27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to informthe Senate that the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony, is leaving Australia today to attend the Third United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Chile and to visit other South American countries for discussions on trade matters. He is expected to return to Australia on 8th May. During his absence the Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Nixon, is Acting Minister for Trade and Industry.
– I present the following petition from 24 citizens of the Commonwealth residing in Victoria:
The Honourable The President, and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Postmaster-General’s Department Central Office policy, of centralising Post Office affairs and activities under the various titles of Area Management, Area Mail Centres, Area Parcel Centres and similar titles is resulting in both loss of service and lowering of the standards of service to the public, directly resulting in the closing of Post Offices, which is detrimental to the public interest.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to:
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– Has the Minister for Health seen allegations by Father David Robarts, former hospital advisory board chairman, that senior Department of Health officials sitting on the Northern Territory health inquiry in Alice Springs were intimidating witnesses? In view of the serious nature of these allegations will the Minister have them investigated so that public confidence in the inquiry will not be disturbed?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, I have seen reports and I am most concerned about them. In one paper there is a most disgraceful reference, if I may say so, which says that Department of Health officials are like the Mafia. That is a most disgraceful reference to be attributed, as it is, to a reverend gentleman. 1 want to make it clear that there is no intimidation. I do not accept the allegation that there is intimidation. It is true that a departmental officer is present at hearings of the inquiry but this is quite normal. It should be realised that the Department is required to provide evidence during the inquiry and that it will be better equipped to provide information of real assistance if it is properly informed of the nature of evidence given by other witnesses. I should add that a statement was made on 7th April this year by the Commonwealth Director of Health at Darwin. This was done with my concurrence. The statement referred to the appearance of departmental officers as private witnesses before the inquiry. This is the statement that was made:
The Department has noobjection to members of the Department appearing as witnesses before the Committee in their private capacity. However, as the members would be appearing in a private capacity they may not present departmental policy or documents. Any request for the presentation of policy or for documents that may be required should be made to the departmental representative.
No doubt he would be called as a witness at the inquiry. I should add that the board of inquiry is composed of Mr K. S. Edmunds, who is the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Tribunal and who has a legal background; Dr Dearlove, Director of Medical Services with the Department of Repatriation in South Australia; and Dr Vanderfield who is the Chief Executive Officer and General Medical
Superintendent of the Royal North Shore Hospital, Sydney. These are people of integrity who have status in the community.
To suggest that there has been intimidation of witnesses or to suggest, as one newspaper did, that health officials were like the Mafia, is a reflection on the board of inquiry. This is a terrible thing for a Press report to attribute to anyone. I should like to make it abundantly clear also that the article in the Press this morning mentioned a complaint against the Department of Health because it had not notified people in the Alice Springs area about the inquiry. The Department of Health is not the convenor of the inquiry; it is an inquiry which is being conducted at the instigation of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory. The Department of Health has concurred in the inquiry being held and, of course, has given its support.
The same reverend gentleman, Father Robarts, is reported - I keep using the word reported’ because I do not like criticising people unfairly - to have complained to the board about the lack of advertising of its sittings in Alice Springs. The report mentions also that he blamed the Darwin senior health officials who had 3 or 4 weeks notice of the inquiry and who should have circulated the hearing dates. I repeat that the Health Department was not the instigator of this inquiry. If the dates of sitting were to be circulated, that would be the responsibility of those who set up the inquiry or those who have the conduct of it. The whole atmosphere of this matter contains an imputation against officers of the Public Service. It is deplorable that serious imputations of this nature should be made against members of the Public Service by a man of the cloth or by anybody else.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seen a report in this morning’s Canberra Times’ to the effect that Professor Grant has completed his inquiry on the Australian wine industry, that his report is now in the hands of the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, and that the report recommends the lifting of the 50c per gallon wine excise which was imposed in the 1970-71 Budget? If the report in the Canberra Times’ is correct, can the Minister inform the Senate how long it will be before Professor Grant’s report is tabled and how soon the Government will act to carry out his recommendations?
– I have seen the report to which the honourable senator has refered. I have no information to suggest that Professor Grant’s report is now in the hands of the Minister, and certainly the Minister has made no announcement about receiving the report or that the Government intends to take certain action, so the article can only be expressing views which are purely supposition.
– 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the highly successful wool sales which were conducted yesterday by the private enterprise wool marketing organisation, Economic Wool Producers Ltd? Has the Department of Primary Industry made an evaluation of the monetary advantages which could accrue to the wool industry generally from greater use of the selling procedures and techniques adopted by this organisation?
– I did see the article to which the honourable senator has referred. Although T do not have any detailed information about a study carried out by the Department of Primary Industry I assure the honourable senator that the Department is well aware of this method of marketing wool and is watching this operation very closely. Should I have some further information to add to what I have already said I shall make it available to the honourable senator.
– I ask the Minister for Air or the Minister representing the Minister for Defence what is the current position relating to Government and Royal Australian Air Force investigations into proposals for replacement aircraft for the RAAF and for related offset or coproduction schemes? What firm proposals, if any, are under consideration for these aircraft to stimulate the Australian aircraft industry? Has the Government: considered co-production schemes from the Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab-Draken associated with the Viggen aircraft or other Swedish aircraft? What tests or investigations, if any, are intended in relation to these proposals?
– At the present time as Minister responsible for the Air Force 1 have issued 2 staff requirements, one for the replacement of the Mirage aircraft and the other for the replacement of the Winjeel aircraft. This is not binding on the Government and it does not commit the Government in any way but it does give us an indication of what firms are prepared to meet those special requirements. In regard to the replacement for the Mirage aircraft, already we have 3 proposals from overseas firms and we expect proposals from 3 other firms and possibly a fourth. I cannot name those firms at this stage but should the honourable senator desire to know their names I suggest that he should come along and see me.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that at present there are only 2 supersonic aircraft currently in advanced commercial development, namely, the Anglo-French Concorde and the Russian project? What state of development has the Russian supersonic aircraft achieved? Has it been flown extensively over continential Europe and elsewhere? Is the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics currently seeking to sell its aircraft to commercial airline operators throughout the world? In June, when the Anglo-French Concorde brings to Australia the Lord Privy Seal, Lord Jellicoe, will facilities be made available to allow members of this Parliament to inspect the aircraft and to obtain the fullest possible information upon all aspects of its performance?
– It is perfectly true that currently there are only 2 supersonic aircraft available for anbody who wishes to engage in supersonic civil flying as a commercial enterprise. One such aircraft is the Anglo-French Concorde which is due to visit Australia in mid-June as part of a long trip through the Middle East and Asian areas. The Anglo-French Concorde is the aircraft which we in this country will have the opportunity of seeing. The Russian aircraft is the Tupolov, also called by those who are involved in this business the ‘Concordski’. It is regarded by those who understand these things - 1 do not claim to be one of them - as not being as advanced technically in its capabilities as the Concorde. The 2 aircraft were side by side at the Paris air show. Many international and quite detached observers were able to look at both aircraft. I believe that the Russian aircraft is a good one. The Russian people have had a capacity for aircraft design and engine manufacture and, without any doubt, the aircraft is quite advanced. But from my information I do not think it is as advanced or as good as the Concorde. It was reported to have had a failure on its return from Paris to Moscow. For some time it was on the ground at Cracow in Poland. We could not find out subsequently what the reported failure was. All we had were reports which could not be authenticated. It is perfectly true that it has flown a great deal over Continential Europe. I cannot give the honourable senator the precise flight paths or flight hours but they have been quite substantial.
It is equally true that the Russians are most interested in selling the aircraft fairly extensively around the world. I think of interest to my colleagues in the Senate would be the fact that at present Russia stands about twenty-first in the international air flying table. Australia stands about twelfth. The table is headed by the United States. I think it must be regarded as quite logical that there will be a substantia] Russian attempt to expand in the air internationally as it has expanded on the seas. This fact has to be taken into consideration. Therefore, the Russians would have a great interest in internationally flying and displaying their aircraft and trying to sell it to countries which may be interested in using it.
The honourable senator made an observation about people being given the chance to see and to fly in the Concorde when it visits Australia. That is an interesting observation. I have no control over who shall inspect the aircraft or who shall fly in it, but I think it would be proper for me to submit to the authorities concerned that they should consider giving members from all sides of the Parliament an opportunity to see the aircraft, to inspect it and - if anybody is to be given the chance to fly in il - to fly in it.
– Will the Minister for Health make a statement to allay the rising impatience of citizens of the Australian Capital Territory at the undue delay in the creation of an Australian Capital Territory health commission?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThere has been some publicity in the local Press about this matter. I have made clear that I have put views to the Government about it. I am hoping that the issues involved will be determined soon. I am as keen as anybody to get the matter of health administration in the Australian Capital Territory decided, particularly having regard to the construction of the new hospital in the Woden Valley which is being commissioned at present. That, in itself, is a big job. There are other health services in the Territory. I make it abundantly clear that I am keen to get the matter to a final decision. I am not being tardy in what I am doing. There is a big decision involved. It relates to health and the administration of health in the whole of the Territory. I will be making an announcement about the matter as soon as possible.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science tell me the number of students currently enrolled at the Australian National University? Can he say how many students were present at the university students association meeting last night at which a motion is reported to have been carried declaring the university campus a sanctuary for those wishing to evade the National Service Act and whether this is a truly representative view of the majority of students attending that instituion?
– The number of undergraduate students enrolled at the Australian National University is between 4,300 and 4,400. It is estimated that approximately 120 to 150 were present at the meeting last night. Certainly they do not represent the majority view of the general undergraduate body.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories seen the statement made yesterday by Brigadier Eldridge, the retiring joint force commander in New Guinea, in which he called for the handing over of control of New Guinea’s armed forces before the granting of independence to the Territory? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has determined any timetable for handing over control of the Territory’s armed forces to the New Guinea authorities?
– 1 have seen a reference to the matter and, anticipating that it might be raised here, I inform the honourable senator that the matters referred to are the responsibility of the Minister for Defence. Of course. 1 have a close interest in them as the representative in the Senate of my colleague Mr Peacock, the Minister for External Territories. AH the subjects mentioned by Brigadier Eldridge in the interview are presently the subject of close study by the Department.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen a publication by Professor H. J. de Brium of the School of Physical Science at the Flinders University in South Australia in which he suggests amendments to the Atomic Energy Act 1953 to institute a body of review to supervise future nuclear development in Australia? Will the Minister consider this article which suggests future investigation into nuclear power for water desalination rather than for electricity generation?
– I have not seen the article. Therefore I am very restricted in my ability to comment on it. But I note what the honourable senator has said. The article proposes an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act and the honourable senator has asked whether the Minister for National Development will give consideration to this article. I would imagine that the Department would have already seen the article and would have given consideration to it. I cannot go beyond that except to direct what the honourable senator has said to the responsible Minister.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. In view of the number of Australians killed and injured on our roads, many of whom die in crashes at excessive speed, will he attempt to introduce regulations to limit the maximum speed of any new vehicles sold in this country to that maximum legal speed in most States? Secondly, will he discuss with the Postmaster-General the possibility of setting strict standards for car advertisements on television so that the advertisements do not aim to sell on speed and power?
– The Australian Transport Advisory Council, of which I think the Commonwealth Minister for Shipping and Transport is the chairman and on which he takes a very responsible part, will be asked to consider the proposal of the honourable senator about maximum car speeds. The Postmaster-General’s Department and the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be asked by me, in my de facto capacity as Acting PostmasterGeneral to look at the honourable senator’s second suggestion.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Are any studies currently being undertaken to his knowledge, either in Australia or overseas, to find a jet replacement for prop jet aircraft currently in commercial use in Australia and which would be amenable to the structural standards and services of airports now served by the F27 Fokker Friendship aircraft, without substantial expenditure becoming necessary to permit the introduction of jet services to those airports?
– Yes, the Department of Civil Aviation is studying this matter continuously. Sometimes we even send people overseas to look at the aircraft that are in prototype form or even at the design stage. This is an important question.
As the honourable senator indicated there is a tendency for the equipment situation to be leaving a gap in the prop jet field in which a certain size aircraft will be economical, and in which many aircraft are perhaps a little big for the purpose they are required to serve. That section of the aircraft equipment field is one to which we direct our attention and which we regard as important for the reasons mentioned by the honourable senator. A recent aircraft I have seen advertised is the Merlin Square Engine Metro which is a 20-passcnger prop jet aircraft which may have some facility if it goes into production. The Department already has a small version of this aircraft which is used in Australia and which is under test. Essentially, the question is one to which I am pleased to be able to direct my further attention because the Department is studying it continuously. As information becomes available, I will see that it is made available to the. honourable senator if he requests it.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer to 2 alleged student decisions yesterday at the Australian National University, one to declare the University a sanctuary for draft resisters, and the other, to pay legal costs and fines of law breakers from the funds to which all students are compelled to contribute. Is there any authority in the University statutes or the law generally for making the University a sanctuary for law breakers? If not, is not this merely a matter of impertinent bravado? Does Commonwealth law offer a remedy, as Victorian law was recently shown to have, for this impertinent and irresponsible misuse of funds contributed by students, many of whom are opposed to the political views of the law breakers concerned? If student funds are subsidised in any way from Commonwealth grants, will such grants be halted until we are assured that none of the money will be diverted for the illicit purposes mentioned?
– I have read in the Press accounts of the decisions which were made by this small and, I would think, unrepresentative body at the Australian National University yesterday evening.
– Not small; we were told that there were 120.
– I think that the answer which was given by the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science to an earlier question showed that there were approximately 4,300 or 4,400 students at the Australian National University. So, a decision of ISO students at that University can be regarded only as an unrepresentative decision. As far as the question asked by Senator McManus is concerned, I am not aware of any provision in the University statutes which would authorise the sort of conduct which would be envisaged by the passage of these resolutions. I think that I can say quite confidently that no university statute which would be subject to scrutiny by this Parliament would ever contain such a provision. There is certainly no law in this country which enables groups of university students to say that they are in some way immune from the ordinary laws which apply to all citizens of this country. Any allegation by unversity students that they have some right over and above the rights which apply to all other citizens is merely an arrogant usurpation which is quite undemocratic and, if I might say so, absolutely deplorable in a university.
The question whether remedies are available to students or members of the public who object to university funds being applied, at the whim or decision of an unrepresentative minority, to pay the fines of persons who break the laws is a matter again for the persons concerned to examine in the light of the ways in which the money is available to the students under the University’s statutes. I am sure that the vast majority of Australians were heartened by the action which was taken by some courageous students in La Trobe University. Those students applied to the courts of Victoria for appropriate orders to ensure that moneys are applied for lawful objectives. Again, it is deplorable that some university students in that University at the present time are showing a lawlessness which calls for protest simply against a court decision to that effect.
In the final part of his question, Senator McManus asked whether or not the Commonwealth will ensure that moneys which are part of Commonwealth grants are not used for the purpose of paying fines. T am sure that this is a matter to which the Government will give the closest attention. It is not strictly a matter within my portfolio and I ought not to pre-empt the right of the relevant Minister to make hia decisions in this area.
– r-I ask the Minister for Health: Has the survey by his Department at Wollongong of the overall effectiveness of the subsidised medical service yet been completed? If so, is the Minister able to provide the Senate with figures showing the number of people who are receiving subsidised health service membership compared with the numbers at Wollongong who are eligible for such assistance but have not availed themselves of it? As a result of the survey, does the Government intend taking any further action towards getting better coverage of the underprivileged section of the community by way of the subsidised medical service?
I have a brief on this matter. It is a little long and perhaps it would be more convenient if I were to give some facts on the matter at the end of question time. It is an interesting and relevant question and I will certainly respond to it before question time ends.
– My question, which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, follows the question I asked yesterday about the teaching of Asian languages and cultures in secondary schools in Australia. Can the Minister supply any further information about steps which have been taken for the teaching of some Asian studies in secondary and tertiary institutions in Tasmania?
– I am pleased to inform my colleague that specific information has reached me since 1 answered his question yesterday. A course was introduced at the Launceston Matriculation College last year for the teaching of Japanese. A number of secondary schools have introduced the teaching of Indonesian. The Australian Universities Commission bas authorised the University of Tasmania to establish a chair for the teaching of the Indonesian language. The University has not yet been able to establish that chair, but it has it under consideration.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry agree that moves by shipping companies outside the Conference lines to ship wool from Australia could result in a substantial benefit to wool growers in that they would be able to market their products more cheaply? Is the Minister aware of the answer given to a question in another place on 11th April in which the Deputy Prime Minister said that if it were decided to ship wool outside the Conference lines there could be serious interference with existing services to other industries? I ask the Minister whether he can give us an assurance that the interests of our wool growers will be the prime consideration before the interests of the monopoly Conference lines in maintaing high profits with high freight rates?
– I can definitely assure the honourable senator that the interests of wool growers will be paramount in both my thinking and the thinking of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Industry in regard to the shipping of wool. In recent times I have read quite a good deal of comment about shipping outside the Conference lines. I understand that very shortly - in the next day or two - there is to be a meeting in Europe on this matter. Therefore I would not like to comment further now. However, I assure the honourable senator that I will keep my eye on the results of that meeting and let him have any information I receive.
– Senator Douglas McClelland, the Leader of the Government in the Senate has informed me that he now has information relating to the question you previously asked. I call upon you, if you so desire, to ask your question again.
– I formally ask the Minister for Health the question I directed to him previously about the effectiveness of the subsidised medical service investigation at Wollongong.
– Thank you, Mr President. In response to the question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland I wish to say that it has been recognised that difficulties are being experienced in making eligible persons aware of the assistance available to them and in inducing them to participate in the subsidised health benefits plan. My Department has taken action to meet these problems. For example - Senator Douglas McClelland referred to this matter in part - it has introduced a simplified application form for the low income families. The Department is also examining ways of making eligible people aware of the plan and the manner in which assistance may be obtained.
The Department of Social Services has just completed a 4-week campaign of intensive publicity in the Wollongong-Port Kembla area, which is the area to which Senator Douglas McClelland referred. The campaign included newspaper, radio and television advertising, together with the good will and assistance of particular persons likely to have direct contact with potential beneficiaries. Such persons included social workers, employers, doctors, chemists, health fund officials, hospital administrators and members of migrant bodies. The purpose of the campaign is to guage the effects of intensive publicity on the level of participation in the subsidised health benefits plan in a particular area with a view to the introduction of similar measures in other parts of Australia. The results of the campaign are being analysed at present by the Department. It is therefore a little too early to give a picture of the results. Within the next few months a special insert pointing out the benefits available under the plan is to be forwarded with one batch of child endowment cheques.
My Department, mindful of the problems migrants are having in understanding the subsidised health benefits plan, is currently arranging the production of explanatory pamphlets in 10 different languages. Discussions are also continuing with the Department of Immigration in an endeavour to facilitate migrant participation. In addition the Department is considering, in conjunction with the Australian Council of
Social Services, specific ways in which both bodies might co-operate in further publicising the plan, particularly the dissemination of information through social workers.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware that the reconstruction programme at Bangladesh is being hampered by a lack of cash? ls he prepared to recommend to the Prime Minister that Australia’s donation be increased to the previously suggested amount of Si per head of the Australian population?
That would be a matter of Government policy. However. I will direct the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the Prime Minister. 1 suggest that he should place it on the notice paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. 1 preface it by saying that the Treasurer has indicated that a high level expert body will be set up to conduct a full scale public inquiry into the taxation system, encompassing all personal, company and indirect taxes. I ask: Will the inquiry include a full scale investigation of federal estate taxes and gift duties and their disastrous effects on the community and while that expert body is in existence will the Government offer the services of that expert body to the various State governments with the object of it inquiring into their probate and succession duties and the disastrous effects of those duties on the community?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONlt is true that the Treasurer made a statement on this matter on Tuesday evening and that I made a similar statement yesterday. It is true that the Parliament has passed a Bill that seeks to give effect to a part of that statement in relation to income tax. It is true that an inquiry is to be set up in relation to the generality of the taxation law. It is equally true that a statement will be made subsequently in which the whole gamut of the inquiry will be put down and the Parliament informed of it. I think it would be unwise of me now to reflect in the way that I have been invited to do so on a statement that will be made in due course by the Treasurer. It is for that reason that I would prefer to take the question on notice. When the full details are put down and publicised, I will be in a position to respond to the honourable senator’s question. We all know the honourable senator’s forte is in relation to death duty problems. I feel that it would be better to wait until I have obtained a detailed reply to the whole of the honourable senator’s question instead of now replying to it in part.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. In view of his decision to veto plans for a light aircraft airport in the Duffy’s Forest region of Sydney, has his Department now returned the land in question to the New South Wales Government for the creation of a nature reserve?
- ‘His’ Department never had the land. What we were discussing with the Department of Lands in New South Wales was a proposition that if the airport was desirable some land would be acquired under lease. I think that one fairly can mention here that the amount that was originally proposed for the lease during the number of years of negotiation increased dramatically. We did exhibit an interest in the situation and expressed the hope in earlier meetings in the Senate that it was very much to be desired that the area might become part of a parkland, but that was not for us to determine. That was just a personal indication of a view that 1 had. Perhaps it was presumptuous of me to do so but nevertheless I did express it.
– Has the Minister for Health any information on a visi.1 here by Dr Tatsuzo Kasugai of Japan during which he demonstrated an instrument - I understand it is known as the fibre-optic gastroscope - which has revolutionised the early detection of cancer and other stomach complaints? Has the Minister’s Department any information on the instrument? If not, can it be obtained?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI saw a comment in the Press this morning in relation to this matter and I sought some preliminary information on it. The Press comment indicated that this device is being used in certain of the major hospitals in Sydney. It is referred to in one case as the I-spy device. Recent developments in fibre-optics have resulted in instruments being produced which enable observers - they obviously would be people engaged in the medical field - to visualise the lining surfaces of some internal organs of the body. The fibre-optic gastroscope is passed into the stomach through the mouth and allows the doctor to examine the lining surface of the stomach. By careful examination the medical practitioner is able to see changes in the stomach lining allowing him to detect many abnormal conditions, including cancer of the stomach. The suggestion, of course, is that this is early detection. Early detection of cancer will greatly improve the chances of complete removal and cure of the cancer. I know that we all hope and pray that it will be another step towards the eventual conquest of cancer. That is the information I have at the moment. If any more particularised information becomes available to me I will be delighted to make it available not only to the Senate but also to the community at large.
– I address another question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. By way of preface I refer to my question addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and an earlier question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry on the need for the Australian Wool Board to promote wool. I now ask: Has the Minister seen reports that an Irish trade commission promoting Irish wool designs is in Sydney at the present time and receiving considerable publicity and business? What steps are being taken to emulate this successful promotion so that Australian wools and designs can receive similar promotion overseas?
– A prophet is without honour in his own country. The Australian Wool Board, through the International Wool Secretariat, has been promoting wool in many parts of the world. One has only to visit the International Wool Secretariat in London to see wool being promoted in all manner of ways, one instance being the very lavish carpets on the floor as one enters the front door of the building. A tremendous amount of promotional work is going on. Some growers and some people in the wool industry disagree with the way in which wool is being promoted. I will seek some information on promotion by way of a report from the Australian Wool Board and give it to the honourable senator so that he can understand the job being done by the Board.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Civil Aviation been drawn to the warm and spontaneous acts of loyalty and support by employees of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd to their organisation as instanced by the wave of protests emanating from them in respect of any possible takeover of the organisation, and by their purchase of Ansett shares as reported in today’s ‘Financial Review’? As this spirit of loyalty is rather unique in the business world today and would be reflected in dedicated application by employees to all phases of operations within the organisation, and therefore safety in air travel, will this aspect be given full consideration by the Department of Civil Aviation in its interest in the future of our 2-airline system as now constituted?
– Yes, my attention has been directed to these demonstrations of loyalty, affection and regard, and the proposed financial support by the purchase of shares. I think it must be most heartening for the management of Ansett Transport Industries.
– Can the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Primary Industry tell the Parliament how many vessels from Taiwan have been taken into custody in the waters off the Queensland coast or in the Gulf of Carpentaria? Can he also inform the Parliament of the number of vessels from the People’s
Republic of China or other countries which have been arrested in the same waters?
– I am quite willing to seek the information but 1 would have to approach the Minister and his Department to obtain it.
– I direct a question to the Acting PostmasterGeneral. Did the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations first challenge in May 1970, programme standard 35 of the Broadcasting Control Board’s standards, which relates to Sunday morning programmes, and was this matter referred by the Board to the Commonwealth Crown Solicitor’s Office for advice some considerable time ago? Will the Minister explain the protracted delay on the part of the Control Board in reaching a determination on the matter nearly 2 years after the challenge was first lodged and only after the commercial station had taken direct action to challenge the law by putting itself in the category of a law breaker? What action does the Government intend taking in this matter?
– At my request the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be here today to discuss with me various matters affecting the Board and I shall direct queries to him as a result of the honourable senator’s question to me.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science, follows upon a previous question put to the Attorney-General by Senator McManus. I refer to the improper use of Commonwealth Government funds paid by the universities to student unions and used for the payment of fines or otherwise to assist those who might be in breach of the law. I ask the Minister whether the attention of the Australian Universities Commission can be drawn to this matter so that the individual governing bodies, that is, the councils and senates of the universities, may be invited to give it earnest attention?
– I believe this is a serious matter which if developed will erode the confidence and integrity of universities in the minds of the public and more particularly the potential undergraduate students. I. have no doubt that the Minister I represent will immediately give the matter serious consideration.
– Order! I would like to point out to honourable senators that the presiding officer cannot inhibit honourable senators from asking questions but there is a good deal of business to be brought before the Senate at any given stage. As a matter of statistical interest although the Senate has only half the number of members that the House of Representatives has senators ask as many questions as are asked by members of the other House.
– The Minister for Health will recall that during last session I asked him a question concerning the establishment of a Chair of Geriatrics at an Australian university. I requested him to use his good offices in an approach to the States. He indicated that he would do something along those lines. Has there been any development in this matter of which the Minister could advise the Senate at this stage?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNo, not at this time. But I shall certainly inform myself on the background of what I said before and make the information available without delay to the Senate and to the honourable senator.
(Question No. 1759)
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1833)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The estimated value of shell taken from the Queensland Division of the Continental Shelf in 1970 was $303,000, a high proportion of which would have been taken from Torres Strait.
– On 23rd February 1972 Senator Wriedt asked me a question without notice concerning income distribution. The Treasurer has advised me as follows:
I am not aware that the available statistics on income distribution show that there is ‘an increasing disparity between people on high incomes and those on low incomes’.
In any case, in Australia, award wages and salaries are determined by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and the State arbitral tribunals, in the light of submissions made to them. The Commonwealth would not wish to undermine the independence of these authorities. The Commonwealth can, of course, seek to influence the Arbitration Commission through its submissions in the public interest to major arbitral cases.
The Commonwealth could, for example, seek to influence the Commission to award increases which would tend to reduce the gap between low and high wages and salaries. However, in the long run, such a course would mean decreasing incentives to those obtaining higher incomes on the grounds of work, value, including considerations of training or higher education and bearing of heavy responsibilities.
Nevertheless, in recognition of the special difficulty confronting minimum wage earners, the Commonwealth, while opposing any increase in the total wage, in its recent national wage submission said that it did not set its face against any increase in the minimum wage but added that any increase should not be of a magnitude which would have serious repercussions on the economy or which would spark off agitation for the increase in total wage rates to restore relativities.
– On 11th April Senator Drury asked me the following question, without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that a ban has been imposed on the importation of goldfish from Japan? If so, by whose authority and on what grounds was the ban imposed? Was it because of the danger of disease? If so, would the disease be dangerous to humans, animals or other fish? Or was it because of the predatory nature of goldfish? Will the ban apply only to Japan or to all countries exporting live fish to Australia? Is the Minister also aware that the sudden imposition of the ban has placed dealers in live fish throughout Australia in a serious financial position as tile largest portion of their incomes was derived from that source?
The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Australian Fisheries Council consisting of Commonwealth and State Ministers responsible for fisheries, at a meeting on 27th March 1972 decided that an immediate ban should be placed on the import of goldfish.
The reasons for this decision were:
There is a danger of introducing fish diseases and parasites with imported live fish. Goldfish have a wide temperature tolerance and therefore could contaminate most natural waters in Australia including trout streams and lakes in southern Australia.
Australia is one of the few countries at present free from virulent diseases of salmonids (salmon-trout and other related species). This factor ensures a certain market overseas for Australian disease free salmonid eggs.
Goldfish are very easily bred and therefore could be produced locally in sufficient quantities to satisfy the demands of the aquarium trade.
As a result of the Australian Fisheries Council decision a request has been made to the Department of Customs and Excise to prohibit the importation of all varieties of goldfish. This request is now under consideration.
– For the information of honourable senators 1 present a special report by the Commonwealth Grants Commission on the application made by the State of Queensland for financial assistance from the Parliament of the Commonwealth under section 96 of the Constitution.
– I present the report from the Standing Committee on Social Environment relating to 2 petitions seeking co-operation and financial assistance for crime prevention, together with certain documents and correspondence.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
In presenting this report, I believe that as Chairman of the Committee I should mention some of the important factors that were basic to the Committee’s deliberations on the 2 petitions seeking co-operation and financial assistance for crime prevention which were referred originally to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, and were later transferred to the Standing Committee on Social Environment. These were the first petitions to be referred to any of the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees appointed with the expansion of the Senate’s committee system. Consequently, there may be some historic importance in the approach adopted in relation to these petitions. In embarking on what might be regarded as new procedures, at least in the Commonwealth Parliament, the Committee believed that it ought to deliberate carefully on the alternatives available to it and the possible consequences of action that might be taken. In these initial stages in the consideration of petitions by Senate committees, we felt that the utmost care should be taken to avoid setting precedents that could prove to be undersirable. Accordingly, we were concerned to ensure that our approach would be a well reasoned one adopted with due regard for basic principles that ought to apply to the consideration of petitions. In pursuit of these aims, the Committee sought the advice of parliamentary authorities and at one stage deferred its examination of the petitions when discussions on procedures that might be appropriate to the consideration of petitions by committees were to be undertaken. We did this because we believed it to be important that if possible we should not anticipate the outcome of those discussions and that, in broad principle, some uniformity of approach be developed in this new facet of the workings of the Senate and its committees. At this point it might be appropriate to remark that a reasonably common approach to aspects of committee operations where uniformity might be desirable could perhaps be facilitated if the chairmen of the various committees were to form themselves into a chairmen’s liaison committee such as exists at Westminster.
I should say that from the outset the Committee accepted thatit was empowered to consider the petitions in question. It accepted no less that it had the right - and, indeed, an obligation - to exercise its own discretion and to deal with them as it deemed appropriate in all the circumstances, including the terms of reference, and the provisions of the Standing Orders and resolutions of the Senate under which the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees operate. As the report clearly shows, the Committee attached importance to the fundamental principle that generally petitions must relate to matters within the competence of the legislature to intervene. As has been pointed out, this is of particular significance in our federal system. Tn considering these petitions, the Committee was concerned to avoid intrusion into areas of State responsibility. The petitions, as will be seen, refer to a number of matters that fall directly within the administrative and legislative responsibility of the States within their own areas. 1 wish to emphasise that in the Committee’s view, the references to those matters are explanatory of the specific request made in the petitions and do not constitute a request for an inquiry into those wider matters. In the light of these circumstances, the Committee closely examined the context of the petitions. This examination established, in our opinion, that the Sentae was asked to seek to ensure that the Commonwealth Government seek the co-operation of the States and supply extra finance to them for the purpose of combating crime. We have pointed out in our report that the text of the petitions had already been referred by the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare to appropriate Commonwealth Ministers including the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) for comment. The Standing Committee on Social Environment considered this to be a proper course to adopt and took note of the comments received. It subsequently again sought comments from the Attorney-General (Senator Greenwood) so that any new developments that might have occurred in the intervening time could be considered. The replies received are tabled with the report.
The Committee has indicated plainly in the report its belief that desirable cooperative measures are already being taken by the Commonwealth in consultation with the Stales. These embrace particularly research and training. The Commonwealth is providing one-half of the Criminology Research Fund and will accept full financial responsibility for establishing and maintaining the Australian Institute of Crimin ology which is now being formed. However, the Committee considers that the Commonwealth ought to take a more active role and pursue new initiatives which are outlined in the recommendations.
I wish to emphasise the Committee’s view that crime statistics currently available in Australia are inadequate and that early action should be taken to develop an improved range and pattern of statistics on the national scale. We believe that action to achieve this objective is urgently needed and should be immediately promoted by the Commonwealth. In the Committee’s view, a great deal of essential fundamental research on the causes and consequences of crime cannot be initiated and carried through satisfactorily unless better statistics are provided. As will be noted, a dissenting report by Senator Keeffe and a statement of reservations by Senator Mulvihill are attached to the Committee’s report. I wish finally to record my appreciation of the general spirit and manner in which the Committee’s deliberations on this reference were conducted.
– My intervention in the discussion is simply to amplify to some degree the reservations contained in page 20 of the report. I took the attitude that fundamentally committees of this nature had to explore all possibiliies of corrective action where Commonwealth ministries were involved, [t was for that reason that I outlined my proposals (A) and (B) in the report. I know that probably my colleague Senator Keeffe has gone into considerable depth on many other facets of the causes of crime. My only reason in submitting reservations was, to perhaps use the military term, in the nature of a snatch and destroy mission, because I felt something could bc done very quickly by the Commonwealth. For that reason I was very concerned about uniform firearms legislation. I felt that tha Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) could take more dramatic action in banning the importation of all types of firearms other than those needed for police and military purposes.
About 20 years ago the Daisy air gun was everyone’s idea of a firearm, but we have passed a long way beyond that today.
All sorts of people now own very sophisticated weapons. I am fortified in my view by the remarks of a judge at a recent criminal trial in Adelaide. He was very strong in his condemnation of the accessibility of high-powered modern weapons. I have read an article by Detective Sergeant Nixon of the ballistics section of the New South Wales police force in which it was stated that in some of the recent major holdups that have taken place shotguns have been used and, with all due respect even to the combatants - lawman and lawbreakers alike - the use of shotguns can involve lots of innocent bystanders. I have been a constant critic in this field of the dilatoriness exhibited at times in trying to get 6 State Ministers to agree. I repeat that I believe that if the Minister for Customs and Excise took a firm stand the State Ministers would be galvanised into action.
The other matter with which I wish to deal concerns the screening of migrants. I wish to be fair to the Minister for Immigration (Dr Forbes) to this degree: When this report was prepared - my reservations on it were drafted, I think, about a fortnight ago - I had been waiting for certain answers from Dr Forbes dealing with a number of people, including the major figure in the attempted extortion from Qantas. Between the time that my draft report went to Senator Laucke and the presentation of the Committee’s report to the Senate today, I received a letter from Dr Forbes in answer to my questions. I ask for leave to incorporate in Hansard that letter from the Minister for Immigration.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
Dear Senator Mulvihill,
I refer to your letter of 20 December 1971 concerning the entry to Australia of Mr Peter Pasquale Macari who was sentenced on 27 January 1972 to a term of imprisonment for offences connected with the extortion of a sum of money from Qantas last year.
As I indicated in my letter of 4 February, it would not have been proper for me to reply until the case ceased to be *sub judice’. On 9 March 1972 Mr Macari was refused leave to appeal against the sentence.
There is no record of Mr Macari having entered Australia under his own name. In an interview with an officer of my Department he stated that in Britain he obtained a passport belonging to a
Brian Roger Adams, fitted his own photograph to that passport and entered Australia under that name.
British subjects of European descent do not require visas to travel to Australia and on arrival are permitted entry without restriction if in sound health and not adversely known. Nevertheless precautions are taken to prevent the migration of undesirable people.
There are of course, difficulties in preventing British subjects travelling here at their own expense but if it were known in advance that a particular person with a criminal or other undesirable background was travelling to Australia, airline and shipping offices would be warned that if he were to be carried he would be prevented from entering by refusal of an entry permit at the point of arrival.
You may be assured that officers overseas exercise every precaution to ensure people with serious criminal records do not migrate to Australia.
Yours sincerely (A. J. FORBES)
Minister for Immigration
Senator J. A. Mulvihill Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600.
– Let me explain the reason why I developed this theme. In his letter, Dr Forbes explained that Mr Brown, of Qantas fame, did not enter Australia under his own name. The Minister states that this person had obtained a passport belonging to a Brian Roger Adams, fitted his own photograph to that passport and entered Australia under that name. The Minister goes on to say:
British subjects of European descent do not require visas to travel to Australia and on arrival are permitted entry without restriction if in sound health and not adversely known. Nevertheless precautions are taken to prevent the migration of undesirable people.
I contrasted the effectiveness of that system with our present activities in such matters in which, I think, we probe too far into the political background of migrants. If we have the machinery to do this in one field, I believe that the generalities used by the Minister are not sufficient. What is the position with organised crime today? Anyone who has seen the film ‘The French Connection’, or one or two other films on similar themes, will see emerging the fact that those in the top echelons of world-wide crime seem to be able to circumvent the laws of various countries. It is on this basis that my reservations are expressed.
I say in conclusion that I believe that the reply the Minister has given is not specific enough. I am fortified by the case of a prominent Canadian criminal which came to rhy notice as late as yesterday. I am told that I must wait for an answer with respect to that matter. I know that my Queensland colleague, Senator McAuliffe, has raised a question concerning confidence men who again are in the top bracket of crime. These people seem to peregrinate from one country to another. Our safeguards are not sufficient. These are the grounds on which I base my reservations. My beliefs as to why the Commonwealth could do more are epitomised in my reservations.
– 1 found, when Senator Laucke, the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment, presented to the Senate the report of that Committee on petitions seeking co-operation and financial assistance for crime prevention, that I could not agree with a number of comments which were made in his introductory remarks. I could agree with 5 per cent of what he said. It will be noted that my dissenting report takes up approximately 25 per cent of the body of this report.
I think that the Senate has reached the stage at which it must decide where it is going. I am not critical of the manner in which the petitions were presented. I am noi critical of the fact that they went first to one standing committee and then to another. The Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment had not been established when the petitions were presented and they were referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, from which committee they came to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment.
I do not think that in carrying out our duties we have met the request of the petitioners. The dissenting report in relation to the majority report could become, I suppose, the cause of one of the greatest procedural aguments that could take place in the Senate. I hope that when this debate concludes today an opportunity will be made available for it to be resumed in the near future, lt does not matter which party is in government after November next. A decision has been made by the Senate once and for all as to how its Standing Committees are to deal with particular matters.
I would like to refer briefly to the petition. It is not a minor petition as it was signed by 217 people. They required us to examine proper town planning and development to halt the increase in densely populated areas which leads to increased crime. At least that was the submission made by the petitioners. They referred also to the proper staffing and equipping of police forces to enable adequate crime prevention and detection measures to reduce the frightening increase of both solved and unsolved crime; the proper detention of and rehabilitation of criminals; and compensation to victims of crimes of violence, plus related subjects.
The majority view of the Committee was that we would conduct a superficial inquiry. I do not say that in a disparaging way. We are all entitled to our opinions, lt was decided to obtain certain documentary information from some departments but we did not at any time under any circumstances, in my view, carry out the wishes of the petitioners. At page 18 of the report I say: . . when the Senate deems a petition of this nature important enough to refer to a Standing Committee, then only an in-depth examination oi the petition can be described as satisfactory.
It is important to keep these matters in proportion because a number of other petitions are before various Senate standing committees. Several of them which relate to the Post Office have been referred to the committee on which are serving senators who have spoken in this debate. If the majority view in this case is accepted by the Senate obviously we cannot do anything at all about the petitions that have recently been submitted to us. Over a long period I have dissuaded people from presenting petitions here. In the period of 6 or 7 years that T have been here I have presented only about half a dozen petitions.
I have adopted this attitude because there has been a long-standing tendency for petitions to be presented, duly recorded in Hansard and then duly stacked away, never to be seen or heard of again. If people feel badly enough about a community problem and several hundred of them put their signatures to a petition - sometimes several thousands - they must want something to be done about that particular problem. Petitions are presented in this chamber usually with great dignity and the honourable senator who presents the petition moves that it be received and read. Then the Clerk at the table goes through the process of reading out the terms of the petition. Sometimes we do not even go that far. If several petitions in identical terms are received usually only one or two of them are read in the chamber. 1 submit that in this case we should have made proper inquiries. 1 am not saying that the superficial inquiries made were out of order. They were not. It was the view of the majority that that was all that was necessary, but in my view we should have made in-depth inquiries. We should have taken public evidence from persons involved in the maintenance of law and all that flows from the maintenance of law in the States and Territories. We do not know the effect of environmental problems in initiating or perpetuating crime. We do not know whether the rehabilitation measures that have been adopted to varying degrees in all the States and Territories of the Commonwealth have had any effect on returning to the normal way of life those people who have resorted to a life of crime. No indepth research has ever been carried out right across the board, although it is true that some isolated research has been conducted. Such an in-depth study could be the job of a committee of this nature. It could sift through the evidence and ultimately come up with a suitable recommendation. That has not been done so far.
I come back to the crunch of whether we should continue to accept petitions in this chamber and then just put them away somewhere in the archives or whether we should act on them. Should we allow them to be filed away where they will gather dust and mildew over the next hundred years and never be heard of again or should we provide that a petition that is considered by the Senate to be of sufficient importance should be referred to a standing committee of the Senate for investigation. In my view the proper thing to do would be to refer such petitions to standing committees, especially if the standing committees are expected to continue to operate effectively. If standing committees are to continue, resolutions of this nature ought to be referred to them. That is what I have said in my dissenting report. I have also said that I believe that the appropriate terms of reference of each standing committee ought to be decided in this chamber so that the members of the standing committees will be in no doubt whatsoever about what they have to consider. I repeat what I said very early in my contribution to this debate: I hope that we will not just file away this report because petitions are not considered to be of importance. I hope that a full debate will be held on this report as soon as possible and that a decision will be taken once and for all as to what we should do about the petitions presented in this chamber by honourable senators.
– Mr President, I wish to indicate that I intend to move that the debate be adjourned. We have in fact got a little bit away from the normal procedure in respect to the putting down of reports.
-I am sorry about that.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI accept that there was a reason for doing so, namely, the existence of a dissenting report. In the light of what Senator Keeffe has said, I think that an adjournment of the debate should be sought and that the resumption of the debate should be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting in order to give those honourable senators who are not members of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment an opportunity to read this report. It will have to be brought on for debate at a later stage because a section of the procedures of the Senate is inherent in it. However, now is not the time to have such a debate. It is for that reason that I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
– We should have an early debate on it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Is it desired to postpone or rearrange the business of the Senate?
by leave - The Senate has to deal first of all with Senator Gair’s notice of motion, which will come on for debate in a few moments. If necessaryI will move the. relevant motion to avoid the problems of standing order 127 in relation to the 2- hour limit. Perhaps the Senate will be able to deal with Senator Gair’s proposition within the time limit imposed. There are only 2 other items of Government Business on the notice paper. They are 2 Bills. One is the Public Service Arbitration Bill and the other is the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2). After 8 o’clock tonight the Senate would, of course, normally deal with General Business. I have looked at the orders of the day listed under General Business. Although a good percentage of them have been on the notice paper for a fair while, if it is the wish of the Senate not to go on with General Business tonight I would not resist such a move and would therefore move for the adjournment of the Senate. But I want the Senate to deal with the Public Service Arbitration Bill today if possible. If the debate on it is not concluded earlier I would want to keep the Senate going till 5.45 p.m., which would mean that the Bill would automatically be brought on first thing next week. But if the debate on that Bill is concluded prior to 5.45 p.m. I would not be very concerned about requiring the debate on the Customs Tariff Bill (No. 2), which is only a mechanical Bill, to be resumed. I repeat that if the Public Service Arbitration Bill is disposed of at a reasonable hour this afternoon I would be prepared to agree to the Senate adjourning.
– Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) in regard to rural reconstruction.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Mr President, as this statement was made in another place yesterday by the Minister for Primary Industry and in view of the time factor, I suggest that it be incorporated in Hansard.
– I feel that the Senate should save time wherever it is possible to do so. Therefore, I suggest that the Senate should earnestly consider agreeing to the suggestion of the Minister for Air. I believe that some of the lengthy statements that have been already made in the other place should be incorporated in the Hansard record of the Senate instead of being read by the responsible Minister in this chamber. Is leave granted for the incorporation in Hansard of the statement on rural reconstruction by the Minister for Primary Industry? There being no objection, leave is granted?
– The statement reads as follows:
Recognising the importance of assisting primary producers to meet the changing rural situation, the Government introduced in the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Act a rural reconstruction scheme involving an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States with the appropriation of $100m for financial assistance to the States over a 4 year period to finance the scheme. When the scheme was introduced, it was agreed that the first review should take place early in 1972 at a time which would enable any adjustments to the scheme to be brought into operation by the first day of July 1972. It was agreed that the matters to be covered in the review were the funds to be provided, the allocation of the funds as between the States, the provisions for losses and write-offs available to the States, the interst rates to be charged to borrowers and the proportion of financial assistance to be applied to farm build-up.
While in most States new administrative machinery had to be established, in New South Wales the scheme was implemented immediately. That State drew $4m for reconstruction assistance in the last month of 1970-71. In anticipation that there would be a heavy demand on funds when the scheme came into full operation, $40m was provided in the 1971-72 budget. In addition States had available $9.5m from pre-war reconstruction schemes. Effectively then, $53.5m was available for expenditure in the current financial year for reconstruction purposes. Through my Department and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics the respective State governments have provided information on the pattern of administration of these funds under the scheme. This enabled an effective review to commence early in March. Three meetings of Commonwealth and State Ministers took place during the course of the review, which was concluded on 5th April. The Commonwealth was represented by the Treasurer (Mr Snedden) and myself and the States were represented by the Ministers responsible for rural reconstruction.
Before dealing with the outcome of these meetings it is appropriate to see the rural reconstruction scheme in the context of the Government’s overall policy towards assistance for rural industry, particularly the wool industry to which the scheme was especially directed. Prior to the introduction of the rural reconstruction scheme, emergency financial assistance was provided to wool growers to the extent of some $22m. When announcing this emergency scheme to Parliament in August 1970 the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) - then Minister for Primary Industrypointed out that the total approach to solving the problems of the rural industry was essentially long term. The emergency assistance scheme was introduced as a shortterm measure to prevent a loss of confidence in the wool industry which would reflect throughout the whole rural economy.
A year later, in August 1971, against a background of a further decline in wool prices it was considered necessary to introduce another short term measure, the wool deficiency payments scheme. At that time I stated:
The best advice available to the Government suggests that some improvement can be expected in wool prices.
Fortunately this improvement has occurred and since January the market prices for wool have been above the level of 79.37c per kilo guaranteed under the scheme. Thus no deficiency payments have been necessary during the last 2 months. Nevertheless, some $50m has gone towards increasing woolgrowers’ receipts under this measure. Wool prices have improved to a useful extent, seasonal conditions are, in general, good and efforts are being made urgently to improve the marketing of wool, but the long term problems of rural industry remain. There are many farms too small to be economically viable units under present conditions. Many other properties, which could become economically viable have been prevented from doing so by a burden of debts which cannot be serviced over a short period. It was in the context of these problems that the rural reconstruction scheme was introduced.
The overall demand for assistance under the scheme has been heavy although it has varied from State to State. Total assistance approved by States for rural reconstruction in the period to 31st March was $59.6m, made up of $49. 8m for debt reconstruction, 59.8m for farm build-up and $29,500 for rehabilitation assistance. Some $25m of these moneys had been actually paid out by the end of March. There is of course in this lag time between the amounts approved and the amounts paid on illustration of the inevitable time lag between commitment of funds through approval of loans and the actual payout due to the need to negotiate with creditors, to legal processes and to the delay in purchases of improvements and livestock where this is part of the arrangement. By February some States had already approved applications which fully committed the funds available to them in 1971- 72. If they were to be able to continue approving applications, an assurance was needed from the Commonwealth as to the funds that would be available in 1972-73. Further, some States expected expenditure commitments in 1971-72 which would be larger than the funds allocated to them.
From me inception of the scheme the difficulty of determining the amount the Commonwealth would be able to devote to reconstruction was acknowledged. In particular, debt rescheduling involved payments to private lenders and stock mortgagees to a greater extent than was originally anticipated. While some two-thirds of applications for debt reconstruction came from the sheep and wheat-sheep farms, applications from other rural industries contributed substantially to the greater than expected demand for funds. The Ministers meeting, then, took place in a situation where there would be a hiatus in rural reconstruction unless there were a major revision of the arrangements for funding the scheme. A temporary cessation of financial assistance would have been contrary to the intention of the Act and would have had severe longterm repercussions on the outcome of the whole programme of debt reconstruction and farm restructuring.
A detailed examination of the level of funds required has been undertaken. From this it became clear that an increase in funds would be necessary in 1972-73 if the essential needs of producers for reconstruction were to be met. In these circumstances the Government decided that it was necessary to break with traditional budgetary practice and enter into additional commitments in advance of the normal review of overall financial requirements at Budget time. It was evident that a programme of approvals, consistent with cash to be provided to the States, was essential to an orderly approach to reconstruction. In order to reach agreement on a 1972-73 programme the Commonwealth entered the discussions with the States, prepared to commit funds to be available until the early months of 1973-74.
The proposal which the States willingly accepted is that the Commonwealth provide, in 1972-73, the second full year of the scheme’s operation, $56m or the whole of the balance of the $100m originally allocated to cover a 4-year period. In addition to the SI 00m which would be available for expenditure by the States by 30th June 1973, the Commonwealth indicated that it was prepared to provide a further $15m to fund approvals made in the later part of 1972-73 but carried over for payment into 1973-74. This would permit the administering authorities in the States to continue operations without a hiatus up to the end of the year 1972-73.
The basis of allocation of the whole of the $100m and the $15m carryover of commitments between the States will be on the formula agreed to when the scheme was first established and in fact under the formula which was written into the original legislation in section 12 (1.). The first $3m of any subsequent Commonwealth funds for 1973-74, that is, the financial year after next, will also be distributed among the States on the same basis as at present but any additional funds provided in that year, that is, in 1973-74, are to be distributed on a basis to be determined at the time taking into account experience in operating the scheme and the expected needs of the States as assessed at that time.
In recognition of the catastrophic effects of drought in Queensland the Commonwealth agreed to provide that State with $3m in 1973-74, outside the Rural Reconstruction Scheme but on the same terms and conditions as the financial assistance under that scheme. This amount will be used to fund approvals made by that State in 1972-73. There will, in addition, be a matching provision of $3m by Queensland from its own resources. This separate arrangement will enable that State to deal with the special reconstruction problem arising from a long period of drought which had resulted in a great many producers being heavily in debt and without the necessary stock to make use of the now plentiful pastures. Assistance to such producers must be prompt if it is to be of any use at all.
In this significant forward commitment of Commonwealth funds, the States agreed to administer the scheme so that approvals will be programmed over the period up to 30th June 1973, within the limits of the funds now allocated and the specified carryover to 1973-74 financial year. On this basis the total amount which the States could approve for reconstruction loans by 30th June 1973, including those under the separate arrangement with Queensland as well as those under the rural reconstruction scheme, will be $121m. This is in addition to the $9. 5m available from pre-war reconstruction schemes. The $121m will be split up on a State basis as follows:
It was recognised from the outset of our consideration of the problem of rural reconstruction that applications from farmers wishing to replace part of their existing debts by a borrowing from a rural reconstruction authority at a concessional interest rate would exceed the amount of funds which the Commonwealth would reasonably be able to provide for the purpose. While it has been the Commonwealth’s intention to offer substantial assistance of this kind, it has been emphasised from the outset that maximum emphasis should be placed on financing farm build-up, which offers the only prospect of establishing rural enterprises on a fully viable basis in many circumstances. To this end a provision was inserted in the agreement with the States that the general objective would be that one-half of the financial assistance made available over a period of 4 years would bc applied to farm build-up.
The Commonwealth has accepted that in the initial period of operation of the scheme, it was not practicable to achieve the 50 per cent farm build-up objective because the immediate demand was for debt reconstruction assistance. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth and the States have agreed that the general objective in the agreement for 50 per cent of funds to go to farm build-up will bc maintained, lt appears probable that different circumstances from State to State will make it inappropriate to achieve an exact 50 per cent of farm build-up to total assistance in each State. However, it is an understanding that, provided the States encourage farm build-up applications to the maximum extent possible and approve all cases which are assessed as viable, this will be accepted by the Commonwealth as the closest compliance with the general objective, that is practicable. If estimates made by the various States of the extent to which reconstrucion funds would be required for farm build-up prove correct the proportion going to farm build-up will have reached 20 per cent by the end of June 1972. The estimated proportion of funds going to farm build-up during 1972-73 will be increased by 10 per cent to about 30 per cent. On the basis of these State estimates, in the latter year 2 States, Western Australia and Queensland, will be spending almost as much on farm build-up as on debt reconstruction.
The Commonwealth agreed also that the period of loans to farmers for farm buildup purposes could be extended for a term up to 30 years at the discretion of the
State administering authority. This will mean a marked reduction in the annual interest and capital repayments by the farmer to the authority. I believe that this will considerably assist the States in achieving the farm build-up objective. This is important because of the real long-term benefit which will flow from restructuring farms of uneconomic size. The advantage of lengthening the. term of the loan will be apparent to honourable members. By way of example debt reconstruction loan of $10,000 at 4 per cent repayable by equal instalments of principal and interest over 20 years would require an annual repayment of $736. A farm build-up loan of $10,000 at 6i per cent repayable by equal instalments of principal and interest over 30 years would require an annual repayment of $746. Thus loans for both debt reconstruction and farm build-up at the maximum periods and at the prescribed rates of interest require an annual repayment, covering both capital and interest, which is less than 7± per cent of the amount of the loan. By way of contrast a loan of $10,000 at 6* per cent over 20 years requires an annual payment of $890, which is very close to 9 per cent. Likewise it was agreed that States were at liberty to extend temporary relief by way of debt rescheduling to farmers having difficulty in meeting their instalments due to unexpected circumstances beyond their control.
At the review meeting the Commonwealth and States agreed that rehabilitation loans for farmers obliged to leave the industry and suffering personal hardship were not sufficient to meet the farmer’s needs at a time of personal readjustment. Accordingly the maximum amount of the loan has been increased from $1,000 to $3,000. Associated with the changes agreed to by the Commonwealth was a request by the States that repayment obligations to the Commonwealth be liberalised. However, the consequent effects on State receipts from farmers seemed unlikely to be markedly affected in the long-term and it was agreed that no changes be made at this time but that the matter be kept under review. The State administering authorities will be very considerably advantaged by the long range funding which the review has established. This funding should enable all States to operate the scheme on a continuing basis up to the end of the 1972-73 financial year.
I am sure that honourable members will agree that Australia could not face a situation where rural reconstruction was brought lo a sudden halt, and the new financial provisions were proposed by the Commonwealth and agreed to by the States in the full realisation that the States Grants (Rural Reconstruction) Act will need to be amended in 1972-73 at least to the extent necessary to accommodate the funds in excess of the original $10Om which will need to be provided in 1973-T4.
During the course of the review Ministers agreed that there would be merit in the administering authorities conferring to discuss the overall administration of the scheme in their respective States and in this regard a meeting will be arranged within the next 2 months. The objective of the meeting will be to ensure, as far as possible, maximum uniformity in the administration of the scheme throughout the Commonwealth.
In the course of the discussions of rural reconstruction Ministers referred to the allied problem of rural credit generally and also the particular difficulties being faced by our horticultural industries outside the context of restructuring of individual farms, lt must be recognised that the rural reconstruction scheme is only a part solution to the economic difficulties of our rural industries. In the same way that the complex problems of the wool industry are under separate special study so, too, are urgent examinations being made into rural credit facilities and the over-production of canning fruits and pome fruits.
The House will be interested to know that the review has shown that so much has been achieved in the relatively short period since the scheme was introduced. The new funds now provided by the Commonwealth will ensure continuity in the job of readjustment in agriculture to take account of changed market and economic conditions. Indeed, the review supports my belief that the scheme will be of real longterm benefit to all Australians, not just the farming community. In conjunction with other schemes for rural assistance and allied with the improvement in seasonal conditions and the. present upturn in mar ket realisations, rural reconstruction has contributed to the presently improved circumstances of primary producers.
The scheme itself is intended to provide supplemental finance for the rural industry. There is no intention that the money should replace existing and traditional sources of finance and it is important that traditional lenders fulfill their existing role in the industry. Traditional fiancial institutions in joining with the rural reconstruction agencies in advancing funds to applicants for reconstruction and in debt composition will make a positive contribution to the restructuring of rural industry to the advantage of farmers, traditional lenders themselves and the community. I trust that all will be prepared to do so in the present improved circumstances for rural lending.
Serving as it does to supplement rural credit and to facilitate adjustment in the rural sector, the rural reconstruction scheme has already established itself as a worthwile catalyst towards reviewed viability in primary industry but it is, none the less, one which the Government will continue to keep under examination.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wilkinson) adjourned.
– I move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade the following matter - The proposed takeover of Ansett Transport Industries Limited by Thomas Nationwide Transport Limited and, in particular -
In my view, there are at least 6 major reasons why this matter should be referred immediately to the Senate Committee. Firstly, the suggestion has been made in the Press and in other places that a successful takeover of Ansett by TNT would result in increased monopolisation and lack of competition in the freight transport industry. As we all know, sometimes it can be to the advantage of the public when wasteful duplication is eliminated by 2 industrial giants merging their services. On the other band, increased monopolisation can be to the disadvantage of the public - in most cases it is to their disadvantage - and that is something that most people in our community consider undesirable. It is obvious at the moment that both Ansett and TNT are active in the freight transport business. As I have said, my concern is for the public interest. The people are asking these questions. Will the rationalisation in the freight transport industry be of advantage or disadvantage to the public? Will there be what the economists call economies of scale, or will there be monopolisation? I believe that the Senate Standing Committee could throw some light on these aspects.
My second reason for seeking the reference of this matter to the Committee also involves a desire to protect the public interest and to throw light on the dark shadows in this case. I refer to the many suggestions which have been made to the effect that the takeover might be relevant to the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act concerning foreign ownership of Australian television stations. A quick perusal of Ansett’s assets will reveal that Ansett owns ATVO in Melbourne and TVQ0 in Brisbane as well as having interests in 2 other television companies. I realise that TNT has acknowledged that it has not more than 12 per cent direct foreign ownership. However, there are such things as nominee companies. I am concerned to know how much indirect foreign ownership in TNT is exercised through such companies. Again I feel that the Committee could get to the bottom of this matter. I am in possession of a copy of a balance sheet of TNT which is written in the Japanese language. I cannot speak or read the Japanese language but 1 think the average person would be inclined to come to the conclusion that TNT has a very big Japanese content. In the event of my motion being carried I will make that balance sheet available to the committee of investigation. Furthermore I have a telegram informing me that TNT has borrowed heavily on short term in Europe to acquire control of Ansett. It goes on to say that it appears that the company will be fragmented to pay these debts, and that this will have a serious effect on staff, government guarantees, and so on.
– From whom was the telegram?
– I cannot tell you that.
– It could be from anyone.
– Well, it could be, but it is evidence that there is a disquiet about this matter. I am asking for an investigaion. I am not saying that the allegations are true; I am not in a position to say that they are not. This is a matter for the Committee to investigate. I believe that it could get to the bottom of this subject. My third reason for seeking an examination by the Standing Committee for this takeover is that the whole operation is very much tied up with the 2-airline policy. The 2-airline policy involves a very delicate balance and the Government has attempted to preserve this balance through different regulations and controls. It even involves, as one newspaper put it rather jocularly, the type of biscuits served on each airline. Whether the preservation of this 2-airline policy is in the best interests of the public is something which is also worthy of consideration at the appropriate time. What my colleagues and I want to know, and what a lot of other people want to know, is whether this takeover will disturb in any way the delicate balance of the 2-airline policy.
My fourth reason involves a concern for the hundreds, if not thousands, of shareholders in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. There are very many shareholders in Ansett who hold very small parcels of shares. They include retired people, small scale investors and even employees of the company. Do not let us gain the wrong impression that Ansett is controlled by large institutions. Many small shareholders have an interest in Ansett. I have seen the claim in one newspaper report that TNT needs to obtain only 30 per cent of the Ansett stock to secure a change in the board of Ansett and consequently a complete change in the company’s policy. TNT already has 23 per cent ownership in Ansett and, therefore, needs only an an extra 7 per cent if this argument is correct. But what of the interests of those hundreds of small shareholders to whom I have made reference? Will their interests be brushed aside? Is there any truth in the claim about the effect of a 30 per cent ownership? These are all matters which could be fruitfully discussed and examined by the Committee. I am not claiming that anything is being carried out below board, as it were. Can we learn lessons for future takeover bids from this exercise? Is government intervention warranted in such cases? How do we protect the small shareholder?
My fifth reason is related to the fact that the Federal Government should not be simply a silent onlooker in this exercise. That may be the role it has adopted but is it the correct one? After all, the Federal Government has a massive financial backing to the tune of $35. 8m in Ansett’s borrowing programme to buy aircraft. This is no small amount in anyone’s language. What effect could the takeover have on this borrowing programme? When massive amounts of public moneys are involved, as they are in this case, I suggest that the Federal Government should have a keen interest, if only to ensure that the integrity of the programme and the security of the backing are preserved.
My sixth reason also is motivated by public interest. If honourable senators examine the takeover bid very carefully and have regard to the questions I have raised they will soon realise that a Senate committee investigation is the only way that the takeover can be subjected to public scrutiny. If only for the reason of clearing the air, such a public scrutiny is warranted and urgent. Obviously the Government has no intention of appointing a commission of inquiry. As I said at the outset, an unsuccessful attempt to get one was made earlier in the week in the other place. The only avenue remaining is a Senate select committee. An appropriate committee, the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade, exists already and each Party is represented on it. It has the necessary staff to do the research. The staff has gained experience in other investigations. That Committee already has proved its competence in investigations it has undertaken.
Those are the 6 main reasons why I am seeking the support of the Senate for my reference. I believe I have indicated sufficient matters of concern to warrant the investigation. At the very least an investigation by the Committee will throw light on the dark shadows to which I have referred. Neither company should have anything to fear from such an inquiry. I believe that most members of the public particularly the small shareholders involved, would welcome it.
Let me emphasise that I am not attempting to prejudge TNT nor to cast any aspersions on that company. I would not go as far as Mr Crean, M.P., the Opposition finance spokesman in the other place, who described the proposed takeover as a hijack. I make no prejudgments about the subject but I take note of comments such as the following one which appeared in the ‘Australian Financial Review* of 10th April:
The editorial to which I refer stated further:
Questions of Federal transport policy, national policies towards monopolies and the restraint of trade, communications policy and shareholder protection all seem to be directly involved. . . .
It stated further:
In all these areas there are patchworks of policies, some of them hallowed by long history, but none of them clearly, unequivocally directed towards safeguarding the interests of the Australian public as a whole.
Perhaps an inquiry of the type I proposed can sort out this patchwork. There is a further but secondary reason for my concern which I have not yet mentioned and that is the relationship between the transport industry and defence. The transport industry is one of the most important industries in the community life of any nation, lt is something over which all governments with any sense of responsibility at all times must exercise a very close supervisory interest. Ansett Transport Industries has 72 aircraft and 340 vehicles in the airline division and 213 buses. Its aircraft are the most important component in that collection. Their importance at a time of national emergency would be difficult to estimate or calculate. That is a further reason why the takeover bid certainly is no ordinary takeover.
I believe that I have outlined sufficient reasons to justify the immediate reference of this subject to the Committee. I commend the motion to all honourable senators. I sincerely trust that if the motion is adopted the inquiry will be conducted with expedition and that the Committee’s deliberations will result in protection of the public interest and greater public insight into a matter which should be of concern to all Australians.
Having mentioned the name of Mr Crean and his use of the term ‘hijack’ before resuming my seat I want to say that in the main I endorse his statements on this matter. He said:
The Government, with the national interest at heart, should emphatically affirm that TNT and Anset have enough to look after without wanting to gobble up the other.
He said that the foundations of road and air transport in Australia were publicly provided. He said also:
Air and rail transport are charged with considerable public interest and are not, except in the arrogance of so-called self-made men, just part of the money game.
I am entirely in accord with that statement.
– It is contradictory.
– Be quiet for once. Mr Crean went on to say:
The 2-airline policy did not imply it was unchangeable, either in the direction of one airline or several airlines. What might have been regarded as some sort of moral obligation to protect the pioneer Australian National Airlines (now Ansett) did not necessarily extend to any hijack takeover bid.
Lastly, but very importantly, Mr Crean expressed the opinion that the blatant struggle between the 2 companies could not happen if there were adequate provisions in the restrictive trade practices legislation to control monopolies and to scrutinise takeover bids. Not having had the opportunity of examining or scrutinising the legislation referred to, I suggest that Mr Crean’s statement merits investigation and consideration and, if possible, amendment of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act. If provisions are not included already in the Act to prevent these hijacking takeovers - to use Mr Crean’s term - I think the Government should include them by taking the necessary action as early as possible.
– I will be very brief but it may be that I will go a little beyond the time that we would normally rise for lunch. I seek your indulgence, Mr Deputy President, and that of my honourable colleagues, to dispose of the matter as I see it at this stage. We have before us - as has been mentioned on many occasions, not least by myself - a matter of great public interest which is developing into a matter of deep political interest as well. I want to point out that the public interest has been uppermost in the Government’s mind. We have been keeping a very close watch on this development ever since it began and I assure the Senate that the Government is determined to continue doing so.
A desire to protect the public interest has been our chief motivation in the searching review of the 2-airline policy which has been going on for months. During that review we concentrated on certain areas which we considered required attention at this time. The first of those was parallel scheduling. This has been the subject of criticism and complaint for some time. Over recent months we have been pressing the airlines very strongly to apply themselves to this problem. They have only just come forward with new timetables which go some way towards resolving it, but not all the way. I hope to be able to look at this in detail tomorrow and to have the schedules available for the weekend.
– You have taken a long time.
– If one understands the complexity of the problem, which you do not, of course, I do not think it has been a long time. The other matter we will be directing our attention to, as we have said here on many occasions in the past, is the concession fare proposition for the Australian internal air travellers at certain times on certain routes to certain places. There are questions involving country air services, greater emphasis on air freight and the general position of flights during curfew hours. It is interesting to me, having had a fairly long hard push on these matters, to find now so many enthusiastic people at my side, both in this place and outside. I welcome their accession to the groups of those seeking improvements.
Without a doubt there is some political interest in this matter. There has been, without any doubt, a substantial divergence of view in the expressions of spokesmen for the Australian Labor Party. Perhaps this is understandable. Senator Gair mentioned that the Government has a deep involvement in this matter. Of course it has. To start with, it is involved in the infrastructure provided by the Australian taxpayers, which represents more than the investment in the whole of the airline equipment. It has to consider the interests of the Australian Airlines Commission. lt has to consider the market operator and his security - the Ansett Transport Industries Ltd group. Both the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and I said quite clearly earlier this week that the Government will not permit any foreign takeover or action which would result in foreign control of Ansett Transport Industries. That is fixed Government policy.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for lunch I was referring to a number of matters in connection with the motion proposed by Senator Gair. I referred to a number of activities which are being studied by the Department of Civil Aviation in pursuance of the examination of the 2-airline policy. I introduce another comment that the 2-airline policy is really not due for renewal until 1977. But because of the lead time for aircraft purchase and the time for repayment of loans associated with aircraft purchase there is a case to study whether the airline agreement ought to be renewed in principle earlier than that date. That is the matter the Government is studying and it gives the Government the opportunity to try to bring about a number of improvements in the public interest. Many of these improvements have been referred to by myself and others in earlier days. As both the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and myself have said on earlier occasions - particularly this week in answer to questions - the position regarding overseas ownership is being very closely watched in order to ensure that no action is taken by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd or Ansett Transport Industries Ltd which might prejudice the Commonwealth’s position regarding its guarantees for the aircraft borrowing programme.
Another area to which we have given close attention is the separation of airline accounts from other activities. Again, the possibility of the renewal of the 2-airline agreement allows us to develop this situation to finality with the people concerned in the 2-airline agreement. But whatever the outcome of the present takeover bid both ATI and TNT have indicated their intention of publishing separate accounts for the airline type activities of the ATI group. We welcome this indication. If the proposed Senate inquiry is agreed to it will cover many areas which are and which for some time have been under close scrutiny by the Government. We, as a Government, will accede to the proposals for the inquiry. We will assist the inquiry in any way we can. But before commenting any further one would want to wait and listen to the later developments in this discussion.
In relation to television interest, I inform the Senate that this situation is also under close review at my request in my acting capacity for a brief period of Postmaster-General. The position is also under examination by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. If the proposal for a general inquiry is acceded to by the Senate the Board equally will have a great interest in the matter and will be prepared to help with the facilities in any way possible, as will the Department of Civil Aviation. Accordingly, as I have indicated, the Government supports the proposal moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. We await with interest the amendment to which, possibly, Senator Murphy is about to give birth.
– Order ! Ring the bells. There is no quorum present. I make the observation to honourable senators that when matters of high importance are before the Senate it is the duty of honourable senators to see that there is a quorum present. (Quorum formed).
– I want to speak on this matter because I find that I am possibly the only honourable senator in this chamber who opposes the motion. I oppose it on 2 grounds. Firstly, it is a complete exercise in futility.
– What rubbish.
– All right. I am going to develop this theme in a minute. Secondly, it could have dangerous repercussions in other takeovers if the Government is going to interfere with every business takeover on behalf of anyone who feels hurt - especially somebody who has been nurtured in the bosom of the Government for years. The Government could say that it is going to have an investigation into the takeover of any firm. Those are the 2 main reasons for my opposition. I hope to-
– They are strong and sound.
- Senator Gair has not even heard my speech yet he is already interjecting.
– The honourable senator said that they are his 2 reasons.
– I was about to say that I hoped to expound on them. I think they are very good reasons why this is a futile exercise. Anyone who understands the stock exchange - I give way to honourable senators who serve on the Senate Select Committee on Security and Exchange - knows that if any party can obtain a block share of even IS per cent of a company, that party can go a long way towards dictating the policy of that company. On most occasions private subscribers do not send in their proxy. When one has 23 per cent of shares, one virtually owns that company. Therefore it can be said - excluding the matter of foreign ownership - that Ansett’ has been virtually taken over by TNT already. To have an inquiry about what is going to happen in regard to takeovers seems to me to be completely futile.
Of course we have been told by Senator Gair that the question of a monopoly arises. Just because 2 companies merge it does not mean that they are a monopoly. In this country a lot of pharmaceutical companies have merged but they did not become monopolies. Other pharmaceutical companies are still opposing them. Interstate Parcel Express Co., F. H. Stephens Pty Ltd, Mayne Nickless Ltd and Brambles Holdings Ltd still exist and they are prepared to exist alongside Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd and its absorbed company, Ansett Transport Industries. There is no question whatever of a monopoly. Therefore there is no harm to the Australian people in regard to a monopoly because no monopoly exists. If honourable senators want to talk in terms of a monopoly they should talk about the 2-airline policy. That gives a monopoly. I now turn to the matter of foreign ownership which seems to be the real cause for this inquiry. Foreign ownership can only be a worrisome problem in regard to the Broadcasting and Television Act. I ask honourable senators not to tell me that the Government is not looking into the matter. Do not tell me that the Australian Broadcasting Commission or Ansett are not looking into it to make sure that TNT is not owned by more than 10 per cent of foreign interest. So everyone is looking into this matter and we are going to look into it further.
– Parliament is a good place to look into the matter.
– The palm?
– I am glad to hear Senator Sim say that people associated with the ABC and Ansett are prepared to be bribed. Is that what the honourable senator is implying? He referred to the palm.
– I said Parliament.
– Parliament! I thought the honourable senator said ‘palm’. I beg his pardon. I withdraw my criticism of him. I could only hear one word. It just shows that I am getting old and deaf. When honourable senators have finished laughing I shall continue. Foreign ownership is the only thing that matters. It is being watched carefully by everyone concerned. Therefore, it is not a problem and it has nothing to do with the merger because the merger cannot take place if the foreign ownership in TNT exceeds the prescribed limit. The next thing about which we are told is that there will be unemployment. This was a completely erronous statement made by, I think, Senator Gair, because when these 2 companies merge they will grow.
– I did not make that statement. I submitted the matter for investigation by the Committee. If your hearing aid is faulty, get a new one.
– I probably will. The subject of unemployment was raised, whether directly or indirectly, lt is a quite erroneous suggestion. With the 2 companies merging there will be an even bigger company with bigger prospects - more road transport and more employment than previously. Certain employees of Ansett have mentioned to me the likelihood of their being unemployed. I have pointed out to them that they will be better off when the takeover is confirmed. The unemployment bugbear is absolutely false. I would like to reply to 2 things which were mentioned and which I thought were irrelevant. One referred to a balance sheet in Japanese. Let us face facts. Has the Government done anything to stop balance sheets being published in Japanese? The Japanese are certainly taking over many of our industries. Because a world company has a balance sheet in Japanese does not mean to say that it is Japanese owned.
– Again, I referred that to the Committee.
– I did not say that you did not.
– You are objecting to the submission of it to the Committee.
– No, I am not. I am just pointing this out.
– 1 think you are out of practice. I think you should come here more frequently.
– I wish honourable senators would come out in the centre of the paddock and stop fighting in the corners.
– If I am out of practice, I am getting back into it very rapidly.
– Not very successfully, though.
– Not very successfully according to the honourable senator when I point out his foibles. He also did something which I thought was rather unworthy of him when he read a telegram - I still do not know the name of the author - which stated that TNT is borrowing on short-term, which it probably is. Large companies often .borrow on short term. Even small companies and house owners borrow on short term to carry them over. I cannot remember the second part of the telegram, but it inferred that things were not too good with TNT.
– It was a subject for investigation.
– Yes, it was a subject for investigation, but let us know who sent the telegram. No name is mentioned. It may have been sent by Sir Reginald Ansett. We do not know who sent that telegram. The next matter raised was whether anything will happen to the Government loans in Ansett when TNT takes over. Of course not. That was another objection that was raised.
– Who will repay those loans?
– How is Ansett repaying them? TNT is much more financial than Ansett and can easily repay the loans.
-Did TNT say that it would take over ATI’s debts?
– It will take over all the activities of Ansett, debts and all. A company cannot take over another company and say: ‘The debts do not belong to us’. Of course, the debts belong to the company that is taking over. Anyhow, the Government will ensure that its contracts are upheld. To raise all these matters - unemployment, financial instability and Government loans - is to try to put to the public that TNT is not a good company to take over Ansett.
It was stated that transport is important in a national emergency. Of course it is important in a national emergency. Do we need a standing committee to tell us that? Does it matter whether TNT takes over Ansett? TNT will be just as reliable and just as Australian as Ansett is at the moment. So there should be no interference. Reference was made to a gobbling-up operation. There would have been no gobbling up - this is my opinion - if Sir Reginald, Ansett had not been so arrogant in the first place. It was obvious, from the first purchase by TNT onwards, that it should have a say on the board of Ansett. One would have thought that Ansett would have offered TNT a position on the board and said: ‘Come and join us and we will make the venture a success’. I think there are a lot of personalities involved in this. Because TNT was not invited to join the board it decided to go further and to take over Ansett completely. That is only my personal thought on the matter. There is no doubt that TNT is a very large company which has very lively interests and which is giving a high return on its investment. Ansett has been nurtured in the bosom of the Government and has been prepared to sit there knowing that it can thumb its nose at the Government because the Government cannot do anything about it. This favoured son of the Government is now squealing. So we all join in to try to give him a let-out.
Senator Cotton made 4 points to which I wish to reply. He more or less inferred that now that he is Minister for Civil Aviaion he has instituted innovations. We have been at the Government for 5 or 10 years to depart from the system of parallel scheduling. I can remember the first argument with Senator Cotton 2i years ago over both companies having aircraft leaving at the same time. I know that consideration of the matter has been continuing for the past fortnight or a little longer.
– Would you mind saying for months past’?
– All right. Consideration of the matter has been continuing for 5 years as far as the Government is concerned. For 5 years it has been continuing and nothing has happened. Suddenly something is happening as a result of the attempted takeover. Sir Reginald Ansett said that it is impossible to depart from the practice of parallel scheduling. What do honourable senators ‘think will happen? Will the Department of Civil Aviation suggest different scheduling? Sir Reginald Ansett will say: ‘This does not suit us’. To be fair to Ansett, I know that on one occasion it did alter its timetable, but Trans-Australia Airlines immediately altered its timetable to fall in line with Ansett’s. They can do anything they like with the timetable and nothing is done by the Government.
Schedule airlines are given the concession of lack of competition on the basis that they keep to their schedules unless by some accident they cannot fly the scheduled aircraft. But this is not so with the 2 airlines at the moment. If it suits them, if they have not a full load, they will change aircraft. Honourable senators will know that time and time again, when they expect a DC9, a Friendship is used or the service does not operate at all. The Minister and his Department allow this to continue, with impunity, year after year. Cases have been brought to the Minister’s notice. There is always an excuse. When one books 10 days ahead the airlines say that the particular aircraft is not operational. That shows how wonderful the companies are. Five to ten days ahead they know that the aircraft will not be operational. All these things are attributable to the 2-airline policy. We did not hear about concession fares until TNT suggested it.
– It was suggested by myself months ago.
– I doubt whether this is relevant to the debate.
– It is not relevant, but I have had to listen to things which were not relevant. It was mentioned by the Minister. I presume it was irrelevant then and I propose to keep on being irrelevant. Only today or yesterday we were told by Sir Reginald Ansett that concession fares are an impossibility, but the Department will fix it.
– There are group concession fares.
– There have been group concession fares for years. The matter of separate accounts was raised. There should have been separate accounts years ago. An airline company and a road company should not have been allowed to run a television station and not have separate accounts. Suddenly, because TNT says that it will have separate accounts, Ansett says that it will do that. I do not want to dwell at great length on the subject of the 2-airline policy. It seems to me that the time has arrived when the Government should look at a 3-airline policy. There was a time when Ansett operated a third airline and did not object to it. I have no sympathy with Ansett in regard to this takeover. Did he ever think of Butler when he look over Butler Air Transport? Did the Government step in then? It did not give any help on that occasion. Today this man sees his empire going. I give him credit for what he did in building it up, although he was lucky in having an incompetent manager of Australian National Airways Pty Ltd when Sir Ivan Holyman died and his son took over. That is when Ansett came into it. Nevertheless, he did build up this empire.
Ansett now is saying: ‘How can road transport people know anything about the aircraft industry?’ I would like to know what Ansett knows about the television industry. There was a time when he was only a road transport operator. He was not an air transport operator. How did he know about air transport? It seems to me that practically all these arguments thai are advanced as to why we must have an inquiry are irrelevant. It boils down to the fact that this is a simple company takeover. There have been bigger takeovers, although perhaps not in Australia. But if we are to investigate any takeover when the person being taken over starts to squeal, I do not know where we will finish. I am surprised that the Liberal Party is supporting an inquiry into this matter. I know that, the Liberal Party is supporting the proposal because the numbers are against it so it may as well put on a good face. The Government is looking into the question of foreign investment, yet ii is prepared to allow a select committee of the Senate, which it never used to allow to investigate anything the Government was investigating, look into this matter.
– Is the honourable senator afraid that it might stumble over something in Gordon Barton’s operations?
– He can look after himself.
– He undertook to look after you but you were loo much of a heavy load for him.
– This is just nonsensical. The honourable senator is getting really childish in his old age. I thought I was getting old and deaf but the honourable senator is becoming childish. Gordon Barton certainly was associated with me in the Australia Party.
– -It did not last long.
– No, because I did not believe in the Party’s policy in regard to defence. That is why.
– He reckoned that you were too big a strain on the purse.
– That is a typical insinuation. Why does not the honourable senator go outside the Parliament and make these insinuations. He said that I was a strain on the purse but Gordon Barton never contributed to my finances.
– No wonder the honourable senator left him.
– How many honourable senators of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have been able to enter Parliament without financial help?
– The Australian Labor Party helped me at the last election.
– It may have. We are now reaching a pretty childish state of affairs with Senator Gair’s interjections. For the reasons I have stated I feel that this motion is completely futile. The takeover is virtually an accomplished fact. If the foreign ownership problem is solved then the sending of this matter for inquiry to a select committee which already has enough to do is a waste of time.
– The Opposition supports this proposal for an inquiry in broad terms. Senator Turnbull has said that this is only a simple takeover and is no different from any other takeover of a company. We think differently. We think that this is a takeover which involves an important part of the Australian economy, lt involves a company which is in a special position under the laws of this country, lt is affected by the Airlines Agreements Act 1952, as amended. Its finances are affected by legislation of this Parliament which, in effect, guarantees loans for purchases of aircraft. In many ways, the operations of this company are inextricably mixed with national concerns. Its operations are a public affair, not merely a private affair. That is what distinguishes this takeover from some other takeover. It cannot be regarded as being one which has been selected for no particular reason out of the generality of takeovers which are occurring day by day.
I have circulated a proposed amendment to the motion moved by Senator Gair. Perhaps it might be convenient if I dealt with that immediately before developing the general matters so that honourable senators concerned may have an opportunity to consider its contents. It would not depart a great deal from what is contained in Senator Gair’s proposal because, if carried, it would follow the main matter, that is, that there should be referred to the Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade for inquiry and report:
That is the main matter and that would continue. The foreshadowed amendment deals with some of the paragraphs under that. The departure is not so very great but it seems to us to be important that there be some variation. Paragraph (a) in Senator Gair’s motion suggests that one of the matters to be inquired into is:
We think that if the question of the degree of foreign ownership or control that should be permitted in the company is to be raised, which is so much a matter of public concern, the inquiry should not be limited to the share capital of Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd; it should extend to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. It is evident that insofar as Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd has foreign ownership, already to some extent Ansett Transport Industries Ltd has foreign ownership because it has that proportion of the foreign ownership, which is included in Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, included proportionately in its ownership. There may be other foreign ownership; there may not be. But if foreign ownership is to be considered, we think that it ought to be considered totally. As Senator Gair pointed out, other interests may be involved. They may be involved in the operations which are going on now not only In relation to Ansett Transport Industries; there may be dealings in the shares of Thomas Nationwide Transport which ought to be looked at by the Committee. We think it is reasonable that this should be extended beyond what would appear to be the intention in the particular paragraph.
The next paragraph of Senator Gair’s motion refers to:
We think that if one is not to prejudge the question the paragraph ought to refer to the advantages or disadvantages and what might be done to maximise advantages or to minimise disadvantages. That is the purpose of paragraph (b). Otherwise, it follows substantially what appears in Senator Gair’s motion. Paragraph (c) contained in our amendment is virtually the same as paragraph (c) in Senator Gair’s motion except that it adds the words, ‘If so, to what extent’; that is, if there is a degree of. passage of control to non-Australian interests what is the extent of that. The next matter which appears in Senator Gair’s motion is (d), which states: to advise the Minister, in the public interest, how he should exercise his discretion to grant or refuse approval to the transaction involving as it does shares in Ansett Transport Industries Limited. . . .
The discretion referred to is that which is vested in the Minister by section 92 of the Broadcasting and Television Act. It seems to me that a committee of the Senate, and indeed the Senate itself, should certainly be entitled to inquire into the effect on the licences under the Broadcasting and Television Act, but I do not think it is right at any time for the Senate to require a committee of the Senate to put itself, or indeed for the Senate to put itself in the position of advising a Minister what he should do. We are not an advisory body to any Minister. As a matter of principle I do not think we should enter into a sphere which is properly a sphere of executive government.
– Do we not do that when we amend a Bill?
– No, we do not do (hat when we amend a Bill; as I conceive it, we exercise part of our legislative func- lion. I think effect can be given to what Senator Gair is seeking if we express that part of his motion in a slightly different form which would not offend against the principle that we stick to our business and the Executive sticks to its business, thus maintaining a certain amount of separation between our relative functions. It occurred to me that everything that the proposer of the motion is properly seeking could be achieved if that part of the motion were phrased somewhat differently. In my proposed amendment paragraph 3 states:
The Committee is also requested to make such observations as to the proper application of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1971 in relation to the proposed takeover (involving as it does a company holding licences under that Act) as the Committee may think appropriate.
There would be no difficulty about that. The Committee would be invited and expected to express its views on these matters without turning itself into an advisory body to the Minister. Its function is to report to the Senate - I turn to the body of my proposal - on the matter of the proposed takeover. It may well be that this should be specified with some particularity because of the suggestions of enormous transactions taking place, not merely in regard to Ansett Transport Industries but also in regard to Thomas Nationwide Transport. Perhaps this is a matter that could be looked at in relation to the takeover.
– Would the honourable senator spell that out a little further?
– The Committee is asked to express in particular its views on how this proposed takeover is being conducted. It must be a matter of great concern to the Senate and to the people of Australia to know how the ownership and control of a company, which is so important to the public and so wrapped up in the legislation of this country, is changing and how that change in ownership is taking place. I should think, without prejudging what the Committee might do, that it would be an important matter for the Committee to consider.
– Do you mean the mechanics?
– No. Suppose vast changes were going on right now in the ownership of Thomas Nationwide Transport; suppose that the takeover was proceeding on a basis that notwithstanding what might happen now, there might in future be several changes which might affect the consideration of the Senate, then the Committee could well look at that.
– Would the honourable senator consider whether ‘manner’ is the appropriate word to achieve the objective that he is mentioning?
– I think it is. The next matter in the amendment is (e), ‘and matters incidental thereto.’ Paragraph 2 of my proposal is a direct invitation to the Committee to recommend. If I may mention why that wording should be included, it is because the purpose of Senator Gair’s proposal, as I understand it and with which we agree, is to suggest that something be done about this by the Commonwealth. The purpose of a Senate inquiry normally is to recommend whether there should be legislative measures or administrative measures concerning an attempted takeover or its implementation. That is why paragraph 2 is inserted to state in direct terms:
The Committee is requested to recommend whether the Commonwealth should intervene by legislative or administrative measures to prevent the attempted takeover or its implementation.
– Is that not a natural corollary of the deliberations of a committee - to make recommendations?
– I think the question should be asked to ensure that the Committee has the constitutional authority, or to strengthen the constitutional basis of the Committee, and it would be advisable for the Committee to be asked to make such recommendations. Proposed amendments 4, 5 and 6 are contained in Senator Gair’s motion, and then paragraph 7 provides:
The foregoing provisions of this resolution shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Standing ‘Orders or in any previous resolution of the Senate.
I remind the Senate that when setting up the Standing Committee to which it is proposed that this matter be referred, one of the provisions of the charter of the Committee was paragraph 11 in the resolution of 1 1th June 1970 which stated:
The Standing Committee shall take care not to inquire into any matters which are being examined by a Select Committee especially appointed to inquire into such matters and any question arising in connection therewith may be referred to the Senate for determination.
The Senate has already, on a proposal by Senator Byrne, established a committee on foreign ownership and control. That is a special select committee such as is envisaged in paragraph 11 of the resolution of 11th June, and it is directed to inquire into the matters of foreign ownership and control in industry and commerce. It would seem on the face of it that this proposal would, to some extent, cut across that. I should think it would be proper and advisable to have a paragraph in the terms which I have suggested, namely:
The foregoing provisions of this resolution shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Standing Orders or in any previous resolution of the Senate.
Those proposals, although containing some modifications of the motion, are: in line with the broad terms of what has been put by Senator Gair. I think they are helpful. I think they take away any suggestion that there is some prejudgment of the issue by the Senate in this reference to the Committee. I suggest that honourable senators might give some regard to a modification of the motion. I do not wish to put any amendment at this stage. I invite Senator Gair to consider my proposals during the discussion of the matter. If he were to accept them perhaps I would invite the Senate to give me leave to move an amendment, if that became necessary at a later stage.
On the substance of the matter, the proposal is an extremely important one. I believe that the intervention of the Senate in Ais matter is warranted. A proposal for a judicial inquiry has not been acceptable to the. Government. The issues which are raised are of more importance than merely their importance to the shareholders of Ansett Transport Industries or of .the other company. Some of these issues are obvious to everyone. The operations of the “companies involved are of such magnitude that they affect the lives of every ‘ Australian. One of the matters which the Committee no doubt will consider if the Senate agrees to this reference is the. effect of the proposed takeover on the operation of the Airlines Agreements Act. I draw attention to one of the provisions of one of the schedules to that agreement. I refer to the Second Schedule which, in part, provides:
AND WHEREAS one of the objects of the parties to this agreement is to secure and maintain a position in which there are two, and not more than two, operators of trunk route airline services, one being the Commission, each capable of effective competition with the other and the parties intend that this agreement shall be construed having regard to that object:
What will be the effect of such a takeover, if successful, on Trans-Australia Airlines? It may well be that, if all that is said on behalf of the Thomas Nationwide Transport interests is correct, such a takeover will have a tremendously adverse effect upon Trans-Australia Airlines in that TAA will be subjected to competition by an organisation which has the advantages of integrated road and air transport although TAA is deprived of the advantages which might flow from such an integration. We are well aware of the limitations and difficulties under which TAA is operating because of the provisions of the Airlines Agreements Act and because of governmental decisions.
There are other parts of the same agreement to which the. Committee no doubt will need to turn its mind. Clause 16 of the Second Schedule contains matters which are important for the consideration of the Committee. It provides:
For so long as a loan or any interest on a loan the repayment of which has been guaranteed by the Commonwealth under clause 3 of the Civil Aviation Agreement 19S2 or clause 4 of this agreement remains unpaid, officers employed in the Commonwealth Service shall have full access at all reasonable times to the financial accounts of the Company when authorised in writing by the Minister for that purpose and the Company will do everything within its power to ensure that the officers so authorised have similar access to the financial accounts of any company or firm in which the Company, whether directly or indirectly, now has or hereafter may have a controlling interest.
I hope that out of any consideration by this Committee of the important problems that have been adverted to will come some additional benefits. Frankly, I hope that what is revealed by such an inquiry will flow to the benefit of TAA, considered as a public corporation, and to the interests of the Australian people.
That affairs have been conducted in the way that they have been is quite unsatisfactory. It is quite unsatisfactory that takeovers of corporations which have a tremendous effect on the trade and commerce of this community should be allowed to go on in the way that is happening now. We know that Sir Garfield Barwick proposed that there should be a regular way of supervising and investigating proposed takeovers of this magnitude. We know that the Government so far has avoided, neglected and refused to introduce legislation to give effect to that proposal. The pressure of events has meant that the Government will be forced, even in its few remaining weeks, to do something about the public interest which is involved in such takeovers.
I will say no more than that I think that the Committee will have an extremely important task to perform. It is not for us to go in depth into the matters which might be revealed by the investigations of the Committee. But I do suggest that the amendments that I have proposed might improve the motion. I would like to ascertain whether it would be. convenient for me to take the course which I have suggested, that is, not to move the amendments immediately in case they might be acceptable to the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
– Senator Gair is busy at the moment. The answer is no.
– Does that mean that the DLP would prefer me to move them? I will formally move, the amendments on the understanding that, if they are acceptable to Senator Gair, I will be prepared-
– There are a few alterations that we are prepared to accept and to incorporate in our motion. When Senator Murphy has completed his remarks, Senator Byrne will indicate in what respects we are prepared to accept Senator Murphy’s proposals.
– If. I formally move my amendment, we might be able to sort the matter out. .Therefore, I will formally move my amendment and I will hear what is said by the representative of the DLP-
– If we indicate what we are prepared to incorporate in our motion, we may eliminate the necessity for Senator Murphy to move his amendment.
– Very well. I will accede to that course being followed. I will not move my amendment now. If it becomes necessary, I will ask for leave at a later stage to move any amendment that I wish to propose.
– I want to be clear on this. Senator Murphy, are you not moving your amendment at the moment?
– There is a bit of confusion reigning not only in the presidential chair but also around the Senate.
- Mr President, the whole approach of the Australian Democratic Labor Party to this matter has been one of complete objectivity. We wish to show no preference to either of the participants in this commercial battle. For this reason and activated by what we think is genuine national public concern and the public interest, we thought that this matter should come under not merely the scrutiny of the Government but the scrutiny of the Parliament itself. There being an appropriate body, in the form of one of the standing committees of this chamber, ready to receive such a reference and equipped administratively and in terms of its personnel, we thought that this reference should be made to that committee, namely, the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade.
The terms in which the motion has been couched indicate and, I think, reflect substantially this objectivity. Senator Murphy has propounded a series of amendments. We ourselves were disposed, in pursuance of this attempt not only to be but also to reassure the society that we are totally objective in our approach, to make, by leave, a small amendment to Senator Gair’s motion in respect of sub-paragraph (a), lt would read:
The ascertainment of the degree of nonAustralian ownership whether direct or indirect of the Issued share capital of Ansett Transport Industries.
At a later stage Senator Gair will ask for leave to insert those additional words, which means that the extent of nonAustralian equity capital in Ansett Transport Industries would come under equal scrutiny with that of Thomas Nationwide Transport. That again would reflect the objectivity we would hope for in discussion, approach and reference. So’ far as Senator Murphy’s proposals are concerned, we adopt that part of his sub-paragraph (a) which refers to the financial structure of Ansett Transport Industries.
– You do not .adopt it. You are indicating your acceptance:
-Yes. Mr President. Senator Gair will be prepared to ask for leave, if necessary, to amend his original motion to insert at the point I have indicated the words I have detailed. Our motion will then incorporate the idea embraced in Senator Murphy’s subparagraph (a), that the reference should include investigation of Ansett Transport Industries in relation to its component of foreign equity capital. But we do not see any point in adopting the whole of sub-paragraph (a) because we feel that it is substantially embraced within paragraph 1 and other paragraphs of our original motion.
Senator Murphy in sub paragraph (b) refers to advantages or disadvantages to the public, and so on. We consider that our sub-paragraph (b) completely embraces that proposition. It refers to whether the exercise, if successful, might be prejudicial to the aviation industry, and what, if anything, might be done to minimise the prejudicial effects. We cannot see that Senator Murphy’s proposition advances beyond- the point in our motion. We do not see that it adds or subtracts anything from our proposal and therefore we see no reason to substitute Senator Murphy’s sub-paragraph
Senator Murphy’s sub paragraph: (c) is in substantially the same terms as, if not in terms identical to, our sub-paragraph
The next matter relates to television. We specifically drew (d) in the terms which honourable senators will read, having consulted the statute. We drew it in very precise terms and in a very mild manner so that in no sense could Parliament have been construed as in some authoritarian way attempting to stand over the Minister in the exercise of his discretion, but merely adding the weight of his considered opinion after investigation which might assist the Minister when he comes to the exercise of his ministerial discretion. In those circumstances it is a matter of very great moment. We therefore feel that because our sub-paragraph (d) is precise in terms of the statute and mild, we should not abandon it in favour of the proposal of Senator Murphy.
In respect of paragraph 2 of Senator Murphy’s proposed amendment, Senator Gair indicated by interjection that the proposal it contains would normally flow from the deliberations of the Committee, no doubt as part of its investigation. In the course of examining the operative and available law and administrative procedures, suggestions would be made and I see no reason why there should be a specification of something which is normal, natural and will flow almost inevitably from the deliberations undertaken before the Committee reaches its decision. Therefore we do not find ourselves able to embrace paragraph 2 of Senator Murphy’s proposed amendment.
We do see that Senator Murphy’s paragraph 7, a machinery proposition, is a salutary provision, perhaps completely necessary. It reads:
The foregoing provisions of this resolution shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Standing Orders or in any previous resolution of the Senate.
As an abundance of caution that suggestion might be included and at the appropriate time Senator Gair would ask for leave to incorporate it in his own initial motion. The attitude of the Democratic Labor Party is that we would seek leave to make first a textual amendment so that the reference to Ansett Transport Industries would be included in sub-paragraph (a) of our proposal. At the appropriate place we would add paragraph 7 of Senator Murphy’s proposal. Other considerations might be canvassed in a more ompendious motion, but the main object is to draw national attention and to express through Parliament national concern about this matter.
I think the terms of our original motion are sufficiently embracing, comprehensive and adequate to enable this to be done. To try to specify in too much detail might destroy the whole purpose and perhaps the chance of success of the undertaking. I am concerned at Senator Turnbull’s observation because the Senate has expressed its concern on the question of foreign participation in the ownership of Australian resources and industry as has been said in the reference to a select committee of the Senate. That being so, it would seem to be a contradiction of the expressed will of the Senate if now, when there is a specific motion to invoke the scrutiny of the Senate, we should say: ‘No, it is sufficient for the Government to scrutinise it’. The Senate has in the general field expressed its desire that the whole matter should receive the attention of the Parliament.
Senator Murphy’s paragraph 7 rather highlights the fact that this is a matter of concern to the Senate. A general reference has been made by the Senate to one of its select committees and it seems most appropriate and completely logical that this specific reference in a more limited field should similarly find ils home within a Senate committee. I particularly do not feel in any sense that the Parliament is trespassing in any way, if ‘trespassing’ is at all the right word, on the powers or authority of the Executive Government. It seems to me not only a right of the Senate but a duty to refer this matter to a standing committee.
I was also intrigued by Senator Turnbull’s confidence in leaving this matter in the hands of the Government because, as I understood him, he indicated that the Government is sympathetic to the Ansett complex. Therefore he is prepared to leave the decision on this matter to a government which he indicates is partisan in its approach.
– That was a quite incorrect observation.
– Quite incorrect, but that would be the senator’s disposition. That being his disposition, it seems to me that it would be much more logical for him to say we have the warrant as a Parliament to look at this matter, and not with the partisanship of the Government which he alleges and I do not acknowledge towards Ansett Transport Industries. For those reasons the Democratic Labor Party will take a stand on Senator Murphy’s proposal in the terms and manner I have indicated.
I wish to make one more observation to the Minister. A very severe time limit has been laid upon the Committee in which to present its report. In the meantime, no doubt, there will be great activity at the commercial level and in inter-company manoeuvres. Obviously the Government therefore will be called upon - perhaps quickly - to exercise discretions, to issue permits, to transfer authorities or, in some way, to translate or sign contracts. We do not think that the Government should proceed to do such things - unless there is an inevitability about the situation and it is impossible for the Government to do otherwise - while the Committee is deliberating and before the Committee has brought in its report. I do not think that there should be any precipitate action by the Government. Such a proposition could not be embodied in the motion. It is also not a matter to which the Committee could give its mind or attention. But I do feel that the Minister should be invited to indicate whether he will await the deliberations and the decisions of the Committee before he issues the necessary transfer licences or permits or in any way assists, as the Government will be required to assist, the execution of this manoeuvre and the finalisation of the ownership of the company concerned. It is for those reasons that the Democratic Labor Party has taken the stand I have indicated on the proposed amendments. My Party adheres substantially to its motion and it will seek leave at an appropriate time to make the textual amendments to which I have drawn attention.
– Consideration has been given by the Government to the terms of the original motion and to the amendments sought to it by Senator Murphy. I have conferred with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotion), who has already spoken during this debate, about the proposed amendments and he has indicated to me that it is the Government’s attitude that there is merit in some of the amendments proposed by Senator Murphy but that the Government is not persuaded that the remainder warrant an alteration to the original terms of the motion and therefore does not propose to support them. It boils down to this: The changes that Senator Byrne has indicated will be made by Senator Gair at a later stage will be supported by the Government. They include the addition to paragraph 1 (a) of the motion of the words Ansett Transport Industries’ so that the ascertainment will be of the degree of nonAustralian ownership, whether direct or indirect, of the issued share capital of not only Thomas Nationwide Transport but also Ansett Transport Industries. The Government will also support the proposal to include paragraph 7 of Senator Murphy’s circulated amendment.
– Order! Is the honourable senator speaking on behalf of the Government?
– I have been authorised to do so, Sir.
– I just wanted to make that clear.
– I indicated that the Minister for Civil Aviation had already spoken in the debate and was therefore not in a position to speak again., I also indicated that after a conference with, him I had been authorised to say what was the Government’s attitude.
– I was concerned about the use of the word ‘authorised’.
– I asked Senator Rae to speak, Mr President, because I cannot speak again in the debate.
– I am just trying to clear up the position for the benefit of honourable senators.
– I thank Senator Cotton for the interjection in which he confirmed that I was so authorised. As I have said support will be forthcoming also for the inclusion of Senator Murphy’s seventh proposition, which reads:
The foregoing provisions of this resolution shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Standing Orders or in any previous resolution of the Senate.
Having indicated that, I wish to make my own comments - I emphasise that they will be my own comments - in relation to this matter. The demarcation line has been drawn. From now on I speak wholly and solely for myself. First of all, I wish to express my general support for action to be taken in accordance with the general terms of the proposal. I think that there is general but not unanimous agreement within this chamber on this. There are 2 important aspects to this proposal. One is the particular interest that has been shown in this attempted takeover. Various speakers have put forward the reasons why they believe it would or would not be in the national interest and why they believe It warrants investigation. I do not propose to canvass those matters again. I think they have been canvassed sufficiently already. Although I do not necessarily agree with everything said by either Senator Gair or any other speaker, I think enough has been said at the moment about the proposed takeover.
The other aspect which concerns me is the manner in which this market operation has taken place. I tried to ascertain from Senator Murphy what he meant by ‘the manner of the proposed takeover’ in paragraph (d) of his amendments. He seemed to indicate that he was wondering about what might happen to the structure of Thomas Nationwide Transport in the event of the takeover proceeding and of some changes eventually coming about as a result of the takeover. I was not able to elicit from him any real meaning to be given to those words which went beyond the types of matters which would be investigated in any event under the other paragraphs of the reference.
– May I indicate that paragraph (a) is dealing really with the non-Australian interest. There might even be some concern as to what is happening right now with regard to the Australian interests or what is a prospect of happening. That is one element which is not dealt with.
– I do not understand how that comes within Senator Murphy’s proposal as to the manner of the proposed takeover. That is why, by way of interjection, I tried to obtain some elucidation from him. Perhaps I can talk about ‘manner’ in a different sense or not limit myself to the sense in which Senator Murphy mentioned it. I would understand ‘manner of takeover’ to mean the market operations and the general transactions which are involved as a necessary part of what will result in a takeover. I find some considerable cause for public disquiet in relation to a number of those things. I make no concluded judgments whatsoever. But if one looks at what appears from the Press reports to have taken place one finds that a number of steps taken in relation to this matter would warrant an investigation by an investigatory, body, if one were available in Australia to make such an investigation.
– I thought that there was one.
– Just a moment. In the public interest it may well be that such an investigation should be conducted in public. There are some bodies such as the Commissioner of Corporate Affairs in one State or the Companies Registrar in another State, or an inspector under the Companies Acts in the States, which could conduct such an investigation under State legislation, but at the moment there is no Commonwealth body which is able to conduct that inquiry. Senator Murphy interjected a moment ago that he thought that there was such a body. I assume he was referring to the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. I would mention to him that he has expressed an interest on a number of occasions in that Committee reporting at the earliest possible date. In a statement to the Senate in
December last the Commitee indicated that in its view matters were still continuing that warranted some investigation but that in the interests of producing a report at the earliest possible time it did not intend to conduct any further inquiry into any new matter unless specifically directed to do so by the Senate, which would involve the consideration that any such further investigation would inevitably delay the production of a report by the Committee.
– We would not want to do anything which would have that result.
– I thank Senator Murphy for making that clear. I do believe that there are matters of public concern as to the conduct of the capital markets in Australia - the conduct of general stock market practice - which may very well warrant investigation. I think we should make it clear as to whether it is intended that this Committee ought to include those matters in its investigation because by leaving in the terms of reference such things as ‘matters incidental thereto’ it may well be that the Committee will have the power to examine them. I think the Senate should indicate whether it intends the Committee to look into the market operations side as well as into the public interest side. I am not saying that there is not a public interest aspect in market operations because there is. But the debate so far has been associated with the general public interest rather than being directed in any way to the question of market operation. I think the Committee would be advantaged by having some indication from the Senate on what it requires of the Committee in this respect. I think that if the Senate requires a quick investigation and a report within 28 days, obviously the Committee will not have enough time to conduct fully both types of inquiry. In fact, I would have some considerable doubt whether it would have time to conduct the first type of inquiry, namely, that which is clearly stated within the proposed terms of reference.
– The proposed amendment mentions ‘matters incidental thereto’.
– Yes, I know. I mentioned that and say I think we should make it clear to the Committee whether under ‘matters incidental thereto’ we, as a Senate, intend the Committee to investigate the market operation side.
– The main subject matter of inquiry is the proposed takeover of Ansett by TNT. I suggest that includes for consideration the aspect to which the honourable senator is referring.
– Senator Wright has expressed his view that this matter should be raised. I believe it is important that this whole matter should be clarified during this debate. I do not raise it because I wish to create difficulties for anybody in the consideration of this question. Let me mention some of the things I have in mind that this Committee could investigate. I very deliberately omit a number of matters which I regard to be of importance. If Ae Committee concerned itself with all of these matters the inquiry could take some time. It could investigate the circumstances surrounding the $6m share placement by TNT which was an integral part of the first part of this undertaking. Should the investigation by this Committee of the takeover to which we are referring include the initial steps? I refer to the purchase by TNT of 23i per cent of the issued share capital of ATI? It may be that that placement which was part of the means by which the original purchase was able to take place is a matter which would come within the Committee’s terms of reference; it may be outside them. Again, I think this needs to be specifically spelled out.
– It is more than incidental thereto, is it not?
– I would think that it is, but I think that this sort of thing needs to be spelled out for the. benefit of the Committee since it has to do a job within 28 days. That is a short period in which to do it, especially when the investigation of each one of these matters could require a considerable amount of time. If the matter to which I have referred is to be investigated by the Committee, let that be made clear. Another matter that I wonder about from the point of view of stock market practice is the reports of the private briefings of limited numbers of shareholders by the directors of TNT. Again, is that a matter into which the Committee should make inquiries and make comment? Another matter concerns the circumstances surrounding, and the nature of, the public statements made by the directors of both companies which apparently were intended to affect the market value of the shares of each of those companies and which were, made publicly to the Press and not to the stock exchanges. Those are matters of very considerable importance in relation to the manner - I use my meaning of the word manner’ - in which this takeover has been effected and the defence to the takeover has been effected. Are they intended to be included? Are the actions which were taken in possible market support of the shares of both of those companies intended to be included in the matters incidental to the terms of reference of the Committee?
Suggestions have been made in the Press - I do nothing more than simply refer to what has been said in the Press - that there has been, or was likely to be, market support engaged in by those assisting and those participating in either trying to take over or trying to defend the takeover. Are they matters which are intended to be included in the terms of reference? If they are not, then I think the Senate’s view in relation to those matters should be made reasonably clear to the Committee. I have mentioned only a few of a very considerable number of matters which conceivably could be of concern to the Senate and which could be investigated by the, Committee if lt took a liberal view of its terms of reference in relation to matters incidental to the general question of the takeover.
Will the Committee be concerned to find out in detail the. financial structure of TNT not only as at present but also in the future? Is this important as to exactly how the takeover is to be financed? In view of our 2-airline policy and in view of the extent to which the Government is involved already in the support of Ansett Transport Industries, it may be that if the future structure of that company and TNT is to be something which is supported by, shall I say, paper issue, only rather than hard cash we may find ourselves in a situation where the Government has to come to the rescue. I do not think I need dwell upon the problems that arose for Australia as a result of the crash of Mineral Securities Ltd which some may believe resulted from an over-extension on short term credit. Is that one of the matters which is to be investigated by this Committee? In other words, is the Committee to find out - if so, in what depth - in what manner the financing of the takeover eventually will be supported? I mention these things only because I think it is important that they be clarified. I am not urging in any way that Senator Gair’s motion should be altered; although I think it would be helpful if he and the members of his Party gave some consideration to these matters and, simply by way of indication to the Senate, clarified his meaning and the way in which he believes the Committee should procee.d to carry out its inquiry. A very great number of points could be raised in relation to this matter. I think probably most of them are better not raised at this stage. For that reason I do not propose to say anything further except to raise, as I have, just a few of the more outstanding possible other lines of inquiry in which the Committee could be involved unless it receives some reasonably clear indication from the Senate that it is not required so to do.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to speak again very shortly on this matter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant) - Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted. Perhaps I shall seize the opportunity to do the same, but I shall do so only very briefly.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have listened with interest to what was said by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I am grateful to him for indicating that his Party will go to some extent to adopt the suggestions which I have made. On the first point, it is important that the reference appear to be evenhanded.
– They apply to both companies.
– Yes. As to the second point, I think it would have been helpful to suggest possible advantages as well as disadvantages. I am inclined to agree that most of the matters would be covered by the term ‘matters incidental thereto’, so that does not disturb me. The only difference between us about which I am really disturbed is the question of. the Committee being asked to advise the Minister. I regard that as a matter of principle. I do not think the Senate should put that in a motion of reference. That is what concerns me. Whatever may be the outcome of this matter, I think the proper course for me to adopt is to move the amendments I have foreshadowed. I realise that there is very little difference between us now in relation to the other matters, but rather than cause any confusion I will take the course simply of moving the amendment and let the matter go as it is. There may not be need for the Senate to divide on this matter. I move:
Leave out all words after ‘particular’, insert
the financial structure of Ansett Transport Industries and Thomas Nationwide Transport and the degree of non-Australian ownership whether direct or indirect of the issued share capital of the companies and of any financial interests involved directly orindirectly in the attempted takeover operation;
any advantages or disadvantages to the public which might result from a successful takeover in respect of aviation or transport services, the 2 airline system, or otherwise respecting the national interest, and what, if anything, might be done to maximise any advantage or minimise any disadvantage;
whether the exercise, if successful, would result in a degree of control of Australian domestic airline operations passing to nonAustralian interests and, if so, to what extent;
the manner of the proposed takeover;
and matters incidental thereto.
The Committee is requested to recommend whether the Commonwealth should intervene by, legislative or administrative measures to prevent the attempted takeover or its implementation.
The Committee is also requested to make such observations as to the proper application of the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act, 1942-1971 in relation to the proposed takeover (involving as it does a company holding licences under that Act) as the Committee may think appropriate.
The Committee is directed to give priority to this reference.
The Committee is empowered to sit during any sittings of the Senate.
The Committee is directed to report to the Senate within 28 days of the date of this reference.
The foregoing provisions of this resolution shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary contained in the Standing Orders or in any previous resolution of the Senate’.
I see that as the only basis of difference between us, and that is very far removed from the problem we are faced with, namely, what I regard as the constitutional division of responsibilities between this chamber and the executive. I do not think the Committee should be asked to give advice to the Minister.
– I wish to speak briefly about some of the matters referred to by Senator Rae and also to raise some other matters relating to episodes of the attempted takeover by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. I think it is important that this matter should be investigated by a Senate committee not only for the reasons put forward already by the mover of the motion (Senator Gair) and by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) but also because I believe there are some quite fundamental questions to be considered involving the ownership of Australian industry and the manner in which that ownership is acquired as a result of recent developments on the conflict between the board of TNT and the board of ATI.
I agree with Senator Rae that a number of these matters could be dealt with elsewhere if there were a national supervisory body to deal with operations on the securities markets, but there is no such authority at the present time. Accordingly, if there is to be any investigation of this matter as it relates to the present situation with which we are faced it will have to be done by the Committee to which the motion suggests that it be referred. Apparently Senator Rae, speaking on behalf of the Government, and Senator Byrne, believe that these matters may be considered and probably would be considered by the Committee when the reference does take place. Nonetheless I believe that some attention should be drawn to some of them. This present confrontation is of considerable importance to Australia for at least 2 reasons. One of them is the fact that on the outcome of the present conflict depends the ownership of the Australian transport industry. I do not wish to comment on its merits but if TNT is successful in its takeover offer we will find that consolidated in the hands of one group, the board of TNT, will be the direction of a very large, preponderant sector of the Australian transport industry, involving planes, trucks and ships. In fact there will be very little privately owned transport of any significance not in the hands of the conglomerate giant which will emerge as a result of a takeover of Ansett Transport Industries by the Thomas Nationwide Transport group.
The other matter also of great importance is the fact that at present $35. 8m is still owing by Ansett Transport Industries on loans guaranteed by the Commonwealth. Privately owned assets which somebody is attempting to buy are not the only things involved in this matter. Also involved is a very considerable direct interest on the part of the Australian Government and the Australian people amounting to $35.8m. There can be no doubt that the resources which have been available to Ansett Transport Industries for the borrowing of funds were increased considerably by the fact that the Commonwealth guaranteed these loans amounting to $35.8m.
I believe that in some respects this conflict is very alarming. At an early stage in the present crisis a statement was attributed to Mr Thomas. He was alleged to have said: The name of the game is money, money, money’. He subsequently was reported as having denied that. But in this morning’s Melbourne ‘Age’ he was reported as saying that he did not say: The name of the game is money, money, money’. In his own words, what he said was: “The name of the game is money, money, money, money - money is the name of the game*. He is reported also as saying: ‘But I only said that because Peter was speaking at the time and I wanted to make myself heard’. Whatever the reason for this strange repetition of the word ‘money’, even if it were only used once I think this should be rather alarming to the Senate and to all Australians. Whoever is going to direct a very substantial sector of the transport of Australia, I would have thought that one of the primary concerns of air transport would be safety, safety, safety, not money, money, money. As a frequent air traveller I feel quite strongly about this although I do not normally patronise Ansett Transport Industries, whoever the shareholders are. In any event, however worthy a citizen Mr Thomas may be, and however worthy the other persons involved may be, I do not think that money, money, money ought to be the primary concern of the Australian people in this matter.
Another matter concerning the operations of Thomas Nationwide Transport which should give some concern is the recent issue of 6 million additional shares in that .company. If there were a securities and exchange commission in Australia it could investigate this matter. I believe , that this should be looked into by the Senate committee when the matter is referred to it. It would be very interesting to learn how the 6 million new shares in Thomas Naionwide Transport were distributed to the purchasers of those shares. Can we be confident that there was nothing in the nature of insider trading? What rights did the existing shareholders of TNT have to the purchase of these shares? Was there any privileged access by any persons to the 6 million shares issued by TNT as part of this, takeover bid? Which persons were advised that they were available for sale? What preferences were given, if any, to any persons who wished to acquire these shares? .
I am not trying to suggest that there is anything unusual about the conduct of TNT in comparison with that of ATI. If we look at ATI we also find some rather strange developments. On 26th March there appeared in the Sunday ‘Australian’ a report of an interview with Sir Reginald Ansett and I have seen no contradiction by Sir Reginald of what was stated. Sir Reginald was asked by his interviewer something to this effect: ‘What about a TNT man on the board of ATI?’ The report states’: .
I put people on the board’, said Sir ‘Reginald Ansett emphatically.
This is probably true. I dare say that Sir Reginald does put people on and off the board. At the same time I think that we should look at a public company., which receives many millions of dollars in loans guaranteed by the Government when: such a strange and autocratic procedure ‘is adopted in its administration. One person, the Chairman of Ansett Transport Industries, is able to say: ‘1 put people “on the board*. My understanding of the Companies Act is that people are put on a board by elections of shareholders, not by Sir Reginald Ansett or any other individual. I think it is disturbing that there is such blatant sole personal control of a large national enterprise, as Sir Reginald Ansett said on this occasion.
– The Senate is really considering serious business, you know.
– I am aware of that. That is what I am endeavouring to concentrate upon. I regard this as very serious business. When I am seeking guidance as to what business is serious the last person I would look to would be Senator Wright. I believe that matters of great national concern have been raised and I hope they will be investigated by this Committee.
– That is the last time I will give you any advice.
– That will save both of us a lot of time. The other matter I wish to refer to with regard to the conduct of Ansett Transport Industries is a statement made on Sunday in the form of a Press release by Sir Reginald Ansett. He said that he intended to increase by 50 per cent the dividends paid on shares in Ansett Transport Industries. He said that the matter would be referred to the Board on the following day. Apparently he took it to the Board on the following day. No reports had been made to the Melbourne Stock Exchange or any other stock exchange of the intention stated by the Chairman 1o double the dividends payable by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. One might have been justifiably startled had one looked at a list of the directors of Ansett Transport Industries. None other than the Chairman of the Melbourne Stock Exchange, Sir Cecil Looker, was sitting on that Board which acted precisely as Sir Reginald said it would act only the previous day by way of a Press statement. No report whatsoever was made to the Melbourne Stock Exchange.
Again, just recently, we saw what happened in both Sydney and Melbourne where Sir Peter Abeles and various other persons from Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd - to return to that organisation - approached groups of institutional investors seeking to enlist their support and obtain their money to go into Thomas Nationwide Transport. Sir Peter is reported to have given a most eloquent address just recently to a group of some 40 representatives of institutional investors in Melbourne. This was commented upon in a very perceptive article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ which asked: ‘Are the public less equal than some?’ These are matters of very great concern. We are particularly concerned about foreign ownership which already exists and which is increasing in Thomas Nationwide Transport. Such ownership could play an important part in any merged company. Indeed, as the amendment and the motion indicate this matter should be investigated insofar as it applies to Ansett Transport Industries. But seriously problems affect the whole of our economy, our transport services and the financial system of Australia. These are important matters which should come before the Committee. I trust that the amendment which has been moved by Senator Murphy will be carried.
Senator COTTON (New South Wales - Minister for Aviation) - by leave - I shall say one or two things quite briefly because I think this will aid the process of discussion. Regardless of any outcome of this motion safety will not be compromised. That has been said before, it will be said again and it is said now with the greatest possible emphasis. Earlier I thought I might not have a chance to speak again and that is why I asked my colleague, Senator Rae, to indicate to the body of the Senate the Government’s view of the motion moved on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party and the amendment moved by Senator Murphy. I thought it proper that the Senate, as a body, should learn as soon as possible in this sort of discussion the Government’s view. That is what we were doing with the kind cooperation of Senator Rae. The point made by Senator Byrne, of course, will be taken seriously by us and will be kept under constant review. The honourable senator may be sure that the matter is being watched. We felt a slight concern, which we expressed to Senator Byrne, regarding the use of the words: ‘advise the Minister’. We thought that perhps this could stand a change. We welcome a change. I understand that he and his leader (Senator Gair) have some suggestions which they may care to make on this matter. We shall be very happy to hear them.
– I do not wish to cover the ground which has been covered at some length by
Other honourable senators. 1 indicate my support for the motion moved by Senator Gair, lt has support from all sides of the chamber except one. I think I indicated to Senator Turnbull - 1 am sorry that he is not here - my view of his remarks when he started speaking by saying: ‘What rubbish’. I said that quite early in his comments. After listening to him I had no reason to change that opinion. I believe that not only is there merit in the Senate Standing Committee on Primary, Secondary Industry and Trade examining this matter but also I believe that there is a responsibility on Parliament to be informed on this matter. lt is a matter of great public interest. Where matters are of great public interest they are the real concern of Parliament. I indicate quite clearly that I shall oppose with every means in my power the takeover by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd unless I am convinced that the public interest is best served by such a takeover.
I- indicate - although my mind may or may not be open - that 1 am far from convinced at this moment that the public interest would be best served. That is why I welcome this motion. I believe that this matter should be thoroughly investigated by Parliament and not by the Executive only. Parliament should make up its mind and it should make the final decision. It is the responsibility of Parliament. Parliament cannot and should not avoid its responsibility in matters such as this. That is why I am speaking and putting the view which I believe should be put. I ask honourable senators to understand that the final responsibility is upon us as members of this Senate and of Parliament. I shall make only one or two other very brief comments. I have been impressed, as others have been, by the spontaneous reaction of Ansett employees in supporting their company. I do not think it is a matter which we should treat lightly. The views of 13,000 people - or whatever the number is - who are employed by a company must be of some concern to us. The employees have indicated their view quite clearly in a way which I should say must bring a flush of pride to Sir Reginald Ansett’s heart. They are supporting him at this moment. ! ‘’
The other point I mention is ‘iri relation to Western Australia. Whatever . one may say about Ansett or anybody else, since ATI took over MacRobertson Miller Airlines. Services . in Western Australia there has been a most dramatic improvement in the services to the north-west; and Kimberley regions of Western Australia. As a Western Australian I do not think that I should let this service pass - unnoticed. Today this area is served by a- .complete jet fleet of the most modern jet aircraft. The services are equal to those anywhere else in Australia, and, probably, the. world. I do not think there is any area so .sparsely populated which today has the service which is provided to the north-west of Western Australia. I make the point, purely as a Western Australian, that I am vitally interested, as are my colleagues in Western Australia, to see that these services are maintained and, if necessary, improved.
It has been the policy of ATI to improve services. A sixth jet aircraft is on order but whether delivery will be taken of it now I do not know because of a downturn in traffic. Nevertheless it is. ready to go into service to provide the needs of the north. With these few points I support this motion. This will be a major inquiry. I think a matter such as this is the correct type of reference to give to a standing committee. The Committee has a great responsibility to report to Parliament. Parliament has a great responsibility to make up its mind as to where the public interest lies.
– I rise to support briefly the amendment moved by Senator Murphy. Most of the matters relevent to the amendment have been covered. But I shall reiterate one or two points and perhaps bring forward one or two new points. It has been interesting to hear the 2 main divisions of thought which this takeover bid has caused. One is that it is another example of the machinations of the stock exchange. If the matter were as simple as that it probably” would hot have been brought before the Parliament. In fact, it goes beyond that; Those honourable senators who have sat as members of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange for the past year or two would recognise the takeover as being, in part, one of those jungle deals with which we have become so accustomed. I was interested to read in the Press that Patrick Partners is underwriting Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd in this venture. I recall that Patrick Partners was intimately involved in the Minsec deal involving Queensland Mines Ltd and Kathleen Investments (Aust.) Ltd. I am sure that all its efforts were motivated by the purest patriotic intentions, as I have no doubt its efforts are motivated in this case.
What we are concerned about is what will happen to the transport system as a result of the takeover. Without dwelling endlessly on the point and without reiterating the points which have been made, there is no doubt that the takeover will place TNT in a unique position. Mr Thomas has already stated the capacity of TNT to reduce its fares and costs probably by something like 20 per cent. It is interesting also that the matter will be referred to the same Committee as last year looked into the subject of Tasmanian shipping freights. TNT was asked to appear as a witness. Sir Peter Abeles - Mr Abeles as he then was - was the witness. One or two excerpts from the transcript of the hearing are interesting, in the light of recent developments. For example, at page 539, the first page of the evidence given by Mr Abeles, he said:
At page 541 he said:
The company regards iself as a transport company, not as a trucking company, or a shipping company or an air freight forwarder.
It was quite clear that he was endeavouring to convince the Committee that TNT was primarily interested in the carriage of freight, not the carriage of people. At that time there was not the slightest suggestion on his part that TNT would be interested in obtaining a foothold in the business of carrying passengers on aircraft, although 1 think it is generally known that TNT has a very definite interest in one intrastate airline service in New South Wales and also in a small operator in Queensland. It is also interesting to con sider some other comments that he made. They leave me rather confused as to the intentions of TNT and of Sir Peter Abeles in particlar. At page 546 of the evidence he said - and this seems hard to believe:
We are not looking for higher profit or for more profit: We are only entering ventures and we are only developing services where we can see that, under the prevailing competitive conditions we can make this type of profit. We are not trying to make more, because if we make more we know we would lose it in any case.
Later he said:
I do not regard ourselves as an octopus in this sense. But we are aggressive and we are expanding.
At page 547 he said:
There is no intention or no planning in our case to become a monopoly.
Later, when referring to freight, he said:
We felt we do not want to get to the stage where we have a dominant volume in Australia.
These are not the comments of a company which would appear to be not concerned about putting itself in a unique position in the Australian transport scene. I would suggest that the intentions of TNT are quite different. Its intention is precisely what it has revealed its intention to be during the past week or so.
I do not think it is a matter of defending one side or of whitewashing the activities of the other people involved, but it should be clearly understood that the overall effect of the takeover could well be to place competitors, particularly TransAustralia Airlines, in a most difficult position. Only last week Sir Frederick Scherger, the Chairman of the Australian National Airlines Commission, said that unless TAA were allowed to expand and broaden its activities the added competition which will emanate from a combined Ansett Transport Industries Ltd-TNT operation, under the control of TNT, will put TAA out of business by the time the present agreement expires in 1977. I would think that Sir Frederick Scherger would be in a position to make that statement on an informed basis. For years the Government has accepted the principle of a 2-airline policy. The amazing part about the takeover is that if the Australian Labor Party and the Democratic Labor Party had not seen reasonably common ground on the subject the matter would not have been dealt with at all by the Parliament. A move to debate the matter in the House of Representatives was defeated by the Government. It would not have been even raised in this chamber. In other words, the Government would have been prepared to allow the takeover to go ahead and to become a fait accompli before anything could be done about it. That is why questions were asked this week. If the takeover were allowed to continue we would see what happened to the 2-airline policy. It would not be long before, as Sir Frederick Scherger said, TNT offered fares at a lower rate than that at which TAA could operate its airline.
What has been the position over the years? Under section 92 of the Constitution, as I understand it, the private operator can challenge the Commonwealth on the fare structure. My understanding is that the private operator would be successful in that challenge. Mr Thomas has already stated quite clearly that the competition with TAA will be pretty sharp competition. Who is to say that TNT would not challenge the Commonwealth under section 92 and reduce the fares to a level which makes TNT more competitive than TAA? What happens to TAA then? Does it go bankrupt? Are we then back to a one-airline policy? Obviously the Government did not think about all the ramifications. It simply kept aside. I think it is a good thing that at least in this chamber there are sufficient people concerned that something should be done. What we would be headed for eventually would be a great monopoly embraced by the TNT organisation. Possibly the only answer if the takeover came about would be the formation of what might be termed a Commonwealth transport corporation in which the Commonwealth Government, through TAA, the Australian National Line and the various government railways, would set up a competitive organisation to combat what TNT would have formed itself into by then. No other private operator would be in a position to match it.
For those reasons I support the amendment. There is very little in substance between the motion and the amendment. The intention is clear. We want the takeover dealt with by the Committee. It will be of benefit to the Parliament and, we hope, to the people as a whole when the Committee’s report is presented.
– I call Senator Gair in order that he may enlighten the Senate by indicating the matters in Senator Murphy’s amendment which he is prepared to accept.
Senator GAIR (Queensland - Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party) - I think the Senate would agree that it would be wise if I made known the alterations to my motion to which we have agreed.
– Would you seek leave so as to protect your right of reply?
– I seek leave to indicate the alterations which we accept.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I do that so that all senators will know which alterations have been agreed to. Paragraph 1(a) pf the motion reads: the ascertainment of the degree of non-Australian ownership, whether direct or indirect,, of the issued share capital of Thomas Nationwide Transport …
It has been agreed to insert after Transport’ the words ‘and of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd’. That is, the Committee will ascertain the degree of non-Australian ownership, whether direct or indirect, of the issued share capital of both companies. Another paragraph affected is .paragraph (d). There is some objection to the words to advise the Minister’. I am prepared to delete the words ‘to advise the Minister, in the public interest, how he, should exercise his discretion’ and insert in lieu thereof the following words:
The manner in which in the public interest the Minister should exercise his discretion to grant or refuse approval to the transaction involving as it does shares in Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, a. company holding licences under the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1971, which discretion is vested in the Minister by section 92F ..of the same Act……
I have inserted a capital F after ‘92’ to make it accord with the Act. It was omitted previously. The only other alteration is the insertion of a new paragraph’ 5 which will read in the, same terms as paragraph 7 contained in Senator Murphy’s amendment. The new paragraph 5-will read:!
The foregoing provisions of this resolution shall have effect notwithstanding anything to.: the contrary contained in the Standing Orders or in any previous resolution of the Senate.
Senator Murphy’s paragraph 7 will becom the new paragraph 5 in the original motion.
– It certainly is not my intention to speak at length on the matter under discussion. It is merely sufficient for me to say that I support the proposition that has been put forward by my leader, Senator Murphy. I understand that in the event of that proposition being defeated, the members of the Australian Labor Party will then support the proposition that has now been proposed by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. We want to get down to an inquiry to ascertain the real facts of the matter in the public interest. I do not intend to attempt to debate the issues that will be the subject of inquiry by the Senate Committee because frankly I know very little about them.
I do not know either Sir Reginald Ansett or Mr Thomas. I have no pecuniary interest in either company, but from what I have read in the newspapers it appears to me that determining the issues between Sir Reginald Ansett of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd and Mr Thomas of Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd is more like deciding whether Australian rules or rugby league is the best football game. The question has to be decided in the interests of the Australian people. Coming as I do from New South Wales, whichever company receives the mantle of rugby league will receive the mantle of support in the public interest. Of course, Ansett Transport Industries Ltd plays on 2 grounds, namely transport and television, whereas Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd plays on one ground, namely transport. Certainly, if the Senate holds an inquiry it should be held on a neutral basis based on the public interest. I am rather interested to see the political arena move as it has in this matter when there is contemplation of a takeover of one Australian company by another Australian company and see the tremendous publicity that the proposed transaction has received. On the other hand the taking over of an Austraiian company by a foreign company seems to be regarded today as a mere matter of course.
Again, I say that I know very little of the issues involved, but the matter is of vital importance to- the Australian public and to Australia as a nation. Much has been said in the Senate about employees of Ansett Transport Industries Ltd telegramming members of the Parliament urging the Parliament not to agree to any takeover because Ansett is a good employer. They are enitled to do that and t do not doubt what they say. No doubt my colleagues like myself have received a telegram of this nature. But I also want to be fair to the other side in regard to employment. Again, I emphasise that I do not know Mr Thomas or anyone^ connected with the management of Thomas- Nationwide Transport Ltd. I speak in this regard only on the basis of information conveyed to me by unionists. They tell rue that in their opinion and from their transactions with that Company, it is one of the best employers of labour in the transport industry.
They have provided me with a summary of the superannuation scheme made available by Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd to members of both wages and salaried staff under which for every 4c that is contributed by a worker to a superannuation scheme, the company will contribute 6c. Any permanent employee over 20. years of age who has been with the group for 2 years is eligible for membership of the scheme. The retiring age is 60 years for both sexes, but in certain cases if both the company and the employee agree it may be extended up to the age of 65 years. Any benefit that is payable by way of superannuation at the end of an employee’s service with the company does not affect his entitlement to long service leave. Indeed, the benefits from the fund are paid in addition to the long service leave due to him. I put that on the record only to indicate that apparently from a labour relations point of view the employees of Thomas Nationwide Transport are satisfied with their employer, and union officials in Sydney advise me that they are satisfied to date with the arrangements that they have been able to negotiate on behalf of their members.
All I can say is that if every employer acted in the provision of a superannuation scheme of this nature as TNT has acted, there certainly would probably be little need for the major political parties to be contemplating the introduction of a national superannuation scheme at this stage. I am also told in regard to Senator Gair’s comment this morning about a document being produced in a foreign language by TNT - I think the language mentioned was Japanese - that it is a publication put out by the company on an international basis. It is the company’s annual report and balance sheet which I understand, is published In 4 different foreign languages. This company is proud of its achievements and its record in the transport field and industrial relations. I believe that that fact, too, should be placed on record, having regard to the basis of neutrality or impartiality on which we in this Senate should approach this question.
One thing to which I particularly wish to refer is paragraph 1 (c) of Senator Gair’s motion. It is proposed that the Committee should inquire into:
Whether the exercise, if successful, would result in a degree of control of Australian domestic airline operations passing to non-Australian interests.
Frankly, I think that is a matter of vita) concern because no Australian can afford to see any encroachment on Australian national industries over and above that which has taken place already as a result of the financial policies that have been pursued by this Government. In this regard, I draw the attention of the Senate particularly to section 92d of the Broadcasting and Television Act. This section sets out conditions as to non-resident shareholding in commercial broadcasting and television stations. It provides:
A licence is subject to a condition that, at all times, during the currency of the licence -
shares representing not less than eighty p?r centum of the issued capital of the licensee will be beneficially owned by persons each of whom is either a resident of Australia (other than a company) or a company controlled by persons (other than companies) who are residents of Australia; and
shares representing more than fifteen per centum of the issued capital of the licensee will not be beneficially owned by a person (other than a company) who is not a resident of Australia or by a company controlled, directly or indirectly, by persons who are not residents of Australia.
I hope that the investigatory powers of the Committee will enable it to inquire into that aspect. If a degree of foreign ownership that might affect the operations of Australia’s domestic airline system is involved in this transaction, so too, is it in the interests of this country to see that no foreigner gets hold of any commercial television company operating in Australia. Knowing that Ansett Transport Industries Ltd controls 2 commercial . television stations in Australia, I believe that the Committee should look at this matter, having regard to its importance. . , ‘
I refer to one other matter that 1 think could well be considered by the Committee; that is, what will’ be the effect of such a takeover on these commercial television stations? When Austrama Television’ Pty Ltd, which is a subsidiary of Ansett’ Transport Industries Ltd, was granted its licence to operate in Melbourne in about 1963, it undertook to provide a 58 per cent Australian content in its programmes in its first year of operation. That company has now been operating its television station for 8 or 9 years. According to the. latest report of the. Australian Broadcasting, Control Board, which is for the year ended 30th June 1971, the total Australian content in the television programmes presented by that company in Melbourne is 55.5 per cent. That content is above the Australian Broadcasting Control Board’s stipulation of a 50 per cent content; nonetheless it is still under the original percentage that Austrama Television Pty Ltd undertook to provide in its application to the. Board for the television licence. The same remarks apply in relation to TVQ in Brisbane. The total Australian content for the , -same period for that station was 48.4 per cent, which is under the 50 par cent requirement prescribed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. If the takeover bid is successful those licences will be acquired. The Committee should inquire whether a new company taking over control of those licences will undetake to comply with the Australian content . provisions stipulated by the Ausralian Broadcasting Control Board.
I know that, going on past practices, a Senate committee inquiring into this matter will approach its task on a fair and. reasonable basis, in the knowledge that justice must be done on all sides but having in mind the public interest and the interests of Australia. Whatever may be the outcome of the recommendations of the Committee, I trust that the Government will take much more notice of them than it has taken of the reports of many other Senate committees. The report of this Committee on this reference will be of tremendous value and importance to the Australian people. But we cannot allow the report to be tendered to the Senate, and perhaps debated by the Senate, and then have nothing more come of it. The Government will need to heed the recommendations of this report. Probably the report will be the test of the future success or otherwise of Senate standing and select committees. Therefore, I urge that, once the Committee delivers its report to the Senate., the Government immediately give that report all the consideration that it can and act upon its recommendations.
– I rise to support the motion moved by Senator Gair, and as amended. I do so, firstly, because I think that this is the first reference of this type to a Senate standing committee. This is the type of reference that I had always hoped would have gone to standing committees - not the airy-fairy, long drawn out, nebulous references which, in the main, standing committees have received in the past. This is a first class example of dealing with an urgent situation. The Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade is being given directions as to which way it should go and, what is terribly important, a time limit is being placed on the Committee with respect to its consideration of the reference. The Committee is being told to report in 28 days and not to wander off on ali the by-ways and paths for the next couple of years. I sincerely hope that the balance of the Senate takes note of what Senator Gair has done and applies this example in respect of future references to standing committees.
– And that members of the DLP will make this their practice.
– I hope that the DLP, having gone along this path, will npt be led astray in the future. I say, secondly, that I think that such an inquiry ought to take place. I have been somewhat surprised that, since the first announcement of the intentions of Thomas Nationwide Transport Ltd, some suggestion has been made that this is none of our business. A suggestion was made that the Government ought to do something about this matter.
Whether the Government wants to do something is the Government’s business. But it is not the Government’s business alone. It is also the Parliament’s business. It certainly is the Senate’s business. I speak as one who, in common with my West Australian colleagues, travels some 5,000 miles a week by air during the period of the parliamentary sittings - and over an even longer period now because of the operations of the committees system. We are not particularly interested in the game being ‘money, money, money’. I agree very rarely with Senator John Wheeldon, but I support him in his statement that our interests is ‘safety, safety, safety*. As far as I am concerned, this must be the public interest.
The other thing that appears to be forgotten by certain persons in ‘ this whole exercise is that a lot of public money is involved. I suppose our aviation industry is a little peculiar. It is a sort of privateenterprise public-utility. It does not quite fall within the pure private enterprise group. It is not manufacturing biscuits or selling beer or something like that. It is a public utility part owned by the Government and part owned by private enterprise. So it is a peculiar sort of industry.
It is peculiar also to the extent that it has had special legislation passed by this Parliament. This Parliament therefore has an interest in what is to happen to our aviation industry. It is of no use for people outside to say that we ought, to mind our own business, that this is merely a commercial operation between 2 companies acting as they ought to be able to act, as long as they stay within the provisions of the Uniform Companies Act. I hope that the people involved in this situation will call a halt to their present activities until the Committee has reported back . to the Parliament.
As I understand the situation, no. formal legal offer has yet been made, t hope that TNT will be sufficiently sensitive to the importance that Parliament places on this matter to delay making any formal legal offer until the Committee has reported back to the Senate. If lt does not, I will not look too kindly upon it because, if TNT does succeed in its aim it will need the help and co-operation of the Senate in the future. If TNT disregards the fact that we have set up an inquiry it need not expect much help from me. We should clearly lay on the line what we expect as the Senate.
I particularly hope that during this inquiry - I have an interest in it as Chairman of another select committee - the Committee will ferret behind the nominee companies on both sides and trace the beneficial owners. I trust that the Comittee will seek out and discover where all the money is coming from to pay for the takeover. It could be just as important to discover who is providing the money, whether by mortgage, loan or in some other way. That could be even more important than the matter of the ownership of the shares in a particular company.
The select committee of which I have the honour to be Chairman is charged not only with seeking out foreign ownership but also with seeking out foreign control. Whilst they can be the same thing, it can be an and/ or proposition. The shares could be totally Australian owned but foreign controlled because of the debt structure. I hope that the Standing Committee will have a good hard look at this one because suddenly this magical amount of money seems to be available almost at will, and almost overnight. I would like to know some of the associated facts. I wish the Chairman and members of the Standing Committee well. I am pleased that the Senate for the first time has realised that in a matter of this urgency a committee must be allowed to sit at times when the Senate normally sits.
– That is shocking.
– I am normally opposed to that practice, but in certain circumstances it would be impossible for the Committee to carry out its task within 28 days. Unless the Committee does its work within 28 days, it might as well not start. For that reason I agree with the policy. I appreciate that problems will be raised for the Whips concerning pairs because the Committee is not evenly divided. I hope that there will be understanding between the Whips on both sides and between Party leaders to bring about the new arrangement. It will create strains for the. Hansard staff and other people, but it is a recogni tion of the urgency of the problem that the Senate should be making this departure.
I wish the Committee well. I hope that when it is considering the public interest it does not think solely of money or of ownership. I hope it will think of me, if of nobody else, as I have to travel about 5,000 miles each week. I am more concerned with safety than any other person save the pilot who is usually the first one to be killed.
– I do not want to enter into the controversy on whether an inquiry should be held. I am not much concerned about who owns or controls the airline in competition with the airline of the Australian people. I can find no great love for the operations of this particular company over the years that would cause me in any way to assist in trying to prevent its profits being taken over. However, I could not let either motion go through without speaking in condemnation of the decision to allow the Committee to sit while the Senate is sitting. The question arises of whether standing committees are taking over the functions of the Senate. Our Standing Orders provide that committees cannot meet while the Senate is in session. During the last sessional period the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) asked that permission be given for one of the Estimates Committees to meet while the Senate was in session. It was for only a few days so that the Committee could finish its business.
I protested on that occasion. The Leader of the Government in the Senate assured me that it would not establish a precedent. Now a source other than the Government wants a committee to meet while the Senate is in session. It brings up 2 matters, the first of which is that committee members will have a responsibility to attend sittings of the committee rather than to attend the Senate where there is an open forum to express opinions and to represent the electors. The second matter is that provision is made whereby every honourable senator can attend and participate in the work of standing committees, but senators cannot attend committees in large numbers when they have a dual responsibility to both a committee and the Senate. 1 voice my protest and express the hope that the occasions on which this practice is approved will be rare. If it is not curtailed there is the danger that standing committees will become the Upper House of the Parliament and the Senate will meet to suit the convenience of the committees.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - by leave - I wish to refer to several matters that have been raised during this long debate. The interests of both civil aviation and television are involved and I am now responsible for them both. I have indicated quite clearly the desire of the aviation and television interests to help and to give whatever service they can. Senator Douglas McClelland referred particularly to sub-paragraph (c) in Senator Gair’s motion. I again stress what has been stressed on many occasions and should be stressed again. On Tuesday the Prime Minister said specifically on this point:
As we have indicated earlier, we have welcomed the debate. We have found ourselves personally in accord with many of the sentiments expressd but we have not found ourselves able to support the proposal of Senator Murphy. With Senator Gair’s motion, which has been added to and changed a great deal with our approval, we are certainly in accord.
– I shall now put Senator Murphy’s amendment to Senator Gair’s motion. The question is that the words proposed to be left out be left out.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The question now is that Senator Gair’s motion, as revised, he agreed to.
Qustion resolved in the affirmative.
Debate, resumed from 11 April (vide page 956), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill,, which relates- to the. settlement of industrial disputes on .matters arising out of employment in the1 Commonwealth Public Service, will not in the opinion of the Opposition settle:, those disputes or, as they are termed in the- Bill, industrial situations’; it will enlarge, the areas and measure of discontent to encompass wider sections of the Commonwealth Public Service. In his second., reading speech the Minister for Health (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) said that the . Government now believes that the processes of the Public Service Arbitration Act. need further strengthening to enable speedy resolution of industrial situations. What has happened within the Public Service in general - certainly within the . physical grades - is that the officers have been struggling to maintain their salaries and standards at a time when other employees in the. work force in general - have had improvements and because of the frustrations they have experienced in their dealings with the Public Service Board, there have been disputes. It is these disputes that have occasioned the Government to strengthen this legislation.
I believe that the Government’s” actions in seeking to strengthen this legislation is in accordance with its policy of” imposing further restrictions on the ability of trade unions in Australia to bargain with employers for an improvement in working conditions. As was stated by the Minister in his second reading speech, this legislation is directed primarily at employees and unions in the Post Office. Those employees have been in the past closely allied to outside industry and variations to determinations or awards in outside industry used to flow directly and quickly to them. But that is no longer the case. For some years Post Office employees and the unions representing them have been frustrated by the Public Service Board. Most of the claims they have put to the Public Service Board have been rejected. Some, have taken as long as 2 years to be finalised. For example, in the case of the transport drivers* strike a negotiating period of 12 months was involved. Most of the claims ought to have been resolved quickly;’ Their validity would have been evident to anybody who had had any dealings with industrial matters.
A simple solution by the Government to the problems which exist in the Post Office would be to accede to the representations that have been made in this place on many occasions by the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Democratic Labor Party and divorce the Post Office from direct Government control. It ought to be allowed to run its own affairs on business lines and to settle industrial issues in the way in which they would be settled in any normal employer-employee relationship. All honourable senators will be aware of the comments that have been made on this subject by Mr O’Grady, who was the chief officer la the Post Office and who retired from that position in about 1967. He has since drawn attention to the disabilities under which he and his officers worked in trying to settle matters of immediate industrial concern because he always had to take into consideration the general attitude of the Government towards wage rises and industrial relations. It seems to me that the simplest thing for the Government to do would have been to accede to the representations of postal workers generally and of a large section of the Parliament - the Senate carried a resolution on this matter - and divorce the Post Office from direct Government control.
The Government discussed its proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and other organisations and undertook that the discussions would be resumed. I will have something to say about that matter directly. First of all I want to say that it is evident to me that what is involved in the matter of industrial relations in a situation where the economy is rapidly expanding and where inflation has taken over and is rising very sharply every year is the ability or non-ability of trade unions to secure for their members that to which they are rightly entitled, that is, their share of the wage increases which flow from national wage cases or determinations made outside the arbitration tribunals. The Government has an obligation to ensure that its employees enjoy the standards that are enjoyed in the State public service and in the private sector of industry. The point was made by the
Minister that over 20 years ago public servants were not only in receipt of good salaries but also worked under good conditions. They were also saddled with special responsibilities. Some of those responsibilities have not been lifted. What has happened in recent years is that Commonwealth public servants in general and those employed in instrumentalities of the Commonwealth have been left behind in the struggle to obtain wage and salary standards commensurate with those of workers in outside industry. In addition, in certain State public services - I have in mind my own State of South Australia and other States where Labor has had a chance to make improvements in the statutes covering public servants - ‘the leave provisions, allowances, etc., have not only caught up with the general standards in the Commonwealth Public Service but have gone ahead of them. So there is a background of discontent of which the Government must be aware and should heed in making any alterations to the Act.
It is clear that the Government has decided to amend the Public Service Act not only to impose some new restrictions on Commonwealth public servants but also because it is a part of the Government’s long range policy to hamstring the trade unions. The Government is imposing new restrictions which will prevent Commonwealth public servants from taking ordinary and traditional steps to obtain industrial justice. A dissimilar situation exists in other parts of the world. Unions in those countries of the world which constitute the International Labour Organisation have, over the years not had more restrictions placed upon them; they have had restrictions taken off them. They are experiencing freer conditions of negotiation and more direct influence with management.
What we are surprised about is that the Government, having set upon a course of dealing with restrictions in a general industrial position where it could not enforce the punitive clauses of the Arbitration Act, has also engaged in discussions with the ACTU, ACSPA, CCPSO and other related unions. The first discussions were held at the same time as the discussions took place on the question of the amendments to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. During these discussions it was agreed between the parties, Mr Lynch being the Minister for Labour and National Service and the head of his Department being present, that there would be further discussions in respect of the Public Service Arbitration Act between the Minister, his officers and the Public Service unions. So that there will be no confusion about whether these discussions took place, I would like to read the correspondence exchange between the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations and the Minister. On 27th October 1971 Paul Munro, the Federal Secretary of the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, wrote to the Minister in these terms:
The Hon. P. R. Lynch Minister for Labour and National Service Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600
Dear Minister, re: National Conference: Conciliation and Arbitra tion Act.
At the meeting of the National Conference on 21st October, it was agreed that the C.C.P.S.O. would take the initiative in seeking discussions on the Public Service Arbitration Act.
The Council is anxious that the discussions should commence as early as possible after the Conference on the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has concluded.
In anticipation of the National Conference concluding not later than 4th November, I suggest that you fix a time and place for discussion soon After that date.
I believe that, as is in the case of the National Conference, the discussions should be tripartite and in those circumstances the Public Service Board should be represented and in a position to put its views.
On 1st November 1971 Mr MacDonald, Secretary, Office of the Public Service Board, wrote to the Federal President of the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisation as follows:
Public Service Arbitration Act
Your C.19 of 27 October 1971
I desire to acknowledge receipt of your letter concerning the Council’s request for a discussion on the implications of particular proposals relating to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in respect to the Public Sevice Arbitration Act.
It is noted that you have written to the Minister for Labour and National Service suggesting that he fix a time and place for discussion. Itis confirmed that the Public Service Board will be represented at the proposed discussions.
As I have mentioned, on 27th October 1971 Mr Paul Munro wrote to the Minister and on the same date Mr Linehan, the Federal President of the CCPSO, wrote to the Secretary of the Public Service Board in the same fashion. As honourable senators will see, the Public Service Board acknowledged those representations. While this correspondence was being exchanged, and in view of the fact that the central organisation of the Commonwealth Public Service unions would be able to take this matter up and consider what might be appropriately altered within the purview of the Commonwealth Public Service Act, they sent out to their members a letter believing that they had a complete understanding with the Minister that they would be given the opportunity to discuss what might be done. The letter was headed ‘Public Service Arbitration Act: Amendment to Legislation’ and dated 24th November 1971. One copy of the letter was sent to the Federal Executive, one copy to the Federal affiliates and one copy to divisional secretaries. The letter reads:
During the National Conference on the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act CCPSO advanced a number of proposals which involved amendment to the Public Service Arbitration Act. A copy of CCPSO’s proposals for change supplied to the Conference has been circulated to Federal Executive and affiliates.
In summary the amendments to the Public Servide Act proposed were:
Removal of limitations of powers on positions of Deputy Public Service Arbitrator by abolishing those positions and creating additional positions of Public Service Arbitrator. Until this is done the Act be amended to permit Deputy Arbitrators to be appointed to appeals and reference benches and upon the creation of additional positions of Public Service Arbitrator provision to be made for the appeal bench to include a Public Service Arbitrator.
Variation to the mode of appointment and tenure of office of Arbitrators by providing for a system whereby in future there is agreement between the unions, employers and Government on who should be appointed as Public Service Arbitrators; upon appointment the term of office should be the same as for a Commissioner or Presidential member of the C. & A. Commission.
That at least one copy of transcript be provided free of charge to parties in a matter before the Arbitrator.
Amendments to the Public Service Arbitration Act were excluded from detailed consideration by the National Conference. Since the Conference CCPSO has requested the Minister for Labour and National Service to enterinto discussions on operation of the Public Service Arbitration Act The Minister, has indicated that he would be willing to have discussions with CCPSO and the Public Service Board some time during 1972.
Toe purpose of this circular Is to request affiliates, members of executive and divisions to supply to me details of changes to ‘the operation of the public service arbitration act which you may desire to be represented on behalf of CCPSO.
This ls an opportunity to bring to attention any changes which you may desire to be represented; the reasons for the change should be itemised as fully as possible.
To be given consideration affiliates suggestions in relation to this matter should be forwarded to me prior to January 21st, 1972.
There is the evidence of the discussions as reported by the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations, and that is the action the Council took with its affiliates to require them to submit proposals which might later be taken before the Minister. Early this year - in March - Mr Cook of the Department of Labour and National Service and the Minister, Mr Lynch, invited the unions to discuss the matter. But the Minister presented to the unions the final draft of the Bill which is now before the Senate. So, having undertaken to consider what the unions might think about necessary amendments, the Minister came along with the completed draft of the Bill. Consequently there was no proper discussion with the CCPSO on what might obtain within the Public Service.
As I have mentioned before, the Government might properly have taken into consideration a number of matters. One was the question of separating the Post Office from the Commonwealth Public Service. The other matters are ones which we have discussed in this Senate. It was accepted by the Opposition and by some other parties in the Parliament that it was high time for another Public Service inquiry. This Public Service inquiry had been agreed upon and the unions said they would support it. It would not only inquire into the efficiency, staffing and so on of the Commonwealth Public Service but also, from the union point of view, it could consider industrial relations and the general scope of what industrial laws might be required in relation to the management and the employers of the Commonwealth Public Service. The Government did not do that.
It might have considered some other matters also. It might have considered in what respect some provisions of the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbi tration Act might have been inserted in place of what is now proposed. In a communication which has been sent to me and to some other unions Paul Munro, Secretary of the CCPSO, pointed out that it might have been possible to consider - it would have been preferable from the point of view of the unions - inserting directly and strictly the provisions of sections 28 and 29 of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act which they considered would be better and certainly less onerous than what is now proposed in the Bill before the Senate. On page 2 of the statement to which I have referred the following appears:
CCPSO does not seriously quarrel with the need for conciliation procedures to be written into tha Public Service Arbitration Act. At present resort can be made by Public Service unions and management to the conciliation and dispute settling procedures under section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. So it is hardly a matter of urgent need. Nevertheless the lack of integration between the Public Service Arbitration Act and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act result in more cumbersome procedures than should be the’ case. An answer would seem to be to extend the Public Service Arbitrator’s jurisdiction by tha insertion of powers similar to those contained in sections 28 and 29 of the C. and A. Act.
The Government should properly have continued its discussions with the unions if it felt that new procedures were necessary. Discussions could have encompassed the form of a proper inquiry into the Public Service which is long overdue. They could have included arbitration matters. The Government also could have sent delegations round the world to see the standards of public servants today in other countries.
I recently returned from a visit to Sweden. In that country, contrary to the concepts held in Australia, there are no punitive clauses operating in agreements on wages and salaries affecting the ordinary so-called physical grades, the people in the workshops, or the people in the public service. All agreements are made on a national basis by consultation round the conference table. There are no court procedures in those countries and public servants have much more freedom than they have in this country.
We strongly oppose this legislation. We suggest that step by step this Government has set out to impose restrictions on unions in an effort to restrain the economic drives it commenced in its Budget. The Government, by its budgetary action, set in course the chain of price increases. Those increases resulted from the heavy duties the Government imposed at Budget time yet it blames the unions for the escalation of costs. In recent months we have become used to regular attacks on unions by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), the previous Prime Minister and by leaders of the Government parties. They place all blame for rising costs on the workers.
– I see that Mr Revelman bas just joined them.
– Maybe he has, senator, but you had long enough experience in the industrial movement to know that what 1 am saying is correct. That was the policy adopted by this Government when it was not so unstable. Clearly it is unstable today. Nobody would suggest that this Government is a permanent government. There is every indication that it will not survive until election time this year. There was concentrated action by the Government to attack, on every occasion possible the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the national voice of the labour movement. Over the years the ACTU has been a highly responsible body, an organisation with which this Government should have been proud to do business. On many occasions the Government failed to consider the propositions of the ACTU and the unions. The Government said that it would take every action possible in the courts to restrain wage increases. It was this sort of policy which, as we know, even during the period when Mr Gorton was Prime Minister, caused some of the disputes within the Commonwealth Public Service which have been referred to by the Minister.
For example, he referred to the dispute by the transport members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers ‘Union of Australia. This was an outstanding case where the union’s claim was justified. Because the Government declared that it would resist wage increases the Commonwealth Public Service Board would not grant to mail drivers in the Post Office the increases which had been approved in outside industry. It would not grant the appropriate margin which should have flowed to them because of their special duties. It took the union 5 months to put the case before the Commonwealth Public Service Board and it was rejected. It took a further 4 or 5 months to put the case before the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator and to get the proper increases. The increase of $104 a year which was awarded gave them a relationship with outside industry as well as some consideration for their special duties.
There was a great flare-up in the Government during this dispute when the PostmasterGeneral (Sir Alan Hulme) decided to employ scab drivers. This intensified the discontent in the Public Service. In these situations what else do you think the unions would do but engage more actively in campaigns to secure wage justice? If one reads the reports of the Public Service Board and looks at the frustrations of industrial dealings in the Commonwealth Public Service one finds that the record shows that the Public Service Board has been obstinate. It has been obstinate not only because of the special responsibilities it has, as declared by the Government, but also because of Government policies which too closely restrict what it might do. There is a need for reform, not further restrictions. The reports of the Public Service Board show each year that many cases have not been dealt with. There also have been numerous delays which have cost union members many thousands of dollars, particularly the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union which apparently has been singled out. I referred earlier to the strike by transport workers which occasioned delays and pay losses over a period of 10 months.
The second great problem that the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union got into was over its claim for an industry allowance. It established a very clear case for the award of this allowance, particularly when one considers the trends in private industry and the payments awarded to State public servants. I have referred mainly to my own State of South Australia because I know the conditions there better. On taking office the Labor Government in that State caught up with some of the other States in awarding industry allowances to all workers and officers in the
State Public Service. The industry allowance did not apply to Commonwealth public servants until the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union negotiated and obtained the $4.50. Commonwealth employees gained some relativity with outside grades. 1 remind the Senate that when we are talking about the Commonwealth Public Service and the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union we are talking about what the Government called, during the negotiations, the physical grades. These grades are very closely allied to classifications in outside industry. There are no distinctions to make when talking about fitters, linesmen, truck drivers or concrete hands, lt is easy to align the grades. There should be no question of disparity and there should be no great delay.
That claim for the industry allowance took 2 years for the unions to process and it took a long time for the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator to deal with it. The same thing applied to the flow on from the metal trades case. It had been the custom to recognise that there was a nexus between outside industry and the Commonwealth Public Service Board. The frustrations occasioned loss of the increase to members of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union for some 18 weeks. Finally the Deputy Public Service Arbitrator, Mr Wilson, granted a $6 increase.
To support what I have said I want to read from the annual report of the Commonwealth Public Service Board for 1971. I refer particularly to negotiations in respect to the physical grades and associated staff. At page 40 of its report the Board states:
The Board expressed to the ACTU its concern at the circumstances which led the ACTU to make representations so soon after the December 1969 increases for trades and associated staff. However, the Board noted that the ACTU was correct in claiming that the Commonwealth Service rates had again fallen behind the market because of the significant increases in going rates in the private sector and important sections of the public sector since 1st January 1970.
In relation to the negotiations to which I have referred it was fortunate that, in some of the circumstances, the Australian Council of Trade Unions was able to come along and assist the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union settle the negotiations. As I have pointed out, there are growing industrial disputes in some years which are occasioned by these matters which can be corrected. They can be corrected by a more active work on behalf of the Public Service Board. It can accept very clear pro formas which are well known to industrial relations people, unions and management. There should not be the delays which have occurred. They should be corrected. There is no need for restrictions which are now imposed by the Bill.
I suggest that what is now before us is legislation which is imposed for the 2 reasons which I have mentioned. The first is to try to build up within the Australian community a notion that the only cause of rising costs is the militant unions - the over-active unions - and not Government policy. I say in relation to this piece of legislation that I support what has been said on behalf of the Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations that negotiations should have been obtained and surrounding the Public Service Act. Management and unions should have been allowed to decide in what respect it might be modified. If negotiations had been carried out properly, today in this Parliament probably we would be considering a mutually acceptable Bill.
But the legislation casts a very wide net. Not only does it catch the. Public Service unions but it catches all the other people in the Public Service who, in many circumstances, are able to negotiate very quickly. Such people are the professional and specialised officers who have no trouble in settling their wage claims. The net which is cast by this new procedure is a wide one. It means that employees can be stood down. They can be stood down not only because of a dispute which involves workers in the Commonwealth Public Service or the instrumentalities but also because of a dispute which obtains in the private sector of industry. Such action has never been taken before, lt is going to be taken now. Looking at the sorts of unions involved, how does the Government expect to encourage the settlement of disputes? How can we expect these people to be satisfied with a situation when the Government is going to ensure that its ministers by their action can force, the arbitrator - because of an industrial situation - to act as he thinks fit? The net result of what the Government now intends will be to bring into industrial disputation more and more Commonwealth public servants, people who, hitherto, were not affected by disputes. They have not been involved in disputes. They have been able to settle their wage claims in a way which represents a conciliation. The number of unions involved in the Public Service are set out in the Public Service Board annual report for 1971. It states:
Unions and staff associations with membership confined to the Commonwealth Service . . .
There are 21. I am not going to read the names. The report continues:
Unions and staff associations with membership confined to the Commonwealth Service and to Commonwealth authorities- -
There are 6 -
Unions and staff associations with membership in the Commonwealth Service and in private employment, etc and, in some cases, in Commonwealth authorities -
There are 8. The list goes on with large groups of unions. The report further states:
Unions and staff associations with membership confined to Commonwealth authorities with which the Board is in statutory relationship -
There are 5. The Government is having difficulty in the Post Office. It now proposes to establish a wide industrial prescription which brings all employees into a net under which they can be stood down. Not only can they be stood down under proper arbitration procedures but also I suggest the procedures which are outlined in this Bill are far too wide and the Minister can, if he so desires, on his own motion advise the arbitrator. The arbitrator has power under clause 12d which deals with orders in relation to industrial situations. It states: (1.) Where the Arbitrator has been informed under the last preceding section of the existence or likely occurrence of an industrial situation, the Arbitrator or a Deputy Arbitrator-
I do not intend to read the clause because it is a machinery formula. But clause 12d (1.) (b) states: may, subject to the next succeeding subsection, after hearing such evidence (if any) as he thinks fit, make such orders as he thinks necessary or desirable for putting an end to, or preventing the occurrence of, the situation or preventing the occurrence of further industrial situations or such other orders as he thinks necessary or desirable by reason of the existence or likely occurrence of the situation.
Within this prescription there are no proper rules or provisions which entitle the parties to a full and complete hearing. In particular it does not refer to those affected. There can be a wide ranging obligation upon anybody to be involved. The parties to the dispute may never attend this conference but the arbitrator can forthwith decide to do as he thinks fit. Looking at the industrial matters prescription, clause 3 sets out the industrial situation. It states:
As I say this sort of provision is wide because it can involve more matters of disputation than those which relate directly to wages and salaries. In every enterprise there are disputes between workers and management and between union delegates and secretaries and management. For example, such disputes could relate to safety at work, air pollution, unsatisfactory and unhygienic working conditions, the effect of redundancy from automatic devices and things which are negotiated every day in factories. All these things can be declared to be industrial matters. As a result, what could happen is that the Minister could decide the matter. It is no good saying that a minister’s action is similar to administrative action which a minister might take in relation to a dispute in his own department. We have a law which refers to the Minister. It could be the Minister for Labour and National Service or it might be the Minister for Works.
I say to honourable senators that we can bet our bottom dollar that when the Minister takes action under the provisions of this new law it will be in accordance with the policy of the Government. Not only does that mean government policy in relation to a particular dispute or department; it also me.ans that the minister will carry out the aims of the Government, translated from its economic policies. So we have a most unsatisfactory, unfair and repressive piece of legislation because, in effect, the minister becomes the Government He thinks as the Government. He does not think as the manager of an enterprise or as the person who runs the Post Office. He thinks in terms of Government philosophy. He initiates action and honourable senators have heard me refer to clause 12D. Under that clause the arbitrator forthwith occasions a conference and then he takes such arbitrary powers and such a close action in relation to whatever he wants to do. In this world today how can there be such arbitrary powers and such a close connection between the Minister and Government policy.
A perusal of the history of the threats by the Government and the reports made to the unions shows that the legislation was drafted at a time when the Government intended to carry out a large electoral campaign against Labor. The Government intended to introduce first what it called this small piece of legislation as a dummy run for the larger piece of legislation and then to introduce the major piece of repressive legislation next week or shortly afterwards. 1 suggest that the 2 points that I have made are enough to make anybody concerned about the new power. The Minister is not just the administrative head of the department; he becomes the voice of the Government. It is a great new power. It should be resisted. We should vote against it. The Labor Party is strongly opposed to it. We will oppose, not only in the Parliament but wherever possible, the unfair and summary powers which are granted under the Bill. If the Government says that it is not intended to do the things which I have suggested will be done, it should ensure that amendments to the Bill are introduced immediately. The Minister has said that the provisions of section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are similar to the provisions in the Public Service Arbitration Bill. Section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act reads: (1.) Subject to this Act, if it appears to a Commissioner that an industrial dispute has occurred or is likely to occur, he shall, whether he has been notified under this section or not, immediately ascertain the parties to the industrial dispute and the matters which form the subject of that dispute and shall take such steps as he thinks fit for the prompt prevention or settlement of that dispute by conciliation or, if in his opinion conciliation is unlikely to succeed or has failed, by arbitration. (2.) As’ soon as an organisation or employer becomes aware of the existence of an industrial dispute or of an industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute the organisation or employer shall forthwith notify a Commissioner or the Registrar accordingly. (3.) A Minister who is aware of the existence, of an industrial dispute or of an industrial situation which is likely to give rise to an industrial dispute may notify a Commissioner or the Registrar accordingly.
That prescription is quite different from the one contained in the Bill. The procedures are set out quite clearly. The parties to the dispute are the people who are called. As everybody knows, section 28 is used frequently today. Informative discussions are held. They might provide an avenue by which a return to work or settlement of the matters in dispute is secured. Section 28 often does that. If the issue is a difficult one the individual union almost’ always engages the assistance of the Trades and Labour Council, which is the State branch of the ACTU. By consultation the dispute is settled.
The provision in the Bill gives a summary power to. take instant action. The provision will affect not only those involved in the dispute but also those only partly involved in it - employees of instrumentalities and people who have never! been previously involved in industrial, disputes. Whatever the Government’s intentions in introducing the Bill, all it is doing is widening the area of industrial, disputes. It would include any strike, ban. or embargo outside the province of Com-‘ monwealth employment. For example, recently the Building Workers Industrial Union in New South Wales imposed a ban and carried out activities to secure new standards of workers’ compensation - full pay for those on workers’ compensation - and it finally succeeded. In those circumstances, if the Commonwealth considered that an instrumentality such as the Commonwealth Employment Service might be affected, it could almost summarily take action and refer the matter to the Public Service Arbitrator to stand down workers in industries which are not involved.
It has been argued by the Minister that in the Arbitration Act there is an almost similar provision in relation to bans and limitations. In respect of the bans and limitations clauses let me point out that there are proceedings which are properly tested before the courts. The procedures are set down. The case is tested. The application is brought on for hearing. The arbitration authority decides whether a ban or limitation will be imposed. The ban or limitation can be revoked at any time. Under this Bill the bans and limitations last for all time. As long as that provision is in the legislation summary action can be taken against the union. The provision is too strong. It should not be part of the legislation. The Government should take the first opportunity to do what the Public Service unions ask, that is, to consult them as to whether modifications in respect of both sides of the employment scale might be considered. If the Bill is passed actions could be brought under the legislation. There is no doubt in my mind that prior to the election the Minister will initiate actions against unions by standing down their members. Often those actions will not be related to disputes within the particular section of Commonwealth employment. The actions will be prompted partly by political reasons. This is one of the steps that the Government has taken to bring before the public, in its own particular haphazard way, its attempt to pass all responsibility onto the union movement.
I refer to matters which are easily solved in outside industry. I have had a long experience of some of these matters, as many of my colleagues have had. There are safety campaigns in the workshops, campaigns against redundancy and campaigns to safeguard the workers against poor conditions or bad lighting. At present in the Commonwealth Public Service there are campaigns by some unions in respect of these matters. Sometimes the campaigns involve short stoppages of work. No restriction should be placed on the workers because of activities in that regard. Everybody should know that sometime or other the problems have to be solved. If the Government wants to solve them, the sensible way is across the table. It would be well for the Government to look at the standards of industrial laws operating overseas, in West Germany in particular or in Europe generally - my colleague Mr Clyde Cameron and I recently visited Sweden - to see the extent to which it is possible to settle differences across the table. Where there are differences in administration there could be used what is now being used in some of these countries - works councils where people can talk across the table about the problems in the industry or shop. We support the opposition of the CCPSO, of the unions generally and certainly of the ACTU. I conclude by reading a resolution carried by the Joint Councils on 30th March 1972. They issued this statement after the meeting:
Meeting of the Joint Councils comprising of representatives of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations and Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organisations meeting in Melbourne today expressed strong opposition to and decided to seek the defeat of amendments to the Public Service Arbitration Bill due to come before the Senate when it resumes on 11th April.
The Bill seeks to give the Public Service Arbitrator power to stand down without pay Commonwealth public servants in relation to disputes inside or outside the Public Service.
The meeting was attended by Mr R. J. Hawke, Mr H. J. Souter of the ACTU, Messrs P. Riley and R. D. Williams of ACSPA, and Messrs D. Linehan and K. Turbet and P. Munro of CCPSO.
After the meeting the Presidents of the 3 Councils, Mr Hawke, Mr Riley and Mr Linehan issued the following statement:
Representations will be made to the Opposition parties in the Senate and to Independent senators asking them to defeat the passage of the Bill through the Senate.
There has been indecent haste in the introduction of this legislation.
The Bill is not in a form which lends itself to amendment.
The whole matter should be reconsidered and new legislation introduced after proper consultation with the unions and organisations affected.’
– I ask for leave to interpose a motion relating to the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) - by leave - agreed to.
That unless otherwise ordered at 5.45 p.m. this day the question be put, ‘That the Senate do now adjojurn’
– I ask for leave to give notice of a motion.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This is the last day for the giving of notice concerning this Ordinance and I do so because some complaint has been made. I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Legal Practitioners Ordinance 1972 contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 4 of 1972 and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910- 1970 be disallowed.
This is merely a holding notice to enable time for consideration.
– I indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the Bill before the House. In saying that, I suggest that this Bill will not settle, and is not designed to settle, disputes but to intercede when disputes are in process for the purpose of protecting the public purse. Whether it will have that effect fully will not be known until the Bill is in effect and has been tested. It is also a matter of controversy whether this was the right way to do this. My own feeling is that this Bill should really be called the George Slater legislation. I believe that it is because of the activities of Comrade Slater in the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia that we are faced with this proposition that will be binding on many public serv– ants who have not been associated with the activities that have led to the introduction of the legislation.
As a philosophy I would say that it has been brought about mainly by the unbridled use of the right to strike. I have belonged to a union for many years which always recognised that it did not have the powerful economic punch to win improvements in wages and conditions by the use of the strike weapon because the strikes would last for a period in that industry which inevitably would mean that die workers would be starved back to work. We were always warning those in the trade union movement, who were endeavouring to destroy the processes of conciliation and arbitration which the Labor movement had established in this country in the interests of the unions of that fact. They thought that in the economic circumstances cf today they were in a powerful position to use unbridled the right to strike to improve their own conditions regardless of others.
I think we have a classic example of this is what was referred to by none other than Senator Murphy during the adjournment debate only the other evening. He drew attention to the situation that existed in the transport industry as it related to Qantas Airways Ltd and Qantas pilots. I think we should examine that situation. I think we should also remember that the unbridled use of the right to strike can lead to a situation in which a strike may no longer be a strike but may be industrial blackmail. In the case of Qantas pilots, Senator Murphy was complaining that their current wages were perhaps excessive and that their claims were outrageous. He said that there should be more equality in that industry between the clerks and the others who are on a much lower pay range. How did this situation come about? It came about because the pilots are in a situation to use the right to strike to the extent that it becomes industrial blackmail. Why are they in that situation? It is because the equipment that they use and the planes that they fly cost such an enormous amount that immediately they are immobilised on the ground the profitability of the company is eaten into and disappears almost overnight.
If we believe in the unbridled use of the right to strike, the pilots have never had any responsibility or obligation to the clerks, the sweepers, the cleaners and others in the industry who work for Qantas, who could not ground the aircraft to gain the conditions they may have thought were their just right but who had to put up with a situation in which the great bulk of the profits of the industry and the establishment for which they work, went to the few who were in this powerful industrial position to use unbridled the right to strike to gain only their own ends. Senator Murphy complained about the pilots’ wages but gave no explanation of why they were in that situation, or analysed the philosophy that if one believes in the unbridled right to strike there is nothing wrong with what the pilots are receiving today or what they may be able to squeeze out of the industry in the future.
How do we relate this to the situation in in the Public Service? I suggest that in the Public Service the number of employees in particular establishments has now grown to such a tremendous extent because of the needs of this nation that the loss incurred by the department concerned, by the Government and by the taxpayers of this country who pay the salaries of those who are immobilised by a small section which uses the right to strike, that they have as powerful a weapon for industrial blackmail as have the pilots who are able to ground the enormously expensive equipment that is used in their industry. I think that any reasonable person would accept that argument because it is factual. How, then, are we in some way to bridle those who have begun to realise that they have this powerful weapon to use and who are prepared to use it irrespective of the loss to their fellow workers in associated or kindred industries, and who are prepared to use it irrespective of the loss of public moneys which are paid in tax mostly by the people who work in this country - they are the largest taxpayers because of their numbers - if we do not bring in some restraints when we see the irresponsible use of the strike weapon to protect the public purse.
It is on that point that there are divisions In the sentiments of many of us who happen to be unionists but who have also been elected by the people of this country to protect public moneys and the public purse. We have approached this legislation conscious of all our responsibilities. As I said at the outset, we feel that had it not been for the very irresponsible activities of Comrade Slater in the trade union movement, the Public Service would not be faced with this legislation at this moment. Indeed, this Bill should almost be called the Slater Bill.
– Does the honourable senator think he is doing justice by including everybody else?
– I am not suggesting that it is justice. I am suggesting that the responsibility to protect the public purse is ours. I said at the outset that I am not sure that this is the proper way, the right way or the only way to go about this. I will have more to say about that in a moment. But we must try something and the Government has produced legislation. I want to substantiate what I have said about why I believe this Bill is before the House. Let me draw attention to some of the information that I have relating to the strikes that have taken place in the postal industry in recent years. I want everybody to realise that in the Public Service in the past the good conditions that exist were laid down on the basis of a principle that strikes never occur in the Public Service. In the postal industry, this principle has been completely reversed. The record of the postal service unions over the past 10 years, in my view, is what has brought about the introduction of this piece of legislation. We all know and understand the enormous requirement today for a postal service in trade, commerce and defence and the need for that service to be efficiently and regularly run. The telephone service is important also so that the normal requirements of trade in all industries can be properly carried out. No government, whether it be the present Government or a government which may replace it, can afford to ignore those conditions. I predict now that, if a change of government occurred, whichever party replaced the present Government would find the necessity to use the powers of this legislation and similar legislation if the philosophy of the unbridled right to strike continued to be pursued in the manner in which it is being pursued today. Until those who are interested in labour, the Labor movement and the trade unions are prepared to recognise that an abuse of that philosophy must ultimately bring the repercussions that it is bringing now, not only the current Government but also whatever government replaces it will be forced, if it is the government elected by the people for the people, to resort to action to ensure that public moneys are not thrown away because people use what I describe as industrial blackmail.
The guerrilla-type operations in the postal service, with short interruptions by small numbers of people causing enormous losses to the taxpayer over the last 10 years, form a particular pattern. I wish to refer to some of them specifically. The unions involved mainly are the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and the Postal Telecommunications and Technicians Association. They cover a great number of persons engaged in the work force in this industry. Since 1969, stoppages within the Post Office have been as follows: In 1969, 10 stoppages occurred. In 1970 there were 63 stoppages. In 1971, 58 stoppages occurred. To 3rd February 1972, 10 stoppages occurred. This is a total of 141 stoppages in that period.
I know that it can be argued, perhaps with some truth, that the general industrial tenor of today has created some of those stoppages. But let us have a look at how those stoppages have worked out in their repercussions on the general community. In 1970, the number of man hours lost in the postal service as the result of strikes was 381,777.
– How many hours were lost through injury?
– That may be another issue. The loss of those hours may be, preventable or unpreventable. I am giving to the Senate a list of statistics. If the honourable senator has a list of statistics on the matter he has raised, I have no doubt that he will put it before the Senate. The wages lost by these men in 1970 - and they have every right to lose these wages if they want to- amounted to $528,027. In 1971, 146,954 man hours were lost and the loss of wages was $272,896. Up to 3rd February of this year, 29,228 man hours were lost, while $54,138 was lost in wages. The totals over that period were 557,959 man hours lost and $855,057 lost in wages. This is what strikes cost those workers who went on strike.
What has been the effect on associated people in the postal industry? I wish to quote some of the other aspects of disputes of this character. In September 1971, a dispute occurred at the Redfern Mail Exchange in Sydney. It commenced on 21st September. Four technicians refused, to switch on mail handling plant. All mail processing staff were left idle. Technical staff engaged on maintenance work also were unable to perform their duties. At. 4.30 p.m. that day, all work ground to a: halt. In the dispute, 2,250 man shifts werelost in the mail handling area and 500 man shifts were lost in the technical area. With respect to the 2,750 man shifts affected, 2,750 staff reported for duty but could not effectively perform their duties. Salaries totalling $50,000 were paid for these man shifts with no return in productive effort. This example illustrates the danger of such action. When the refusal of 4 people to carry out their duties creates a situation like this, I believe - and I suggest this to those interested in the trade union movement - that this is where industrial anarchy begins and where industrial blackmail can be so clearly illustrated. When a trade union official can create this sort of’ chaos by using only 4 men who are likely to lose wages, we must wonder how much of the public purse would have been plundered during the course of the stoppages that have, taken place already in the postal industry, when 557,959 man hours werelost and $855,057 in wages was lost by the’ participants in those strikes. If the same ratio as applied to the 4-man stoppage that I have used as an illustration had applied over the whole of industry - I know that it is an extreme case, but it could happen - how enormously the taxpayers would have1 been penalised because of what could have’ been a very small and petty dispute that occasioned 4 people to withhold their labour at a particular time.
– Does the1 honourable senator know why the 4 men went out on strike?
– I do not know. As far as the union is concerned, whether it is’ justifiable or not - and if it was justifiable’ for them to go out–
– Was it a matter of safety that was involved?
– I cannot answer the question. I do not propose to. If that were so, I think that it is unreasonable to suggest that a stoppage of work was actually necessary to attain the ends that were required and that it is completely beyond the pale to suggest that it was necessary to incur an enormous loss of public money in paying the rest of the employees who were doing nothing white those 4 technicians were on strike. On both sides-
– It may have saved lives.
– This may be purely a matter of opinion. I have not condemned the stoppage itself. What I am condemning is the fact that it was used and took place in the manner in which it did, so depriving the public of value for the expenditure of that enormous amount of wages because these people were idle. There will always be those who will take advantage of circumstances which permit such action. If honourable senators suggest otherwise, they do not face the realities of human nature. If there were not such people, airline pilots would not be receiving the wages that they are receiving and would not be making the extravagant demands that Senator Murphy described to us the other night. The philosophy is exactly the same. It is exactly the same use of the economic power that lies in the hands of a minority of people who can use it to pose the threat of loss to other people so as to obtain their specific demands or the particular objective that they want. I am opposed to it. I believe that the trade union movement, if it is sensible, will use the right to strike in a much more reasonable manner,. I think that it mostly has done so, under the national auspices of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. That body has never made a practice of racing to the strike weapon as the immediate and only solution to an argument about safety or anything else.
– In accordance with the resolution relating to the adjournment of the Senate this day I formally propose the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Having done so, I find myself in the position where I am required to speak to the motion. My attention has been directed by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to two corrections made by the Hansard staff to Senator Cant’s speech in the adjournment debate last night. The corrections are such as are normally made by the reporters in the preparation of their transcripts as it is one of their responsibilities to cor? rect obvious errors, but on this occasion the effect is unfortunate. Senator Cant, on page 1052, is reported as saying:
But on 4th March 1971 there was an amendment to the Prisons Act.
Part VIC of the Act is headed ‘Leave of Absence to Certain Prisoners’.
In each case Senator Cant used the. word regulations’, not ‘Prisons Act’ or ‘Act’, although he was quoting from the Prisons Act, and the reporter, having access to the material from which the honourable senator had quoted, made what he regarded as a responsible and reasonable correction. I make it clear that Senator Cant did not ask for the corrections to be made. However, I find that the distinction between Act’ and ‘regulations’ in this context is significant and I feel that I should direct the Principal Parliamentary Reporter to restore the spoken word - ‘regulations’ - in both places for publication in the weekly edition and bound volume of Hansard.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 April 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720413_senate_27_s51/>.