums, as has been mentioned earlier. I refer to pensioners and others in that category. Some do not pay through straight out neglect. Some do not pay because they adopt the philosophy ‘it cannot happen to me so I will not bother’, lt is hard to say what we can do for these people. This is a free country and we cannot compel them to insure.
Another problem that we come up against is the number of Australians who will persist in building in what are known to be flood areas. New people come to a town or ,to an area in which the river has a high flood once or twice in a lifetime. Some of the old hands tell these people: That land floods. You will get drowned there sooner or later’. The land is probably cheap. They persist in building there. The flood eventually comes. They are lucky to get away with their lives, but they lose all their possessions and they need considerable help.
– Order! The honourable senators time has expired.
– 1 support the motion. It is appropriate that it was moved today, so relatively soon after a motion directed to the purpose of ensuring that the Federal Government turns its attention to the establishment of a national disaster authority was carried at a recent. State conference of the Australian Labor Party in Tasmania. I had the pleasure of putting that proposition to the conference and of spelling out the reasons why I felt that it should be carried. I am pleased to record here that the proposition received the unanimous support of the conference. Now, so relatively soon after that time and without there having been any consultation between myself and Senator Murphy or anyone else, 1 find the proposition being put to this chamber.
That seems to be indicative of the fact that we are becoming more concerned about the ravages of national disasters and the desirability, as Senator Murphy has put in the terms of his motion, of taking some cognisance of the problems which arise as a consequence of such disasters. I refer to such things as earthquakes and the consequences of volcanic action, and floods about which we have heard a lot in recent times. 1 suppose that of all national disasters a fire is perhaps the only one which can be originated by man and is the result of man’s carelessness. The others, I believe, are outside the area of man’s direct responsibility. Then we have cyclones, storms and damage by the sea. No State of this Commonwealth has been free of the ravages of one or other of these natural disasters, and on each occasion very great misery, hardship, tremendous distress and damage to installations and property have followed in their wake. I believe that it is appropriate, therefore, that we should be looking at the desirability of setting up an organisation of the kind that I, Senator Murphy and our colleagues on this side of the chamber have in mind. 1 believe that it is also becoming well known to honourable senators on the Government side. I wonder what all this huffing and puffing is about. There does not seem to have been any kind of rational approach on the part of honourable senators opposite to the establishment of an organisation such as we have suggested. Instead they have made an attempt - a pretty poor attempt, if I may say so - to knock the idea of an organisation to deal with national disasters. I do not think that does them very much credit because surely the results of these happenings in recent years have indicated clearly the need for us to do something about them
We in this national Parliament are in a relatively superior position, and I believe that the initial impetus for the establishment of an organisation of this kind could very well originate here. The attempts by honourable senators on the Government side to knock this proposition make one wonder what their motives are. The motion is very simple. It does not carry within it any requirement to do anything in particular immediately but it does pose the proposition that it is desirable that something be done in the future, because irrespective of whether we like it, know it, understand it or believe it, a great many people suffer as a consequence of these disasters.
In 1967 we had disastrous fires in Tasmania in which 62 people lost their lives and many millions of dollars worth of damage was done to the countryside. It is proper, I think, to relate at this stage that as a result of the immediate initiative of the Tasmanian Government which was transmitted to the Commonwealth authorities in Canberra the late Mr Harold Holt, the Prime Minister of the day, to his eternal credit, immediately despatched to Tasmania his Assistant Minister, Mr Howson, who collaborated very closely with the Government of Tasmania in an effort to reduce to the absolute minimum the worry, distress and physical and financial loss which was suffered by so many people in that State at that time. I place on record without any equivocation whatever my eternal thanks and the thanks of my State of Tasmania to the Government of the day for the prompt action it took on that occasion because much of the suffering, much of the loss and much of the great difficulties which would have ensued were minimised by the quick response of the Federal authorities working in collabor ation with the authorities in Tasmania. It occurred to me at the time, as it did to so many other people, that it would have been most appropriate had the authorities had any appreciation of what was likely to happen.
The argument has been put to the chamber this evening that we have no forewarning of these disasters; but that, I suggest, is not entirely correct because in fact we do have warning. In the situation which arose in Tasmania we had some forewarning of what was likely to happen from meteorological reports and predictions in relation to the weather. The community at large was warned to be very careful with fires and so on. That is all water under the bridge now. Nevertheless, it is incorrect to claim that we had no forewarning of what, was likely to happen. Similarly, in the case of Queensland which suffered tremendous damage by the cyclone recently, there was some forewarning. All that we of the Labor Party are suggesting is that there is a desirability - surely no-one in this chamber would argue against that - to gather together all the resources - physical, financial, political and any others which may be available - in an attempt to assess what is likely to happen and then to minimise as far as possible the effects of what is likely to happen be it flood, fire or earthquake. The aim is to have this organisation in a state of readiness so that, it can act without delay.
It is useless to suggest that we cannot use the defence system of this country. Why do we have a defence system? We have it to protect the people and the property of this nation. If we cannot use our defence system in the internal situation when disasters and so on are likely to happen, then we are not capable of handling this nation’s affairs. Certainly we should assemble all the resources available to us for this purpose.
I know that other honourable senators want to make a contribution to this debate so I shall conclude my remarks by strongly urging the Senate to accept that there is a desirability to do what is proposed in the motion and to accept the Labor Party’s proposition.
– Wc are indebted to Senator Murphy for having instituted this discussion in which we are considering (he desirability of establishing a national organisation to prepare for and deal with the effects of natural disasters such as tires, floods, droughts, cyclones and earth movement. The discussion which has taken place has been most interesting. On an overall assessment of the chamber 1 believe that, on balance, it is not desirable to have a great variation of the system which now applies. The opening words of Senator Murphy’s motion refer to the desirability of a national organisation. That implies immediately an organisation based in Canberra to deal with matters which arise from so-called natural disasters.
– Does the honourable senator intend to oppose it?
– 1 am speaking in the general context of the matter raised by the honourable senator and will indicate my attitude to it. Centralisation of this kind of activity is not desirable because our country is so vast and the differences in climate between north and south, east and west, do not allow for a centralised authority to be sufficiently knowledgeable or competent to deal with disasters as they occur. Rather, our system of federation is so good because wc have an overall federal authority dealing with certain matters of national import and then States with their sovereign rights attending to matters within their boundaries. We have a system of government in Australia which is in keeping with the basic geographical and, I would say, human requirements of government.
– When did Adelaide have its last cyclone?
– There are cyclones in Queensland, but in South Australia we have droughts. There are floods in the well watered States of Victoria and New South Wales, whereas Western Australia is susceptible to drought. There is a different incidence of disaster in the various States because of their climatic conditions and background and there is a big variation in those disasters or the propensities of given States to be sufferers from given disasters. For that reason, in my opinion it needs authority in the local region of States best to determine what should be done against that background to meet situations which reasonably could be expected to occur.
Let me refer to South Australia as an example. Our biggest concern is the lack of rainfall. Jd South Australia 10 per cent of the Stale’s surface only enjoys no more than 10 inches of rain per annum. Bushfires and grass fires are our biggest concern from the disaster point of view. For this reason State Governments through the years, realising that our greatest danger by way of disaster can be referred to as acts of God, to use insurance parlance, which are not normally insurable, or if they are insurable the premiums are so high that it is not economic to insure, have given great importance to and laid stress on the need to maintain emergency fire services in rural areas. These have been magnificent organisations, meeting that which we in our State would regard as the most likely point from which disaster might occur: I presume that in Senator Keeffe’s State cyclonic disturbances are of the greatest concern.
If in Australia we have, as we endeavour to have, a system which will ensure that there is equality of standards, say in education, hospitalisation and road construction as a general background to our way of living, and if a State cannot meet that standard because of its’ economic situation, special grants are made or larger allocations arc given to that Slate to ensure that there is a national equality. Bearing in mind the equality of base, when an unusual claim has fallen upon a State because of some disaster, has not the Federal Government through the years come to the party immediately and given assistance? The Federal Government has done a wonderful job.
– Senator Devitt acknowledged the efficiency of the Holt Government in his State of Tasmania.
– Yes. Every State which has sustained a disaster has had the same understanding and generous consideration from the Federal Government in alleviating that situation. It would be a grave mistake to endeavour to superimpose on what is already set up in State circles to meet possible acts of God or national disasters beyond the norm of misfortune. It is important that we do not duplicate services. One matter that we must walch very closely in this nation is that we do nol allow our public service, in the broadest sense of the word, to grow away from a realistic apportionment of the whole of our employment, economically and over the whole gamut of national economic development. Today in Australia one person in every 3.8 people is somehow or other engaged in a public service activity.
The purpose of the motion moved by Senator Murphy was to enable a discussion on the setting up of a national organisation to prepare for and to deal with the effects of natural disasters. The setting up of such an organisation inevitably would involve the establishment of a central authority in Canberra with regional directors in all States. There would be an overlapping of existing services in all States and a wasteful monetary situation, a situation which is not conducive to an efficient handling of a given situation at short notice with local knowledge. I believe that the present capacity to meet that which could arise is well served by the provisions which wc have experienced and which we could expect to continue in the event of adverse conditions arising. As an indication of the Commonwealth attitude towards disasters I propose to refer to the recent damage from cyclone Althea in Queensland and to quote from the ‘Daily Telegraph’ of 17th February, which stated under the headline Federal Government to ease cyclone cost’:
The Federal Government will contribute between $5.5m and $6m to repair damage caused by cyclone Althea.
The cyclone struck the Townsville region last December 20 and caused widespread damage to buildings.
Announcing the aid today the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) said that the figure was based on preliminary estimates.
Relief and restoration measures other than the relief of personal hardship and distress resulting from natural disasters was regarded as a State responsibility.
In these words we have very clearly an indication of what the Federal Government does in situations which occur and in a particular situation which unfortunately Senator Keeffe experienced in his home town not so very long ago. The report continued:
The Commonwealth nevertheless recognises that the States have limited financial resources to draw upon in an emergency-
This goes back to the point I made earlier about the equality of services provided by the States.
– He made that statement with his hands under his chin.
– No, with his hands in his pockets, and he took them out of his pockets and, very generously and very rightly, handed the money across to the State. The report continued: and is prepared to assist in financing measures other than the relief of personal hardship and distress where the States are involved in substantial expenditure of an abnormal nature,’ he said.
This also gives weight to the point I made, that when there is trouble the Federal Government comes to the rescue and assists as generously as it is able to ensure that the State which has suffered a disaster is not itself faced with a cost factor which is beyond its ability to meet and from which hardship could arise on the residents of the area. The report continued:
When a State incurred expenditure on such additionally agreed measures in excess of an initial base amount, the Commonwealth was prepared to meet in full the remaining expenditure.
This base amount for Queensland was $2m.
The Queensland Government had already spent this amount this financial year.
The Queensland Government having done that, in comes the assistance from the Federal Government. The report continued:
In addition to sharing a dollar-for-dollar basis expenditure for the immediate relief of personal hardship and distress, the Commonwealth had agreed to:
Fully reimburse State Government eligible expenditure in 1971-72 above the $2m base level on the restoration of Government assets.
Meet costs over $100,000 spent by semigovernment and local authorities for restoration of their assets.
Pay for personal hardship and distress to help people repair and rebuild private homes.
Mr McMahon said he had told the Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, that the State’s share of the cost of this scheme could be included in its spending on the restoration of Government assets.
To the extent that some of the repairs might not be completed before June 30, 1972, the carryover costs would be a charge against the base expenditure for 1972-73.
There we have defined very clearly what the Commonwealth Government does in situations like this. There is an avoidance of duplication of services, avoidance of waste of money and avoidance of unnecessary escalation of the number of people employed in the public service, using that term in its broad sense. We in Australia cannot afford to have an undue escalation of this type of outlay. We need a well balanced work force, bearing in mind actual production and the administration of that production.
– The back-up facilities for those services also have to be considered.
– That is so. In considering this matter this evening we must bear in mind also that in recent years the Commonwealth Government has increased greatly the allocation to the States. I think that the direct allocation to the States last year was no less than $2,930m out of our total Federal budget of some $8,833m. If we add the payroll tax revenue it means that in excess of $3, 000m is now going to the States. State abilities have increased because of this added capacity to provide certain things. This must not be forgotten. The States can now allocate funds for their own services.I stress again that there is no better means of government than local government because local government is nearest to the people.I think that this Commonwealth Government, because of its present attitude in dealing with situations arising from national disasters, is endeavouring to maintain this ‘nearest the people’ principle.
– But local government is in great financial difficulty, is it not?
– I fully appreciate that point. 1 am merely giving the background and pointing out that the States have a greater budgetary capacity to do certain things and this enables better services to be provided in the light of local conditions. This evening 1 have sought to stress the background of the Federal Government’s attitude to national disasters.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– Mr President-
– Mr President-
– Mr President-
-I see 3 honourable senators on their feet.
– I think you heard my voice first, Mr President.
-Senator Murphy, are you raising a point of order?
– No, Mr President. This seems to me to be a simple proposition. I await your ruling on the call.
– I cannot give you the call when there are 2 other honourable senators on their feet.
– I should have the call, Mr President, because the last speaker came from the Government side.
– The Chair will call who is seen first. If you will make the concession to meI will split the time between Senator O’Byrne and Senator Wright.
– Thank you, Mr President. I will oblige youby moving:
That the question be now put.
– I rise to a point of order. I think that when Senator O’Byrne was claiming the call he forgot that he had spoken already in this debate. I. being on my feet, should have been accorded the call.
– No. he has not spoken. There can be no debate on the motion: ‘That the question be now put’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until the next day of sitting at 10.59 a.m. (Senator Murphy’s motion).
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) - by leave - agreed to:
That Senator Poyser be appointed to the Parliamentary, Standing Committee on Public Works in the place of Senator Cant.
– In accordance with an understanding between myself and the Leader of the Government, in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) I move:
That notices of motion Nos 1 to 6 be postponed to the next day of sitting.
– Is this an arrangement between you and the Leader of the Government?
– I seek leave to move a motion in those terms.
– I have a notice of motion on the notice paper that I am not prepared to let go at this stage without reference or consultation.
– Of course, what the Senate does is entirely a matter for the Senate.
– I think common courtesy demands that we all have a say in this.
– May I assure the Senate that the proposition in the terms in which I have put it - if I had not put the proposition the Leader of the Government would have done so - leaves the matter open for everyone, including Senator Gair, to have a say in it. There is nothing to prevent him from doing so right now.
– There are a lot of notices of motion ahead of yours. They have been on the notice paper a long time.
– I repeat, and I speak to the motion, that it is quite open for Senator Gair to say what he feels he should say on the matter and for anyone else to have their say on the matter. Noone is preventing any suggestion being put forward as to what should happen. I should say that it has been fairly customary to postpone notices of motion from time to time.
– For eternity.
– Not at all.
– There has been a matter on the notice paper in my name for a long time.
– Order! The proponents of this motion should address themselves to the Chair.
– A large number of these matters were dealt with at the end of last year. Some motions regarding references to various committees were postponed. Some have been postponed from day to day. Sometimes there have been indications that one or other of them would be debated. I am sure that every honourable senator would listen to a suggestion of one of his colleagues as to what he thinks is the best course to follow. I do not think anyone expected that Senator Gair would want to move on his motion, which is notice of motion No. 4, Business of the Senate. I am quite sure that no-one intended any discourtesy. If it is Senator Gair’s intention to do that then I am sure we would all be interested to hear from him.
– Order! I wish to intervene at this stage. What is at issue is the form in which the business of the Senate is placed each day. I do not think this is a matter for debate. The business of the Senate can be conducted only on the basis of there being agreement between the leaders of the parties. The formal process of discovering, postponing or rearranging the business of the Senate is conducted from the Chair. But the comity of the Senate depends upon agreement between the leaders of the parties. For reasons which all honourable senators will understand, Senator Murphy is out of order in moving for the postponement of notices of motion Nos 1 to 6. Senator Gair is perfectly entitled to object, because some of these notices of motion are under the control of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Murphy, and some are under the control of the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, Senator Gair. So notices of motion Nos 1, 3 and 6 are the only ones in relation to which Senator Murphy can move in regard to the placing of business. Notices of motion Nos 2, 4 and 5 are under the control of the
Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which is an acknowledged party in the Senate, and he can move on those particular notices of motion. But I turn to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, who is the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to deal now with the business of the Senate so that I may be advised and the Senate may be informed of the position.
(9.36) - In speaking to the motion I feel 1 owe a personal explanation to the Senate and indeed to Senator Gair. The fact is that yesterday I did have a discussion with the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and I did suggest that we would dispose of his motion, which is No. 7, today as I felt that it was topical. It was put down on the business sheet and it would be good if we could dismiss it from the business sheet. It was understood that if an urgency motion should intervene the best thing to do would be to deal wilh Senator Murphy’s motion immediately after disposing of the urgency motion. I thought 1 conveyed this arrangement to Senator Gair. If I did not, I humbly apologise to him. Because of the pressure that 1 have been under for the last 48 hours it is conceivable that 1 failed to inform him. I feel that it would be appropriate tonight to deal with Senator Murphy’s motion of which he gave notice, yesterday I think it. was. In fairness to Senator Murphy, I should say that I did indicate to him that the Government would be prepared to proceed with his motion and dispose of it today after any urgency motion, if an urgency motion was moved.
– I refer to your own comment, Mr President, that some of these motions are under the control of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy), some are under the control of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) and some are under the control of the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair).
– No, they are all under the control of the Senate. Some of them are the direct responsibility of the
Leader of the Opposition and some are the direct responsibility of the Leader of the party which you represent. Finally, I wish to make it perfectly clear that the postponement or the rearrangement of the business of the Senate can operate only on the basis where there is a comity between the leaders of the parties.
– My point, with respect, is that 1 would imagine that motions standing in the name of an individual senator would be under the control of that individual senator. For example, there is a motion in my name on the notice paper. 1 would be very happy if it were under Senator Gair’s control or under the control of the Party generally. It is a motion for the disallowance of an ordinance in relation to film classifications in the Australian Capital Territory. That happens to be a personal excursion. Therefore, I think the proper course would be to call on the individual senators in whose names the motions stand and for them to indicate whether they are prepared as individual senators to have their motions postponed and for priority to be given to another motion.
Dealing with the general question, I refer to an interesting fact. Senator Murphy’s motion, of which notice has been given, concerns the fixation and the determination of prices in various categories. Senator Gair’s motion deals with the structure and determination of the prices of automotive fuels and lubricants in Australia. I repeat that Senator Murphy’s motion refers to the determination of prices which affect the structure of costs and prices in the Australian economy, and so on. In other words, what is contained in Senator Murphy’s motion embraces, with many other matters, what is contained in Senator Gair’s motion. Therefore, the question arises as to whether Senator Gair’s motion should not be entitled to rest on its initial priority and whether, by Senator Murphy’s motion, Senator Gair’s motion has not only been laid aside but also has been superseded. It also raises the question of whether, when Senator Gair came to move his motion in a few days or a few weeks, it could be held that this matter has already been determined by the Senate. That is a position that could well arise.
Under the standing orders, Senator Gair might be precluded from discussing his motion because it would in essence have been discussed in the discussion of the matter contained in Senator Murphy’s motion. I am sure that is a matter to which Senator Murphy has not particularly adverted. That is the difficulty associated with the supersession of a motion such as is now proposed in the case of the motions of Senator Gair and Senator Murphy. That is why perhaps more thought should be given to whether this motion should be given the priority which it is now suggested might be accorded to it, the Government being anxious to have this proposal of Senator Murphy’s debated and disposed of. We should look at this matter. I think that honourable senators should be consulted as to whether they wish any of their motions to be postponed.
– I will hear Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson speak in defence of the practice in which for the last few years he has been engaged as Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (9.42) - by leave - It has always been my understanding that in terms of motions, the order of Government business was the prerogative of the Leader of the Government. If I am wrong, I can be corrected, lt would be disastrous for us to get into a situation built around misunderstandings. Senator Murphy moved a motion and therefore it stands in his name. He has indicated to mc across the table that he is perfectly willing to withdraw his motion and let it stand over. 1 understand that Senator Drake-Brockman has a statement that he wants to make. Then we will postpone all the motions and I will continue to the next order of business on the general business sheet. If that is the will of the Senate, we can do it that way. But if there is to be any opposition to Senator Murphy speaking to his motion, he has indicated that he is perfectly willing to withdraw it tonight. He will take his chance when we deal with general business tomorrow. My understanding - you will correct me if I am wrong, Mr President - is that it is the prerogative of the Leader of the Government to move for the arrangement of Government, business.
– That is my understanding.
– I moved a motion, but it may be convenient if I ask for leave to speak to this matter.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator MURPHY (New South Wales - Leader of the Opposition) - by leave - Now that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has opened up what we spoke about, I think it would be convenient for honourable senators if we both mention it. I had spoken to him the other day and we had arrived at what we thought was a reasonable arrangement for the business. He indicated that he was going to speak to Senator Gair. I assumed that he had done this. No discourtesy was intended to anyone. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson would not be guilty of discourtesy on any occasion, and I would not be guilty of it where I could avoid it. Certain questions have arisen as to how the business in the Senate is to be disposed of. This is not Government business. It is a business of the Senate and I do not accede to the proposition put in response to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson (hat the Leader of the Government has the disposition of the business of the Senate. That, is business of the Senate and comes on in a certain order unless the Senate determines otherwise.
– I accept that. The leadership in this matter normally rests with the Leader of the Government in the Senate acting in comity with the leaders of the other Parties.
– It is quite competent and it has happened on many occasions that business might be postponed on the motion of any honourable senator until a particular motion has been dealt with. This was the general eli:ect of the motion which was being moved tonight. I moved it because Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson happened not to be at the table. I did that on the basis that that was what he would have done had he been here. It was intended, if it were carried, effectively to postpone the other business until the motion with which we were concerned had been dealt with. It was not dealing precisely with any particular motion. It was not dealing with a DLP motion because there was another motion before that on the notice paper in the name of Senator Willesee. That would be postponed also. If one were dealing with them in order of priority, that motion would be the one to be dealt with.
– There are quite a number of motions ahead of the honourable senator’s motion, are there not?
– Of course, but this is in accordance with what I thought ordinarily would be done. I agree with the courtesy aspect. The Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) ought to have been informed of what was intended to be moved. I do not say that his views ought to have been conclusive in the matter.
– He ought to have been informed of it.
– Yes, of course the honourable senator should have been informed.
– It does not mean his acquiescence.
– By no means should his acquiescence be necessary in the course of affairs as agreed between the Government and the Opposition Party. I agree that he should have been informed. I think this perhaps clarifies1 the position.
– This should be the case with one of the individuals if he happened to have a motion on the notice paper.
– That is so. I should think that the proper course would be for the motion No. 7 to be dealt with as we have agreed. I am not insistent upon it if somebody else is ready to move on the matter in, the light of the circumstances. I am prepared to accede to the course that has been taken.
– My main objection to the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) for his motion to take precedence over those notices of motion already on the business sheet is that the Party which I have the privilege of leading is too frequently ignored in the arrangement of business in the Senate. I objected in order to register my protest against the continuous disregard of my Party. It is all right for Senator Murphy and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to come to arrangements. That is not sufficient. I think that in consultations with regard to the business that is to take place we of the Australian Democratic Labor Party who hold the balance of power in the Senate should be included. I have received the utmost courtesy from Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. He has informed me, with a few exceptions which inadvertently escaped his notice, of what is to take place. Had Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson been in his place to move this motion, it might not have been so hurtful to me as it was for the Leader of the Opposition who gave notice of this motion to rise and to move that the motions proposed by others should be scrapped for his own benefit and on his own behalf without any reference to me at all. This is the main objection.
The Leader of the Opposition is not the only one who has rights in this place. Sometimes I feel that he presumes to believe that he can control this Senate. In fact he does not. I do not wish to appear perverse in this matter, but as Leader of my Party I would be recreant to the trust that has been placed in me by my colleagues if I did not register an objection to the conduct of the business of this Senate without any real reference to me. Whilst I am here and have a voice, I will express my views. This is my right. This right was given to me by the people of the State that I represent and by my colleagues in my Party. Small in numbers though we might be, I believe that members of my Party can take their place in debate with any other 5 on either side of the Senate.
Again I say that I do not wish to be perverse or to obstruct the discharge of business. I have the greatest respect for the Leader of the Government. I am appreciative of the courtesy that he always extends to me. I withdraw any objection to the course of action proposed and if it is his wish to proceed on the lines that have been proposed, I am glad to go along with him.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– Mr President, I am only one of the independents. I have no party. But. I am a member of this Senate. I was elected by the people to the Senate for a specific purpose. I have been endeavouring since September last to talk on this point. It is obvious to me that if things keep going as they are, another election will be held before I get the chance to talk on my motion on this subject. I do not think that this is right.I do not think that is democratic.
The position of ‘Notices of motion’ under the heading ‘General Business’ on the Notice Paper indicates that it is obvious that we may never get the chance to talk on matters listed under that heading. Surely when the Senate obviously has no urgent business before it, the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson), if he has the control of these things, should make a decision to bring ‘General Business’ forward so that those motions that already appear in the Notice Paper under ‘General Business’ may be discussed in the order in which they appear instead of allowing these other matters to come on before them.
I listened to the discussion this afternoon and this evening on the urgency motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy). Although that proposal has its advantages and disadvantages,I do believe that the subject of the motion standing in my name under General Business’, which was put before the Senate with honesty and sincerity, affects more people than does an earthquake, a flood or anything of that nature. Many thousands of people in Australia are being hurt by death duties. I ask the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition and Senator Gair please to consider the independents in the Senate.
– Order!I assume you were addressing me, Senator Negus?
– I beg your pardon, Mr President?
– Honourable senators understand the reasons that impel you to address yourself to the Senate. But I must point out that what we are dealing with is the items under the heading ‘Business of the Senate’ on the Notice Paper and that the matter which interests you is not within the context of business of the Senate.I propose to accept Senator Murphy’s motion for the postponement of matters that are listed under Business of the Senate, notices of motion 1, 3 and 6, which are-
– No, notices 1 to 6.
– No. Notices1, 3 and 6 are matters on which Senator Murphy is entitled to move.
– You are proposing to alter the motion I moved, Mr President?
– I thought you suggested that you were agreeable to that.
– No. I was not acceding to that course.I am not blaming anybody for what has happened but I am not going to be put in a false position because of the events which have occurred. I will withdraw the motion that I have put forward. You are proposing to alter my motion.
– I thought that that was your intention.
– No. I will not have my motion altered. In the light of what has been put, I will withdraw the motion.
– Order! Is leave granted for Senator Murphy’ to withdraw his motion? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I now address myself to you, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. Is it the desire to postpone or rearrange the business of the Senate.
– Mr President, during an answer to a question without notice by Senator Willesee this afternoon in regard to the procurement of F111C spares, I did indicate to the Senate that later I would seek leave to make a ministerial statement about the procurement of spares by the United Slates Air. Force for the F111C aircraft. I now ask for leave to make that statement.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The report mentioned in the newspaper article allegedly criticizes the method used by the United States Air Force for procurement of Fill spare parts. This criticism I understand stems basically from the USAF practice in the case of the Fill project of procuring the majority of spare parts from the prime contractor, General Dynamics Corporation, instead of direct from subcontractors. It is also alleged that the USAF has over-stocked spares caused by multiple buys of the same items. I wish to emphasise that this is my understanding, as I have no personal knowledge of the full ramifications of the United States system.
The United States Air Force in the purchase of spares follows the United States Treasury Armed Services Procurement Regulations. Broadly, I understand the practices adopted by USAF for procurement of spares in support of new aircraft is broken down into two areas:
I must emphasise that the General Accounting Office report is not available here yet and it relates naturally to United States practices. Until it is received we cannot be sure that the claims of overcharging can be substantiated or indeed that they may be out of context with the report as a whole. I think it is true to say however that there are advantages in the system which I have just outlined. For example, if sub-contractor purchasing was followed for parts to be used in the actual production of the aircraft, the United States Air Force would be involved in a major task of configuration management, maintenance of technical records and quality control at the sub-contractor’s works as well as the main contractor. This additional effort could well involve cost in excess of any potential saving deriving from the method of sub-contractor procurement as suggested in the General Accounting Office report.
As far as the RAAF is concerned, our buys of spare parts are made through the United States Armed Forces rather than through a prime contractor or a subcontractor. Over the years this has been shown to give us price advantages as our purchases are combined with the high volume procurement of the United States Air Force. Further the United States Air Force, I understand, controls profit margins and overhead factors which we would be faced with if we were to purchase direct. For example, we would need to establish our own procurement and quality control machinery which under the present system, we avoid.
As far as spares for the F111C are concerned the RAAF has ordered in general only those spares which are considered necessary for the first years of operation of the F111C after the aircraft has been delivered. It is established RAAF practice, and this will apply to future buys of spares for the F111C, that full advantage will be taken of the usage data which will become available to us once operations commence. Future buys will also take into account any over-assessments which may have occurred in assessing the number of spares which will be used in the first year of operations.
It is also worth noting that the RAAF did not order any spares from the United States during the period May 1970 to December 1971 while the requirements of the Fraser/ Laird minute were still to be satisfied.
In summary the article is directed at the problems peculiar to the USAF procurement activity - our RAAF approach to the ordering of spares is different as I have outlined above.
I am arranging for a copy of the General Accounting Office report to be sent to us. Until the report has been examined both in the United States and here, one cannot say categorically that there has been overcharging. However, as I have mentioned earlier, it is possible that the savings of overheads by virtue of using the prime contractor system of ordering spares may more than offset the additional costs which would be involved in setting up additional machinery to take advantage of a sub-contractor system.
– by leave - Mr President, as the honourable senators of this Chamber are aware, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) issued a comprehensive statement on Australia Day when the Senale was in recess. In that statement, the Prime Minister dealt with the Government’s overall policy for Australian Aborigines and its specific policy on land and gave a summary of the Commonwealth’s achievements in that area. Mr President, I now table that important document which has been distributed to honourable senators.
Now I would like lo inform the Senate of the Government’s intentions for the advancement of the Aborigines and explain the implications of our present policy. Fundamentally, the Government’s aim is to have one Australian society in which all Australians - including Aboriginal Australians - will have equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities. We seek in this that Aborigines will achieve effective and respected places in a single Australian society. But at the same time they will be encouraged to preserve and develop their own culture, languages, traditions and arts, which will become living elements in the diverse culture of our society.
The Government recognises that individual Aborigines have a right to decide for themselves at what pace and to what extent they come to identify themselves with that society. We believe that they will do this more readily and more happily when they are drawn to it voluntarily and when their membership of it encourages them to maintain and take pride in their identify, their traditions and their culture. The thought of separate development of Aborigines as a long-term aim is completely alien to the Government’s objectives. In line with this policy, certain new decisions have been taken. Mainly, these decisions are concerned with Aborigines in the Northern Territory, because it is a vast area of Australia in which the Common- wealth has direct responsibility for the development of the 22,000 Aboriginal Australians there.
Let me deal firstly with the decisions that have been made for those Aborigines who’ wish to continue substantially to follow their traditional way of life. If they are living on reserves in the Northern Territory, they have been able to hunt and forage throughout the land. However, some questions have been raised as to whether existing legislation properly covers this situation. So that there shall be no doubt whatsoever, the Government has decided to provide explicitly in legislation for Aborigines to have effective access for hunting and foraging on reserves and. to ensure that the access they already enjoy, by law, on lands off reserves covered by pastoral leases, remains protected.
It is also important that the lands used by Aboriginal communities for religious and ceremonial purposes be protected. The Government has decided to complete, as expeditiously as possible, programmes to delineate and protect for years to come areas of land both within and outside reserves for Aboriginal* religious and ceremonial purposes.
Thirdly, the Government has decided that there shall be a new mining code so that mining development will not interfere with the present Aboriginal way of life. To this end, the Government is going to consult with any Aboriginal communities which might be affected by such mining activities so that their welfare will be taken into account when applications for exploration and development rights arc being considered. Exploration rights will be granted on the basis that the granting of development rights will be deferred if, in the Government’s view, they would be detrimental to the interests and well-being of an Aboriginal community in the area.
Finally, the Government wishes to make clear that the present reserves cannot be alienated for other purposes without an effective opportunity for a review of such proposals by the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory and by both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament. In the opinion of the Government, these 4 new decisions make it clear that everything is being done to allow Aborigines who wish to continue their present way of life to do so.
However, there are many indications today that a large proportion of present Aboriginal communities are wishing to move towards a new way of life and to make alternative use of land. It is for this reason that the Government has decided to introduce new legislation to provide for what we have called a ‘general purpose lease’. This new form of lease, which may be obtained by Aboriginal communities or groups on reserves in the Northern Territory, represents an imaginative attempt to adapt Australian legal forms to fit in with Aboriginal ideas in relation to land. Those who know Aboriginal thinking about their relation to land with which they are associated, or those who have read the judgment of Mr Justice Blackburn in the Gove land case, will know that the traditional Aboriginal relationship to land does not fit in with what is known in the Australian system as ‘freehold”.
Freehold’, in the Australian legal system, represents a holding from the Crown, tantamount to exclusive ownership of the land, entailing a right to use and dispose of the land as the titleholder wishes. This notion, we believe, is alien to Aboriginal thought and custom. A lease under Australian law also differs from Aboriginal ideas, but it is capable of greater adaptation and, m the proposals advanced by the Government, an imaginative attempt has been made to adapt it to Aboriginal ideas and aspirations.
It is possible under these proposals for a community or group of Aborigines to obtain a SO-year lease of land at a nominal rent Ibr a variety of purposes. These include economic and social purposes and, in this context, social includes Aboriginal educational, recreational, cultural and religious activities. Fifty years need not be a limiting factor in practice. It is consistent with the usual long term pastoral leases given in the Territory and it provides a period at (he end of which review will be appropriate. It does not mean that if the community still has the some needs it can not obtain a further 50-year lease. However, great changes have taken place over the past 50 years in both Aboriginal communities and European communities. It is likely that within the next 50 years further changes are going to take place, and the generation that is now young or as yet unborn may have very different ideas of land use from their parents now living. The idea of a lease provides flexibility in regard to future generations, which we believe is wise. On the other hand, the granting of a freehold title to a community provides a degree of inflexibility which may not be in the best interests of future generations. It is interesting that, in an interview that Mr Roy Marika and other members of the Yirrkala community had with the Prime Minister a few days ago, they intimated that they were contemplating applying for a general purpose lease in the Gove area. This shows that already there are Aboriginal communities that are prepared to endorse this new policy and participate in it.
We believe that the Government has made far-sighted decisions which should be welcomed by the Aboriginal people and we hope that many communities will be applying for general purpose leases in the months to come. Several government agencies will be available to applicants to give professional, advice in planning the effective use of the land and funds will be available from various sources to help to develop these plans. The Government has recognised that there will be a number of Aboriginal communities living outside reserves which would also wish to obtain leases to develop land for similar purposes. The Government has decided, therefore, to establish a fund of $5m in the first year, with an extra $2m a year for the next 4 years, in order to purchase land which might become available outside reserves both in the Northern Territory and in the States. As the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) said in his second reading speech on the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill last October, governments throughout Australia are spending some $44m this year on behalf of 140,000 Aborigines and, in addition, as Australian citizens, they also receive social services and other similar benefits. This figure of $44 m is now to be augmented by the $5m land fund to which I have just referred. Also several reports are being prepared by expert committees on special problems which affect the Aborigines of the north and will give valuable guidance to those concerned with Aboriginal development.
One thing that impressed the Minister greatly during his recent trip to the reserves in the western part of the Northern Territory was that there are no longer any nomadic Aborigines in that part of the Territory. In this area, every Aboriginal has chosen to give up the old roaming and hunting existence. They have moved to communities on reserves where they have taken the first steps towards acceptance of a single Australian society. On the reserves they are learning useful skills in a training scheme which pays them a training allowance and they are benefiting from a better diet, health services and education for their children. At the Port Keats mission community, the Minister saw Aborigines engaged in making bricks, sawing timber and erecting their own homes; in fact, entering into a new way of life. They are doing so and effecting this change voluntarily. At Yuendumu, the Aborigines have made remarkable progress; they have their own modern community hall, a community store and various worthwhile enterprises. In fact, therefore, voluntary change is now taking place in many Aboriginal communities throughout the Northern Territory. The new steps that the Government has announced will help these changes to proceed, with Aboriginal communities freely involved in the process of working out their own future. We hope all communities, both Aboriginal and European, will work together to make the new policies effective.
– Earlier in the evening Senator Murphy moved a motion that had the purpose of adjourning this notice of motion standing in my name, which reads as follows:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations the following matter - The Structure, recruitment and management of the Commonwealth Public Service.
As you know, Mr President, there was some debate on that motion and finally it was withdrawn. So I now move a more limited one, namely:
That business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, be adjourned until the next day of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 2, standing in my name reads:
That there bc referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs the following matter - The Report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, dated August 1971.
In the rather unusual circumstances as they have developed tonight my disposition would be to follow the lead which has been given by Senator Willesee in relation to bis notice of motion and ask for postponement of the consideration of this notice of motion standing in my name because apparently there was some general anticipation that this series of motions would not come forward for debate tonight.
– Nobody is stopping you moving it if you want to.
– As I say, that was the genera] disposition. It is not improbable that honourable senators are not equipped to debate this motion tonight, unless they happened to anticipate that this would happen and have briefed themselves. Therefore, perhaps it is not appropriate that this motion be debated tonight. Yet 1 am reluctant merely to have it adjourned, because if that is done there will bc a whole series of adjournments and all other notices of motion under ‘Business of the Senate’ also will stand adjourned. 1 am persuaded to allow this motion to go forward for participation in debate by such honourable senators as feel disposed to do so, and, in any case, to let a vote be taken, because this is a type of motion that does not conclude the matter. It is for the reference to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs of the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee. It is quite appropriate that that report should go to that
Committee so that in a particular way honourable senators sitting in committee can scrutinise the report and perhaps bring forward suggestions on the degree of emphasis to be given to certain parts of it and the degree of priority to be afforded to certain of its recommendations. When the report from the Committee comes forward the Senate will be in a position, with adequate notice and fortified by that report, to discuss the matter at length. Therefore to some extent, unless honourable senators wish at this stage to expatiate at length on the contents of this very valuable report, 1 do not see any reason why this motion should be laid aside, I suggest that the Senate should allow this report, by resolution, to go forward to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Then, when the report of that Committee comes forward let us debate that report and the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee itself, when the opportunity is presented.
I merely say that this report covers a most important and developing field of law; that is, the field of administrative law. With the proliferation of administrative agencies in the community and with the aggregating and accumulating demands of society that more and more disciplines shall be exercised in the social order, a proliferation of administrative tribunals is inevitable and their operation can have a very big effect on the rights of citizens. The purport of this report is to discover whether the existing traditional common law or royal prerogative processes of appeal from the decisions of administrative tribunals are any longer appropriate in the modern age, whether other procedures should be devised, whether administrative tribunals themselves can any longer give to the citizens in the modern community that protection which once they were able to give, or whether there should not now be made available the services of what is called a public counsel, or what we familiarly call on ombudsman, to represent the rights, demands and entitlements of citizens to the administrative structure.
– Does not the report make recommendations on that?
– The report does. That is a most important field. Whilst the report makes recommendations, the idea of the reference to this Committee of the Senate is that particular members of the Senate - it so happens that this Committee is structured substantially by members of the legal profession - will have the opportunity, in committee, to examine this report and to bring forward to the Senate recommendations as to the order of priorities and the degree of emphasis to be given, in their opinion, to the recommendations of the Administrative Review Committee so that the Senate can discuss their views and the report of the Administrative Review Committee at leisure and in depth and breadth.
Although the discussion of this matter might be unexpected and might have taken the Senate by surprise and although very few honourable senators may feel themselves equipped to discuss the matter - more particularly the substantive report - with any particularity, I believe that the Senate could well resolve tonight, not in a casual way but in a brief manner, to refer this report to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, and let the Senate look forward to discussing the report when the Standing Committee’s report comes forward in due course. For those reasons 1 move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs the following matter - The Report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, dated August 1.971.
I commend the motion to honourable senators. I ask them to carry it and to let the report be referred to the Committee.
(10.20) - Tonight we are confronted with a peculiar situation. I do not want to canvass the situation. We now have to deal with this motion when we did not expect that we would have to deal with it. Nevertheless, I do not think that is a justification for simply moving that the particular report be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs without looking at the substance of the motion. I shall not talk about the matter of substance. I understand that my colleague the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) will refer to it during the course of the debate. As Leader of the Government in the Senate I would not be prepared to accept the proposition that the report referred to in the motion be referred to the Committee. I say that for a particular reason. That reason is fundamental to the matter of references to committees. I believe - I am sure that many members on the Government side believe and 1 have the feeling that members of Senator Byrne’s Party and the main Opposition Party believe - that there is emerging a strong feeling that there should be no further references to committees when there are already references to those committees which, by the very nature of the references, will involve those committees in a very long and arduous period of meetings, the calling of witnesses and the examination of reports.
Senator Withers is the Chairman of the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. Senators Byrne, Durack, Hannan, James McClelland and Murphy are the members of that Committee. The matters referred to it which are still unresolved and which are still for consideration are: The elimination of discrimination against Aborigines (including Torres Strait Islanders) by or under Commonwealth and State laws, which is a reference from 7th October 1971; and the law and administration of divorce, custody and family matters, which is a reference from 7th December 1971. No honourable senator would imagine that those 2 references would be resolved quickly. If I am any judge of the legal timbre of the members of the Committee-
– They are all lawyers.
They are all lawyers in their own right. With great respect to Senator Withers - I knew he will be a stern chairman - anybody who says that that Committee will produce a report on those 2 references in the foreseeable future is living like Alice in Wonderland.
– They might if the fees are high enough and if there are refreshers.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not think that. Those 2 references will demand a tremendous amount of time, effort and research by the Committee. If Senator Byrne’s motion is carried one more item will be referred to the Committee. The merit of the motion has not been debated by the Senate. I believe that proposition is not one to which the Government can subscribe at this time. I would have thought that the correct procedure would be to raise the issue on another day. I understand that the . Attorney-General may have some remarks to make about that. Therefore I will cede to him and to the others who want to speak to the motion. In my judgment, not only in relation to this Committee but to many other committees, we have to start looking at the work . load placed on members of Senate committees. They have an obligation in plenary session, they have an obligation to their constituents and they have obligations in a number of areas. I feel that if they are completely absorbed in committee work that will militate against their ability to participate in the law making processes which occur in this place. For those reasons I am not prepared to support the motion.
– We are in a peculiar position tonight. What is happening now is illustrative of the curious course that events have taken. In the temporary absence of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson I moved a motion which dealt with the arrangement of business. A complaint was made. For once I was innocent. I was trying to do the right thing. We have seen what has happened. Apparently nobody expected the first matter to be dealt with. That was a notice of motion in the name of Senator Willesee. No-one was prepared to deal with it. No-one had the necessary books. Senator Byrne’s notice of motion would have been the second matter to be dealt with in the ordinary course of events. He said quite frankly that he would not proceed with it at length because honourable senators were not prepared to deal with it. So we would have gone down the list until presumably we would have come to the one which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson and I suggested should be dealt with.
– Are honourable senators any more prepared to deal with that than they are with these notices of motion?
– There have been a lot of complaints in the chamber, but I suppose honourable senators expected something to be dealt with. Obviously
Senator Byrne was not prepared to deal with his matter. He did not expect it to be dealt with. 1 will be quite astonished if Senator Gair suggests that he expected his notice of motion to be dealt with tonight. J suppose there is some kind of duty - 1 say this in fairness to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson - ou honourable senators to inquire about the arrangement of business. Persons who want to know what is to be dealt with might inquire of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson or one of the Whips. Honourable senators can make inquiries. I think that out of consideration to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson they should make inquiries. He seems to me to bear the main brunt of the complaints. Perhaps I bear some of the brunt. I do not know that it is always our duty to inform everyone what will be dealt with. It is pretty obvious that those v,»ho are complaining are those who apparently had no expectation as to what would be dealt wilh. They certainly did not expect the first 2 notices of motion would be dealt with. What did they expect would be dealt with? Why was no inquiry made as to whether the first matter would be dealt with? If it was not to be dealt with, the second matter was in the name of the first person to complain about the position.
I deal now with the substance of the motion. Senator Byrne has said that he is not in a position to deal with the matter at great length and that he does not expect that anybody else is in the position to do so; therefore, let us put the motion. That is a pretty fair proposition. A report has been made by the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, lt is a distinguished committee. That report should be debated by the Parliament. The Senate should refer the report to the proper committee because the report is of such a nature that the Senate cannot very well discuss the technicalities of such an important subject. I think there is a lot of sense in that suggestion. The answer given by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was that the Committee has 2 references already and that if it is to report on those before it deals with this matter it will probably take a long time to report on this matter. I do not know that that is a sufficient answer. That really means that if the matter is not referred to the appropriate committee it will not be dealt with in substance by the
Senate. Either it is referred, as Ls proposed, or it is ignored. What is happening in this place- is that a whole host of reports - some not so important, some extremely important - are not given any consideration. It may be that the committee which is asked to look at the report in question may not have a great deal of time to do so but at least there is some chance of its being considered. If the report is not sent to the committee, it is as plain as can be that the report will not be considered properly by anyone in this Senate, and if we do not send it to the committee, the committee will not be able to consider it.
In other countries matters of this kind are approached differently. They set out, as the terms of reference of the committees, all of the subject matters appropriate to be dealt wilh by each committee. If we were following the procedure adopted in the United States, Canada and in other countries we would say to the committee dealing with constitutional and legal affairs: ‘You will consider all matters of law and justice, bankruptcy, copyright, the Judiciary Act, administrative review matters and so on’, and then leave the committee to deal with the various aspects which were important. As the committee could manage its affairs it would report to the Senate bearing in mind any specific directions from the Senate which had been contained in the terms of reference. We are going about this in the other way. We are sending items one by one to the committees, and perhaps we are asking too much in the sense that we expect definitive reports on all of those matters. We expect the committees to send something back to us which is like the law of the Medes and Persians - it is to be the last word on the subject, never to be altered. I do not know that that should be expected of any committee. Rather perhaps we should expect something shorter, something not so full. We should not expect perfection. All we should expect is what the committee can do within a reasonably short time. It may be that there is too much of a striving for perfection.
Speaking on behalf of the Opposition let me say that our policy is clear that there should be an administrative court of appeals to review administrative decisions. That seems to be the fairly generally accepted viewpoint in the community. Here is the report of a committee set up by the Government which has views on the matter. Surely this Senate should at least look at those views in some detail. Is there any other way in which this can be done than by a committee? This is not a great decision to be made. There is no point in our trying to argue here what the committee is saying. This is not the place to do that. I. think it is a fairly simple proposition that we send the report to the committee and let the committee look at it. If the committee finds it convenient to go into great detail on the matter, let the committee do that. If the committee finds that the matter can be dealt with by a more general report to the Senate, that is something with which we will not quarrel.
– Has Order of the Day No. 27 on page 4638 of the notice paper any bearing on this? There is a motion by Senator Wheeldon that the Senate take note of the report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee.
– I think that was an endeavour to ensure that the Senate did not allow the report to pass unnoticed. No-one else had spoken in the debate and I have no doubt that Senator Wheeldon moved that motion so that the report should not pass from our view.
– I would have thought it was a matter for the Senate to discuss, not the committee.
– One would think that the contents of the report could be discussed under that motion - anything can be discussed - but here is a specific proposition by Senator Byrne relating to a reference to a committee. I think it is entirely appropriate. If any significant report were made in the field of law - this is an extremely significant report - my view is that it should be referred to the committee. My recollection is that if Senator Byrne had not moved his motion our intention was to move in similar terms. As a matter of course such a report should go to the committee. If a significant report were made in the field of health and welfare, that probably should be referred to the relevant committee if to do so would assist the Senate in its discussion of the matter. 1 support the proposal. We probably could dispose of it without very much consideration. It would be a matter for the committee as to where it would deal with the report in its order of priorities. I do not think the Government should be greatly concerned about what the committee would do because the committee comprises a number of distinguished members and this is a government report. Why not let us send it to the committee without any great delay?
– Earlier in this debate the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) suggested that it was not wise to pass motions willy nilly referring matters to committees. I support that view completely. I have had a little experience of chairing committees and I believe that you, Mr President, with your great experience in these matters, would agree that a motion of the Senate referring a matter to a committee becomes the reference for that committee. The wording of the motion passed by the Senate is the reference to the committee and no power on earth, other than the Senate, can alter it. If it. had been agreed to refer to the committee, which I understand contains only lawyers, the motion moved by Senator Byrne, an eminent legal member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party-
– That the report should be referred, not the motion.
– The motion is the reference to the Committee. The motion is in these terms:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs the following matter - The Report of the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee, dated August 1971.
What, may I ask, is this committee of the Senate asked to do about the report? Nothing whatever. The Senate is just saying: ‘We are referring the report’. It is obvious that a little thought in this matter would give the mover of the motion and any seconder time to think and to add some instruction to the committee on what it should do about the report. Does the committee report back to the Senate on any portion of it? What does the committee do? At present it would be just a waste of time because we would be putting a piece of paper in front of the committee and not telling the committee to do anything about it. This debate is useful even if it only gets the motion into sensible and understandable language.
– lt is regrettable that so much of the time of the Senate is being taken up with a discussion of this matter, but because I oppose the reference of this report to the committee I feel that I should put some substantive reasons for that view. I certainly agree with what Senator Marriott has said to the effect that if we refer a report to a committee merely for the committee to consider then we are not giving very much guidance to the committee on what it is to do with the report, lt may be that we should develop the practice in the Senate that when reports of many committees, as well as government and other bodies, are tabled in the Senate those reports stand referred automatically, possibly under thu Standing Orders, to the relevant committee and the committee then can take up the reports and use them as it wishes. I think there is some merit in that but, on the other hand, that would preclude the debate in the Senate as a whole on matters arising out of a report which a senator wanted to have discussed. 1 notice that this debate tonight is being carried on in the absence of Senator Wheeldon who secured the adjournment of the debate on the motion that the Senate take note of the report. The report was presented to the Senate on 14th October last year, ft may be that Senator Wheeldon would have something to say about what he would regard as his right to have this matter discussed in the Senate instead of it being referred to a committee. But I feel that the substantive reason why there is little or no merit in referring this particular report to the committee is that the Government at present is taking action with regard to the matters which have been outlined in the report and in due course, when the work has been completed, there will be, I am quite sure, a report of that work. Honourable senators will recall that when the committee’s report was tabled on 14th October last year the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) made a statement.
– Has there been any announcement other than what the AttorneyGeneral has just said about this matter having been taken into consideration by the Government?
– I can assure Senator Byrne that if among his other duties he had time to look at statements which are made by the Attorney-General from time to time he would have noticed that I have announced the appointment of a further committee, presided over by Sir Henry Bland, to examine the discretions which are to be found in Commonwealth legislation. The Committee is to examine the scope of those discretions and whether there is a need for particular reforms in regard to those discretions. That is a painstaking but tremendously important role. We want to find out what is the area of Commonwealth legislation where discretions are contained in the legislation in respect of which people may be concerned to assert a right to appeal to some administrative review council or to an ombudsman, or to have the assistance of a council for grievances, or whatever might be the body which ultimately is resolved upon. Sir Henry Bland is supported by Professor Whitmore, who was a member of the original committee, and also by Mr Peter Bailey, who is a senior officer of the Prime Minister’s Department. I can assure the Senate that that Committee has already started this work. This is part of the programme which was envisaged by the Prime Minister and announced by him when this report was presented last October.
The other thing which the Prime Minister announced at the time he presented the report was that there was to be a study made by me, through m’y Department, of the procedures by which people could take to the courts issues arising out of the exercise of administrative discretions which were concerning them. The old procedures of the so-called prerogative writs - writs of certiorari, prohibition, mandamus and so on - are procedures which lawyers generally have regarded as antiquated and as needing reform. I can assure the Senate that a considerable amount of work is being done in the study already. Accepting that a considerable amount of work is already occurring as a result of the activity following the presentation of this report I can only suggest to the Senate that there is better value in awaiting the outcome of these considerations rather than referring to this Committee, simply for consideration, what is contained in the administrative review report because I believe that there will be a duplication of effort and a concentration of effort on this particular area where what effort is available could be better concentrated on other matters.
– Supposing the Senate had wanted to consider this report and express an opinion for the guidance of the Government, would you say that was inappropriate?
– I certainly would not say that it was inappropriate. I do not dispute the general proposition made by Senator Byrne, and indeed the Prime Minister indicated in his statement that this was the sort of report in respect of which there should have been an informed and considered discussion in the Parliament and in public academic and professional circles. But the Parliament has not had time to get round to a discussion of this, and I am sure that the work which the Government is doing will be finalised and produced long before the Senate Committee could get round to doing any useful work in regard to this. As I have indicated, the work which the Government has set in hand has been under way now for several months. I remind the Senate of what the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said, that this Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee already has 2 quite substantial issues before it to be considered. When we consider that one of them is the law and administration of divorce, custody and family matters, I should imagine that we could scarcely find an issue which is in greater need of attention, examination and remedial measures, or which is larger and more comprehensive than that. Obviously because it is a matter of reference from last year it ought to take priority over any reference or consideration of the Administrative Review Committee’s report.
I can only say that the pressure of work under which the Constitutional Legal
Affairs Committee works was revealed when it presented its report on the Death Penalty Abolition Bill. Far from it being the considered examination of a complex and difficult social problem, it was simply a report that there were some technical defects in the Bill. I can appreciate that having discovered these technical defects the matter should be reported to the Senate as soon as possible, but the substantive issue was ignored by the Committee. I feel that we will be reflecting on the work of committees if we so overload them with work that they cannot give the considered treatment in depth which the particular matters referred to the committees require. A tendency which I regret to see the Senate develop, of referring a host of important and complex matters to each of these committees, will simply so overburden the committees that they will not be able to present worthwhile reports and so justify their existence. I hope that I have shown some good reasons why in this particular case the Senate would be well advised not to refer the report to the Committee but to concentrate on other matters and particularly on those committees which so far do not have matters to consider, or have only one matter in hand. I repeat that this is an area where work is already being undertaken. I believe that results of that work will be produced long before the Senate Committee could do any useful work in the same area. It would be far better for the Senate, if it is interested in pursuing this matter further, to await the outcome of the Government’s further researches.
– The question is that Senator Byrne’s motion be agreed to. All those in favour say ‘Aye’; those against say ‘No’.
Government senators - No.
-Is a division required?
– It is recorded that Government Senators have said ‘No’ and that the Ayes have it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This afternoon we discussed in this chamber a matter relating to the setting up of an emergency organisation on a national level and a fund. I mentioned during the course of that debate a number of factors which were associated with the cyclone disaster in Townsville. I intend to call upon your charity, Mr President. I shall endeavour not to infringe by speaking about anything that I mentioned this afternoon, but there are other matters that I want to talk about in relation to this disaster.
– My ruling, in which I am fortified by consultation with the Clerk of the Senate, is that a debate may not be revived on a motion for the adjournment. If the honourable senator wishes to draw to the attention of the Senate matters which he considered were the result of a mistake or a misunderstanding I shall permit him to do so, but I rule that the honourable senator may not revive in the debate on the motion for the adjournment matters which were the subject of substantive debate earlier in the day.
– I do not want to revive the debate. I want to raise entirely different matters.
– Is this completely outside the context of the discussion of a matter of public importance this afternoon?
– That would be impossible because in the wide ranging debate that we had this afternoon any disaster must have been covered. But what I propose to refer to is not a specific matter associated with today’s debate.
– Then I shall hear the honourable senator, but if he trespasses I will not allow him to proceed.
– I want to make an appeal to the Government of this country on behalf of the residents of my city and the surrounding district for $10m to be made available immediately for relief. I propose to build my story around that plea, Mr President, and I am sure I will not be transgressing on any of the matters that were raised this afternoon. The only thing that could be construed as transgressing on the earlier debate is the fact that some of the figures I quoted will have to be restated. The only money we have had to assist us as a result of the disaster that overtook this northern area is about $250,000 which was raised in an appeal started in Townsville and spread to every capital city in Australia and to many of the provincial cities in Queensland. Not quite that sum is in the pool at the moment but it is anticipated that it will reach that figure.
The only money that we have been able to get from the State Government is a sum of doubtful size but certainly much less than $500,000, given by it for so-called disaster relief, and $250,000 which has been advanced to the Townsville City Council to assist with reconstruction of local authority services. It is true that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) announced that he would give between $5m and $6m by way of aid to Queensland for disaster relief but I say without fear of contradiction that it is unlikely that we will see all or very much of that money devoted to the Townsville area.
What do we need this money for? Firstly, there is a large number of people who were uninsured. Included among them are pensioners - and they may be the greatest group. Next there are people on fixed incomes - people on superannuation or living on small retirement benefits, perhaps supplemented by a pension. By far the biggest group is the low income families who live in a high price area where the situation is being aggravated continuously by increasing inflation. Their position is very sad indeed. Many of these people live in rented homes. One of the tragedies is the fact that landlords renting flats and homes were reluctant to make early attempts to repair the dwellings in which a lot of these people lived. Therefore today some of them are living with friends, others are living in sub-standard dwellings, and others are living in the wreckage of their former homes.
Probably it is difficult for people to understand the magnitude of a disaster such as this without actually seeing the consequences within 2 or 3 weeks afterwards. If I describe a couple of the areas which were barely damaged it might help honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber to understand more completely the necessity for a plea of this nature. Pallarenda is a small suburb of probably 250 houses on the beach north of Townsville. It was on the edge of the eye of the cyclone where there were gale force winds of 150 miles an hour or more. Those great gusts of wind were followed by a tidal wave and there was almost complete destruction in that suburb. Certainly 98 per cent to 100 per cent of the homes were damaged and up to 40 per cent were destroyed totally and will have to be rebuilt. Some people walked out of their homes and said that they did not intend to rebuild them. They hope that with what they get by way of insurance reimbursement and the sale of their land they will be able to purchase a smaller place somewhere else or, alternatively, move into unit constructions.
Picnic Bay on Magnetic Island was about 90 per cent destroyed. Nothing was loft of the shopping centre, nothing was left of the recreational areas and nothing was left of the old hotel. The new motel section of the hotel was badly damaged also. Other areas of that island were not quite so badly hurt. It is true that on Palm Island, where the Aboriginal settlement is located, only 6 or 7 houses were totally destroyed but the damage to the personal belongings of the people living in the shacks there had to he seen to be believed. We cannot get anything for them from the disaster fund because the authorities say that the Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs is supposed to look after the people in this area. The management on Palm Island say that the people concerned can have new mattresses to replace those destroyed by wind and rain and that they can have new clothes for those that were blown away or destroyed but the people have to purchase them at the top market price from the local store. We can get no money and I have a letter from the Premier’s Department saying that this is so.
The charity fund amounting to $250,000. collected through the good offices and services of radio station 4TO, has to meet claims totalling more than $2m. Therefore the people administering the fund have had to work out a scale of priorities, dealing firstly with pensioners and gradually working up to those in the middle income group who will get a few dollars out of lt. People in the higher income group who were not insured and who suffered seriously as a result of the disaster will get nothing from the fund because of their higher incomes and probably will have to replace everything themselves.
When a disaster of this nature occurs in an area it has to be declared, first of all, as a disaster area before any Commonwealth or State grants can be made available. Then a local State Minister normally is appointed to take over the administration of the disaster area. In our case it was a long time before we saw him. This was not his fault - he could not get through because the roads were cut by floods. The police also take over at that point of time. It takes some time to set up the administration. When the Prime Minister visited Townsville - I am not going to requote the headlines at that time - he said that there would be unlimited Commonwealth finance to repair the damage and the havoc caused by the cyclone. When the money did not appear within a matter of a few days a statement was issued saying that it would be applied to the disaster on a $1 for $1 basis. Firstly the State Government had to provide money and then the Commonwealth would make a matching grant to cover every $1 spent by the State.
I think that any person of a serious frame of mind who examined all aspects of the application for this finance would say: Here is a genuine case’. Certainly, there were odd people who tried to be smart and to obtain a renovated house at the expense of the insurance company or the disaster fund if they could get away with it. One case was reported to me of a fellow who had not been able to repair his broken windows for several years. He dashed around with a hammer and cleaned up a few more and said that the insurance would cover the damage. He left a few hammer bruises on the framework of the windows and the insurance company has refused to pay - and rightly so. There were other minor instances. There was the character who decided after losing portion of his roof that the framework wanted replacing anyway and he hit into it with an axe. He did not receive any insurance payment either. However, these were very isolated cases which you will find in all sections of the community. Where money is involved and people think they can get on the band wagon, they will do so. 1 would say that less than 0.5 per cent of the people of Townsville were dishonest. We lived for a month with no street lighting except for the main business section of the town and if anybody wanted to loot and thieve and wreck homes, or engage in any other criminal activity, they had every opportunity of doing so, but they did not.
The only people who attempted to do any looting were those representing a minority of the insurance companies and a minority of the master builders. Claims for repairs may be held up today because a minority of the master builders will not reduce their prices. They do not want people to come in from outside areas and do the work. However, the great proportion of them are honest and want to see Townsville rebuilt. They want to see the areas around this city rebuilt and they will do everything in their power to ensure that it is done. We needed building inspectors and we probably still need them. We needed more assessors. It was very difficult to obtain this sort of assistance. Early in the piece when we asked for additional assessors there was a great uproar from the master builders because they said we did not need them. When we had people coming into town who wanted to work they were told to go away. We had people who were still receiving unemployment benefits. If a Commonwealth grant had been available then as an emergency measure it would have been of considerable benefit to the city. Very early in the piece when 1 knew that people were still in receipt of an unemployment benefit who could have been gainfully employed on reconstruction work with the aid of a Commonwealth grant I immediately contacted the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Lynch). This is the classic letter I received from him:
I refer to your telegram of 29th December, 1971 as follows-
He wrote this letter on 25th January 1972, which is 5 weeks after the cyclone had passed -
Unemployed still registered at Townsville. Can a grant be made to have them employed on reconstruction works.’
I have delayed answering until I obtained more detailed information from my departmental officers in respect of the position in the Townsville area.
Townsville, like most other Queensland coastal areas, experiences regular peaks of seasonal unemployment. These occur principally because of the fluctuating employment requirements of a number of industries, particularly sugar and meat processing. One aggravating factor is that the wet season, coinciding with the trough of seasonal activity, seriously inhibits the type of outdoor work upon which the seasonal unemployed would bc most readily absorbed.
Unemployment in the Townsville area does not appear to have been markedly higher in 1971 than in previous years. Although it is true that there was a larger than usual increase in December 1971, the average level over the year as a whole was quite comparable with the average in 1970, 1969 and 1968.
So far as the Commonwealth Unemployment Relief Scheme is concerned the actual distribution of funds and the organisation of re-employment is in the hands of the State authorities. I am informed that although the Scheme had only a small impact upon Queensland in December its beneficial effects should become more obvious from now on.
Yours sincerely, P. R. Lynch.
That would be the most stupid letter written by any Minister of this Government - and many of them are known for the stupid replies they afford to people with genuine complaints. But I think this would be the classic of all lime.
– Who wrote it?
– That was the honourable Phillip Lynch, a sometime Minister for the Army and currently, unless it has been changed, Minister for Labour and National Service. I thought the telegram was explicit, but this Mr Lynch had never heard of the disaster that overtook the north of my State. The telegram was in these terms:
Unemployed still registered at Townsville. Can a grant, be made to have them employed on reconstruction works.
And this is the sort of stupid, inane letter that I received in reply. There is nothing to prevent the Commonwealth making a straight out grant. Last weekend there were still the best part of 1,000 homes with tarpaulins for roofs or portion of their roofs. There are probably the same number of roofs lying on the ground waiting to be reconstructed. The road that runs from the quarantine station at Cape Pallarenda to the southern end of the city along the Strand still lies in wreckage upon the shore. Bitumen was shifted by the tidal wave in particular and in some cases by the wind so that there is just no road left. For 24 days we had no road out of our suburb.
The water supply to this suburb was broken, as was the water supply from the Paluma Dam to the city of Townsville itself. So the reconstruction needs massive organisation and a massive job of planning. It is possible that the Cape road will never be rebuilt unless it is put further inland with bridge reconstruction and things that go with it.
The Townsville City Council has said that it needs something in the vicinity of $2m. The spokesman for the 2 people who visited Brisbane to get the initial grant of $250,000 said that this was jolly good. I can understand his feelings because he has just been endorsed as a Country Party candidate for the next election. He could not afford to criticise Mr Bjelke-Petersen. But his companion was singularly silent on the matter. Apparently he has not nominated for any Liberal Party seat. But the fact hat one-eighth of the likely requirements of these people is all that has been made available, and it may be that that will be matched by a Commonwealth grant; we do not know. Maybe we shall live yet for many months without roads, without the facilities that we had before this disaster. A disaster of this nature ought to be accepted in a major way as a Commonwealth responsibility. T know that there have been disasters of a similar nature - probably not of the same magnitude - that have struck other places. The bush fires in Tasmania needed massive State and Commonwealth aid. There have been floods and other fires and other cyclones, but 1 doubt whether there has ever been anything of this nature anywhere on the Australian mainland since, we occupied the country 200-odd years ago.
I think that probably we are all saddened by the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) came to Townsville, floated in on a VIP flight, spent his brief 4 hours, made his promise that there shall be unlimited Commonwealth finance, and there we were without power, with our lines broken, our communications broken and our telephone services destroyed. Thousands of telephones did not operate for up to a week. The men of the Postmaster-General’s Department and the people associated with electricity reconstruction performed magnificently throughout. But the Prime Minister on that sunny afternoon, with daylight saving, with his while plane gleaming in the sky, then went off to spend 3 weeks at Surfers Paradise and we never heard another damned thing from him at all. If he is now not prepared to do something about: the situation I believe it ought to be made the subject of a massive public campaign to tell the truth about this Prime Minister and this Government. In this case he has behaved as a con man. He made a promise and refused to keep it at any stage at al). If a man holds the top position in this country and does not have the guts to carry out. his promises he ought not to be there. So I now ask the Government to look at these things.
– I rise to a point of order. T take objection to the manner in which the honourable senator spoke and I ask him to withdraw the comment that our Prime Minister is a con man.
- Senator Keeffe, I think you exceeded the bounds of normal Senate behaviour. Although in the heat of debate you may feci justified in expressing a matter with some form of emphasis, I would be grateful if you would withdraw the word ‘con*.
– 1 did not say he was a con man; T said that he acted like one. 1 did not say he was one.
– Whatever you said, that is actually the effect of it.
– I feel very emotional about this. This is a dreadful state of affairs. Thousands of people are suffering and one man could come in for 4 hours, tell us wholesale lies about what the Commonwealth intends to do and then do nothing.
– You cannot get around me like that. I asked you, as a result of Senator Webster’s-
– No, I will not withdraw it. 1 am sorry about that. I did not say it, and I will not withdraw something I did not say.
– 1 thought you made a reference to the Prime Minister not in accordance with the normal terms in which honourable senators conduct a- debate. You may use any other expression which indicates that you have lost your faith in the
Prime Minister. I am willing to accept that, but I do not think I can accept the phraseology that you used.
– I did not say it and I will not withdraw something I did not say.
– Would you explain in other terms what you meant?
– One can get emotional over something where justice has not been given. When I made the statement I did not say it in the context in which Senator Webster now accuses me of saying it. I did not mean it in that Way. I feel that if I did not say something I cannot withdraw it.
– I accept that. The honourable senator may continue with his speech.
– After that disturbance to my train of thought-
– I rise to order. 1 object to the expression which was used contrary to the Standing Orders that the Prime Minister has told wholesale lies. The Standing Orders of the Senate require that no honourable senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any members of such Houses. In my judgment, there has been an abuse by the honourable senator of the forms and privileges of this House. I certainly feel that it is contrary to the Standing Orders thai he should use the language that he has. He certainly did accuse the Prime Minister of telling wholesale lies. I draw that to your attention, Mr President, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I realise that that was a harsh word. May I withdraw it and say that all that happened was that the Prime Minister told a series of untruths about the matter.
– They were what appeared to be a series of untruths. Is Senator Greenwood content with that7
– It is not a matter of my being content. It is a matter of the Senate regarding its forms being properly used.
– I think that Senator Keeffe has indicated that in the heat of the moment he used an expression he now regrets using.
– I make this final appeal. Unless this cash is made available, this city will not be reconstructed within the next 5 years. In circumstances such as these, the onus ought to be on the Commonwealth. Money can be provided for hundreds of other things and in much greater sums than the $10m for which I am asking now. For instance, $30,000 was spent to shift the statue of King George V from one part of the lawn in front of Parliament House to the other side. Up to $25,000 was spent in sending the GovernorGeneral to a feast of roast peacock in Persia last year. We can even send him in an aircraft of the VIP flight to make sure he arrives there comfortably.
– We sent the Leader of the Opposition and his family-
– They would not even have the honourable senator in Peiping, let alone Peking. One is associated with ducks and the other with China. If money can be spent flippantly, even at this time of great economic crisis, surely we can find a few million dollars for a massive reconstruction job. I leave that appeal with the Government and I hope that the Minister will convey my thoughts on this matter to the Prime Minister on behalf of the people of north Queensland.
– 1 seek leave to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– No. I thought I ought to explain a matter to the Senate following a communication from the Whip of the Government parties dealing with a subject on which I spoke earlier.
– The honourable senator may proceed on the motion for the adjournment to make his statement.
– During the debate tonight on Senator Murphy’s motion there was some discussion between Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson and other honourable senators in the chamber regarding Senator Murphy bringing on his motion and attempting to transpose it above other motions on the business paper. The Australian Democratic Labor Party had occasion to be concerned that that procedure had been embarked upon without notice to its members. Senator Gair indicated that he had not been informed. I am reminded that during a casual conversation at dinner tonight - 1 thought it was some time earlier - I asked what would happen. 1 think it was Senator Young who mentioned that such and such would happen and that Senator Murphy’s motion would then be dealt with. It was a conversation like that. It was a somewhat casual remark. However, to the extent to which that was an intimation to me and, therefore, to the Party which was not conveyed by me to Senator Gair, in the circumstances to that extent the Party was aware that Senator Murphy’s motion probably would come forward. 1 think I owe it to the Senate, to Senator Young and to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson to indicate that that was within my knowledge. 1 think it should have been communicated at the time during the course of the debate.
– What about some apology to me? I was criticised.
– If that is so, I am prepared, so far as it is within my capacity to tender an apology, to do so. I regret that 1 have occasion to do it. lt was within my knowledge. It was such a casual conversation that it did not warrant a serious communication. But I did know that and perhaps had I intimated it at the time such a situation might have been avoided. I now tender any necessary apologies and offer any necessary explanations.
– 1 wish to raise 2 matters coming within the ambit of the portfolio of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood). 1 notified the AttorneyGeneral earlier this evening of the subject matters on which I would be speaking during this adjournment debate. The first relates to a report that appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 18th November 1971 after the Attorney-General had appeared on the Australian Broadcasting Commission programme ‘This Day Tonight’ on Tuesday, 16th November when he was in the Canberra studios of the ABC and a draft resister, Mr Michael Matteson, was in the studios of the ABC at Gore Hill in Sydney. Apparently, on 17th November, the day after the appearance on television, a journalist from the Melbourne ‘Age’ contacted Senator Greenwood and as a result of the interview that took place a report appeared in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 1 8th November under the heading ‘Stations told don’t interview evaders’. The story went on to say:
The Federal Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) yesterday warned commercial television stations against broadcasting interviews with seven men “ On the Run “ from national service.
The report continued:
He hinted that commercial stations could be investigated by the Commonwealth police for “ the offence of being an accessory after the fact “.
The report then continued to set out the chronology of events as they took place and added that Senator Greenwood said he opposed commercial stations showing interviews with draft resisters. According to the report he said:
It is inappropriate and not serving the public interest for it to be on national TV. The same applies to the commercial stations.
If the facts warranted a police investigation the police would investigate irrespective of whether it was the ABC or the commercials.
Senator Greenwood said that he did not believe the Commonwealth Police were incompetent. Eventually I believe these people will be apprehended,’ he said.
Frankly, 1 do not know - I state this specifically now - whether the report was an accurate one. Certainly, the AttorneyGeneral did not think so because on that evening of 18th November he issued a statement disputing the report. The details of his disputation were published on i Nh November, the next day, in the Melbourne Age’.
– Not all of them; that is the point.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDThat is a matter for the honourable senator to explain. So far as I am aware, and so far as the public is aware, a report of the Attorney-General denying the accuracy of the report of 1 8th November was published on 19th November. It reads:
The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) Inst night issued a statement disputing ‘The Age’ report yesterday of an interview about the television appearance of draft-resister Michael Matteson.
The Senator said:
The headline “ Minister tells TV stations beware’ “ was inaccurate and misleading.
The leading paragraphs of the article were inaccurate.
Senator Greenwood said: “ The headline does not relate to anything I said and therefore . lacks a factual basis.
I did not warn commercial TV stations not to broadcast interviews with ‘seven men on the run from national service “.
I ask at this stage: Does the AttorneyGeneral deny using the expression ‘on the run’? If so, in what context was it used? The report then continues: “ “The Age’ report asserts that I hinted that commercial TV stations could be investigated by the Commonwealth Police for the offence of being an accessory after the fact. “What “The Age’ reporter chooses to take as a hint is not for me to explain. It was upon specific inquiries from him that I indicated that whether any offence had occurred depended on the circumstances of the case and the nature of the facts revealed by investigation.
If it had occurred, it was in the nature of being an accessory after the fact. For the ‘Age’ to report this in a manner implying any sort of threat from me is to place an entirely false emphasis on my remarks.
That is the report of the denial of the earlier report by the Attorney-General in the Melbourne ‘Age’ of 1 9th November. But at the conclusion of that denial there was a footnote under the heading ‘Editor’s Reply’. It read:
The ‘Age’ stands by its report. The statements attributed to Senator Greenwood are accurate. The ‘interpretation’, to use Senator Greenwood’s words, is supported by a detailed shorthand note of the conversation between the senator and our reporter.
I assume that the editor of the ‘Age’ called for the shorthand notes of the journalist involved in the interview. Apparently, after perusing the shorthand notes, the editor satisfied himself that the statements attributed to the Attorney-General were accurate and that the interpretation involved in the headlines as a result of the story was supported by a detailed shorthand note of the conversation between the AttorneyGeneral and the journalist.
After that report had appeared, the Attorney-General chose to remove the wig and gown of his office and as a private citizen, not as a Minister, made an approach to an industrial union of employees, namely the Australian Journalists Association of which I am a member and of which I assume the journalist involved is a member, seeking the assistance of the union to get redress for Mr Greenwood. The January issue of the ‘Journalist’, the official organ of the Australian Journalists Association, states that a letter was received by the federal executive of the union seeking the assistance of the union to get redress for the writer who complained of the treatment of him by one of the country’s most responsible newspapers, namely the Melbourne Age’. It is pointed out that the complainant was none other than the AttorneyGeneral for the Commonwealth, Senator Greenwood.
The federal executive of the union told Senator Greenwood of the machinery available to him to bring a complaint against the member who had interviewed him, but it had to tell him:
We cannot help you in your efforts for redress from the Melbourne ‘Age’. The’ editor is the sole arbiter of how your complaint is to be handled by that newspaper.
Details of Senator Greenwood’s letter to the federal executive of the union are then set out. Included in the letter is the statement:
I do not do so-
That is, refer this matter to the AJA:
But the reply from the federal executive of the union, as I have indicated, was that in its opinion it was not a matter for Mt Greenwood, a private citizen, and the Federal Executive of the Australian Journalists Association-
– Order! Senator Greenwood is not a private citizen. He is a senator of the Commonwealth of Australia and will be addressed and referred to as such.
All right. At the time when he approached the Australian Journalists Association, he was acting, Mr President, as a private citizen.
– Well, he is still a senator.
– Be that as it may, the Australian Journalists Association which is a registered industrial union refused to take up the case against the reported statements made by Senator Greenwood in his capacity as AttorneyGeneral.
– If it did, it could have been deregistered, or something.
– 1 do not deny that in a private capacity he had the right, as anyone has the right, to approach the Association-
– Has the Australian Journalists Association any power to enforce a code of ethics? Has it the power?
– The senator has been told the manner of redress that he has through the Australian Journalists Association. That is as 1 understand it.
– But the AJA does have that power, does it not?
– This is the point I am coming to. If the union can take action against the journalist concerned, assuming that Senator Greenwood proves his case, what is the situation as far as Senator Greenwood and the Melbourne ‘Age’ are concerned? The union cannot force the Melbourne ‘Age’ to retract any statement made or direct it to be made by the editor of that newspaper. Surely this is a matter between Senator Greenwood and the editor of the ‘Agc’. I darc say that if anything was attempted to be done in that way there would be a strike immediately. The Australian Journalists Association, rightly or wrongly, has said that it has no control over an employer of one of its members. But the complaint is one between Senator Greenwood and the Melbourne ‘Age’.
Mr President, the Australian Journalists Association has been fighting for years for the establishment of an Australian council of the Press, lt has continually pointed out to this Government that there is such a council, which is a voluntary council, in Great Britain. There is a statutory council of the Press in India. A New Zealand Press council was formed last year by the New Zealand Journalists Association and the New Zealand Newspaper Proprietors Association. On 24th September 1969 the former Attorney-General - the present Minister lor Foreign Affairs (Mr Bowen) - expressed the opinion in an answer to me in this Parliament that consideration should be given to the establishment of an Australian Press council along the lines of the United Kingdom Press council. 1 ask the Minister as Attorney-General whether
Senator Greenwood claims his remarks have been distorted: Will he support the proposal of the Australian Journalists Association to establish a council of the Press?
Now I come to the second matter with which 1 wish to deal. J regard this as being of a much more serious nature. ii is the decision by somebody - be it the AttorneyGeneral himself or be it a senior officer of the Commonwealth Police - to order the invasion of the home of Mr Michael Mattheson’s mother in Sydney on Christmas Day, the most sacred day of the year for all Australians. This woman was subjected to a raid by, she says, about 8 officers of the Commonwealth Police in the full gaze of everyone who lives in her .street. Here was this woman, who incidentally is a widow, concerned about her son, especially on Christmas Day, trying as best she could with her 3 daughters to appreciate the joys and spirit of Christmas, when her privacy was invaded and her dignity offended. How long the Australian people are to tolerate this sort of treatment under this Government I do not know. It appears to me that if this sort of treatment is allowed to continue we will very rapidly under this Government reach the condition of a police State.
Mrs Mattheson tried to get in touch with me, so she says, shortly after this event took place, but at that time I was away on holiday. She eventually contacted me by telephone and had a discussion with me. I suggested that she should put her complaint to me in writing, which she has now done. With the forbearance of the Senate, I intend reading her letter to me because I think that it indicates to the Australian people what is going on in this Department which is under the administration of the Attorney-General. Her letter reads:
Dear Senator McClelland,
My late father, the Hon. Chris Love, M.L.C.-
Incidentally, Chris Love was a very fine and honourable member of the Australian Labor movement. He was a friend of my colleague, Senator Mulvihill, for many years, and for many years he worked in the office of the Australian Labor Party when Senator Kane was one of the officials of my Party. I shall read the letter again from the beginning:
My late father the Hon. Chris Love, M.L.C. introduced me to yon many years ago. My name is Patricia Matteson and my son is Michael Christopher Matteson the ‘draft-resister’ who appealed on the A.B.C.’s programme ‘This Day Tonight’ at the same time as Senator Greenwood, Attorney-General.
Senator Greenwood stated that evening that there was a ‘twenty-four hour’ watch on our home at Pemell Street, Enmore. However on Christmas morning at approximately 10.30 a.m. the Commonwealth Police raided and searched my home. If there was this continued vigilance was the raid simply an exercise to ‘terrorize’ myself and three daughters who live here alone? Had they been watching (as stated) they most certainly should have known Michael was not here.
The attitude of the gentlemen who entered my home was most belligerent - but understandable, as it was Christmas morning. My daughter answered the door and before she could call me a Cons. Dove had entered the hallway - he showed me an identification card and then informed me he was going to ‘search’ the house, I asked for a ‘search warrant” - was shown a paper by a Constable (Dodkin) who accompanied him. 1 really could not say if this was a search or ‘arrest’ warrant, as I was not given time to read it. I informed these gentlemen Michael was not here and Constable Dove’s reply was ‘We are going to search this house - we have good reason to believe your son Michael Matteson is now on those premises’. I then asked if he was sure he had a ‘search warrant’ as I could not read the paper shown - his reply was ‘We don’t need a “search warrant”, we cun search these premises anytime we like’ - I said go ahead and search we have nothing to hide’.
I then went to the telephone box at the corner of the street and ‘phoned the State police at Newtown. 1 remind honourable senators opposite that this was Christmas Day. The letter continued:
I asked if our home could be searched without a warrant - and was given the reply - ‘We don’t interfere with the Commonwealth Police lady’. While I was at the ‘phone’ Const. Dove said to one of my daughters ‘that won’t do her any good ringing the State Police, they’re in on this too’.
– How did she know what her daughter said?
– I assume that her daughter told her.
– Does the honourable senator deny that a raid took place in this woman’s home on Christmas Day? If he can get up and defend this action he should do so. Let us get on with the story. Let us hear something which was not hearsay.
– I think that every honourable senator would be better informed if you read the letter, senator.
– I am entitled to make a comment about this. I am entitled to read the letter, and this is not hearsay. The letter continued:
The search over I was rather amazed to see so many Commonwealth Police appear - apparently they were at the back of the house etc there must have been at least eight surrounding the house. They, walked up to a gentleman standing at the corner dressed in sport shirt and slacks who greatly resembled the Assistant Commonwealth Police Commissioner.
This police officer was named. The letter continued:
Contables Dove and Dodkin walked up to their car parked near the ‘phone box and Const. Dove handed me the enclosed card and said ‘in case you want to use our names here’s our card’ - he was most sarcastic and made a number of remarks. It’s a bit different when you don’t have a microphone in front of you’ - ‘You and your son think you’re very smart trying to make fools of the Commonwealth Police’ - to which I replied - ‘Neither my son nor I are interested in making fools of the Comm. Police - his issue is conscription’ - you have confused the issue - our fight is against ‘conscription’. He then said ‘You have our names on the card I’ve given you maybe you can do something about getting us the suck too’.
I emphasise the last word. The letter continued: 1 have been most upset about this last remark and find it difficult to understand - could be was referring to an occasion when a reporter from ABC’s Radio ‘Current Affairs’ program was here to interview me. This was early in October - the reporter was sitting here in the lounge-room talking with us when two Commonwealth Police arrived at the door - he heard them say, to me Mrs Matteson we are no longer interested in your son, we are now going to concentrate on you’ - ‘Whose passport did you use to come into Australia - When was your husband killed? What date1 - hour and year did you arrive in this country? - Where did you arrive? - how did you get here? - I answered these questions and ended the interview - The reporter then followed to their car - introduced himself and asked ‘Why are you asking Mrs Matteson such personal questions which have nothing to do with her son Michael’? - ‘No comment*. - ‘its none of your business’ - he was taping their remarks - however the interview never got to air.
I interpolate here to indicate that this woman was an Australian citizen who had married an American serviceman, as I understand it. She went to America to take up residence with her husband who unfortunately was killed. Upon his death she returned with her family to Australia. The letter continued:
Senator I was wondering if you could make a few enquiries re the raid on Christmas day and just why so many personal and belligerent remarks. I fully appreciate that the Commonwealth Police have a “job to do’ - but find it hard to understand why the police of our country should be so aggressive in doing their duty - Michaels only crime has been nol to register for National Service he is not ‘that notorious criminal Michael Matteson - as described by Senator Jack Kain( on the Brian White program on 2GB.
Many thanks for taking £he time to read this long letter.
Sir, 1 am very concerned that this type of treatment should be meted out to Australian citizens, especially on Christmas Day. To me it smacks of terrorism of the first order, ft is an invasion of privacy of an Australian woman’s home, lt frightens me to think that this sort of thing can go on in this fair land.
I ask the Minister whether he ordered the raid. If he did, 1 say here and now he should be ashamed of himself and at the very least he should offer an apology to the lady concerned. Such a raid on a decent, reputable citizen is repugnant to me and especially, I emphasise, at Christmas time. I am sure that ali decent thinking Australians will be of the same opinion. If the Attorney-General did not order the raid 1 ask: Were the details of the raid in fact reported to him? If he did nol order the raid does he now condone it? Will he ascertain for me, if he did not order it. who did in fact order the raid and will he take action to ensure that the rights and privileges of ordinary, decent Australian people are preserved and protected at all times, and above all else on Christmas Day, the day of peace on earth and goodwill to all men?
Douglas McClelland has taken a great deal of the time of the Senate at this late hour to raise 2 matters. * can understand why he raised the second matter having regard to the interest which he and his Party have shown in the efforts of the Commonwealth Police to apprehend persons for whom warrants of arrest have been issued. But I am at a loss to understand why the first issue was raised in the way in which it was raised, and I feel that I can. only in fairness to the point of view which I held and to the facts of the matter which have not been fully related, set out the other side of the story just so that the record is complete.
I know that the Senate is aware that there was an interview on television on the night of 16th November when the Australian Broadcasting Commission had me in the Canberra studio and the person for whom the police were searching in its studio in Sydney. Following that, there was some public controversy. The Melbourne Age’ had as its main headline on page 1 on 18th November: ‘Minister tells TV stations “beware” ‘. The word ‘beware’ was in quotation marks. I was concerned because I had not told the television stations to beware; nor had I warned, as the newspaper alleged, commercial television stations against broadcasting interviews with 7 mcn on the run. I had not hinted that commercial television stations could be investigated by the Commonwealth Police for the offence of being an accessory after the fact. Yet this was the main story on page 1 of one of Australia’s leading newspapers, the Melbourne Age’.
I thereafter look action of a character I have never taken before or since. I was concerned firstly to ring the person who was the Chairman of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations, who had said that censorship of this character would be resisted. 1 told him that I had not made the statements and there was no occasion for him to see any threat of censorship. He informed me - Mr Cairns was the man to whom I spoke - tha; he had been told of this by an ‘Agc’ reporter who had rung him. I then spoke to Mr Perkin, who is the Editor of the ‘Age’. I informed him that his story was untrue and that I wanted to know what he would do about it. We had a long discussion in which he sought to explain and justify the headline on the basis that, it was fair comment in the light of what was contained in the body of the report. But he said that he would check with his reporter. 1 had told him that 1 had not used the word ‘beware’ and there it was in quotation marks in the main headline.
About 5 hours later I received a telephone call from Mr Perkin and he admitted to me that I had not used the word beware’ and that it should not have appeared in the headline in quotation marks. As to the rest of the report, he said that as far as the ‘Age’ was concerned it was standing by it and it had a shorthand report. But I think it is significant that in that context 1 was told that although the headline contained the word ‘beware’ in quotation marks, which normally would indicate clearly an exact quotation, that word had not in fact been used. I asked Mr Perkin whether he would publish a statement by me denying that I used the word ‘beware’. He assured me that consideration would be given to any statement I made.
Accordingly, I then prepared a statement which 1 circulated to the Press Gallery in Canberra because there had been many inquiries from journalists throughout the day as to the truth or otherwise of the report in the ‘Age’. 1 should say that, although I had many conversations with journalists the day before the ‘Age’ account appeared, the ‘Age’ was the only newpaper in this country which ran any such story: no other newspaper had any account which in any way resembled what the ‘Age’ said. So I prepared the statement. It started off as follows:
The major headline on the front page of todays ‘Age’ stating ‘Minister tells TV stations “beware”’ te wholly inaccurate and grossly misleading.
Whilst the ‘Age’, of course, published part of that, it left out the words ‘grossly misleading’ because they were probably too offensive to the ‘Age’. I then said in the statement:
The headline does not relate to anything I said and therefore lacks a factual basis.
That was printed in the ‘Age’. I then said:
T did not use the word ‘beware’ which is in quotation marks in the headline.
That was left out by the ‘Age*. I then said:
The headline is not even supported by the main body of the ‘Age’ report.
The ‘Age’ left that out. I then said:
Moreover, the leading paragraphs of the article arc inaccurate.
That was reported by the ‘Age’, and so was about two-thirds of the statement which I had made. I said - these are parts which were not printed in the ‘Age’:
A number of journalists spoke to me yesterday, asking similar questions and receiving similar answers. No other reports shared the ‘Age’s’ interpretation of what was said. To claim as the ‘Age’ editorial does, that my ‘attack on the ABC and subsequent warning to commercial television stations’ amounts to ‘an arrogant and quite unjustifiable attempt at intimidation’ is wholly unwarranted and unfair. 1 expect that, in fairness, the ‘Age’ will accord full publicity to this statement.
I must say that the ‘Age’ published part of the account. It did not, of course, give it any coverage on page 1. It gave it a small space on page 5. I consider that any person in public life, having the sort of statement attributed to him as was attributed to me by the ‘Age’, when one has a view which one has held almost all of one’s life on censorship and restriction of that character as something to which one is totally opposed, would feel required to take soma action. I felt that the appropriate body to which I could refer to ascertain the position was the Australian Journalists Association which claims to be a professional body, albeit Senator Douglas McClelland calls it a union, and that members of the Australian Journalists Association have a standard of ethics on which they pride themselves.
I am conscious, as I think we all are, that journalists regard their obligation not to disclose their sources of information as based upon an ethical situation. I would have thought that if ethics of that character were strongly adhered to, as I know they are, the other ethics which are set out in the Code of Ethics of the Australian Journalists Association could also be upheld. So I wrote a letter to the AJA. In the light of what has been said I ask for leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard that letter and the reply that I received from the Association.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document reads as follows): 1 December 1971
I write to invite the consideration of your Executive of a headline and lead paragraphs in the Melbourne ‘Age’ on 18 November and of the outcome of my objection to the accuracy of the report.
The headline and first two paragraphs - which constituted the main story on page 1 - attributed to me a warning to commmercial TV stations. I gave no such warning. The alleged warning was published in no other paper (except for a part reproduction of the same material in the ‘Sydney Daily Telegraph’). However, The Age’ report has become the basis for a commonly accepted view that I have sought to impose or threaten censorship. There has been considerable critical comment of what I am alleged to have done and as one example, I received a telegram from 32 journalists of The Australian* expressing their strong objection.
All of this 1 greatly regret.
The Age’ report was inaccurate and my efforts to have a correction adequately publicised - even if this could be a wholly effective means of rebutting the effect of an untrue headline - have been nullified by the manner in which ‘The Age’ has treated my statement seeking a correction.
My purpose in bringing the matter to your attention is to invite appropriate consideration from the body which seeks to assert and to maintain the professional standards of journalism. I am aware that the Australian Journalists Association has published a code of ethics and I assume that you would agree that there is no value in a code of ethics if it can be departed from with impunity. Journalists often feel constrained to assert that the code of ethics obliges them to respect their sources of information and to do so irrespective of the consequences. This I can understand and appreciate. However, if one item of the code of ethics has this acceptance it would appear appropriate that ethical standards asserted by the Australian Journalists Association should also be capable of being upheld.
It is on this assumption that I refer these matters lo you. I do so not by virtue of any authority deriving from office but simply as a citizen exploring an avenue of redress.
May ] set out the following facts which indicate my concern.
He hinted that commercial stations could be investigated by the Commonwealth Police for “the offence of being an accessory after the fact” ‘.
I enclose ‘The Age’ report of 18th November, my statement, and ‘The ‘Age’ report of 19th November. It will be noted that significant parts of my statement have been omitted in a way which discloses that it was selectively edited in a manner which I regard as both unfair and damaging to me.
As mentioned in paragraph (8) above Mr Perkin agreed that I had not used the word beware’ and that ‘The Age’ headline should not have contained that word - as a quote or at all.
My statement contained my denial that I had used that word.
The Age’ report of 19th November omits entirely all reference to my denial of this basic feature of the original headline - which feature was admitted by Mr Perkin to have been inaccurate.
Not only does the report omit my denial (admitted by the Editor to be correct) but it adds an Editorial postcript to claim that the Statements originally attributed to me were correct.
I set out the above facts for the attention of your Executive and for the purpose of seeking such redress asthe Executive body of Journalists in Australia considers appropriate. I know that great difficulties arise in terms of resolving disputed accounts of events and conversations but even without such issues being entered upon it appears to me that the treatment of my statement leaves much to be desired as a matter of responsible journalism.
IVOR J. GREENWOOD
Mr G. F. Godfrey, General President, Australian Journalist’s Association, 58 Margaret Street, SYDNEY. NSW 2000. 1 0th December 1971
SenatorI. J. Greenwood, Australian Senate, Canberra, A.C.T. 2600.
I acknowledge your letter of 1st December last. It was read to last night’s meeting of the Federal Executive of this Association and I am pleased to say I was directed to reply thanking you for referring the matter to our Association, and to set out to you the Association’s reaction to the matters raised.
Your letter raises 4 issues. First is the correctness of the report forwarded to ‘The Age’ by our member, Mr B. Hills; second, the heading and lead paragraph which appeared in ‘The Age’; third, the treatment by ‘The Age’ editor, Mr Perkin, of your objection to the headline and lead paragraph; and fourth, the deletions by ‘The Age’ from your prepared statement.
In connection with the first issue - the correctness of the report by Mr B. Hill - My Association takes great pride in the fact that its rules and Constitution include a Code of Ethics and machinery for the observance of the Code. I am enclosing a copy of the Rules and Constitution of the AJA and draw your attention to Rule 49 (Code of Ethics) and Rules 50, 51 and 52 which deal with complaints, discipline and appeals.
Rule 49 makes provision for any person to lodge a complaint against any member alleging a breach of the Code of Ethics. You will see there is a provision for you to bring a complaint against Mr Hills if you consider that he breached one of the clauses of the Code.
But, as Federal Executive reads your letter, your complaint is not so much against Mr Hills as against the treatment you got from ‘The Age’, although you do say that the headline and lead paragraphs were not only totally inaccurate but contrary to the opinions you hold. Mr Hills might have been responsible for the lead paragraph, but he would not have been responsible for the headline. And, incidently, if you lodged a complaint against Mr Hills, a Judiciary Committee, which would investigate the matter, would have to decide whether it believed your version of the interview or Mr Hills, and, remember. Mr Perkin has stated that Mr Hills has a shorthand note of the interview.
So, that brings us to the treatment you got from the Editor of ‘The Age’ (Mr Perkin), including the deletions from your statement, and we note that you say in the last paragraph of your letter ‘. . . it appears to me that the treatment of my statement leaves much to be desired as a matter of responsible journalism.’
My Association has as one of its objects the following: “ To uphold and defend the professional interests, status and rights of members and the usages and customs of journalism.” But, and no doubt you will fully appreciate, that objective has substantial limitations because our members are employees of the companies which produce Australia’s newspapers, television news services and radio news services. Operating under our Rules, which include the Code of Ethics,we have our right to work for an employer or leave his employment if we are dissatisfied with him. But, we have no say in how he shall conduct his business. Certainly, we have no say in how he shall deal with complaints.
For several years we have been agitating for the establishment in Australia, or in the States, of an Australian Council of the Press or a Council of the Press In each State. The Commonwealth Government rejected our proposition on constitutional grounds and the States turned us down for various reasons. We have approached the Metropolitan Daily Newspaper proprietors with the proposition that they agree to the setting up of a Council. We are to meet them next year.
We envisage a General Council of the Press which would deal with the sort of letter you forwarded to my Federal Executive - a complaint against a newspaper by a person who feels he has been wrongly reported or misrepresented and desires to put the record straight by having the newspaper publish a statement. In the United Kingdom a General Council of the Press deals with these sort of complaints and adjudication is by people of high standing in the newspaper industry, lay people and a judge as an independent chairman. In the event of the Council upholding the complaint the offending newspaper is not only asked to publish the finding, but, in such a complaint as yours, to give publication in its original form of the distorted statement.
It is the view of my Association that commercial interests, as newspapers are, should not have the exclusive right to determine the standards by which popular journalism is to live. Our view is that the standards should be set by a Press Council.
Your recent brush with ‘The Age’ highlights the need for a Press Council. We would appreciate any help you can give us in our efforts to have a Press Council established.
Apart from drawing your attention to our Code of Ethics and the machinery for lodging and dealing with complaints we cannot help you in your efforts for redress - the editor of The Age’ is the sole arbitor of how your complaint is to be handled by that newspaper.
My Executive dissociates itself from any telegram you> may have received from a group of journalists or individual journalist. The Federal Executive of the A.J.A. is the only constitutional authority (apart from Federal Council when it is in session) to issue statements on behalf of the Association. It has made no decision either on the ‘This Pay Tonight’ interview with a draft resister and your immediate reaction, or the subsequent newspaper reports which included your statement’ in The Age’.
However, it is a basic right of journalists to report and interpret the news and when our members on ‘This Day Tonight’ interviewed a draft resister who was wanted by the police and when they did nothing to detain him so that the police could get their hands on him, they were properly performing the functions of journalists and acting properly within the Association’s Code of Ethics.
– I received from the Australian Journalists Association a considered reply and I was appreciative of the effort which had gone into its compilation. The Executive of the AJA informed me that I had a right to appeal, to make a complaint under the rules to a district body, and that district body is in Victoria. I chose not to take any action about a formal complaint because I read from the rules that the personnel who would deal with the matter would be personnel in Victoria. I was well aware from a report in the Canberra ‘Times’ shortly following this incident that the Victorian district body of the Australian Journalists Association had protested against what it called my intimidation. Therefore that body quite clearly had prejudged the issue and there was no point in making any complaint to a body set up by the Victorian district of the Australian Journalists Association. The report in the Canberra ‘Times’ of 23rd November stated:
The Victorian District of the Australian Journalists Association called tonight for a strong protest to the Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, over the Michael Matteson incident. The District asked its Federal Executive to protest to Senator Greenwood ‘on his attempt to intimidate AJA members in the performance of their journalistic duties’.
Obviously the Federal Executive of the Australian Journalists Association would have been aware of the protest from the Victorian body, and I think it ought to have been aware that there was not much prospect of success for an appeal by me to that body for redress against the ‘Age’. So that particular avenue was not pursued. My complaint was not against the journalist who reported .me but against the headline and the lead paragraphs which I assumed were the responsibility of the editor. The letter I received in reply from the Journalists Association indicated that no action could be taken by its Executive against the editor of the ‘Age’. Apparently that was because he represented the proprietoral interests and proprietors are not affected by anything that the Journalists Association can do. I had assumed that if a person were a journalist - I believe that editors of newspapers are journalists - the association to which they belonged, if it prided itself on its ethics, at least could have made representations to its member or could have taken into consideration the conduct of its member. But there was no adverting to that possibility in the letter I received and obviously no intention of taking any such action.
I appreciate that the letter I received used my complaint as sound ground to appeal to me to support the establishment in this country of a Press council. That is the way in which I viewed the reply which I received. I conclude this aspect of what 1 have to say by simply asserting that to me it was a salutary example not so much of what the ‘Age’ can do - all of us and I in particular have had experience of various reports in the ‘Age’ in times past - but as an indication that there is no redress through the Journalists Association when some editorial action is taken by a newspaper, because the attitude of the AJA Executive is to regard that as a matter affecting the proprietor and not as an area in which it can act. 1 regret that. I regret that because 1 believe that professional bodies, whether they be professional bodies of lawyers, doctors, architects or journalists, show the strength of their profession if they can impose a self discipline upon members who do not adhere to the code of ethics. Whilst I sought this redress through the AJA and was unsuccessful, J do hope that it might be one small factor in seeking to develop within that association what I feel would be to the advantage of the Journalists Association and generally to the advantage of those who from lime to ia me have cause to complain about how they are treated by the newspapers.
The other matter which has been referred to is the incident which occurred on Christmas Day at the house of Mrs Matteson. I was not aware that this incident had occurred until about 3 hours ago when Senator Douglas McClelland gave me an indication that this matter would be raised tonight. I sought information. 1 received a report which had been prepared by the constable who was at the premises. Apparently he prepared it shortly after he had conducted the investigation at the premises. 1 think I should say that Mr Matteson is a person for whom a warrant of arrest has been issued. He is a person who has sought to speak publicly, to have questions asked of him in public places and then to move away in the hope thru he will not be arrested and that out of it all there can be some publicity for the cause which he is advancing. This has been done repeatedly, and it is part of Mr Matteson’s tactics.
The people who are usually left to be the butt of jokes by a number of people and invariably a few comments from Labor senators are the hard working officers of the Commonwealth Police Force who are endeavouring to do their job to the best of their ability. 1 object to the words which have been used here that fellow Australians who are policemen are Gestapo and that they are terrorists. I have met a number of these people. I know that they are not. They are officered by people to whom the whole concept of terror and Gestapo is completely foreign. I do not think it serves the Labor Party or the Senate well for a few Labor Party sena tors, in pursuit of cheap political advantage, to denigrate Commonwealth policemen by calling them Gestapo and terrorists.
The position with regard to what happened on Christmas Day has not, on the account which has been given to me, the same colour that has been given to it by Senator Douglas McClelland. In the first place there were 2 police officers who went into Mrs Matteson’s house, she having invited them in when one of them told her the purpose for which he was there. There were not 8 officers who went into the house, and that 1 can state only on the report I have received. It is equally to be recognised that this was not a raid but a search, because the officers went to the front door and asked whether they could come in. They told the person to whom they spoke the purpose of their visit and were allowed in. 1 do not believe it is appropriate to call that a raid. There were, as Senator Douglas McClelland says, 4 women in the house but the reason the visit was made was that in the first place there was an anonymous telephone call that Mr Matteson would be in his mother’s house on this particular morning.
– lt looks as though it was a set-up job.
– lt may have been a set-up job just to create this sort of story we are hearing now. Who knows’.’ The point I make is that the police before they ever went into the house conducted a surveillance. As Senator Douglas McClelland has said, this is a house normally occupied by 4 women but on the clothes line at the back of the house was men’s clothing. It gave some credence to what was otherwise a simple anonymous telephone call, lt was at least a basis on which the police could assume they had grounds for seeking to search the house, and they did. I think it is not denied that a warrant was shown by the policemen together with the warrant under which they were entitled to search the place and they concluded by presenting to Mrs Matteson their cards -so that they could be identified. This is not the conduct of people who may be called Gestapo; this is not terrorist conduct; this is not the conduct of people who should be denigrated for undertaking a raid. Policemen have a duty under laws which have been passed by this Parliament to execute warrants and to seek to apprehend those people who are to be arrested. The basis of law in our country is that people who are offending against the law and for whom warrants for arrest have been issued should be caught.
The Government does not use all the resources available to it in the pursuit of persons who offend the National Service Act because there are more useful things for the police in this country to do. But at the same time it cannot allow people to thumb their noses with impunity at the law and that is what Mr Matteson has been doing. Every reasonable step will be taken by the Commonwealth police to apprehend these people and they will do it having regard to propriety and in the same manner as I am told by the Commonwealth police they did on this occasion. In conclusion, Mr President, I regret having taken up so much of the Senate’s time in replying to what has been said, equally over a long time, but I believe the Commonwealth police should receive the support of all members of the Parliament and not just members on this side of the chamber because after all there was a time that the Australian Labor Party would remember when people who did their job were protected in the doing of that job. It is a sorry s’ate to see the Labor Party taking every opportunity to throw some mud at officers of the Commonwealth police force. I only hope that they learn better and that we will hear none of this in the future.
– Although the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) occupies the highest legal post in the Commonwealth, 1 will presume to offer him a little legal advice. Most citizens when they claim they have been misrepresented in the Press avail themselves of a very simple remedy. When the Attorney-General took this matter up with the ‘Age’ the editor of that newspaper, on the Attorney-General’s own account of the proceedings, then referred to the shorthand notes of the reporter who had been responsible for the story and, after arming himself with this information, chose to stick to his guns.
The burden of the Attorney-General’s complaint is that the words which he had used did not bear the construction which entitled the editor to use the word ‘beware’ in the headlines. My observation of the conduct of the Attorney-General in this chamber does not lead me to regard it as an outrageous imputation that he would attempt to intimidate a newspaper or any of the media. I would suggest to him that, if he thinks he has been wronged by this newspaper, he should avail himself of the remedy available to an ordinary citizen and take action for defamation against the Age’ and that he allow a judge and jury to decide whether the words that he used did, in fact, justify the headline used by that newspaper.
– I wish to take only a few minutes of the Senate’s time to point out one or two things that I think need investigation. Senator Douglas McClelland is very concerned that nowhere in his speech did he use the word ‘Gestapo’ in referring to the conduct of the Commonwealth police. It is quite possible that that word may have been used by way of interjection by an honourable senator on this side of the chamber. It is possible that that word was used as an indication of the emotion felt by an honourable senator on this side of the chamber at the description given by Senator Douglas McClelland of the actions of the Commonwealth police on Christmas Day. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) has assured us that there is no justification for describing the actions of the Commonwealth police in such terms because the account given by Senator Douglas McClelland was not an accurate one and, according to the 2 policement involved, something entirely different happened. Here we have a situation where the woman concerned went to her member of Parliament for the purpose of seeking some redress for what she claims was an invasion of her privacy on a most sacred day in the year.
– Does she claim that or does Senator Douglas McClelland claim that?
– The whole tenor of the letter is that the raid of her home on Christmas Day in search of a fugitive who was not there was an invasion of the privacy of herself and her children. I can see no reason why she would give an untruthful account to her member of Parliament when she asked him to investigate her complaint. People know that they will do harm to their opportunity of having a member of Parliament investigate their complaint if they are not fair, open and truthful. Therefore, there are some grounds for at least prima facie accepting what Mrs Matteson said occurred at her home on this occasion. There is also justification for Senator Douglas McClelland bringing to the attention of the Senate the facts as outlined in certain correspondence and taking umbrage at them. Of course, if the police officers did act contrary to normal police practice on this occasion there would be some reason for them to try to hide their actions by giving some other account of what happened to the Attorney-General. 1 am pleased that the Attorney-General has taken the attitude that the police officers did not do what they are alleged to have done. I take it from his remarks that the Commonwealth police would not act in that way. But is this matter not deserving of an inquiry? Here we have 2 contrary statements being made about a particular incident which occurred. There would be no justification for a woman making one statement to her member of Parliament-
– In writing.
– -In writing. I take it that that could be followed up at some future date by a statutory declaration. Her reputation has been stated by Senator Douglas McClelland, who has known her for a number of years and who referred to her father as an honourable citizen who knew a most honourable member of this chamber, Senator Mulvihill. Is there any reason to doubt the honesty of the woman? The only reason for doubt has come from the police report to the Attorney-General. Is there a need for further investigation? Has there been any suggestion tonight from the AttorneyGeneral that he will inquire further into the matter? What is proposed? If a policeman has made a false report to the Attorney-General the report is accepted and the policeman goes scot-free to continue this sort of conduct.
Whether or not there was someone whom the Commonwealth police were after and whether or not that person was on the run, even if there was an anonymous telephone call, the police should not have entered the home on that day which was sacred to the family. This was not a criminal who was threatening someone’s safety or property during the period he was at large. He was merely a political prisoner as a result of wrong legislation passed by the Government. Nelson turned a blind eye to orders on one occasion, so how does the Attorney-General justify the entry of a woman’s home - an entry which has been termed an invasion - on Christmas Day? The woman said that it was an invasion and that there was a search. This remark from her does not indicate that she invited the police into her home. She asked the police to produce a warrant, and the Attorney-General has admitted that a warr*H was shown. Is that the action of someone inviting police to enter her home? If there was an invitation to enter, would she have asked them to show her an authority to enter the premises? All these actions, evidence of which is supported by the police report, show that the police were not on the premises by invitation but were there as an exercise of their judicial power given under a warrant to search. The facts of the case suggest that there is need for more investigation of this incident.
– After this she rang the Newtown State police.
– The honourable senator must be making a mess of it if he needs so much help from his colleagues.
– I am thankful for the interjection. As Senator Rae has said, I do need help at this hour of the night because no-one who considered the accumulation of evidence of incidents relating to this action believed that the woman was lying. Was the woman’s action in ringing the police and subsequently going to the police the action of a person who was making a false declaration to a police constable about something that did not happen? The Attorney-General has not replied to the suggestion that the police asked questions about the hour and day of arrival of this woman in Australia. The AttorneyGeneral has not told us whether there is any truth in the suggestion that these questions were asked or whether the police said that they were not concerned with Michael Matteson but were concerned with her. This was a game played by the police. They were putting pressure on the mother because of the action of her son. Is this a procedure that is condoned by the AttorneyGeneral? Has he sought any police report on the validity or truthfulness of these suggestions? These statements by the woman cannot be denied because all this happened in the presence of a witness who was taping the conversation. Is this the way our police force should act in respect of these persons who normally are law abiding citizens but who, as a political protest, have broken one particular law because they are opposed to it? The Attorney-General said that he can understand why a member of the Australian Labor Party would bring up the question of people who are on the run from the National Service Act. We make no apologies for it. The Act is a wrong Act. It is an Act that should never have been on the statute book of Australia. It is a disgrace to the freedom loving country of Australia. It has to be repealed. It will be repealed when Labor is returned to office in November. Then there will be no Michael Matteson in gaol - and no oppression of the mother of Michael Matteson - for his stand against the National Service Act.
– Senator Cavanagh’s comments made an impression upon me. They were typical of the persuasive comments which are made by members of the Australian Labor Party when they are attacking the police force in Australia. Tonight we have heard the attitudes of various Opposition senators, and particularly the attitude of Senator Cavanagh, in criticising good Australian citizens who are carrying out their duty for this Parliament and for this Commonwealth. Senator Douglas McClelland made the point, which I noted, that the Government is attempting to achieve a police state. I think that Senator Douglas McClelland will concede that that is the point he made. It is an interesting comment, because one wonders what would be the attitude of the Labor Party if it were in office. I have no doubt myself as to what would be the attitude of the Labor Party in office, but it would depend on which section of the Labor Party would be in office. It is a divided force.
One section of the Labor Party wishes to protect the law of the Commonwealth and the other section expresses the view of Senator Cavanagh, of those who follow him and of those members in another place who say to the citizens of Australia: ‘If there is a law made in the Commonwealth Parliament with which you disagree you have every right to reject and object to that law and to break it’. It is worth pointing up this matter in the context of this present year. It would be wonderful to hear Labor’s attitude on what it would do when it put legislation through this place and wished to have a police force to uphold that law. Will the Labor Party say, if warrants are out for the arrest of individuals, that certain days throughout the year are sacred and that the police must avoid them in carrying out prosecutions? I do not doubt that on every occasion many members of the Labor Party will encourage strikes in the community, even by the police force, to see that they do not carry out their rightful duties on particular days. So we have a situation which must affect every citizen of Australia. We have a division within the community. One section denies the lawful police force of this country the right to carry out its duties. The other section attempts to see that the law passed by he Commonwealth Parliament is upheld. That is the whole basis of this discussion tonight.
– It would be a waste of time and energy to enter into a debate with Senator Webster. Part of what he just said is indicative of the attitude of mind of a number of supporters of the Government. It is that in order to protect the law one needs to say that on every occasion members of the police force are correct and members of the public who have a confrontation with the police force are incorrect. Of course, this is not the case, as has been shown quite recently in Victoria where, if Senator Webster’s logic and the logic of those who sit on the same side of the Senate with him had been followed, there would not have been any royal commission into the abortion scandal. There would not have been the prosecution of those senior officers of the Victoria Police Force who were subsequently convicted. If anything is the hallmark of the police state it is the attitude that the police can do no wrong; that the police should not be subject to law and that in any dispute the word of a policeman has to be taken in preference to that of a private citizen.
What we are saying in (his case, and what Senator Douglas McClelland has said, is that there is a very clear conflict of view* as to what occurred, if one take account of what the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) said tonight, between Mrs Matteson and the members of the Commonwealth Police Force. It is significant to note - probably it was the most important part of the letter read out by Senator Douglas McClelland - that passage in Mrs Matteson’s letter in which she said that, she had telephoned the New South Wales police in order to complain about the presence of the Commonwealth Police officers without, possession of a warrant. This is not the son of claim that someone would make, I imagine - unless the complainant were completely demented - unless it actually occurred.
There have been some snide little interjections about people setting up plants - too contemptible to be discussed - coming from Senator Rae and others, but surely no plant was involved in this instance. If those Commonwealth police had arrived with warrants only a lunatic would call up the State police and complain about their presence, saying that they did not have warrants if in fact they had them and produced them to the lady in question.
What I find very significant about the attitude adopted consistently by the Attorney-General on these matters is that he shows, I believe, contempt for the law itself. His approach once again is the same. It is hardly more sophisticated than thi approach of Senator Webster - perhaps slightly more sophisticated. The AttorneyGeneral’s approach in effect is that the police can do no wrong. I believe that in doing this he is being contemptuous of the law. If one wishes to have respect for the law one does not get it by allowing, for example, those Victorian police officers who were recently convicted because of their part in the abortion scandals in Victoria to go free and act as senior police officers. If we want respect for the law” and enforcement of the law we have to have a society in which the people are satisfied that the conduct of police officers is subject to the same scrutiny as the conduct of any other public servants. This is something which the Attorney-General resists consistently. If any complaint is made about any officer of the Commonwealth Police Force the attitude of the AttorneyGeneral invariably is that the Commonwealth police can do no wrong and he will make no inquiry into the allegations. If there is a clear dispute between the evidence of a Commonwealth police officer and that of a private citizen the AttorneyGeneral will ignore the matter completely or come down in favour of the Commonwealth police. This 1 believe creates disrespect for the law. If one talks about law and order in any meaningful way and does not just mean thuggery on behalf of the Government by its employees, one has to inculcate respect for the law.
If I could digress for a moment, I believe it is very difficult to have much respect for some officers of the Commonwealth Police Force. I was not visited by them on Christmas Day but 1 was visited by them on Boxing Day, 1970. I was visited by 2 police officers who arrived at about 7.30 or 8 o’clock in the morning on the day after Christmas. They asked me some most inane questions - 1 do not think they can be described as anything but inane questions - about the authorship of an advertisement concerning the National Service Act which appeared in various newspapers. 1 persisted with some questions asking what the Government proposed to do about this. The grinning Attorney-General knows full well that nothing is going to be done about it.
But what happened on that occasion? I believe there can be no doubt that the Commonwealth police, under the direction of the then Attorney-General or the present Attorney-General, or perhaps acting on their own volition, decided to intimidate a number of people. It is not a very pleasant think to be visited by the Commonwealth police and asked about some political activities in which you have engaged. Of course, there has been no follow-up of that matter. I would be quite prepared to challenge the Attorney-General to prosecute mc as a result of those matters which caused the Commonwealth Police to visit my home early in the morning of the day after Christmas. I would be very happy to be prosecuted by the Attorney-General for this so that we can show whether he and the Commonwealth Police are really setting out to ascertain information for the purposes of prosecution or whether they are engaging in political intimidation of citizens.
I return to the matter that has been raised, and very rightly so, by Senator Douglas McClelland. I do not know Mrs Matteson nor do I know her son. Very serious charges have been made by her concerning the conduct of the Commonwealth Police in various respects, and in one particular respect relating to the phone call she mentioned she made to the New South Wales State police. This gives an opportunity to the Attorney-General or to anybody else who wishes to investigate it to study the veracity of the letter which she wrote. 1 believe it shows contempt for law and order in any democratic meaning of the expression ‘law and order’ for the AttorneyGeneral to brush this matter off arbitrarily and say that if the Commonwealth Police did it that is good enough for him and whatever any private citizen said that is in conflict with the Commonwealth Police version the Attorney-General is going to ignore it.
– 1 enter this debate because I believe that Senator Douglas McClelland should be congratulated on raising this very important matter in the Senate tonight, lt is an important issue because the word of a private individual is at stake notwithstanding the stupid grinning of the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood).
– Mr President, what do we do in these circumstances when we on this side are trying to ventilate something which we believe is of importance to an individual but of which the Minister takes no notice?
– The honourable senator may refer to the Attorney-General but he must uphold the decorum of the Senate in doing so.
– I will not dwell on or try to reply to what was said by Senator Webster. I believe that all honourable senators would regard his attempt to defend the Attorney-General and to smear members of the Australian Labor Party as being a pitiful attempt to hide what may be a wrongdoing. Senator Webster criticised Senator Cavanagh. 1 ask those honourable senators who have heard speeches by Senator Cavanagh over the years whether they have ever heard Senator Cavanagh speaking in a more conciliatory manner than he did tonight. What he was doing was asking for a further report to be furnished on this episode. If there is anything wrong with that then 1 believe that the Senate is failing in its duly. If Senator Cavanagh and I feel that further evidence should be produced to clear up any misunderstandings in regard to this matter, it is our responsibility to rise and express ourselves accordingly.
Mr President, have you noted that the Attorney-General indicated tonight that he knew absolutely nothing of this episode until 3 hours ago? It is a political issue. The raid occurred on Christmas Day. Do you mean to tell me that the Commonwealth Police having conducted a raid, an investigation or whatever you care to call it. on Christmas Day should not have reported to the Attorney-General the events (hat occurred on that day? Do you mean to tell me that the Attorney-General, holding a very responsible position in this community, should not be told what political action the Commonwealth Police were taking?
– And after he had been on television.
-The AttorneyGeneral had already been on television in regard to matters associated with this episode. I do nol know whether he has yet been informed by the Commonwealth Police except for a brief report furnished to him 3 hours ago. Surely that alone would justify other explanations forthcoming from the Attorney-General and the Commonwealth Police. I put it to the AttorneyGeneral that this is not the first occasion, to my knowledge, on which the Commonwealth Police have acted on an anonymous call. The Minister will recall that the Commonwealth Police in Brisbane acted on an anonymous call and invaded the home of
Miss Daphne Mayo because they had been informed by an anonymous phone call that she had pornographic literature in her home. I know how the lady felt about this particular incident. Those honourable senators who know her will know how she felt about it. lt could happen to any of us. An anonymous call could be made to the Commonwealth Police informing them that we have something in our possession which we should not have. Without investigating the background of the individual person concerned the Commonwealth Police would go in and make a raid. Does the Minister believe that that is the proper function of the Commonwealth Police?
I know of another occasion - I have ventilated this matter in the Senate - on which an egg producer in a little country town failed to pay the egg levy. Three car loads of Commonwealth Police visited this fellow to find out why he was not paying his egg levy. This action was taken under the Crimes Act. Surely the Minister will agree that sufficient evidence has been put before him over the years about this type of action. Whether he regards the matter as political or not, the fact remains that individuals in the community are being subjected to undue pressure by the Commonwealth Police. I repeat that I believe the Commonwealth Police failed in their responsibility to the Attorney-General in not. informing him of this political raid, this political invasion, this political visit - call it whatever you like. They took this action in December and yet the Attorney-General knew absolutely nothing about it until he was told by Senator Douglas McClelland who raised this issue tonight. Surely the Minister must see that something is lacking in the liaison between his officers and himself. 1 believe that a report of this incident, should be furnished to the Senate.
I congratulate Senator Douglas McClelland on raising the matter. I congratulate particularly Senator Cavanagh in asking that further evidence be furnished to the Senate. If the Attorney-General does not elect to do so it will be obvious that he is trying to protect the Commonwealth Police against charges that on Christmas Day they invaded the privacy of a woman on the information of an anonymous phone call. From their own observations they could see that men’s clothing was hanging on the line. If the lad were in the home would his clothes be hanging on the line? Is it not a bit far fetched to raise those issues? Under those circumstances I ask the Attorney-General, on behalf of the lady and on behalf of Australians generally, to investigate the matter much further and bring before the Senate a far more comprehensive report.
– I will be very brief in my remarks. I rise to say that it ill behoves the Australian Labor Party to pose as it does tonight and as it has day after day in the past as the keepers and trustees of human liberty when in fact the record shows that in both the State and Federal spheres they were the most tyrannous governments in Australia’s history in this regard. I recite history. Noise will not be a substitute for argument. I remind this Senate that the Labor Government of New South Wales for years was notorious for gaoling small shopkeepers for the heinous crime of staying open after hours. Is that in fact a lesser or a more wicked crime than draft resisting? I remind this Senate that it was a Labor government, the same government - I need no help because history will speak for itself - that paid pimps half the fine to tell on and to bring to justice people who were breaking the law by staying open after hours. Are these the defenders of human liberties?
What about a Federal government which put people in gaol and kept people in gaol not for days, not for weeks, but for months and years without trial? Are these the defenders of liberty? Are these the people who are getting up citing scripture for their purpose? What about a government which closed down the free Press because it did not like what the Press was printing? Is this not a total record of tyranny? I remind this Senate, and it is well to remind it - I am not one to defend police if police are wrong or to defend a police state - that in New South Wales a Labor government was put out of office primarily because of its tyrannous action against the small people. What the Labor Party sees with clarity in opposition it never practises in government. These things need to be said and they need to be put in their place. No-one on this side of the Senate wants to protect police officers if they are bad police officers. To say that we do is just tautology. It is just a gobbledygook of words that honourable senators opposite use to cloud the issue. The real question is: Do they uphold the rule of law or do they not? The answer is that day after day in this Senate my colleagues and I have seen them get up and have heard them sneer at every police officer in the discharge of his duty and on every lawbreaker in his evasion of the law. I invite the Senate to say whether my recitation of Labor in office is correct. If it is correct let the Labor Party respect its hypocrisy by a decent silence.
– I want to make 3 observations. First of all, while we are dealing with the syndrome of law and order during World War II, let me state that Senator Carrick was carrying the banner for the Australia First Movement that was pandering to certain Japanese interests-
– 1 take a point of order. I ask for the withdrawal of that remark. I was not carrying the banner for the Australia First Movement. 1 was stating a fact, namely, that members of the Australia First Movement were gaoled without trial. I ask that Senator Mulvihill withdraw the remark.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld.
– In making a point about this wartime organisation I am showing, as the Australian Labor Party has insisted all the time, that the attitude the Government is taking towards draft dodgers in peace time is not compatible with the attitude of any wartime government, whether it be a Labor government or a Liberal-Country Party government. While we are dealing with this syndrome of law and order, let me remind Senator Carrick
I that if he looks back to that period and to adherence to the law in wartime he will see that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, which
I some of his Ministers are defending in this
Parliament, deliberately locked out 3 shifts of men for a week. The matter was taken before the Industrial Commission of New South Wales and the BHP was ordered to pay the men. If Senator Carrick reads the judgment in that case he will notice that Mr Butler, one of the big wheels in BHP and a man to whom 1 think the Government gave a knighthood after the war, was castigated by the judge as a virtual industrial saboteur. So Senator Carrick should not adopt this holier than thou attitude.
Let us take the matter a little further. In relation to trade union awards and such matters, we have never objected to any discipline because we are dealing with the greatest good for the greatest number. The trade union movement in New South Wales makes no apology in relation to these prosecutions at all. If Government supporters are going to cry crocodile tears tonight about small shopkeepers, I point out that the difference is this: The Askin Government and this Government, by pandering to the big monopolies, have virtually put small shopkeepers out of business. If, as honourable senators opposite say, it is the evolution of major retail establishments, it might have occurred in any case, but they should not take this attitude in regard to Albert Thompson and these other people. Government supporters know as well as I do that the same attitude is being taken by Mr Willis now in regard to chemist shops in metropolitan Sydney. There is no difference. But Government supporters are in the happy position that the Sydney ‘Daily Telegraph’ will always play these situations down.
– I found it interesting to hear Senator Mulvihill say on behalf of his Party, in response to what Senator Carrick had said, that apparently it is all right to gaol people without trial during time of war but during any other time draft registers should not be gaoled for breaches of the law.
– He did not say that.
– If that is not what he said, perhaps it would be interesting for us to know just what is the explanation of the Australian Labor Party’s past behaviour and its present attitudes. There has been no explanation of the complete apparent hypocrisy in the explanation given to us by Senator Carrick. The crocodile tears flow in this chamber on various, occasions when we hear about how terrible it is for anything to be done against any of the friends of the Labor Party. We have just heard that, according to Senator Mulvihill, it is perfectly justifiable to gaol small shop- keepers, to gaol people without trial, to close down newspapers or whatever may be the case. That is all right if you are in power, apparently, but not if you are in Opposition. This appears to be the only distinction that could be drawn by anyone listening to any of the remarks that have been made. I continue to deal for a moment with some of the actions of the Police Force in this case which gave rise to this debate. I have not yet discovered clearly from the honourable senators on the other side of the chamber the real nature of the complaint they make. It seems to vary.
– It is the invasion of a woman’s privacy.
– If it is accepted that the police have a duty to do and if it is accepted that in the course of performing their duty they have to try to apprehend the person in respect of whom a warrant has been issued, it must be accepted, I presume, that to carry out their duty it may be necessary to enter premises and it may be necessary to obtain a search warrant to enter premises.
– But not on Christmas Day.
– Let us come to that in a moment. Let us just take it step by step and see what is the real nature of the complaint which is made in this case and whether it is not just a lot of political humbug. If it is accepted, as I have said, that the police have a duty to perform, if it is accepted that they are expected to enforce the law, the only distinguishing factor which appears here is one of 2 points. Either the objection is that this was in respect of a so-called draft resister or, alternatively, that it happened on Christmas Day.
– There is also the method.
– All right; there is the method. We have 3 points: It happened in respect of a draft resister; it happened on Christmas Day; and there is the method. Apparently, what is objected to in respect of the method is that the police entered the premises and Mrs Matteson said they entered having produced a document which she could not read. She said: ‘All right, go in’. That is what I think she said in the letter to Senator Douglas McClelland. Having seen the document, she could not read it and so she admitted them. She then went to telephone. The police version, as given by the Attorney-General, is only fractionally different from that. One finds it hard to sec what is the real distinction between those 2 accounts. The police version, as reported to the chamber by the AttorneyGeneral, is that 2 people entered the house. By way of interjection, I think Senator Douglas McClelland said that it was not suggested that any more than 2 entered the premises. So I really do not know what is the point about the vast difference in numbers. I think the story is almost identical as between the police and Mrs Matteson on most aspects of this matter. The only real differences are the somewhat emotional connotations which are placed upon it by people who apparently wish to make the action, which in any other circumstances would be perfectly proper, become improper because it involves a political issue. One gets the impression that the only reason that this matter is raised is because of its political content, not because of its content from the point of view of civil liberties or the rights of the citizen in relation to the police force. In this particular case I think one should add that at least it is a matter for suspicion if one recalls the attitude which has been adopted by Mr Matteson in relation to the warrant which is out for his arrest and his trying to dare, in effect, the police and the Commonwealth Government to enforce the law with regard to him.
Apparently he has been proud of the fact that he has been able to display a contempt for the law and to endeavour to make, insofar as he can, fools of the police and a joke of the law. Would it not be a good laugh to be able to do it in this particular way, by conning the cops, if I may use that expression for the purposes of making a point, into a raid on Christmas Day? How would a person go about it if he wanted to organise something like that? Possibly he might think it would be a good idea to tip them off that he would be at his mother’s home on that day. Possibly it might be a good idea to give some indication that he was there, to give some visible signs to an observant police officer who is trying to check the tip he got from an anonymous call before he enters the home. ] can imagine that there may well have been a little chortling when the police cars arrived. lt may well be that Mrs Matteson knew nothing about it. lt may very well be that it was not a put up job at all. But what 1 do not understand from anything that has been said by any honourable senator opposite is what was the real nature of the wrong committed by the police in this case. They were merely carrying out their duty and no doubt felt just as unhappy about having to do this nuisance job on Christmas morning as anybody else would feel about having to work on Christmas morning. If the circumstances are such that it is obvious that some wrong - at least a prima facie wrong - has been committed by the police I have no doubt that the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) will want to know a lot more about it and will want to conduct some form of investigation.
– He has not said that. He has closed the book.
– He has not. He was asked to explain what happened and in the time available to him he sought information. He gave a version which he had obtained at very short notice. It was as much as was available to him to give to the Senate this evening. That was all he was asked to do. Since then Senator Cavanagh has suggested that there should he a form of investigation. That request was not made prior to the AttorneyGeneral’s speaking. It was made subsequent to his speaking.
– Do you support that request?
– I would not support that request unless there was some reason why there should be an investigation. Apparently the honourable senator has not been listening to what I have said. If it is suggested that the police behaved improperly in carrying out their duty in relation to a matter which has a political content to it, and if there is some prima facie evidence against them, there should be some further inquiry, but until such time as someone on the opposite side of the chamber can point to that I cannot see what on earth people are doing other than trying to create a political issue for political purposes and for political gain in pursuance of a political plan.
– Mr President, I will be very brief. I am alarmed at the turn that this debate has taken. 1 regret that the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Greenwood) treats this as a joke and laughs at what has been said. I do not think that he has ever heard me abuse the police. He has never heard me call them Gestapo. 1 realise that our police forces must have the respect of everybody in Australia. 1 realise that the situation is harder for the Commonwealth Police because the State police forces have existed for so long and have greater traditions of training. After the State police forces have taken their pick, it is hard to get good policemen in the Commonwealth Police Force, lt is always hard to run a police force because the job that policemen perform is an unpleasant one. But when one listens to Senator Carrick, in an hysterical fashion abusing the Labor Government for what it did during war time or at any other time-
– Were they not facts?
– Unfortunately 1 must say to you that I have learnt to doubt anything that you claim to be facts. If we want to debate that matter, we can debate all sorts of things. This is what the honourable senator would want me to do because he realises the spot that his government is in tonight. He wants to avoid the issue above every other thing.
– I repeat: Were not they the facts?
– The honourable senator should be quiet. I regret that Senator Rae, with his legal background, has done exactly the same thing-
– Order! Senator Willesee is attempting to speak. He has been overborne by a barrage of advice and interjections from behind him. I call Senator Willesee.
– I will not go into all the details of this matter. I merely wish to say, first, that the Attorney-General did not deal with what Senator Douglas McClelland said. He did not state at any time that the police were Gestapo. But the Attorney-General himself suggested that this could have been a lip off, that somebody could have rung wilh this advice, and that on that evidence the police were going to raid, is this not the very thing that the Gestapo used to do? Did not the Gestapo visit people early in the morning? The Gestapo raided at all sorts of unexpected hours. Why in the name of goodness in a simple case such as the one in which Senator Wheeldon was thought to be involved did the Commonwealth police have to visit him on Boxing Day when what they were concerned with was published in a document. They could have gone there 6 months later and it would have been all right. They should have gone to his office. When people come into a person’s home, that person’s wife and children are affected. Any of us who have people coming to our homes know this. I have had people - not members of the police force - come onto my doorstep and I know the effect that this has on my children. It is bad enough when this is done by people who are not beholden to a government.
I do not wish to exaggerate this matter. I do not seek to take it into a wider field. I do not wish to talk about all of the things that have been said. But I suggest quite seriously to the Attorney-General that, if he is a responsible Minister, he will look at the matters raised by Senator Douglas McClelland, which will appear in Hansard, and ask for explanations concerning them. If the Attorney-General is satisfied with those explanations, well and good. But I suggest to him that he should not close his mind to this matter merely because it has a connotation which arises out of the National Service Act about which there is heat and on which there are hard feelings on both sides of the Parliament. The Attorney-General should not let these things influence him.
For goodness sake, look at this matter in perspective. If this woman was asked: When did you arrive in this country?’ and other questions such as that, there is a prima facie case to support the argument that questions of that type ought not to be asked of an Australian citizen who had married an American. There is enough in what has been put to the Senate on that point, I suggest to the Attorney-General, to carry out an investigation and to satisfy himself a little more clearly on the matter.
Quite frankly, I am disappointed that the Attorney-General as a lawyer sought not to examine the situation as it was put up by Senator Douglas McClelland tonight but instead immediately went into the smear area of the political scene. I regret that very, very much. In common with Senator Milliner I am amazed - the Attorney-General should look at this matter; if he does not the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) ought to look at it - by the situation that exists between the AttorneyGeneral and his Department. The AttorneyGeneral was involved with this man Matteson. He had to debate the matter in the Senate. The incident was the subject of headlines throughout Australia. Yet, when a raid, an investigation or a visitation - whichever word the Attorney-General cares to use to describe it - was carried out on this woman’s home on Christmas Day, the Commonwealth Police did not report the fact to the Attorney-General. If I was the Minister in charge, in that situation I would have the head of my Department in my office next day to explain why this was so. It is quite elementary that this should have been done.
I finish on this note: Let us not throw this matter aside. I want to see the greatest respect for our police forces. The only way in which the Attorney-General will hold the respect of the police throughout Australia, be they Commonwealth or State police, is not to let these things that have happened be swept under the carpet. One of the mistakes that police organisations make throughout Australia today is that when a policeman is involved they hold a police inquiry. If a railway man is involved, they do not hold a railway inquiry. If a Post Office man is involved, they do not hold a postal inquiry. This is where they are doing their own public relations so much harm. If one of us were involved - an ordinary citizen - a decision is made by a magistrate, a judge or by some other body; something is done in public. This should be the case whether it be a policeman or anybody else. There will be troubles with police; they are human and they are a big body of people. But, for goodness’ sake Mr Attorney, do not take this attitude that they are right all the time. In enforcement of the law the application of force should never be overdone.
The Minister should read the famous Churchill speech on this subject during the Boer Warand get his priorities right. There should be sufficient action taken to fit the crime. If a murderer had been chased there certainly would have been no arguments from me or from any other honourable senator on this side of the chamber about what hour of what day they conducted a raid. But this is a situation where, I understand, 4 women were involved and obviously the nuances of their feelings were not completely taken into account. There certainly is a suspicion in my mind that excessive zeal was used in the handling of this matter. It seems clear that there has been a breakdown between the Attorney-General and his Department, and Australia deserves much better than that from him or any other Attorney-General.
– Had the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Willesee) not come into this debate and had he left the rather irrational string of commentary that followed Senator Douglas McClelland’s initial speech to the less responsible people behindhim I would not have risen at this hour. However, I feel impelled to refute with a good deal of feeling the imputation that he directed to Senator Carrick, whose honour in this chamber bears no imputation of that sort; it was a despicable reference to Senator Carrick. When Senator Willesee suggests that if the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) is responsible he will take certain action, that too is a grave indiscretion on his part, for the standard of responsibility displayed by him can be seen by 2 references that I will make to his speech. After professing respect for the police and an appreciation of their duties, Senator Willesee says of their action in going to a house, knocking at the door and being given admission at 10 o’clock in the morning: ‘Is that not what the Gestapo did?’ In other words, he absolved them from the description by name but says that they acted in the character of the Gestapo. But more rubbishy is the reference that Senator Willesee makes when he imputes to the Attorney-General some deficiency in the arrangement of bis Department because a solitary raid by police constables is not reported to the Minister.
– The AttorneyGeneral said it was not a raid.
– I am just using your abbreviated and sloppy terms. If the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has the conception of administration of a legal department that the police force should bring to the notice of the Attorney-General all the inquiries that they are making and all the individual interviews, this is the height of ignorance and distorted understanding. It is the sort of idea that only a boy would have. I conclude on this note: The real reason why the Australian Labor Party wishes to join Senator Douglas McClelland tonight in subverting the administration with which the Attorney-General has promised honourable senators he will persevere, that is, of supporting the laws of this country, is a statement from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) in another place that if Labor gets into office it will repeal the National Service Act. If honourable senators opposite get into office, and if they repeal the National Service Act, they will rejoice. You will notice, Mr President, that they are taking the same adamant position to an Act which now requires the training of young men for military service as they took when they based their objection to the Act upon compulsory service in battle engagement in a war of the issues of which they did not approve. But passing that by, the point to which I wish to come - andI do not wish to have my speech extended - is this: The Leader of the Opposition in the other place said ‘and if the Senate will not pass the legislation there will be no prosecutions’. That is the stalwart enforcement of the Parliament’s law that we can expect from this rabble that still claims credit in the country as a party to be entrusted with the administration of the law and which has that sense of either ignorance or humour to come in here and purport to be critics of the Attorney-General’s administration of the law.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 12.57 a.m. (Thursday)
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 February 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720223_senate_27_s51/>.