27th Parliament · 2nd Session
I iic PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2.55 p.m. and read prayers.
– Honourable senators, a paper has been circulated which deals with the problem of petitions, the first item of business that is to called on. 1 think it is proper that I read this matter to you. I am informed by the Clerk that 13 honourable senators, namely, Senators Bonner, Brown. Carrick, Greenwood, Lillico, James McClelland, Milliner, Murphy. Prowse, Townley, Turnbull, Webster and Wilkinson, have identically worded petitions to present in relation to the rate of Commonwealth pension; and 4 senators, namely. Senators McAuliffe, James McClelland, Murphy and Poyser, have identically worded petitions to present concerning the Postmaster-General’s Department. In addition. Senator Townley has a petition concerning Lake Pedder. The petitions conform with the Standing Orders.
I have a proposal to make which 1 think will facilitate the presentation of identically worded petitions. Rather than call senators in turn to repeat the same procedural forms, I suggest that I call only one senator for each identically worded group of petitions and that senator may make the usual motions for his petition to be received and read. Then, with the concurrence of the Senate, a record of the other identically worded petitions will be made in the Journals of the Senate and the terms of the petitions will be incorporated in Hansard. This proposal is now before honourable senators, and unless I receive any objection I propose to follow that procedure.
– May I suggest that the senator who presents the first petition should move that that petition and other similar petitions be received. In terms of the paper you have prepared, while they are recorded there is no suggestion of receiving other petitions.
– 1 will hear some argument on this.
– If I may endeavour to assist you, Mr President, there is obviously a problem arising with the proliferation of petitions. We do not want to do anything that would cause a diminution in the number of petitions. If citizens want to petition the Parliament they should be able to do so. The problem has been acute in the other House and I think steps have been taken there which perhaps would not commend themselves to honourable senators. We can deal with petitions in our own way. For my part I would concur in the proposals that have been made by you, Mr President. Senator Cavanagh has the slight objection that if a senator is asked to present a petition it is conceived to be his duty to present the petition. Perhaps it would be better if he were to do that - to present, in short terms, the similar petition. It might not meet the requirement of the case for one senator to assume to perform the duty which has been cast on the others. Having a petition presented is a very old right of a citizen. It has been regarded as a duty, with a very long tradition behind it, for any member of Parliament who is in possession of a petition to present it to the Parliament. I think it would be better if the person who has received the petition actually were to present it, even though a lot of the verbiage of the procedures associted with it were cut out. For my part, I would prefer to accept the suggestion which has been put forward rather than that one honourable senator should take upon himself the duty which has been cast upon others to carry out the request which has been made.
– But all petitions should be received.
– I concur completely with the generality of what you have suggested, Mr President. I think we all recognise that what you have proposed is in the interests of the management of the Senate. I also think that Senator Cavanagh has a point. lt may well be that, when the very first petition of a particular nature is presented and read, any other honourable senator who has an identical petition should stand up and say: ‘Mr President, I have an identical petition which I ask to be dealt with in the same way’. An honourable senator could say that in a minimum of words. It should not be necessary for an honourable senator to go through the procedure of saying that a petition is properly worded, that is has the Clerk’s certificate and that it ends with a prayer. He should be able to stand in his place and simply say: ‘Mr President, 1 have an identical petition’, and it should be dealt wilh in the same way. At the end of the presentation of petitions a motion could be moved that those petitions be received. I think the point that is being made is that the honourable senator who receives a petition from a certain number of people has to be seen to be in his own right presenting that petition. I think that that is the point which is being made. Your suggestion. Mr President, would reduce the verbiage involved in the presentation of a petition. We should be able to do something along those lines.
– I think that the point which has been made by Senator Cavanagh has tremendous validity. After all, this is not a matter to be lightly dismissed. The right of a citizen to petition the Parliament is a very precious right and it is a right which must not be eroded. The only channel from the ordinary elector direct to the Parliament is by way of a petition through his parliamentary representative. He may wish his petition to be brought to the attention of the Parliament in a particular way, through a particular member and at a particular time, insofar as those things are practicable. Therefore, I think that a member of Parliament should be identified with the petition and the petition should be particularly and specially identifiable with the ordinary functioning of the Parliament. I know that reconciliation must be found between the preservation of the electors’ rights and the smooth, efficient and effective functioning of this chamber. I think that that reconciliation might well be found in the formula which has just been suggested. The one proposed by Senator Cavanagh has, I feel, a lot to commend it. With due respect to your report and suggestion. Mr President, I think that after further consideration you may well see the merit of Senator Cavanagh’s proposal which I personally would bc prepared to support.
– I would like to add a few words to the discussion, Mr President. I support your remarks, even though they will kill the presentation by me of my maiden petition. I have just received my first petition in 10 years. Nevertheless one must ask in all seriousness what is the purpose of the presentation of petitions. The one I have to present to tha Senate was left in my room without any covering note - it was just left there. I gave it to the Clerk and he. certified it. Not one of the petitioners comes from Tasmania. Apparently people go round with these petitions and distribute them to various honourable senators.
– The honourable senator does nol have to present it.
– I know that. I am trying to point out that problems are involved in the presentation of petitions. No address is given for at least 5 of the petitioners who have signed my petition and another 6 just say Caulfield or Frankston. So they would not be easy to trace. The whole purpose of the presentation of petitions appears to me to -be completely futile unless they are referred for investigation to, say, the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare if they involve social service matters or to another standing committee if they involve other matters. I was proposing to seek to have my petition referred to a standing committee. Mr President, would it not be better if the. Standing Orders Committee were to investigate this matter and report back to the Senate with a suggestion which is suitable to all honourable senators, including the Independent senators? I think it would.
– I. am inclined to agree with Senator Turnbull about referring this matter to the Standing Orders Committee. One problem that comes into my mind is that if, when we present a petition, we say only that we have received a petition in identical terms to one already presented, it could be a petition from a very large number of people and could be ignored. I remember some 18 months ago presenting a petition in this place from about 15,000 signatories. Because my name begins with the letter
W, I would be one of the last senators to present my petition - that would happen in this case - because a senator whose name begins with the letter ‘B’ would be called upon first to present his petition. That petition could have only 10 signatories, and 1 would simply say: ‘J, have an identical petition to present’ even though it could have 15,000 signatures on it. That fact would not be made evident to either the Senate or to the people of Australia. If we are to adopt that suggested procedure, I think I should be allowed to say that I had an identical petition to present signed by 15, 18 or 1,000 persons whatever the number might be. Possibly all of these points now being raised and very properly brought forward by you, Mr President, should be refered to the Standing Orders Committee for consideration.
– I think ultimately the matter will have to be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. That is undeniable. I am just trying to facilitate the procedure at this juncture.
-! will be brief. I understand that a number of the petitions received by honourable senators today - I have received one myself - are addressed to the Honourable the Speaker of the House of Representatives. I returned the one that I received to the top name and address on the list of signatories saying that 1 am not a member of the House of Representatives and 1 cannot present the petition to the Speaker. I understand and believe that on most of the petitions being presented today someone has crossed out the words ‘House of Representatives’ and put in the word ‘Senate’. No honourable senator or person has the right to alter the name of the House to which the petition is to be presented without the permission of the signatories to it. Therefore, I believe that half of the petitions awaiting presentation are not legally valid to be presented to you today, Mr President.
Senator PROWSE (Western Australia)Mr President, you will recall that I discussed with you the possibility of asking you a question along the lines of the concern indicated by Senator Turnbull. The honourable senator and 1 have something in common at last, namely, our reaction to what has happened. We have both received a maiden petition. I have never received a petition from a maiden. In this case it was with somewhat mixed feelings that 1 found that 1 shared the maiden petition with a great number of other honourable senators. I, like Senator Turnbull, was concerned at the manner in which the petition came to me. It was amongst a lot of other material on my desk. It had no covering letter and no request to present it. There was only the petition enclosed in an envelope. I assumed that the signatures printed on the document were authentic. Accordingly I handed the petition to the Clerk who proceeded to certify it in the usual way. I think that honourable senators have some obligation to verify the genuineness of a document that they present to this place.
– Senator Rae checks them.
– Exactly. This is quite a serious matter. If petitions are to be treated seriously they should be presented in a proper form. I support Senator Turnbull’s suggestion that the whole matter of the presentation of petitions and the way in which they should be received should be examined by the Standing Orders Committee.
- Mr President, I support in principle the proposal outlined in your document, subject to the qualification suggested by Senator Cavanagh that each petition should be presented, in some brief form, by the honourable senator concerned. I think this is important. If we are going to continue to attach any importance to petitions we cannot take up 45 minutes of the time of the Senate, or 30 minutes, as we may well do, in the presentation of identical petitions. The right of persons to give petitions to members of Parliament and to have them presented must be preserved.
The suggestion made by Senator Prowse that honourable senators must go through the process of authenticating the signatures on the petitions is ridiculous and should not be considered. I have a petition to present today. I looked briefly through it and found that most of the signatories are people from the city of Geelong in which I live. I accept its authenticity without question. People will not go to the trouble of preparing petitions on important matters and then forge signatures to those documents. Even if one or two people do forge signatures the petition is important in the minds of the majority of people who sign it and wish to have it presented.
I do not adopt the pedantic approach of Senator Marriott in relation to this matter. The mere fact that people have signed a document addressed to Mr Speaker in another place rather than to the President does not deny me the right of presenting that petition in a slightly amended form. I think this practice has been accepted for a long period in this chamber and i, hope it continues to be accepted. In some cases people go to tremendous expense in having petition forms prepared by a printer and the cost would be increased if 2 different forms had to be printed.
Mr President, I support in principle what you are endeavouring to do. 1 think an answer can be found by the Standing Orders Committee before the end of this session. I think that your suggestion, with Senator Cavanagh’s qualification, should be supplemented.
– .My understanding is that 2 qualifications are involved. Senator Poyser suggested that the procedure I outlined should be followed but only for the balance of the session and in the meantime the Standing Orders Committee can be given an opportunity of further considering the matters that have been raised by honourable senators. Senator Cavanagh’s suggestion, as I understand it, is that each honourable senator should be called in turn to move a simple motion that he be given leave to present a petition. Does the Senate agree with my understanding?
– My understanding is that Senator Cavanagh suggested that the person presenting the petition would then move that it and all similar petitions be received. I think the other suggestion came later on in the debate.
– -If, for example. I called Senator Carrick, or Senator Brown, he would have to have a list of all the petitions.
Senator CAVANAGH (South Australia) - 1 think that one of the petitions should be presented and the names of other honourable senators presenting similar petitions should be identified with it.
The only thing about which I am concerned is that there should be a resolution of the Senate to receive the petitions. To my mind this gives satisfaction to the petitioner. It is not just simply a matter of reading the petitions; I think there should be a resolution of the Senate that we receive the petitions presented by petitioners.
– Order! In order to have this question posed properly, I will ask the Clerk to write it down. In the meantime, 1 call Senator Townley, who I understand has a petition to present on another matter altogether.
– 1 present the following petition from 91 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the Commonwealth Government has, over the last half century, supported the industrialisation of Tasmania to the extent of allowing Tasmania, for many years, to borrow from the Loan Council twice the annual State entitlement to invest in hydro-electric schemes to the extent that the net loan debt as at 30th June 1969 was $336m.
That the net result of this policy has been the attraction to Tasmania of industries producing zinc, aluminium, newsprint, calcium carbide, ferro-manganese, tin, pelletised iron ore, cement, and titanium oxide; all of which use large amounts of electricity such that Tasmania, with 3 per cent of the Australian population, uses IS per cent of Australia’s electricity and the State’s consumption, averaging 1 1,000 units per head, is second only to Norway’s.
That, despite this industrialisation, Tasmania’s share of the Australian population has actually declined and the Tasmanian share of the Australian work force has not increased.
That, in 1971, the University of Tasmania conducted an economic research investigation into the value to Tasmania of its large industrial enterprises showing that, of the 4 major manufacturing classes in Tasmania (Metals etc.. Food and Drink, Sawmills etc.. Paper and Stationery) which together account for 79 per cent of the value of production, Food and Drink had the greatest overall impact on output and employment in the State, and the conclusion reached was that, for further economic growth in the State, expansion in industries in the Food and .Drink sector should be encouraged.
That the non-ferrous metal smelting sector of the metal industries, which uses some 16 per cent of the total electricity output, has the smallest effect on employment in Tasmania, employing only 2.S per cent directly and 3 per cent indirectly of the Tasmanian workforce.
That the Annual Report of the Hydro-Electric Commission for 1970-71 pointed to the decline in industrialisation in Tasmania and suggested that future sales of electricity to new large users of industrial power were not presently forthcoming; that, during the term of office of the recent Liberal Government in Tasmania, no new industries which use large quantities ot electricity were established despite frequent announcements in local newspapers that new industries were negotiating to establish in Tasmania, while Comalco, late in 1971, announced a reduction in aluminium output of some 7 per cent; that Mr Reece, at the conclusion of the poll which returned Labor to the Government benches with a 21-14 majority, announced thai Tasmania had a surplus of power which it was the job of the new Government to try to sell.
Thai despite this failure of long-established policies of hydro-industrialisation to increase population, increase employment or even to continue to attract industry to Tasmania, there is no slackening of State investment in hydro-electric schemes and no questioning by the Commonwealth of the wisdom of continuing to meet Tasmanian demands for loan funds for this purpose.
That this problem is compounded when an assessment is made of the price paid by the Tasmanian people for continuing to pursue such policies in terms of the destruction of environment, pollution of waters, and elimination of beauty in this uniquely beautiful island State.
That, at this moment, the destruction ot Lake Pedder, Australia’s most beautiful lake, is being hastened with unseemly and unwarranted dispatch for the purposes of completing a further hydro-electric scheme which will generate huge quantities of power for unknown and unimagined users at a time when the premier-elect has publicly announced an existing surplus of power in the State.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will:
As soon as is practicable establish a Select Committee for the purposes hereinafter mentioned.
Immediately call upon the Hydro-Electric Commission of Tasmania or use whatever powers are available, to halt the flooding of Lake Pedder until at least a decision is made whether or not to appoint a Select Committee.
And your petitioners pray that the said Select Committee should enquire into Commonwealth expenditure on hydro-electric development in Tasmania with particular reference to the Lake Pedder Serpentine Valley area and the economic, industrial and ecological implications of continued hydro-electric development.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will eve pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 15 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President, and Senators in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth:
That on December 10, 1948, Australia signed the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, Article 25 reads: “Everyone has the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age and other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.’’
Yet, 23 years later, in our country of great national wealth and abundance it is to the nation’s shame that many thousands of our people live in a slate of being inconsistent with the dignity and worth of the human person - languishing in poverty and want, neglect and the lack of proper care necessary for their health and well-being.
We, the undersigned, respectfully draw to your attention that the conscience of the nation is not at ease while the records of our country show that social services are not comparable with that of other advanced countries administering such services, therefore, we call upon the Parliament to immediately legislate for:
Base pension rate - 30 per cent of t. average weekly male earnings, all states, plus supplementary assistance and allowances based on a percentage of such earnings. Unemployed benefits equal to the foregoing.
Completely free health services to cover all needs of social service pensioners - hospitalisation, chronic and long-term illness, fractures, anaesthetics, specialist, pharmaceutical, hearing aids, dental, optical, physiotherapy, chiropody surgical aids and any other appliances.
Commonwealth Government to promote a comprehensive national scheme in cooperation with the States and make finance available to provide for the building of public hospitals, nursing and hostel-type homes necessary to effectively meet the special requirements of aged people, in conjunction with a comprehensive domiciliary care program to enable aged people to stay in their homes.
Mental illness placed in the same position as physical illness.
Substantial Commonwealth increase in the $5 subsidy a day per public bed pensioner patient in general hospitals. 10% of Commonwealth revenue to local government for general activities which now include social welfare, health, conservation and other community needs. Commonwealth subsidy for the waiving of rates for pensioners.
Commonwealth Government to increase the non-repayable grant to the States for low rental home units for pensioner*.
Hoya) Commission or other form of public enquiry into Australia’s social welfare structure that Australia may be brought into line with accepted world standards of the most advanced countries
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Senators Brown, Carrick, Lillico, James McClelland, Milliner, Murphy, Prowse, Townley, Turnbull, Webster and Bonner.
Postmaster-General’s Depart ment
– 1 present the following petition:
The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Thai the Postmaster-General’s Department, Central Administration Board’s, policy of re-centralising and concentrating certain staffs, under what is termed the Area Management Project, to the great detriment of most of the staffs affected and to :he detriment of the economies of the towns and related rural areas, and to the detriment of the overall morale, efficiency and independence of the Australian Post Office, is against the public interest and should be made the subject of special investigation b> the Senate’s Social Environment Committee and by the Senate’s Finance and Government Operations Standing Committee.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate steps to refer the above matters to the two committees of the Senate referred to, and in the meantime will order that:
There will be no transfers of persons, areas of authority or operations under the Area Management Project; and
No further appointments to positions under Area Managers or above them in the State Administrations or Central Administration of the Australian Post Office until the two committees of the Senate have investigated the matters and reported to the Senate and the Government.
And yow petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– In the discussion that took place prior to the presentation of petitions by Senator Wilkinson and Senator Poyser the Senate made it clear to me that it wished 2 caveats to be entered, the first by Senator Poyser that the procedure which was being proposed would not extend beyond the end of this session until the Standing Orders Committee had had a look at it, and the second by Senator
Cavanagh who asked that it be made perfectly clear that other similar petitions had actually been received. That being the case, 1 repeat that petitions identical to that presented by Senator Wilkinson have been received from Senators Bonner, Brown, Carrick, Greenwood, Lillico, lames McClelland, Milliner, Murphy, Prowse, Townley, Turnbull and Webster, and that petitions identical to that presented by Senator Poyser have been received from Senators McAuliffe, James McClelland and Murphy. Is it the wish of the Senate that the petitions identical to those presented by Senator Wilkinson and Senator Poyser be received and incorporated in the Journals of the Senate and in Hansard?
– I do not object to the general proposition, but I have a specific objection to make, lt can be shortly stated. I have not presented a petition, Mr President, although my name is on the list which you have read as a person who was to present a petition. I have seen the petition as it is on my table to be presented. I am conscious of what the Standing Orders provide. I do not believe that it is proper to present a petition contrary to the Standing Orders. I ask that my name be removed from your list.
– I will remove your name. That does not require the consent of the Senate.
– I move:
That the remainder of the petitions be received.
I appreciate that Senator Greenwood is not presenting a petition.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask for leave to move a motion in respect of the petition presented by Senator Poyser and the petitions identical to that.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– In view of the fact that 6 identical petitions were referred to the Standing Committee on Social Environment on 22nd March 1972, I, as a matter of consistency, move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Social Environment the 4 petitions received by the Senate this day relating to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
(3.28) - I should like the debate on the motion to be adjourned because I do not know, in an ad hoc situation, where the motion will take us. I would agree to its being brought on again, perhaps tomorrow. I certainly would need time to reflect upon it because, I think all would agree, it opens a wide spectrum of possibilities in relation to all petitions. I think all honourable senators would want to look at the position to see where the implications of such a proposal would lake us.
– In view of the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, perhaps Senator Murphy will not press his proposal.
– If the course suggested by the Leader of the Government in the Senate is the best course to follow to enable us to consider the matter further, 1 will withdraw my motion.
Motion - by leave - withdrawn.
– I give notice that at the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the petition relating to social services presented to the Senate by Senator Turnbull this day be referred to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware of the assertions by one, William McDonald - said to be an influential member of the Victorian Liberal Party - that he has proof that his telephone has been tapped or eavesdropped upon by the Postmaster-General’s Department and that this tapping follows his allegations of widespread inefficiencies in the Post Office? Did the Attorney-General authorise any interception or eavesdropping as alleged? Can he tell us whether he has directed that an investigation be made and, if so, what was the result in general terms; I do not ask for details?
– I have noticed in one of the weekend newspapers references to allegations made by a Mr McDonald. He has not approached me. I am not aware whether or not the allegations attributed to him are correct. It is a fact that legislation exists under which for certain purposes interception of telephone communications is permitted by warrant of the Attorney-General. It is the practice, having regard to the security interests which are involved, that the AttorneyGeneral does not answer questions with regard to those interceptions. However - and this is not to be regarded as any departure from that practice - in this case no such interception has been authorised.
I should say that people often have an impression that telephones are being tapped. These impressions, on investigation by technicians of the Postmaster-General’s Department, are found to be completely without foundation. There is within the whole scope of the Postmaster-General’s Department the necessity for testing and checking of telephones from time to lime. This work must be carried out in accordance with the regulations of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I think it proper that I should state that fact because it is not telephone tapping in the sense in which Senator Murphy used the term but is ordinary checking of telephones. However, if I have put before nic by Mr McDonald, or anyone else who wants to take up the matter on his behalf, a basis which would warrant investigation I certainly shall have investigations made.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation: Has the Department of Civil Aviation made a request to the Australian Broadcasting Commission that programmes concerning the Concorde aircraft be submitted to the Department before being broadcast by the ABC? Has an instruction now been given to the current affairs staff of the ABC that programmes on the Concorde should be submitted to DCA before broadcast?
– Not to my knowledge or under my instructions. 1 know nothing of it. I shall have inquiries made.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry recall that on 11th April I asked him a question seeking clarification of a statement by the Federal member for
Angas, Mr Giles, appearing in the Adelaide ‘Advertiser’ of 8th April, in which he staled in part that the report of the inquiry conducted by Professor Grant into all aspects of the wine industry had been received by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, the previous day? Yesterday, in furnishing me with a part reply to my question of 11th April, the Minister advised me that he did not receive Professor Grant’s report until later that day. I now ask the Minister: What action does he intend to take to prevent any further misleading statements being made to wine grape growers in South Australia by the Federal member for Angas, Mr Giles? Why is it that after a full month’s study of Professor Grant’s report on the wine industry that report cannot now be made available to the Parliament?
– 1 recall the points as put forward by the honourable senator. I will not answer the part of his question relating to the honourable member in the other place. I will approach the Minister for Primary Industry and ask whether the report can be made available to the Parliament.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware that certain groups of people in Tasmania have expressed concern regarding the suggested establishment of an Omega navigational station in Tasmania? Will the Minister endeavour to have a statement made to the Senate giving any information of a factual nature that is available to the Government in relation to this project?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI am not briefed on this matter. I shall certainly refer the question to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I shall spell out the honourable senator’s request that consideration be given to making an official statement on the issues concerned. I shall certainly do that in good faith.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, is Qantas Airways Limited to close its cadet pilot training centre and in future recruit only pilots who have qualified elsewhere? If so, how many Qantas staff will be retrenched as a result of the closure? Further, what is to be the fate of those aircraft which Qantas used for training purposes?
– It is correct that Qantas Airways Limited is going to close down its cadet pilot training centre. I am told that about 10 people are likely to be affected in the centre and that those 10 people will be absorbed in the general operating scene of Qantas. I imagine that the aircraft which are being used will be used in normal operating services. The simulators would still be used. Beyond that, I cannot help the honourable senator at the moment. I shall, as I always do if I find it necessary, obtain more information for the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware of growing dissatisfaction in Western Australia with the administration of the rural reconstruction scheme? Will the Minister consult with his colleague the Minister for Primary Industry to ensure that the scheme is being administered in accordance with the intention of the Commonwealth Government and, also, is being efficiently administered? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that the rural reconstruction board maintains close liaison with the Development Bank of Australia and the marginal dairy farm reconstruction scheme in Western Australia?
– 1 am aware that there is some dissatisfaction with the rural reconstruction scheme. But I point out to the honourable senator that when the Minister for Primary Industry announced the introduction of this scheme I do not think he envisaged that he would not be without problems. At that time, only one State had an authority such as this set up within its borders. This meant that most States had to introduce legislation to set up an authority. There has been considerable delay in setting up the authority and making the money available. 1 instance that until recently total assistance approved by the States was in the vicinity of $59m but that only $25m has been made available to the applicants. I shall bring to the attention of the Minister the points raised by the honourable senator and obtain whatever information I can.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that there is great concern and alarm among physical education experts because surveys show that Australian school children are the unfittest in the world and that they are becoming less fit each year? Will the Minister tell the Senate why the report and findings of the survey into the fitness of Australian secondary school students conducted by Dr A. W. Willee of the University of Melbourne on behalf of the Government were not presented to the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness during 1970 as promised in the national fitness annual report of that year? I also ask the Minister: Will the report and findings of the survey be presented to the Council in August as stated by the Minister in March, despite claims that Dr Willee is still disagreeing with the Council on what should be published and is upset because he has been asked to change the survey’s emphasis?
I am aware of recent newspaper reports which have outlined various physical educationalists’ views on the supposed unfitness of Australian youth. However I have not seen any report to support these views. Nor have the physical education experts named the specific surveys to which they refer. The findings in relation to the second matter, that is the survey directed by Dr Willee on behalf of the Commonwealth Council for National Fitness were, in fact, presented to that Council in July 1971. This was ;he earliest possible time that this could be done because one State did not complete its testing programme until SeptemberOctober 1970. Insofar as my previous statement about the anticipated date of presentation is concerned - I think I mentioned August in the previous answer - I am still reasonably confident that the report will be presented then.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Has the
Minister heard statements that a new international airport is to be established near Murray Bridge in South Australia? Can the Minister say whether these statements are correct, and if so, when the airport is likely to be established?
– I have not heard the statements but I can tell the honourable senator that they are not correct.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether a recent requirement has been introduced in Great Britain that bottles of tablets prescribed by medical practitioners must bear labels stating their contents. Will the Minister consider a similar labelling policy for tablets prescribed in Australia?
I can say to the honourable senator that this and other similar matters are currently under examination in my Department. All these matters are considered as they arise. There is no special privilege for anyone in the community in problems such as this. When a country or countries adopt certain procedures in these matters, the question whether they should be applied in our country must very properly be examined in the light of experience in the other places. I shall have the honourable senator’s particular question examined and give a reply in due course in the Senate.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. My question refers to what appears to be a claim in the other place by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, that confidential advice on foreign policy tendered to the Minister by officers of his Department had been made available by persons in the Department to members of the Opposition and also to representatives of the media. Will the Minister inquire into this most serious allegation and report to Parliament?
– I saw some reference to this in the debates yesterday. I will adopt the honourable senator’s suggestion and ask my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, to give his question immediate consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and it relates to research into mercury content in fungicides. Has the Minister’s Department received any reports on a statement issued by a member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly yesterday that South Australians were ‘being forced to eat potatoes containing traces of mercury’? ls it a fact that the South Australian Government has refused a request to lift a regulation which requires Victorian seed potatoes exported to South Australia to be treated by a fungicide containing mercury? Can the Minister say whether the CSIRO knows whether or not it is true that there is a carry-over of mercury from seed potatoes thus treated to the potatoes for human consumption? Are any research results available that give information on a matter of this kind, and if so, can they be forwarded to the parties concerned?
– Senator Wright, you have a vast general knowledge. I shall be interested to hear your answer.
– Listening to the laughter of honourable senators I am exhilarated to find that, after the long time we have taken over petitions this afternoon, the subject of fungicides and their relation to interstate diseases can stimulate our humour. We have not received any such reports as those to which my honourable colleague has referred, but the registrar of the relevant department in Adelaide has confirmed that the regulation requiring potatoes to be treated in the way Senator Davidson has suggested remains in force. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has advised that these fungicides leave no residue that is in any way deleterious if the operation is carried out as directed. In reply to the fourth part of Senator Davidson’s question, I can tell him that research studies are available for those who wish to have them.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I ask: Is it a fact that he has acted to frustrate pay claims by Public Service unions representing 83,000 Commonwealth public servants in applications before the Public Service Arbitrator, Mr Chambers, which seek for Commonwealth public servants pay rates similar to those that have been awarded to Victorian public servants? Has the Attorney-General acted in this matter only as the Minister directly affected? If so, who authorised similar objections to the Public Service Arbitrator by 6 other Commonwealth departments? How does the Attorney-General justify this action whilst legislating to increase retrospectively the salaries of Conciliation Commissioners by over 30 per cent?
– I am aware that there have been some Press reports of the action taken yesterday by my representatives before the Public Service Arbitrator. The purpose of that action was to refer to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the pay claims of certain sections of the Public Service. The Government has made its policy clear in this genera] area over many months. That policy has been that there should be moderation with respect to wage claims and that the particular claims which were granted to the Public Service in Victoria at the beginning of this year should not be regarded as the start of a new round in which everyone is expected to get a wage increase. The fact is that the persons who were before the Arbitrator yesterday did receive an award and the action which has now been taken by my representative because I am a Minister concerned, just as the other Ministers who were represented are Ministers concerned, is to ensure that this matter is considered by the Arbitration Commission. It is a part of the conciliation and arbitration machinery in this country. I think it is appropriate that those who have responsibilities in this area should submit to the arbitral process, and to the supreme commission in the arbitral process, the decisions which have to be made. That is a short explanation of the matter. I think that it is perfectly fair for the Ministers affected to have the matter referred to the Commission for its consideration.
– I direct a question 10 the Minister representing the Treasurer. F refer to the Ministerial statement made yesterday by the Minister assisting the Treasurer with regard to the Income Tax Assessment Act. That statement related to deductions for capital expenditure on facilities for the transport of minerals under division 10AAA. I ask the Minister whether there will be an option as to the commencement date on which the deductions may be claimed or whether the option which was mentioned will relate merely to the number of years during which the deductions may be claimed.
– I will have to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer because it deals with a matter on which I would need to have a complete brief from the Department of the Treasury before I could respond to it. I am not suggesting that the honourable senator should put the question on notice. I will obtain an answer for her reasonably quickly.
– My question which is directed to the Attorney-General may bear on a question asked by Senator Turnbull. What stage has been reached by the Bland Committee in its examination of those numerous discretions which are available to Commonwealth departments through the various statutes and regulations and which, if exercised arbitrarily, can and do affect the rights of the citizens?
– I am unable to say what stage the Committee has reached in its deliberations, and I imagine that I will be unable to say anything about the Committee’s work until it has reported. I would have thought that it would be a strange type of independent inquiry if the Minister was being told constantly what was happening in the course of the Committee’s work. All I can say is that the Committee started its work last December. Reports which have come to me indicate that the members of the Committee are assiduously pursuing their activities. It ought to be appreciated that they have a wide range of departments and statutes which they must investigate. It is part of a continuing work which flows from the Kerr Committee report of last year. It is an earnest of the Government’s concern to ensure that any action which is taken in the area of reviewing administrative discretions is based on the fullest information available.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, although it may have to be referred also to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. Did one David Lassock, in accordance with an order under the National Service Act, present himself on 8th May at the Pirie Street, Adelaide, recruiting centre for medical examination as to fitness to serve? Was he refused examination because his body had peace slogans painted on it in psychedelic paint? Was a further appointment for a medical examination made? Why cannot a medical examination for fitness to serve be made on a body covered with peace slogans painted in psychedelic paint? Is the reason a lack of knowledge of how far the paint or the ideology in the slogans penetrates the individual? As the individual has complied with an order to attend for medical examination, can he be prosecuted under the Act? Is he in breach of the Act if he fails to comply with any subsequent order to attend, having complied with the Act in relation to the first order? If the body of a person is covered with peace slogans painted in psychedelic paint when he attends for any subsequent medical examination, would such an examination be impossible? Would the individual be held in breach of the Act for failing to present himself for medical examination?
– The question will be given examination, particularly psychological examination.
– If the Minister for Civil Aviation is irrevocably committed to the Concorde aircraft making an inaugural flight to Australia, does he feel that evidence on the environmental effects of this aircraft could be forthcoming from a meeting of the First Sonic Boom Committee now in progress in Montreal? Would that cause him to impose a veto on the project?
– Starting from the bottom and working up, no it would not, because we would have observers at the meeting from the Department of Civil Aviation and we would have done a great amount of work in that regard. I refer again to the question of sonic boom and to the information given to the Senate that in 1970 some 26,000 sonic flights took place in the United States. No evidence was available that any harm had resulted therefrom.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether it is customary for some Commonwealth policemen to involve themselves in party political matters when making an arrest? Is he aware, that one such Commonwealth policeman, when arresting Mr Regan in his bed at 8.30 a.m. on 2nd May 1972, is alleged to have accused Mr Regan of being a nigger-lover and a supporter of aliens - obviously referring to the fact that Mr Matteson, who escaped from custody at the University of Sydney, is an American citizen - and to have said that if his crowd got into power the yellow bastards from the north would take over Australia? As I am sure that the Attorney-General would disagree with such sentiments, will he dissociate the Government from such racist views and ensure that all officers under his control are instructed not to intrude their personal views in actions involving the arrest of any citizen?
– I do not know the facts concerning what was said at the particular time when this man was arrested. I am sure the honourable senator who asked the question would not expect me to be aware of them. Therefore the question asked, Mr President, has merely been a vehicle by which certain denigration of the Commonwealth Police Force can be continued. I have the administrative and political responsibility for the actions of the Commonwealth police. I must say that they do their job to the best of their ability in circumstances in which they are not given support by members of this Parliament sitting on the Opposition benches who ought to be prepared to give them their support. The members of the Commonwealth Police Force are working people, on whose behalf, generally speak ing, the Opposition in the past has made loud protestations. I think it is well known that on the occasion on which Mr Regan was arrested he was violent and the police arrested him only with the greatest of difficulty. Mr Regan is facing 2 charges in respect of his conduct at that time. In those circumstances, for Senator Gietzelt to-
– I rise to a point of order. It is not proper to permit anyone, whether by question or answer or in debate, to prejudice a person who is to be tried on a charge. The Attorney-General has informed the Senate that a certain person is to face charges in respect of his conduct at the time of his arrest. To express the view that he was violent on that occasion is prejudicial to the. rights of that person. I ask you, Mr President, to direct the Attorney-General to make no remark which will prejudice the trial of a person who is facing charges under the law.
– I have’ been conscious of the fact that honourable senators have been getting a little beyond the rules laid down by the Standing Orders in respect of asking questions. In reality I should have ruled Senator Gietzelt’s question out of order because he asked for an expression of opinion, a statement of Government policy and a legal opinion. 1 call Senator Devitt.
– Mr President, I had not finished answering the question. I think I can finish it very quickly.
– Very well.
– .Whatever I have said about the matter raised by Senator Gietzelt, it does concern him and I will have some investigations made. In the circumstances in which this arrest occurred, maybe things were said in stress, as they often are. However, I am not conceding for one moment that what is alleged is true. I will have, an investigation made of the matter.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Was he recently at a gathering at which a number of persons representing themselves to be draft dodgers or defaulters under the National Service Act offered their names and addresses to him to enable him to ensure enforcement of the law? Did the Minister accept the offer of those persons and take down some details in writing and then decline to proceed? Does he propose to take any further action arising out of this incident? If so, what? Finally, what is his explanation of this quite extraordinary situation?
– I presume that the meeting to which the honourable senator refers was a meeting I addressed at the Australian National University last Wednesday night. In the course of that meeting a number of persons stood up and challenged me to arrest them. Of course, that was a fantastic proposition because they were not guilty of any offence; nor was there in existence any warrant which would have entitled anybody to arrest them. I was given a list of the names of 13 people, with no addresses. This was made known to the Press. I have checked out the position with regard to these persons. Far from all of them being persons in respect of whom no action has been or is being taken, the contrary is the case. Apparently, the names of 2 persons were added to the 13 names the following day by the newspaper. Of those 15 persons named, 5 apparently have not registered but are in the course of prosecution or investigation for failure to register; one had registered, had received deferments on his own application and has since failed to attend for medical examination; one was due to attend court last Friday, but he failed to attend court and a warrant has been issued for his arrest; 4 have in fact been prosecuted and fined for failure to register and are in various stages of either complying or not complying with notices to attend for medical examination; 2 are not known to have committed an offence because there is no record of their names or of any birth registration in their names; and 2 are not yet under any liability to register because they are not yet aged 19 years. I do not know what offence it is alleged they have committed.
- Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, do you wish to make any alteration to the arrangements agreed upon yesterday for the sittings of the Senate?
(4.1) - A motion was carried yesterday to the effect that Estimates Committees would meet at 4 o’clock today. But, in view of the fact that a rather longer delay than expected took place in dealing with petitions, I would be perfectly happy to amend that resolution. I move:
That the suspension of the sitting to enable Estimates committees to meet be postponed until 4.15 p.m.
– I think we can get through by 4.15 p.m. the way questions are going. I have the names of other honourable senators who are trying to attract my attention. I will now put the motion moved by the Leader of the Government.
– May I suggest an amendment to make the time 4.30 instead of 4.15, because others have a different view. I think we can deal with the matter without a division. I move:
Leave out ‘4.15’, insert ‘4.30’.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Health) (4.3) - There has to be management in this place. I suggest with great respect that we cannot have 60 managers in the Senate. A motion was carried that the sitting be suspended at 4 o’clock. In accordance with the spirit of tolerance, I am suggesting that question time extend for another quarter of an hour. In the circumstances, I think that is as far as I can go.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the Parliament why librium capsules which are prescribed for many age pensioners have been taken off the free medicine list? Is he aware that a small bottle of these capsules costs in excess of $6 and therefore is not within the reach of a person on a pensioner’s income? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of restoring librium capsules to the free medicine list as soon as possible?
I will ascertain from my Department whether librium capsules were on the free medicine list, whether they were referred to the special committee that is appointed to examine such drugs, and ail the associated facts. I feel sure that I will be in a position to respond tomorrow to the honourable senator’s question.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Supply: What is the current situation regarding the Australian designed Project N aircraft? Have the evaluation and feasibility studies of this aircraft been completed? If so, what is the intention of the Government regarding the placing of orders for the purchase of this excellent Australian designed aircraft for defence and other purposes?
– I understand that the matter is still being discussed by representatives of the Services and the Department of Supply.
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Did the Minister for Primary Industry make a statement on 4th May that, following an amendment to the United States meat inspection regulations, a serious situation capable of affecting Australia’s meat export trade has developed, and that the elimination of tuberculosis from all properties in Australia is likely to be very costly indeed? What is the value to Australia of the American meat market? How serious is the situation so far as Australia’s exports are concerned? How much money is likely to be involved in any compensation scheme to be financed by the Commonwealth? I understand that such a scheme is being considered.
Minister for Primary Industry did make a statement on this matter and if the honourable senator desires he can have a copy of it after question time. As to compensation, the Commonwealth is still seeking the advice of the States, so that no final figure is available at present. As to the quantity of meat to be sold in the United States this year and the proportion of the total quota likely to be affected, I cannot give the honourable senator an answer but I shall seek that information and give it to him as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service: How much weight will the Government place on the criticism voiced last night by Professor Whitehead of the Economics Faculty at La Trobe University of the Government’s proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? Did he say that the amendments did not sufficiently change the framework of wage determination to inhibit wage induced inflation? Did he also warn that the new measures seemed unlikely to improve industrial relations, and indeed, the potentially greater use of penalties could inflame unions rather than restrain them? Will all these criticisms from such an expert be given weighty consideration before the legislation is introduced into this chamber?
– I have already drawn Senator Gietzelt’s attention to standing order 99 which deals with questions asking for an expression of opinion. Senator Poke, your question is as close to that as any can be, but it is for the Minister for Works to decide whether he will answer it.
– I consider it entirely inappropriate for me to endeavour to comment upon a full length address by a professor, especially on the threshold of a debate in the Parliament on the subject matter.
– Has the Leader of. the Government in the Senate knowledge of the use of United States manufactured 15,000 lb bombs in Vietnam, each bomb reputed to be able to pulverise city areas of 1 square mile and to be equal in power to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima? Has he knowledge of the use of anti-personnel plastic needles in bombs which cannot be traced in the human body by X-ray and which cause a slow, lingering death to the persons affected? If he has such knowledge would he propose to the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the Minister take action, through the appropriate United Nations body, to have these barbarous weapons, along with the atomic bomb, banned?
– I have no such knowledge.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that articles and personal effects imported into Australia by members of overseas consular or diplomatic services stationed here are exempt from import duties in accordance with general international practice? Are there corresponding provisions in our sales tax regulations for sales tax exemptions to be allowed to those people on similar goods of Australian manufacture? If not, will consideration be given to granting such sales tax exemptions in the interests of promotion of Australian goods, such as motor vehicles, refrigerators and the like, in an area of sales interest which could lead to increased export sales?
– This really is not a question for the Treasurer. It is a question for the Minister for Foreign Affairs because it relates to protocols under international law and, indeed, to arrangements between nations. I think, in the first instance, I will direct the question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs because I am sure that these are matters regarding which certain guidelines are given to other departments as the result of decisions taken in relation to protocols as established.
– Order! Pursuant to an order of the Senate, as amended earlier this afternoon, the sitting of the Senate is suspended until 8 p.m. to enable Estimates Committees to meet.
Sitting suspended from 4.15 to 8 p.m.
– Pursuant to section 26 of the Tobacco Marketing Act 1965-66. I present the sixth annual report of the Australian Tobacco Board regarding the operation of the Act for the year ended 31st December 1971, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral’s report on those statements.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Is notice of motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Wood formal or not formal?
Motion (by Senator Devitt) agreed to:
That business of the Senate notice of motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Wood be postponed for 4 sitting days after this day.
Debate resumed from 9th May (vide page 1468), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– At the adjournment last evening 2 Bills were before the Senate. I had given something in the nature of a resume or a precis of the reasons set forth by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, in the document to which I had referred, as being the bases upon which judgments are made - or I presume and I understand that they are made - to determine the financial situation of the State of Tasmania. I suppose that by perusing the document one could find spelt out in it reasons which justify an approach in relation to the financial performance of the other States. Having done that, I want briefly to refer to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon), for himself and on behalf of the Treasurer, as an introduction to the Premiers’ Conference here on 14th February 1972. In many respects I find that to be a remarkable document in the observations that it makes. One should bear in mind the initial observations made by the Prime Minister at the time and the subsequent decisions made by that Conference.
One thing that comes through loud and clear in the Prime Minister’s statement relates to the Prime Minister’s philosophical approach to the general question of employment in the Australian community. While I note that the Prime Minister directed his words to the question of national employment on 3 occasions in this document, at no point do I observe that he said he believes in full employment. Perhaps members of the Government will at some stage take me up on that. One would have expected in the prevailing economic conditions in Australia, with the great problem of unemployment that seemed to be the central theme of the problems before the Prime Minister at the Premiers’
Conference on that occasion, that the Prime Minister for himself and on behalf of the Treasurer would lay it on the line as it were, make it quite clear and unequivocally state that the Government believed in the policy of full employment. But that was not so. On 3 occasions he mentioned national employment. At page 2 of the statement he referred to the question of maintaining a high level of employment, not a position of full employment. At the bottom of page 3 of that statement he referred to the general question of employment. He said:
But that is not to say we can turn away from our other high objective, namely to maintain the momentum of economic growth with ali that means for employment.’
I do not know whether one could interpolate into that statement the belief that the Prime Minister was in favour of full employment. I should think he would have said so if that had been the case. When he talks of the problem of unemployment, which, as I say, was the central theme of the discussions that took place on 14th February 1972, he said in relation to being consistent with our objective of maintaining steady growth in the economy that we should maintain a high level of employment. Again, there is no mention of the concept of full employment. Once again the Prime Minister has indicated his failure to appreciate the problems in the Australian community. In this statement, as always when the Prime Minister makes statements, great emphasis is placed upon the factor of wages in relation to the control of the national economy, but it is significant that the Prime Minister gives scant regard to the factors upon which wages are based, that is, the costs of goods and services in the community. Wages are, of course, based on these factors, and they have been. As I have pointed out on occasions in the past, when arbitration courts have been making decisions about the level of wages to be awarded to the Australian work force, they have on more than one occasion made the comment that wages are in pursuit of costs and prices, not set according to costs and prices. In spite of this, we see the Government turning its back upon that view and putting the whole of the responsibility for the economic problems of Australia on the backs of the Australian work force. It is manifestly unfair for anybody to promote that thought in the community when so many people know that it is not the true situation.
The position is that a quite remarkable joint document has been put out by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer - 15 pages of it. Much of it amounts to nothing more than a lot of balderdash. It engages in the use of some quite flowery phrases and adjectival expressions but it does not seem to get to the very heart and root and bottom of the problem that is bedevelling Australia at the present time - of this costs and prices and wages thing- which seems to be judged in complete isolation rather than taken as an element in the whole situation and judged concurrently. I have said on many occasions that this Government’s approach over the years on wages and the cost of goods and services is virtually tantamount to somebody putting a dam half way across a river and trying to stop the flow of that river.
Surely we have reached the point in history where we ought to accept that something more than what has been done in the past few years or in the past decade needs to be done if we are really fair dinkum about controlling the economic destinies of this country. The idea of trying to judge, hold, restrain, control, guard and guide the destinies of Australia purely on the concept of wage control has proved beyond any measure of doubt to be a farce and to be a completely untenable situation, especially when there is a proper relationship of that with the costs and prices of goods and services. Right at this very point in our history leading people in the Australian community - church people and people in responsible positions in our society - are drawing attention to the very great problems of the less privileged and the underprivileged people in our community.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! I ask the honourable senator to relate his remarks to the Bill which is under consideration, namely, the States Grants Bill 1972. I think the honourable senator is a bit wide of the mark.
– With respect, Mr Acting Deputy President, I am quoting from a document which was placed before the Premiers Conference on 14th February 1972 and as a result of which decisions were made in relation to grants for unemployment
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise on a point of order. I do not want to be difficult, but I would point out that there could be 100 different things about which one could talk but which bear no relationship to the States Grants Bill, which provides for a grant of a prescribed amount. What might happen if the honourable senator were to continue in this vein is that the whole of the night would be given over to a type of budget debate which had nothing to do with this Bill. So I think Senator Devitt should link his remarks to the Bill which is before the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - I must uphold the point of order. I think the debate should be more pertinent to the Bill which is under consideration.
– In reply to the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President, I point out that the Prime Minister made obsarvations to that meeting of the Premiers-
– I thought you had given a ruling on the point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Yes, I had.
– With respect, Sir, you have not heard my point of view on ibis matter.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Do you wish to raise a point of order, Senator Devitt?
– Yes. I do not want to prolong the debate. I can understand the Minister for Health being pretty touchy about this matter.
– If Senator Devitt is going to play the game in that way, Sir, I will insist upon the point of order which I raised and which was upheld being enforced.
– Do not pull your authority on me.
– I wish to speak to the point of order again, Sir.
– He has already spoken once, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - If the Minister desires to speak to the point of order which he raised and which I upheld I think he should be allowed to do so.
– If Senator Devitt starts to mix it I will insist upon the point of order which I raised and which was upheld being enforced, but I am prepared to show certain tolerance.
– Is the Minister depriving me of my right to speak?
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I will accept your judgment when you have heard, as I hope you will do, my point of view on this matter. The Prime Minister made certain observations to the Premiers Conference this year out of which arose the decision to make grants to the States and to increase the loan borrowings of the States for certain purposes. If I am wrong on this I will stand corrected, but I fail to see why I should be denied the right to speak tonight on something which was embraced within a statement of this nature and which was the very basis upon which judgments were made as to the extent of the grants and the increased loan borrowings which have been referred to. I will accept your ruling on this matter, Mr Acting Deputy President. I point out that I have a copy of the Prime Minister’s statement in my hand at present.
– It has been the tradition of the Senate to allow a reasonable degree of tolerance in the linking by honourable senators of the remarks they make in the debate on the motion for the second reading of a Bill to the substance of the Bill. The point I am making is that the statement made by the Prime Minister could be linked to a whole series of things. This legislation deals with 2 particular matters, namely, a grant of $15m to the States and a capital loan to the States. That is what we are debating. The honourable senator must link his remarks to this legislation. There may have been a reference in what the Prime Minister said to the subject of health. Would the honourable senator suggest that argument should be allowed on that subject in the debate on this legislation? There may have been some reference to education or 101 things in the Prime Minister’s statement. If honourable senators are not required to link their remarks to the purpose of this legislation we could find ourselves in an impossible position because what is good enough for Senator Devitt is good enough for other honourable senators. We could have virtually a type of budget debate on this legislation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - My ruling is that the debate shoud be concentrated on the Bill which is before the Senate. I can quite understand that discusions may have taken place between the Commonwealth and the States with regard to certain matters, but I think the Senate should deal only with the legislation which has been presented.
– Senator Devitt should link his remarks to the subject matter of the legislation if he can.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, am I permitted to refer to observations made by the Prime Minister on page 7 of a speech concerning non-metropolitan employment and the grants which the Prime Minister suggested ought to be made for that purpose and am I permitted to talk about the situation which arose at the Premiers Conference concerning unemployment? I ask that because I said at the beginning of my remarks that the whole emphasis of the measures which are now before us is directed to improving the unemployment situation which was the crux of the discussions which took place at that conference and I was trying to point out that what the Prime Minister said is the justification for the measures which are now embodied in the legislation before the Senate at the present time. If I cannot do that there is not much point in my standing on my feet.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Provided the honourable senator links what he says with the legislation which is before the Senate he is quite in order. But the honourable senator will not be in order if he strays beyond that point.
– Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. That suits me quite well. I am quite prepared to accept that. On page 7 of his statement the Prime Minister said that at present the grants are set at 2.25m. He was referring to the monthly grant provided to the States for unemployment. I am quoting from the document from which I started to quote earlier. He went on to say:
We believe that this amount could be-
I emphasise the words ‘could be’ - increased as from today, 14th February 1972, to a rate of $4m per month.
It is significant to recall that in their consideration of this matter the Premiers apparently prevailed upon the Prime Minister to ensure that the increase in these grants was not approximately 78 per cent, which the Prime Minister had suggested ought to be the amount, but in fact double. It finished up at 100 per cent. If that is not an acknowledgement of a serious economic situation in sections of the community, I do not know what is. As I have said, what was decided on that occasion was that other things in the way of increased borrowings for local government and semi-government instrumentalities in the metropolitan areas, which are referred to specifically in the Bill, provided an opportunity for the amelioration of the suffering of distress and hardship of people in the Australian community. In the first instance the grants which were provided were for the relief of the problems which existed in the nonmetropolitan areas. This had a relationship, which I fancy from memory the second reading speech of the Minister touched upon, to the downturn in the economic circumstances in the rural areas of the community. We have spoken at very great length on this subject from time to time.
One can appreciate that the Government does have substantial difficulties in relation to the primary industry sector of the community and that it has taken measures which it believes, and I sincerely accept this, would relieve these problems. The fact that it had not done so on this occasion led to the rather urgent conference which took place on 14th February and at which decisions were reached to increase substantially the grants for this purpose and to provide a means to the semi-government and local government instrumentalities in the urban and city areas also to provide a measure of unemployment relief. But surely this must be a terrible waste of funds, lt is not well planned. The whole thing is designed to relieve pockets of unemployment where they have occurred almost directly as a result of the bungling of the Government in its policy laid down in the Budget last August. This is the situation which we face today.
The Australian Labor Party is not opposed to these measures but we do believe that there has to be a proper acceptance of the relationship that exists between employment and the cost of goods and services. Too many good Australian families in this community of ours are not getting sufficient of this world’s goods while a limited number of people are getting too many. It is a question of distribution of the national wealth so that the whole of the Australian community is served and so that the benefit is not confined to the relative few who already have their share. It is a matter of, to them that hath shall be given, and to them that hath not shall be taken away.
I sincerely hope that what we have proposed here will result in some improvement in the circumstances of the have nots. It is not really a very funny matter for those people who are suffering hardship, who have families and who are not able to put those little things on the table that one would expect in this day of enlightenment, in this age, in this technological era when we hear so much about the benefits derived from what is happening in this community of ours being passed on to the community at large. This is not demonstrated to be so. No doubt this situation will be patched up. I have seen tradesmen working under these unemployment grants in a capacity which is not suited to their particular skills. How wasteful it is when we find somebody who is trained in a particular skill but whose services are not being used in that capacity. Surely this must be wasteful. If we have any sense of responsibility in relation to our obligations to the society around us there ought to be, and there has to be, a complete right across the board look at what is happening in the Australian community so that we have something in the way of an evening out.
– The people themselves have to be responsible.
– Yes, the whole community, but-
– Do you read the TAB records?
– I do not bet.
– Do you read the reports of the amount of money going into poker machines?
– No, I do not. I suggest to the honourable senator that if it is judged that there is something less than a full measure of responsibility in high places, one can hardly expect -
– You cannot get more than a pint out of a pint pot.
– I do not drink pint pots, so I would not know. While we on this side of the chamber approve these measures we feel that a more responsible attitude has to be taken to the whole general question of the affairs of the people in the Australian community.
– 1 indicate that the Australian Democratic Labor Party will support both of these Bills. One of the matters before the Senate relates to the grants made by the Commonwealth to the States. These grants were determined at a conference between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth earlier this year. That they are necessary is known to all of us. Today the Commonwealth controls the purse strings of the nation and, indeed, the economy of the nation. Governments today have been privileged to conduct the economies of nations to a much greater degree than ever before. I am sure that the representatives of the Commonwealth Government here would agree that it is right that a government - in the case of Australia, one government - has to accept this responsibility, because to carve it up amongst the States of the Commonwealth diversifies the control of the whole of the economy into so many hands that it is not a cohesive whole and inevitably must run into trouble. 1 think we would all agree on that.
But as the Commonwealth has this responsibility I think that it is only wise that in considering these Bills we should look at the whole picture. If I skate on rather thin ice in mentioning the Premiers
Conference I do so only because Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson who is in charge of the Bills discussed the Premiers Conference when introducing them. In the first paragraph of his second reading speech he stated:
At the Premiers Conference and Australian Loan Council meeting on 14th February the Commonwealth and the States agreed to a series of measures.
It is that series of measures that we as the Federal Senate are discussing here tonight. These measures emanated from the conference between the State Premiers and the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government has control of the economy of this country and exercises its capacity to influence, if not to control completely, the policy of the Reserve Bank, which enables it to control the credit resources and the lending facilities of the nation as well as the interest rates which will apply throughout the whole of the economy. Indeed, it is possible, by the infusion of finance into the various projects carried out in Australia through the State governments, to exert pressures on the economy by releasing extra spending power or, if the Commonwealth Government feels that the economy is getting out of hand, by decreasing spending power. We all recognise that, but what puzzles me whenever Bills of this nature are before the Senate is the patronising attitude the Government adopts towards the sovereign States of the Commonwealth which have sacrificed their own taxing rights to the Commonwealth in the interests of the sane and sensible management of the economy. Even when the Commonwealth Government is making essential provisions to repair some of the gaps in the economy that have occurred through Commonwealth action, it adopts a patronising attitude towards the States as if the Commonwealth were Santa Claus. In fact it is giving back to the people of Australia, as represented by their sovereign State parliaments, the money that has been subscribed by the people of Australia through the taxing resources of the Commonwealth. I think it would be wise for us to analyse how this system is working out because it appears to me from the statements it makes that the Commonwealth Government is not aware entirely of what is involved. I would be one of the first to concede to the Federal Government that factors develop in the economy over which it has little or no control. In such circumstances the Commonwealth has to put forward extra effort to repair the gaps when they occur. It has tried to meet this responsibility. Specific reference is made to this in the Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
The Commonwealth is providing the increased unemployment relief grants with the specific purpose of increasing employment in nonmetropolitan areas . . .
I can appreciate that an economic problem did develop in non-metropolitan areas in this country in the last few years when it was necessary for the Federal Government, which manages the economy, to take specific steps to counter a set of economic circumstances over which it had little or no control. This was brought about by the sudden disappearance of international markets that once had been available to us but which no longer were there. The Government took that action and I give it credit for doing so. The Minister in charge of the Bills referred also to other factors in our economy. In his second reading speech on the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1972 the Minister stated:
Moreover, despite considerable special assistance from the Commonwealth, - -
I repeat the words ‘assistance from the Commonwealth’ - rapidly escalating wage costs had meant that in 1970-71 a number of important State works had had to be deferred.
– From what are you quoting?
– I am quoting from the Minister’s second reading speech which was delivered in this chamber. I presume that is permissible in discussion of the Bill. I maintain that if the Commonwealth is responsible for the control of the economy of the nation, as we have agreed, and if a set of circumstances arises where we have escalating wage costs brought about by escalating prices and escalating demand, then the Commonwealth has some direct responsibility for the economic circumstances which brings about those things. It certainly is not the fault of the States because they have no control in these areas. They cannot restrict credit, they cannot expand credit and they cannot control the Reserve Bank of Australia. They cannot do all the things that are necessary to control the economy of the nation. It is the Commonwealth Government that has that responsibility and authority, not the States. Yet the States have to pay increased wages. How can they pay them if the money is not provided? But of course it is provided; it is provided by the very people whose wages go up. They pay more taxes to the Commonwealth. But when the Commonwealth is called upon to pay that money back to the States to help correct the economic situation, it wants to pose as Santa Claus. The very name of this Bill is a misnomer. It is called a Grants Bill. It seems as though the Commonwealth suddently finds something in its pocket and wants to give it to the States. The money never belonged to the Commonwealth because the Commonwealth is only an intermediary.
– The States pay interest on it.
– That is right. I will come to that in a moment. I am glad my colleague Senator Gair reminded me although I was not likely to forget. It is made clear in these 2 Bills that we are discussing that the States pay interest on the money they need to meet a particular emergency. No matter how much the Commonwealth may boast, per medium of the second reading speeches made by the Minister for Health when presenting these 2 Bills, saying that these provisions are adequate, I would point out that a decision today by a wage fixing authority in Victoria has made the provisions for Victoria for 1971-72 completely inadequate.
But what will happen to those increased wages when they are paid? Half the increase will flow back directly to the Commonwealth Treasury. Probably the remaining half will come back to it because the people who received increased increments will spend more money which will create more business. Every time the money circulates the Commonwealth will take a proportion in taxes. In concluding his second reading speech on the States Grants Bill the Minister for Health gave us such pearls of wisdom as this:
Including the special assistance of $15m-
How the Commonwealth can claim to be giving assistance to the States when it is merely giving them back their own money is beyond me, but that is the verbiage used. The Minister said:
Including the special assistance of$15m, but not including the special advance of $ 17.5m to New South Wales-
One would think almost that that was a grant too but it is a loan and it will cost New South Wales at least $2.5m in interest in the 5-year period of the loan, although it will get the first year interest free. The rate of interest involved is over 5 per cent. The Minister went on to say:
It is estimated that in 1971-72 the States will receive nearly $290m in Commonwealth general revenue assistance over and above the amount they would have received had the arrangements which existed before 1970-71 continued unaltered.
What a foolish statement that is. It was not possible to continue the arrangements of 1970-71. What effrontery it is for the Commonwealth to suggest that it would be possible for them to continue unaltered when all the wage increases paid to all citizens in all States in the years when those previous arrangements operated has flowed back largely into the Commonwealth coffers. If the Commonwealth kept the money in its coffers the country would run into complete chaos and bankruptcy.
The Commonwealth is merely doing its job as the manager of the economy, if we accept the facts of life. What was adequate in the circumstances prior to 1970-71 is completely inadequate now because of the existing levels of prices and wages in the economy that the Commonwealth is managing in 1971-72. Why the Commonwealth Government just cannot accept that simple principle without posing as Santa Claus is beyond me. Why does it pretend, as evidenced by this remark in the concluding paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech:
Thus the Commonwealth has made a very significant contribution indeed towards ensuring that the States have adequate funds available for recurrent purposes in this financial year.
The Commonweath has nothing but the right to collect taxes and customs duty, and it was the States which granted it those rights. The Commonwealth has merely done its job because the costs of the States are greater this year than they were last year or the year before, and a lot of the responsibility for this rests upon the
Commonwealth. Costs have increased and this is a result of the Commonwealth’s management of the economy. It is not the fault of the States. This has been the cause of the enormous dissension over the years between the States and the Commonwealth, irrespective of the political complexions of the governments. Yet the Commonwealth persists in adopting this generous big brother attitude to the poor little States which are all mismanaging their affairs while the Commonwealth comes to their assistance with the money provided by the people who live in all the States.
– It treats the States like mendicants.
– That is right. It is treating them like mendicants. I shall refer to this special grant to New South Wales because it is very interesting. Because of the economic circumstances, because of the large number of people in New South Wales and because of the extra development demanded in it as it is one the largest States, it can show that Si 7.5m extra is needed to provide for the ordinary running expenses of the State, otherwise it could go broke. Instead of the Commonwealth meeting the situation it makes a loan to New South Wales. I appreciate that once a formula is worked out it is difficult to depart from it in order to meet the special needs of a particular State. But the Commonwealth adopts almost a parent to child relationship when dealing with the States and makes out that it has been so very generous in making a loan available to New South Wales at a rate of 5.3 per cent. That in my view is not a situation for which the Commonwealth should demand praise. Rather there should be condemnation because the economy is not managed better. The people of New South Wales cannot get their own money back and use it to run their own State unless they pay 5.3 per cent interest on it.
I appreciate that not all the money comes from income tax. There are other things such as loan funds and so on but they are usually raised by the States, with the permission of the Commonwealth, at rates of interest over which the Commonwealth has a lot of influence. Indeed, the States - and also local government authorities - were much more able to meet their commitments when the interest rate was 3 per cent than they have been able to do since they have increased to 6 per cent, or even 7 per cent in some cases. But when the Commonwealth meets a situation that has developed from an emergency created by economic factors over which it has control, it wants to say that it is granting wonderful assistance to the States, assistance that has never been given before. I hope it does not think it is fooling us. It is not fooling the Democratic Labor Party anyway. Of course, we are living in an economy in which prices have never been higher and that is the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government.
I wanted to make those statements about the philosophical approach shown in the second reading speeches to these Bills rather than to criticise the Bills themselves. The Bills must be passed - otherwise what would happen to the States? What would happen to the people in those States if they were not passed? Outside those few people who live in the Australian Capital Territory and the Territories, the revenue of this country comes from the people represented by the State governments. I suggest that much of the dissension and many of the problems that have forced the Democratic Labor Party to try to bring on debates in this chamber on CommonwealthState financial relationships would not have eventuated if the Commonwealth had dropped this pose of Santa Claus when meeting the normal everyday commitments that it has to meet. If those commitments are aggravated by circumstances in the economy over which the Commonwealth has no control or circumstances over which the Commonwealth does have control, it is not an act of generosity by the Commonwealth to do what has to be done; it is a practical necessity for the whole of Australia. I believe that if we approach the matter with that, philosophy many of the things that have disrupted Commonwealth-State financial relationships will begin to disappear and the Commonwealth will meet its commitments to the people of Australia through their State Governments more realistically than through the method it is adopting at the moment, namely, pretending that every time the Commonwealth meets the financial commitments of the States it has gone out like Santa Claus with bags filled with gifts that it did not have to give. The money belongs to the people of Australia. We in the Commonwealth Parliament are privileged to help to manage it. The Government, in particular, is in the very special circumstance of having not only the privilege but also the enormous responsibility. If the Commonwealth fails to some extent in carrying out that responsibility of properly managing the economy in order to give a stable price and wage level, it should not present itself as the giver of great gifts because it meets the situation. We hope that the Bills will pass.
(8.41) - in reply - I thank the Senate for the passage of the second readings of the 2 Bills that are being debated concurrentlythe States Grants Bill 1972 and the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Bill (No. 2) 1972. Dealing with the contribution made by Senator Little who has just concluded, I say that he really was indicating his support and the support of his Party for the Bills, but he then chose to canvass a much wider area in relation to Commonwealth-State relations and the financial agreement existing between the Commonwealth and the States. The fact of the matter is that this has been an area of debate for a good many years now. It is fraught with many problems. I find difficulty in separating a man who is a Commonwealth man from a man who is a State man. lt all depends on which coat one wears on a particular day. The Commonwealth is comprised of the people of Australia. The States have a financial agreement with the Commonwealth. In fact, that agreement is adjusted from time to time.
The suggestion made by Senator Little was that, because the Commonwealth is the recipient of the revenue under our Constitution and our arrangement, it is an evil body and is doing a terrible thing when it gives money to the States. Human nature being what it is-
– I said that the Commonwealth should not say how wonderful :t is.
The honourable senator may take the call if he wishes. I will sit down and let him talk.
– Do not you-
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI do not want any interruptions from Senator Gair either. If any honourable senator wants to speak I will listen to him. When I speak I like to be able to make my argument in the same way as I let Senator Little make his. I am saying that this is trying to identify the Commonwealth as the bad body because it is the giver and the States as being wonderful because they are the recipients. It does not work that way. A formula applies in relation to the Commonwealth-State financial agreement. Because the States have found themselves in certain difficulties in their economic structures these Bills are designed to provide certain extra moneys. I am sorry that the semantics of the second reading speeches where the Commonwealth said that it had done this offended Senator Little. The Commonwealth Government has done these things. I find it hard to sustain the argument that the Government should not say a few things in. praise of what it has done.
Be that as it may, in truth what the honourable senator said covers a broad canvas in relation to Commonwealth-State relations. It is related to the CommonwealthState financial agreement. We have debated it here before and we. will debate it again. Perhaps the remarks he made would be made better in that context than in relation to these Bills because the honourable senator and the whole of the Senate have agreed that we will pass them. Having said that, I think that I should be very brief in my response to other honourable senators. I want to make reference to some matters that were raised by Senator Devitt. He made reference to the special arrangements in relation to Tasmania because it is a claimant State and to the principles of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commission was set up to give special consideration and special assistance to the States which are claimant States. The word ‘claimant’ is only meant to indicate that they are in a more difficult financial situation. Special arrangements are made to give them special moneys.
– We used to call them mendicant States.
– I think that is right. I remember that when I was in the New South Wales Parliament - and I have no doubt that Senator Gair was reflecting back to the time when he was Premier of Queensland - it was generally said, if a State was a claimant State, that it was a mendicant State. I think that is the reference and I can well recall it. Senator Devitt suggested that Tasmania had lost some part of its independence through being a claimant State and having to satisfy the Commonwealth Grants Commission of the need for a special grant. I do not think that is right. The whole concept of the Commonwealth Grants Commission is to give this assistance without in any way impairing the sovereignty of that State. This is a common misunderstanding which should be corrected. The Commonwealth Grants Commission has made it clear time and time again, in its reports and in statements made by its members at the various hearings, that in its recommendations it does not attempt and would not contemplate attempting to influence the financial decisions of a State which has sought a special grant. I believe that history shows - I think Senator Gair would acknowledge this - thai the Commonwealth Grants Commission assistance given over the years has not been intended and must never be allowed to be intended to put some restriction on the sovereignty, management and administration of a particular State.
– It only encourages governments that are supine not to do the things that they should do themselves.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI suppose that the facts of life are - this applies to any group of people whether they form a company, a society or a government - that there is always an element and must always be an element which suggests that if you respond to appeals too quickly it tends to take away the initiatives and the driving forces from those groups - be they companies, societies or governments. That is a generality. I would not like to put commitments on governments in that sense in this day and age. Down through history since Federation, what Senator Gair says may have had application.
– It happened in my time that governments would not accept the responsibility of increasing rates, fares, etc, and depended on the Commonwealth Grants Commission to do it.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONThese are some of the elements that come into the point I made on the matter which was raised earlier by Senator Little. These are some of the elements that have to be taken into account in relation to the CommonwealthState financial agreement. I thank the Senate for the support that it has given to the second reading of the Bills.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Consideration resumed from 18 April (vide page 1154), on motion by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 27 April (vide page 1376), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– I wish to thank the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) for giving me the opportunity to speak at this time. I wish to relate briefly to honourable senators the history of death taxes in this country. The last time that any change of consequence occurred in this area was in December 1941 when the level to which exemption from estate taxes would apply was set at $20,000. Many years have passed since that level of exemption was set but this Parliament has not acted to raise it. In 1941 I purchased my home and the land on which it stands for £875, or $1,750 in decimal currency. At that time exemption from death taxes was granted to estates up to a value of $20,000. Today the value of my home has increased approximately 9 times to $18,000. Today people must pay death taxes on estates exceeding the level of exemption set in 1941, without any allowance at all being made for the effects of inflation in the interim. As a result the people of Australia are put to great trouble and in some cases humiliation.
I ask that the Senate do all in its power to raise the level of exemption from federal death taxes. After all, we have been elected to look after the interests of the Australian people. Not only should we act to improve the situation in the field of death taxes but perhaps we should also apologise to the people for not having acted on it before. Many thousands of people have been hurt because the level of exemption from death taxes has remained at so low a level for so long. It is a shameful thing.
– You did not discover that. The Democratic Labor Party proposed an amendment to the legislation years before we heard of you.
– I realise that the DLP moved an amendment a long time ago, but I have been here since last August and in that time I have been the only senator to speak on death taxes.
– How frequently have you spoken on it?
– If Senator Gair would like to get up and speak on this subject I will give him a quiet hearing. A Senate Standing Committee which was appointed by this House is looking into the payment of death taxes. I sincerely trust that when its report is presented to the Senate we will do our utmost to ensure that its recommendations are adopted and action is taken by the other House, where any changes must be initiated. It is obvious to me and to anybody else who has looked into this question as deeply as I have that special provisions should be made in respect of death taxes for a husband and wife who have lived as partners. Death taxes should not be payable by a surviving partner. It is obvious to any normal, sensible person that a husband and wife are partners.
On a recent visit to Canada and the United States of America I discovered - perhaps many honourable senators know already - that in the United States, of America the level of exemption from estate taxes on an estate which was shared by a husband and wife is set at $100,000. On estates valued at more than that amount tax is payable on the balance at the rate of only 1 per cent. In addition, half of the personal estate of a deceased husband passes tax free to his widow. In Australia the level of exemption from death taxes is set at $20,000 federally and ranges from $12,000 to $30,000 in the States. However, even that part of the estate which is exempt from death taxes cannot be obtained by the beneficiary for quite some time. It is necessary to wait until the authorities will release it. This is a shameful practice which causes humiliation and distress to people at a time of bereavement. It is a known fact, not only to honourable senators I am sure but to everyone, that an estate is frozen on death. Very little of that estate can. be used by the surviving spouse unless it is released by the department concerned. . The valuations of properties, and shares are taken as at the date of death. That is a ridiculous situation.
I know of a woman in Western Australia whose husband died and left her an estate which on paper has been submitted at $2. 4m. In distress that widow rang me. She had applied for a social services pension and her application had been granted. She is receiving the pension, although her husband was a millionaire. X asked her to bring her papers to me and I have them with me now. I am prepared to table them if that is the wish of the Senate. They are here and available. I have the widow’s permission to table them in the Senate. In that estate were 21,000 odd. Poseidon shares which at the date of the husband’s death were valued at $90 a share. On the day the widow came to see me they were valued at $13.20 a share. But the Government insists that death taxes be paid on the valuation as at the date of death. The widow, to use her own words, said: T will be $500,000 in debt if I have to pay the death taxes and the other beneficiaries in my husband’s will’. It is a ridiculous situation. I looked into the matter very carefully. I perused the paper on the day that she came to see me and I decreased the estate to about $666,000 in actual value. Her husband had been dead only about 12 months.
– At what stage should estates be valued?
– Governments- State and Federal - value a person’s estate as at the date of death, and the taxes are charged on that valuation. I feel that the governments should assess the death taxes at that time at a certain amount so that the beneficiaries can endeavour to raise those taxes. The death taxes should be adjusted to the value of the estate on the date on which the departments submit the account, for payment.
– What happens if the normal value of the estate increases between the date of death and that date? That makes it worse still, does it not?
– If the value of the estate increases the estate will not suffer at all.
– It will.
– It will not. 1 think the executors can decide that matter and it should be left to them. For the information of the honourable senator, the governments - both Federal and Stale - have the right to increase death taxes, even if they have been paid, if the person obtains a higher valuation than the Department put on the properties or the shares. I have written to departments and asked them what would happen if a person could not obtain the amount at which the departments had valued the shares or the property. I was told that the person could always apply for a revaluation. I asked whether that person would get a revaluation and receive a refund and the answer was: ‘No comment’. I have not heard of a case in which anyone has received a refund of death taxes after they have been paid. I feel that the valuing of property or shares as at the date of death is a very unfair method of valuing an estate.
– At what stage should it be valued?
– It should be valued at the date of death so that the approximate amount of death taxes would be known, but only on the issue of the account by the department should the value be put. As honourable senators will know, it can take up to 6 years before an account can be issued, because of court cases. The finalisation of an estate can take a long time and things can change. It is impossible for a person to raise the amount of death taxes which the governments of the day put on a deceased’s property.
I feel very sincerely about the matter. It is most important that the Senate consider releasing a husband and wife, for their life time, from having to pay death taxes. I think too that dependent children should be released from having to pay death taxes on an estate. I feel that people outside those categories would not object to paying death taxes, although I know, from correspondence with many people, that sisters and brothers, dependent sons or daughters, or non-dependent sons or daughters have made it their life’s work to help the father and mother build up a property knowing that on the death of the father and mother, or either, the property will be left to them and they will be reimbursed for their work. Recently while travelling on an aircraft from Queensland I met a friend and colleague of Senator Gair’s. That man will provide me with information which he considers will open everyone’s eyes. He has been appointed to rather important positions on various committees. He told me of a father and mother who incorporated a company in which their 2 sons were shareholders. The 2 sons have lost everything through having to pay death taxes.
I am afraid that there will be rather a surprise coming for members of the Opposition - it may have come already - who, I believe, have been opposed to abolishing or altering death taxes because they feel that the taxes hit only the rich. Recent advice and information presented to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations proved that in many instances what has been called tax avoidance has been practised very successfully. Large estates are avoiding taxes. If the Commonwealth Government will not take action in the Senate or in the other place I will request the Government to issue a booklet telling all Australians, not just those who can afford to pay, how to practise tax avoidance. If everybody practised tax avoidance we would not have death taxes because no-one would retain large amounts. If it is good enough for tax avoidance to be legal for those who can afford to carry it out, it is good enough for everyone to be able to practise tax avoidance.
We should be ashamed that we have had death taxes in Australia, without alteration, for so many years. I know that at times we get snowed under with work, but that is no reason why this Government or any government - there have been a number of governments in power since 1941 - should have allowed the non-taxable amount to remain al the same figure from 1941 to 1972 - 31 years without change. It is shameful to think that this has continued. I feel that the move to give the States the opportunity to lift the amount below which death duties are not payable to a reasonable and just figure must come from the Federal Government. If necessary - and possibly it will be most necessary - the Commonwealth must reimburse the States for the revenue that they will lose by lifting that level.
I have with me now some figures which have been checked by the Research Service of the Parliamentary Library. I am advised that, if the value of an estate below which no duty is levied was increased to $50,000, the cost would be only $33.4m per year.
– To whom?
– That figure of $33.4m covers both Commonwealth and State duties. If the level were lifted to a more equitable figure of $100,000, we could probably double that figure to give a total cost of $66m or $67m. If the level were lifted to $50,000 and the Federal Government were to reimburse the States so that they would not lose the revenue that they require, all the Commonwealth Government would need to find would be $33.4m at this time.
It is necessary for us to give urgent attention to this matter. If honourable senators look at the newspapers they will know that every day that goes by people die. This means that other people will be affected by these death taxes. 1 said a little while ago that perhaps the Opposition was against my proposal because it did nol think that these duties affected the small people. But I have information from people all over Australia which shows that these death duties seriously affect them. That this situation continues is shameful.
The administration of death duties being what it is today, with the freezing of the assets of estates, insurance companies do not even pay out insurance. A widow who thought that she might have her husband’s insurance to live on finds that she is in trouble. One widow from whom I received a letter yesterday said that she had a home worth $15,000 or $16,000 and, additionally. $4,000 in cash. That was all she had left to her. As a result of death duties, both Federal and State, and solicitors’ fees, etc., the $4,000 has been reduced to $2,000 and she has applied for a social services pension. It is ridiculous to think that on one hand we, take a bulk sum from these people and, on the other hand, give them back so much per week in social service payments. Once again, I thank the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition - perhaps thanks are due also to the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, Senator Gair - for the opportunity to raise this matter. I feel that 1 have spoken long enough. I sincerely hope that the Senate will work on this matter as an urgent one.
– I remind Senator Negus that there is one area of probate duty that perhaps he should explore. That is the amount of Australian wealth that is owned overseas and upon which probate is never paid. It is an enormous amount of wealth. Probate on it could return to the coffers of Australian governments quite a sum of money which would be able to assist in- the provision of relief to the dependants of those in the lower income bracket at the time of death.
I rise to discuss the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources. This report was presented to the Senate on 10th December last. Certain assurances were given that time for a debate on it would be made available. After this week, 2 sitting weeks of this session of the Parliament remain. It does not seem to me that, in the last 2 weeks of this parliamentary session, time will be given for a debate on this report.
The Committee was set up in 1968. It was charged with the duty of inquiring into and reporting upon the legislation relating to off-shore petroleum resources which had been passed in November 1967 by both Houses of the Parliament. The first problem that the Committee ran up against appears in the Preamble to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act which, in paragraph 4, states:
AND WHEREAS the Governments of the Commonwealth and of the States have decided, in the national interest -
I draw particular attention to the words ‘in the national interest’ - that, without raising questions concerning, and without derogating from, their respective constitutional powers, they should co-operate for the purpose of ensuring the legal effectiveness of authorities to explore for or to exploit the petroleum resources of those submerged lands:
It has been amply borne out, in my opinion, that the adoption of that principle in the Preamble was not in the national interest and that the sooner some action is taken to clarify the position with respect to the off-shore areas of Australia the sooner Australia will be in a respectable position in the international legal field. Once the Commonwealth and the States agreed to include in the Preamble that paragraph to set aside but not to derogate from the powers of either the Commonwealth or the States in this off-shore area, they created a shambles.
First of all, they created an impossible position for a draftsman seeking to draft legislation that would fit into this extraordinary position of one group of governments with almost absolute powers and another government governed by a written constitution. Once that principle was adopted, the draftsman was in an almost impossible position in drafting legislation that would regulate this industry.
The interim report of the Committee is included in its final report. In that interim report, the Committee came to this conclusion:
That, notwithstanding the advantages to the national interest -
I do not see very many advantages - . . which the legislation and its underlying conception has produced, the larger national interest is not served by leaving unresolved and uncertain the extent of State and Commonwealth authority in the territorial sea-bed and the Continental Shelf.
I do not think that stronger words than those could have been used by a committee making recommendations to the Government on its legislation. I think that it enhances the proposition that, at the earliest possible opportunity, the Government should give this Parliament an opportunity to debate the territorial sea and continental shelf legislation to clear up once and for all this question of who has jurisdiction in this area.
I hope that at the earliest opportunity the Prime Minister will bring on that legislation for debate. Of course it does not in fact set up for the Government machinery for the regulation of off-shore areas. In my opinion section 9 is the most important section in the legislation. First of all I want to attract attention to sub-section (1) of section 9 which states:
Subject to this Act, the provisions of :he laws in force in a State, whether written or unwritten, and as in force from time to time, and the provisions of any instrument made under any of those laws, apply in the adjacent area.
It is not in dispute that under certain circumstances the Commonwealth Government can pick up State laws and apply them in areas where the Commonwealth has jurisdiction. But the question of whether the Commonwealth has jurisdiction over the continental shelf is still very much clouded. The fact is that we work under an international convention known as the ‘Convention on the Continental Shelf. Whether the Commonwealth has power to pass laws because it is a party . to an international convention and the exercise of its external affairs power is something which the High Court has not yet decided. Until the High Court gives a judgment there is no surety as to the extent of the external affairs power. Of course it is abundantly clear that the States are unable to legislate extra territorially unless a nexus can be established between the States and the object to be regulated. This is borne out by the South Australian crayfish pots case.
Recently in Western Australia there was a case where a man by the name of Robinson was charged with stealing something from a shipwreck on a reef 12 miles off shore. First of all he was charged under the criminal code of Western Australia. The criminal code of Western Australia sets out to apply to the State of Western Australia. In the preliminary hearing the representative of the Crown Law Department in Western Australia argued that certain waters around Western Australia were part of Western Australia. But when it came to the argument before the Supreme Court that argument was not persisted with. Nevertheless the Chief Justice of Western Australia found that Trial Rocks was 12 miles from the nearest land mass of Western Australia and therefore the criminal code did not apply. That does not end the consideration of whether the Commonwealth has jurisdiction in this area within its external affairs power because it can pick up the Western Australian criminal code and apply it in the area. Until the Government resolves this constitutional question the position is uncertain. It must be uncertain in the minds of operators in these areas because some of them have expressed the opinion that they would like to know just what laws do apply to them in this area. Honourable senators will find mention of this matter in the Committee’s report. The position is that we do not know what laws apply. The situation becomes very important when we start to talk about industrial laws which apply in these areas. We have an instance following an opinion by Chief Justice Sir Garfield Barwick and Mr Justice Windeyer in what is known as the La Macchia case that the State jurisdiction finished at the low water mark.
– Was that low water mark or high water mark?
– It was low water mark.
– It was clearly low, was it?
– Yes. A dispute occurred off the shores of Victoria on a pipe laying barge. The dispute was referred to a Conciliation Commissioner for settlement. As the powers of Commonwealth Parliament with respect to industrial relations are limited to a dispute extending beyond the boundaries of a State the Conciliation Commissioner could not find the existence of a dispute within these terms and therefore he was unable to settle the dispute which had been referred to him. The dispute occurred off shore. It did not extend on shore. It did not extend into the adjacent area of New South Wales, Tasmania or South Australia and so make it possible to argue that that was interstate. I do not think that such an argument could have been substantiated but nevertheless it did not go that far. We had an impasse. A dispute existed and there was no industrial machinery to settle it. This is the kind of situation that arises if the constitutional position is not resolved. I urge the Commonwealth Government to settle the constitutional position as early as possible. We will not only gain respect in this country but also we will gain respect internationally. At present we are in disputation with Indonesia and Timor over a boundary line of the continential shelf. There was a similar dispute between Norway and Great Britain concerning a deep channel close to the shores of Norway. It was resolved that that was only a trough and that the continental shelf continued over the trough. That may be the settlement to be reached between Australia, Indonesia and Timor. I do not know. But there is international disputation. Surely that should be settled at the earliest possible time.
Nothing has been gained by setting aside the constitutional authorities of either the States or the Commonwealth. This situation has been avoided for very many years. Some years ago there was a case in Western Australia in which the State Government was defeated with respect to authority to legislate extra-territorially. The State wanted to appeal to the High Court of Australia. Pressure was brought by the other States not to proceed because they did not want this position exposed. The appeal was never gone on with. Everyone has directed their attention away from this particular field. It is time someone had some courage. Even if it is found that the Commonwealth does not have any authority in this area, it is better that we know it. It is better that the States know the ambit of their jurisdiction than to be in the clouds as they are at the present time. An agreement underpins this legislation. Section 6 of the agreement provides that amendments to the legislation shall not be made unless the 7 Governments of Australia agree to the amendment of the legislation. Section 7 of the agreement also provides the same conditions with respect to regulations.
In March 1969 at Hobart the committee of Attorneys-General agreed to amend section 9 of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act in order, in their opinion, to do away with some of the anomalies which are created by the present sections 9 and
I remind the Senate that this agreement was reached in March 1969 in Hobart and 2 States have since amended their legislation. The Commonwealth has not seen fit to amend its legislation. The State of Victoria has not amended its legislation although until recently, with the exception of the northwest shelf, all the activity had been taking place in Bass Strait. The agree-, ment that underpins the legislation sets out that the legislation may not be amended without the agreement of the 7 governments, but although the 7 governments have agreed to the amendment, 4 States have so far declined to implement the decisions taken at Hobart in 1969. Why have they not done so? I will be frank with the Senate. I know there was delay while the Committee was considering its final report. It meant almost a rewriting of the report, but the report has been in the hands of the Government since 10th December. Since then there has been almost a whole session of Parliament, but the amendment has not been brought before us.
I suspect the reason why Sir Henry Bolte’s Government has not brought forward the amending legislation is that he does not want to do so until his amendments are underpinned by the Commonwealth. It is an urgent necessity that the Commonwealth take the initiative and amend its legislation. Instead of squabbling about what is going on in the country and speculating on who will win the next election and on how it will be won, the Government must realise that this important legislation requires amendment at the earliest opportunity. Under the Standing Orders my speech is limited to half an hour, and I do not know what time I started; it will be for the Clerk to tell me when I should finish.
– No, it will be for me to tell you.
– Senator O’Byrne, Senator Keeffe and ] saw fit on. some matters upon which we have strong opinions to bring in a minority report. I want to talk about only one section of it, the permits section. My colleagues will deal with the other parts. I think the way permits have been issued over the continental shelf of Australia is a disgrace, an absolute disgrace. By 1969 some of those permits had been under issue for up to 19 years and absolutely no work at all had been done on them. They were held by exploration companies which did nothing on them. When this legislation came into force it set out, of course, to confirm what the States had done for the purpose of ensuring the legal effectiveness of authorities to explore for or to exploit the petroleum resources of those submerged lands. That was the time when the Commonwealth Government should have exercised its authority and allowed the permits to run out under the terms under which they had been issued, and then reissued permits. Burmah Oil, Shell and Woodside were issued permits over 104,000 square miles off the coast of Western Australia. It is physically and financially impossible for any company, even the largest oil company in the world, properly to explore 104,000 square miles in 6 years under the terms of this legislation, which includes oil drilling. One sees the mad scramble today. Woodside and Mid Eastern have gone now. Burmah Woodside is trying to auction parts of its permits as farm-in areas to get some work done so that the company will know what areas it will not have to surrender in April 1974. The Commonwealth Government acquiesced in this position when it allowed the scandalous issue of permits by the State governments. We should see to it as soon as possible that these areas under permit, or as much of them as can legally be taken, are returned to the States and to the Commonwealth. If the companies holding those permits are not carrying out the work load and the expenditure load which have been put on them, the permits should be forfeited as soon as possible.
There is much talk in this country about the fall-off in exploration in Australia. There will continue to be a fall-off in exploration if there is no way of allowing a company that wants to explore to run a line or put down a hole. That is the position. AD the prospective areas around Australia have been let out to major oil companies. WA Petroleum has another 63,000 square miles off the coast of Western Australia. BHP and Esso have 60,000 square miles in Bass Strait and they each have more in separate titles.
– Would many companies have the capital to take over those forfeited leases and comply with the terms of the leases?
– I do not know, except that representatives of two or three of the larger companies told me during the inquiry that they would like to get into the northwest shelf but could not get in.
– Or did they not have the resources?
– I would not doubt Magellan has the resources. I do not want to be impertinent, but Senator Cotton was Chairman of the Committee when Magellan came before us.
– I am asking in the light of your later work whether you have established in your own mind that they would have the resources. This is a bona fide inquiry of you who were involved in this work for a longer period than I.
– Yes; I believe the companies that wanted to get into the northwest shelf or Bass Strait would have had the resources to do so. If they did not have the resources in Murumba, those areas were so prospective that they could have got backing anywhere in the world. That is the position with respect to permits. 1 think it is a disgrace and that something should be done about it as quickly as possible.
In the 2 or 3 minutes left to me In which to speak 1 want to deal with the conditions in the oil industry. The oil industry is a dangerous industry and people are being maimed or killed in it all the time. That is not the fault of the people in the industry, although I believe that the extra long hours worked on drilling rigs does create a situation of fatigue which makes workers more accident prone. Two workers have been killed off the north-west shelf in the last 6 weeks. I do not know whether the Western Australian Government has appointed an inspector under its legislation, but it is interesting to note than on each occasion a fatality occurred a policeman was sent out to make the necessary inspection. I have a great admiration for policemen. I know a lot of the policemen in Western Australia. They are mostly good people. But they are not equipped to be inspectors in this industry. Proper and qualified inspectors should be appointed for this purpose. Although the States will be looking for royalties when these areas become productive they are not prepared to spend anything in the preliminary stages to ensure that the work force is protected.
– Would there not be inspectors of machinery and mining to do that?
– There would be, but they are all on land. There are machinery inspectors, mines inspectors, factory inspectors, hut inspectors and all sorts of inspectors, but they cannot swim 90 miles and there is no provision for them to be able to go out to the oil rigs. There is not a State in Australia which has a helicopter that would be able to take people out to an oil rig in an emergency. In any case, most of the helicopters which are in operation along the Australian coast have very short ranges and would not be able to get out to the rigs which are a good distance off the coast. Which Government has purchased a power boat to get people out to an oil rig in an emergency? Not one Government has done so. The governments rely upon the industry for assistance. Evidence has shown clearly that a surprise inspection by an inspector is of more value than a dozen inspections which have been arranged. I believe that the States will have to do something in this respect. Perhaps it would not be up to the States if the Commonwealth were to clear the atmosphere as to the constitutional position. It may be that it would appoint its own inspectors for this purpose. I believe that proper inspections should be made to save the lives of workers. My time has run out but I have only just touched upon the fringes of the Committee’s report. It is an important report. Therefore, I will debate it again at some other time.
Motion (by Senator Keeffe) proposed:
That an extension of time be granted to Senator Cant under standing order 407a.
– I would accede to that. There should be a limit on how much longer the honourable senator may speak, but I am happy to let him proceed for a while.
– Is a motion for an extension of time necessary? Would the honourable senator not be in order under the Standing Orders in speaking for longer than i hour? Is the i hour limit not an unofficial arrangement?
– It was an unofficial arrangement. The Standing Orders now provide that when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast the speeches of honourable senators shall be limited to i hour.
– I will accede to the motion for the granting of an extension of time to Senator Cant. I will do so for 2 reasons. Firstly, there is not a large number of honourable senators in attendance in the Senate tonight. Obviously only those honourable senators who have a great interest in this subject are present. Secondly, I do not think the honourable senator will take unfair advantage of the privilege granted to him. Accordingly, I think the Senate would like to see him given a chance to continue his remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Thank you, Mr President, and honourable senators. There are several sections of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act that I would like to examine in more detail. One to which I wish to direct attention is section 101 which provides for the Designated Authority, who is the administative officer in each of the States, to issue directions to permittees and licensees and for those directions to be complied with regardless of whether they are in conformity with the regulations made under the Act. That to me is a very obnoxious provision because it allows a Designated Authority to override completely regulations that have been approved by .the Parliament. The Parliament can be completely ignored and overridden by a Minister or by an inspector - not even a responsible Minister - who has been appointed by the Minister issuing directions that override the regulations. The worst feature of this legislation is that it allows the Designated Authority to regulate the industry by direction. This legislation came into force in April 1968. Although it has been operating now for 4 years there are no regulations.
– What is the name of the Act?
– The Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. The governments of the States and the Commonwealth have not been able to agree upon and present to the various parliaments the regulations that are required to be made under this Act. As a consequence the designated authorities of each of the States are issuing directions on how the industry shall be operated in their States. There is no uniformity about the directions and in many cases the directions are confidential and are not available for examination. They were not available even to members of the Committee. The governments of some of the States said that their directions were confidential and the Committee did not get to see them.
– What type of thing would constitute a direction? What type of thing would be embraced in a direction?
– All of the things that would be covered by regulations under the Act. Section 157 sets out the matters in relation to which the Governor-General may make regulations. Section 157 reads: (1.) The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters that by this Act are required or permitted to be prescribed or are necessary or convenient to be prescribed for carrying out or giving effect to this Act. (2.) In particular, but without limiting the generality of the last preceding subsection, the regulations may make provision for securing, regulating, controlling or restricting all or any of the following matters:
It then goes on to list those matters under paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and so on.
– They are the ones. Would you give us a couple pf examples of that type of thing?
– I shall read on:
Could one find a provision wider than that?
Think of our Great Barrier Reef.
So it goes on. All of these things can be done by regulation which is not made public, which is not presented to this Parliament, which is not approved by this Parliament or by the State parliaments. An inspector appointed under the Act can give directions in relation to these things.
– If it were a regulation made under a State law I presume it would have to be tabled in the State Parliament. What you are saying is that it is done by ministerial order, not even by regulation, is that so?
– It is done by a lesser person than a Minister. It can be done by an inspector appointed under the Act. It depends upon whether the Designated Authority - that is the administrating officer - delegates that power to the inspector. If he delegates that power to the inspector, the inspector can issue directions covering all of these things. Even if regulations are made, under section 101 of the Act an inspector can issue a direction and that direction shall be obeyed notwithstanding that it is contrary to the regulations. So the direction making power can override what the Parliament has done. This is a disgrace and should be attended to at the earliest possible moment. There are also other regulation making powers, and I want to refer particularly to subsections (4.) and (5.) of section 9. This is the most important section in this Act because it is the section which purports to pick up the State or Commonwealth law, written or unwritten, and transport it to operate on the continental shelf out to the 200 metre mark, or further if the area is exploitable. Subsection (4.) provides:
The regulations may provide that any provisions referred to in subsection (1.) of this section that are specified’ in the regulations do not apply by reason of this section or apply with prescribed modifications only.
So under section 9 (4.) which applies all of these laws, by a regulation it can be said that such and such a law shall not apply. The Parliament has said that a law shall apply yet by a regulation that law can be determined not to apply in this area. This is a matter which must be rectified at the earliest opportunity. Subsection (5.) states:
Regulations made for the purposes of the last preceding subsection may provide that prescribed provisions be added to or substituted for any of the provisions referred to in subsection (1.) of this section.
Can honourable senators imagine the width that that covers? By regulation all of those things can be done. I submit that this situation arises out of the dilemma in which the draftsman found himself when the parties to the agreement decided to set aside the constitutional provisions. The draftsman was trying to do something which he did not have adequate powers to do. This dilemma was created by the powers that be. I could go on for hours on this subject but I would be reiterating much of what is in this report. I have tried only to bring to the attention of the Senate a few of the things that I think need to be rectified within this legislation. I hope that I have touched on those things that are most important. My colleagues, Senator Keeffe and Senator O’Byrne, also will be speaking on this legislation. I hope that they will bring out some of the points that I have not brought out. Practically all of the points that I have made are contained in this report, and if I were to continue with my remarks now I would be reiterating much of what is contained in the report. I thank the Senate for its generosity in granting me an extension of time.
– I want to make brief mention of some of the points raised by Senator Negus. I think that the statements made in the early part of the debate by my colleague, Senator Cant, adequately describe my own feelings. A whole host of matters contained in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources will not be covered because of the limited time available for the debate this evening. It is a most unsatisfactory state of affairs that a debate of this magnitude has to be confined to the length of time allocated for discussion. In addition to that, it seems to me to be a major political tragedy that we have to bring on this matter for debate on the motion for the first reading of the Excise Tariff Bill because the Government has neglected to create the circumstances in which a proper full-dress debate could take place. I believe that a spirit of Federalism was paramount at some stage in the early formulation of policy in relation to one of the most important pieces of legislation, with all its weaknesses and failings, that we have seen in this country in the last decade.
In a moment I propose to traverse some of the early history of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources and the early history of legislation concerning the continental shelf. For a number of years the 6 State governments and the Commonwealth Government carried on negotiations in an endeavour to bring down Federal legislation to cover all the loopholes in relation to this matter, but they have failed miserably to do so. We find today that there are many instances of the oil companies in particular receiving preferential treatment.
Senator Cant traversed in an academic manner many sections of the legislation and quoted a number of them in detail. It probably would take six or seven speakers adequately to cover the whole of the Report. It seems significant that this Government has made a habit over the last 20 years of setting up standing committees, select committees and various other types of committees to investigate particular matters. It is equally significant that after many hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on such investigations, involving thousands of man-hours, the resulting reports invariably gather dust in some of the archives of this Parliament. I believe that not only this Report but also some of those presented before and since relate to matters of great political importance which ought to have been ventilated at the earliest possible opportunity.
I digress for a moment to point out that only a few weeks ago there was presented in this Senate a report from the Standing Committee on Social Environment. It dealt with a very important subject - what happens to petitions after they are presented in this House. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) promised at that time to bring that matter on for early debate. We now have reached the cramming stage that we reach at the end of every session when the Government says that it has important Bills to deal with, that there is not time to discuss such a matter and that it will come on for discussion next session. But we probably will never get round to doing that.
Let us examine the early history of this legislation and the personnel of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources. I want to quote from page 1 of this report where this information is set out in detail. I regret that I have to quote this in this manner but it is obvious that this matter is not going to get the airing that it should get. The report states:
The Bills for these Acts-
The major one and the subsidiary ones as well - were introduced in the House of Representatives on 18th October 1967.
That is quite a number of years ago.
They passed that House and were transmitted to the Senate on 3rd November. On 6th November 1967, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Murphy, moved an amendment to the motion for the Second Reading of the Principal Bill, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill 1967. If the Amendment had been carried the motion would have read:
That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of the Senate and that the Committee be empowered to consider also the 6 associated Bills relating to off-shore petroleum.’
Let us dwell there for a moment. Had the Parliament seen fit at that time to set up a select committee with a restricted time in which to report, much more effort would have been put into it by the Government. It is quite possible that the weaknesses that have been pointed out by my colleague Senator Cant would have been detected early and perhaps even have been corrected in some instances. This did not happen, as revealed in the Report which goes on to state:
This Amendment was negatived on 7th November, after the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Henty-
It is years since he sat in this chamber - had indicated that the Government would support a compromise solution proposed by Senator Wright that, after the passing of the legislation, a
Select Committee of the Senate be set up to inquire into and report upon Off-shore Petroleum Resources in Australia. The legislation passed all stages in the Senate on 7 November, whereupon Senator Wright moved his foreshadowed motion for the appointment of a Select Committee.
On 8 November 1967, Senator Wright’s motion was amended, on the motion of Senator Murphy, to include provision for the Committee to inquire into: whether the legislation makes adequate provision for Australian ownership and/or control or Australian participation in the ownership and/or control of Australia’s off-shore resources of oil and natural gas.’
The motion, as amended, was then passed as was a subsequent motion for the appointment of members of the Committee.
The last paragraph in the dissenting report included in this publication and which was drafted by my colleagues and me, refers specifically to Australian ownership and control, but 1 will say more about that in a moment. The personnel of the Committee changed considerably over the intervening period of time. Senator Wright presided at the preliminary meetings of the Committee but was then moved up into the ministry. He was followed by Senator Cotton who also was moved up into the ministry.
– Not immediately.I chaired the Committee for about 18 months.
-I admit that you were there considerably longer than Senator Wright. The third chairman of the Committee was Senator Greenwood, who also subsequently went into the ministry. The final chairman of the Committee was Senator Young who during the period in which he served on the Committee, was elevated to the position of Government Whip in the Senate. It would appear on the surface that for Government supporters the Committee was a stepping stone to the ministry although I do not mean to say that they got to the ministry because they were members of it. It is equally significant that 5 members of the Committee who were originally appointed in 1967 stayed on it until its hearings terminated and its report was presented in December 1971. They included the 3 Labor members - my colleagues Senator Cant and Senator O’Byrne and myself - the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) and Senator Webster of the Country Party. Changes in the composition of the Committee must of necessity have had some slowing down effect but for mechanical reasons it is not always easy to retain the original members of a committee throughout all its deliberations.
I want to make particular reference to certain sections of the minority or dissenting report. Like my colleague, Senator Cant, I am limited in the time that I can use in this debate. Section 92 of the Australian Constitution states:
The Commonwealth Government and the State Governments are bound by section 92 - I am referring to one of the notes that we made at the time - and it applies to any legislative or governmental action which operates to restrict the freedom of the individual to engage in interstate trade, commerce or intercourse. The first section of the dissenting report - one of the most important aspects of our report - states this:
We are of the opinion that there is no excuse for not having a national pipeline policy. Such a policy should be implemented without delay and gas pipelines, in particular, should be controlled by the Federal Government, especially as we believe that it is only a matter of time before at least every capital city on the eastern and southern seaboard of Australia will be linked by gat pipelines.
We recommend that a national pipelines policy be implemented immediately, and that legislation be enacted - this may require the co-operation of the States - to regulate the construction and operation of pipelines for the carriage interstate or intra-state of oil and natural gas.
Again I pause for a moment to examine the situation that exists today. There are arguments at the moment as to whether a pipeline shall or shall not be built in an area in Victoria. There are arguments as to the sizes of pipelines. There are loadings going on to the cost of natural gas in Queensland because of the private construction of pipelines. In New South Wales, the mother State of the Commonwealth with the largest capital city, there is no natural gas available yet. There are 2 reasons for this. Had the policy that we recommended been implemented at an early stage it would have ensured the cheap carriage of gas from Victoria to New South Wales. But as the situation stands at the moment, because of the inability of New South Wales and Victoria to reach agreement on pricing natural gas. ultimately it is expected that it will be transported from South Australia to Sydney. We were critical too of the royalties that are paid. One would need to examine the argument put forward in the Report to ascertain the manner in which the royalties have been set. I will just quote 2 or 3 lines from the Report. It states:
Royalty rates provided under the legislation are of concern to us. The legislation provides royalty reviews ever], 21 years - being the term of a production licence.
We believe that that is unrealistic. Perhaps I can tie in a couple of the other points that were mentioned by the previous speaker, Senator Cant. He referred to the weaknesses industrially. In view of the decisions that have been taken, in view of the decisions that have not been taken and in view of the many accidents that occur in this industry, this ought to have been an area of the legislation that was tidied up as soon as possible. We were told continuously during the currency of the consideration of the matter before the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources that regulations would be brought down. Today is 10th May 1972 and nobody has yet seen the regulations. Admittedly, there will be weaknesses, but the regulations were supposed to block the gaps. Those who have time to go through the report will see mentioned in detail the reasons why we feel that these loopholes in the legislation ought to have been blocked very early in the piece.
The previous speaker mentioned also the refusal of some States to update the agreement. There is supposed to have been an agreement between the Commonwealth and the 6 States that, whenever discussion took place and unanimity was reached on a change in the legislation, all would cooperate. In theory that sounds very good. In practice it is not working. Probably the biggest failure in this regard is the Commonwealth. I want to make reference to the pricing of crude oil which also occupies a major section of the dissenting report. The dissenting members of the Committee stated:
It is our view that, in the development of any industry, the interest of the consumer should be an important consideration, but we observe that no provisions of the legislation deal specifically with consumer requirements.
That is the first important paragraph dealing with the pricing of crude oil. It is a fact that since oil was found in this country the motorist has paid an ever increasing price for the petrol that he uses in his motor vehicle. We say in paragraph 14:
The policies adopted for the development of an Australia oil and natural gas industry have caused continuing increases in the price which the motoring public is required to pay for petrol. Also, the householder being provided with natural gas is paying more for his fuel than would be payable if, as suggested to the Committee, a pricing formula for natural gas - irrespective of where it is produced - similar to that used by the United States of America Federal Power Commission were adopted in Australia.
In other words, we have in this country a fuel industry that operates on an ad hoc basis or on a day to day basis. This Government is the main authority in Australia and it ought to be the overseeing authority. But it does not know what are the fuel resources of this country. A proper survey has never been made. Hotchpotch, piecemeal surveys have been made, but there has never been a proper survey. If somebody were to ask tomorrow ‘What are our coal resources?’, nobody in Australia could tell him. If someone asked what our uranium resources were, nobody would know either. Nor do we know how much oil we have. Estimates have been given by the oil companies. But there is no overall supervision by the Commonwealth Government or any of its agencies. I say that with due respect to the small number of people who are trying to do a job as public servants in this area. They cannot carry out the job properly unless the Government is big enough to formulate its own policies to ensure that the job is properly completed. This is the view of the dissenting members in regard to pricing agreements:
Pricing agreements in respect of crude oil produced from indigenous sources have been nothing more than ad hoc arrangements made between Prime Ministers and limited sections of industry.
If we look back to the early days of the Bass Strait oilfields - I suppose it could be said that this was the oil find that speeded on the arrangements to have uniform legislation - we notice that the first person to make a concrete decision in this regard was Sir Henry Bolte, the Premier of Victoria. To a very large degree, in his own field he still controls the oil industry in this country. He made an agreement at the time with the then Prime Minister, Mr
Harold Holt. Much criticism has been made of that agreement inside and outside the industry and government. But the Commonwealth Government remains unmoved. In the middle of lengthy discusions the next Prime Minister, Mr John Gorton, announced - I have said this publicly before and I will say it again - a pricing scheme compiled from the top of his head and in consultation with a limited section of industry. So, who decides what prices will be paid for oil, its by-products and natural gas in Australia? I have yet to be convinced that this is not being done by the major oil companies established in this country. I state again the dissenting view:
It is our view that the Committee should have exercised its authority to compel industry leaders to reveal to the Committee details of their cost price structures. All industry representatives who appeared before the Committee contended that they could give no indication of exploration production, transport or other costs.
This was a lot of poppycock. No matter what sort of an industry it is - whether it be a primary industry or a secondary industry - it cannot possibly be run on an economic basis unless there is a price fixing structure. Every one of the witnesses who appeared before the Committee was very coy when we asked what were the transport costs. They were extremely coy when they were asked about their margin of profit. They would say that it was substantial or large, but so was the risk. Of course, the risk is large. We also have to take into consideration the fact that millions of dollars of Australian taxpayers’ funds have gone into some of the major oil exploration and producing companies in this country. There is no real accounting for where it goes, except that every so often we are given a new table of so many million dollars that has been passed out to another group of oil companies, sometimes for exploration and other times for developmental purposes. Where a company is firmly established, there is no reason why it cannot stand on its own feet. But this does not seem to be the theory of the Government.
What are the end results of this? We find that at the moment oil exploration is stagnating. So, the so-called policy of the Government in fact has never reached the stage where it has borne fruit at all. It needs a major overhaul. I think that the policies of the Australian Labor Party in this regard, where we state, that there ought to be a central authority along the lines suggested in the minority report, may be the answer. Maybe in this way the explorers would have more faith in the, future. In the final paragraph dealing with the recommendations on the pricing of crude oil we state:
We recommend that a thorough examination be made of the cost price structure of the production of petroleum in Australian off-shore areas.
Today this Parliament faces a major division because we want to make sure that Australia controls the off-shore mineral resources. The Government parties, if not divided down the centre, are showing very deep channels on this issue. Senator Cant referred in some detail to the manner in which permits are issued. A lengthy recommendation is contained in the dissenting report. My time is running out, so I. will cover only 2 or 3 other points which I feel are of importance. I do not propose to deal with the titles and. designated authori-ties because I think those matters were covered adequately by Senator Cant in the time that was available to him. The second last paragraph of the dissenting report states:
The observations and findings of the Committee concerning the adequacy of provisions in relation to Australian ownership and control - item 1 (g) of the Committee’s specified terms of reference - as set out in Part Four, Chapter XI, do not cover our views. We believe that the legislation in no way provides for Australian ownership and control.
It has been said that the Designated Authority referred to in the legislation, ought to be able to ensure that there is Australian ownership and control and ought to be in a position to withhold permits if he deems it necessary that there be more Australian capital. The view of the dissenters to the report is set out in these words:
The submission that a Designated Authority can exercise discretionary power in such a way as to ensure Australian equity is little more than wishful thinking. We believe that without legislative backing the alleged discretionary power would not be exercised by any Designated Authority in favour of companies having substantial Australian financial backing.
From time to time we hear the cry that insufficient private capital is available to engage in wholesale exploration or wholesale exploitation of Australian oil and gas resources. I do not admit that that is so, but even granting it to be correct, there is nothing to prevent this country from investing government funds to provide the capital required. But we do not do so. We do not exploit properly the resources available to us. Instead we sit on the sidelines and cry that it cannot be done. On the other hand, in the mining field exploiters are to be seen everywhere - people who find nickel, gold and various other materials. Perhaps I should say that these people think they have found them and they raise millions of dollars overnight. But when they start to dig, the nickel or the gold is not there and the shareholders lose their funds.
In the field of oil exploration certain areas are known to be rich in hydrocarbons. Capital would be available if the Government would take the initiative and conduct the necessary organisation. It is a sad day for Australia when we are forced to debate a report of this magnitude on the first reading of an Excise Tariff Bill. I am sorry that we have had to use this means to debate this report, but had we not done so it is likely that it would not have seen the light of day before the end of this session. It would not have seen the light of day because in the main the Government fears the contents of this report. If it does not fear its contents, it fears the wrath of the major oil monopolies of this country.
– Two important matters have been raised in the debate in the Senate this evening of the Excise Tariff Bill. Members of the Opposition have referred to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources. Some months ago we dealt with that report which relates to a very important issue. The 2 speakers who preceded me in this debate in referring to the report said that the Government is very much to blame because the Senate has not been given a more substantial opportunity to debate it. Senator Keeffe has just said that it is regrettable that the Opposition has had to raise this matter in the debate on the first reading of an Excise Tariff Bill, but that was quite unfair of him. He knows quite well that on practically every sitting day in recent months the Opposition has raised a great variety of matters in urgency motions. Apparently the matter to which he referred tonight was not considered to be of sufficient important to raise in that way. As a member of the Senate Select Committee that prepared the report I acknowledge its importance and feel that it is due for lengthy debate in the Senate so that the Government can be more fully appraised of the views of honourable senators as to the type of legislation which should be introduced.
The other important matter was raised by Senator Negus. He referred to death taxes and I wish to speak to the Senate on that subject for a few minutes. Quite a unique situation has developed when Senator Negus speaks here on death taxes and perhaps it should recommend itself to the Government as being of major importance. I congratulate Senator Negus for speaking on the matter again this evening. The importance of his speech is underlined by the fact that he was elected as an independent senator to represent Western Australia without any party support whatsoever. He campaigned for election on the one issue of abolition of a certain type of tax. I am not sufficiently naive to think that a candidate would not gain a lot of acclamation from people for wanting to abolish taxation. Many people would support such a candidate, but the Australian people are pretty sensible and are not likely to return a candidate to the Senate simply because he proposes to abolish taxation. Senator Negus is seeking simply to abolish probate duty, estate duty, or whatever it is called in the different States.
The importance of the election of Senator Negus should figure prominently in the minds of the Government. He claims to have some standing in this matter at present but I would deny that he is the initiator of moves to abolish estate duty. I would similarly deny the claims by interjection of my colleagues in the DLP who appear to think that they initiated this move in the Senate. Long before most DLP senators were here the matter was debated and the Government parties were split in voting on the matter of federal estate duty. Death taxes are not only a Commonwealth matter. They are also applied by the States and if they are to be totally eliminated action must be taken in both the Commonwealth and State spheres.
It appears to me to be quite illogical that the Commonwealth and the States have maintained this type of taxation. Many representations have been made to me over the years as undoubtedly they have been made to other honourable senators, by their relatives, friends, connections or political affiliations. They have noted the distress caused to individuals when, on the death of the breadwinner in the family, the survivors must live in an agitated situation not only because of the death of the breadwinner but also because of the very grave strictures of the Commonwealth and State governments on the assets of the estate.
My Parry has had a particular interest in this area and I do not think it is unfair to say that the interests of the rural community should be a prominent part of the Country Party platform. Together with our colleagues in the coalition we have gained for the rural sector something which is perhap not available outside of it. I advocate to the Commonwealth that it evaluate its position and see what can be done to bring about a significant reduction in the impact of this type of taxation and then pursue its elimination. The elimination of death taxes is a policy of my Party and I agree with it. In this area some significant contributions have been made to beneficiaries of rural estates. Honourable senators may recall that through recent legislation the amount of exemption allowable to rural estates was raised by 20 per cent over that allowed to the general community. That was a wise move because it was an encouragement to people whose assets were involved in rural industries, who liked that type of life and who had a wish to decentralise their assets away from where the major assets are held by most people. It was a wise move because it could be conducive to their viewing estate duty in this light.
– How does one distinguish between- rural industries and other industries?
– Senator Murphy has asked me a question. I thank him, a Queen’s Counsel, for asking me such a question. Surely it must have come to his notice as a legal man and surely he has expressed an opinion on it on many occasions. The definition of rural holdings is set out in the Estate Duty Assessment Act, with which Parliament has dealt. I do not have the Act in front of me, because this debate was brought on suddenly this evening, but I do recall that the definition is holdings in rural real estate. I think that it extends to rural stock holdings. It can be held not in the ordinary terms of stock but in the terms of stock as it applies to rural holdings. That is a significant goat to have achieved. The Act also gave the Commissioner of Taxation power to defer the demands for the payment of duty where it applied particularly to rural estates. 1 will refer to that matter again in a moment because that deferment also conveys itself into the interest that may be required so far as payment of death dues is concerned. Where assets on death were held substantially in rural holdings but where there were other assets, a graduated, scale applied to an estate to a value of $200,000, to the extent that a basically rural estate, if I may call it that, at the point of $100,000 found itself paying approximately one-half the duty that may have been applicable under other circumstances. This is a benefit which has applied to a particular sector of the community. I believe that it is of great credit to i.he coalition government that this has been brought about.
But if we look at some legislation and some of the great problems which the Parliament has dealt with in the past few years and at some of the problems which at this time beset rural industries, what do we find? We find the House of Representatives and the Senate activating themselves in an attempt to bring about a rural reconstruction scheme by which a farmer, having found that his holding is so small that he must expand it to live in this expanded type of financial living that we have at present, is encouraged to expand. We are making offers to him to enable him to purchase his neighbour’s land so that his holding may be expanded. This brings us to the point that most rural holdings, in at least my State of Victoria, have been broken down by the effects of estate and probate duty. I could quote a dozen cases, as undoubtedly Senator Negus could, in which families who have lived on a farm for years have found that when the head of the family has died the demands of both Federal and State estate duty have made it essential to sell part of the property. Yesterday honourable senators opposite complained about the amount of foreign investment in this country, about the selling of part of our country and about what this has done to our country. It is a blight on our community that for the past 40 or 50 years rural holdings have been broken in two and families have been divided. The economics of rural production have been harmed by this kind of taxation. It is no credit to us that we pursue, as we do, the demands by which an estate can be broken down, as I understand the position generally, by up to 40 per cent which represents the amount that has to be found for the Commonwealth Government. It must have cost the Government millions of dollars over the years to find productive units, which were taxpaying in the normal sense of income tax each year, being denuded so that the Commonwealth could take that lump sum at the end of a life. Today income from estate duty represents approximately 1.4 per cent of total Commonwealth income. 1 suggest to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) that he convey to the Government the great concern that is felt by many honourable senators about this iniquitous type of taxation. If an exemption cannot be introduced immediately, the exemptable limit which has been allowed - in some instances it is $28,000 and in other instances it is $20,000 - should be raised in the forthcoming Budget to approximately $50,000. In the circumstances, this amount not having been reviewed while the value of the dollar has fallen by 3 per cent or 6 per cent in the last 20 or 30 years, I think that would be a logica] think to do. The Commonwealth, acting on behalf of the people, should act correctly in this matter and should grant further benefits to the people of Australia.
– I join my colleagues on this side of the Senate in expressing disappointment that the report, of the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources, which deliberated for 2 to 3 years, should receive such scant recognition by the Senate only a few weeks prior to the winter recess, with a busy Budget session ahead and with an election in November. The report is not being dealt with as it should be. If any phase of the Menzies, Holt, McEwen, Gorton, McMahon era of government were to be referred to by historians and by coming generations, it would be the great sell-out of the priceless Australian assets to overseas investors and exploiters. In the Senate yesterday we had a debate on take-overs. The matter of the take-over of Australian companies has been debated widely during the past few weeks. In no industry would a take-over be as effective as it has been in the Australian off-shore oil industry. It is significant that all the old names of the international oil companies - companies which have been able to change the leadership of many nations, companies which have established small kingdoms, principalities and sheikdoms over the past 50-odd years in the Middle East and companies which have exercised great power in war and in peace - feature on the list of those who now own or have leases of huge tracts of off-shore Australia.
In many ways the report illustrates how the legislation was framed as a compromise between the Commonwealth and the States to suit this type of exploitation by overseas interests with vast accumulations of capital. Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) spoke of the possibility of Australian investment in Asian countries to assist the development of industries there. How ridiculous this must sound to the ordinary person in the street in Australia. Here we are allowing our assets to be sold, as fast as their sale can possibly be organised under the various company laws and through the stock exchanges, to overseas companies supposedly because capital is not available in Australia to finance the development of our assets. Yet, the Prime Minister recommends that Australian investors direct their money to Asian countries.
It is quite easy to see the reason for this recommendation. The idea of the investment of capital is to make the greatest profit from the smallest outlay. In Australia over a period of years the trade union movement with its political wing, the Labor parties in the various States, and the arbitration courts and the like have protected the interests of the working man to the degree that his standard of living has been partly increased relative to the improving production rate of the country. This has reduced the margin for exploitation available to those who control our industries. But, in keeping with the spirit of capitalism, the Prime Minister says to some of our investors: ‘Invest your money in Asian countries. The labour is cheap. The unemployment rate is high. The cost of raw materials is low. So your investment will give you a higher margin of profit’. Obviously this is the philosophy of the Federal Government. It has been extended, in my view, to the off-shore petroleum resources legislation in which the proposition was put to the Australian people that entry into the vast and wealthy off-shore oil industry was beyond the capacity of all except one Australian company.
Reference has been made tonight to the discovery of the Bass Strait oil fields. We heard recently that the royalties that are accruing to Mr Weeks, the adviser to BHP, are such that he is now receiving $6.5m a year in royalties from the Bass Strait oil fields. We hear also that he is to float a company in Australia so that, over a period, investors in that company can obtain the proceeds of the royalties that are payable to Mr Weeks. In turn, the company can pay ready cash to Mr Weeks to distribute amongst his family or in whichever way he wishes. This is an indication of the general basis on which our off-shore oil industry has developed.
The fact is that BHP was considered to be the only industrial organisation that could finance off-shore oil exploration. The options were readily given to it. It was very difficut to get evidence along these lines, but the Bureau of Mineral Resources had quite a deal of information available on the stratigraphic surveys of Bass Strait and this knowledge was available to BHP. When BHP looked for assistance to finance the exploration and exploitation of these oil areas, it went into partnership with one of the biggest oil companies in the world, the Standard Oil Co. whose Australian subsidiary is Esso Standard Oil (Australia) Limited. The Esso-BHP group could quite easily become one of the richest oil empires in the world. The further development goes and the further the areas able to be exploited are extended, the more oil bearing regions are found. The surface of the Bass Strait oil fields has only been scratched, as is obvious from the success that is being enjoyed by this company which is continually drilling additional areas there. 1 turn to the other areas around the Australian coast in which oil exploration is taking place. I refer particularly to Western Australia where exploration rights to enormous areas of tens of thousands of square miles were granted by the State prior to the introduction of this legislation. The granting of those areas was confirmed by this legislation. As a consequence, more and more overseas companies, under the guise of being nominally Australian owned companies - no information is available as to the component investors in those companies - are being invited to participate in farm-outs and the like. This action in turn is adding to the drain of our natural resources to overseas investments.
The recent currency manipulation has left Australian currency values and the Australian investment market in such a position that it is a good paying proposition for companies from countries whose currency values have not been weakened to the extent that the Australian dollar has been weakened to pour all types of investment money, including hot money, into Australia. This money is entering Australia at the present time because of the depreciation by world standards of the Australian dollar. It is very difficult to say whether this situation can be corrected. In the last few days we have heard of the possibility of a further devaluation of the American dollar. This will mean that the Australian dollar will become a relatively much better proposition than 1 currency elsewhere.
In the course of its investigation, the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources examined a whole range of matters. I think that the most pertinent was that of Commonwealth-State relations and the manipulation that actually went on to find a way by which the responsibilities that should have, been assumed by the Commonwealth were left in the hands of the States. The ‘boundary of territorial waters, which traditionally was a limit of 3 miles off the coast, supposedly was extended to the 200-metre , limit by what was practically a verbal agreement between the Commonwealth and the
States. The States’ jurisdiction over the offshore areas extended much further than the boundaries of their traditional territorial waters. Perhaps we could refer to evidence which was given by Professor Sawer. It was substantiated in an article in the Canberra Times’ of 15th November 1967 when the professor was referring to the matter of ministerial and parliamentary control. He said:
The trouble with the scheme which the Commonwealth and the States have botched up between them is that it provides neither foi proper legal control of the relevant administrative activities, nor for proper Ministerial and parliamentary control either.
Of course he was referring to the off-shore legislation. He went on to say.
But such political control is highly dangerous unless the Ministers in question are fully answerable to Parliament for the way in which they exercise their difficult and commercially profitable, and legally unlimited and uncontrollable discretions . . .
The State Ministers who will make all the crucial decisions are in no way answerable to the Commonwealth Parliament, whose legislation provides the main basis of their powers.
One could easily imagine the readiness with which one Commonwealth Minister will wriggle out of answering parliamentary questions and criticisms.
Meanwhile, in the State Parliament, the relevant Minister will wriggle out of responsibility just as easily . . .
The ultimate responsibility for these decisions could and should have been placed squarely with the Commonwealth Minister.
Right throughout the Committee inquiry we find this grey area between Commonwealth and State responsibility never properly defined. I believe that it shows a lack of courage on the part of the Commonwealth. It has been referred to recently in another place in relation to the forthcoming meeting on the international law of the sea. That is where this matter has to be grappled with. It is no longer the prerogative of either the State or Federal governments to leave this twilight zone of offshore waters. The Commonwealth must take the responsibility for all activities off the Australian coast. In the very near future it will have to take responsibility for the delineation of boundaries between the Commonwealth and Papua New Guinea. It cannot possibly leave such an important matter to a State government. Although a State government has it own autonomy and sovereignty, under circumstances such as this it must be subservient to Commonwealth and national authority. Right through this legislation we find that these matters have been side-tracked because of the haste to obtain some sort of working arrangement so that the oil in Bass Strait can be exploited and because of the enormous amounts of money which were in sight in the development of this oil rich area. We find that the legislation was put together for the purpose of getting it off the ground.
It is certainly my view that there should be a complete review of all the legislation because of the developments since its introduction in 1964. In that time because of the improvement in the technique of off-shore exploration, the types of drilling rigs which have been developed and the technical know-how which has been acquired not only in this country but also in other parts of the world, there should be another very close look at the whole of our off-shore oil industry. Mention was made earlier of the dissenting report. We drew attention to the matter of royalties. We expressed concern that royalty rates provided under the legislation needed review. The legislation provides royalty reviews every 21 years. It is of interest - this is supported by the statistics which have been presented in the report - that in the neutral zone in the Middle East there is a 20 per cent royalty paid. In Saudi Arabia a royalty of about 22c a barrel is paid. In Iran the royalty is 12i per cent; in the Netherlands - proposed for the continental shelf - it is up to 16 per cent; in France it is up to 14 per cent; in Venezuela it is 161 per cent. These are royalties paid to the governments. In Libya it is 124- per cent; Algeria, 12i per cent; Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait 12i per cent; in the United Kingdom, 12i per cent; the United States of America - federal off-shore - 124 per cent to 16$ per cent; and Australia, in most States and proposed off-shore royalty, 10 per cent. This royalty has been set for a period of 21 years.
An arrangement has been made since the introduction of this legislation, that extensions to leases in the Bass Strait area, or areas which are oil productive, are made for an extra 2i per cent. But in my view the Commonwealth and the States are not receiving sufficient revenue from this great discovery of a natural resource which has potential for helping this country to do so many things which it should be able to do. Reference was also made to permit areas. In my view and in the view of other members of the Committee a review should be made of the terms that surround these permits. It has been mentioned before that some of the areas extending over tens of thousands of square miles of off-shore permits are too great for a company to be able to explore properly and quickly. The present rash of farm-outs is more an attempt to be able to prove the areas which the companies will retain and also to find out the areas which they will relinquish. Of course perhaps this is the name of the game in oil exploration. But in the overall picture it means that companies have been excluded from these areas because of the size of the original permits. The development is far too slow. The needs of Australia in crude oil and petroleum requirements are such that exploration and the discovery of new oil fields is quite urgent. The report is a massive document. No doubt a tremendous amount of work and research was put into it.
Voice of the Homeland’ Journal - Decentralisation: Benalla
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I have been asked by certain members of the Russian Orthodox community of Melbourne to bring before the Senate the question of a journal called ‘Voice of the Homeland’ which, as far as can be ascertained, is printed either in Communist East Germany or in some other Sovietdominated country. It is printed in a variety of languages and is posted all over the world to political refugees who have left the Soviet Union or countries under its domination. This is not the first time that the question of this newspaper or journal called ‘Voice of the Homeland’ has been raised. It has given considerable concern to refugees from Soviet countries who over the years have received copies of this journal for which they have not asked. They are deeply disturbed when, having changed their addresses, they find that persons in that Eastern European country are able to post the journal to their new addresses. They are in no doubt that this indicates the existence in Australia of a Sovietsponsored espionage organisation which keeps tab on the movements and addresses of political refugees from the Soviet Union.
One of the principal activities or objects of this journal appears to be the intimidation of such refugees. The journal is notable for the fact that it ridicules and smears in particular those refugees who are most prominent for their opposition to communism, and especially those refugees who are associated with the Russian Orthodox Church in this country. There has been a particular example of the type of publicity in which this paper indulges following the visit to Australia last February, under an arrangement by the Soviet Embassy, of Metropolitan Nikodim who represents the Soviet-sponsored Patriarchate in Moscow. The purpose of Metropolitan Nikodim’s visit was to set up a branch of the Sovietsponsored Moscow church in opposition to or rivalry with the existing body which opposes communism. But Metropolitan Nikodim left earlier than it had been originally announced that he would leave when he found that his endeavours to divide the Russian Orthodox community had failed.
One of those who took a strong stand against Metropolitan Nikodim’s visit was Bishop Constantine of Brisbane. It is notable that as a result of his firm stand against this attempt to divide the Russian Orthodox community and to set up a breakaway church here, he has been attacked and maligned by ‘Voice of the Homeland’ ever since. In issue No. 19 of March 1972 this paper which, as I said, is mailed from the Soviet Union or one of its subject countries to Russian refugees throughout the world, devoted considerable space to an attack on Bishop Constantine of Brisbane. It declared that he was negligent in his pastoral duties and that he was not regarded with confidence by members of the church in this country - statements which the briefest examination of the facts would reveal to be complete lies. The article wound up by describing the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Brisbane as a ‘fascist
Jew’. That this paper published under communist or Soviet auspices should describe the Bishop as a fascist Jew is the clearest possible proof that the. denials of the leaders of the Soviet Union that they are anti.semitist are completely untrue. By using that particular epithet they have revealed the truth of the allegations made by Jewish people in this country that there is vicious and vile anti-semitism in the Soviet Union today.
The Russian Orthodox people in this country bitterly resent that this organ can be posted to Australia to people who have never asked for it and do not want it. It is obviously the inspiration of an espionage organisation existing here for the purpose of keeping tabs on the refugees. They desire to express their complete confidence in their bishop and they are indignant that this journal is allowed into this country. I understand that this journal was brought to the notice of the Postmaster-General on a previous occasion, and if I remember correctly the answer was given that the Post Office must comply with certain international obligations that make it very difficult to deal with the matter. However, I hope that the Government will again have the Post Office examine this matter, and if necessary make representations to the Soviet Embassy asking that this particularly despicable type of journalism be not foisted upon Australia. In conclusion I express my sympathy with the Russian Orthodox people and the Jewish people in this country, and I regret that such a paper is permitted to be sent through the mail to people who, as I said before, do not want it.
– I rise to speak on a matter of great urgency and importance that has been placed before me and, I understand, before many other senators. It concerns the imminent closing down of an industry in the City of Benalla in the State of Victoria. This city feels so concerned about the closing of this industry, which may occur in the very near future, that its citizens have established a committee called the Committee for Retention of Renold Chain, Benalla’s Decentralised Industry. I understand that this committee has written to most senators and probably most members of the House of
Representatives. It is a very broad committee, established by the whole of the city for the purpose of trying to retain this very important decentralised industry in Benalla. The people associated with this committee are the Benalla City Council, the Benalla Shire Council, the Benalla Chamber of Commerce, the Benalla Branch of the Country Party, the Benalla Branch of the Liberal Party, the Benalla Branch of the Democratic Labor Party, the Benalla Branch of the Australian Labor Party, the Benalla Business and Professional Women’s Club, the RSL Club of Benalla, the Lions Club of the same city, the Rotary Club of Benalla, the Benalla Junior Chamber of Commerce, and the Benalla Apex Club. One can see that this is probably one of the broadest committees that any city the size of Benalla could possibly obtain for the purpose of trying to save the city from what would in fact be a tragedy. The letter that has been sent to me, and I understand to many other senators, reads as follows:
We urgently appeal to you personally to help save our town from disaster by helping to retain its decentralised industry whose closure is impending because of unrestricted cheap imports.
This industry is Renold Australia Proprietary Limited. Both the Federal and State Governments helped its establishment in Benalla during 1949, soon after World War II, as having strategic importance to our country. Renold is virtually the sole manufacturer in Australia of transmission chain up to one inch pitch which is used both for industrial and agricultural machinery.
Failure of this industry will threaten the whole concept of decentralisation throughout Australia.
Normally, Renold employs about 200 people, but owing to the steady inroads of very cheap imports, has fallen during the last twelve months to about 120 employees. Without . urgent and decisive action by the Government, this industry is likely to be dead by early 1973.
We have approached our own Member for Indi, the Honourable R. McN. Holten, M.H.R., Minister for Repatriation and Assisting .Minister for Trade and Industry, and we seek your support in the efforts he is making on our behalf.’
Local branches of all Political Parties are supporting us in this request.
Quantitative import restriction of transmission chain up to one inch pitch is the only means of saving this highly specialised industry. This action would create no precedent because Renold is virtually the sole manufacturer in Australia, and no economic problem, because total import value is only approximately $lm-
I assume that that is annually - and of very little economic importance to exporting countries.
Loss of Renold would reduce Benalla by some 800 people, counting families, from a population of 8.000 down to about 7,200. There is little other industry, so this would be the beginning of the end.
As decentralisation is a platform of your Party, we are now seeking your practical support by asking you to write directly to, or seek the personal assurance of, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony, Minister for Trade and Industry, to apply positive protection and save this industry which is so vital for Benalla and Australia.
Mr President, I believe that some urgent action must be taken by the Government if the position is as outlined in this letter. For a town of the size of Benalla to lose an industry which employs 200 persons would create a situation in which up to 1,000 people in the area would be seriously affected. Anybody who knows this area - indeed, anybody who knows country areas anywhere throughout the Commonwealth - will realise that an industry of this nature cannot be replaced easily. As this letter indicates, all political parties have indicated their support for decentralisation. Unfortunately some talk more about it than they act. That applies in particular to the Liberal-Country Party coalition which is in government in Canberra. It also applies to the State Government in Victoria. Both of those governments pay only lip service to decentralisation of industry as such. It is my view and it is a view which is accepted by quite a number of people that neither the Liberal Party nor the Country Party has any real desire to see industries established or flourishing in country areas because they have a vested interest to ensure that voters who support the Australian Labor Party are not placed outside of the metropolitan areas and therefore able to wrest from the Libera] and Country Parties seats that they have held for so many years and which are regarded by them as safe, comfortable seats. The only State in the Commonwealth which has been progressive in any shape or form in this matter is Tasmania. The most decentralised State in the Commonwealth of Australia is Tasmania, which had a Labor government for 34 years. The second most decentralised State is Queensland, which had a Labor government for over 25 years. When Liberal governments have taken over in these States they have shown no interest in the problems of the country towns.
– South Australia is establishing a new town.
– It is establishing a new town because it has a practical Labor Government which is prepared to encourage decentralisation. Up to the time of the Dunstan Government the most centralised State in the Commonwealth was South Australia which had the. longest run of Liberal governments in the history of Australia - and it was a gerrymandered government at that.
Getting back to the original point that I wish to make, I ask the Government to take very quick action because the situation in Benalla is acute. Only some rapid positive action by the Commonwealth Government will save this decentralised industry. The Commonwealth Government has it within its powers to assist this industry by quickly acceding to the request, not just of the company itself but also of a committee representing all sections of the community in Benalla, for consideration of the imposition of quantitative restrictions on cheap imports from overseas. The committee has examined this matter very closely and it has determined that that is the only way in which the industry can be saved.
I believe, that this matter is of sufficient importance for me to take up a few minutes of the Senate’s time this evening. I wish to air the situation publicly and show that at least members of the Australian Labor Party do not want to see an industry destroyed in a town the size of Benalla. We do not like to see any industry destroyed, but we particularly do not like to see an industry destroyed in a town as small as Benalla. A community of 8,000 people will lose something like 10 per cent of its number. When one takes into consideration the effect of the loss of this industry on education, hospital, medical and other facilities one can appreciate the situation in which this community will find itself. The town will start to die.
We have seen this happen so often throughout Australia. It happened in the early history of Australia to the mining towns and it is now happening in many of the rural towns throughout Australia. If industrial problems such as this are to be added to rural problems we will have a situation which is worse than that which already exists in Victoria where something like 70 per cent of the total population of the State lives in the city of Melboune The difficulties of the capital city will be exacerbated. It costs a city of the size of Melbourne millions of dollars to handle only its traffic problems. Ten per cent of the money it is costing that city to handle those problems would be sufficient to establish industries in areas to which people, would be happy to go and in which they would be happy to live. The Government has a duty to give urgent consideration to this matter. It should show its sincerity as a Government and accede to the committee’s request, particularly as it professes to believe in decentralisation. But action must be taken quickly. The Tariff Board or any other government department must not be allowed to take 2 or 3 years to make up its mind. If this were allowed it would be too late as the industry would have already gone. I ask for immediate action in this matter to ensure that thus industry is saved before it disappears altogether.
Senator McLAREN (South Australia) (11.19) - I rise to support the case that Senator Poyser has put to the Senate tonight for the retention of the Renold chain company in Benalla. I do so because I have lived for 22 years in Murray Bridge, which is a town in South Australia of a similar size to Benalla, and I know of the real problems that would be created in Murray Bridge if an industry of this size - and we have several of them in Murray Bridge - were suddenly to fold up because of the lack of support of a government which was prepared to allow cheap imports into the country. It would have a very grave effect on all of the residents in the town of Murray Bridge. On receiving similar correspondence to that received by Senator Poyser - as Senator Poyser stated, probably all honourable senators and members of the other place received similar correspondence - I did as I was requested, namely, made immediate representations to the Right Honourable J. D. Anthony, Minister for Trade and Industry. I did this by way of telegram on 2nd May. I set out the case very briefly, explaining to the Minister the real urgency of doing something for the people of Benalla, but apparently the Minister for Trade and Industry does not consider that this case warrants urgent attention because it is now 8 days since I despatched that telegram and as at this point of time I have received no reply.
It will be recalled by those people who have taken an interest in decentralisation and in the governments which had been prepared to support it, that a Federal Labor government was in office in 1949 when this industry was established in Benalla. I am sure that the people of Benalla are well aware of this fact. No doubt they are hoping that in the very near future there will be another Federal Labor government so that if nothing is done between now and then we will be able to come to their rescue and save this industry for them. The peope of Australia were so concerned about the drift to the cities of country people and the effect that this was having on the rural areas that on 19th and 20th August last year they convened a conference which was held in Canberra. It was attended by representatives from all over Australia. The result of this conference was the setting up of an organisation called the Australian Council for Balanced Development. The 3 major points contained in the policy of that organisation are as follows:
I was one of two senators who attended that conference together with Mr Don Simmons, the member for Peake in the South Australian Parliament. Shortly after that conference I asked in the Senate a question of the Minister repesenting the Minister for National Development. The question I asked, in part, was: . . I was greatly impressed by the determination and enthusiasm shown by the delegates from all parts of Australia in arriving at their decisions. As these decisions were classified by the conference as being extremely urgent and, as such, were communicated to the government and other Party leaders by telegram, will the Minister give an assurance that he too will treat these decisions with the same degree of urgency?
In the course of his reply Senator Cotton stated:
I think that the Benalla people also are very conscious of the cost of decentralisation, not in the way that Senator Cotton meant, namely the cost of establishing it, but in relation to what it will cost them because of the fact that the Federal Government is not helping them to keep their industry going. Obviously if this industry is lost to them it will cost them a great deal. I waited for some months to see what the federal Government would do as regards the requests that came forward from the National Development Conference. On 23rd February of this year I asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development the following question:
Has the Government taken any action, in response to urgent requests from the National Development Conference held at Canberra in August last year, with regard to financial participation in decentralisation and balanced development of population and employment in Australia?
On 11th April last I received the following answer:
The Government has not as yet taken any action with regard to financial participation in decentralisation and balanced development of population and employment in Australia, as a result of the National Development Conference. The Government is awaiting the report of the CommonwealthState Officials Committee on Decentralisation. When this report has been received, the Government will be in a better position to define what action ls appropriate in these fields.
Of course, to the uninformed or the illinformed that answer sounds very nice, but I was able to obtain a paper which was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr Whitlam) at a seminar which he attended at Wangaratta on 29th April. I shall quote from this paper in which he dealt with decentralisation and the Committee which was referred to in the answer given to me on 11th April. The portion of this paper which dealt with decentralisation is headed ‘Government’s Approach’. It reads as follows:
Decentralisation is a matter on which the present government has been not only dilatory but obstructionist
Sir Robert Menzies promised in his 1949 election policy speech ‘a positive decentralised national programme of rural production, to be carried out co-operatively, with the States and with regional and local authorities.’ That promise remains unhonoured.
Motions on decentralisation were moved in the Parliament by members of my party in 1961, 1965, 1967 and 1971. Not one of them was allowed to come to a vote.
In 1964, while Sir Robert Menzies was overseas and Sir John McEwen was Acting Prime Minister, the Premiers’ Conference agreed to establish a Commonwealth-State Officers’ Committee on Decentralisation. That Committee has met on only 4 occasions, 4th and 5th March 1965, 30th November 1966, 7th February 1969 and most recently on 12th October 1971.
Following the October meeting it circulated a report which the Chairman of the New South Wales Department of Decentralisation and Development has stigmatised as ‘largely irrelevant’. The Chairman said that the report: . . to the extent that it does concern itself with evaluating the justification for decentralisation fails to do so in any systematic way and avoids any attempt to assemble the sum total of the arguments for and against decentralisation and arrive at an overall conclusion.’
He described the studies commissioned by the Committee as ‘limited’ and ‘marginal’.
As a result of these strictures, the Committee circulated on 23rd February a further draft report which the New South Wales Chairman regards as acceptable but anticipates being difficult to marry to the original draft. The Prime Minister told the honourable member for Calare on 8th March that the final report is ‘nearing completion’, but how much longer must Australians wait before there is action on this vital matter?
In the absence of action, cabals gather. The present Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, refuses even to disclose the names of departments which are represented on interdepartmental committees, but his predecessor, Mr Gorton, told my colleague, Mr Al Grassby, on 14th April 1970 that the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation consisted of representatives from each State, his own department, the Treasury, and the Departments of Trade and Industry, Primary Industry, National Development and Labour and National Service. In the meantime the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony-
– Is this a speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition in another place?
– No, it is not. I am reading portion of a paper which was delivered by the Leader of the Opposition at a seminar in Wangaratta on 29th April last.
– Start again.
– I do not intend to start again, and since Senator Webster has interjected I will make the comment that I would have thought that Senator Webster, being a member of the Australian Country Party, would have been one of the first senators on his feet to put the. case for this industry at Benalla which is situated in an area represented by a member of the Country Party in the other place, the honourable member for Indi (Mr Holten). I feel very disgusted that Senator Webster has not risen to his feet to stick up for the interests of the people of Benalla. It ill behoves him to interject when I am trying to put a case to help the people in Benalla. After that interruption I will now continue. The paper continues:
In the meantime the Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony, has established a private interdepartmental committee consisting of officers from his own department and the departments of Shipping and Transport and Interior. The Ministers responsible for these 3 departments are all members of the Country Party. The whole purpose of ‘Mr Anthony’s interdepartmental committee is to see that the Country Party secures the advantage from any programme of decentralisation which the coalition may undertake to implement.
That is the end of the quotation on decentralisation.
– From whom? Who quoted that?
– I quoted it.
– From whom?
– From the Leader of the Opposition, the future Prime Minister. I told the honourable senator a while ago that when we form a Government we will see that this industry at Benalla is put back on to its feet, if it has not collapsed in the meantime from lack of action by the Minister for Trade and Industry, who is in a position, as you, Senator Webster, are in a position, to do something to help these people in Benalla. After quoting from that speech by the Leader of the Opposition, I wonder how long we are going to have to wait until we get a report from that Committee. I was told in that answer that the Government is waiting on its report before it can implement the requests sent to it from the conference held in Canberra last August. I hope that we will not have to wait much longer. As I pointed out, the Committee has met on very few occasions and this shows how little it is concerned about decentralisation in this country.
As Senator Poyser pointed out, the Country Party does not support decentralisation because of the fact that when there is decentralised industry the working people move to country areas and therefore make safe Country Party seats very vulnerable to the Australian Labor Party. I hope that because both Senator Poyser and I have brought this matter to the notice of the Senate tonight some action will be taken immediately to give some relief to this industry in Benalla in order to keep it on its feet.
– I want to astound Senator Poyser by supporting his speech to the Senate tonight Perhaps it would be more accurate if I said I support carefully selected extracts from his speech. I also received a letter from the Renold chain people but I did not wait to bring the matter up in the Senate in a debate on the motion for the adjournment. I have referred it already to the relevant Minister and have had an acknowledgment from his Department. The matter is under consideration. It is true, as Senator Poyser said, that this industry is of vital significance to Benalla. The town is partly dependent upon it industrially. Benalla is one of those thriving north-eastern towns which Victoria has produced as a model for the rest of Australia. It would be a great pity if this important decentralised industry were to fade for lack of tariff protection. It is my hope that, partly as a result of what Senator Poyser has said and my own modest contribution, the matter will be attended to speedily. ‘
I was diverted slightly by what Senator McLaren said. He should know, if he has been attending to affairs of state, that the Deputy Prime Minister, the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) returned to Australia only on Monday night and to Canberra on Tuesday. He has been conducting a trade mission in South America. It would not surprise me at all if he had attempted to find a market for Renold’s chains in South America. I express great personal regret that this matter has had to be dealt with on the basis of partisan party politics. y*ou, Mr President, well know that in respect of matters of high national significance we on this side eschew party politics. After listening to the drivelling nonsense uttered by my friend Senator McLaren it is very difficult to believe that the honourable senator from South Australia has a genuine interest in the welfare of this north eastern Victorian town.
– I was born in Victoria. I lived there until 1950. ..
– Well, Victoria has had to bear a lot of crosses but it has been relieved of that one. To return to a serious note before concluding my speech, the matters raised by Senator Poyser are worthy of serious and sober consideration by all honourable senators, not only those representing Victoria. All parties contain in their platform the doctrine of decentralisation. We have appropriate machinery to arrange action in cases of emergency to prevent the collapse of such a significant industry. I have no doubt that the Deputy Prime Minister will show the same alacrity, diligence and ability in handling this emergency as he has shown in dealing with many other things, such as the wool problems facing the nation and other matters allied to rural development. I do not want to be side-tracked by interjections, Mr President, and to go on and outline the magnificent recovery made in so many sections of our rural industries as a result of this Government’s encouragement and assistance. I do not want to detain the Senate for an hour or two while I run through the very lengthy catalogue of successful Government endeavours to restore this basic part of Australia’s national industry. I close by expressing the hope that quick emergency action will be taken to save the industry.
– There is not one honourable senator in this place who would wish to see a decentralised industry forced to move to a centralised situation. That certainly is my position as a Country Party senator. I was concerned about the remarks made by Senator McLaren and Senator Poyser. Senator McLaren tried to introduce a political content by saying that this matter reflects on my Party. The electorate in which this chain industry operated by Renolds Australia Pty Ltd is based is one which the Labor Party has had no hope of winning for many, many years. Its hopes of winning it are like Senator McLaren’s statement about the Australian Labor Party looking forward to winning the Prime Ministership. His Party has been looking forward for 20 years to doing that and in another 20 years time it still will be looking forward to it. When members of the Labor Party know that election time is near they look over their shoulders and turn to pillars of salt, as people did in earlier days.
We in Victoria have received the publication from the committee which is concerned about the Renold’s chain industry in Benalla. It is interesting to attempt to evaluate when an industry will decide to move or whether the interests of the town concerned, which wishes it to stay, should predominate. No previous speaker in this debate has presented the interests of the company concerned. We have not been told whether the price at which chain is produced in Benalla can meet overseas competition. I would pay regard to facts contained in a Tariff Board report on this subject.
It is interesting to contemplate the attitudes of various honourable senators in regard to tariff. I at least have maintained a traditional position for my corner. This matter that is under discussion is related to a Tariff Board report made in September last year. Honourable senators probably know that the honourable member for Indi, the Minister for Repatriation (Mr Holten), has had this matter under the closest scrutiny - a closer scrutiny than any that could be given to it by any member of the Opposition. I have discussed this matter with him and he has been down to visit the company. I know that he has been to Benalla to investigate the problems mentioned in the letters we have received from the committee referred to. The Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr Anthony) is certainly concerned. The Senate may be interested to know that today the Minister answered a question on this matter in another place. As the hour is late perhaps I may read the answer that he gave. It may be of interest and perhaps it will put the facts squarely before the Senate. In answer to a question the Minister said:
I am aware of the problems confronting producers of smaller pitch precision transmission chain.
The duties on this chain were reduced from 45 per cent (General), 271 per cent (Preferential) to 35 per cent (General), 25 per cent (Preferential) last September following the Government’s acceptance of recommendations made by the Tariff Board.
In its report the Board commented that it was in the smaller pitch chain that the local industry’s cost and price disadvantages were the greatest due mainly to the greater degree of automation overseas associated with production for large markets. In the Board’s opinion, most local production of chain in this category was uneconomic and would remain so unless the industry could employ the techniques and equipment necessary to considerably reduce its costs.
In the same report the Board found that dumping of chain had occurred. The Minister for Customs and Excise has taken action to collect dumping duties on the types of chain involved.
In February last I had discussions with executives of the Renold organisation from the United Kingdom and with the Australian management concerning the effects of import competition on production in Benalla. Early in March I received representations from the Mayor of Benalla concerning the effects on the local community of any major downturn in chain production at the Renold plant.
When the Minister for Shipping and Transport was in the United Kingdom recently he discussed the problems of chain production at Benalla with executives of the Renold organisation.
I have asked the Department of Trade and Industry to carry out a detailed review of the situation to see whether there is a case for action to further assist the production of small pitch precision transmission chain in Australia against overseas competition.
The Department has established close liaison with the companies concerned and I understand that the information necessary for the review is being prepared by the companies.
It is most interesting, in the light of what we have heard from the Australian Labor Party in relation to its attitude to overseas companies establishing in this country and its attitude to tariff protection for certain industries, that it should bring this matter into the Senate tonight and suggest that it has some command of the situation.
– I listened with interest to what Senator McManus had to say. I view with much concern the general details which he outlined. I think we all recognise that many people have come to this country to experience a freedom of living, a freedom from all the apparatus of tyranny and authoritarianism which characterises the Communist countries of this world. The people who have come here have established a new life. But the fact that they are in this country is a constant reminder to the Communist masters of the countries from which they fled that they are a continuous indictment of the whole Communist system. There are throughout the world millions of people who have left their homeland, to which naturally they would have desired to adhere, in order to secure a freedom which is denied to them by the Communist regimes. It is typical of the Communist subversion and the Communist methods of imposition and intimidation that the persons who have now established themselves in this country are subjected to the unsolicited type of material to which Senator McManus has drawn our attention.
As he has indicated, these documents reveal certain things. In the first place, they reveal the way in which the Communists will take advantage of the natural affection which persons who have established a new life in this country have for the homeland from which they have come. There is a natural feeling which is being exploited. As I understand his recounting of the documents, they also disclose that the tactics of defamation are used to sow distrust amongst the people who have come to this country and people in whom they have respect. As I understand it, the documents also show the use of antisemitism as a Communist weapon. It also reveals the existence in this country of espionage activity which is designed to further Communist ends. How otherwise can people who have come from a different country and who have established themselves in various parts of Australia have their names and addresses known to people in the Soviet Union from where this document is sent? In these circumstances, it seems to me that what Senator McManus has done is to reveal the intimidatory tactics which are engaged in. I feel that the real value is that he has ventilated this matter.
I believe that we all have an obligation to disclose these things when they come to our attention, because the methods by which communism seeks to establish its hegemony are methods which are foreign to the practices we have known in this country and which are unknown to us. We are little accustomed to them. I feel that the effort must be made constantly to bring to public attention what is being done. Australia is a free country. Freedom in this country means that there is freedom of speech for those who are opposed to communism and for those who support communism and who would seek to destroy the very freedom which allows them to speak. I do not know whether Senator Mulvihill, who is trying to interject, objects to what I am saying. But I believe that what I am saying ought to have general acceptance. We certainly have not only freedom of speech but also freedom to publish by the written word, freedom to disseminate views and freedom to move around. Of course, we seek to establish the widest possible freedom of communication with other countries including the communist countries which, given the opportunity, would seek to deny that freedom of communication which we cherish in this land.
Taking that freedom, as I see it, we have to take the good with the bad because freedom is meaningless unless we are prepared to do that. We have not in this country the laws which would effectively enable the type of literature to which Senator McManus has referred to be prohibited. It is not prohibited by our customs regulations. It is not prohibited, at least expressly, under our Post and Telegraph Act. If we were to adopt the course, which presumably we could adopt in the form of legislation, of stopping material coming into this country, I believe that we would be cutting down on a freedom. Of course, we may cut down on a freedom if it is necessary to preserve the national interest. But in these areas this Government moves carefully and will move only when the necessity arises. I know that there are arrangements which this country has with other countries with regard to the transmission of material overseas and that the Postmaster-General (Sir Alan Hulme) has expresed himself on this matter to, I think, Senator McManus or to other honourable senators in the past. I will convey what Senator McManus has said to the Postmaster-General for his attention. ButI believe that this is one area in which, having the knowledge brought before us, we ought to lose no opportunity to disclose what has happened. I think that in that sense we are indebted to Senator McManus for what he has said tonight.
– I shall speak briefly. Senator Poyser referred to the Reynold chain factory at Benalla having some problems in continuing in full scale production. I think that was quite interesting and illuminating and I listened to him with careful attention. Senator McLaren also involved himself in this operation. I felt that this was adequately answered by Senator Hannan and Senator Webster. Senator Hannan knew about this matter, was informed about it and had acted upon it in what I would regard as a pretty logical and sensible way to go about it. It seemed to me that what was engaged in tonight was an exercise in grandstanding which did little for anybody in Benalla. Nonetheless, as somebody who in his lifetime has played some small part in decentralisation and has worked practically to achieve it, I say that what counts in this exercise is performance and not words. What I shall do is refer to the responsible Minister the expressions we have received from Senator Poyser - I said earlier that I thought they were of value - from Senator Hannan, who acted himself in a precise form to do something about this, and from Senator Webster, who referred to the practical problem of the fine chain that this firm makes, and see what can be done to help the situation if, indeed, it is possible to help in it. That is all I can propose I should do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.50 p.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were given:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice:
Senator COTTON- The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Does any means test apply on Age Pensions paid to those eligible people living outside Australia.
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Payment on a daily basis would result in a reduction in the amount of this first instalment.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice: (1)Under section 22 (d) of the Social Services Act, what meaning is given to the words ‘during that period’.
Senator GREENWOOD - The Minister for Social Services has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) three 3-ton and thirteen 5-ton vehicles
Post Office policy on replacement and maintenance of vehicles generally accords with that of other Commonwealth Departments. However, Sedan cars not chauffeur driven can be replaced at a slightly lower age and mileage than those of some other Commonwealth Departments.
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD - The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
Who are the ex-officio members of the Social Science Research Council of Australia which is entrusted with the research project on immigrants in Australia, and what stage has this project reached.
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
At the end of June 1971 the Council’s membership stood at 95, including 4 honorary and 4 overseas members. There are no ex-officio members and any person who has achieved distinction in the social sciences is eligible for election.
The Immigration Project in which the Council is at present involved began in late 1967 as a 5- year study aimed at assessing the contribution made by immigrants to the Australian community since World War II, and studying the problems associated with this large-scale influx of people. This project is composed of a variety of separate studies carried out by about 20 individual research workers, the majority of whom are associated with an Australian university.
One study, by Professor Jean Martin, is in process of publication as a book, others have already been published in journals and the rest are well advanced. Arrangements have been made for their publication in the form of books or monographs, and for the re-publication of journal articles in a uniform series.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Aborigines and the Arts upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided me with the following reply to the honourable senator’s question. Information has been supplied by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs:
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
What is the estimated cost to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department of providing colour television transmitters and programme circuits, referred to in the answer given on 24th February 1972 to Question No. 1657 on the Senate Notice Paper.
Senator GREENWOOD- The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
At the present time, the only available cost estimate for conversion of P.M.G. transmitters and programme relay circuits to colour was prepared in 1970. The details are shown in the following table.
In view of the time which has elapsed since these figures were prepared, work is in progress to bring the estimates up to date preparatory to establishing a final works programme. It is expected that more accurate figures will be available after July 1972, at which time I would be pleased to make them known to you.
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice:
In respect of the electorates of (a) Mitchell (b) Farrer (c) Hume (d) Macarthur (e) Paterson (f) Calare (g) Gwydir (h) New England (i) Lyne (j) Cowper and (k) Richmond -
Which non-official post offices have been closed in the last 12 months.
How many more non-official post offices will be closed by 31st December 1972, and where are they located.
How many official post offices have been downgraded in the last 12 months.
Senator GREENWOOD- The PostmasterGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Non-Official Post Offices closed during the 15 months period from the 1st January, 1971, to the 31st March, 1972, showing in brackets after the name of each office the approximate average daily sales of postage stamps for the last complete financial year before the office was closed:
Lyne Electorate- Tom’s Creek (23c) Wang Wauk (30c), Ellenborough (28c), Central Lansdowne (33c), Langley Vale (50c).
Where residents were obtaining their mail through the post office, appropriate arrangements to continue getting mail to these people have been made.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
The number of non-official post offices which were closed during the same period:
Over 80 per cent of the post offices closed since January 1971 were very small country offices at which the value of postage stamps sold averaged about 60 cents a day per office.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply the following question on notice:
SenatorDRAKE-BROCKMAN - The Minister for Supply has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 1963)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONOn 22nd March Senator Laucke asked me a question, as the Minister representing the Prime Minister, concerning decentralisation. In replying to that question I referred to the work of the CommonwealthState Officials’ Committee, and said that I would also give a supplementary answer to the question.
The following supplementary information has been provided by the Prime Minister:
Decentralisation and regional development are, under the Constitution, primarily State responsibilities. At the same time the Commonwealth naturally maintains a close interest in these matters and, indeed, has over a long period demonstrated its readiness to adopt general development policies relevant to the decentralisation of industry.
Examples of Commonwealth assistance measures relevant to regional development outside the metropolitan areas and in the territories for which the Commonwealth is directly responsible can be classified into three broad categories.
First, there are measures to assist the ‘naturally decentralised’ rural and mining industries. This form of assistance ranges from direct subsidy and bounty payments to rural producers through to the provision of scientific and technical assistance.
The second category is the financing (in whole or in part) of a large number of development projects, such as the Gladstone Power Station, rail standardisation and beef roads. Apart from these projects which benefits specific regions, there are general developmental expenditures which benefit non-metropolitan areas’. For example, under the current Comonwealth Aid Roads legislation the Commonwealth is to provide $395m over the five years from 1st July 1969 for rural roads other than trunk and arterial roads.
In the third category are measures aimed at inducing people and industries to locate outside the metropolitan areas. These measures range from the provision of subsidised accommodation for migrants settling in country areas to a petroleum price equalisation scheme (costing in excess of $20m per annum) which reduces the cost of petroleum products in non-metropolitan areas.
The Commonwealth also has a special interest, exercised through the Department of National Development, in co-ordinating development in the northern part of the continent.
Lastly, the Commonwealth-State Officials’ Committee on Decentralisation is scheduled to meet in the very near future to consider a revised draft of its report.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 May 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720510_senate_27_s52/>.