27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The Senate met at 10.59 a.m.
– Honourable senators, I have to announce that the President, Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack, is unable to attend the sitting of the Senate this day. In accordance with standing order 29 the Chairman of Committees, Senator Prowse, will take the Chair as Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) thereupon took the Chair, and read prayers.
Communications Tower on Black Mountain
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That the Australian Post Office proposes to construct a 640 ft high solid concrete tower, housing radiotelephony-television transmission facilities, on Black Mountain in Canberra.
That in the opinion of many responsible citizens such a tower would seriously impair the beauty of this city and is likely to lessen the value of the Black Mountain Flora and Fauna Reserve.
That requests from residents of Canberra, and their Parliamentary representative,for information on the technical considerations supposedly favouring a solid tower have been refused by the Australian Post Office.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should, through its Standing Committee on the Social Environment, examine whether construction of a tower of this nature on Black Mountain is in the public interest, having particular regard to the need to preserve the beauty and environmental quality of the National Capital.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, willever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take immediate steps to make emergency Federal finance available to the States for State school education, and divert the large sums of public money being spent on private schools to the government school system for which the Government is truly responsible.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Did the Government know that Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd intended to increase prices for structural steel by up to 9 per cent and for plate steel by 8.2 per cent when the general 5.3 per cent increase was announced last week? If so, did the Government ask BHP to reduce, postpone or cancel the price increase? What does the Government intend to do about the increase? Does it intend to invoke any existing law or to introduce any law to do something about the situation or will it throw up its hands and do nothing?
The Leader of the Opposition has asked a question on policy. Therefore I cannot answer it. I suggest that the first part of his question should go on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Air. I refer to the contracts held by the Australian Government for the purchase of the defence system known as the F111 aircraft. Is the Minister aware of any statements made by himself or other Ministers which indicate some of the benefits which may flow to this country as a result of our Government’s decision in relation to the recent currency realignment? What is the net saving in Australian dollars on the balance of the amount due on the contract for the purchase of the F111 and associated spares following the decision of the Australian Government to revalue the Australian dollar as against the United States dollar?
– I cannot recall any statement made by either myself or the Minister for Defence on this matter, but 1 draw the honourable senator’s attention to a joint statement made by the Minister for Defence and myself in which we indicated that the Commonwealth Government had decided to continue with the Fill contract at a price of $US344m. The Commonwealth has paid to the United States Government approximately $US228.8m, which leaves about $US1 15.14m to be pa:d on the project. My officers have informed me that following the decision on revaluation the estimated saving to us on that sum of $US 115.14m is about $A2.5m.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Does the PostmasterGeneral contemplate having discussions with the Minister for Immigration about the migrant members of the PMG work force who, due to the lack of Australian citizenship, have the granting of permanency unduly delayed? Would the Minister for Immigration be prepared to use his discretionary powers to assist the affected members to obtain job security by granting them permanency?
– From the honourable senator’s question I am not at all clear about what he regards as being the delay in the granting of citizenship to these workers. He knows that the Citizenship Act requires that the Minister for Immigration must be satisfied as to a number of matters before a person who has applied for citizenship can be granted citizenship. Those matters include character, knowledge of English, knowledge of the responsibilities and privileges of citizenship and the length of residence in Australia. If there is a delay such as that to which the honourable senator referred I can assume only that it is because there has not been the requisite length of residence in Australia. The requisite period is normally 5 years, but it may be reduced to 3 years if the person concerned has shown a proficiency in the English language. There is also a provision which entitles the Minister to exempt people under 21 years of age from the residence requirement. If a person has lived in other Commonwealth countries, that also reduces the length of time that he has to spend in this country. I can suggest only that if Senator Mulvihill supplies me or the Minister for Immigration with the details of the particular cases he has in mind those cases will be given attention.
– I ask the Minister for Air: How many Fill aircraft are currently in service with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? For how long have they been in such service? In general terms, what is the service evaluation of the operational performance qualities of such aircraft? Is there any other aircraft in any military service throughout the world capable of equalling or surpassing the proven performance of the FI 1 1?
– There is a tactical air command wing in Britain. It has been there since September 1970. It consists of 3 squadrons of Fill aircraft, which would be well over 70 aircraft. From all the information available to me, these aircraft have given better service than any other aircraft known at the present time. Dealing with the second part of the question, to my knowledge something like 415 Fills have flown up to the present time.
– Is that everywhere?
– Everywhere, yes. Of this number 407 have been accepted by the United States Air Force. They have been flown for a total of some 150,000 hours, involving about 50,000 flights. Their safety record over that period is better than that for any of the other aircraft in the F century series. This includes the Phantom F4Es which we have in this country. So from this background which I have just given, I believe that there is no other aircraft in the world that can match the Fill at the present time. This is borne out by the reliable operational service that they are giving in the NATO Forces.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Health been drawn to the anomalies and (he inequities in the health services of this country, particularly as they arise through the fact that contributions to health insurance funds are not set on a progressive scale which takes income into account but are set at a flat rate? Does his Department intend to initiate a review of the present iniquitous situation whereby the marginal rates of taxation in incomes results in those on the highest incomes gaining most relief?
The question as posed has some inaccuracies in it. I appreciate that the honourable senator is right in general in what he says about contributions to medical and hospital funds, but in the lower areas of contribution there are elements which are not made on a flat rate as he suggests. The rates of contribution are set out in various Bills complementary to the National Health Bill. For that reason I think that in all fairness the honourable senator’s question should be answered in depth. For instance, we are aware that in certain circumstances contributors who are receiving less than a certain income are relieved of responsibility for paying insurance. There are also those who are receiving unemployment, sickness or special benefits, newly arrived migrants and so on. So the totality of the question the honourable senator has posed is not accurate. It is true that for an overwhelming number of subscribers - the figure is about 4 million - contributions are calculated on what the honourable senator has chosen to call a flat rate. The honourable senator then proceeded to postulate opinions about this matter.
– Which I am entitled to do.
– I admit that he is entitled to do so. But I do not accept the proposals he put forward in that part of his question. As I indicated yesterday, I propose to respond to that aspect in depth in the foreseeable future.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a statement attributed to the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions in which he threatened to boycott the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission if the Commonwealth openly backed employers in cases before the Commission? Further, what is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government in instances such as the recent State Electricity Commission dispute in Victoria where the effects could be of national significance?
– I have seen a statement attributed to the President of the ACTU, Mr Hawke, on that aspect. I would not consider it to be a serious statement on his part. I should think that anybody who brought a reasonable judgment to bear as to the operation of the arbitration system in Australia and New Zealand in comparison with the mediaeval alternatives that exist elsewhere, such as collective bargaining, either controlled or uncontrolled, would find that our system has yielded incomparable advantages to the trade unions. The situation is that under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the Commonwealth has the right in national cases - cases relating to standard hours, long service leave and the basic wage or, as it is now, the national wage - to intervene not in alliance with either employer or employee but in the public interest. Any reference to appeal cases which go before a presidential bench do so only because of their public importance. Similarly, in the public interest, the Act provides for the right of Commonwealth intervention. The honourable senator referred to the recent SEC dispute. It became quickly apparent in relation to that dispute that a strike in the Latrobe Valley would affect employment in Sydney and throughout Victoria as well as in Melbourne. That strike was attaining such national proportions that the Full Bench of the Commission heard the case and that was why the Commonwealth decided to intervene. Similar cases would attract interest in the same way.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation the following question: In view of the recent decision by the Government to import 8 new Boeing 727s, will the Minister indicate what the very substantial offset orders to the Australian aircraft industry that are referred to in his Press statement will be? What guarantee has the Australian industry that such orders will be placed in the near future in order to stimulate the depressed local industry?
-I think the honourable senator can regard it as being accurate . that substantial offset orders will be placed. To indicate that that will not be the case would be unfairly to accuse the Americans of bad faith, which is not to be taken to be the case.It is my understanding that the orders will be for well over $10m. Negotiations are still proceeding as to the final sum but the position is most satisfactory. The actual components to be made are the subject of discussion between the Australian Government and the American manufacturers.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the uncertainty which appears to surround the assistance that the Commonwealth is prepared to give to the Queensland Government for damage resulting from cyclone Althea, will the Minister inform the Senate of what the Commonwealth has agreed to do? Is it a fact that as a result of discussions between the Queensland Premier and the Prime Minister, as reported in the Press, the Townsville City Council will have to meet $100,000 only of the damage to the Council’s property and installations and that the State’s commitment will be met in full?
– The Prime Minister issued a Press release on this subject on 16th February 1972. If all honourable senators did their homework and read all the Press releases, certain statements which we endured during the debate on the adjournment last night would never have been made. What Senator Maunsell has said is abundantly true and is revealed in the Press release. It is obvious that some people read only those things that they can use to make arguments. If it is so desired 1 can either read the complete statement made by the Prime Minister or have it incorporated in Hansard. If necessary I am prepared to send a special copy to Senator Keeffe. What Senator Maunsell said is abundantely true and appears in the Prime Minister’s statement. The Press release expresses a ceiling in terms of what will be required from the authorities in Townsville. In the present situation it appears that the Commonwealth will be spending between $5m and $6m in this area. AgainI invite all honourable senators, particularly those on some of the benches on the other side of the chamber, to keep up with their homework and to read Press releases before they make speeches.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National service relates to what Senator Wright has explained to be the traditional role of the Commonwealth Government in opposing cases brought by the Australian Council of Trade Unions where it decides that it should intervene. Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government has now decided to intervene in any major case where there is a possibility of wage increases? Is it a fact also that this is a departure from the traditional policy of any government and particularly this Government? Does the Government now propose to interest itself actively in any case affectingthe Public Service - its own officers - and members of Parliament and to oppose any increases for any reason at all because of inflationary trends?
– Insofar as the subject of inflation comes within the responsibility of the Minister for Labour and National Service whom 1 represent in this chamber, perhaps I shall be permitted to say that everybody in the Parliament would probably recognise inflation as the major serious challenge to the soundness of our economy at present. It is while that challenge is before us that the Government is alert to the necessity to restrain increases in wages by taking action to intervene in important cases and to put to the tribunal argument that bears upon the consequences of any decision upon the economy of the country. A decision to intervene will be made case by case according to the Minister’s judgment of the possible importance of the decision to the general economy of the country.
– My question also is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Can the Minister tell us where there is even-handedness and social justice in the situation whereby the Government fails to do anything effective to oppose price increases, such as those imposed by Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, and yet intervenes actively in cases in which the unions seek wage increases because the real value of wages is being eroded by the price increases which the Government fails to do anything about?
– Mr Deputy President, I would not take much time of the Senate to make a comment upon such a general argumentative question as that, but permit me to say that the Prime Minister has indicated that a White Paper is being prepared on price restraint and it will be before the Parliament for debate. The powers of the Commonwealth are under examination in that respect. It should be abundantly clear that prices are the product of increases in charges, wages, profits and management expenses. The imputation that the Prime Minister did not seek to restrain the price increase announced by BHP ought not to be made in view of the fact that it appears that he wrote to the company calling attention to the national importance of restraining increases in prices.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. As the Minister is aware, in the last 3 financial years 3,698 public servants made trips abroad at a cost to the taxpayers of nearly $7.4m. Will the Minister ask the Prime Minister to make a general statement in regard to this matter and in regard to the policy adopted by departments for these overseas visits? Who authorises them? Are they really necessary? In particular, what percentage travelled first class and why, and how many were accompanied by their wives and why?
– The honourable senator is just back from New York.
– . I have too many helpers, Mr Deputy President. My Department would be a good ons to use as an example because we send officers overseas to deal with health matters. Recommendations are put to me by my Department and if I concur the recommendations then go to a special committee set up within the framework of the Prime Minister’s Department. The recommendation is evaluated to determine whether it is wise and appropriate for the officers to go overseas. I make the point to Senator Turnbull and to the Senate that is is not simply a matter of a departmental requesting that certain personnel go overseas. It goes much deeper than that. When the Minister clears the recommendation - if he does, it then has to be examined by another body before approval is given.
Obviously some departments have a tremendous movement of departmental personnel who go overseas. When I was the Minister for Supply there was a constant stream of the hierarchy of my Department going overseas. They were involved in technological fields, particularly in relation to the aircraft industry and space research. I think that Senator Murphy alluded to this matter during the last sessional period - certainly at one stage during the debate in the Estimates Committees. There is a need for us not to allow our professional people to become insular and not to allow them to be deprived of the vast wealth of knowledge on subjects which are within their responsibility. I have no doubt that the same situation arises in other departments, particularly the Service departments. That is the answer to the generality of Senator Turn-bull’s question. In addition, he has asked me whether the Prime Minister’s Department will give more details of numbers, the conditions under which public servants travel and so on. I shall certainly refer that question to the Prime Minister’s Department for a reply.
– 1 ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that at the time of the presentation of the Nimmo Committee’s report the accumulated reserve funds held by hospital and medical funds were running at the combined total of $78m? Was a recommendation made that the funds gradually reduce the amount of their reserves? On 7th May last year did the Minister’s predecessor in this chamber state that the rates of contributions as they existed at that time had been set to enable reduction of excessive reserves? Will the Minister agree that notwithstanding these statements the accumulated reserves now held by hospital and medical funds is much higher than the $78m referred to by the Nimmo Committee - indeed, I think it is of the order of $120m. What action is the Government taking to see that a reasonable proportion of these astronomical reserves are passed back to the financially burdened patients?
– As I understand the situation, the background of the question posed by Senator Douglas McClelland is substantially true. There was a recommendation that efforts should be made to reduce reserves. As I said in response to a question yesterday, the old theory held in the early days of the funds was that the funds must always hold not less than 9 months’ reserve. That concept has been superseded and the theory is that a figure of something like 3 months is more appropriate to the reserves the funds should have. As a consequence the funds and the schedules have been pitched to that concept and some of the services have been increased. Senator Douglas McClelland stated that at a certain s!age the funds held $78m in reserve and that now the figure is $120m. I think we need to have the question analysed and processed. Because the honourable senator is geared to the situation I know he understands that we would need to look at the mutiplicity of funds. The situation in relation to the big funds could be reasonably apparent but in relation to some of the smaller funds - there are some hundreds of them - it may well be that there is complete justification for them to attempt to build up their funds to some degree. It is a reasonable question for analysis. I shall put it to a departmental analysis and come back with an answer and with any observations which I feel I should make in response to the question.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the Canberra News’ of 21st February this year where the member for the Australian Capital Territory is reported as saying: . . . there had been cases where magistrates had been advised how to handle cases they were hearing.
I also ask: Has the Attorney-General asked the member for the Australian Capital Territory whether he was correctly reported and, if so, to produce evidence to supporthis allegation? If the Attorney-General has not so asked the member for the Australian Capital Territory, will he so do? Finally, if no such evidence is produced by the member for the Australian Capital Territory, what steps does the Attorney-General intend to take to protect magistrates who are unable to defend themselves from this allegation of improper conduct?
– I have seen the report to which Senator Withers has referred. I am aware also that a statement was made on a television station in Canberra some short time before that report, in which I am informed similar and more damaging statements were made. I regard the allegations as grave and serious because the implication very clearly to be- drawn from what appears is that magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory are told by officers of my own Department, for whom I am responsible, how they are to handle cases. That is a grave imputation upon the integrity of the administration of justice in this Territory.
I have had inquiries made since this report came to my attention. The result of my inquiries is that there is absolutely no foundation whatsoever in any imputation or suggestion that officers of my Department have ever sought to tell magistrates how they are to handle cases. I think that it is incumbent upon the member for the Australian Capital Territory to indicate what is the basis on which he makes his allegations so that, if the information that I have sought and received is inaccurate, the matter can be properly researched and there can be an assurance given to the people of Canberra as to what the situation is.
Equally, there is the position to which Senator Withers has referred, that the magistrates of this Territory value their independence and integrity, as has been shown on many occasions. I think that it is only fair to say that, if there are allegations of this character, they should be backed up by facts. I will not say anything further than this at this stage because I think that it is incumbent, as I said, upon the member for the Australian Capital Territory to indicate what his next step will be. Depending upon that, the course of action which my Department will follow will await the results of anything further.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. One aspect of it at least may attract the interest of the Minister representing the Minister for Supply. Have any orders or inquiries been received for the purchase of the Australian designed and produced aircraft known as Project N2 following its outstanding test flights? Has the Government decided to purchase any of these aircraft for use by the Army? If not, when will the Government indicate its support for this project by placing orders for the aircraft so that production can commence?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThe question is directed to me and I will answer it in the first place. If the Minister representing the Minister for Supply, with your leave, Mr Deputy President, cares to supplement what I say, I will be perfectly happy. As the former Minister for Supply who in fact took the initiative on Project N, actually saw it in its growth and put views to the Government in relation to it, naturally I am, as I always have been, very excited about it. I hope that the order booie will in fact justify its development. The prototypes have flown and have proved to be satisfactory. I am not aware of the situation in relation to the order book, but I do know from my knowledge as a former Minister for Supply that the order book now becomes the critical issue because you just cannot say that you will embark upon the development of a particular type of aircraft, with all the colossal lead time and expense involved, unless there is a reasonable certainty that when you take that final decision there is justification for
X number of aircraft to be produced and that they will be sold. I think that is the reason Senator Poyser is posing his question. I am not informed on the current situation. If Senator Drake-Brockman, who represents in this place the Minister for Supply, has any information to supplement the points that I have made I am sure that he will respond.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. Is it a fact that the States concerned and the Commonwealth have finally agreed to ratify the agreement relating to the construction of the Dartmouth Dam which was delayed for so long because of non-acceptance of the agreement by Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia? By how much did the cost of building the Dartmouth Dam increase during this period of delay? Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government has agreed to this increase in the cost of building this dam which is so necessary to supply South Australia with a much needed increase in water resources?
– The Commonwealth has proposed to the States that work should proceed on the Dartmouth project. The revised estimate of cost is now $64m. It was $57m. The revised cost contains an allowance of about 10 per cent for possible escalation. The Commonwealth has offered to the 3 States involved to extend the terms in the financial agreement. Two of the States have accepted so far. A reply is awaited from the third. I think it is well known by honourable senators, particularly those from South Australia and Victoria, that under the terms of the River Murray Waters Agreement each of the 4 contracting governments has to find one-quarter of the capital cost. I think that covers the situation.
– In directing my question to the Minister for Health T refer to the United States committee which recently reported on the drug marihuana. I ask: Did that body recommend that alt existing United States legal sanctions and penalties be actively pursued against the pedlars and pushers of the drug? Is it not a measure of the United States Government’s concern at the adverse effects of that drug that the existing penalties against pedlars and pushers are particularly heavy?
This matter was raised at question time yesterday and I chose, therefore, to seek some further information in relation to it. The report of the United States National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse will not be presented to the Congress, we understand, until 22nd March. Thai is the information I have been able to glean. Therefore, the report is not available. However there have been wide newspaper reports which indicate that the Commission has recommended that legal sanctions and penalties against what the honourable senator terms pedlars and pushers - I think we all understand the words - of marihuana should not - I repeat ‘not’ - be eased. Gaol sentences are still to be imposed for growing, selling and transporting marihuana, for giving it to friends and for smoking it in public. Under United States Federal law to have, give or sell marihuana in the United States is a felony. Federal and many State laws deal with the drug in the same way as they deal with narcotics. The penalty for illegal sale or illegal importation can be up to 15 years’ imprisonment with the possibility of a fine in addition of SUS25,000. Simple possession can involve a fine of $US5,000 or one year’s imprisonment or both, while stronger penalities are applicable for subsequent offences. Because of concern over the use of drugs by young persons, special penalties apply to the sale of drugs to minors. So, I concur in what the honourable senator says:” As we understand the report, there is no shifting of ground on what I believe are absolutely justifiably severe penalties for the pedlars and pushers.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Will the Minister give favourable consideration to, firstly, the time limit on trunk line telephone calls being extended from 3 minutes to 5 minutes, particularly in country areas, and, secondly all trunk line calls to ambulance centres, hospitals or doctors in country areas being charged for at the local call rate?
– All I can say Is that I will refer the honourable senator’s request to the Postmaster-General. The honourable senator must appreciate that to grant those extensions undoubtedly would add to the costs of the Postmaster-General’s Department, and that is a factor which, in the light of the increased charges of recent times necessitated by the increased labour costs involved in the Post Office, must have considerable attention paid to it. As I said I will refer the honourable senator’s request to the Postmaster-General.
– Can the Minister representing the Minis er for Supply give any additional information concerning the development of the aircraft known as Project N2?
– As far as I am aware, the committee in the Department of Defence, comprising members of the Departments of the Army, Supply and Air, is still meeting to see whether there is a military need for this aircraft and whether that need is in the Air Force, or the Army. A meeting, as far as I am aware, was held last Tuesday afternoon. That deals wilh the question as it relates to the Department of Supply. But as Minister for Air, perhaps I should say to the Senate that the Royal Australian Air Force does not at this time have a specific requirement for an aircraft of the type of Project N, either to help in its own operations or to help in the operations of the Army which it carries out for the Army. The honourable senator will be aware that at the present time we have in operation helicopters and Caribou aircraft, for direct army support and we also have 20 DC3 aircraft still operating at various air bases. So we really have a capability to assist the operations of the Army, and also a capability to meet our own transport requirements for the present. Nevertheless, this committee is looking at where we can use Project N. But, until it establishes that there is a military need, I cannot say anything further.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services. In view of the present rate of inflation and the difficulties caused by that inflation to those on low incomes, and in line wilh the Government’s stated policy of continually maintaining a reasonable level of income for those people in receipt of social service pensions, is the Government in a position at present to give an immediate increase of at least $2 a week to all pensioners?
– I assure the honourable senator that the Government is very much aware thai (he current rate of inflation in (his country hits hardest those who are on fixed remunerations because they do not benefit from the increases which generally the work force is getting. Whether the Government is in a position to or will lake aci ion along the lines which the honourable senator mentioned is obviously a matter of Government policy and is a matter for the Government to announce. I will indicate the honourable senator’s interest to (he Minister for Social Services.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware thai members of certain religious orders who do nol receive direct pay or remuneration in their teaching duties are denied sickness benefits even when, having contracted an illness, they are medically certified as being unable to follow their profession? Docs he know that, such persons are not regarded as having been in employment and therefore are denied unemployment benefit? ls this not a sad commentary on the inadequacy of our social service system? Will the Minister afford me an early opportunity lo make the fullest representations to remove this wholly unacceptable discrimination against a certain section of the Australian community whose work and dedication are of the highest order and who must surely be entitled to some social service benefit in the circumstances?
– I will arrange for the Minister for Social Services to give attention to the matters which have been raised. However 1 should point out, in view of the colourful language which the honourable senator used when referring to this so-called discrimination, that the unemployment and sickness benefit provisions of the Social Services Act were introduced by a government formed by the Parly which he supports. Basically the requirements for en titlement have been iiic same since they were introduced. If at the present time there is a case for reform, it will be looked at by the Minister for Social Services. It should be recognised that the Government is carrying through a general policy which was initiated 25 or more years ago.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral recall that on Tuesday last Senator Murphy raised with him the failure of the Australian Labor Party candidate for Hotham to answer a charge? Has the Attorney-General received any reply from Mr Whitlam or Mr Crawford to the statement which the Minister made on 10th February, and to which Senator Murphy referred on Tuesday last, about the failure of the ALP candidate for Hotham to appear in court to answer a charge of failing to render national service? Have the Commonwealth Police receive any assistance from the ALP in attempting to locate Mr Johnston?
– 1 have received no reply from any of the persons (o whom I referred in the statement which I made and which 1 was asked to repeat to the Senate on Tuesday last, nor to the best of my knowledge has Mr Johnston, the Australian Labor Party candidate for whom a warrant of arrest has been issued, been apprehended - unless something has happened in the last 48 hours and 1 have not been notified. I am nol aware of any assistance being offered by the ALP to the Commonwealth Police. Obviously members of the ALP are in a position to offer that assistance if they would do so. I say that because prior to the date on which Mr Johnston was to appear in court the State President of the ALP held a Press conference and publicised what would be Mr Johnston’s conduct. I have since seen literature published by, I think, the Draft Resisters Union which says that this ALP . candidate will conduct his election campaign underground. I find it incredible that the Leader of the AusALP, Mr Whitlam, could not locate and talk to one of his candidates if he wanted to. In these circumstances it seems to me that the ALP leaders would be able to offer assistance to the police if they were prepared to do so. Yet they are not prepared even to declare where they stand on this issue.
This is one example where the Labor Party’s actions belie its statements. It is engaged in a hoax and a deception of the Australian people. I say that because in its platform, which is a published document declaring what the Party believes in and what it would do, appears the statement as a policy objective that the AttorneyGeneral and the public officers under his control are to investigate breaches of Commonwealth law and to initiate proceedings for enforcement of laws. How can anyone give any credence to that statement when the conduct of the leaders of the ALP is such that they will not assist the Commonwealth Police and they will not even disown a candidate who is not prepared to answer to his summons to appear in court and for whom a warrant of arrest has been issued.
– Can the Minister for Civil Aviation say what funds have been expended on development and maintenance of airports in each State over the past 10 years?
– Yes, I can say so, but not now. I have all the figures. I will provide them to the honourable senator.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate inform honourable senators as to the proposed programme for the balance of the day in order that honourable senators and transport officers can make arrangements?
I welcome the question because I realise that while we function here people down the line have responsibilities for our movements. I would like to respond to the question as I see the position at the present time. The proposed order of business is that general business take precedence after 8 p.m. As it happens, we have international visitors here, and in the interests of our nation many of us have commitments this evening to entertain these visitors. This gives rise to some difficulties for us. If it is the will of the Senate I propose to go down the business paper in the ordinary way. However, the Social Services Bill is being dealt with in the other place, and if it comes over to this place by way of message there is very good reason for our disposing of it quickly. It is part heard in the other place and I have been trying to ascertain when it is likely to come to this chamber by way of message. If it came reasonably early in the afternoon and if it were the will of the Senate, I feel that we could dispose of it this evening. I would seek the will of the Senate and suggest that we put the message down and proceed with the Bill forthwith so that we could dispose of it today. I think that the Opposition, and I am sure the Democratic Labor Party too, would want that course to be followed.
However, I am not able to obtain a fixed time as to when the Bill is likely to come into this chamber. I understand that it is possible that the other place will resume debate on it this afternoon. As soon as 1 am aware of the movement and the passage of the Bill in the other place I will acquaint the Party leaders as to the situation and then, with the co-operation of Senator Greenwood who will be handling it here, I will seek to have the Bill brought on and ask leave for Government business to take precedence tonight in order to dispose of the Bill. Obviously if it is ascertained that the Bill will not arrive in this place until very late we will not be able to follow the course I have outlined. In that event we would have to determine whether we wished to go on as a Senate to deal with general business tonight or leave ourselves free to entertain our international visitors, which is not unimportant. It is not as important as the Social Services Bill, but our commitment to the delegation from the Pacific countries is not an unimportant one.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. Does the Minister agree that effective liaison between the Department of Labour and National Service and the Department of Shipping and Transport could have avoided the present industrial dispute involving the oil tanker ‘Texaco Scandinavia’, which is at present outside the port of Newcastle? In particular, does he not think that the advice given in evidence last week by the Federal Secretary of the Merchant Services Guild, Captain Sam Benson, if accepted in full, could have saved Mr Justice Frank i from having belatedly to discover today that the vessel in question is defined as a maritime maverick since it requires a permit to operate off the Australia coast? Finally, does the Minister, who adheres to that much vaunted expression ‘the rule of law’, agree with me that the fact that it was not applied fully in this case makes trade unionists somewhat apprehensive sometimes about court proceedings?
– The honourable senator’s question is deserving of more consideration than I can give to it impromptu. Therefore I ask him to place it on the notice paper.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service. I ask: Will the Minister review the definition of the word ‘Aboriginal’ in the National Service Act and make it have the same meaning as that word has in the various State Acts, thus preventing others from f acing the same dilemma as was faced by Mervyn Eades, who in the Perth Court of Petty Sessions was fined for noncompliance with the National Service Act and who the magistrate found is not an Aboriginal but a white under the National Service Act, although under the Western Australian law he is an Aboriginal and is black?
– A matter of that sort will have to be examined in the light of the particular statutes concerned and the judgment in the case referred to. I shall ask that consideration be given to this matter at an early date.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development. I ask: In view of the Minister’s statement today that the estimated cost of the construction of the Dartmouth Dam is now $64m as against the original estimate of $57m, will he inform the Senate whether the construction cost would have been held at $57m if the agreement involved had been signed by all parties at the time of the original estimate?
-I certainly will not inform the Senate of that. I shall direct the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the responsible Minister. It would be a matter for him to decide whether he could do so. But it is not the easiest of things to gaze back into the past and determine what might have happened if something had been done. I do not know how one would undertake such a task.
(Question No. 1720)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Accurate forecasting is impeded if property developers withhold information on large projects until work is about to commence. The problem of orderly provision of cable pairs is aggravated when there is a large tract of undeveloped land between the estate and the telephone exchange.
(Question No. 1756)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1657)
asked the Minister representing the
Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator’s question.
(Question No. 1672)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
(Question No. 1678)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
(Question No. 1679)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
(Question No. 1683)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice.
Who withheld from the Perth edition of the Australian Broadcasting Commission television programme ‘This Day Tonight’, the videotaped inter views of the Attorney-General and Mr Matteson; and replaced it with a report of an American honeymoon resort.
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The decision was made by the Chairman of the A.B.C., Sir Robert Madgwick. The other item mentioned was not a replacement but was selected in the usual way from the Sydney edition of ‘This Day Tonight’.
(Question No. 1687)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
– The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Devices have been developed on a limited scale overseas for the automatic control of loudness but at this stage the Board is not satisfied that these represent the answer to the problem. The Board is keeping the matter under examination.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I inform the Senate that the President has received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) appointing Senator Cant to the Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control in place of Senator O’Byrne.
– Pursuant to section 12 of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act 1948-68, I present the report of the Commonwealth Actuary on the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund for the 4-year period ended 30th June 1970.
Pursuant to section 134 of the Superannuation Act 1922-1969, I present the 48th annual report of the Superannuation Board for the year ended 30th June 1970.
Report on Items
– I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Tetraethyl-lead, tetramethyl-lead and anti-knock preparations based on tetraethyl-lead or tetra-methyl-lead
Steam engines, boilers and power units; Mining, metallurgical, etc., machinery Yeast;
Diacetone alcohol and certain derivatives thereof (Dumping and Subsidies Act); and Polyester yarn and tow (Dumping and Subsidies Act); and
Shotgun and rimfire cartridges (Dumping and Subsidies Act).
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is notice of motion No. 1, Government Business, formal or informal?
The proposed work is part of a master planned re-development scheme to replace obsolete and inadequate war-time buildings and comprises the following main elements: a new warehouse and office annexe; a new guard house; conversion of an existing building to a receipts and despatch centre; and various demolition works and engineering services. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $3.4m. I table plans showing the location and extent of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Law of Evidence in the Australian Capital Territory.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide by Act rules for the admission of evidence in proceedings in courts and other tribunals in the Australian Capital Territory. Honourable senators will recall that the Evidence Ordinance 1971 of the Australian Capital Territory was disallowed by the Senate on 19th August 1971. The decision to disallow the Ordinance having been confirmed by the Senate on 25th August, the Australian Capital Territory Evidence (Temporary Provisions) Act 1971 was passed by the Parliament. This legislation had the effect of enacting the Ordinance in statutory form - but only until 31st March 1972, the date decided by the Senate as being the date upon which the temporary provisions should cease to be in force.
Before referring to the content of the Bill I would make an observation in relation to the general question of legislation for the Australian Capital Territory. Honourable senators will be aware that the form of such legislation has been primarily by ordinance, the Governor-General in Council having been given power to make ordinances since the first days of the
Territory by section 12 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910. This method oi legislating tor the Territory was confirmed by the Parliament as recently as 1970, when the form of section 12 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act was altered to enable the Governor-General in Council to make ordinances for the peace, order and good government of the Territory that may have effect outside the Territory. The Government’s position is that, as a general rule, legislation for the Territory is to be by ordinance, but that this rule should be subject to exceptions. The wishes of the Senate in this instance being that this legislation should be by Act and not by ordinance, an exception is being made in the present case.
The Bill deals with the same matters as were dealt with by the Ordinance and no change of substance has been made, except in relation to one matter which 1 shall refer to later. Some formal changes were, of course, necessary in converting the measure into a Bill because of the possible effect of the Act on other legislation, particularly Territory ordinances, which are subsidiary to Commonwealth Acts. There are provisions in ordinances to exclude rules of evidence in proceedings before tribunals and persons where it would not be desirable that the rules of evidence should apply to those proceedings, and there is therefore a provision in clause 7 that the Act does not apply with respect to the taking of evidence under an ordinance where the ordinance contains a provision to the effect that the tribunal or person taking the evidence is not to be bound by any rules of evidence. Similarly it was necessary to include a provision that would prevent the Act from applying to the taking of evidence by committees of this Parliament or by either House itself of the Parliament, and this has been done in the definition of ‘court’ in clause 6 of the Bill.
For the benefit of those honourable senators who are not lawyers, I should perhaps explain at the outset that the purpose of ‘evidence’ is to enable the court at the hearing of a case to ascertain what in fact happened in the past - for example, was the defendant really negligent in driving his motor car when the plaintiff was struck and injured - and sometimes what are likely to be its consequences in the future - has the plaintiff suffered permanent injury - so that the court may determine whether what did happen entitles the plaintiff to any and, if so, what legal reparation from the defendant. Prima facie, any material which is logically probative of a fact in issue, that is, which tends to show that a particular thing relevant to the course of action or to the defence happened or did not happen or is likely or unlikely to happen, is capable of assisting the court in its task and should be capable of being tendered in evidence, unless there are other reasons for refusing to admit it. The law of evidence is what is described as adjectival Jaw, as opposed to substantive law and it is not only technical but rather complicated.
The rules of evidence contained in this Bill are not a code of the law of evidence - for example, what is known as the hearsay rule is not written into the Bill. This is an important rule and I think it will assist honourable senators if I explain it now. The hearsay rule is based on the principle that if one wants to prove a fact which one’s opponent denies one must call the witness who saw it happen and not rely on what that eye witness told somebody else about it. There have been recognised to be a number of obvious exceptions to this rule, despite the apparently sound principle on which it is based, and the application of it has undoubtedly given rise to many difficulties. The hearsay rule developed during a period when ail, or nearly all, issues of fact in civil as well as in criminal cases were determined by juries. Their standard of education was lower than today and it may be that they were ill qualified to estimate the comparative probative value of alternative methods of proof. Today most civil cases are tried by a judge alone and indeed the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act provides that civil trials shall be without a jury unless the court otherwise orders. The hearsay rale, in its present form, with its numerous exceptions, is said to lack rational basis, to result sometimes in injustice and often in avoidable expense and to introduce much unnecessary complication in the preparation and hearing of civil actions. The object of the whole Bill is to facilitate the proof of the real facts in issue both in the interests of proper justice be ng done in court and in enabling proceedings to be disposed of as quickly as they properly can be.
If there were any justifiable criticism of the Ordinance or this Bill it could be that it is not sufficiently sweeping in its reforms, particularly of the hearsay rule. There are some lawyers expert in the field of evidence who say that all these technical rules should be swept away and replaced by a single rule that any evidence is admissible if it is relevant to the matter in issue. In England the Civil Evidence Act 1968 has gone some of the way in reframing the hearsay rule and its exceptions. The committee that was responsible for the preparation of the Evidence Ordinance 1971 thought that it would be preferable to wait and see how the English provision worked out in practice rather than to pioneer the English legislation in Australia. I share the committee’s views. It is known that the New South Wales Law Reform Commission is giving close consideration to reform of the law of evidence in that State and I think it wise to wait and see what is done in New South Wales before making any fundamental change of this kind in the Territory.
I turn now to the principal changes that the Ordinance made to the previous law in force in the Territory and which have, of course, been carried on to this Bill. Honourable senators will see from clause 5 of the Bill that the previous law was contained in a number of fairly old New South Wales Acts in their application to the Australian Capital Territory, the principal one being the Evidence Act 1898. In addition, some of the provisions of the Bill replace provisions of the Crimes Act 1900 of New South Wales in its application to the Territory, which were repealed by the Crimes Ordinance 1971. Perhaps I might deal first with the provisions that have been included to keep in touch with advances in technology, that is, the provisions dealing with the admission of documents produced from microfilm and computers. Honourable senators will be aware of the large and increasing use that has been made by Government departments to put records on microfilm. Company documents, for example, in New South Wales are all being put on microfilm. Because a document produced from a microfilm is a copy of a copy it was not admissible under the previous law relating to the admission of copy documents. Four of the States have introduced legislation making such documents admissible. Provision has therefore been made in clause 16 for the admission of reproductions of documents made from microfilms of documents lodged with, registered by or issued by, a department of State of the Commonwealth or of a State, an authority established under a law of the Commonwealth, a State or a Territory, or an officer of the Commonwealth or of a State or Territory.
Part VII of the Bill deals with the admissibility of documents produced by computers. The greatly increased use of computers for the keeping of records and for the processing of information is a development of which all honourable senators will be well aware, but there does not appear to be any authority on the admissibility of their products as evidence. It seems that in some cases the courts have been willing to look at what is called a print-out from a computer and accept it as evidence of the facts stated, but in others they have been unwilling to do so. If information stored in a computer is the best or the only evidence available, it would be unfortunate if it should not be admissible. Clause 42 makes admissible a statement contained in a document produced by a computer, subject to the provisions of the clause being complied with and subject to the conditions contained in part VII and to proposed rules of court. The first condition is that over the relevant period there must have been regularly supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of the activities in question information of the kind contained in the statement. The second condition is that the information contained in the statement in fact reproduces, or is derived from, information supplied to the computer in the ordinary course of the relevant activities. The third condition is that the computer must have been operating properly throughout the material part of the relevant period, or that any defect in its operation must not have been such as to affect the production of the document or accuracy of its contents.
In addition, there is a safeguard, to be found in clause 43, which provides that the court may, if it has reason to doubt the authenticity of a document sought to be tendered in evidence under part VII or the accuracy of the information contained in such a document, refuse to admit the document in evidence. Clause 44 then deals with the question of what weight, if any, is to be given to a statement admitted in evidence under this part. The comparable provisions in the Evidence Ordinance were restricted to civil proceedings but clause 42 makes them applicable to criminal proceedings as well. This is the one deviation of substance from the provisions of the Evidence Ordinance, to which I referred earlier. The committee that prepared the Ordinance adopted a cautious approach. Having regard to the safeguards provided, I do not consider that the caution is really justified. I am fortified in this view by the fact that Victoria, when it provided for the admission of documents produced by computers in the Evidence (Documents) Act 1971, provided for their admission in criminal as well as in civil proceedings.
I deal next with further exceptions to the hearsay rule, contained in part VI, which is entitled ‘Admissibility of Statements in Documents’. The provisions of this part enable written statements and expressions of opinion to be admitted in evidence in cases where under the previous law they would not be admissible, or would only have been allowed to be looked at by a witness to refresh his memory. These follow similar provisions introduced in England in relation to civil proceedings by the Evidence Act 1938. All States have legislation substantially identical with the English Act. The class of case at which these provisions are aimed is exemplified by the common one where a doctor examines a patient after he has been injured, and is told things by the patient. The doctor makes his own notes, or he may dictate notes to his secretary. Some time later the injured person takes proceedings for damages and the evidence of the doctor is required. If the doctor is available he would normally be called to give evidence.
If the doctor is called as a witness he may be unable to remember the circumstances of the case. Clause 28 will not only enable him to refresh his memory from his notes but it will enable the notes themselves to be put in evidence where the court is satisfied that they were prepared at a time when the facts were fresh in the doctor’s mind or, in a case where an opinion is expressed in the notes, the facts on which the opinion was based were fresh in the mind of the doctor. It may be, however, that the doctor has since died, or is otherwise unavailable as a witness. Clearly it would be wrong for what might be vital evidence in the doctor’s notes to be inadmissible. Sub-clause (1.) of clause 29 therefore enables facts in a document to be admitted where the maker of the statement had personal knowledge of the matters dealt with in the statement and the maker of the statement is either dead, outside Australia, unfit by reason of old age or physical or mental infirmity to appear as a witness, or cannot with reasonable diligence be found.
Sub-clause (2.) of clause 29 extends the exception to the person making a statement in a document at someone else’s direction, for example, the doctor’s secretary taking the doctor’s notes. This document will be admissible in evidence if it was made by a person acting under a duty to make the statement. It will also be admissible if it is made in the course of, and as a record or part of a record relating to, a business or the administration of a government department. The document must, of course, be prepared from information supplied by a person who had, or might reasonably be supposed to have had, personal knowledge of the matters dealt with in the information, and it will be admissible only if the person who supplied the information is dead, out of Australia and so on, as in sub-clause (1.). However, a statement under sub-clause (2.) will be admissible in the additional circumstance that the person who supplied the information cannot reasonably be expected, having regard to the time that has elapsed since he supplied the information and to all other relevant circumstances, to recollect the matters dealt with in the information he supplied.
Clause 30 contains a similar exception to the hearsay rule ‘in relation to statements of opinion expressed in a document. It is included to obviate any doubts that clause 29 (2.) extends to statements in opinions. Clause 32 deals with the weight, if any, that should be given to a statement admitted in evidence under any of the provisions I have referred to. It provides that a court should have a regard to all the circumstances from which an inference can reasonably be drawn as to the correctness or otherwise of the statement, including the time when the statement was made in relation to the event concerned and also the question whether the maker of the statement, or any person by whom the information was supplied to the maker of the statement, had any incentive to conceal or misrepresent facts.
These provisions apply to criminal as well as to civil proceedings. By way of historical comparison, I again refer to the English position because, after all, it was from England that Australia inherited the common law rules of evidence. Provisions making certain commercial records admissible in criminal cases were introduced in England in the Criminal Evidence Act 1965. Until the majority decision of the House of Lords in 1964 in Myers v. Director of Public Prosecutions it had generally been thought that these records were properly admissible. In that case it was held that manufacturers’ records of cylinder block numbers were inadmissible to confirm the identification of stolen cars, as this evidence was hearsay which could not be brought within any established exception to the rule against the admission of such evidence. The Criminal Evidence Act 1965 was modelled on the provisions relating to civil proceedings in the Evidence Act 1938. Similar provisions have since been introduced in New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia. The provisions of this Bill are somewhat wider in relation to criminal proceedings than the English and State provisions, which are confined to business records. Other documents, such as letters, may be received in evidence under this Bill, as they are under the civil evidence provisions of England and the States.
I will now turn to some provisions about witnesses themselves. The first I wish to mention is those relating to the competency and compellability of witnesses. A witness is competent, I should explain, if he is legally qualified to give evidence; he is compellable if he can lawfully be obliged to give evidence. Nowadays, most people are competent witnesses, but this was not always so. A competent witness is usually a compellable witness. Spouses of parties are in a particular position, particularly spouses of accused persons. Honourable senators might find the historical background to the present position helpful.
Before the enactment of a series of statutes, commencing in England with Lord
Brougham’s Act of 1851, there had been long-standing rules of the common law that no party to an action, including the plaintiff and defendant in a civil action as well as the accused in a criminal action, and no husband or wife of such a party could give evidence in the proceeding at all, whether for or against himself or herself or for or against his or her spouse. The party or spouse was not only not compellable to give evidence but was not competent to do so. He or she was not allowed to give evidence even if there was no other living witness who had observed the events in question. The difficulties created for a court trying to get at the true facts in cases in which the parties themselves had the best knowledge of the facts, or the injustice to an accused trying to clear himself of a criminal charge, can readily be envisaged.
The reasons thought to support these rules were various. A party to an action in a civil case was said to have such an interest in the outcome that he would be biased in giving evidence and tempted to commit perjury. The old common lawyers perhaps considered it more important that the party be protected from the temptation to perjury than we would today. Now we are mainly concerned that the courts be able to arrive at the truth. An accused was also said to be protected by the rule that the prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. That was small comfort to an accused faced with a case against him built on circumstantial evidence which he had no opportunity to refute. A husband or wife of a party or accused person was not a competent witness both because it was thought that he or she would be biased and also because it was thought desirable to safeguard the institution of marriage by protecting confidences and communications between husband and wife. The policy of protecting marital confidences is still one we respect, particularly in relation to criminal proceedings, but it has long been accepted that incompetency of spouses of parties in all cases is not desirable. Witnesses in civil proceedings are dealt with in clause 54, and in criminal proceedings in clause 66.
Clause 54(1.) deals with the competence and compellability of parties in civil proceedings. It has long been accepted that parties to civil proceedings should be both competent and compellable witnesses. They were made such in the United Kingdom by Lord Brougham’s Act of 1851. In New South Wales a similar provision was introduced in 1852 though on consolidation of the New South Wales statutes this was replaced by sections 5 and 6 of the Evidence Act 1898 of that State, which were in force in the Australian Capital Territory. These sections appear to have achieved the same result as Lord Brougham’s Act, though the wording is less direct. Clause 54(1.) has been drafted so as to state more directly than do the New South Wales provisions that parties in noncriminal proceedings are both competent and compellable witnesses. In this the section more closely resembles Lord Brougham’s Act itself. The provision will have the effect, for example, that a plaintiff in a civil case could compel the defendant to testify. It is unlikely that he will do so very often. But it is important to note that as criminal proceedings are not covered by the section it does not enable the prosecution in a criminal case to compel the accused to give evidence in the case against him.
Sub-clause (2.) of clause 54 deals with the competence and compellability of spouses of parties to proceedings, and the disclosure of communications between spouses during the marriage. It is necessary to make special provision for them. Shortly after the enactment of Lord Brougham’s Act of 1851 it was held the Act did not by implication make a husband or wife of a party a competent witness in a civil case. This was because the rule making them incompetent was a separate one reflecting in part a special policy of protecting the institution of marriage by safeguarding marital confidences. It was not exclusively a result of the concern about interest or bias which led to the rule making parties incompetent. However, it was generally thought that the rule needed amendment and hence, in 1853 in the United Kingdom, further legislation, the Evidence Amendment Act, provided that husbands and wives of parties should be competent witnesses in any proceedings. Further, it provided that they should be compellable witnesses except in criminal proceedings or to disclose communications made during the marriage. There was some doubt about whether there was an additional special common law rule which excluded all evidence of commu nications made during the marriage, whether given by a spouse or third party. If so, the 1853 Act would have failed to deal with this rule adequately. But in 1964 the House of Lords held that there is no such additional rule. Evidence of communications during marriage was only excluded when it was to be given by a husband or wife of a party, and this because they were incompetent.
For some reason the 1853 English legislation was not followed in New South Wales in the Evidence Act 1898. Curiously enough, the provision making parties and their spouses competent in civil proceedings is to be found in section 407 of the Crimes Act 1900 of New South Wales. Moreover, section 11 of that Act partially reinforced the common law rule by providing that no husband or wife was competent to disclose any communication made to his or her spouse during marriage. Section I I was amended in New South Wales in 1922 to make a spouse competent but not compellable to disclose communications during the marriage, but that amendment did not, of course, apply to the Territory. Section 11, incidentally, did not apply to matrimonial causes. Evidence of spouses in matrimonial causes was dealt with by the New South Wales Matrimonial Causes Act 1899, and is now dealt with in the Commonwealth legislation that has replaced it.
The position in the Territory has been much less worse than it might have been, because probably the majority of instances in which a husband or wife of a party is called on to testify arise in proceedings under the Commonwealth’s Matrimonial Causes Act 1959-66. Section 97 of that Act provides that husbands and wives of all parties to proceedings under the Act are competent and compellable witnesses, except that where a communication made during a marriage is in question, a husband or wife is not a party to the proceedings - for example, She spouse of a corespondent - is competent but not compellable to disclose that communication. If both husband and wife are parties to the proceedings each is competent and compellable to disclose communications made between them during marriage.
Certainly in civil proceedings other than matrimonial causes the position in the Territory has not been satisfactory. Thus in an application by a wife under the Married Women’s Property Act for a declaration that certain property is owned by the wife or held in trust by the husband for the wife, evidence by either spouse of the conversations between them relating to the property is perhaps incompetent because of section 11 of the 1898 New South Wales Act.
What clause 54(2.) now seeks to do is to amend and simplify the position by providing that a husband or wife of a party is a competent and compellable witness except in criminal proceedings. The provision, therefore, will apply generally in civil cases but will not affect the position in proceedings under the Matrimonial Causes Act or in criminal proceedings, which will be governed by clause 66.
It will be noted that to make the legislative intention clear it is specifically provided that the husband or wife of a party is compellable to disclose communications made between them during marriage. This is a departure from section 3 of the English Act of 1853, which is still in force, and the 1922 amendment of section 11 of the New South Wales Act, which make the spouse competent but not compellable to disclose communications during marriage, so that the witness can disclose, or refuse to disclose, the communication but his or her spouse cannot object and prevent disclosure. The point of section 3 of the 1 853 Act was questioned by Lord Reid in 1964 in the House of Lords in Rumping v. Director of Public Prosecutions. His Lordship said:
It is a mystery to me why it was decided to give this privilege to the spouse who is a witness: it means that if that spouse wishes to protect the other he or she will disclose what helps the other spouse but use this privilege to conceal communications if they would injurious, but on the other hand a spouse who has become unfriendly to the other spouse will use this privilege to disclose communications if they are injurious to the other spouse but conceal them if they are helpful.
Hence it was thought that there is no point to making the spouse competent but not compellable even in relation to communications during marriage, and the section has therefore made the spouse a compellable witness. Clause 66, as I have said, deals with competence and compellability of an accused and his or her spouse in criminal proceedings. Sub-clause (1.) embodies the principle adopted in the English Criminal
Evidence Act 1898 and section 407 of the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900 that the accused and his or her spouse are competent but not compellable witnesses. Sub-clause (2.) provides, without change, that the accused is not liable to be called as a witness for the prosecution.
An exception was made in New South Wales in J 924 to this rule that the spouse of an accused person is competent but not compellable to give evidence against the accused. The spouse was made compellable in respect of certain offences against the Child Welfare Act 1923. Sub-clause (3.) follows this precedent in making the spouse compellable in some exceptional criminal proceedings. These are all proceedings in which the offence is one against a child. The philosophy here is that situations may arise in which a child, possibly a child of the marriage, has been assaulted and injured, and no person has been present except the spouse. The assault may well have occurred in the family home. In some such cases the uncorroborated evidence of the child alone would not be sufficient to secure a conviction, as to which see clause 64. Tt is thought that the interest of society in the protection of the child in this kind of situation should outweigh the interest society has in protecting the institution of marriage by not forcing a loyal spouse to testify against an accused husband or wife. I should add that there is quite a variation as between the States as to the circumstances in which the spouse may be compelled to testify against the accused. If details are desired, T shall be happy to provide them at the Committee stage.
Clause 55 provides that either party to a marriage may give evidence tending to prove that the spouses did not have sexual relations with each other at a particular time, but a party is not compellable to give such evidence if it would show, or tend to show, that a child born to the wife during the marriage was illegitimate. Questions of legitimacy frequently arise long after the death of both the child and its parents but. even when the mother and her husband were alive, the problem of rebutting the presumption of legitimacy used to be complicated by what came to be known as the rule in Russell v. Russell. This prohibited the mother and her husband from personally giving evidence of non-access tending to bastardize a child born in wedlock, as long as they were not separated by an order of the court at the time of its conception. If they were so separated at that time, they could not give evidence to the effect that they had had intercourse by which the child might have been conceived. This rule has been abolished by statute in all States and, in respect of proceedings under the Matrimonial Causes Act, by section 98 of that Act. The corresponding section of the Evidence Ordinance 1971 completed the abolition of the rule in the Territory. Clause 55 is included in this Bill to obviate any arguments that might arise as to the revival of the rule if it were not included.
Clause 56 does two things. Sub-clause (1.) enables a witness to give evidence of the general reputation of any person, including an accused person, and of his knowledge of the person’s habits, disposition and conduct. Sub-clause (2.) prevents a witness giving evidence to the effect that he would not believe another person on his oath. Clause 57 deals with the well-known privilege of a witness against self-incrimination. At common law a witness in a civil or criminal proceeding was not bound to answer a question if the answer would, in the opinion of the judge, have a tendency to expose the witness to a criminal charge which the judge regards as reasonably likely to be preferred. The rule was the product of a reaction to the inquisitorial procedures of the Star Chamber. Today the justification for it lies in the strong conviction in our society that a man should not be compelled to give answers that might expose him to criminal punishment. The rule is also thought desirable if witnesses are to be encouraged to come forward. The common law was in New South Wales made statutory by section 9 of the Evidence Act 1898.
Clause 57 extends and amends the common law privilege in several ways. Subclause (1.) extends the privilege to spouses, thus eliminating the doubt that exists at common law as to whether the privilege enables a witness to refuse to answer on the ground that the answer would tend to incriminate his spouse rather than himself. The policy behind the rule against a spouse who is the accused in a criminal proceeding suggests that he or she also should not be compelled in earlier pro- ceedings to answer a question which might lead to a charge being preferred against the spouse. The object is to protect the integrity of a marriage by safeguarding marital confidences. There are in fact some old judicial dicta suggesting that the privilege does apply in this situation but the matter has been in doubt. The United Kingdom’s progressive Civil Evidence Act 1968, in section 14, now states that the privilege extends to the incrimination of a spouse. It was considered that doubt on this point should also be eliminated for the Territory and the privilege against incrimination of a spouse was established by the legislation this Bill will replace. Sub-clause (1.) also provides that the privilege extends to the possibility of proceedings for an offence against a law in force anywhere in Australia and not just in the Territory. It is obvious that proceedings in a small Territory such as this are quite likely to produce a situation in which the possibility is one of incrimination under the laws of one of the States or other Territories. Whether the common law would provide protection in that situation is again in doubt and legislative clarification is again desirable.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Apart from these points, sub-clause (1.) preserves the operation of other laws in force in the Territory which govern the right of a witness to refuse to answer on the ground of the privilege against self-incrimination. These will include provisions affecting non-judicial proceedings such as those in the Companies Ordinance 1962-1971 relating to investigations, because of the broad definition of court’ in clause 6. Further, the words ‘or would tend to incriminate’ can be expected to preserve the common extension of the rule beyond answers that would directly criminate the witness to those which might be used as a step towards obtaining evidence against him. Sub-clauses (2.) to (5.) provide means whereby the court, if it considers it necessary in the interests of justice so to do, may require the witness to answer but only with the protection of a certificate. That certificate will have the effect that the answer is not admissible in evidence against the person in criminal proceedings unless they are in respect of falsity of the answer. In this way the court may be able to obtain the evidence it needs in order to do justice in the case before it, but at the same time prevent the witness from providing a later prosecutor with an admission or confession that would be admissible against the witness if he were the accused under the exception to the hearsay rule relating to admissions and confessions. Tasmanian senators will be glad to know that this provision has been modelled on the Tasmanian Evidence Act 1910, sections 87 and 89.
Clause 60 is concerned with impeachment by a party to an action of the credibility of a witness whom that party has called. It is similar to section 22 of the Common Law Procedure Act 1854 which first dealt with this subject in England. That section was followed in section 53 of the New South Wales Evidence Act 1898. Clause 60, however, has a significant amendment of the old law. Sub-clause (1.) merely states the basic rule of the common law that a party calling a witness may not impeach the credit of the witness by general evidence of bad character. Sub-clause (2.) allows the court to grant leave to the party to cross-examine his witness about a previous inconsistent statement made by the witness, or to prove by independent evidence that the witness has made a statement inconsistent with his evidence.
Sub-clause (4.) follows the old legislation in requiring that, if a party wishes to prove that a witness has made a previous inconsistent statement, he must inform the witness of sufficient of the circumstances of the making of the statement to identify the occasion on which it was made and to ask him whether he made the statement. This procedure has been established since 1854 in order to overcome the effect of the rules laid down by the House of Lords in 1820 in the divorce proceedings brought against Queen Caroline. That case did not require the party to give his witness an opportunity of explaining the inconsistence between his former statement and present testimony and in practice the procedure in sub-clause (4.) provides such an opportunity.
The significant amendment is contained in sub-clause (3.). Under the old statutes, a party may only be given leave to crossexamine his own witness or to prove that he has previously made a statement inconsistent with his present testimony if, in the opinion of the court, the witness is adverse’, that is, hostile. In the result, there has been a prohibition on the use of any of the techniques of cross-examination by the party calling a witness unless there is evidence in the witness’s demeanour in the witness box, previous statements, or other behaviour or some factor such as relationships to the parties or special interest in the proceedings which suggests that he is not prepared to tell the whole truth. The limitation is, however, of doubtful value. Apart from the fact that the concept of hostility is difficult to apply and depends on overt factors indicative of hostility, the value of the prohibition on impeachment has been fundamentally questioned for decades. There seems to be no reason why the party calling the witness should generally not be allowed to use the techniques of cross-examination in the interests of discovering the truth, just as the opposite party can, so long as the witness is protected against unnecessary harassment and attacks on his character.
The rule against impeachment appears to have developed at a time when a party called his friends as ‘oath-helpers’ to testify to his credibility and it then seemed illogical to allow him to attack them. There now seems to be no reason to think that a party will or should call only witnesses who are favourable to him and in whose accuracy, perception and memory he has complete confidence.There seems to be no reason why he should be bound to accept everything said by a witness whom he calls. Indeed, the position under the old legislation is that if a party can produce several witnesses to an issue he can use one witness to contradict any, in effect, thereby impeach the testimony of another who has been unfavourable. Yet, if he has only one witness who is not declared hostile, he is unable to impeach and is unfairly disadvantaged. Leading experts on the law of evidence, such as Wigmore, have been highly critical of the position for some decades. The section does require leave of the judge before a witness may be impeached. This will leave scope for protection of the witness from unnecessary attacks and for refusal to allow impeachment if experience does demonstrate that there should be limits placed on it.
Clause 63 deals with the manner in which deaf and dumb witnesses may give evidence.
It follows section 83 of the Evidence Act 1910 of Tasmania. Clause 64 deals with the unsworn evidence of young children. The previous provision in force in the Territory was section 418 of the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900, which referred to children ‘of tender years’ and which was restricted to criminal proceedings. Section 64 of the Ordinance, following Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania, applies the provision to all proceedings and follows the Victorian provision in fixing the age at 14 years; in South Australia it is 10 years.
Clause 63 deals with one of the exceptions to the hearsay nile, that relating to dying declarations. It widens it considerably. At common law a statement made orally or in writing by a deceased person is admissable evidence of the cause of his death but only at a trial for his murder or manslaughter. The party seeking admission also must prove that the deceased had a settled hopeless expectation of death’ at the time he made the statement and that he would have been a competent witness if called to give evidence at the time. The common law has been made statutory in 2 States - New South Wales, in section 408 of the Crimes Act 1900, and Tasmania, in section 112 of the Evidence Act 1910. Written statements by persons since deceased will be admissible under this legislation by virtue of clauses 29 to 30, subject to some conditions. Hence section 65 in confined in its operation to oral statements. In relation to these it is considered that there is no good reason why admissibility should be confined to murder or manslaughter cases. If the statements are admissible in those - the most serious of all cases - they can surely be admitted in other criminal cases, in civil actions and in other proceedings.
The requirement of a ‘settled hopeless expectation of death’ has also been too restrictive. It is extremely difficult to satisfy the test because in most instances the party seeking admission of the statement has no evidence of what expectation the deceased in fact had at the time, or at least no evidence to establish that the expectation of death was settled and hopeless. Historically, the restriction was based on a view that a person who is certain that he will shortly die will not lie because of his fear of hell fires if he were to die with a lie on his
Hps. But that view is no longer so persuasive. The requirement was relaxed somewhat in section 408 of the Crimes Act 1900. The test in paragraph (a) of clause 65 differs somewhat from that in section 408 (1.). It is also similar to a provision proposed by the Report of the Torts and General Law Reform Committee of New Zealand on Hearsay Evidence. The requirement of competency is preserved by paragraph (b). Paragraph (c) limits the exception to what is known as ‘first-hand’ hearsay evidence, that is, where the deceased had personal knowledge of the matters stated by him. It will exclude his account of what someone else with first-hand knowledge said to him or to other intermediaries who communicated with him.
I now come to a new Part of the Bill, Part X, which deals with evidence in criminal proceedings. The clauses in this Part deal, of course, only with the question of admission of evidence and do not go to questions of substantive law, but because the Senate is always specially concerned with any legislation that has some bearing upon the liberty of the subject I shall also deal with the various changes in the law on these matters in some detail. I have already dealt with clause 66, relating to competency and compellability of witnesses. Clause 68 deals with the admissibility of confessions or admissions. It replaces section 410 of the New South Wales Crimes Act. The common law has 2 principal bases for the exclusion of a confession in a criminal proceeding. One is that it has not been shown by the prosecution that the confession was made voluntarily. The second is that it has been shown by the accused that, whether or not the confession was made voluntarily, the means used to obtain it were improper, and the judge has determined in the exercise of his discretion that it would be unfair to admit the confession. Subclauses (1.) and (2.) relate to the first basis, that is, to the principles affecting voluntariness. Sub-clause (3.) relates to the second basis, that is, to the judge’s discretion to exclude.
A full explanation of what the section does must necessarily refer to past legislation and decisions and be somewhat complicated. In brief, however, what the section does is to limit the use of the voluntariness basis for the most part to situations in which the accused’s will has been overborne, unless the means used were not in fact likely to cause an untrue admission to be made. Typically, it might apply to exclude a confession where the accused has been detained for a very long time without food or contact with friends or a lawyer to the point where his will is overborne, so that he is prepared to admit to something he did not do. and his interrogators also supply him with knowledge of the acts he is supposed to have committed, which he then confesses to. But the voluntariness law involved in sub-clauses (1.) and (2.) will not normally be relevant where the means used to obtain it, though not likely to produce an untrue admission of guilt, are so improper that it would be unfair to admit the confession. That situation is one where subclause (3.) will be in point. Sub-clauses (1.) and (2.) will principally be available to give effect to the policy of excluding confessions that are untrustworthy because they are likely to be untrue. Sub-clause (3.) will be available to give effect to the policy that a person should not be obliged to incriminate himself and that the police should be deterred from using improper methods by refusing to admit confessions obtained by their use. Previously, both bases of exclusion could, in application, reflect all 3 policies, but the voluntariness requirement was difficult to apply to give effect to the policies against self-incrimination and improper police behaviour because, strictly, it requires a finding that the accused’s will was overborne, and that involves a rather metaphysical concept.
Clause 69 is concerned to make clear that a person accused in a criminal proceeding is not nb’ c to refuse to answer a question on the ground that the answer may tend to incriminate him. At. common law the accured was not a competent witness on his own behalf. Section 66 makes him a competent but not compellable witness, following in this the English Criminal Evidence Act 1 898 and section 407 of the New South Wales Crimes Act 1900. Having made the accused a competent witness, however, it is desirable to make clear tha’., unlike any other witness, he cannot raise the privilege against selfincrimination so ns selectively to refuse to answer questions that are relevant to the charge in the proceeding. The judgment of
Mr Justice Zelling in a recent case, R. v. Wright, has suggested in relation to the comparable South Australian section that if the section merely says that the person charged may be asked incriminating questions, then that person is not bound to answer. Hence the words ‘and is bound to answer’ have been added.
The clause begins by making it clear that it is subject to clause 70. That clause is concerned to impose limitations on questions in cross-examination of an accused that are relevant only to his credibility, or to his guilt, by tending to show that he has a propensity towards crime in general or the particular type of crime with which he is charged. In the United Kingdom, the relationship between the equivalents of sections 69 and 70, namely, paragraphs (e) and (f) of section 1 of the Criminal Evidence Act 1898 has caused considerable difficulty. The objectives of these provisions can be achieved simply by making the general rule that an accused may be asked, and is bound to answer, questions notwithstanding that they may incriminate him, but subject to clause 70 with its particular limitations on what questions may be asked.
Clause 70 is the equivalent for the Territory of section 1 (f) of the English Criminal Evidence Ac. 1898 and of section 399 (e) of the Victorian Crimes Act 1958. The New South Wales Crimes Act 1900 does not have a detailed provision of the type of the English and Victorian sections but a general discretion in section 407(l)(b) is applicable to follow the fuller form. The clause deals with crossexamination of a person accused in a criminal proceedings where that cross-examination is for the purpose of attacking his credibility - that is. showing he is not to bc believed - or for the purpose of showing that his character is such that he is likely to have committed the crime: that is, by showing that he has a propensity to commit crime or the particular type of crime in question. Commonly, credit or character would be attacked by showing that a person has prior criminal convictions, or has previously committed criminal offences even though he has not been convicted of them, or that he has behaved in a way which shows him to be a person of bad character even though his actions did not amount to a crime.
At common law a witness was always liable to cross-examination, the purpose of which was to weaken his credit. The witness’s past con vie’ ions and misdeeds might be used for that purpose. When the accused in a criminal case was made a competent witness, it was considered that he should be given some protection from this cross-examination to which other witnesses were exposed. This was because British justice has always held fairly strongly to the belief that an accused should be tried on the evidence of the commission of the offence presesented by the prosecution and not on his past record. There were already, in the common law, rules preventing the prosecution from using evidence merely for the purpose of showing that the accused was likely by virtue of his disposition to commit the crime with which he was charged. But if the prosecution could use the same evidence - for example, evidence of prior conviction - to attack the credit of an accused, the effect of the common law prohibition would be seriously weakened in a case where the accused went into the witness box. And the fact that by entering the witness box an accused person would run the risk that his whole past record would be disclosed to the jury, with possible serious prejudice of that jury, would tend to deter an accused with a record from taking advantage of his right to give evidence. Consequently section (1) (f) of the English Criminal Evidence Act 1898 contains a basic prohibition on cross-examination of the accused as to his prior convictions, offences or misconduct. That, however, was subject to a number of exceptions. Sub-clause (1.) of this Bill contains the basic prohibition and sub-clause (2.) the exception.
The wording of the prohibition in subclause (1.) differs from the wording of the United Kingdom and Victorian equivalents in certain ways. Great difficulty has been experienced in the application of the United Kingdom provisions in situations where the prior convictions, offences or other misconduct were relevant not only to credit or propensity to commit a crime but also had some direct bearing on the case. For example, it might have been argued under the United Kingdom provision that if it was alleged that the accused committed a murder in a brothel, and it was important in establishing his identity as the murderer to show that he was in the brothel, then insofar as that tended to show that he was a person of ‘bad character’ the prohibition applied and the prosecution could not cross-examine him about it. It is clear, however, that the legislation did not intend to prevent the prosecution from using evidence which is relevant to proof of the accused’s guilt just because it incidentally shows him in a bad light. The wording of the older legislation nevertheless has led to a great deal of case law. Sub-clause (1.) has therefore been drafted with a view to making it clear that the prohibition applies only if the question in cross-examination is only for the purpose of showing that the accused is guilty by virtue of his disposition towards wrongdoing, his tendency to commit crime or his bad character or for the purpose of attacking his credibility.
Sub-clause (2.) follows the exceptions accepted in the United Kingdom and other places, including Victoria. Its effect will be that the accused, if he goes into the witness box, may expose himself to crossexamination as to his previous convictions, offences or other misconduct if he has endeavoured to establish that he is a person of good character - that is, he has put his character ‘in issue’ - or if his defence has involved casting imputations on the character of the prosecutor or a witness for the prosecution, or if he has given evidence agains a person tried jointly with him for the offence.
Clause 74 deals with the right of the judge, prosecutor and co-accused to comment on the failure of a person accused in a criminal proceeding to give evidence. It departs from the provision applicable in New South Wales, which is in section 407(2) of that State’s Crimes Act. Subclause (1.) prohibits comment by the prosecutor only on failure to testify. When the accused was made a competent witness in his own behalf, it was thought in some jurisdictions that his competency to testify should nol be turned into a compulsion to testify by means of comments, especially by the prosecution, in cases where he chose not to enter the box. In New South Wales even the judge is prohibited from commenting on the accused’s failure to testify. Victoria also limits the judge’s right to comment, but only if the accused does not elect to make an unsworn statement from the dock. All the other States prohibit comment by the prosecution, except Queensland. It is considered that the prohibition on comment by the judge which exists in New South Wales is unsatisfactory. Two justices of the High Court in the case of Bridge v. The Queen (1964) -38 ALJR 280 drew attention to several factors which make the New South Wales position unsatisfactory. The Chief Justice, Sir Garfield Barwick, and Mr Justice Windeyer pointed out that it is unreal to think that a jury these days is unaware that the accused may testify on his own behalf and that it is unaffected by the accused’s failure to offer an explanation. Mr Justice Windeyer also noted that there is no prohibition on the jury drawing an inference from the accused’s failure to testify which may be adverse to the accused. His Honour said:
The New South Wales provision is also unsatisfactory because of the highly artificial situation it gives rise to. The judge is allowed to comment on the accused’s right to make an unsworn statement from the dock and on his right to call witnesses other than himself in his defence. He is also allowed to comment on the fact that an unsworn statement by the accused is not evidence in the same sense as the statement of a witness given upon oath. In all, therefore, it is considered that the interests of justice will best be served by allowing the judge to comment on the accused’s failure to testify. However, it is thought best to preserve the prohibition on comment by the prosecution because of the temptation that exists to over-emphasise the accused’s failure and divert attention from the onus of proof, which the prosecution carries.
Sub-clause (2.) deals with the situation of a joint trial where counsel for one of the co-accused comments on the failure of the other co-accused to testify. It is thought that such comment should not be entirely prohibited. In general, British justice has gone to great pains to allow a person on trial for his liberty to present his case as best he can and not to impair an accused’s right to discredit or attack others unless the attack is of little or no relevance. Sub-clause (2.) allows the judge to make such observations on the comment as he thinks fit so that he can put a proper perspective on what has been said.
After all that has been said, honourable senators may be glad to find that clause 76 ensures that the court in a criminal proceeding has a general discretion to exclude any evidence which it considers it would be unfair to the accused to admit. In this the clause states the discretion which has now been established by the higher courts in both Australia and England. The reason for stating it in this statute is to ensure that where a section makes evidence admissible in criminal proceedings it will not be held to displace the common law discretion to exclude that evidence. I have dealt wilh these matters in more than usual detail because I felt that this was required by the tenor of the debate when the Evidence Ordinance was disallowed. There are some additional matters that also represent changes in the law, and I shall deal with them quickly, so as not to take up the time of the Senate much further.
Part XI, which deals with the admissibility of convictions in criminal proceedings is new. It follows sections 11 and 13 of the English Civil Evidence Act 1968, which were passed to overrule what is known as the rule in Hollington v. Hewthorn. Under this rule, a conviction by a criminal court is not admissible in subsequent civil proceedings to prove that the convicted person had in fact committed the offence of which he was convicted. Clause 77 reverses the rule generally, and clause 78 makes particular provisions in relation to actions for defamation. Part XII makes some specific provision in relation to publication of evidence. Part XIII deals with some miscellaneous provisions, most of a minor nature, which I can deal with if necessary in Committee.
When the Evidence Ordinance was the subject of debate in the Senate in August last, I described it as progressive legislation bringing together in one up to date ordinance provisions which at present arc contained in a number of ancient Acts. It made desirable changes in the substantive law of evidence. It was the result of very careful and lengthy deliberations over a period of 3 years by a committee presided over by Mr Justice Fox of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. He was assisted by Mr Justice Mason, when he was Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, and by Mr D. E. Harding, Senior Lecturer in Law at the Australian National University and acknowledged as an authority in the field of the law of evidence. They were assisted by senior officers of my Department. During the preparation of the ordinance comments and assistance were received from Dr Rupert Cross, Professor of English Law at Oxford University, probably the leading authority in the English speaking world on the law of evidence, Professor D. L. Waller, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Monash University and Mr Justice Reynolds, Chairman of the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales. I am assured that the ordinance, in the period of nearly a year that it has been in operation, has worked very satisfactorily. What I said of the ordinance I say of this Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
(2.39) - I move:
That business of the Senate, notices of motion Nos 1 to 6 be postponed until the next day of sitting. lt is not proposed to rearrange the order of business except for the observation I made earlier in response to a question. If the Social Services Bill comes over from the other place I shall intercede to move for the suspension of Standing Orders to that it can be brought on and dealt with.
– I can speak only for my own Party, but because of the desire to pass the legislation which was referred to by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) we would be willing to interrupt the matter under debate, even if a speaker were on his feet, in order to have the legislation dealt with forthwith if it comes over from the other place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Report on Indian Ocean Region
Debate resumed from 22 February (vide page 83), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– When this debate was interrupted the other night I was saying that, although the report of the Joint Select Committee on Foreign Affairs was a good one in many respects, nevertheless I felt that it was built up on a false premise. Arising out of this was the important question of defence and who would occupy the Indian Ocean. To recapitulate what I said about defence, I support the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) in accusing the Government of doing nothing for the defence of Australia. If we want to keep this country for our children and our grandchildren we should be doing something in this regard. It is no good saying continually that we have no enemies and therefore we need do nothing about defence. Even the Government does not believe that because it has bought at colossal expense a certain number of aircraft, choosing a Rolls Royce image rather than a Valiant or a Holden image, which would have been satisfactory to Australia at the present time.
There are many other aspects of defence which need building up. We should have a proper defence programme, but we do not have one. We must spend on defence more than the 1 per cent to 3 per cent of the gross national product that we spend at the present time. Although in 1 year we expended 5 per cent for the purchase of the FI 11 As, I think we are now back to 3 per cent, and this is not good enough. When we raise with Ministers this question of expenditure on defence they answer by saying: ‘You cannot have it both ways. You must have development and you have to consider that in regard to defence.’ There is a nation called Israel and I admit, without anyone telling me, that it receives pretty big handouts from the United States of America. In lieu of that we have our own natural resources and we have our own income. But Israel is not only able to spend a tremendous amount on defence but it is also able to develop the country to such an extent that it is one of the wonders of the developing world. We could learn a lot from Israel in regard to both development and defence.
I do not want to continue on the subject of defence. I want to attack the second premise of the Committee’s report, which is to the effect that it is the Russians who will be in the Indian Ocean and therefore we have to protect ourselves against Russian influence. I criticise the Department of Foreign Affairs for not keeping Ministers informed of the facts of the situation. After all the Russians are in the Indian Ocean only for the purpose of encircling China. The Russians are not in the Indian Ocean region because of a wish to threaten Australia. They are not interested in us. We have nothing at all to offer the Russians. They are there solely for the purpose of posing a continuous threat to China. It is their presence which made China agree to the present visit to China of President Nixon.
The fact that there is a Russian presence in the Indian Ocean region has brought up the claim that Australia has to do something about her own defence. Let mc point out that there are more serious reasons why we have to do something about our own defence. As I said the other night, the potential enemy to Australia is not Russia, which is not interested in this region, nor China, which has never had an interest in this region. The only people who have benefited from saying that China has an interest in Australia are the supporters of the Liberal-Country Party Government. It has been their espousing of the claim that China has an interest in Australia which has kept that Government in office. It is for that reason that they have kept on telling us that the Chinese will be coming down. But even that myth has now been exploded. Honourable senators will recall that Ministers would get up one after the other and say that those who disagreed with them did not know what they were saying about China and the domino theory, but today one does not hear any Ministers mentioning these matters. I must admit that some Ministers still get up and say that those honourable senators who disagree with their views know nothing about the subject which they are discussing and that Ministers are always in the right in what they say. This forum gives honourable senators who disagree with the views of the Government the only opportunity they have of saying what they think. The Ministers can say what they like, but in the end they are usually proved to be wrong.
I come to the question of which country is a potential threat to the security of Australia. A potential enemy which no-one has taken any notice of is Japan. It is no good shutting our eyes to the future. If any country is going to become strong militarily in the future it is Japan. All Japan’s statements about not wanting any military forces and about not wanting atomic power is sheer talk. As anyone who has had any contact with the Japanese knows, they have been trying to get the: Americans out of Japan as last as they can. lt has taken the Japanese years to do that. But the day they get Okinawa back they will go nuclear. 1 know that their Prime Minister and their Praliament have said that Japan will never go nuclear, but that is so much rubbish. 1 do not think any honourable senator would have a memory so short that he cannot remember back as far as 6th December 1941. On that day the Japanese Ambassador was telling the people of America that Japan had no intention of attacking them and the next morning Japan attacked.
The same propaganda is being put forward now. The Japanese are saying that they have no military intentions and no wish to go nuclear, but there was recently a 20 per cent increase in Japan’s national defence vote. I admit that that increase is not as large as it sounds as Japan’s defence vote has not so far been very large because America has been protecting that country, but from now on Japan will rapidly expand. Japan will expand because it realises that its main competitor for power in the east is China and that if China becomes a nuclear nation Japan will also have to become a nuclear nation. The end result will be a nuclear Japan. The industrial capacity of the Japanese is such that they could outstrip the Chinese in about 2 to 3 years if they wanted to do so. So there is this potential threat.
I am not saying that Japan is going to come down here, but it is a potential source of danger. The point I am making is that the Government is regarding the wrong country as being a potential threat to the security of Australia. The Government is looking at China as if it is the country which is going to attack Australia when everybody else knows it should be looking at Japan. Why is the Government adopting this attitude? Because it suits the Government electorally. Japan is now regarded as a wonderful ally. Money is coming into Australia from Japan to help in the development of our mineral resources and the Government adopts the attitude that this source of capital must not be disturbed. It is for that reason that the Government does nothing about regarding Japan as a potential threat to Australia’s security and criticises the Chinese. We are in the process of being taken over economically by the Japanese anyhow.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I would remind the honourable senator of the subject matter of the debate.
- Mr Deputy President, I listened to the contributions to this debate of several honourable senators and they all spoke of defence and of the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. The Russian presence is the basis of the report the Senate is debating. I am trying to point out to honourable senators that it is not the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean that should be concerning us but our own defence necessities. I appreciate that you may feel that I am wandering from the point, Mr Deputy President, but if you analyse my speech carefully you will see that I am not. I wish to conclude my remarks by saying that I still maintain that it does not matter two hoots how many Russians are present in the Indian Ocean because they are there only as a threat to China and that the Government should be looking at the real threat further to the east, that is, Japan.
– The Australian Labour Party welcomes the opportunity to take issue with the Government on the various points of view which have been expressed in this debate by the Government’s supporters. As usual the supporters of the Government have endeavoured to capitalise electorally by expressing the view that they have expressed in this Parliament for many years, namely, that we should fear agression from some external source. Senator Carrick and Senator Drake-Brockman again sought to do that in their contributions to the debate on this occasion. Let us examine the report on the Indian Ocean region of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. The terms of reference of that inquiry were laid down by this chamber some 20 months ago. The evidence which is now before the Senate was taken some 10 months ago. One would imagine that if the spokesman for the Government are to be believed when they talk about the great perils facing this country as a result of the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean the Government would have acted with some alacrity to do something about those perils and not just set up a committee to examine the problems that may exist as a result of the sudden discovery in 1968 - 4 years ago - that there was in fact a Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean.
I suggest to the Senate that there is sufficient evidence in this report to show that spokesmen for the Government are attempting to bang the drum and kick the can, as they have been doing for the last 20 years, on the question of defence in order to establish in the minds of the Australian public a need for greater expenditure on defence and thereby get a reaction from the electorate that will keep the present Government in office. I do not think anyone in this chamber will disagree with me when I say that defence considerations or defence debates have dominated the functioning of the Parliament over the past 20 years. Before I became a member of this chamber I often read the Hansard report of the proceedings or listened to the broadcasts and I was always struck by the fact that matters related to Australia’s defence occupied a great deal of the time of the Parliament. One has only to go back to the election of about 1952 when Mr Menzies, as he then was, said that Australia had 3 years to prepare itself against a possible conflict. I must admit that the spokesmen for the Government who have made a contribution to the debate to date have adopted a rather low key attitude because they recognise that propaganda rather than facts is the matter which is under debate; but 20 years later we are still considering the need to do something about defending Australia from a possible source of aggression, although in this instance the area concerned is the Indian Ocean.
The report of the Joint Committee is a most unusual one. That is because the thinking of the Committee itself is influenced largely by Government supporters. Most honourable senators on this side of the chamber lost interest in the Committee’s considerations. One finds in the Committee’s report many statements which in my view need to be put on the record, and from those statements one can only come to the conclusion that Government supporters have not correctly read the report or have been attempting to base their remarks on the fear philosophy which has dominated the Government for the last 20 years or so.
Let us consider some of the interesting observations made in the report. I shall not deal with them page by page although at various stages I shall read some of the observations that were made. The Committee made the point that the Indian Ocean has been a relatively quiet area, that onequarter of the nations of that region have now joined the United Nations as a result of the end of colonialism in the region and that approximately one-third of the world’s population resides in the area. It mentions that there have been vast changes. It is interesting to note that the Committee stressed that as a result of these vast changes and as a result of the experience of the newly emerging countries, most of them have adopted a non-aligned approach in respect of the cold war and the issues which have plagued this universe for the last 25 years. The Committee made the point that a Soviet presence cannot at present be considered to be an aggressive military force or a threat to Australia. These are not my words; these are the words contained in the report. The Committee made the point that there is a fear in the region of a major power buildup. It is upon that premise that Government speakers have attempted to develop their case. The report states that there has been an extension of interest and participation by the major powers in the Indian Ocean, but interestingly enough the Committee said at page 15 of the report:
The non-aligned states seek to develop profitable links with external powers of all political persuasions, while preserving their independence and sovereignty. In the Indian Ocean, for example, India and Tanzania have developed extensive relations with the USSR and PRC respectively, while maintaining links with the West and continuing to participate in the Commonwealth.
In other words, the nations in that region have encouraged the participation of the major powers in their region. One would not draw that conclusion if one were to examine the speeches of Senator Carrick and Senator Drake-Brockman; one would imagine that the USSR and the People’s Republic of China have gone into that area in defiance of the views of the nations in the region. The report goes on to say that Australia should follow a policy which demonstrates our interest in reducing conflicts and tensions and should work with other nations in the region to achieve this and to avoid antagonising the nonaligned nations in the region. Therefore, it is open for us to wonder what is the motivation behind the Government in seeking to emphasise that Australia has something to be worried about by the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean. I hope to be able to show in the few words that 1 shall utter that Australia really is the only country that is expressing concern about these recent developments - if we may refer to 1968-72 as a recent period. The report goes on to say at page 21 :
The United States of America is one of the world’s super powers. She possesses vast quantities of financial reserves, natural resources and manpower, enabling the United States to accept a large responsibility in assisting the growth and development of the under-privileged nations of the world.
If one reads the various statements of the Prime Minister of India, the new Prime Minister of Bangla Desh and the Prime Ministers of Ceylon and other countries in the Indian Ocean area one finds that they take a somewhat similar view - that the Soviet Union should accept some responsibility, as the United States does, in assisting the growth and development of the under-privileged nations of that part of the world. I think it will be found, as 1 shall show later, that the United States secs nothing unusual in the fact that another major power seeks to interest itself in the affairs of the Indian Ocean, because that is a prerogative that it exercises in its own right. At page 33 of the report the Committee, which is composed of Government supporters, expresses the view that the USSR must be involved in the Indian Ocean to satisfy her own interests.
Whilst there would be many people who would like to see the Indian Ocean free from the influence of the major powers, the fact is that if it is the prerogative of the United States it is also the prerogative of the other major powers to become involved in that region. The report goes on to mention that the USSR must be involved in the Indian Ocean to satisfy her own interests because nations form their foreign policy from the national interest. I think any reasonable person would agree that the conclusion reached by the Committee in respect of the United States has some substance. At page 34 the report continues:
Essentially, the USSR’s foreign policy has the following 3 objectives:
The achievement and the maintenance of a strategic balance with the United States; the extension of Soviet influence both in a military and an economic sense throughout the world in competition with the United States and other Western powers; and the curtailment, as far as possible, of the influence of the PRC.
All 3 elements are to be found in Soviet policies in the Indian Ocean. The Soviet Union seeks to accomplish these aims in the Indian Ocean by:
Establishing and cementing cultural, diplomatic, political and economic relations in the littoral countries of tho Ocean; increasing shipping, trade and civil aviation links in the region: providing economic and military aid and assistance to appropriate countries; and maintaining naval and support vessels in the Ocean.
One does not want to take a position that is for or against as far as the facts are concerned. One has to take the view that what is regarded by the major powers as normal international behaviour should not be regarded in Australia as abnormal or as something that needs to worry the Australian people, lt seems to me that this is tho theme that runs through the whole document when one looks at it objectively, free from the fears that so often have been expressed in debates in this chamber and in the other place. At page 44 of the report there is an assessment about the Soviet presence. 1 was somewhat staggered when 1 listened to Senator Carrick speaking in this debate; he almost had mc believing that this Soviet presence constituted a grave threat to the security of this country. However when I read the report in greater detail I came across this comment by the Committee, which as I said is influenced largely by members of the Government, when referring to the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean.
Its very smallness and vulnerability, especially with the absence of adequate air-cover, does not support the suggestion that it could be an effective fighting force.
Senator Carrick went to great lengths to quote from the views of Admiral Peek. The honourable senator seems to think that he has some eminence in this field. 1 read the quotations from Admiral Peek that Senator Carrick referred to in his speech. While the Admiral expressed some concern about the Soviet presence in this region he nevertheless came to the conclusion that it was normal international behaviour and that it related to the general security of the Soviet Union in the global conflict which we all agree still exists between some of the major powers.
I find it somewhat difficult to understand why we should be expressing concern about these developments. I suggest that the Soviet presence is mainly in the western portion of the Indian Ocean. The countries concerned engage from time to time in international conferences at the United Nations and other places and have suggested that the Indian Ocean should be declared a zone of peace: that the major powers should, as far as practicable, leaving aside their own national interests, be encouraged to leave it well alone. The strange thing is that the Australian Government has never given any support to these propositions. It has never come out and said: ‘Yes, we agree with the Prime Minister of Ceylon and the Prime Minister of India’. It has not taken the initiative at the United Nations to suggest that there should be a zone of peace in the Indian Ocean. The Government having had the opportunity to do this, one is entitled to regard its attitude on this matter with a great deal of suspicion. Even Mr Gordon Freeth, who occupied an important position in the Government ranks, said in August 1969, some 12 months after it had been established that there were 4 or 5 ships of the Soviet fleet in the Indian Ocean, that he did not consider that this represented any sort of threat to the security of this nation. The Government may have changed its views but I do not recall any repudiation of Mr Freeth’s attitude.
We must come to the conclusion that the Government, having lost the yellow hordes of Asia as an issue, is looking for an election issue. It cannot refer to the yellow hordes any more while our international mentor, Mr Nixon, is eating bamboo shoots in Peking and shaking the hand of Mao Tse-tung and others. It cannot talk about the yellow hordes being a threat to the security of this nation - not that they ever were. Nevertheless that was a very convenient cover and it provided propaganda with which to create the atmosphere of hysteria which has characterised Australian politics for the last 15 years or so. The Government cannot use that argument any more and the presence of 4 or 5 Russian ships in the Indian Ocean has provided it with a heaven-sent opportunity. The Government will try to convince the Australian people that this presence constitutes a great menace to us and will try to engender a feeling of fear about it in an attempt to win the 1972 election. [ have taken the trouble to do some research on the United States attitude to the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean. I obtained extracts from hearings of the Sub-Committee on National Security Policy and Scientific Developments of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the United States House of Representatives on 20th, 22nd, 27th and 28th July 1971. During these hearings the Chairman of the Committee, Mr Zablocki. asked Mr Spiers, Director of the Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs, Department of State, the section responsible for the Indian Ocean, about the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean. Mr Spiers replied:
We have some figures of the most recent Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean and as of now it consists of about 4 ships. As of July 20th, the Soviet presence consists of one destroyer, one LST, and 2 Fleet mine sweepers. The Soviet presence fluctuates but that is the most recent reading unless my defence colleagues have something more up-to-date.
Mr Spiers’ defence colleague, Mr Pranger, concurred with this estimate but pointed out that:
The United States Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jnr, also spoke about the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean in his testimony before the Sub-Committee of the Committee on Appropriations on 15th March 1971. In a statement for the record Admiral Zumwalt indicated that Soviet naval operations began in earnest in March 1968 shortly after the United Kingdom announced its planned withdrawal from east of Suez. He went on to indicate that there has been an almost continuous presence in the Indian Ocean of 3 to 4 naval combatants deployed at any given time.
I will refer again to those people but I want to mention someone perhaps even more important than them. At the Committee of Appropriations hearing, the Defence Secretary, Mr Laird, when questioned about United States interests in the Indian Ocean, said:
I shall read from a statement made by Mr Spiers who was the first American gentleman to whom I referred. He pointed out:
We see forward movement and economic development and the movement towards political stability as the best means to promote an environment conducive to our own interests.
These are the men in the United States concerned with United States interests and, for those who want to use the terminology as they have done with great frequency and emphasis over the years, the interests of the free world. Here we have these men saying that what is required in the east is political stability as the best means to promote an environment conducive to our own interests. Mr Spiers states:
We do not envisage an immediate threat of this nature, however.
– Does not this intrusion tend to disturb political tranquility by its very effect?
– It could well, of course, in the minds of those who wish to concern themselves with some adventure or incident which might take place in some part of the world from which they could draw unnecessary conclusions. I am trying to indicate to the Senate that the appropriate United Slates committees concerned with the interests of the Western World do not see this matter in the light in which members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party see it and in which Government supporters have indicated during this debate that they see it. Elsewhere Mr Spiers in summing up the State Department’s attitude to the Indian Ocean said:
We consider that over the next S years our interest (in the Indian Ocean) will be of a substantially lower order than those in. either of the great ocean bases . . . Therefore, the appears to be no requirement at this time for us to feel impelled to control, or even decisively influence any part of the Indian Ocean or its littoral, given the nature of our interests there and the current level of Soviet and Chinese involvement.
– Would not the important words be ‘given the nature of our interests there’?
– 1 think the honourable senator may be interested in the next quotation. Mr Spiers continued:
We consider, on balance, that our present interests are served by normal commercial, political and military access.
– That is the United States.
– That is right. It is very interesting that the Democratic Labor Party should now seek to develop a new theory that we should be standing on our own feet. Up until the last year or two the whole of the DLP approach to matters of defence was based on the American alliance. Of course, that happened to coincide with the expressed view of the Government, too. We find that the DLP has lost its international support in the sense that previously the United States was regarded as being a power which would protect us in all circumstances but we have found that America applies those principles which affect its own national interests. There is sufficient evidence in the report to show that in the Indian Ocean a great deal of the world’s trade - something in excess of 20 per cent - operates. This trade is passing from one port to another. It is not unusual for the countries concerned in this movement of vessels and goods to have some military contingent available just to indicate their presence in the region. Of course, it will be said by Government speakers and those who follow thai the Australian Labor Party is quite happy to leave Australia in a state of inadequacy as far as defence is concerned.
In order to put Senator Carrick at ease and so that he does not have nightmares about this new menace which he has suddenly discovered 4 years after it arrived in the Indian Ocean, I point out that the Labor Party was aware of this position at its Launceston conference. In accordance with the international standards which I believe have been expressed in the report and in the statements which I have read from American sources the Labor Party had this to say:
The Labor Party will co-operate in the development of South-East Asia and the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas to strengthen the fabric of peace and freedom and to uphold the principles of democracy, individual liberty ::nd the rule of law and to promote economic well-being and development
The Labor Party will take initiatives to obtain regional arrangements within the United Nations Charter and to make pacts of friendship, trade, non-aggression and mutual defence with Australia’s neighbours in South-East Asia and the Pacific ami Indian Ocean areas.
The Labor Party will honour all Australia’s treaties and alliances which respect the freedom and security of the peoples in the treaty areas and their right to determine their own forms of government without external interference.
Of course, it may well be said by speakers who could follow in the debate that the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean is in contradiction of those principles. But I think the Senate should examine the declarations which were made when the Indian Government and the Soviet Union had discussions and reached agreement on matters affecting peace in that region during 1971. The Prime Ministers of these countries - as distinct from our own Prime Minister whom 1 will admit, to my knowledge, has not made a pronouncement on the matter but will during the coming general election - came to the same conclusion as Mr Friedheim, again of the United States, who in Washington on 10th January when he was discussing the Soviet presence in the Indian Ocean had something to say which is in accordance with the standpoint of most of the nations in the Indian Ocean region. Mr Friedheim was reported as follows:
According to Mr Friedheim, there had been some surveillance between the United States and Soviet forces in the area but ‘nothing unusual in the context of what happens all the time around the world1.
Countries in this area are more affected by the Soviet presence than we are because the ships there are operating in the western part of the Indian Ocean. If these countries can normalise relations with the Soviet Union I think it would be an act of statesmanship if our Prime Minister took the same sort of initiative regarding the Soviet Union as President Nixon is taking in his current discussions with the leaders of the People’s Republic of China. Let us not have more doses of anti-communism and the hysteria we have seen expressed over the years. Let us put aside the fear and fantasy which has plagued this Parliament for such a long time during any rational debate on foreign affairs and defence.
Let not the motivation of those of us on this side of the House be misrepresented. We are just as concerned with the defence of this country as any other normal person would be. But we take issue on this matter because we do not come to the same conclusions as the Government does. We do not wish to base our policies and our attitudes on fear and on policies that are obviously outmoded in the 1970s. If it is possible for President Nixon to take the sort of initiatives that he has taken in order to wind down international tension and to leave aside all the political and ideological differences that obviously exist between countries, does not the future of mankind rest in its statesmen being big enough and bold enough to find what common ground exists between nations so that our civilisation may survive?
Our world in 1972 is vastly different from the world of 1939 v/hen World War II broke out. The 2 major powers have recognised that they must put aside certain weapons of mass destruction if civilisation is to survive. When we look at the debates that normally take place in our Parliament we see that we are still in the days of gunboat diplomacy. A country does something and, instead of recognising that it is now competent for countries to behave normally, we immediately react as we would have done many years past. If it is competent to express the view that China and the United States of America can find the means to live in peace, I think that surely in Australia we can adopt a much more mature attitude instead of our normal behavioural pattern. After all, the Soviet Union has a quite minor presence in the Indian Ocean. We do urge members of the Government to keep the debate in a low key and to begin to learn some of the lessons of history.
– As a Western Australian, it is with some mixed feelings that I rise to speak in this debate on the consideration of the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee. It is a matter of great relief and satisfaction that a sub-committee of one of the more important committees of this national Parliament should have taken for deep study the subject of the Indian Ocean and the States that surround it, and to consider Australia’s position in this region and in relation to the nations of the region. On the other hand, it is clear from a study of the region, as indeed it has been clear for some time, that profound changes have occurred in this area and that a profound need exists for changed attitudes and interests on the part of Australians. This is where my mixed feelings arise particularly as I was brought up and lived on the shores of this ocean when it was fairly remote from the centres of world conflict.
Although from a commercial and trade point of view the Indian Ocean region has been important, particularly for Australia, as the report of the Committee so clearly points out, for 150 years this area has been remote from the tensions of great power conflicts. This has been a most comfortable position for those of us who live on the shores of this ocean and, indeed, a comfortable position for the whole of the Australian nation. I fear “that, as a result of this state of affairs, Australians as a whole including members of the national Government have been inclined to ignore the problems and the potential problems that exist for Australia in this region, particularly in regard to the defence of the western shores of our nation. Senator Gietzelt, in common with the report, referred to the suggestion that the Indian Ocean region should be declared to bc a zone of peace. Of course, that is a delightful pie in the sky concept in this day and agc. lt is remarkable though that the Indian Ocean has been a zone of peace for 150 years until recent years, that is, until the Second World War. Bui it is well to reflect on the reason why it can be considered to have been a zone of peace in this period.
There is one simple explanation. This is the British presence in the region. 1 refer to the all pervading presence of the British Navy directed through the whole of the Indian Ocean region and the position of Britain’s naval power, based as it was on its string of naval bases right around the major areas of the Indian Ocean. In fact, the only reason why no naval base was established, or has yet been established, on the west coast of Australia is the fact that, such a base simply was not necessary for the greater part of this era. In that period of 150 years, which comes within the lives and experience of all of us in this chamber, the only incident of any significance that caused any flutter in the hear s of Australians occurred when a German cruiser raided a few ships in the Indian Ocean during the First World War. That German cruiser was sunk by the Australian cruiser ‘Sydney’. It was nol until the Second World War that Australians were confronted with a threat to Australia and its coastline from an overseas power. In that case the threat came from Japan.
I fear that, soon after that war was over, WC were lulled again into a false sense of security concerning our situation in this region. I fear that many Western Australians - perhaps most Western Australians - shared that same false sense of security with the rest of Australia. However, it became clear to many Australians, as the years following the conclusion of that war went by and particularly in the carty 1960s when Britain made known its intention to withdraw from the Indian Ocean region, that the situation was changing dramatically. It is with great relief and satisfaction that I note conclusion (18) on page 7 of the report. I think that it is the key to the whole of the report. Conclusion (18) slates:
Australia is recognising the growing strategic importance of its western coastline and the Indian Ocean region . . . 1 believe that that is the real key to and punchline of this report. Now, as a nation, we arc recognising this situation and the dramatic changes which have occurred in the Indian Ocean region. That aspect has been emphasised by the debate which has taken place in this chamber over the past couple of days. I am more than satisfied that Australia as a whole is facing up to this question. For too long this nation has concentrated its attention and its thinking on the eastern two-thirds of the continent - the eastern and northern shores - and has overlooked the more than one-third of this nation’s coastline which faces westward and is washed by the Indian Ocean. lt was a matter of some note to Western Australians thai in 1970 there was a great celebration in Sydney of the bi-centenary of the so-called discovery of Australia by Captain Cook. We are Australians, and if we were really thinking about our position as Australians we would be thinking abou! the approaching fourth centenary of the discovery of Australia by a European. We as a nation should be considering celebrating the era which commenced nearly 400 years ago in order to emphasise that we are facing both the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. We also have a nothern gateway to Asia. But we will not have full cognisance of our position as a nation unless we recognise - I am glad to find thai we now are beginning to do so - the fact that we have a western shore as well as northern and eastern shores. The report, in this key section, goes on to direct our attention to the way in which we should consider our position in the region. It refers to: . . Australia’s growing responsibility, in conjunction wilh Ils near neighbour and Five Power allies, in maintaining (within the limitations imposed by our military strength and financial resources) peace and security in the region. 1 repeal, the words ‘peace and security in the region’. That is the basic element which this report states we should have in mind. I agree entirely with the Committee on that, and 1 believe and hope that every member of this chamber would support my view. Although we have heard some no doubt sincere, but I think in very many cases rather pious, hopes expressed by Labor members who have taken part in the debate about the need to maintain peace in the region, 1 fear that their comments leave me with great and grave doubts on how realistic they are about the need to maintain security in the region.
Senator Gietzelt quoted at great length from some American source on American policy in the region. Listening to him I could not help noting the similarity between many of the views expressed by the Americans in relation to their policy for the region, and the report of the Foreign Affairs Committee on what should be Australia’s main interest in maintaining peace and security in the region. We are concerned with a number of different aspects of national policy and interest. I congratulate the authors of this report, and the Committee which submitted it. for the very wide and soundly based approach they have adopted in recommending how our policy of maintaining peace and security in the region should be implemented. The Committee dealt with the different aspects of the problem. It dealt with matters of direct defence, and I shall say more about that aspect shortly. If one had not read the report and relied only on the comments of Labor senators who have participated in the debate, one would think that all this report did was to emphasise matters of defence, and particularly the socalled Russian problem. I shall deal with that aspect later.
I emphasise that this report deals with many more aspects of the problem than defence - rightly so - because, all-important as defence may be, very important questions relating to our trade relations with the nations of the region and, of our aid programme for underdeveloped nations surrounding the Indian Ocean, are involved. It is, and should be, a matter of great satisfaction and some pride to members of the Parliament to consider the schedules in the report concerning the aid programmes that we have been maintaining In some form or other in respect of almost all countries in the region. Our aid programme in regard to Indonesia is dramatic. As our nearest and, from the point of view of many Australians, undoubtedly the most important nation in the region because of its size and potential, it is important that we note the emphasis in the report placed on the subject of aid and the need for aid. The record of the Australian Government in that regard has been noteworthy over many years, and the report emphasises the need to continue and increase the aid already given.
In addition, there is the matter of trade. As I have mentioned already, and as the report points out, the Indian Ocean is one of the great trade routes of the world. As far as Australia is concerned, the Indian Ocean is vital as a trade route because 46 per cent of our trade passes across it. Much of that trade - in fact most of it - goes to nations outside the region but the importance to us of that sea route cannot be over-emphasised. Our trade with Japan, particularly in relation to mineral exports, is deeply involved and for that reason alone Western Australia relies heavily upon the security of the Indian Ocean. We are hoping to create - indeed we must do so - a much greater diversity of mineral exports than we have at present. One of the great objects that we have and must have is to establish mineral markets in Europe. As we do so, the importance of the Indian Ocean and the security of that region in relation to our trade will increase.
There is another aspect of trade, and that is trade within the region or with the nations of the region. The report very sensibly points up the need to increase our trade with nations in this region. If we are to get to know them better and if we are realistic about our desire to achieve peace in the region and to maintain friendly relations between Australia and the nations of the region, I cannot imagine a subject that would be more important in regard to that policy than increasing trade with the nations of the region. I mention these 2 great areas of policy which are vital considerations in relation to the Indian Ocean and our relations with the nations of that region, which are recognised and greatly emphasised by this report but which, as far as I can see, have been utterly ignored by the Labor Party in this debate and in its consideration of this report.
I turn from that to the question of defence. I do so without any apology because I believe that, important and all as these matters of trade are, it is certainly to problems of defence that we as a nation have to have the most immediate regard and make the most immediate response. I have said already that we as a nation have virtually ignored for 180 years the problems of defence presented by our situation as an Indian Ocean power.
– Who could have attacked from the Indian Ocean 180 years ago.
– In fact, 180 years ago there was a real threat to this nation from the French in the Indian Ocean; but, blissfully for us, we were in a position - perhaps not for 180 years, but up until the Second World War - in which we could rely on the British presence and live blissfully under the umbrella of British naval power, lt was because of British naval power that we were able to do so. Now that has been withdrawn, or virtually withdrawn. Certainly the power has gone although, fortunately for us and importantly for us, there is still a British military and naval interest in the region. The power which was there and which gave vis security has gone. It has not been replaced in the same way, and it never will be replaceable in that way. This is the crux of the importance of the change that has occurred - the importance of our new responsibility as a nation and the creation of new policies in regard to the situation.
In respect of this change in situation, let me emphasise again the enormous psychological aspects of the problem. We as a nation have been living, for 150 years or more, with this sense of security for the reasons which I have given and which this report recognises. But the change was dramatised for us in the late 1960s by the sudden appearance in the Indian Ocean of units of the Russian fleet. Great play has been made by Labor speakers in this debate on so-called hysteria or hysterical reactions by Government speakers and other people in Australia in regard to this matter. But, in the light of the history of which I have been speaking, was it not likely and understandable that the presence of Russian vessels in this region would come as a great jolt to a nation which, as I have said, has been able to live with a sense of complete security provided by our ally, Great Britain?
We then had a new situation. It was there, and it had been there for 25 years or more; but it was not brought home to us until units of the Russian fleet became apparent in the Indian Ocean. I believe that in a way it may have been a blessing in disguise that we had this jolt, because it was high time we did. It was obvious that, had we as a nation faced up to the matter earlier, we would have come to the conclusions to which we are now coming. But we came to them only when it was brought home clearly to us that the Indian Ocean had become a completely different region from what it had been, that it had become a region of great power interest and that it would never be the same again.
The emphasis that we place on the Russian fleet is perhaps a matter of judgment - a matter of expert defence judgment. Speakers have pointed out - I think quite rightly - that this report may have been a little over-optimistic or may have played down the extent to which the Russian fleet is active in the Indian Ocean. There is obviously other evidence that would indicate that it is much larger and that there is greater interest than the report suggests. No-one on this side of the chamber or on behalf of the Government has suggested that the Russians are coming and are about to devour us, as Senator James McClelland suggested earlier in this debate. One or two other Labor speakers have suggested that we on this side of the chamber are living in some state of nervous tension and hysteria or that wc are doing what we are doing for machiavellian political purposes. That is a figment of the imagination created by Labor speakers in this debate for their own political purposes.
This report makes a sober assessment of the presence of the Russian fleet in the Indian Ocean, lt emphasises that there is. perhaps not an immediate direct thre.it to this nation in the sense that the Russians are about to invade us - no-one suggests that for one minute - but a Russian presence there which, as I have said, is a timely reminder to this nation that the Indian Ocean region has changed dramatically and that our policies have to change dramatically as a result of that. Apart from the presence of the Russian licet in the Indian Ocean there obviously will be growing interest and activity in the region on the part of other great powers. I think we can accept the presence of some wilh more equanimity than we can accept the presence of others. I have already said that it is a matter of great satisfaction to me - 1 am sure it is to all members on this side of the Senate - that Britain should have decided to retain an interest and a presence in the region. I hope that a Conservative government will remain in Britain to maintain that interest for as long as possible, tt was a Labour government in Britain which decided to withdraw completely from the region.
I note with great satisfaction the growing interest by the United States of America in the Indian Ocean region and the need for that nation to maintain a naval presence there. I believe that it is in Australia’s interests to encourage a greater presence of and participation by the United States navy in the region. Our policies become important - the recommendations of the Committee in this regard are of particular importance - because of the need for us to provide for our defence and to provide, in alliances with nations such as the United States and Britain, naval and air bases and so on on the western coast. Other nations, too, will be taking a growing commercial and military interest in the region. I was interested in some of Senator Turnbull’s remarks. He said: ‘We do not need to worry about the Russians. The Chinese have no interest in the region. It is the Japanese about whom we should be worrying’. I thought that was a somewhat irresponsible approach to the whole problem and an approach very similar to the irresponsible proposition postulated against us by members of the Labor Party who say that we are concerned only with the Russians. We are not concerned about the Russians. We are concerned about the growing interests of many great powers in the region. We are concerned that it is no longer and never will be again a so-called zone of peace.
I commend the sections of the report which deal with defence recommendations and defence policies. It is of even greater satisfaction to me to note that the Government has anticipated most of the recommendations. I refer particularly to the policy decisions that were made some time ago to develop a naval facility at Cockburn Sound and to upgrade greatly the air base at Learmonth. The information given to the Senate by Senator Drake-Brockman, on behalf of the Government, emphasised further the importance which the Govern ment attaches to these naval and air bases on the western coast. I was pleased to read recently that the Government has decided to increase the allocation for the naval facility at Cockburn Sound from $3 8m to $48m. Senator Drake-Brockman has said that Si 2.5m is to be spent on the air facility at Learmonth. I was particularly interested in the explanations which he gave the Senate about the way in which Indian Ocean operations can be carried out from Learmonth and about the value of the air cover and reconnaissance which can be carried out over such large tracts of that ocean.
This is the kind of activity which I believe the Government will have to increase. It is not in respect of a direct immediate threat that is supposed to be occurring; rather is it a proper surveillance of what is going on in the Indian Ocean each day of the year so that we will be in a better position, if any nation does at some point of time pose a direct or growing threat to us, to assess the threat, to monitor it and to guard against it. If we do not have these growing defence facilities on the western coast it will be too late when the threat comes. If we simply say, as the Labor Party would now have us say, that there is no direct threat and we can forget about it for 10 years, it could then be far too late. The threat may come 10, 20 or 30 years hence, but. we cannot allow this part of the coastline, this important one-third of Australia, to remain completely defenceless. We cannot ignore the situation which is developing so clearly there and which will become, as the report so clearly indicates, a region of growing international activity and of growing importance. More nations will become active, militarily and commercially, in the region. In the day and age in which we live nations wil be concerned to promote, as far as they can, their political interests in this region as well.
– As I understand that time is very limited, I shall compact my remarks as much as possible, lt was unfortunate that Senator Durack finished on such a wild and irrational note. He almost matched his earlier white washing of the Government’s previous machiavellian intentions to introduce fear tactics in the Australian electorate. Unfortunately I have not time to dwell on that point now. I shall answer specifically the points raised by Senator Carrick 2 days ago. He referred to the comments made by Admiral Peek on his visit to the Parliament some time last year. Prior to that the Admiral had been to a sea power symposium in the United States. When he returned to Australia he was quoted in the Press as saying that the concensus at this symposium was that there was no threat from the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean and that, according to the Americans at the symposium, the Russians were only catching up with what the Americans had been doing for years. When Admiral Peek came to the House I asked him whether he had been correctly reported in the Press. I did not ask the question to cause him embarrassment. He did nol deny having said this.
He gave a rundown of the present proficiency of the Russian Navy. That is what Senator Carrick did during the course of his speech. No-one interested in these matters would deny the proficiency of the Russian fleet. Ship for ship it is the best fleet in the world today. The Russians are 5 or 10 years ahead of the Americans or the British in the application of technology in modern naval vessels. But if there were a significant proportion of the Russian fleet in the Indian Ocean - 25 per cent or onethird of the fleet - we would have some justifiable cause to be concerned. As Senator Gietzelt pointed out, the fact is that according to the quotation from the United States Congressional Record that is not the situation. I can remember crossing the Indian Ocean myself many times 20 years ago when it was customary to pass Russian fishing vessels and trawlers. Nobody became excited about it. The shifting emphasis on their ships in the area today is of minor significance. In fact, what ought to be restated before this debate concludes is what appears at page 56 of the Committee’s report, lt reads:
The evidence received by the Committee and other sources refuted any suggestion that the Soviet naval presence in the Indian Ocean represented a direct threat to Australian security or our lines of communication unless under the possibility of a situation of general war or just short of general war.
I wish to quote again the paragraph on page 44 of the report which deals with the effects and potential of the naval presence. It reads:
The Soviet surface naval force in the Indian Ocean can generally be classed as a political and psychological tool. Its very smallness and vulnerability, especially with the absence of adequate aircover, does not support the suggestion that it could be an effective fighting force. Even considering a significant increase in size capable of carrying out a moderate military or naval operation, its own vessels and possessions in other areas of the world must be considered vulnerable to a counter attack.
These are the key findings of the Committee in respect of this alleged danger from the Russian presence in the Indian Ocean. No-one in his right mind has any desire to see in his immediate area the expansion of any great power, whether it be Russian, American or Chinese. Senator Gietzelt made the point about a peaceful area in the Indian Ocean. I was sorry to hear Senator Durack, who is a Western Australian, use the term ‘pie in the sky’ when referring to this suggestion. It is a shame that this sort of thinking which has been traditional with this Government for so many years still persists in the minds of so many of its supporters. Why should there be no hope for peace in the area? If we continue along exactly the same lines as we have adopted in the past - that is, an attitude of mutual antagonism - of course there will be no peace and for many years to come we will be confronted continually with problems right on our shores. The attitudes expressed by Senator Durack were those which have persisted down the years and which I hope will be newly thought out by the Government as a result of what is contained in this report.
Before concluding I would like to make one last point. In a moment I shall quote from the ‘Navy Quarterly’ which is produced by the Australian Navy. On the back cover of the January 1972 issue we find an article called ‘Evolving the 1980s Fleet’. The article makes 2 pertinent observations, and this is an official publication of the Royal Australian Navy. The article reads:
The naval development in this ten year period has reflected a change in emphasis in RAN planning from a fleet which was designed to be an integral part of a larger Allied force to one which can operate with a high degree of independence in several different roles in its own area of operations. This tendency will increase in the next ten years.
The article goes on to say in respect of the new light destroyer which is being built for the Navy that the strength of the RAN and its ability to operate within its own resources will become progressively more important. The Royal Australian Navy is caught because of the policies being enunciated by this Government, lt is compelled to try to build ships which fit in with the Government’s policies, and it is impossible for it to do so. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later dale.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill gives effect to the increases in the rates of unemployment, sickness and special benefits announced by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in opening the Conference of State Premiers on 14th February. The increases proposed in unemployment benefits and the associated shortterm sickness and special benefits are as follows: The adult rate will rise by $7, from SIO to SI 7 a week; the rate for unmarried persons aged 18 to 20 years will rise by $5, from $6 to $11 a week; the rate for unmarried persons aged 16 and 17 years will rise by $3, from $4.50 to $7.50 a week. As honourable senators know, minors who are married, or who have no parent living in Australia, qualify for the same rate of benefit as adults. It will be recalled that, in the last Budget, the additional benefit payable for a wife was increased from $7 to $8 per week; the allowance for the first child was increased from $2.50 to $4.50 per week; and the allowance for each child after the first was increased from $3.50 to $4.50 per week. The proposed rates of unemployment and associated benefits will be higher than ever before, both in money terms and in terms of real purchasing power. The measure of the improvement during the time since the last Labor Administration lost office is dramatic. Figures are as follows:
Comparison of the figures in the last 2 columns will show the increase which has taken place under our Government in the real value of the benefit. The increase is particularly striking where children are concerned, and this illustrates our special concern for the family unit. I remind honourable senators once again that the increases proposed under this Bill apply also to short-term sickness benefits and to special benefits.
At this juncture it might be appropriate to outline the general conditions of eligibility for unemployment and sickness benefits. To receive unemployment benefit a person must be unemployed, provided his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike; be capable of, and willing to undertake suitable work; and have taken reasonable steps to obtain work. Registration with the Commonwealth Employment Service is necessary.
To receive sickness benefit a person must be temporarily incapacitated for work because of sickness or accident; and have suffered a loss of income as a result. The short-term sickness benefit rate applies where the benefit has been in force for less than six weeks, after which the higher rate of long-term sickness benefit becomes operative. This too is an improvement introduced by our Government, because prior to 1970 all sickness benefit was at the lower short-term rate.
Those who qualify for special benefits, and will receive the increased rate as soon as this Bill is passed, include some women caring for invalid parents or near relatives, some migrants not residentially qualified for social service pensions and certain unmarried mothers.
Unemployment and sickness benefits have been provided under Commonwealth legislation since 1945. The purposes which the original legislation was designed to facilitate remain the purposes which this amending Bill will ensure for persons whose normal earnings have been interrupted through unemployment or sickness. On 3rd March 1944, in his second reading speech in another place on the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Bill 1944 providing these benefits, the Hon. E. J. Holloway. Minister for Labour and National Service, outlined the purpose or philosophy of the legislation as fallows:
We regard this legislation as a piece of bridgebuilding to carry the people over those economic gaps which must necessarily occur from time to time. We cannot hope to eliminate sickness altogether, and it is necessary to take heed of it in our social legislation. We hope, by the passing of suitable legislation in the future, to provide regular employment for everyone, but no matter how good the system introduced may be, there must be periods of unemployment when people are being transferred from one engagement to another. The Government wishes to ensure that people during such periods of unemployment shall remain a social asset by retaining some spending power.
The original legislation was not designed to provide a full living allowance for all time so that people should be deprived of the incentive to work. It was a measure designed to provide means for people to be looked after if they were unemployed for short periods while changing occupations or if they were temporarily laid aside by sickness. As I mentioned earlier, the rates of unemployment and associated benefits are now higher than ever before, both in money amounts and in terms of real purchasing power.
It is understandable that attention is currently focused primarily on the unemployed and on the unemployment benefit. The number unemployed is at present abnormally high for Australia, although it would still be considered abnormally low in most other countries. It is, in fact, 2.3 per cent of the work force, which might be compared with the latest available figure of 5.4 per cent in the United States of America and 4 per cent in the United Kingdom. Our Australian average unem ployment over the past 6 years has been about 1.2 per cent, which must be considered as a most excellent performance by international standards.
Over the past 20 years only a few people in Australia have been unemployed for any lengthy period, and I do not anticipate that many of those at present unemployed will be out of work very long. The present increased rates of benefit will help all those who are unemployed, but the great majority of these are only temporarily out of a job. Nevertheless the Government regards the present volume of unemployment in Australia as too high, however moderate it might seem to those whose standards are lower than ours. Not only do we regard it as too high - we have set policies in motion which, when they have had time to take effect, will reduce that volume. These policies include the measures which the Prime Minister recently announced at the Premiers Conference. While the Government is taking measures to increase employment, the fact remains that the general employment situation in Australia is, and has been, adversely affected by recent industrial disturbances and stoppages. The motives of those responsible for this unrest are, to say the least, questionable and unfortunately the direct and indirect effects of their activities will be felt for some time.
The Government believes in full employment. The increased rates provided in this Bill are designed to help those who are temporarily unemployed or sick. As I have said, they are the highest rates ever paid in Australia, not only in money terms but also in terms of real purchasing power. The cost of the increases in unemployment, sickness and special benefits for the remainder of the financial year is estimated to be $4m. In accordance with established practice, it is proposed that the increases in rates provided under the Bill will operate without delay, that is, in respect of the benefit week ending on the date on which the royal assent is obtained, and to each benefit week thereafter. I commend the Bill to the Senate and ask that it be given a speedy passage.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I indicate at the outset that the Opposition proposes to facilitate the passage of this Bill through the
Senate as expeditiously as possible. However, because of the importance of the provisions contained in this Bill, it is necessary to make some observations on it. I propose to offer some criticism of the current unemployment crisis and make some suggestions about its origin and what needs to be done to overcome it and to eliminate the possibility of a similar situation occurring in the future, I understand that the terms of an amendment I propose to move on behalf of the Opposition are in the process of being circulated.I repeat that the Opposition does not propose to impede the passage of this Bill. The Opposition adopts that attitude not because it believes that the proposed increases are adequate - they are far from adequate - but because it recognises the hardship and distress imposed on those affected by unemployment. Not only does unemployment degrade, demoralise and distress the sense of dignity of an individual during the period of his unemployment but it can also leave him wi’h a permanent scar - characterised by a loss of faith in himself and a loss of confidence and initiative - on his mind that may never be healed or erased. In other words, it can be a living nightmare to experience unemployment. 1 think it is appropriate to direct the Senate’s attention on this occasion to the Hansard report of the debate on 16th September and 28lh September 1971 on the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1971. The Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) was responsible on that occasion also for the passage of the Bill through the Senate. Among other things, what the Opposition wanted the Senate to do - incidentally the Opposition received the support of the majority of the Senate on that occasion on these 3 aspects - was to express its opinion, firstly, that the increases proposed were inadequate; secondly, that the social service payments generally were inadequate to maintain an acceptable standard of living; and, thirdly, that steps should be taken immediately to eliminate poverty. The Opposi’ion moved an amendment in those terms notwithstanding the fact that there was a Bill before the Senate to increase social service payments generally. The Opposition moved the amendment because it was shown statistically in the Budget Papers that between the time when that Bill was introduced and the end of that fiscal year, as a consequence of the increase in the cost of living, the value of the increases in the benefits payable to recipients of social services would have been completely eroded. 1 will be referring later to this self-same subject matter. ] move:
At cml of motion add - but the Senate is of the opinion that the vast majority of those currently unemployed have become unemployed as :: direct result of Government economic policies and accordingly directs the Government to prepare a Bill for presentation to the Parliament within 14 days which provides for unemployment benefits not below the updated poverty level established by the1966 survey of the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research’.
I propose to deal with this amendment in 2 parts because it is in fact in 2 parts. First of all it directs the attention of this chamber to the cause of the crisis affecting some 130,000-odd good Australians at the present moment. We say without any hesitation that the strategy of the 1971-72 Budget was deliberately calculated and designed to bring about this very situation. The official Opposition levelled criticism at the Government for its Budget and, among other things, we were particularly critical of the strategy which, as we saw it, inevitably would lead to a pool of unemployment. I draw to the attention of the Senate numerous observations made by individuals and organisations which agreed with our predictions. To simplify and expedite my reference to these observations by individuals and recognisable national organisations 1 propose to refer in parr to the extracts from my own speech on the Budget in which 1 point out quite vividly the mistakes being made by the Commonwealth Government. At page 744 of the Senate Hansard of 15th September 1971 - exactly 4 weeks and one day after the Budget had been introduced - I said:
Australian business yesterday expressed concern at the prospects of a severe credit squeeze later in the 1971-72 financial year.
That statement was made by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Australia. The article goes on:
The chambers are the latest in a series of influential bodies to criticise the economic strategy of the Budget and to predict repercussions.
The Austraiian industries Development Association last week claimed the Government soon would have to take action to reverse the depressive effects of the Budget.
I remind the Senate that this was at a time when our discussion of the Budget had not been completed. The article continued:
This week, a leading management consultation firm, W. D. Scott and Co., predicted that the Australian economy was heading for its worst unemployment situation since the 1961-63 recession. 1 think it is worth while reminding the Senate of these observations which were made by people outside this chamber but which were related to the Senate by honourable senators. In the ‘Australian’ of Friday, 10th September 1971, there appeared a large banner headline reading ‘100pc drop in new money for industry’ with a sub-heading ‘figures show economy is running down fast’. As I remarked in my speech on the Budget, the article stated, among other things:
The rise in the rate of capital spending in Australia is expected to drop by more than 100 per cent in the 6 months ending in December . . A survey by the Bank of New South Wales and the Associated Chambers of Manufactures said that only 38 per cent of manufactures are operating at a satisfactory full rate of operation.
My speech continued:
That means that 62 per cent of our industrial capacity is under-utilised at the present time. The article goes on:
This is the slowest anticipated growth rate in capital spending for 3 years. The survey of anticipated expenditure is probably on the optimistic side because it was taken in July before the Budget was brought down and before the international currency crisis.
Our economist, Kenneth Davidson, says: ‘So far most of the statistical evidence which has emerged since the Budget has pointed to a sleeper downturn in the business circle than the Government expected. This is likely to show up in an even higher level of unemployment than the Government had planned as a result of the deflationary Budget’.
There was much more and I think it is important that the Senate should be informed of it. In the 14th September issue of the ‘Financial Review’, which is a publication of some standing, as Government supporters would concede, an article stated:
Unemployment is growing at the monthly rate of 6.6 per cent after allowing for seasonal factors. This is from a low base but it is a high rate of increase despite that.
Registered vacancies are falling at the monthly rate of 4.2 per cent.
The movement in personal consumption - the biggest single item in gross national expenditure - graphs out a plunging route.
In the March quarter of 1970 real personal consumption was growing at the annual rate of 4.8 per cent.
In the June quarter of 1970 this had started to fade and the rate of real growth was 4.2 per cent. Then in September 1970 it was 4.1 per cent; in the December quarter, 2.8 per cent; the March quarter, 2.2 per cent; and the June quarter 1971 saw a real rate of increase of only 1 .6 par cent.
The figures covering the real rate of growth in gross national expenditure are just as disconcerting.
They show that in the June quarter the real annual rate of growth was only 0.7 per cent.
This figure has to be set against the March rate of increase of 5.4 per cent. But it remains a figure that no amount of interpretation will support the proposition that demand was accelerating in the June quarter - just the reverse.
A real annual rate of growth of 0.7 per cent means that demand was in fact not keeping pace with population growth.
Comments were made, also by 2 other gentlemen who are well known in the community. The first was Mr Blyton, President of the Associated Chambers of Commerce, who was supported by Mr Herford, the Federal President of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia. Mr Blyton said, among other things:
The figures are a further indication that the level of economic activity is continuing to ease.
It seems that now is the right time for the Government to inject some renewed life into the economy.
In other words, at that time while the Budget was still in the process of being dealt with by the national Parliament, every responsible individual and organisation, including the Australian Council of Trade Unions - or at least a great range of people and organisations - was critical of the Budget. There was a whole range of people and organisations that I could cite to augment the list that I have mentioned to the Senate. No responsible national organisation, whether engaged in an economic activity or otherwise involved in ‘he community, had other than criticism of the Budget. They all pointed out the inevitable consequences which would and did follow. I remind the Senate again that my reference to the Budget was to point out that primarily its strategy was to dampen down what was referred to as ‘demand’. This is stated clearly in the Budget Speech of the
Treasurer (Mr Snedden) at page 3 of the document which was presented to the national Parliament. I propose to refer to it only briefly. He said:
Therefore it is essential to achieve the right rate of increase in demand through the year. It must be high enough to make possible full employment of the labour available - new labour as well as existing labour. At the same time it must not be so high as to facilitate and encourage further cost and price increases. Since, as I have said, demand has been running too high in some sectors-
This was completely contrary to the view of the interested organisations and individuals to whom I have referred - this indicates the need for a degree of restraint on demand. One obvious direction in which restraint should be applied is that of public authority spending in its various forms.
It is interesting to note that even a former member of the Government, a former Prime Minister, the honourable member for Higgins (Mr Gorton), since the Budget was introduced has joined its critics and those who at the time of the Budget were saying what he is now saying. The Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 18th February 1972 contains a report of an address by Mr Gorton to the University of New South Wales Graduates’ Club, in the course of which it states:
He said the Federal Treasurer had tried to attack inflation the wrong way by increasing interest rates and ‘taking money out of the pockets of the people’. lt was ridiculous to say that demand was causing inflation, Mr Gorton said. ‘If you take that approach you are like a doctor who neglects one disease and treats a disease which does not exist’, he said.
In very succinct terms Mr Gorton has pointed out precisely the cause of the current crisis with which we are now confronted and as a result of which we. are asked to consider a Bill, the purpose of which is to alleviate some of the distress of those who are suffering hardship today. I am always prepared to give credit where it is due. I have said so on many occasions. I am prepared to give credit even if it is only for the evil that is to come. I think it can be said that the strategy, intention and design of the Budget introduced last August by the Commonwealth Treasurer, and which was supported quite obviously by Government members, was to dampen down demand. There is only one way in which this can be done and that is by creating a pool of unemployment, thus changing the demand for labour by employers to a demand by the employees for labour. I think it can be said that the results of the Budget have been disastrously successful.
What is the real effect on the Budget? To really see the dramatic effects that that Budget has had one needs to look at the statistics showing the unemployment position. I will refer to the figures for only 2 months, namely August 1971, when the Budget was being debated, and January 1972, 5 months later. The figures at the end of August 1971 revealed an acceleration of unemployment and a decline in the number of jobs available. There were 61,848 persons registered as unemployed in August, which was 14,591 more than the number for the same month in the previous year. But then an adjustment is made to the figures on the basis of seasonal variations. It is stated that the figure for that month really should show that there were 75,500 people unemployed and that there were 34,673 vacancies. This means that during the time that we were debating the Budget, when the Government was being advised and warned by all sections of the community, there were 2 people seeking every job available.
I have said before, and I repeat it because I think it is true, that for every person who goes to the trouble of registering with the Commonwealth Employment Service there is probably at least one other who feels that he is confident of finding a job without resorting to the services of that office. If that theory has any substance or validity it means that the figures produced by the Department of Labour and National Service do not represent the true position. I do not question the accuracy of the Department’s figures but I do not think they truly reflect the true level of unemployment. In other words, the figure of 61,848 for August 1971 should have been much higher.
Notwithstanding the knowledge and information that the Government had about these figures and the trends that must clearly have been evident to it, it persisted, dogmatically and doggedly, with the 1971 Budget which has brought about the results predicted not only by the Australian Labor Party but also by many other interested parties. What do we find 5 months later, notwithstanding that we have been told by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in the intervening period that all wc need is to have confidence in ourselves? We of the Australian Labor Party and many other people outside this chamber were charged with being prophets of doom. It was said that we were attempting to talk this nation into a depression. Nothing is further from the truth. What we tried to point out to the Government was the inevitable consequences of its Budget before they happened. Each and every member of this chamber has a responsibility to point out such things to the people of Australia.
I again ask: What do we find 5 months later, at the end of January 1972? We find that there are no fewer than 130,233 people unemployed. That represents more than a 100 per cent increase on the figure for August 1971.
– What was it 10 years ago?
– I want to enlarge upon these figures a little. The supplementary statistics that usually are available with the monthly employment review are not available at this stage. I presume that the figures I propose to use are accurate within reason, because I have taken them from the ‘Australian’ of 15 th February 1972. They appear under the heading ‘Jobless total up by 10,000*. I propose to refer only briefly to this article which says:
Unemployment rose last month-
That is January 1972 - by almost 10,000 to 130,233.
If the honourable senator who interjected is prepared to listen to my reply-
– I mentioned 10 years ago.
– I am referring to last year. There has been an increase of 41,000 in a year. The article goes on to point out that job vacancies declined in January by 2,510 to 42,860. Three points must be made. Firstly, the unemployment level increased dramatically and drastically. Secondly, the increase in unemployment over the previous month of 10,000 was astronomical. Thirdly, the increase of 41,000 in one year can be described only in the same manner as I described the increase of 10,000. Job vacancies have fallen to such an extent that instead of 2 people competing for every job available, as was the case last August, now there are 3. This is just about the level that the Commonwealth Government sought in order to disable the trade union movement in its just fight to obtain decent conditions of work and rates of pay for the people it represents. I think the Government can take credit for achieving its desired result.
I shall refer only briefly to the second reading speech because so much in it does not warrant even cursory comment. It indicates that the rate for an adult unemployed male will be increased from $10 to $17 a week and that the rate for an unmarried person aged 18 to 20 years will rise by $5, from $6 to $1 1 a week. It goes on to say that the rate for unmarried persons aged from 16 to 17 years will rise by S3, from $4.50 to $7.50 a week. That reminds us of the increases that flowed from the Budget which has been so disastrous. The second reading speech goes on to say, amongst other things:
The rates of unemployment and associated benefits are now higher than ever before, both in money terms and in terms of real purchasing power. The measure of the improvement during the time since the last Labor administration lost office is dramatic. The figures are as follows:
A table is then set out. I have not had the opportunity since the Bill was introduced to analyse thoroughly the figures in that table but I question their validity. In the course of the debate on the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1971, to which I referred earlier, we of the Opposition were able to show quite conclusively that the value of all social service payments, including child endowment, since 1949 and up to the increases in the recent Budget had fallen far below the 1949 level. I fail to appreciate that the increases, substantial as they may appear to be, would have the effect of offsetting the great discrepancy shown to exist between the average weekly wage in 1949 and the average weekly wage at the time of the last Budget in August 1971. To support my view - and I think it does - I shall refer briefly to a publication which I presume most if not all honourable senators and members of the other place receive gratus as I do. It is a publication which has some worth. It is called ‘IPA Facts’. It is a publication of the Institute of Public Affairs. This is volume 21, No. 1 and it is dated December 1971 -January 1972 so it is quite current. On page 4 of that publication reference is made to inflation. A graph-like table is set out showing the fall in value of the Si. The base year of 1950 is taken as being 100c in the $1. This table progresses right through the years to 1971 when it is shown that the value of the $1 in terms of purchasing power has fallen to no less an amount, than 42c. If one takes into account the magnanimous decision of the Government to attempt to alleviate some of the hardship which has been caused by its own action and the increase in the adult male rate of from $10 to $17 a week, in effect it means that the real purchasing value of that $17 is no greater than $7.1 4c. This increase is not as handsome as we are led to believe by the second reading speech. Further, I make a passing reference to the estimated total cost of this increase which amounts to $4m. This is only a pittance when one thinks in terms of the Budget of over $8,000m and of the fact that by deliberate calculation the Budget was designed to provide for a domestic surplus of no less than $63 Om. At one and the same time the Government increased the taxation burden on everybody across the board. Whether they be income earners - whatever bracket they may be in - whether they be on fixed incomes such as retired persons on superannuation or whether they be recipients of social services or repatriation benefits the Government imposed a further tax burden on them of some $157m as a minimum. I do not think it can be said that the Government has been particularly gracious by handing out this form of increase of some $4 in the dole payment to people who are unfortunately displaced from employment. I want to refer to a matter in the second reading speech because I think there are some references which are entitled to attract some comment. The second reading speech states:
Mr President, it is understandable that attention is currently focussed primarily on the unemployed and on unemployment benefits. The number unemployed is at present abnormally high for Australia, although it would still be considered abnormally low in most other countries. It is, in fact, 2.3 per cent of the work force, which might be compared with the latest available figure of 5.4 per cent in the United States of America and 4 per cent in the United Kingdom.
Our Australian average unemployment over the past 6 years has been about 1.2 per cent, which must bc considered as a most excellent performance by international standards.
I cannot imagine how any one of the 130,233 unemployed in Australia would derive any great comfort from the fact that the Government is trying to placate its conscience because of a decision which it made back in August which brought about, the crisis which we now find on the Australian labour market. I now direct the attention of the Senate to the second part of our amendment which states: but the Senate . . . accordingly directs the Government to prepare a Bill for presentation to the Parliament within 14 days which provides for unemployment benefits not below the updated poverty level established by the 1966 survey of the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.
Why do we suggest that? Among others, one reason we suggest it is that the figure which has been recently set by the University of Melbourne’s Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research as a poverty line is $50 a week. How do these new increases - the so called benefits - compare with the poverty Vine which has been set by that Institute? If we take as an example a man, his wife and 2 children we find that they are entitled to a maximum benefit of $35.50 a week. This is made up of $17 for the male, $8 for the wife, $4.50 each for the children and SI. 50 endowment for the children which comprises 50c for the first child and $1 for the second child. This means that the sum total benefit - 1 use that term with some reservation - for being unemployed is $35.50 which is $14.50 less than the/ poverty line which has been described by a responsible part of an institution, namely the University of Melbourne. What happens to a man and his wife? This situation could affect many thousand young newly-weds who are making their way with all that that means. They would be entitled to the handsome amount of precisely $25 a week which is 50 per cent less than the poverty line described by the institution to which I recently referred. I cannot imagine how anyone can believe that people - particularly those who are married - could ever meet their commitments with an income such as this. lt is all right for honourable senators sitting on the other side of the chamber to smirk and smile and interject facetiously but I ask them to think for a moment. How would they like to be confronted next week with a wage packet of $35.50 and have to meet all the commitments which, by and large, other people in the community have to meet - those who have family commitments, those who are making their way as newly weds, or those who are not married but who are hoping and intending lo wed and who are trying to put aside the wherewithal to reach that stage? One still has lo meet one’s commitment of rent. One still has to feed oneself and one’s family and clothe them. One still has to meet the charge of local rates, taxes, surcharges and indirect charges which are imposed through various instrumentalities apart from the Government, ls is deplorable and despicable to think that an Australian Government would inflict such distress and hardship on people in the com.munity. 1 am not being emotional abou this situaion. In fact, I am being very cold, calm and calculating, as the Government has been in bringing about this situation.
I say again that this Government should be prepared to review the situation in terms of our amendment, to prepare a Bill for presentation to the Parliament within 14 days and to increase the level of payments to those who are dispossessed of an income through no fault of their own - 1 repeat, through no fault of their own - those who are displaced from employment and those who are relying on social services by way of sickness benefits. I say that as a matter of humanity to those the Government purports to hold so dear as part of this nation of Australia it should be prepared seriously to consider meeting the terms of our proposal to bring back a Bill to this Parliament within 14 days which will upgrade the standard of income available to those who are suffering hardship and distress at this moment. This will allow them to live with a sense of dignity - and this is terrifically important. It will sustain their confidence, and give them some element of initiative and some sense of desire to go on after this morass, which has been created by this Government, has passed.
Complementary to that 1 say that in our view these proposals cannot be described as other than short term measures. The only real answer to unemployment is a Government wilh a policy which goes further than the mouthing of platitudes by Government supporters. It should be one which is genuinely dedicated and committed to full employment. Our amendment asks that the Government, as a matter of urgency and as a matter of necessity, examine through all of the resources that il has at its disposal - they are unlimited - the present situation to find’ the ways and means and the wherewithal, which are available because Australia is not a poor nation, to establish an order of priorities and deploy its resources lo revive our flagging economy, to stimulate it and to eliminate unemployment for all time. I commend this Bill to the Senate. I do so with the most sincere and earnest convict ions.
– 1 second the amendment.
– My colleagues and I welcome the Bill which has for its purpose ‘to increase the rate of unemployment benefit and sickness benefit’. I believe that it is timely and most appropriate in view of the increased number of unemployed at present in the community. Unemployment is something that we all deplore. No-one with any sympathy in his makeup could be but disturbed and concerned for the man or woman who is unemployed through no fault of his or her own. I have memories of the depression days when a huge army of most worthy citizens was unable to obtain employment and lived on a pittance handed out by State governments. We all hope that the present state of affairs is only temporary and that, in the near future, a condition of full employment will return.
Whilst 1 have the utmost sympathy, I repeat, for the genuine unemployed - that is, people who are unable to obtain work and who are out of work through no fault of their own - I am conscious of the fact that there are some people in our community registered as unemployed who are not very anxious or desirous of obtaining employment. Most honourable senators know as well as I do - I speak of Queensland but I do not suppose that the situation is any different in any other State of the Commonwealth - thai there are colonics of young people, commonly known as hippies, who are moving from place to place, when it suits them, and who have no intention of working if they can avoid it. I often wonder whether taxpayers’ money in the form of unemployment assistance is being handed out to these people. How strictly are the requirements of the Social Services Act being policed? How strictly are people who register for employment being investigated when they last a few days or a week at the most before turning a job in and making some plausible excuse as to why they cannot continue in that work?
I do hope that the Department is quite vigilant in this connection. These people should be investigated not only now when they might have an excuse for not being able to obtain a job but also during periods, such as we have seen in recent years, when full employment exists and vacancies for which applicants can not be found are advertised in great numbers by various authorities throughout Australia, because these colonies of young people existed during such periods also. It is not an unusual sight when driving along a road to find a number of young people hitchhiking. If one speaks to them, they will confess that they are not in work and that they do not intend working if they can avoid it. So, when we are estimating the number of persons unemployed, I think that we are entitled to take into account in arriving at our figures only those who are genuinely unemployed.
I do not accept Senator Brown’s emotional outburst this afternoon with regard to the unemployed. If he was genuine and sincere in his concern for the unemployed, I ask why he - a big figure in the industrial world of Victoria - fosters, promotes and causes industrial stoppages in the industries of that State and the other States of the Commonwealth? If he is genuinely concerned about the worker and his inadequate income, why does Senator Brown add to the difficulties of these people, particularly the family man, by causing strikes and throwing these people out of work for weeks and weeks on end? His actions do not merely reduce the size of the pay envelope; they cut wage payments off entirely. This is done merely on the pretext of gaining some advantage or some improvement in the working conditions of the members of the trade union concerned.
Do honourable senators think that the great majority of workers engaged in industry welcome these stoppages? Do they think that people who are committed to a hire purchase company or who have to meet repayments on washing machines, refrigerators and other almost indispensable domestic units in our domestic life welcome these stoppages? My association with working class people is close enough for me to know that they do not and that they deplore these stoppages. Particularly do the wives of these men deplore such stoppages which add to their difficulties and which cause many of them to seek employment in order to try to make ends meet. Normally, they would much prefer to be supervising their home and be free when their children return from kindergarten and school. They would much prefer to exercise a motherly interest in the welfare of their families.
I have said already that all of us, I believe, are really concerned about the plight of the person who is genuinely unemployed. More particularly are we concerned for the family man who has a wife and 4 or 5 children to support. Those are the people to whom we must give extra consideration. I hope that something better might be done for them. I commend the Government for its timely introduction of this Bill. It will relieve the position considerably in spite of what has been said to the contrary. It will be a great relief. I sincerely hope that the number of unemployed will decrease rapidly because, in a society such as ours, in a country which is relatively lucrative and prosperous, in a country in which there is so much to be done towards its development, it is a dreadful waste to have a ‘big army of industrious people unable to get a job.
Senator Brown has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. That proposed amendment is not acceptable to me and my colleagues because, in spite, of what he has said, I do not accept that the vast majority of those currently unemployed are unemployed as a direct result of Government economic policies. There are many and diverse reasons why there are so many unemployed today. The responsibility does not rest entirely and solely on the Government for its economic policies. Let me refer to the motor vehicle industry as an example. I do not know that Government policy would have affected that industry because there is evidence that unemployment in it is due to years of over-production and to the industrial stoppages that have been taking place over recent years wilh greater frequency and regularity. Employers are becoming heartily sick of these interruptions. They have reached the s’age at which they can bear no more and they have said: ‘It is evident that these people do not want to work so we will facilitate their achievement of their goal by closing’. There was the case recently of the meat works at Dinmore, a small place outside Brisbane, where there were repeated stoppages. The management decided that it had had enough and it said to the employees: ‘If you do not want to work, we do not want to work either’, and the plant was closed. Then there were cries for a moratorium for the employees. They asked everyone to whom they owed money, particularly hire purchase companies, to declare a moratorium. Trade union officials were racing around pleading for the reopening of the meat works. Stoppages such as that have aggravated our unemployment position and until the trade unions, particularly their leaders, act as if they are genuinely concerned about their members and realise–
– What happened finally at the meat works? Are al) of the men back at work now?
– They are all back now because they have pledged themselves to work and to stop this foolhardy business of striking every week.
– That is not Jack Egerton’s opinion of it.
– No? The union leaders were very quick to race around the place and interest themselves once the factory was closed more than they were when the strikes were going on.
– But what about-
– The honourable senator can make his speech later. I am trying to make my speech in the limited time at my disposal. I cannot accept the proposed amendment for the reasons I have outlined. It goes on:
Is there any reason why this Parliament should accept that institute of the University of Melbourne as an authority? Is there any reason why we should embrace the recommendations that followed the 1966 survey? I would want to know the basis on which the survey was founded. I would want to know a great deal more than we have been told. In any case, I would have greater faith in the Commonwealth Statistician. At least his figures would be more honest and would not be coloured by political prejudice and ignorance.
– Monash does a better job than that.
– I would expect Monash to do a better job. What does the honourable senator call a better job - a job that suits his taste, a job that is not honest? There are plenty of economists in this country.
– Does the honourable senator think that the University of Melbourne’s economics department is an honest organisation?
– That reminds me of a statement that was made by Edward Granville Theodore, a former Treasurer of the Commonwealth and Premier of Queensland, who said that there were plenty of economists; some of them were good but most of them you could liken to the light on the stern of a ship - they could always show you the path over which you had passed. There is a great deal of merit in that. I would like to have research done into the opinions expressed by economists.
– What about Colin Clark? Where would the honourable senator put him?
– Colin Clark is a world renowned economist.
– I suppose the honourable senator would want him to do the research.
– No, we would do our own research.
– Who did the research for this speech?
– The honourable senators who are interjecting are the people who are supposed to be really concerned about the unemployed. They are the ones who are partly to blame for the plight of many people today. Instead of blaming the Government entirely, they must accept part of the blame. Senator Brown cited Mr Gorton M.P. as an authority. Mr Gorton would be the worst economist we have ever had in this Parliament.
– The honourable senator is talking about a former Prime Minister.
– Yes, I am talking about a former Prime Minister and I have no compunction about doing so either. He approved a Budget 2 years ago which provided for a 10 per cent rebate in tax and at the same time gave struggling pensioners an increase of SOc in a period of inflation. Has he any reason to complain about Government policy? The only reason he has to complain is that he is not at the head of the Government.
– The honourable senator and his Party supported the Budget.
– I did not. I condemned it.
– The honourable senator voted for the Budget.
– That is a lot of nonsense. It is just the old story over again: If one throws a stone among dingoes one can be sure that they will yelp and cry to the heavens high. They are always true to life. Perhaps I could tell a short story from my own life. When I was a boy growing up in central Queensland I owned a big billy goat.
– Is this the one about the goat you frightened?
– Yes. I owned a billy goat. It was a big strong animal. My father thought that sometimes when I was compelled to discipline this goat I was too rough on him. My father said to me: ‘Boy, when that goat dies he will come back and haunt you for sure’. That is the truest thing my father ever told me. Whenever I stand up to speak that goat, accompanied by other goats, comes back and haunts me. That is the story, and it is true.
– It will be in Hansard for the twenty-fourth time now.
– The honourable senator is away so much that the number of times might be even greater than that and he has lost count. I do not believe that there is any great necessity to delay the passage of the Bill. As I said, it is timely and will be welcomed. But I foreshadow an amendment to the motion for its second reading. Upon the disposal of Senator Brown’s amendment, we propose to move the following amendment:
At the end of motion add: ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the child’s allowance payable in respect of dependent children under sixteen years of unemployed persons should, where there are three or more children, be substantially increased; that the payment for a dependent spouse should also be increased; and that a special allowance for student children sixteen years and under twenty-one years should be introduced so as to reduce the inevitable pressure on such children to forsake or interrupt their studies by seeking employment in order to assist the family’.
– I appreciate that another amendment has been foreshadowed, but it raises an issue different from that raised by the Bill itself and by the remarks made by Senator Brown in relation to his amendment. I do not suggest by that that what is contained in the foreshadowed amendment is not germane to the purposes of the Social Services Act, but I think I should reply now to the issues that have been raised. I think it is generally agreed by all honourable senators who have spoken - the paucity of the number of senators who have spoken indicates this - that this is an acceptable measure which everyone hopes will be enacted into law as speedily as possible. It provides for substantial increases in unemployment, sickness and special benefits. One has only to recall the character of those increases to appreciate the benefit they will be to those persons who at the present time have to be dependent upon unemployment benefits. It is a sign of a real concern that we can increase the provision, for example, for a man, his wife and 4 children to $43 a week as an unemployment or sickness benefit.
One would like to feel that we had the type of society in which, taking account of all considerations, we could ensure that if people were sick or out of work they would be able to live at the standard to which they had always been accustomed. If we had something close to the perfect society that would be an ideal worthy of achievement. But we must recognise that, notwithstanding the requirements under which unemployment benefits are payable, a society cannot maintain a situation in which a person might just as well remain out of work as go to work. That is a situation to which we must have some regard.
All I say - I think ) use the expression Senator Gair used - is that this measure is timely and appropriate because it provides worthwhile benefits - the highest ever paid in the history of this country, not only in money terms but also in real purchasing power. The Government will oppose the amendment which has been moved by Senator Brown. He, highly emotively, displayed double standards and a shallowness of thinking which, of course, is characteristic of the Labor Party’s approach to a host of these issues, and particularly this issue of unemployment. The Government has not, as Senator Brown so categorically and without knowledge asserted, deliberately adopted a policy or strategy designed or calculated to bring about 130,000 people unemployed. That has not been what the Government has sought to do and nothing has ben said which would justify such a categorical assertion. It ought to be nailed for its untruth. We have seen from members of the Opposition a campaign which has been designed to play upon the fear of unemployment and, one might say, the hope of increasing unemployment in order to castigate the Government and to derive some political benefit from it.
If one wants to have that point of view demonstrated one only has to refer to what was said by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party - that is the one who is in Parliament, Mr Whitlam. Only a matter of 2 or 3 weeks ago, when he came back from his annual peregrination of 8 weeks or so overseas, he said without any basis whatsoever: ‘Unemployment will be up to 150,000 in 2 months - an increase of 50,000’. Why should he say that when the whole theme of the Government has been lo instil confidence into the community? What Mr Whitlam was doing was seeking to establish within the community an attitude that, unemployment was out of control. There was no basis for that statement about an extra 50,000 unemployed. There was no statistical or economic assertion upon which he could base it. It came off the top of his head, and it came off the top of his head for a particular political purpose.
We know, as I know the Labor Party senators appreciate, that if they can point to increasing unemployment and attribute it, as Senator Brown did, to the deliberate policy of the Government, then that is a political weapon which will be used to i’s full effect. So, let the Labor Party be nailed for the policies which it is pursuing, ft is using the fact of unemployment and it is alleging untruthfully that the Government has deliberately created this unemployment as a political ploy. In short, what the Labor Party is wanting to see is a continuation of unemployment so long as it can say that that is duc to the Government. What the Government is concerned to establish is that if (here is unemployment remedial steps will bc taken in order to reduce it. lt has been made quite clear in the course of this debate, in what 1 said in the second reading speech and in what has been said constantly by spokesmen on behalf of the Government that that is the Government’s intention and it is an intention which will be achieved. 1 remind those optimistic members of the Australian Labor Parly who feel that they have more cause to be optimistic now than they have had for many years that in February 1963 - a memorable election year - ‘the unemployment figures were higher, in terms of percentages, than they are now. So, let noi those members assume that just because they have some encouragement at the present time the results of 1.963 will not be repeated in 1972.
There is one other area which 1 think discloses the double standards and the shallowness of the Australian Labor Party. We heard Senator Brown, in a voice louder than that which we normally hear from him and with an emotion which seemed to drip strangely from him. say that the present rale of unemployment was a tragedy, that it was a dreadful thing that the Government should be responsive for the present unemployment figures. But he has not used that expression and I do not believe that I will ever hear him use it, nor will he use similar emotion, to point the finger at those people who have been causing unemployment in this country for many years. I refer to his colleague Mr Hawke and to those members of various unions who have been concerned to create unemployment and who have been unconcerned about the consequences of that unemployment. I mention the 14 days in Victoria when there was a diminishing power supply not only for people in their homes but also for persons who were carrying on industry. Industry and public transport in Victoria were grinding to a stop. For what reason? Because some unions in Victoria were prepared to continue with their striking or not doing the work that they were required to do. They were not concerned that 250,000 people or more in Victoria were out of work. Those people were unemployed, but I did not hear Senator Brown suggesting that people should be concerned about the unemployment that that industrial activity was causing. Honourable senators opposite are interjecting. I regret that I have to share Sentor Gair’s expression that if one tells the truth in a pack of dingoes one gets a noise. It is a fact that in this chamber one cannot state a few facts which one strongly believes without having people, who on other occasions uphold themselves as persons who believe in the right of free speech, attempting to drown one out.
– I rise on a point of order. Was my hearing correct? Did the Attorney-General call the Opposition a pack of dingoes?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I do not think the honourable senator’s hearing was correct.
– He used the term.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes, he used the term.
– I would not like to give offence. I did use the expression ‘pack of dingoes’. I did not intend to call the Opposition a pack of dingoes. If inadvertently I did so, it was because I felt that there was an alliterative use of the expression which, in the circumstances, might have been permissible. If I did cause offence, I withdraw the expression.
– The noise they make reminds one of a pack of dingoes.
– I agree, if I might be permitted to say that. If the Opposition’ is determined to blame the Government for unemployment and if it is determined to accuse the Government of being responsible for the vicissitudes which hit people because they are unemployed, let the Labor Party be consistent and let it come down hard on those, people in the unions over whom it has some influence. Let it indicate its strength. It is a Party which draws strength from the unions. Let it tell those people in the industrial movement that if they strike selfishly for their own purposes and if they cause untold hardship to other people they act in a way -which is causing unemployment. We. know that the Labor Party will not adopt that approach because if Mr Whitlam were to say a word of that character he would be assailed immediately by certain elements in the Party. That is a very substantial reason why the Government will not support the amendment.
The amendment infers that the vast majority of those currently unemployed have become unemployed as a direct result of government economic policy. That is untrue, lt ignores the fact that there are people whom the Labor Party could control who have been responsible for a considerable amount of unemployment and hardship in this country. This pattern of constant industrial disturbance and stoppage will be persisted with so long as the Labor Party is not prepared to express its own condemnation of the tactics which are being pursued. I have not any doubt that if the Labor Party acted with the strength with which Mr Chifley acted when he was confronted with similar patterns in early 1949 there would soon be a stop to something that is becoming almost second nature in this country.
The other reason why we oppose the amendment is that it suggests that the Government should prepare, for presentation to the Parliament a Bill to provide unemployment benefits not below the updated poverty level. The updated poverty level represents the. translation into 1972 figures of a survey which was undertaken in 1966. Whatever be the validity of the figures in 1966, in my judgment it is quite erroneous to regard the method of updating as an appropriate indication of a poverty level in 19.2. The method of updating, as I understand it, has been to use the rise in average weekly earnings, but average weekly earnings do not really provide the movement in poverty level on the basis on which the report was prepared originally. If one were, to use the rises in the consumer price index or the rises in the minimum wage I think one might get a truer indication of what is a proper updating, but even that method has qualifications. I suggest that the only merit that the amendment has is that its language is different to the language of amendments that the Australian Labor Party has moved to other Social Services Bills in the past two or three, years. To that extent it is refreshing, but I regret to say that it has no more merit than other amendments.
That the words proposed to be added bc added (Senator Brown’s amendment).
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President - Senator Prowse)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
I do not think that the presentation of this amendment requires an address to accompany it. The principles governing it have been outlined already in the general debate and were referred to more specifically by Senator Gair when he foreshadowed the amendment which I have now moved in addressing himself to the principal motion. The only comment I would make is that unemployment strikes with particular harshness in larger families where the mar.gin between no income and some reasonable income, though inadequate, is slight and the situation becomes very desperate where a number of children are dependent on one breadwinner who becomes unemployed. We know that this type of child’s allowance which is attached particularly to the unemployed received the attention of the Government in the last year, but so fast has been the growth of inflation, so rapid has been the deterioration, one feels that, with the accompaniment of inflation and the incidence of unemployment, this one section should not be asked to accept the double burden, lt it; for that reason that we commend this proposition to the Government. We ask that the proposal be implemented at the appropriate time. It should be implemented very rapidly because these people must go on bearing this burden until the value of money is restored and until full employment may be regained. We ask the Government to accept this amendment and we ask this chamber to commend it for implementation by the Administration. We present it to the Senate in the fond hope that it will receive the support of the Government and in the full expectation that it will receive the support of the Opposition. I commend the proposition.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I simply indicate that the Government will oppose the amendment. The Social Services Bill is designed to increase rates of existing benefits. Changes were made in the Social Services Bill last year in which particularly payments for the second, third and subsequent children were increased from $2.50 to $4.50. In those circumstances the general pattern of benefits has been attended to by the Government this year. This proposal is regarded simply as a measure designed to increase the rate of benefit.
– The proposing of this amendment is typical of the procedure which has been used by the Australian Democratic Labor Party on so many occasions when social service measures have been before this chamber. The Government introduces a Bill; the Opposition opposes the amounts in it on substantial grounds, as we have on this occasion; and the Democratic Labor Party always declines to support us in these matters, especially at Budget time. At Budget time the Democratic Labor Party always fails to support us in our endeavours to reject a budget or to force the Government to do what we think it should do. The DLP makes some kind of general or pious statement as to what ought. to be done but it is not prepared to stand up and reject a budget and force the increases to the level that we think proper. In the last few moments it has refused to vote with us when we wanted to express the opinion that the amounts should be higher than are provided for in the amendment which it is now putting. Under our proposition a minimum of $50 would have been provided for a man and wife and 2 children. Now the DLP comes up with this proposition. The idea is to create some propaganda which members of the DLP can show around the place, and say: ‘This is what the DLP moved and it was not supported by the Opposition.’
What has happened on this occasion is perhaps a little worse than normal because there is barely time to read this amendment put forward by the DLP before a vote will be taken. However, I have consulted with one or two senior members of my Party and we have decided that on this occasion, because the DLP suggestion is better than the Government has provided, although it is worse than what we suggested - we will not give them the opportunity to mislead the people - we will vote for the proposal. We suggest to the Senate and to the people of Australia that the actions of the DLP should be taken into consideration when we come to the next Budget. When we want to increase benefits we will see whether the DLP is prepared to use the only weapon which can force increases, and that is to reject the Budget unless such increases are granted. We on this side of the chamber know already what the answer will be. This proposition is another example of the kind of propaganda gimmick that the Democratic Labor Party indulges in while at the same time helping to put back in office a government whose social service policies it knows have been against the interests of the people. The Democratic Labor Party’s tactics deserve to be exposed and we propose to expose them. The members of that Party will get no comfort out of the acceptance of this proposition because they know that the people of Australia will learn that they are tarred with the same brush as the Government and that they are really prepared to keep in office a government which is not doing the things the Democratic Labor Party says it should be doing and which the rest of the people of Australia know it is in error in not doing. The Australian Labor Party will not on this occasion allow the Democratic Labor Party to gain political capital by voting against its gimmick amendment. My colleagues and I will support the amendment We will then wait and see whether the Democratic Labor Party is prepared to support us in any move to prevent the Government bringing down a further Budget which is against the interests of the Australian people.
Amendment agreed to.
Original question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Senate adjourned at 5.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 February 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720224_senate_27_s51/>.