28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That, contingent upon the President proceeding to call on questions, I shall move that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended -
as would prevent Senator Greenwood making a statement in relation to Croatian terrorism in Australia and related matters and question time being postponed until after such statement has been made, and
as would prevent questions being asked during question time relating to the statement.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise -I ask for leave to make a statement.
– On one aspect of the questions which were directed to me last week about the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation.
– It is very difficult to agree. As I understand the position, it is normal for Leaders to look at a statement some time before it is made.It is rather difficult to agree to a statement being made if we have not the opportunity to do something about it immediately. It is for that reason, and that reason only, that it is difficult to agree.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate asked for leave to make a statement. Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral able to say whether it is a fact that the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation saw the Prime Minister on one day of the week-end immedi ately following the raid on the office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on 16th March by the Attorney-General? Will the Attorney-General ascertain from the Director-General of Security and report to the Senate whether the Director-General informed his staff that he had complained to the Prime Minister about the raids?
– It is a fact that the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation saw the Prime Minister on the week-end following my visit to ASIO.I emphasise the words ‘my visit to ASIO’ because it is quite clear that in every respect my visit to ASIO was lawful and within my ministerial responsibilities. One of the unfortunate happenings was that there were not more visits to ASIO by responsible Ministers. I have stated here and the Prime Minister has stated in the House of Representatives, as the Director-General has stated to me, that he has made no complaint either to myself or to the Prime Minister and that he has no complaint to make about my visit either to the Canberra office or to the headquarters of ASIO.
-I preface my question to the Attorney-General by noting the growing concern, first at the failure of the AttorneyGeneral to inform the Parliament and the nation of the necessity or the reason for the extraordinary raid on Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, or to satisfy either as to the prudence of such action, and, secondly at the developing body of public opinion that the matter must be the subject of a suitable inquiry in depth, whether parliamentary or non-parliamentary. I refer to a reply given to me by the Attorney-General in the Senate last Wednesday when I asked him whether he would be prepared to come before a Senate committee to provide information. The Attorney-General replied:
I will discuss with the Prime Minister whether the appropriate course is for me to come before a committee.
Has the Attorney-General discussed the matter as promised with the Prime Minister? If the answer is yes, is the Attorney-General prepared to come before a Senate committee? If the answer is yes, he has discussed the matter with the Prime Minister but the decision is that he will not appear before a committee, is that his decision or that of the Prime
Minister? If he has not discussed the matter with the Prime Minister, when does he propose to do so?
– The whole matter of the course that I took and why I took it has been discussed with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. I raised it myself. I outlined to them the reasons for my action. May I say to the Senate that I am satisfied that the visit which I made to the Canberra office of ASIO was in the national interest. 1 am satisfied that the visit that I made to the headquarters of ASIO - that is, the first visit, because I made a subsequent visit the following week - was also in the national interest. I am satisfied that, although information was not being refused to me, I was not being given the information that I ought to have been given. I have said that before in the Senate and I say it again. Since the first occasion this matter was raised, honourable senators may recall that I have insisted throughout that although information was not refused to me I was not given information which I ought to have been given.
– That is a quibble. .
– You will have to do beNter than that.
– I ask honourable senators to listen. When I attended the Canberra office of ASIO not only did I find a lot of information which was valuable and useful to me in connection with informing the Senate of the truth about Croatian terrorist organisations, but also did I find information which was valuable in connection with the impending visit of the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia. I remind honourable senators that at the time when each of my visits took place I was being advised by high officers of the extreme risk of that visit. Indeed, .highly placed officers - in fact, the highest - were advising me that the danger of violence from the Croatian terrorist organisations was so great that the visit ought to be cancelled. Some of that advice persisted even till the last moment.
Included in the matters which I ascertained at the Canberra office of ASIO was a certain document. As to that document, I have been advised, and I have to accept the advice of the Director-General, that there are matters included in it which affect future security intelligence operations. Therefore the national security is involved. Also in that document are matters which gravely concerned me and I have told the Senate of the grave concern that I had.
I want to speak to the Senate free of inhibitions as to any complications arising from national security. I want to say this: The entrenched position of public servants in this country does not carry with it the right to persist in policies of their own or to persist in producing information or making available statements according to their own notions of desirability for consistency with the statements of previous governments. If that is allowed to persist, the real rulers of this country will not be the elected Government but those who stay while elected governments come and go. I will tell the Senate that’ a . certain interdepartmental committee meeting was held, and held’ not for the purpose of considering the statement which I was to make to the Senate but for another purpose- about which I do not wish to inform the Senate. It was held for a legitimate purpose. The committee considered in detail the statement which I was to make to the Senate and the decision reported to have been taken at that meeting was inconsistent with the democratic process and inconsistent with responsible government. I think it would disturb any honourable senator that such a decision could be taken at a meeting. I have given directions to my Department, and to each section of it, that no interdepartmental committee meeting of any significance is to be held without my knowledge, and that I am to be informed of the proceedings and the decisions taken at such meetings. I think the Senate would agree that the statements of principle that I am making ought to be acted upon generally.
-^-1 do not wish to interrupt you but would you be prepared to come before a committee, as you indicated you had discussed this with the Prime Minister?
– I want to say to the Senate that the document to which I have referred and the events which have occurred have been the subject of some inquiry. They are still the subject of some inquiry. The future of public servants is involved in this matter. There are some conflicting accounts of what occurred. It is not for me to prejudge what occurred and inquiries- are still going on into the matter. I think it would be premature to determine the .question whether. I should appear before, a Senate committee. However, I inform the Senate that the state of affairs I mentioned certainly will not be allowed to persist. We all have a regard for what public servants do but the responsible Ministers have to be the persons who make the policies in this country. As far as I am concerned, decisions will not be taken according to the notions of any public servant or collection of public servants as to the desirability of consistency with the actions or statements of previous governments.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Did he repeatedly refuse last week to disclose to the Senate the contents of the disturbing document he discovered in the Canberra regional office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? Did he say that to release the contents would seriously endanger Australia’s security? If the document contained such top priority security material why were some of the contents disclosed in a newspaper report within hours of the Attorney-General refusing to release it in the Senate? Who leaked the information?
– I have indicated what was the advice which was given to me in relation to certain parts of the document to which 1 have referred. That advice was given to me prior to my making the statement in the Senate and it has been repeated to me since 1 made that statement. I do not know who leaked the contents of the document.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral the following question: Last week during question time the Attorney referred to a document obtained from files which was not previously available to him and which concerned Croatian terrorists and departmental policy on security. Will the Attorney-General elaborate further on the contents of particular parts of this document, even to the extent of reading out the departmental minute to the Senate.
– I cannot read out the minute because the document to which I have referred is strictly a report. For the reasons I have given already I do not propose to read it out. I have pointed out to the Senate that it contains a passage which indicates that material would be supplied to me and a statement would be prepared on the basis that it would not be at variance with an answer given by the previous Government.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. As the important document discovered by the Attorney-General’s visit to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation regional office in Canberra was only a copy, did the Attorney-General raid the ASIO headquarters in Melbourne in the hope that he would obtain the original and other important documents which he suspected may have been withheld from him by ASIO? If this is not so, why did he have the safes sealed by Commonwealth Police?
– Of course one of the things which I wanted to find was the original of the document and the file and other material with which it was included. I think that the honourable senator would also want to find such a document.
– Had the Attorney-General had it before?
– In reply to the interpolation from the honourable senator as to whether I had had it before, the answer is no.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral state whether, even up to the eleventh hour of the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, he received any advice that it would be desirable to protect the life of the visiting dignatory by calling off the visit? If so, who gave such advice and what reasons were given for it?
– During the period up to the visit of the Prime Minister, yes, I was receiving daily or more than daily assessments of the danger of the visit and as to the persons and organisations from which danger was to be expected and against whom security precautions were being tightened. I have indicated already to the Senate what steps were taken. Initially, if I can put it in a general sense, there was an almost unanimous viewpoint that the risk and the danger to be apprehended from the terrorists were so great that the visit should be cancelled. A Government decision was made that the visit should not be cancelled, and the Government was entitled to make that decision. Then it was my duty to see to it, since it was decided that the visit should go on, that the precautions taken were such as to protect the visiting party and those who might be associated with it. I took steps to see that the proper procedures were adopted. The precautions taken were, I think, more stringent than have ever been taken before, and they were ultimately to the satisfaction of the Yugoslav authorities. Also I ensured that they were accepted by the man who was vested with the operational responsibility for carrying out those procedures, namely the Commissioner of Commonwealth Police. Nevertheless, even on the very eve of the visit statements still were being made that the risk was so high that the visit should be cancelled. I think the last of those statements was made by the permanent head of my Department.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Last week the Attorney-General in answer to a question asked by me said that the particular document he discovered at the Canberra regional office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation did not concern left wing terrorists but related to matters additional to the visit to Australia of the Yugoslav Prime Minister. I now ask: Were any activities of any of the present Cabinet Ministers or senior officers of the Labor Party referred to in that document?
– 1 saw many documents at the Canberra office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, including a file which, curiously enough, was labelled Yugoslav terrorist organisations’, and the document which has been referred to today was included in that file. I do not recall that the names of any politicians were mentioned in the document, except incidentally in other files. Of course, I was mentioned as AttorneyGeneral in one of the documents. Certainly reference is made to politicians throughout the documents, but no request was made by me to look at’ any files on politicians in the context in which the honourable senator is asking, namely whether they are left wing or right wing. As I said to the,, Senate previously - I say it again - the advice . I have been given is that no files are kept on politicians, State or Federal, although there may be references to politicians throughout various documents.
– How do you know that?
– I told the honourable senator that I have been advised by the Organisation - by the Director-General himself - that that is the position, and I accept his word on that. ‘
– I ask the Minister representing the Foreign Minister whether he is aware that the Rhodesian Information Centre is being used as a distribution point for anti-black African propaganda. Will the Commonwealth Government continue to use all constitutional means to persuade the New South Wales Government to close the Centre?
– The . AttorneyGeneral’s Department is looking closely at the operations of the Rhodesian Information Centre because of the civil liberties aspect that might be involved in a situation such as this. This Government has hot changed its mind about the whole situation, if the Centre can be closed, it certainly will be closed.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Will the Attorney-General immediately make available to the Leader of the Opposition’ the document which originated from a meeting of interdepartmental officials on 2nd March which indicated an intention by public servants to withhold information from the Government prior to the visit of the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia?
– The document that I have referred to - yes, I think that is a fair request. I am prepared to do that. It may be necessary to follow the usual procedures about matters of some confidentiality, but yes, I am prepared to do what the honourable senator asks.
– Senator Wright, you were trying to engage my attention?
– Yes, but I prefer to be called when 1 stand, not when I sit.
– I take your observation on notice.
- Mr President, I think you will agree that in spite of the political heat which is engendered here the niceties of human life should not be allowed to go by. Therefore before asking my question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate I would like to say how pleased I am, as are all senators, at the happy event which occurred in his family in Sydney at the weekend. 1 congratulate him and Mrs Murphy - and I wish them and their child health and happiness.
My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In spite of the joyous family event and the heavy political duty undertaken by him in recent days, was the Minister able to relax on Saturday night and view the Australian Broadcasting Commission program ‘Four Corners’ and listen to his colleague Senator Georges, who appeared prominently and for such a considerable time that 1 understand that in ABC and media circles the program is known as the Georges Four Corners program? If the Minister watched the program, did he hear the questions posed to him publicly by his colleague and will he be able now or in the near future to give the Senate the benefit of his replies to those questions?
– No, I regret that I did not hear Senator Georges and I am not aware of the questions that he asked - although I have found in the past that Senator Georges’ questions are always extremely penetrating and sometimes more difficult to answer than those of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property. In view of the fact that the Minister was. an important unit in the Brisbane City Council elections held on Saturday last and was thus aware of the anger of the people in having iniquitous legislation imposed on them by the Country Party dominated State Government in Queensland, is he aware that the Australian Labor Party team led by Alderman Clem Jones won 20 seats out of the 21 seats contested? Does the Minister know whether this success was a record in the annals of local government?
– I must get hold of the Queensland Australian Labor Party members and get them to concentrate on that one other seat. That was not good enough. I would imagine that for Australian politics the result is a record. I do not know, but if the honourable senator is really interested in the situation we could certainly get Mr Daly to check on it, and I would like him to congratulate Mr Jones and the Queensland Austraiian Labor Party on that result.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In reply to a question by Senator Guilfoyle the Attorney-General has agreed to make available to the Leader of the Opposition a document for perusal. I ask him whether the Leader of the Opposition would be free to submit or show that document to me as the Leader of the Democratic Labor Party since I am just as interested in the matter as he is?
– What Senator Gair is putting has some force but it involves some matter of practice about which I should consult the Prime Minister. Whatever is established as a precedent here would no doubt be followed elsewhere. I would like to consult with him as to what should be done because what happens in this case could affect what happens in future cases. I think that there is a good deal of merit in what Senator Gair has put to me, but I would like to consult with the Prime Minister as to what the Government’s view is concerning a general practice regarding who should be shown such documents. Although, on the face of it, I think what Senator Gair said has a good deal of force, there may be other views. For instance, what is done in this chamber no doubt would have to be pursued in the other House now and in the future. If Senator Gair does not mind, I would like to consult with the Prime Minister before answering his question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Could the Minister relate his earlier comments on a review of the rural reconstruction scheme to the rather pessimistic utterances on the subject by the New South Wales Minister for Lands? Further, will he refute the assertion by that gentleman that New South Wales was to be short-changed in this direction?
– In 1970 the previous Administration entered into an agreement with the States in respect of funds being made available for rural reconstruction. I think it was in fairly generous terms. One of the conditions of the agreement was that all the States would exercise their judgment and endeavour to deal with the application for rural reconstruction assistance at such a rate that approvals and expenditure would be spread as uniformly as possible over a period. Every State of the Commonwealth with the exception of New South Wales - I suggest that Mr Lewis was primarily responsible - observed that agreement. All the other States, both Labor and Liberal, accepted the conditions that were laid down by the Commonwealth. Mr Lewis spent so much time making a good fellow of himself in New South Wales, while criticising even the previous Government arid the present Government, that he. found himself in a situation where he had insufficient funds to meet the applications that were coming forward. The position adopted by Mr Lewis today of criticising - to put it in the most polite terms - not only myself but also the Commonwealth generally for not providing sufficient finance for rural reconstruction is a direct outcome of his own attitudes and his own approaches to rural reconstruction.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports today that Australia’s second-largest shipyard, namely Evans Deakin Industries Ltd in Brisbane, is to close down shortly? As that would mean the loss of jobs for nearly 2,000 Australians, will the Government take action to try to obtain further work for this shipyard and so maintain an industry that is vital to Australia’s future as so much of our trade goes by sea?
– Firstly, the shipyard employs 750 men. The Government is concerned at the announcement which was made at the stock exchange that the company operating this yard intends to close down. That was a decision of the company and one over which the Government has no control. It is not to close down because of a lack of work as the shipyard has been offered-
– A total of 260,000 hours was lost over 2 years.
– The shipyard has been offered the job of building a rig. The Commonwealth has agreed to provide a 25 per cent subsidy on a Union Steam Ship Co. vessel. It has. also announced . that the Australian National Line will build a 70,000-ton replacement for the ‘Tolga!. Despite all that the company has decided to. close down. It claims it has to. do so because it has no continuity of contracts and because of the cost of production, with the number of man hours lost, as Senator Gair said, at 260,000. The Minister in discussions with the. Trades and Labour Council has tried to. find a solution to the problems - caused by -, lost man hours through industrial disputes. It is time that we tried to find a solution rather than choosing to condemn one’ side oh every occasion. Disputes that have occurred over demarcation should never have, arisen. The points should have been settled before. ,the; operation was attempted. There has been no attempt to prevent disputes and no action is taken until a dispute arises. The Government is not responsible for the decision of the company which thinks that it is in its own interests to close down and throw 750 men out of work.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Supply recall my recent question regarding encouragement of a return to Australia of 2 companies which transferred their light aircraft construction works to New Zealand when they failed to receive Government financial assistance, needed to ensure their firm- establishment here? What steps are open to the Government by way of inducements, incentives or other means to bring about a return to Australia of the 2 organisations concerned?
– The honourable senator will recall that I pointed out that’ the Government had taken a number of positive steps to place the Australian aircraft industry on a sound and productive basis. I stated also that we had called for a definitive plan for the industry to be considered by the end of June 1973. In reply to the honourable senator’s present question I can now state that bounty assistance was sought by Victa Ltd and Transavia Corporation Pty Ltd which wished to undertake production in Australia of their respective products, the Airtourer and Airtruk. Further application for bounty assistance was made, in 1967. This was unsuccessful and Senator Devitt will recall that the then Government refused to offer assistance in any respect.
Victa Ltd sold the design rights of the Airtourer to a New Zealand firm. Therefore that project could not be returned to Australia unless the design rights were to be relinquished by the New Zealand firm. The Royal Australian Air Force is now purchasing 37 of these, aircraft as basic CT4 trainers. The work involved in manufacture of an Airtourer and its CT4 trainer version is about one man year of skilled labour. The Australian industry is benefiting to some extent from the present production. The Airtruk is being produced in Australia.
– I will call Senator Wright In a moment as I have noticed that he has just stood, but I think it is proper that-
– I think you saw me before just now.
– I think 1 should take the opportunity of mentioning to honourable senators, knowing how much regard they have for their right to ask questions of Ministers, the following abstract of questions in the present session in the period from 28th February to 29th March. A total of 533 questions without notice has been asked. Of that number, they have been awarded by me to honourable senators in the following numbers: 98 questions have been asked by Government senators on my right; 285 questions have been asked by the Liberal Party component of the Opposition; 75 questions have been asked by the Country Party component of the Opposition; 49 questions have been asked by the Democratic Labor Party component of the Opposition; and 26 questions have been asked by independent senators. I shall provide to honourable senators who require it details of the order in which questions have been called from honourable senators. They will see from the summary and dissection that questions are honestly and impartially awarded all around the chamber.
– Noting what you say, Mr President, that the race is not always to the swift, and noting that the Senate Standing Orders provide that when 2 or more senators rise to speak the President shall call upon the senator who, in his opinion, first rose in his place, may I ask a question now of the Attorney-General at twenty minutes to 4 o’clock? My question is this: Do I correctly understand the Attorney-General to say that the document he referred to on the last sitting day of the Senate as the disturbing document was a report of an interdepartment committee? What officers compiled that report? What were the terms of reference for that committee?
– Yes. It was an interdepartmental committee meeting. The report was compiled by an officer of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I could, but do not choose, to tell the honourable senator the terms of reference of the committee for the reason that I have indicated already: The meeting was called for a perfectly legitimate purpose and it had been called before there was any announcement that I was to make a statement. Nevertheless, the statement which I was to make became a subject matter at that meeting. 1 do not choose to tell the honourable senator the terms of reference for the reason that I have indicated already which is based on the advice I have been given. I accept the advice that I have been given by the Director-General-
– The terms of reference, in my judgment, would enter into the matter and I believe that I ought not to state them.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that certain computer equipment exists in the Reserve Bank that is designed to inform the Government on a regular basis on the economic criteria in relation to Australia’s internal and external financial position? Is it a fact that this equipment was installed by the great multi-national body, International Business Machines, and is maintained and operated by that organisation? Would he investigate the operation of this equipment, as it is said that highly confidential and top secret information prepared by this equipment is constantly monitored by certain quarters in the United States of America? Can he say whether the United States controlled communication base operated in Australia could be used to relay this information to a foreign power, namely, the United States of America?
– I ask that the honourable senator place the question on the notice paper. Whilst I am on my feet, may I return to what was so graciously put a little earlier by Senator Marriott? I thank the honourable senator for what he said and for the good wishes he expressed in respect of my family. They are well. The main problem with which I am confronted at the moment is getting enough time to speak to my wife about the name of the child.
– What was the exact purpose of the Attorney-General in making his visit to the Canberra headquarters of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the night of 15th-16th March? By what method and in what circumstances did he, to use his words, ‘find at the ASIO Canberra office’ the useful information to which he has referred in earlier answers to questions this afternoon?
– I have indicated already that 1 was dissatisfied with the amount of information that I was receiving. Having obtained some information and having been given certain advice, I decided that a visit to the Canberra office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation would be helpful, and it was extremely helpful. The way in which that visit was made was by arrangement with the Regional Director, I think he is called, who came to the office, and I went there, by appointment with him, shortly after the rising of the Senate. The documents were produced by him or his officers there, and I had some discussion with him about the contents of the documents and also about the precautions being taken in relation to the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister and certain deficiencies in those precautions.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the fact that both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia have been able to reduce air fares from Tasmania by 40 per cent during Easter and in view of the small number of passengers who choose to travel first class to and from Tasmania, has the Minister asked TAA to investigate lower cost one class flights to and from Tasmania on a permanent basis even if the permanent reduction cannot be as high as 40 per cent? If he has not asked, will he do so?
– As I only represent the Minister for Transport, I do not know whether he has asked. I will put the question to him, if he has not, as a suggestion that he could review the situation.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I seek your indulgence, Mr President, in accordance with standing order 99, to quote from security document A 13, appendix A, page 2, because it is strictly necessary to do so to make my question intelligible. I quote:
However, on 20th April 1969 the founder of HNO General Maks Luburic, was murdered in his villa in Carcagente Spain. It was widely believed at the time that this killing occurred at the instigation of the Yugoslav security authorities. There is circumstantial support for this view inasmuch as the Yugoslav authorities have made no secret of the fact that they are prepared to operate outside Yugoslavia in order to revenge acts of terrorism committed against Yugoslavia Furthermore-
– I rise on a point of order. Although the honourable senator sought your indulgence, Mr President, I think he has proceeded far beyond the leniency of the standing order to which he referred.
- Senator Little, how much more have you to read out?
– There is one short paragraph which will conclude the quote.
– That may be 200 words.
– I hardly think it would be that much. It takes about li inches of this very important former security document which has been made non-secret by decision of the Attorney-General. I think that it is necessary to quote it to make the question intelligible. It concludes with this sentence-
– I will allow you to finish the quote merely because you have embarked upon this method of asking the question, but I will not allow similar questions in future.
– The quote continues:
Furthermore, overseas sources indicate that in recent years there has been a growing volume of murders and attempted murders committed on prominent identities within the Croatian emigre community of Europe.
My question is: Was the Minister aware that such an opinion of Yugoslav authorities was in that document? If so, did he give consideration to surveillance of security agents who were in attendance on the Yugoslav Prime Minister, to protect the Croatian community while such agents were in Australia? In view of the Attorney-General’s expressed concern at terrorism and violence, why was no mention of this expressed view by ASIO made in the long document submitted to the Senate which dealt with this question and which in no part mentions terrorism by secret Yugoslav Government agents?
– The honourable senator is obviously anticipating debate on this matter. May I say that a large number of documents were tabled. I did not purport to go through the whole of those documents because my speech would have occupied many hours had I done so. The documents were made available to the Senate and I hope that they prove useful to honourable senators. May I say in answer to the aspect of the question about the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, that the important point is that, despite the extreme danger to that visit because of persons who, in the opinion of the authorities, were prepared to act with violence against the Yugoslav Prime Minister or his party, the precautions were sufficient to prevent acts of violence. Because of the nature of those precautions no incident of any kind occurred. I think that the honourable senator is being driven to extremes in making suggestions such as he is making.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Were a number of persons apprehended in Sydney last weekend? Were these people associated with terrorist activities against a friendly nation, namely Yugoslavia, former citizens of that country now domiciled in Australia, and prominent Australian citizens? Have charges been laid against any persons? If so, what are those charges?
– The Attorney-General will be aware that the subject matter of this question is getting very near the knuckle in respect of matters which are sub judice.
– Bearing that in mind, I think it is proper to say no more than that on the weekend certain persons were charged. I think the names have been published. The persons are Jakov Suljak, Jerko Raven jak, Vjekoslav Anic Slavko Tokic and Tomo Juricic Each one of those persons was charged with the possession of explosives. Other persons were charged with various offences involving firearms.
– A starting pistol?
– I do not want to comment on the uses which might be made by persons of a pistol, whether it is a starting pistol or any other firearm. It is not my province to enter into that matter. I have been asked and I have told the Senate that a number of persons have been charged with the possession of explosives - gelignite, fuses, detonators and so on - as a result of proceedings taken by the New South Wales and Commonwealth Police. Having stated that, I do not think it is desirable for me to enter into the question of terrorist organisations.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether he was correctly reported in the Press yesterday when referring to Australian divorce laws? One newspaper quotes the Attorney-General as saying: ‘At the moment, we have a carry over of the old ecclesiastical garbage’. If the Attorney-General was correctly reported will he, in deference to the significant proportion of the Australian population which has a great respect for the Church and its leaders and their influence on our way of life, and which also recognises the Church’s valuable influence on the institution of marriage, explain his use of the term ‘ecclesiastical garbage’? Will he say whether he is aware of the deep concern which this statement has caused?
– Yes, I will explain it. Ecclesiastical garbage means exactly what it says; it means that which has been discarded by the Church itself as rubbish and garbage. The ecclesiastical laws back in the last century contained all these matters of confessions, discretion statements and the general approach of restitution of conjugal rights. The Church of England, for one, has certainly long passed by all these conceptions, and I remind the Senate that the eccesiastical laws which have affected our divorce law came primarily from the Church of England. I do not pretend to be an expert on the matter but I understand that the modern attitude of the churches by and large - I do not say all churches - is that the faults concept should go out of the divorce law and that divorce law ought to be based on irretrievable breakdown. I understand that this is the general position. Yet that garbage, if one uses that expression, is still in the law of our land and we have the carry-over of that which has been discarded by church leaders.
Why should the law of Australia continue to contain that which the Church will no longer persist in? It might be more felicitously put if we said that in many respects the churches are in advance of the Australian divorce law which contains that which they have discarded. I have been looking into this and have received certain advice and I believe that we ought to be taking a more positive attitude to marriage itself. The divorce law is there and it ought to be regarded, as 1 think Senator James McClelland said the other afternoon, not as something to preserve marriage; we ought not to be concentrating on marriages that have broken down, dead marriages which should be ended, but instead we ought to be turning around and taking a positive approach to marriage itself. 1 am disturbed that there has been very little research and study generally into the factors which make for the stability of marriage. One of the projects 1 have in mind and which I have mentioned already to the Prime Minister is that the marriage guidance counsels should be encouraged to undertake more than they do of this research. A little is done but not as much as ought to be done in the way of research and study into the factors which make for the stability of marriage. This ought to be done, especially in the interests of the children. I am not talking about individual advice to particular couples aimed at holding them together. Something ought to be done in a very positive way to unearth and throw some light on the factors which might make marriages more stable and happier and thus avoid the breakdowns which are dealt with by the divorce law. When a marriage has broken down I believe, and I think the community believes - I was interested to see the representative of the Catholic Church on television last night accepting this proposition - that the law should not be degrading, as it is, and ought not be expensive, as it is. At least in some respects there is an opinion right across the board that the present divorce law cannot be allowed to remain. It is my intention to recommend to Cabinet that the Government bring a Bill before the Senate as soon as possible for its consideration. If the, Senate thinks it proper to do so, it may then refer the legislation for report - I hope urgent report - by the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee so that as soon as possible we can get some humane law which is simple, dignified and inexpensive.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Were the Commonwealth Police possessed of search warrants prior to the search of some 68 homes in Sydney last Sunday morning? Has he seen the affidavit material on which the search warrants were applied for? Did he personally satisfy himself that the material was in accordance with the law under the Crimes Act? If the AttorneyGeneral did not satisfy himself, did the Secretary of his Department satisfy himself? If the Attorney-General does not know, will he find out and will he table the material so that it is before the Senate?
– The honourable senator has asked a lot of questions. First of all, I understand that there were search warrants. As to whether I saw the search warrants or the material on which they were based, the answer is no. The honourable senator asked whether I satisfied myself as to the material that was in the warrants. The answer is no. These were police matters and I thought it better that they be left to the police. Had I taken the step of satisfying myself or examining or interfering in this matter, no doubt suggestions would have been made. These suggestions cannot be made when these matters are left to the judgment of the police. It is my understanding that the search warrants which were issued and the material were examined by the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Sydney. I know that the Secretary of the Department was acquainted with what was taking place. I understand that he was consulted. I am not sure of the extent to which he was involved in the whole area but it was certainly something within his general supervision. That is how the matter was handled.
– I ask the Attorney-General: What persons have access to the files of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, other than ASIO personnel? If no other person has access to ASIO files, from whom was he preserving information contained in the files which were seized and sealed by Commonwealth Police on his orders?
– The material that was being preserved was being preserved for me. I saw that material. As to the general aspect of who has access to files and so on, I think that perhaps this is caught up in some of the questions that have been asked about authority and so forth. It is quite clear that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation is subject to ministerial direction, and that is the direction of the Attorney-General. It is clear that the Director-General of ASIO is entitled - I think honourable senators are aware of the terms of the Act - in his discretion to give information or advice to Ministers. But it is also quite clear that he may not refuse to comply with a demand for such material which is made by the appropriate Minister. It might be convenient at some stage to table the terms and conditions of appointment of the Director-General. I had hoped to make a fairly comprehensive statement on the whole of the Organisation, its structure, its function and its relationship with the Executive Government. I could put in matters piecemeal but unless the Senate thinks otherwise it would be more convenient for me to put a comprehensive document before the Senate. Obviously there is a good deal of interest in the subject of the Organisation. Also it is the policy of the Government, as enunciated at the conferences of our Party - I moved a motion to this effect - that there be an annual report of the workings of ASIO. But I may consider, if there is any general desire for it, tabling the terms and conditions of appointment or the relevant parts of those terms and conditions.
Does that sufficiently answer the honourable senator’s question? Senator Sim - Yes.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: In what areas of church dogma in relation to divorce has his offensive reference ecclesiastical garbage’ direct relevance? Will he more clearly and more directly specify those areas than he did in his reply to the question asked by Senator Davidson?
– If / the honourable senator will put that question on notice I will be able to set out an answer to it in some detail, or perhaps I may be able later on to add to the answer I give now. It seems to me that much of the material iri the Act diverts from the bid, ecclesiastical law, because the English Act’ and then our Act were based on these old concepts which, have been thrown out - not altogether but substantially thrown out - in’ the modern English , Act, as I understand it, with ‘the concurrence of the established Church: in the United: Kingdom which has turned .against these old .concepts. I suppose one might substitute for . the word ‘garbage’ the word ‘rubbish’, because that is how these old concepts are regarded in modern times by the Church. These . concepts, these approaches, and these procedures no longer are acceptable even to the >, Church. Yet we find that they are threaded through the Matrimonial Causes Act and . the, Matrimonial Causes Rules of Australia. I regret it if my use of that word has given rise to misunderstanding. I . thought it a convenient way of describing .what had been discarded by the Church but., still remains in. our. Act. It illustrates that,.. the modern,: approach of the Church is in advance of what, we are suffering in our own divorce laws. I think the sooner we get rid of this rubbish - this garbage, as I described it- from our own laws we will be the better for it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, although it may come within the responsibility qf the Attorney-General. What precautions are taken by. overseas immigration officials to check to ensure that no immigrants are accepted for Australia if they are connected in any way with terrorist organisations? What precautions are taken to ensure that a person with a police record showing that such a person has been or is connected with such crimes as terrorism, robbery with violence, breaking and entering, thuggery, hijacking, or any other such act is not accepted or even considered as an immigrant to Australia? Are the police records of the proposed immigrants thoroughly checked before they are accepted? Are the previous records, if any, of accepted immigrants asked to be forwarded to the Australian authorities to be placed with our records for future reference? Have any persons with past records or convictions against them ever been accepted as immigrants to Australia? If so, will the Minister ensure that all precautions are taken in the future so that Australia will not be accepting or harbouring persons of doubtful character? Does not the Minister feel that the methods of checking possible immigrants should be tightened in the future? Will the Minister treat this matter as urgent and act upon it immediately?
- Senator Negus has asked me a long series of questions relating to the Department of Immigration, the relevant Minister being in another place. All I can say in short is that Mr Grassby only last week said that he had not been satisfied with the previous Government’s record of checking proposed migrants. As I announced last week in reply to my colleague Senator Gietzelt, the Minister for Immigration has stated that the matter of checking proposed migrants to Australia is in the course of review and is being considerably tightened.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In view of the high level police advice, to which he referred in answer to questions earlier this afternoon, to cancel the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister, Mr Bijedic, why was it necessary to allow Mr Bijedic to visit Australia at aU?
– Who invited him?
– Are you answering the question? My question goes on: What was the purpose of the visit? Since Mr Bijedic met practically nobody except Labor politicians, was the visit worth while? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the cost to the Australian taxpayer of the security pantomime put on for Mr Bijedic’s visit particularly as not one Croatian appears to have been within miles of Mr Bijedic? Finally, why is it necessary now for our Prime Minister to make a reciprocal visit to Communist Yugoslavia?
– The invitation for the visit was given at the Prime Ministerial level and, as I understand it, for very good reasons. As the honourable senator ought to have known, the invitation for the visit was extended by his colleague, the former Prime Minister.
– That is very doubtful.
– I say that. We are all open to correction. That is my understanding and 1 thought that was what was stated in the House of Representatives only a little while ago. The invitation, I think, was confirmed, and later was proceeded with under the present Administration. But it is a proper thing that persons should be able to visit other countries and it would be a shameful thing if Australia had to tell international visitors that they could not come here because of the threat to them from persons in the community. 1 do not know the cost that was involved in it, but whatever the cost it was a small price to pay for the preservation of persons from any harm and to ensure that the visit proceeded without any violence to any person. I am certain that honourable senators would have been very grieved if the precautions that were taken had not been taken and some harm had come either to the Yugoslav Prime Minister or a member of his party, or to any of the other persons associated with the visit. It is important for this community that we show that terrorism will not be tolerated. Migrant communities should be able to live free of any intimidation by small groups and I think that what will happen is that the migrant communities here will be able to earn and feel that they have the dignity and respect to which they are entitled. They are welcome in this community. We all know that. We want to see them assimilated into the community and we do not want this process of assimilation marred by the activities of some small minority that is intent on carrying into this country the quarrels that should have been left behind in Europe.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I ask: What is the Government’s attitude towards the deportation of migrants who have already been naturalised?
– The attitude is - that there should not be first and second class citizens. Although there is a provision in the law that naturalised citizens may be deported in certain circumstances, I believe and the Government believes that this should not be a part of the law. I recall that at a conference of the Australian Labor Party some 2 years ago I moved that the law be altered in this respect and that no person should be deprived of citizenship or liable to deportation - 1 think the words were - except for substantial fraud in the application for citizenship. In other words, there should be only one class of citizen and, if one became a citizen properly, whatever crimes one might commit were the responsibility of this country and not of any other. The reference to substantial fraud was to deal with, for example, someone who has given a false identity and who may have a murderous record or something of that nature. That would involve a fraudulent citizenship grant. But, leaving that case aside, all citizens should be treated on exactly the same basis and no distinction should be drawn between those who are citizens by birth and those who are citizens by naturalisation or citizenship application. Therefore, 1 believe that there should be no deportation of citizens. I propose - I have been authorised by Cabinet to do so - to introduce legislation to carry that out and to remove from the law the provisions which might enable citizens to be deported.
– Arising out of the answer which has just been given by the Attorney-General, I ask either the AttorneyGeneral or the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Can an assurance be given to the Senate that in the future no unnaturalised person will be deported from this country for alleged political activities without such deportation being referred to a judge of the Supreme Court who is appointed a commissioner under the Migration Act so that the facts surrounding the reason for the deportation may be properly evaluated?
– I hate to think that any person could be deported, whether before or after an inquiry, for political activities. The provisions of the Migration Act give the
Government the right to deport persons in certain circumstances such as, for instance, where within 5 years, they have been guilty of crimes of violence against the person or convicted of a crime for which they have been imprisoned1 for’ one year or longer. There is already provision for a commissioner of, I think, the status of a judge, as the Leader of the Opposition stated, to inquire into the matter. It is extremely important that those procedures be observed.
My understanding is that such persons are given some right to show cause, even where they have been convicted of particular crimes, as to why they should not be deported. There is also the provision, which is often availed of, of lodging a habeas corpus application to ensure that’ the. proper procedures have been carried out.. I. think that no member of any political party - Liberal Party, Labor Party, Country Party! or Democratic Labor Partyrand no Independent senator would want a system under which people were being dealt with for political activities’ as such. For my part, I think: the law ought to be extended, perhaps as ‘far as it has’ been extended in the United. States of America, where there is the clear and present danger theory.
The other side of the coin is this: If persons engage in violence and terrorism, if they use bombs or guns - it is immaterial whether their conduct is associated with political activities - and if they are not naturalised they ought to be liable to be deported. This ought to be the law and it has been the law for some time. If they commit crimes which make them liable to deportation, if there is an apprehension of violence from such persons and they meet the requisites of deportation, I think we would all agree that they have , no place in this country.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Am I correct in my understanding that an inquiry has been ordered into the circumstances of the report of the interdepartmental committee that has been referred to by the Attorney-General as disturbing? Who is conducting, the inquiry? In substance, what are the terms, of reference of the inquiry?
– Yes, an inquiry is being conducted: The Prime Minister is conducting an inquiry and I think it is probably reasonable to say that he is not the only person who is doing so. I should think that each Minister concerned is also, for his own purposes, inquiring into the matter. An inquiry has been instituted by the Prime Minister. When one speaks of terms of reference, I do not know that anyone has considered the matter in the legalistic way in which the honourable senator has put it. So far as I am aware, no one has drawn up terms of reference.
– In addressing my question to the Attorney-General I remind him that in an earlier answer to a question about the exact purpose of his visit to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation offices he referred to being dissatisfied with the information which was being supplied to him. I now ask: What was the nature and cause of that dissatisfaction?
– I have answered-
– You have not answered any of the questions.
– I have answered very adequately over a number of days a great number of questions and I do not propose to go through my thought processes, the advice I received and other information which I had, in order to answer the honourable senator’s question. I arrived at a certain conclusion. I have told the Senate that and 1 do not propose to go into a process of self-analysis as to the cause, motive and so forth.
– My question, which I direct to the Attorney-General, refers to his statement on Croatian activity. Was the Attorney-General aware that documents which he tabled in the Senate marked ‘Secret’ reveal that Mr Barbour, the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, and Mr A. J. Davis, head of the Commonwealth Police Force, both on several occasions advised Senator Greenwood when he was Attorney-General that evidence was lacking that acts of violence attributed to Croatian activity were planned or caused by organisations rather than individual extremists? When the Attorney-General made his statement on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, why did he not give this information to the Senate?
– The material has been placed before the Senate. There is a great deal of it. I do not propose to enter into a debate on this matter. Senator Webster, along with other honourable senators including the former Attorney-General, will have ample opportunity to say whatever they like about, the various documents and the summation of those documents when the debate arises. I do not propose to deal with the statement during question time. In fact, I am a little dubious as to whether I should enter into that debate but I do not propose to canvass the statements that have been put before the Senate.
– Last Tuesday I asked the Attorney-General whether any information obtained during his raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation was passed on to any Yugoslav body or any other outside body or individual. As he did not answer this question on that occasion, will he now give an answer in clear, concise language?
– I do not know of any information being passed on to Yugoslav authorities in any specific terms. I am not aware of what might be done at the various levels, but I do not know of any specific information being passed on. I assume that in discussions which were held during the period immediately before the arrival of the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia between Yugoslav officials and Australian officials there would of necessity have been some discussion as to organisations. This would be wrapped up in the matter of precautions for the visit. I think that this would be a matter of necessity. As to whether any outside bodies have received the information, T assume that information would be supplied to police and to other bodies.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Is there any specific reason why the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange has not been reconstituted? Can he inform the Senate of Government intentions for this Committee, as work necessitating the completion of the report now partially prepared, is being hampered? Would the Government prefer the Australian Democratic Labor Party to move in the Senate for the Committee’s reconstitution if the Government Party is suffering some embarrassment?
– The honourable senator has raised a good point. I think that we should take action this week. As with other committees, there has been some difference ot opinion in regard to what should happen to them, their membership and so on. I think that the matter ought to be resolved. Let us have it resolved this week so that in whatever form the Committee proceeds, it may proceed this week. I thank the honourable senator for bringing the matter to my attention. With the concurrence of the Senate, we will proceed this week to get the Committee functioning again.
– ‘My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, follows on his responses to Senator Rae’s earlier question. Before he went to the Canberra office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the night of 15th- 1.6th March, had he at any time expressed to the Director-General of ASIO his feeling or concern that information was being withheld from him?
– I had expressed to the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation the view that I was not getting certain information which I should get, though I did not say there had been a refusal. I had certainly suggested certain courses of action to the Director-General. I had expressed dissatisfaction with certain matters. The honourable senator has asked me a general question, and I am expressing my answer as nearly as I can. I had expressed a view that certain things which I felt ought to have been done were not done, and I expressed concern that information of certain types had not been made available. I can recall a particular aspect of the matter.’ It appeared that information would not be available until after the end of the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration. As the Minister for Immigration is reported to have stated during the week-end that he had under consideration the deportation of about 50 people, will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration inform the Senate of the nationality of these people and the reasons for considering their deportation?
– I did see a’ statement which was made by my colleague in’ another place and which was much the same as the statement attributed to him by Senator Lawrie in his question today. I am not aware of the nationality of the people who are involved nor pf the breaches of the law which they might have committed and which would warrant the Minister giving consideration to their deportation. Therefore I will refer the question to my colleague in another place and ensure that the honourable senator gets an early reply. *
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. It may help the situation if I tell him that I addressed a similar question to the previous Attorney-General on 26th September last year. It dealt with explosives. I asked the previous Attorney-General and I now ask the present Attorney-General this question: ‘- i ,
Does the Minister know that quantities of gelignite, fuses and caps and probably most other types of explosives .are easily obtainable without permits practically anywhere in Australia? Is he aware that identification of a purchaser is not necessary? Does he recognise, in view of the recent bomb incidents, that immediate and urgent action should be taken by the Government to correct this situation? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether the Government is taking or intends to take action to introduce rectifying laws in connection with these matters?
The answer given by the previous AttorneyGeneral was that he would have a complete survey conducted by the Department and that he proposed to take up the matter with his colleagues in the various States when the results of that survey were received. I ask: Has the present Minister seen the completed survey? If he has, has any action been taken to impart the results to the States?
– I have not seen the completed survey, but I. will inquire into the matter and let the honourable senator know. I share his concern that explosives are so easily obtainable. I think that the law ought to be stiffened so that they cannot be so easily obtainable. Persons who have possession of explosives without lawful excuse ought to be dealt with, I think, in such a way as to prevent the possibility of explosives being used for the making of bombs which would lead to the growth of such methods of persuasion or intimidation in this country.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, follows his previous answer to me. When he spoke with the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation before he went to the Canberra office of ASIO on the night of 15th-16th March and informed the Director-General of the sort of things that he was wanting, did he receive satisfactory assurances from the DirectorGeneral that his wishes would be complied with?
– 1 do not quite follow the honourable senator’s question. He is speaking of the Director-General of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in relation to the visit to the Canberra office.
– I will ask the question again, if you are in doubt.
– I will answer the honourable senator’s question. I will not mention all the various matters which concerned me. I am not here to give an hour by hour account of the various events. I would like the Senate to understand that. I am telling the Senate, as fairly as I can, that in the period immediately prior to the visit of the Yugoslav Prime Minister I expressed a good deal of dissatisfaction at certain matters in relation to which I was entitled to express dissatisfaction. For example, I asked whether certain steps should be taken. I was assured in various quarters that the steps were proper steps which ought to be taken, yet they had not been taken. I saw to it that they were taken by not only one organisation but others. The honourable senator referred to only one organisation. I expressed my concern and I saw to it that certain steps which ought to have been taken were taken. In the ultimate the procedures were proper and successful procedures. I do not propose to mention the various matters which concerned me.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Am I correct in understanding that his objection, which was announced at the commencement of question time today, to the disclosure of the disturbing report was that it would affect future security intelligence operations? I inform the Attorney-General that 1 intend to refer to documents B20, 1 think, being the documents in relation to one Marie. The information was found as a result of a search warrant, I think, on 12th August and was the subject of report by the Commonwealth Police in about September .and November. Were those documents not such as to affect future intelligence operations? Why the disclosure of one and the concealment of the other?
– The honourable senator, having been a Minister, ought to know that an Attorney-General has to act in relation to matters of security and has to make decisions on what is relevant. He acts on advice. On occasions his views may differ from that advice, but broadly speaking he has to act on advice. I have told the Senate about the advice that I was given in relation to the document which I have mentioned. Part of that document - not all of it - contains matters which ought not to be revealed. I will not deal with the validity of such a document. I am not and cannot be an expert on security matters. I do not propose to enter into that matter. I propose not to accept the honourable senator’s suggestion about concealment. That was an improper suggestion for him to make. I do not propose to enter into the other matter about a document which is the subject of a statement which I made. The honourable senator can say anything he likes when the statement is debated. No doubt he will-.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Was there any particular event which precipitated the decision by the Attorney-General to make his personal search of the records at the Canberra office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the night of 15th- 16th March last? If so, what was that event?
– The honourable senator talks about a personal search. I attended at the Canberra office of the Organisation by appointment with the Regional Director. 1 asked for certain documents in general terms and documents were produced to me. I do not think that the honourable senator should endeavour to talk about personal searches in that way. It is easier to deal with the facts as they are. As to the events or matters which concerned me, a number of matters concerned me and made me arrive at the decision that my action was proper. I do not propose to go through all the matters which exercised my mind.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. What documents did the Attorney-General take from the Canberra office of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation? Did the documents include an index of ASIO files? Has the Minister such a document in his possession? Will the Minister table that part of the report of the interdepartmental committee which does not relate ito matters allegedly critical to national security?
– I saw a lol of material at the Canberra office of ASIO. 1 also had a discussion at the Canberra office in which I obtained other information and made certain observations. As to the documents which I took as a result of my visit to the Canberra office of ASIO. I arranged for one file to be photostated and sent to me, and I took and had one document photostated. The honourable senator asked me about an index of subject matters.
– -I asked the AttorneyGeneral about an index of files and whether he would table-
– No, I did not take an index of files from the office.
– Will you table that part of the document that is not critical to national security?
– I will give consideration to that request. I do not know the basis of the reference by the honourable senator to the subjects index. It may be part of what he has been reading in the Press. I do not know that any question of the taking of any subjects index has ever arisen.
– The Attorney-General has indicated that an investigation is taking place into the performance within the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in relation to information withheld from the Government. Can the ‘ Attorney-General inform the Senate whether that investigation involves the administrative insufficiency or inadequacy of the Director-General and the more senior executives of ASIO, or whether it is an inquiry going into the conduct of more subordinate officers of the Organisation only, or. whether it is directed to both?
– My understanding is that it is more subordinate officers.
– ls the AttorneyGeneral aware that there were numerous raids by Commonwealth and State police, during the period of office of the previous Government, on alleged terrorists and that those raids all took place predawn? Does the Attorney-General agree that these raids were clearly organised to catch persons in their own homes as raids at any other time would probably not produce any tangible results? Has the Minister seen the objectionable editorial in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of 2nd April 1973 and noted the unusual remarks of the Premier of New South Wales suggesting that there was something ominous about the pre-dawn raids by the Commonwealth and State police last week-end?
– I am not an expert in how one should conduct this kind of police exercise and I do not intend to become one. I think that these matters are best left to the police themselves. I know that this was a cooperative enterprise, if I might call it thai, by the State police and the Commonwealth police. 1 understand that an equal number from each force was involved not only in the overall operation but also in respect of each of the premises searched. I know that a number of persons were charged as a result of that operation. I think that it might be preferable ‘ at, this juncture not to make any observations about what was said by the Premier of New, South Wales. I do nol know what he said except for some reference to his remarks that I saw in the Press. -
– The question which I ask the Attorney-General again follows the earlier question that I asked as to whether he had expressed to the DirectorGeneral of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation the concern he felt that certain information was being withheld from him before he made the visit to the Canberra office. He gave as his answer that he had had discussions with the Director-General. I ask him: Did he receive satisfactory assurances of co-operation from the Director-General?
– The expression that I used was not merely in relation to the DirectorGeneral. I said that, there was certain information which, for a start, ought to have been obtained. I do not want to go into the details of the matter at all. The AttorneyGeneral is entitled to ask about certain matters, and I did ask the Director-General about certain matters. I repeat that the DirectorGeneral did not refuse to give any information. I. have not said that he did. I have said that I was not receiving information that I ought to have had. I may say I felt certain that in respect of one’ particular matter which I recall, more vigorous steps ought to have been taken to obtain information and to make that information available to me in a more usable form. I do not want to go into these matters. The honourable senator seems to want me to express criticism of people. If I want to express criticism of people I will do it. I will not have my words converted into expressing some kind of criticism in relation to matters where I do not choose to make it. If I want to criticise, I will criticise. If I have views in relation to the persons who are subject to criticism in any respect at all, I will express them. I do not think that this is the way in which one should deal with the relationships into which the honourable senator is trespassing. I do not think that it is fair that the matter should be pursued in the way in which he is pursuing it, even out of consideration for other persons.
– Last week I asked the Attorney-General to investigate cases I mentioned of searches of homes of Australian citizens at night and without search warrants by Commonwealth police who, in 2 instances, possibly were accompanied by Yugoslav secret police. In view of the serious nature of the suggestion I ask the Attorney-General: What has he done about this matter so far and what does he intend to do? It is a matter of great significance to a number of my constituents.
– A report is being forwarded. When I receive it I shall inform the honourable senator.
– Pursuant to section 6 of the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Act 1971, I present a statement describing the arrangements in accordance with which payments under this Act have been authorised in 1972.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929-66, I present the forty-fourth annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30th June 1972.
– Pursuant to statute, I present the report of the Special Advisory Authority on capacitors.
– by leave - I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Book Bounty Act 1969-70.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) - by leaveagreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate this week be as follows:
Tuesday, 3 p.m. to 5.45 p.m., 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.;
Wednesday, 3 p.m. to 5.45 p.m., 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.;
Thursday, 11 a.m. to 12.45 p.m., 2.0 p.m. to 5.45 p.m., 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
– I present the first report from the Publications Committee.
Report - by leave - adopted.
– Mr President, I ask leave to make a brief statement concerning Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, standing in my name for 2 sitting days hence.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– When I gave this notice of motion, relating to certain Air Navigation Regulations, on 7th March, I stated that the 2 regulations concerned contained matter which the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, which had not then been appointed, might wish to investigate. The 2 regulations confer upon the Director-General of Civil Aviation an unlimited discretion to approve and disapprove of modifications to aircraft. Although provision is made for tests to check whether proposed modifications would affect the safety of aircraft, the acceptance or rejection of the results of the tests is left to the discretion of the Director-General. The Committee dealt with another case of discretionary powers conferred upon the Director-General in paragraphs 38 to 41 of its 38th Report.
The question is whether the regulations ought to give some opportunity of appeal by persons aggrieved by decisions of the DirectorGeneral. This problem arises, however, not only in relation to these particular regulations, but in relation to the whole of the Air Navigation Regulations as they are in force at present. Many of these regulations confer discretionary powers upon the Director-General. The Committee has decided not to pursue the question in relation to these particular regulations. Accordingly, unless another honourable senator wishes to take over the notice of motion, 1 withdraw Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, standing in my name for 2 sitting days hence.
– 1 move:
That intervening business be postponed until after consideration of Government Business, orders of the day Nos 4, 5, 6, 7, 9 and 12.
If the Senate agrees to the motion we will proceed immediately to the Migration Bill 1973 and then go on with the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill 1973, the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1973, the Excise Tariff Bill 1973, the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill 1973 and the Commonwealth Banks Bill 1973, and then come to consideration of message No. 22 from the House of Representatives relating to the proposed joint committee on prices.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I inform the Senate that I have received the following message from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate the following resolution which was agreed to by, the House of Representatives this day and requests the concurrence of the Senate therein:
That the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings for inquiry and report:
whether the televising of portion of the Parliamentary debates and proceedings ls desirable, and
if so, to what extent and in what manner the telecasts should be undertaken.
That the Committee, for any purposes related to this inquiry, have power to send for persons, papers and records.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I inform the Senate that 1 have received the following, message from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate the following resolution which was agreed to by the House of Representatives this day, and requests that the Senate concur and take action accordingly:
That a joint committee be appointed to consider and report on -
foreign affairs and defence generally; and
such matters as may be referred to the committee -
by the Minister for Foreign Affairs;
by, the Minister for Defence; or
by resolution of either House of the Parliament.
That the committee consist of 8 members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, 4 members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the House o£ Representatives, 2 members . of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the House of Representatives, 4 senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, 2 senators nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, one senator nominated by . the Leader of the Australian Country Party, in the Senate and one senator nominated by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in the Senate.
That every nomination of a member of the committee be forthwith notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
That the members of the committee hold office as a joint committee until the House of Representatives expires by dissolution or effluxion of time.
That the Prime Minister nominate one of the Government members of the committee as Chairman.
That the Chairman of the committee may, from time to lime, appoint another member of the committee to be the Deputy Chairman of the committee, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the committee at any time when the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the committee.
That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees consisting of 4 or more of its members and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider.
That the committee or any, sub-committee have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place and to meet and transact business in public or private session and notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament.
That the committee have leave to report from time to time and that any member of the committee have power to add a protest or dissent to any report.
That 7 members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee and 3 members of a sub-committee constitute a quorum of that subcommittee.
That, in the event of an equality of voting, the Chairman, or the Deputy Chairman when acting as Chairman, have a casting vote.
That the committee have power to consider and make use of the minutes of evidence and records of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, appointed in the previous Parliament, relating to any matter on which that committee had not completed its consideration.
That the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered with the approval of the President of the
Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee.
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far ais they are inconsistent with the standing orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be made an order of the day for the next day, of silting.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time. .
– I move: .
That the Bill ‘be now read a second lime.
The purpose of this Bill is to amend section 68 of the Public Service Act 1922-1972 to increase the basic annual recreation leave entitlement of officers of the Commonwealth Service from 3 weeks to 4. The Bill provides for retrospective effect to 1st January 1973. The Bill takes account of the expressed wishes of the Senate. The Public Service Board has indicated that subject to the passage of this Bill, it proposes to take action to amend the existing Public Service Regulations so that an additional week’s leave can be extended to temporary employees under the Public. Service Act and to officers and employees who, because of the nature or location of their employment, are currently eligible for more than 3 week’s leave.
Consistent with the provisions of this Bill, the regulations will provide for retrospective effect to 1st January 1973. Acts covering the employment of staff of statutory authorities, etc., generally give power to the authority to determine terms and conditions of employment. The -Government is arranging consultations with these authorities so that the necessary arrangements to extend 4 weeks’ leave to this area of Australian Government employment can be made. I commend the Bill to the Senate.,
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned. ‘
Bill returned from House of Representatives without amendment.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Income Tax (International Agreements) Bill 1973. Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1972-73. Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1972-73. Australian Capital Territory Evidence (Temporary
Provisions) Bill 1973.
Remuneration and Allowances Bill 1973.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 451), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose the passage of the Migration Bill 1973. I understand from the former Minister for Immigration that this matter has been under consideration for some time. The only remark I shall make about the matter is that it is a fairly good example of how circumstances change over the years. Today it might be thought that the Senate is passing this Bill to remove some racial discrimination against Aborigines whereas, if I understand the history of the Bill correctly, it was introduced originally to protect Aborigines against exploitation by the white man. I have been informed - I take it that my information is correct - that the background of this legislation is that prior to the Minister for Immigration being given this power certain persons were enticing people of Aboriginal descent overseas and displaying them in circuses and sideshows and treating them in much the same way as wild animals. It was for that reason that the Bill was originally passed, namely, for the protection of these people against exploitation. Today it may be imagined by do-gooders that this was some sort of evil plot introduced by the white man to exploit and downgrade Aborigines. Circumstances have changed. There is no reason why this legislation should be on the statute book. The Opposition does not oppose the passage of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 14 March (vide page 451), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Export Payments Insurance Corporation Bill 1973 was brought into the Senate by the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) who in this chamber represents the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns). Its purpose is to amend section 28 of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956-72. The Opposition has been looking at this Bill fairly carefully. It was in our minds to amend the Bill. We have not done so but I shall deal with some of the matters which we would have adverted to had we proposed to the Government that the Bill is one which might usefully be amended. We looked at this matter fairly carefully. We noted the increase in the contingent liability guarantee from $500m to $750m. Looking at the general situation as presented by this activity and looking at the report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, the time limits that are involved and the great importance of this measure, it seemed to us that, with merit, there could have been an expansion of the contingent liability limit from $750m to $ 1,000m. I will give the reasons for this because I want to put these points of view to the Government.
It is for the Government to decide whether it would like to withdraw the Bill and add the general proposition which I am putting forward, or whether it wants the Bill to stand as it is. There is nothing offensive in this suggestion. It just seems to me that there is merit in looking at the Bill in this way. The last increase in the maximum contingent liability was in May 1971 when the liability was increased from $300m to $500m. I think that I may have introduced that measure. If I did not, it was with my general concurrence at the time, I remember. It was then expected that that new limit would last until the middle of 1973. However, at the end of December 1972 the contingent liabilities stood at $41 6m, and firm commitments which were then engaged in took it to $5 16m. The proposed increase of $250m is the result of past escalation of business and extra business because of extensions of statutory powers to include authority to provide guarantees to commercial lending institutions supplying finance for deferred payment export transactions which will last for less than 2 years.
In view of the expansion of Australia’s trade, in view of the tendency to have to finance these things for longer periods of time, and in view of the great importance to Australia of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, which is an organisation founded by the previous Government and I think held in high regard by all Australians, particularly those who trade overseas, was there a case for considering a larger increase? As I have mentioned on previous occasions, we in the previous Government had very great confidence in EPIC which we , founded. It is a most valuable. and useful organisation. We believe that there will be great, expansion in Australia’s trade with less well known trading areas such as Russia and- China, it is hoped - I do not hold much optimism myself, I might say in passing, for a great acceleration in trade with China but, nonetheless, there will be some expansion - and Eastern European countries. It is in those countries that our normal traders have to’ get much more new experience in the market place, and I think they will probably need to have more protection in the EPIC sense than they normally would have in relation to traditional trading countries which they know very well.
So there is some wisdom in giving the corporation greater scope. There is a general world trend for expanded credit, for longer term credit, for capital equipment and manufactured goods. If we look at the rate of increase of Australia’s exports and the way in which they are broken down we can see how important this becomes. Between 1950 and the end of the financial year in June 1972, Australia’s exports multiplied 16 times in monetary value across the general spectrum of exports. Our exports in 1962 amounted, in round figures, to $2,083,000, and as at June 1972 they amounted to $4,700,000, so in the 10 years from 1962 to 1972 our exports had more than doubled - a 125 per cent increase. This is the rate of expansion in Australia’s export trade, trade which is conducted from time to time at some financial hazard; hence the purpose of EPIC. If we look at the content of manufactured goods in our export trade it will be realised that our competitors in the export manufacturing trade world tend to offer substantial extended credit terms which very often are beyond the scope of Australian firms to underwrite. We need to put them in a competitive position. This is one of the reasons why I believe the expansion of EPIC was justified and why I believe the maximum guarantee on contingent liabilities will have to be expanded perhaps earlier than the current Government thinks it should be.
In 1961-62 manufactured goods represented 11.9 per cent of our total exports, yet in 1972 they represented 22.2 per cent, so very big expansion is taking place in the manufactured goods area. I also express the personal view, because, to some extent this is a conjectural thing, that as the years pass Australia will tend to find itself exporting more of what I call capital goods than if has in the past. I think the natural outcome of the operations of the country with a strong” secondary manufacturing base, a strong economic base and a very1 strong resources position . is that it is likely to find itself exporting capital goods and involving itself in some sort of joint ventures with countries with which it wants to trade. Here again I think there is some case for the expansion of the time for which credit is given.
– What would you put in the category of capital goods?
-r-Equipment, for instance. Australia has ,had. a fairly notable record in the production . of heavy foundry equipment. That is the sort of thing which we might find ourselves exporting as what I call a turn-key job. An underdeveloped country which wants to put in a foundry operation might come to Australia for assistance. With our knowhow and manufacturing capacity we could well take a contract to put in a complete foundry industry in .country X. The people in this country might say: ‘Well, Mr Minister for Trade, we can do this all right. We can meet the price , but. we cannot undertake the finance. Someone has to do this for us’. The terms of repayment might cover 3 to 5 years. A competitor country might be very glad to give that financial facility, and if we cannot we will lose the business. That is one of the areas that I would mention. We have some strong capacity in heavy mining, heavy manufacturing and things of that kind.
As I have mentioned, the Bill increases the limit of guarantee on contingent liabilities from $500m to $750m. I think I have dealt with the general areas of interest as we see them. The only other point that I might make here is that I think it would be of some merit if 1 were to refer to the 1972 annual report of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. The increase in the business of the Corporation over the previous year - that is, one year of business - was 42 per cent. According to the report there were great increases in sales on credit terms. There was an increasing importance of buyer credit in capital goods and machinery. Again referring to Senator Byrne’s interjection, one of the things I could mention is the sort of equipment which is put in a total dairy factory in a South East Asian country. The report goes on to state that there is a growing practice for certain countries to make bulk purchases of primary products through central government buying agencies. There is also the growing heavy external burden of many developing countries - I might say that we would seek to find ourselves additional markets in those countries - at the rate of 14 per cent per annum and the cost of servicing their debts is rising at a similar rate. That means that the cost of servicing debts in many of those countries is rising at about twice the rate at which export earnings are growing. These things could lead to what is known as a debt rescheduling situation, and in due course EPIC may well be of extreme importance to the Australian trader in this regard. Looking again at the report, one finds that the face value of existing policies and guarantees is $622m at Corporation risk, and the unexpired portion is $375m. Business at Government risk is to the value of $256m, and the unexpired portion of that business is $169m. Page 6 of the report gives the general break up across the board of guarantees of exports. For those interested in this matter, page 8 gives a break up as to products. The assets of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation are valued at nearly $10m, nearly all of which are held in Commonwealth securities.
One also has to think about the fact that one of these days Australia, as strong as it is in reserves and economic resources, may find itself exporting capital in additional to goods. This is one of the areas in which EPIC may find itself increasingly involved, and we may find ourselves wanting to see it so involved because somebody needs to have the expertise to underwrite these sorts of commercial capital export risks. In 1971 the Corporation had an operational surplus of $605,500 and in 1972 it had an operational surplus of $1,035,000. So all in all, having studied the Bill fairly carefully and having read the annual report fairly carefully, the Opposition believes that in view of the expansion in trade that is now taking place it is likely that the additional amount of $250m provided for will probably be exhausted within 2 years if not sooner. That seems to be the history of EPIC. We have confidence in it. We believe it is a fine organisation. We believe it has done a wonderful job for Australia. It has justified all the optimism that we, as a government, had when we founded it. I put to the present Government that it has to consider whether there is merit in increasing the amount which it proposes as the maximum contingent liability which the Corporation may assume from $7 50m to something higher, perhaps in tha order of $ 1,000m.
– Senator Cotton, are you able to make any assessment of the extent to which export trade has been the direct result of the operations of the Export Payments Insurance Corporation?
– I would find it not possible to do that.
– You are having a second go.
– Yes, a second go in answer to a question outside question time, but in the spirit of the Senate, trying to do a constructive job on a piece of legislation. I tell Senator Byrne that I would not be able to do that. However, it is a well held view that without the services of EPIC a great part of Australia’s exports in the latter period would not have been engaged in, because the financial risks were above the limits of the exporters.
– The Country Party supports the Bill. I believe that the fact that this change is needed is itself evidence of a very rapid growth in exports in recent years. I think the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) will agree too that this was growth as a result of the stimulus provided by the previous Government, a Government dedicated to the task of encouraging exports. I go along with Senator Cotton’s remark that it is interesting to look at the fast growth of business by the Export Payments Insurance Corporation and to consider whether this growth should not be even faster. Senator Cotton has suggested that the Bill perhaps should go a little further in expanding the amount of money made available. However, when one looks at the figures I think it can be borne out quite clearly that the export growth of this country is growing by leaps and bounds.
I saw some figures given by a previous Minister for Trade which showed that at the end of the first year of operations EPIC had issued policies worth $22m or 1.3 per cent of Australia’s total exports of $l,636m for that year. At the end of the last financial year EPIC had on issue policies worth $622m or 12.7 per cent of our total exports of $4,902m for that year. So it is obvious that EPIC is today insuring on an increasing proportion of our exports. Despite this, however, I think the Government should be making every effort to encourage exporters to make use of EPIC’s facilities and to cover a growing percentage of our exports. Since the Bill was first introduced a number of improvements have been made to the Corporation’s facilities. I hope that the Government will continue to look for ways of improving the facilities which the Corporation offers to exporters. My colleagues and I support the Bill.
– The Democratic Labor Party supports this Bill. One of the most encouraging features of Australian life is the development of international trade. Just how far this will go we do not know. We do know, however, that relations between countries can be stimulated and strengthened by international commercial activity. Undoubtedly any organisation such as the Corporation we now have under discussion, which can bring traders and other people of other countries together, must be making an enormous contribution to the establishment of mutual goodwill quite apart from the finance and economics involved in the development of reciprocal trade. We can expect to see in this part of the world new trading patterns, and the Democratic Labor Party, of course, contemplates the development of something in a slightly different context equivalent to the European Economic
Community. We can see that for nations from Japan in the north to this highly industrialised nation of the south and coming through thai non-homogenous group of nations including Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia, there is a possibility of developing a commercial trading community of tremendous mutual advantage to all the participants in the commercial trading union. As a prelude to the development of such, the activities of a body such as the Corporation which is the subject of this Bill can create the basis of trade which can develop then into a regional trading operation. Quite apart therefore from the actual benefit of this in the immediate national life and to the traders concerned, we see its far-reaching benefits and we are all delighted to give this Bill our enthusiastic support.
– I take this opportunity to thank members of the Opposition and of the Democratic Labor Party for their contributions to the debate. I do not think, as Senator Cotton indicated initially, that there is any great difference of opinion between us. We all accept the need for the Export Payments Insurance Corporation. It has proved its value in the time it has been in existence and it has undoubtedly been a backstop for many of our exporters and given them a certain security which they otherwise might not have had.
The main point, without repeating the points made by the various senators who have spoken, rests, I think, on the suggestion by Senator Cotton that the contingent liability might be expanded to about $ 1,000m. I think it ought to be said that the present increase of $250m in the maximum liability acceptable by EPIC is a 50 per cent increase on the present maximum liability. We recognise the fact that the trade of this country is increasing and that the proportion of exports being underwritten by EPIC is also increasing. The present additional amount of $250m is designed to provide for an anticipated increase over the next 2 years. We do not know whether our export trade will expand to a stage at which it will be necessary, earlier than we think, to reconsider the present liability of EPIC - although I am sure we all hope that it will so expand. If that should be the case the Senate may be assured that the present Government will in fact reconsider that maximum liability. I think the present Bill is an adequate representation of our present and anticipated commitments over the next 2 years, and bearing in mind that the final decision must be made by this Parliament, it is essential that any amounts provided by the Commonwealth under legislation of this nature come back for final approval by the Parliament. 1 am sure that the ready and quick passage of this Bill will be of advantage to our exporters generally.
– 1 should like to make one brief comment in answer to Senator Wriedt who said that the contingent liability had been increased by 50 per cent. That is correct, but the EPIC report disclosed that in the last 12 months of the Corporation’s operations its activities expanded by 42 per cent. So it still seems to me that there would have been merit in expanding the contingent liability limit, though we will not force the point.
Bill agreed to. .
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a third time.
SALES TAX (EXEMPTIONS AND i CLASSIFICATIONS) BILL 1973
Debate resumed from 15 March (vide page 479), on motion by Senator Willesee: That the Bill bc now read a second lime.
– This measure deals with 2 areas. Firstly, it provides for the removal of sales tax on contraceptives. That removal is to be retrospective to 8th December 1972. As is well known, the Opposition is not happy about that proposal. The Opposition does not think it has any real merit. It does not think that the proposal does anything for the women in the community. We regard it as merely a symbol for women which does nothing like enough to recognise their true place in the Australian society, which the Opposition will seek to establish as time goes on. Other speakers will support the Opposition’s view on that aspect of the Bill.
The Bill also deals with the exemption from sales tax of certain goods used in con verting business and industrial equipment to the metric system. This follows recommendations by the Metric Conversion Board that some limited taxation concessions should be granted to those persons who are faced with the cost of the conversion of business and industrial equipment to the metric system. That seems to the Opposition to be a fair and equitable proposition. Therefore the Opposition finds itself in the broad in support of the granting of a concession in respect to the cost of conversion to the metric system.
The Bill seeks to exempt from sales tax certain parts and accessories. Those concessions are to apply in respect of the purchase of parts and accessories on or after 1st July 1971. There is a possibility that people who have already paid tax in this respect can apply for a refund. In general I am not enthusiastic about legislation which backdates provisions for nearly 2 years. That is a practice which the Senate would want to watch with very great care. The Senate has built up for itself a fairly substantial reputation as an inspector of the public expenditure. I hope it will persist in following that practice. But there is a case in equity to be considered here. In fairness to the people involved, and having regard to the date of the implementation of metric conversion, I think it is reasonable for the Senate to accept that, with the reservations I have mentioned, this is a sensible provision. As there will be other speakers in the debate, I shall content myself with the remarks I have made on the subject.
– I speak for myself on this Bill. I oppose the Bill insofar as Part B, as set out in the explanatory memorandum, is concerned. I have no objection to the passage of that part of the measure which refers to the remission of sales tax on certain goods used in the conversion of business and industrial equipment to the metric system. But I oppose that part of the Bill which eliminates the sales tax on pessaries and on the contraceptive pill. I do not intend to debate at this stage any moral argument that may be adduced. This is neither the time nor the place to do so. Being such a piffling matter, I do not think it is worthy that the time of the national Parliament should be taken up with debating this sort of nonsense. My view is that sales tax ought to be abolished in toto. I regard sales tax as iniquitous. If the Government were sincere and wanted to make a genuine attack on the cost of living it would, firstly, look at the elimination of the sales tax imposed in the more essential areas and, secondly, get around to abolishing sales tax altogether. The abolition of sales tax is a matter which should appeal to supporters of the Government because sales tax is not based on an ability to pay. The downtrodden and oppressed battler pays the same sales tax as the wealthiest member of the community.
To avert to the actual economics of the matter, I have been informed on credible authority that the sales tax on the pill is 0.45 cents a day or night, as the case may be. I simply say that any man who is put off by a cost of 0.45 cents a night is simply not serious, any more than the bringing of this measure before the Senate is a serious attempt to improve the economic structure of our taxation system. On the basis of the current average weekly wage, one week’s wages would pay the sales tax on the pill for 74 years. That does something to illustrate how trifling is the matter which is before the Senate. This measure has been hailed as some form of emancipation for womankind. It is nothing of the sort. It is an insult to the feminine intelligence. Any government which flouts the feminine intelligence is riding for a fall. If, as I said before, the Government is serious about improving the position with regard to sales tax and other matters it should look at those things which are used to save life. Certain lifesaving equipment carries a sales tax of 15 per cent. Some radio and electronic equipment used to save lives in floods, fires and national disasters carries a sales tax of 27½ per cent. I am not impressed with the argument that this tax was originally imposed by a government which I supported. I simply say that in my view there are other matters which far more urgently call out for correction. Many useful household items which enter into the cost of living carry a tax of 27½ per cent.
This measure, which, as I have said, deals with a tax costing less than half a cent a day, is a farce. Imagine a modern Pyramus and Thisbe going joyously to their trysting place because the sales tax is off the pill. Imagine Troilus mounting the Trojan walls, sighing his soul towards the Grecian tents and speeding his feet in that direction because the sales tax is off the pill. Imagine Anthony knocking joyously at the door of Cleopatra’s tent because the sales tax is off the pill. Imagine
Romeo and Juliet no longer arguing Montague and Capulet because Whitlam has taken the sales tax off the pill. Have honourable senators ever heard anything so ridiculous? This Bill is humbug. The nation stands on the brink of inflationary disaster and Whitlam takes the sales tax off the pill. Australia is losing all her overseas friends - she has lost her best ally - and what does this Government come up with? A decision to take the sales tax off the pill. Foreign countries are telling the Leader of this Government to mind his own bloody business and what happens? Whitlam takes the sales tax off the pill. Because I cannot stand posturing, pirouetting and humbug in politics, I oppose that portion of the Bill relating to the removal of sales tax from the contraceptive pill.
– in reply - I thank Senator Hannan for his speech. The whole question of sales tax will be again reviewed prior to the next Budget. I understand that quite a wealth of letters are received by the Government concerning the various items on which sales tax is imposed. It is only right that such letters should be written to the Government. Anybody who has anything to say about the sales tax imposed over a whole range of commodities should certainly write to the Government. If Senator Hannan thinks that sales tax ought to be increased, decreased or kept at the same level, I certainly hope that he will write to the Treasurer. I thank Senator Hannan for his speech and the Senate for giving this Bill a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without ammendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 27 March (vide page 595), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
The amendment contained in the Bill now before the Senate removes the excise duty from wine produced from fresh grapes, being wine that does not contain any added sweetening matter. Honourable senators are aware that one of the first actions of this Government was to invoke provisions in excise by-laws to allow wine to be entered for home consumption without payment of duty. The Bill now under consideration retains the duty on certain artificially sweetened wines which were liable to such a duty prior to the imposition in 1970 of an excise on commercial fresh grape wines. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28 March (vide page 618), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Following a superb example of interparty co-operation in the Senate in passing the previous measure we- have now reached the Commonwealth Banks Bill. Although it is so titled, its purpose is to repeal section 66 of the principal Act in order that credit foncier loans made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank, which is a subsidiary of the Commonwealth Bank, will in effect be on the same level as housing loans made - perhaps the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) will correct me if I am wrong - by the savings banks operated by the private banking sector. This Bill seeks to remove a discrepancy so that all savings banks will operate on the same level. Section 66 provides that loans oh credit foncier terms under part VI of the Act shall not exceed 90 per cent of the bank’s valuation of the property on which the loan is secured, or the prescribed amount, which is currently $9,000, whichever is the less,
Looking at it quite objectively one finds it extremely hard to raise any argument against the general merits of the Bill, believing as one does that the banking sector and its savings bank counterpart are very appropriately handled in the Australian context in a mixed economy style where there is a series of private banking institutions together with savings bank agencies and a Commonwealth Bank with its own savings bank agency competing for business, deposits and advances in the open market place. They are competing for business to let people have money on deposit or on loan. We believe that the terms on which they operate in the market place ought to be equal. This legislation seems to make that position a reality and, accordingly, we support the proposal.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When I was speaking before the suspension of the sitting I indicated that the Opposition thought that the Commonwealth Banks Bill was a good measure. It puts the Commonwealth Savings Bank as a part of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation in the same situation as the banks in the private enterprise sector of the economy. It puts them on terms of equality. We think that the measure ought to be supported and accordingly, will let it pass without objection.
– The Senate is addressing itself to a Bill, to amend the Commonwealth Banks Act 1959-1968. Part 3 of the Bill .repeals section .66 of the original Act which states:
The amount of a loan under this Division shall not exceed 90 per centum of the value (as determined by the Trading Bank or by the Savings Bank) of the estate or interest in land oil which the loan is secured, or the prescribed amount, whichever is the less. . ,
The second reading speech of the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) indicates that at the present time there is a limitation on housing loans by the Commonwealth Bank of $9,000. I take the proposition to be that we will see a repeal of the limit which can be lent by the Bank. Following this Bill becoming law - the Country Party certainly supports it - the Commonwealth Bank will be able to lend in excess of 90 per cent of the Bank’s valuation if it so wishes.
Generally, the proposition has been put that the activities of the Government banks have been aimed at helping those who are perhaps less fortunate in the community. That is the way I have viewed the position. Moneys were made available to those who required smaller loans. I take it that there may be some diversion of the total funds available from the Bank into the financing of houses 90 per cent of the valuation of which will be a figure above $9,000. I see that as a problem. I think that there are many people in the community today who have various requirements for housing. At the cost of housing per square today, certainly not a great deal is achieved for the expenditure of $10,000. Probably, the cost of an average home is working out in excess of $14,000 or $15,000. If money is to be lent for housing in the $20,000 to $30,000 group, we will find that less money is available for the requirements of the smaller builder. As a result of that, 1 hope that the situation will not arise in which the Bank is short of funds at any stage as has occurred in previous years so that there will be a waiting time while the banks find sufficient money to make available for building loans.
The origination of finance for housing would appear to me to be one of the most important factors in our economy. There is little doubt that the housing industry is the most important economic section of the community. The demand for land and then for houses generates the original demand for what the labour force in the community produces. Observing the production of timber and bricks as well as the varying interior fittings - all the electrical fittings and services that are provided - one can see readily that the generation of interest in, and the expansion of the role of, the housing industry is a very important matter. This Bill, introduced at this time, may encourage that trend further.
I say, with some knowledge of the housing industry, that if at this time there is to be a greater demand for housing, this will add a danger to the continuance of our inflationary spiral. I am well aware that the cost of building materials has continued to rise nearly month by month since last December. While I have heard statements from the Federal Government that it will have inquiries made into the rising cost of building materials, I think they have been pretty hollow, at least up until this date in 1973. It is impossible to hold down prices whilst you have a spiral of continuing wage demands such as the building industry has experienced over the last 5 or 6 months.
I believe that the housing industry has been well served by the financial arrangements as they have been provided by the private banks and the 2 Government sources of banking. Indeed, it is commented in a 1972 issue of the ‘Housing Quarterly* which is a Commonwealth Government publication:
The financial mechanism is geared as never before to meet the borrowing needs of prospective home owners.
Was the Commonwealth Department of Housing correct in its assumption of what was available to home owners in 1972 when it made that comment? I believe that it was. I repeat the statement:
The financial mechanism is geared as never before to meet the borrowing needs of prospective home owners.
That was the situation prior to this year, 1973. If we look at the achievements of the housing industry during the past years, we see that it provided 10.1 new dwellings for every 1,000 head of population in Australia. That compares more than favourably with any other country. I have grave doubts about the ability of young married persons or persons just starting out in life to be able to meet what will be the very high cost of establishing a reasonable home.
Let us examine the interest rates that are available. In the case of the Commonwealth Bank, we see that loans have been made available under the credit foncier provisions which are perhaps the cheapest rates of home loans available. But if we take the average throughout the community in the various areas of lending today - certainly in the past few years - the expansion of a second group of institutions into banking and thereby into housing has meant that, depending on the skill and ability of the finance seeker and perhaps the demands on finance available for housing, we see a rate of interest of anywhere between 4i per cent and 8i per cent being charged to home builders. That is of great concern to me because if we take a simple borrowing that a working man may need today - say, $15,000 for a home - we can see very readily that on the higher scale he has to find some $1,200 a year for interest repayments along with repayments of capital.
I predict that in future, because of the escalating costs of housing, there will be more of a problem for applicants for housing loans than there have been in past years. I note that the present Minister for Housing has suggested there is a housing crisis in Australia today. I doubt whether there is a crisis so far as housing is concerned if we relate that comment to the finance that is available for housing.
– There are 93,000 waiting for homes.
– The Minister for Works said that there are 93,000 applicants for housing commission homes. I suggest that if any one of those 93,000 applicants were to generate an interest in home ownership, if he stirred himself and if he wished to use other than government housing instrumentalities, he would be able to provide a home for himself by the end of the year. 1 realise that there may be a difference in cost. This problem of cost is one which will have to be faced by a socialist government as it was faced previously by a private enterprise government.
The farce of the matter is the continuing cost spiral of land in this great capital Canberra. Here we have cries from Government Ministers who are attempting to blacken the previous Government by saying: ‘Look at the enormous cost of land in New South Wales and Victoria’. During the week-end a Minister in Western Australia criticised what will be the escalation of the cost of land there. Since this Labor socialist Government has been in office land sales in Canberra, which are controlled by this Government through a government instrumentality which has some responsibility to take account of the costs of developing a block of land, have been at prices which can be described only as exorbitant. Why does not this Government start solving the problem in Canberra now instead of waiting for 3 or 4 weeks before it does something? There have been 3 land sales in Canberra since it has taken office, and nothing has been done to get land to people at a respectable price. What was considered a respectable price for land 15 or 20 years ago would not buy a comparable block today. Years ago a person could have purchased one-fifth or one-quarter of an acre of land for a couple of hundred pounds. But that is not the story today. Every residential block that is developed, because of the demand for roads, footpaths, kerbing and the services that must go into the block, has in it a cost factor of $3,000 to $3,500 this year before it can be so’d. If one looks at the achievements of the private sector of the building industry there is no doubt that private developers have put land on to the market for housing at a very respectable figure.
There is one other financial argument so far as banking and housing are concerned, and that is the direct import of the Bill. I advocate to the Government something which the previous Government did not do and which it should have done, and that is to allow as a deduction from assessable income the interest paid by a person for the first house that he may buy or build. I think that the allowance of the amount of interest that he would pay - the recoverable amount out of his take home pay - would be a considerable encouragement to a person. I believe that it should be done in Australia to encourage further an interest in home ownership and certainly to encourage an interest in further building development which, as I have said, is one of the major keys to the Australian economy. It is interesting to note that during the 1961-71 decade the rise in the number of dwelling completions was approximately 6.5 per cent each year, as’ compared with an annual increase in population of approximately 2 per cent. That is a credit not only to the Australian community but to those who have been able to meet the demands of the community in the housing field.
I believe that 2 factors have, and have had in past years, a great impact on the encouragement to build. One has been the home savings grant which the former Government provided. All honourable senators have had great pleasure, in seeing that the attractions of that grant have been made available to young home seekers. It has been of enormous benefit. The other matter which has been of particular interest is referred to in a comment in, I think, the Commonwealth Department of Housing’s quarterly report for 1972 which suggested that insurance on mortgages has been conducive to a lowered rate of interest on lendings I would not have thought that that was the position, but it is obvious that money has been attracted into the housing field because those loans now are virtually totally secure. Both those matters have been of particular significance in the housing industry.
The Commonwealth Bank, with its 3 banking institutions, is the largest banking group in Australia. The Commonwealth Bank has just on $6,000m in assets, and the amount lent for housing by the 3 institutions, although I think that only 2 are involved, is $383m. For instance, the Commonwealth Savings Bank has at present 25,000 loans which total $224m. The. ability with which the Commonwealth Bank is managed is obvious by the fact that the Savings Bank for the last financial year made a profit of $12,520,000, and the Trading Bank, due to great efficiency in administration, produced a profit of over $5,200,000. I think that the general provisions of the Bill will be conducive to further intrusions by the Bank into the housing loan field. The percentage limit which a bank could lend for housing, which has been adhered to for many years, has been removed. It is good business to lend only a proportion of the value of the asset. The other proposition which I put is that when section 66 of the Commonwealth Bank Act is repealed much of the funds which will be made available to the Bank for housing loans will go into the more expensive housing field.
I have great satisfaction in supporting, on behalf of the Australian Country Party, the Bill.
– in reply - I have listened with interest to the speeches. Both the speaker for the Australian Country Party and the speaker for the Liberal Party of Australia have agreed that the Bill should be passed. Senator Cotton described what the Bill will do and how it was handled. [ thank the Senate for its consideration of the Bill.
Question resolved in the. affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time In presenting the legislation, it is appropriate that I should give honourable senators a brief resume of the very significant developments which have occurred in the field of Aboriginal affairs since the Labor Party formed the Government on 5th December. The fundamental moral principle of the right of Aboriginals to own the lands reserved for them has been recognised by this Government. Mr Justice Woodward, Q.C, has been appointed as Aboriginal Land Rights Commissioner to report on the most effective means of implementing this decision. The Commissioner has already advertised for submissions. This decision brings Australia more into line with other countries with similar histories and is in stark contrast to the approach of the previous Government.
The creation of a Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs is evidence of the importance this Government places upon the urgency of the task facing it in assisting Aboriginals to achieve those degrees of self determination and social and economic development which they themselves choose as their goals. This Government has convened a meeting of what I .propose to term the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. This Committee is drawing up recommendations for the future election or choice of representatives. The Government will look to this Committee for policy advice and recommendations over the whole spectrum of Government involvement in Aboriginal affairs. Clearly this Government is serious about the need for consultation with Aboriginals. Too often in the past have decisions been taken by governments to act in the name of Aboriginal advancement when the people most concerned - the Aboriginals themselves - have been totally unaware of what is proposed. A table setting out a brief record of our stewardship to date has been prepared and I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
7 December - Announcement of a freeze on further leasing or exploration licences on reserves in the Northern Territory. 13 December - Grants to 2 voluntary organisations announced. 14 December - Statement on tribal languages and skills to be taught. 15 December - Statement on land rights - Woodward Committee announced. 20 December - Minister’s statement on intention to confer with Aboriginals. 21 December - Grants-in-aid announcement. ($103,000 Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Northern Territory.) 22 December - Panter Downs purchase announced. (440,000 acres $100,000.) 9 January - Cabinet agreed to $10.85m appropriation to Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account for 1972-73. 11 January - Minister announces plans for Aboriginal consultative committee. 12 January - Aboriginal secondary grants scheme extended. 17 January to 22 January - Minister’s visit to Queensland and Northern Territory Aboriginal settlements. 18 January - Statement on conditions on Palm Island, and request to Queensland Government to transfer responsibility. 19 January - Yarrabah grant announced. ($20,000 to purchase a school bus.) 19 January - Wee Waa investigation of conditions of itinerant Aboriginal cotton chippers. 19 January - Nomads grant announced. ($80,000.) 23 January - Charges arising out of Aboriginal Embassy dropped. 26 January - Announcement on Gurindji land. 31 January - Visit to remote Aboriginal settlements in Western Australia. 1 February - Mitakoodi Housing Association grant. (Cloncurry $100,000.) 1 February - Aboriginal field force statement. 4 February - $2.9m grant to Western Australia. 9 February - $2.9m grant to Queensland. 15 February - Visit to remote Aboriginal settlements in Northern Territory. 16 February - Announcement of measures to allow: an increase in the number of Aboriginal Housing Associations in Northern Territory. 21 February - Aboriginal consultative committee meets. 21 February - Report of Wee Waa investigation. 22 February - Announcement of proposals for additional Aboriginals to be employed in Public Service. 26 February - Aboriginal appointed to working party on homeless men (Social Security). 26 February- Purchase of 286,000 acre property, Mount Minnie for Noualla group of Aboriginals in. Western Australia. ($35,000.) 28 February - Legislation to repeal discriminatory sections of Migration Act introduced. 28 February - Request to Queensland Government to transfer reserve land to Aboriginals. 2 March - Turtles and crocodilefarms. ($100,000.) 7 March - Grants to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. ($1.6m.) 7 March - Oodnadalta Housing Societygrant $90,000.
– The legislation provides for the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Act 1972 to be amended to increase the financial assistance being made available to the States for the. welfare and advancement of those Aboriginal people of Australia living within their borders. A total of $7. 5m will be provided for this purpose, each State being allocated the following amounts: New South Wales $1,030,000, Victoria $100,000, Queensland $2,910,000, South Australia $470,000, Western Australia $2,926,000, and Tasmania $64,000. For the information of honourable senators a table has been prepared showing how : these additional funds are to be spent, together with a breakup of the total funds provided by the Commonwealth for expenditure by the States in 1972-73. I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. (The document read as follows):
– It will be seen that the Bill provides an additional $2,484,000 for housing, making a total for the year of $10,743,000. The problem of providing adequate accommodation for Australia’s
Aboriginal citizens can only be overcome by the deployment of massive human and financial resources. The building program up to now has proved inadequate and it is only with the provision of this additional money that for the first time we expect to reduce the backlog of housing requirements. Funds for housing additional to those paid by the Commonwealth to the States are available from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Bryant) has authorised the provision of a further $600,000 for grants direct to Aboriginal housing societies. The area where the Minister proposes the greatest increase in Commonwealth spending is in special works projects. The object of these projects is to provide meaningful work for otherwise unemployed Aboriginals where no work existed beforehand. The previous Government’s expenditure in this area barely scratched the surface of the massive but localised Aboriginal unemployment throughout Australia. It is the Minister’s intention to provide work for as many Aboriginal people as possible where no other opportunities exist, not only to relieve the chronic economic and spiritual depression of the unemployed members of Aboriginal communities but also to raise the standards of the entire community.
As the table shows the Minister has directed the spending on these projects to those States with the worst record of Aboriginal unemployment. It is also his intention to require that future special works projects be assessed in terms of the value of a particular project to the Aboriginal community. Projects providing employment for members of an Aboriginal community must show that the effects of the project are realised and appreciated, at least in part, by the community providing the work force. In addition the Minister envisages a much greater variety of projects, and that increasing demands in terms of on the job training and responsibility will be made on the people employed.
The poor health status of the Aboriginal people is a continuing cause for grave concern. Despite the increased expenditure during the last S years both by the Commonwealth Department of Health and, until recently, by the Department of the Interior on health programs in the Northern Territory and also by the Health Departments in the various States the present situation is not one that can be accepted as tolerable. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Department of Health, is urgently examining ways in which a major attack can be mounted to solve the problems associated with the high mortality and retarded growth of Aboriginal infants as well as with the many chronic diseases to which not only Aboriginal children but also the adult members of the Aboriginal communities are prone.
From the supplementary funds being made available at the present time approximately $1.5m will be for assistance to health programs. These include the recruitment of additional doctors and nurses to be concerned specifically with Aboriginal health in Western Australia, the building of a hospital complex and child health clinics, a dental clinic and the provision of water supply and sewerage at various settlements in Queensland and assistance to nursing aide training and the provision of adequate sewerage at- several reserves in New South Wales. These measures, urgent as they are, can only be regarded as an interim provision of funds to enable the existing programs in these States to be implemented this year. The Minister hopes soon to be able to make available substantially greater funds for the State which will make possible a far more effective and comprehensive health program foi* Aboriginal people than has been the case in the past. ,
Mr President, I wish to emphasise that this Bill is designed only to provide additional finance for this financial year. It serves as an earnest of our intention to attack the problems that face us energetically and resolutely. We have a duty as a nation to remedy results of the neglect of the past. This Bill before you is an initial step to fulfil the responsibility which was unequivocably placed upon the Australian Government in the referendum of 1967. In increasing the total grants to the States for 1972-73 by over 50 per cent, we are honouring the trust placed in us to restore to the Aboriginals the basic human rights and to create for them the conditions in which they, too, may enjoy a standard of living, a freedom from fear and deprivation which has previously been reserved for non-Aboriginal Australians. I now lay on the table the table to which I referred earlier. I commend the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill 1972-73 to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
– by leave - Mr President, the statement ‘I am about to make is on behalf of the Minister for Labour, the Honourable C. R. Cameron, M.P., and it refers to the guaranteed minimum wage levy for nonpayment ports. I want to make it clear that when I use the pronoun T it refers to the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron).
Since the guaranteed minimum wage levy issue has become the subject of some particularly opportunistic politics by the Victorian State Government and, in this Parliament, by the honourable member for Wannon (Mr Malcolm Fraser) I want to put on record the course of events which led to this statement today. The first point is that the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour chose to alter the funding basis of the guaranteed minimum wage levy only a month ago. The day after, on Tuesday, 6th March, I told this House that I was deeply concerned at the implications of the AEWL’s move. I said that I was concerned because it might jeopardise the employment of some hundreds of waterside workers; because it might lead to the closure of ports in a way inconsistent with our developing decentralisation policies; and finally, because the AEWL had decided on this action without consulting me and in anticipation of the inquiry which I had initiated on 23rd February.
I undertook to examine the effects of the change and to determine what new financial arrangements might be appropriate to offset the ill effects of the AEWL’s move. That was on 6th March. The following day I sent a letter to all members of the Stevedoring Industry Council confirming that an inquiry into the industry should take place, and that 1 would expect it to include an inquiry into the effect of the changes in the method of imposing AEWL levies to finance the guaranteed minimum wage in casual ports. I now table that letter dated 7th March 1973. That letter was sent 2 days after I was informed of the AEWL decision. It is difficult to imagine the former Government, of which the, honourable member for Wannon was a member, acting with such speed.
Over the succeeding week my Department continued to monitor the effect of the AEWL levy. On 15th March, 10 days after the AEWL decision became known, I told the House:
The inquiries I have made have convinced me that it is not a matter entirely in the hands of the employers to correct. It cannot be corrected at all unless we alter the legislation which brought about the disaster.
Honourable members will appreciate the significance of that comment a little later.
During that same debate the honourable member for Wannon alleged quite incorrectly that I had not written the letter to the AEWL. The letter I have just tabled, dated 7th March, proves him wrong. The honourable member has been consistently wrong and has consistently attacked me for inactivity when, in fact, I have expended a great deal of energy in correcting the mistakes of the government of which he was a member. During my speech on 15th March 1 announced that Mr Norman Foster, together with 2 departmental officers, had been dispatched to Portland to make an on-the-spot investigation.
The issue came up in the House again on 28th March, 3 weeks after the AEWL changed its levying arrangements. I said in that debate that I would be seeking leave to make a statement in this Parliament concerning the Portland situation as soon as 1 received the report from my Department, which would be reporting to me by Tuesday the following week. That is today, and I now table the report. It was on that date, 28th March, that I read to the House part of a letter which I had sent to the Honourable Murray Byrne, Minister for State Development and Decentralisation in the Victorian Government. That letter replied to the criticism of me that had been made by Mr Byrne in the Press, and clearly demonstrated the political opportunism of the Victorian State Government and their allies in this Parliament in vilifying me during the State pre-election period.
I now table the full letter to Mr Byrne to which he has not yet cared to reply. The day after that letter was sent, 28th March, acting on advice from Mr Foster and other officers of the Department as to the seriousness of the situation in some smaller ports, I sent an urgent telegram to the parties to the Stevedoring Industry Council. That telegram said:
In view of the difficulties at smaller ports I would be glad if Council could urgently advise mc of their views on the guaranteed minimum wage levy. Specifically I seek its view on the desirability of funding the guaranteed minimum wage levy in nonpermanent ports out of the uniform levy imposed under the Stevedoring Charges Act, on all ports permanent and non-permanent.
This proposal seemed to me the only one which could advantage Portland, Cairns, Mackay, Coffs Harbour and Esperance - the ports in which the guaranteed minimum wage levy had been increased - without disadvantaging the remaining ports whose levy had been decreased. The effect of merely returning to the old system - the course advocated by the honourable member for Wannon - would have been to marginally help Portland at the expense of ports outside his electorate, like Geelong. I could not afford to be so partisan. I wish to table a copy of the telegram to the Stevedoring Industry Council.
This afternoon the Stevedoring Industry Council informed me of its unanimous recommendation. It agreed:
I wish to table a copy of that telex.
It is my intention to recommend to Cabinet that the guaranteed minimum wage levy in the non-permanent ports be funded from the charges made under the Stevedoring Charges Act. This means that all ports, permanent and non-permanent, will contribute to the minimum wage payments made in the smaller ports. This will have a very substantial effect on the viability of some- of these ports. For example, in Portland the guaranteed minimum wage levy will be reduced from $1.15 per man hour to about 2c or 3c per nian hour. AH the non-permanent ports will be advantaged by the change as this levy of 2c or 3c per man hour will be uniform. Only Geelong, whose levy has fallen to 2c now, will not gain by the change, but it will not suffer.
I believe this recommendation represents a far better solution to the problem of the nonpermanent ports than those which have been advocated by the honourable member for Wannon or by the Victorian State Government. It is the solution advocated by Mr Bill Lewis, the Member for Portland, who has been indefatigable in his representations to me on this matter. I believe it is the right solution. It was the honourable member for Wannon’s inability to understand the working of the levy system which led to his quite erroneous and unworthy accusation that a deal had been done between the AEWL, the Waterside Workers’ Federation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the parties to the Stevedoring Industry Council.
The honourable member tabled in Parliament on 28th March a letter to Mr Murray Byrne from the Executive Director of the AEWL, Mr Craig, in which Mr Craig said that at a Stevedoring Industry Council meeting on Friday, 16th March:
An arrangement whereby some casual out-ports were subsidising others was rejected entirely by the parties to the discussions, including the Waterside Workers’ Federation and the ACTU on the grounds that it was improper for some small ports which may well have problems of their own to be forced to carry additional costs to maintain another port or ports.
The honourable member for Wannon implied that this was a conspiracy but I believe that the Council was quite correct in rejecting a scheme of cross subsidisation between outports - temporary ports - just as it was quite proper to recommend a scheme of cross subsidisation which could involve the permanent ports. That is just another example of the honourable member for Wannon’s disregard of the facts. I believe a solution of this kind justifies the 4 weeks between the AEWL change and this announcement during which we have examined the possibilities within my Department.
I turn now to the report on Portland prepared by Mr Foster and other officers of my Department. Although the report has been prepared very quickly in response to the urgency of Portland’s problems, I believe it makes a profoundly important contribution to the future of smaller ports. The report makes it quite clear, as I have already pointed out in my letter to Mr Byrne, that the viability of smaller ports like Portland will not in the end be determined by the nature of the levying arrangements for the guaranteed minimum wage. The causes of Portland’s decline go far deeper and quite beyond the ambit of my portfolio. There is, however, a great deal the Victorian Government, which has attacked me with such ferocity over this issue, could do to ensure Portland’s future. My Department’s report concludes in the following way:
Having considered a wide range of views; examined submissions and documentation together wilh the results of inspections at Portland, the following matters are noted.
The port faces a number of problems which threaten its viability. They include trends toward centralisation and containerisation, seasonal factors and special overseas customer requirements. These have not occurred suddenly - except perhaps for seasonal factors - but have been evident for several years.
Although the Victorian Government has espoused the development of Portland as an example of decentralisation, a pattern of trade and transport has been allowed to develop which has resulted in cargoes by-passing Portland in favour of Melbourne and Geelong. These developments, depending as they do on road and rail transport, lie within the power of the State Government to correct.
The introduction of the changed levy arrangements has caused considerable concern in Portland. This concern was exacerbated by what was seen as a cavalier attitude on the part of the AEWL, whereby interested parties were denied an opportunity to express a viewpoint on this matter prior to changes being made. The change in levy arrangements was seen as a fundamental departure from the established practice of uniform levies, and not merely an increase in the rate. It was interpreted by some parties that smaller ports such as Portland were being deliberately driven out of existence. In this context, the view was put that the AEWL represents shipping companies and was subject to control and direction by overseas shipping interests to this end.
Having regard to suggestions that the former basis of funding the guaranteed wage should be restored, it is clear that the pattern of cargoes moving through Portland developed under the old basis of funding when a uniform rate of levy was applicable. II follows then that reverting to the former basis of funding will do nothing to encourage the future balanced- growth of the port. It was suggested that the establishment of a container facility for roll-on roll-off vessels should be given consideration as a first step in a co-ordinated approach to ensuring the future of the port. In view of the declining pattern in non-bulk cargoes, and existing competition from road-rail transport, such a step could only be justified if suitable action were taken by State and local authorities to ensure a worthwhile volume of cargoes being available for shipment
Future employment arrangements for waterside workers m small ports, including Portland, were the subject of a communication from the Minister for Labour to the Stevedoring Industry Council on 23rd February 1973. The Minister sought the Council’s consideration of this whole area and such an examination by this forum would give the -Minister guidance as to the future of small ports and place the labour aspects of this matter in the proper perspective.
In other words, the report notes that a change to the minimum wage levy will not save Portland. Its vitality depends on action by the Victorian State Government. Figures within the report sustain the argument that Portland’s decline began long before Sth March. For example, in the financial year 1967-68, 63,942 bales of wool were shipped from Portland - 38.98 per cent of the bales sold in Portland. By the financial year 1971-72 only 5,309 bales were shipped from Portland - 2.24 per cent of the wool sold. A similar situation is reflected in the export of dairy products through Portland. In 1967-68, 11,410 tons of dairy products were exported through Portland; in 1971-72, 5,930 tons were shipped. As the report notes:
It would seem that rail and road transport organisations have been able to apply policies which have operated to oppose the Victorian Government’s announced policy of decentralising trade at Portland’.
It is for that reason that the report says that it is:
Unlikely that a reversion to the former funding arrangements will have any significant effect in developing trade through the port.
We have decided not to revert to the former funding arrangement. But even the new and generous arrangement which I will recommend to Cabinet will have insufficient effect on stevedoring costs to save Portland without rapid action from the Victorian Government of the kind referred to in the report.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
That the Senate concurs with the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. 22 of the House of Representatives relating to the appointment of a joint committee to examine and report on certain matters relating to prices.
That the provisions of the resolution so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
That the foregoing resolutions be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
I do not intend to say a lot about this matter. I wish to draw attention to some of the provisions of the message which we received from the House of Representatives, particularly in the opening paragraph which states:
That a joint committee be appointed to inquire into and, as appropriate, report on -
complaints arising from prices charged by private industry;
movements in prices of goods and services in particular fields or sections of private industry, for example, as measured by price indices; and
such other matters relating to prices as may be referred to the committee by resolution of either House of the Parliament.
At the outset I say that there has been communicated to me - if I may be allowed to anticipate this to a degree - an amendment which was moved in the other place and which shortly the Opposition intends to move here. It will add after the words ‘private industry’ the words ‘and public sector’. The reason we did not put in the words ‘and public sector’ in the first place is that it seems to us that already there is control of the public sector in this Parliament, either through statutory boards or through direct ministerial control. Already we get annual reports from various Government bodies and at Budget time the estimates are examined, and it seems to us that it would be an unnecessary cluttering up of the proposed joint parliamentary committee to include the public sector. For instance, if we started to examine an institution such as the Post Office, presuming that an inquiry had not been instituted, obviously the Parliament would bog down because it would involve an examination of proposals to raise the price of communications, whether they be postal, telephone or telegraph. This committee is starting off almost in a vacuum, it would seem to me at this initial stage, in its examination of prices. Firstly, let me say that we do not pretend that this will be an easy exercise. If it were easy, we would not have the inflationary problems that we have throughout the world today, the steady rate of inflation we have had in Australia up until the last few years and the rapidly growing rate of inflation since then. What we are asking for in this proposal is an opportunity to get the Parliament interested, to give the Parliament an opportunity to examine complaints from the public, and to be able to send for papers and people which means that we would be able to obtain information from such people as economists and scientists. Also available to the committee would be the masses of information that are gathered in the universities and other places from which the committee would think fit to gather it. Additionally the committee would be able to examine not only complaints from the public but also those matters which would be referred to it by either House of the Parliament. This is not to be the beginning and the end of an attempt to curb inflation; it is only the beginning. As honourable senators know, at a later stage we intend to set up a prices justification board. We believe that this proposal could be the vehicle for gathering evidence and gaining experience which will be of great assistance to the proposed prices justification board when it is set up.
Certain bodies in Australia - the Tariff Board immediately comes to mind - have an impact on prices. It could well be that, because of the impact it would have on some places in the private sector, it could well come within the purview of this committee. The committee could look at the standard barometers that we have accepted over the years to see whether the consumer price index is a good index. But more importantly, as was put into the recommendation from the other place, the committee could look at prices in the various sectors, because how often do we hear that in one quarter the price of housing rose and in another quarter the price of food rose? It seems that this is a field which needs examination in order to obtain some knowledge and to effect some control.
I think undoubtedly the setting up of such a committee would lift the level of debate in this Parliament because of the additional information that would be available through our own colleagues. I emphasise that this is only the beginning. It could be described as a virgin paddock to which the members of the committee will have to put their plough. To operate effectively the committee will require the goodwill of the members on both sides of the Parliament. It will involve a great deal of trial and error in the first place. I can imagine some of the communications that the members of the committee when it is set up will receive from the general public. That sort of thing happens all the time in Government departments, anyway. After the members of the committee have gained some experience, they will be able to sift through those communications and report back to the Parliament. They will be able to prepare themselves for the other activities which obviously the Government will need to undertake if we are to grapple with this thing called inflation. Although at the time of the depression Keynes came along with a solution and said what ought to be done, no economist or scientist in the world has been able to tell us how to grapple with inflation. There is always a political debate on these matters. Everyone has his own ideas on, say, whether wages alone cause inflation or whether wages form merely part of the inflationary process. I emphasise that the proposed committee has wide powers of reference. These powers very deliberately have been drawn widely. I think it would be foolish to try to draw narrow lines at this stage because the committee’s powers always can be amended in the future in the light of experience if the committee and this Parliament so think. 1 know that other honourable senators want to say something about this matter. I suggest to the Opposition that it think about whether it should move an amendment to introduce the words ‘the public sector’ into the proposition at this stage. It seems to me that it would have the effect of doubling up in the investigations that would be made in these areas. I repeat that the Parliament already has control of the public sector and already has access to information on the public sector, but it is denied those things in relation to the private sector. What we are trying to do is to get a foot in the door for this Parliament. To date in this area we have had nothing. I suggest that the amendment proposed by the Opposition should not be moved at this stage. I think that there will be plenty of opportunity to do so after the committee is set up. Maybe the time to examine such an amendment would be when we are getting to the stage of setting up a prices justification board. It seems that it would be unwise to run into a head-on clash with the House of Representatives on an issue such as this. 1 think that largely such a proposal would be unworkable because I just could not imagine how this committee could examine, let us say, complaints about electricity which was being supplied- from the States. Nor could I imagine how it could examine complaints about fares or, as I have said, the Postmaster-General’s Department, which at present is not within the purview of the committee but which, in years to come, could well be within its terms of reference. I suggest that the Senate should accept the proposal and give it a try. Let us get started. Let us get members of both Houses of the Parliament and from both sides of the Parliament working as a team. Let us see how we go in the next 12 months and have a look at the situation at that stage.
– Item No. 12 on the notice paper concerns a message from the House of Representatives, the hard core of which is a proposition put by . that House that we should join with it in setting up a joint committee to inquire into and, as appropriate, to report on, firstly, complaints arising from prices charged by private industry - I note the word ‘private’ - secondly, movements in prices of goods and services in particular fields or sections of private industry - the word ‘private’ is used again - for example, as measured by price indices; and thirdly, such other matters relating to prices as may be referred to the committee by resolution of either House of the Parliament. Then the message proceeds through various areas. I will nominate only some of them. The proposition is that we would have a committee of 10 members - 7 from the House of Representatives and 3 from the Senate.
– Six and four, I think.
– Four members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Prime Minister, 2 members of the House of Representatives nominated by the Leader of the Opposition - that makes 6 - one member nominated by the Country Party - that makes 7 - 2 senators nominated by the Leader of the Government and one senator nominated by the Leader of the Opposition - a total of 10 members consisting of 7 from the House of Representatives and 3 from the Senate. I am grateful to Senator Wright for his interjection because it is important that we get the position clear. The proposition is for a joint committee of 10 people, 3 being senators and 7 being members of the House of Representatives. So in the estimation of the House of Representatives who sent us this proposition we are of the order of importance of less than one-half of its importance, which is not a view to which I subscribe. On the other hand, the proposition in relation to this committee is that of the 10 members 6 should come from the Government and 4 from the Opposition. We then have another proposition that the Prime Minister nominate one of the members as the chairman who no doubt would have a casting vote. I do not think that is specified but it is necessary that it is understood. Then we have the proposition that 5 members will constitute a quorum. So what do we have here? We have a tremendous operation. The House of Representatives could run it by itself with a quorum of 5. The Government could run it by itself with a quorum of 5. If ever we saw a potential star chamber centred in the House of Representatives in the hands of the Government to do what it wanted to do, this is it. The Opposition has a responsibility to protect the Australian people against the arbitrary acts of the current Government, and it will seek to do so. 1 will not elaborate on that but anybody who has been watching the scene in the last 3 months will understand what I am talking about. The details of the message, therefore, are what we are now dealing with. A third proposition then enters into this discussion, namely: ‘After all, why worry too much about this when we have a prices justification tribunal as well?’ That is a sort of second Star Chamber of the second degree - passing from the first degree into the second degree. You get tortured in both places. This is going to be a great country before all this finishes if this sort of thing keeps going on! I wanted to make my observations at no great length because Senator Willesee himself did not take a great deal of time and because many other members of the Opposition are greatly alarmed about this situation, as I am, and I do not seek to intrude upon their area of the debate.
Senator Willesee said that the Opposition ought not to move the amendment that was moved in the House of Representatives because he felt that the Government had adequate control over the public sector. That will be the day! The previous Government might have bad control over the public sector but there is no evidence that the current Government has any semblance of control over the public sector or is ever likely to achieve it. Let us look at the facts of life of Australia as an economic unit. This is a mixed economy and the actions of Government in the public sector inevitably and inexorably affect the actions of the private sector - far more than the reverse. The private sector does not affect the issues of the public sector to anything like the same extent. The problems of the private sector are largely the problems of Government policy per se as policy in general: Government economic policy, monetary and financial policy, the Government’s approach to inflation, the Government’s approach to what public resources ought to be allocated to.
It is a load of rubbish to put a proposition here that the private sector should be singled out for individual attack, individual spleen and individual malice by members of the Government who have some kind of particular issue with some kind of particular industry or person to prosecute in a committee of this character. I think this committee is largely an exercise of no value. I do not want to be more than extraordinarily hostile about this. I think it is a very bad departure in the
Australian scene to propose a committee like this, dominated by the House of Representatives, dominated by the Government, to which any individual who incurs the Government’s displeasure can be summarily arraigned and by which he can be summarily tried, in effect, without any real opportunity of answering or putting his own case. To say that the private sector should be singled out for individual treatment and the public sector disregarded is to make economic nonsense of what is going on in this country.
A committee which seeks to examine price links and price levels in the private sector without having regard to the inflationary impact on the economy of the public sector would not have the capacity to’ examine the overall nature of the Australian inflationary experience. I have not had much time to do work on this and I would have liked more time because I regard it as an issue of extreme importance to be attacked at every level. If the Opposition does not succeed today it will continue to attack if the committee comes into existence. Government members should not be in any doubt about that: We are not going to let up on this one.
Let us face some of the other facts. When the preceding Government passed over the reins of office to what are now% patently clear to all of us as a bunch of incompetent administrators the inflation rate was declining substantially - and the figures are published in the present Government’s own document.
– Look at the last gallup poll results.
– Senator McLaren, flee from the fowl yard, may get a chance to read one day, and what I recommend to him to read is his own Government’s publication, the Quarterly Review issued by his own Treasurer at the end of December. This shows that the inflationary rate was declining and that the unemployment rate was declining. What I want to say to honourable senators here is this: Under this present Government you are going to see a resurgence of inflation which you will find hard to believe. Just wait and see what will happen. The inflationary effects which will occur because of the policies of this Government will be felt, firstly, in the public sector and they will then’ impact themselves into the private sector. We are going to see some poor industrial person who is trying to make the thing go, but who because of the policies of this Government has had to
Increase his prices - otherwise he might go broke - brought before the committee. The Government will say to him: ‘Listen, Mr Jones, having regard to your position forget what we did. We want you to straighten yourself out’. I ask Government members to say how they would like to be in that situation. I ask them to have a go at it - it will not be funny for anybody. If this thing goes through, the Australian people will have great cause to regret it. They will be very alarmed before it is all over. We should make no mistake about the fact that the inflationary consequences of the Government’s economic policies are yet to be seen and that they are going to be very real and are going to make this totally unworkable as far as the private sector is concerned. The issues will be beyond its control.
Why single out the private sector alone? This is a mixed economy; private industry plays its part, and very effectively, and Government plays its part, and very effectively too. They run together, and to succeed in this country economically they have to run together in a mixed economy style. The Government may not single out one for treatment and not the other. It is just impossible - and if the Government tries to do so it demonstrates that Government members do not understand what they are talking about, that they do not understand the issues.
One can hear a lot of arguments about where inflation comes from - demand pressures, cost pressures, money supply. I do not think that any fair-minded person can ignore the fact that increases in wages, running ahead of productivity, have a substantial effect. I do not say they have the only effect, but a substantial effect. When one adds to that the proposition of decreased working hours, one is looking at a case in which the Government would inexorably force into the system a range of price increases clearly caused by the Government’s actions. The Government will support in the courts a proposition which will put in train an inflationary process which will lead to price rises. Then the Government will say to some poor little man in a small industry: ‘Come before the committee and explain yourself - that is, explain things which the Government did to him, not things that he did to the Government.
I think the committee, if set up, will be a total, unmitigated disaster. It might well single out people for victimisation. I suppose that if there is one thing that I have been opposed to at any level during my lifetime it is victimisation of people. This will lead to victimisation and persecution and the singling out of individuals who do not deserve itbecause the Government will ask some individual or some company to take the blame for the whole system of economic policy, although the Government itself is in charge of economic policy. The previous Government left this Government a condition of monetary and financial management which was the admiration of the free world - and in about 3 months this Government has started to muck it up and it is going to make a first class mess of it. One can see it happening and one can judge that it is going to happen.
I believe that the proper people to keep an eye on these things are those now in the public service, in the Arbitration Commission, in the Reserve Bank, in the Treasury and in the general market place. I do not think that the Parliament has either the time or the capacity to exercise this kind of operation with any degree of skill - although I would freely admit that among parliamentarians are some with a singular interest in this matter who would like to be able to do more about it. We all, being realists, understand the pressures on our time. How would any honourable senator have sufficient time for this task? And I attribute to honourable senators, if I may, with respect, a higher capacity in this field than is possessed by some other people because this Senate has developed some inspectorial, inquisitorial and understanding powers of public finance. However, honourable senators, I think, do not have the time to do more on this. The role of senator is a full time job for every senator in order to fulfil it properly. Even if he did nothing else, he would not have enough time to do this job.
I am concerned about the quorum provision. This prescribes for a committee of 10 a quorum of 5. The Committee has a preponderance of members of the House of Representatives at any time, and always a majority of Government members. There is really no provision in this proposition for a contrary view to be expressed by a minority group. I would like some of my legal friends to point out to me where there is any mention in the terms of reference of the ability of members of the proposed committee to issue a minority report highlighting what they might feel is victimisation, what they might feel ls extravagance or what they might feel is a lack of understanding.
– All minority groups on a committee have that right.
– It does not say so here.
– But they have that right. It is implied.
– It is not provided for in this instance. The Minister for Works is one of the people who, in my time as a Minister, would have insisted that this right be spelt out. Now that he is a Minister why does Senator Cavanagh not use his vast knowledge and spell out these things? Why does he not seek to have applied the things he told the former Government to apply? What has happened to him? Has he lost his memory?
– It has not been spelt out for any committee.
– I want to see it spelt out on this occasion. I have grave misgivings about this proposition.
– It was not spelt out in any committee that was established by the former Government.
– I want it spelt out here. I do not think that there is any provision in the terms of reference for a minority report. If the Minister for Works were to take his mind back a little into the past, with the shades of history drawing in upon him, he would acknowledge that he was a person who was very conscious of the rights of minority groups and who was anxious to protect the rights of people to have a say. I want to see a clear provision made for the views of a minority group to be expressed. I want to know what will happen to a company which is called before this so-called inquiry and which seeks to defend itself against unjustified accusations of impropriety. Will such a company in effect be paraded before the Press and tried before it is found guilty? Will it ever be able to prove his innocence?
– You are talking stupidly now.
– I think the events of the last 14 days will have demonstrated that I am not talking stupidly but that I am talking reality. Supporters of the Government have a great capacity to ignore their past utterances.
The Opposition does not agree that the private sector should stand alone in its responsibilities. The Opposition does not believe that it is possible to differentiate between the public sector and the private sector in this respect. The Government is responsible for the public sector’s actions. The public sector is led by the Government. The Government is in charge of it. The Government should take responsibility for the public sector bringing about some of the conditions that would be the subject of an inquiry of this nature. The Australian Labor Party asked that it be given the responsibility of government and it has been given that responsibility. It should be prepared to pick it up. The Opposition believes that the public sector ought to be the subject of any examination. One should not single out individuals or groups for examination. The Labor Party asked people to support it at the last election, which they did. It must now live with that responsibility.
The Opposition’s position is quite clear. It does not think much of this proposition. The Opposition also does not care much for the proposal to set up a prices justification tribunal. It does not think that that would be a real solution to the problem. Such a proposition would have no regard to the effect on the economy of increasing wages without a consequent increase in productivity. I suppose it could be said that under paragraph (c) it would be possible to refer to the proposed committee of inquiry the question of the effect of wage increases and a reduction in the working week on the economy. Paragraph (c) reads: such other matters relating to prices as may be referred to the committee by resolution of either House of the Parliament.
The Senate could consider itself to be in a situation where it could refer to the proposed committee a proposition that it examine the effect on prices totally or individually, as against the well known firm of Prowse, Gair and Cotton, of wage rises - or could it? Could the committee of 10 decide to refuse that request because the majority lies in the House of Representatives and the majority lies in the Government? The Opposition does not see in this proposition any protection coming from the great guardians of democracy who are now in government. They are the same people who have preached for the right of government to govern, open government, protection of the individual, protection of civil rights and so on. We have had a tremendous amount of mouthing by honourable senators opposite about how the rights of the people must be protected. One of the greatest examples of possible persecution and possible victimisation that has ever been perpetrated in this country is this proposition. The Opposition is particularly happy to stand up for the freedom of the people of Australia on this issue. Therefore, on behalf of the Opposition,
I move the following amendment:
The Opposition would like the Senate to give serious consideration to its amendment. It would like the Senate to take this matter seriously as it is extremely important.
– The proposal to set up a joint committee on prices is much in the forefront of the minds of supporters of the Government. It is also a matter of tremendous importance to the people of Australia. We have just heard a speech fromSenator Cotton, who adopted an entirely negative approach to this proposition. Instead of appreciating the advantages at this late stage of some investigation of the causes of inflation and increasing prices and of the methods of coming to grips with these problems he resorted to the old-fashioned tactic of making an attack upon the public spending sector and of saying that the Australian Labor Party must be blamed for so many of the ills of our society. Senator Cotton should remember that in the 23 years during which the Government of which he was a member for quite a considerable period of time had control of the Treasury benches nothing was done about the attempt by the former Labor government to obtain constitutional power to control prices.
The proposition that was put forward on Labor’s behalf at that time explained to the people of Australia exactly what would happen as a consequence of there not being sufficient constitutional power for the Commonwealth Government to control prices. One of the greatest opportunities that any country has ever had to control inflation was available to Australia in the period shortly after the Second World War when our industries were gathering momentum, discoveries of our natural resources were taking place, our armed Services were being disbanded, people were returning to Australia from service overseas, we had a training scheme for our apprentices and we had land development schemes. We were then on the threshold of a new era for Australia. The worst influence that has pervaded our whole system ever since has been the inflationary process.
Inflation has been described as the subtle thief that is ubiquitous, pernicious and insidious. It can be described in that way because one can never tell from which source it comes. One can never find out how it affects the economy, except as is reflected in the inflationary spiral. It is pernicious because it will eventually destroy the whole economy if allowed to continue. For the first time this Parliament has before it a genuine attempt to come to grips with the influence of inflation on our system and on our society, and what do we find? We find that members of the Opposition are getting up right at the start and trying to frustrate it. Fears have been generated by Senator Cotton that this proposed joint committee of both Houses of the Parliament will be dominated by the House of Representatives and by the Government. As that is where the responsibility lies, it would be argued that the Government should have the numbers to ensure that the committee carries out its functions in a proper manner.
The whole of the prices structure today is such that no one fully understands how to come to grips with price rises. Some 18 months ago there was a prices and wages freeze in the United States of America. It lasted for a while. The machinery for it was set up on a voluntary basis by the President of the United States. One essential household commodity is meat. In the markets of the United States housewives are boycotting meat. Instead of being one of the staple products it will become a luxury. That is an example, of a completion of the cycle of inflation from which nobody benefits. We are attempting to find an answer from one direction and it is only from one direction. The committee will be able to go out to try to examine the sources and causes of inflation. It may be able to come up with recommendations as a lay committee of the Parliament. It will have, the authority to send for witnesses and papers. It will have technical advice from officers of the Parliament and people outside the Parliament so that it can get the problem into perspective. We will be making a start in collecting material and data for the possible setting up in future of a prices justification tribunal.
The attitude of the previous Government over the years was that private, enterprise would find a level through supply and demand, but that theory has gone into the garbage tin. Today the individual entrepreneur is only a minor influence in the community. We are living in the day of monopoly capitalism, international and supra national monopolies, companies that are able to exercise influence on the economies of various countries throughout the world. The theory that supply and demand still exert influence is completely outdated. Pressures are applied right throughout the community. Until the restrictive trade practices organisation was set up actions took place to the point of becoming scandals. People were forcing up prices through monopolies and restrictive practices. Enormous profits were being made by the use of those techniques. Investigation is necessary in those areas to come to grips with inflationary problems and to strike a balance between prices and wages.
There has been a long-standing argument about whether increases in wages or increases in prices come first, but I remind honourable senators that for over 60 years we have had a wages justification tribunal in this country. Advocates before industrial tribunals have had to submit reasons in support of applications for increases in wages. Basically judgments have been given because of the increasing cost of living. Very few judgments have granted wage increases without there being a corresponding increase in a previous period in the cost of living. To most people it is obvious that wage increases are the result of increasing prices. On the other hand, we have never had authority to have under control, surveillance or investigation of prices, an important part in the cost of living. Now a new Government has determined that it will face up to the issues that are dogging the economy, to tackle and grapple with them.
I appreciate that it will not be a simple proposition in a capitalist economy containing so many self seekers and people dominated by greed for high profits and the power that comes from being in the top echelon of business administration. They will want the continuation of this type of economy. They can ride the wave of inflation. They have the authority to raise their prices and make their own charges, but what is happening to the people in the community who are on fixed incomes such as superannuation, people who have put away a nest egg for their retirement? They are being robbed by inflation and insufficient adjustments are made for them to maintain their standard of living. The effect of inflation on those people must strike, at the conscience of members of Parliament and other members of the community. Somehow or other, we must tackle the ever growing inflationary trend in Australia.
The committee is to be set up to investigate complaints arising from prices charged by private industry. Every day the prices of commodities creep up. I have in mind bread, milk and smallgoods.
– Is not the price of milk controlled by the public sector?
– It is supposed to be, but the prices are increasing all the time. Today in Canberra, or anywhere else in Australia, the price of land is increasing by from 10 per cent to 20 per cent every quarter. How much labour is involved in a block of land?
– A lot.
– There is not a lot of labour involved. There is no labour involved in a block of land. It is not necessarily sold with footpaths made and water connected. A developer pays for agricultural land at a price leaving him with a margin when he does subdivide it. Along the line the land was leasehold or freehold grazing land on the perimeter of a city. The owner of the land makes a very small contribution. Through increases in population brought about by a migration program sponsored by the taxpayers of the country pressure is placed on the expansion of the urban areas. The price of the land which was used for agricultural purposes suddenly increases to boom level. Yet no labour whatever has been put into it. It is straight-out profiteering and exploitation. The increased prices are placed on the backs of the working men when they marry and wish to buy a home in which to raise their families. They must carry this burden through the whole of their working lives. The increases were never earned and bore no labour content from the start.
– Did you object to the Prime Minister’s getting $40,000 for his house?
– I am not objecting to anything at the moment. I am supporting the introduction of a joint committee on prices so that it can examine all factors including rentals and the contributions that people make towards their homes. They are very important factors in the cost of living. The community’s standard of living is influenced by the cost of building blocks. That influence is felt throughout the whole of the community. Last night on the television program ‘Monday Conference’ some of the profits being made by Pitt Street farmers were mentioned. Now they are better known as Macquarie Street farmers and Collins Street farmers.
– Why is that?
– They are having such a harvest prescribing drugs being made by overseas pharmaceutical companies which have a monopoly in Australia. Doctors are making a fortune prescribing drugs for people who are not being cured. They are being hooked on these drugs. These doctors are making such tremendous profits that they are getting on to the Country Party bandwagon and buying farms so that they will be able to get bigger tax concessions. They are not only putting up the the price of their services in the city but also putting a false value on land in the country. As a consequence, the neighbouring farmers want to put up the price of their land and resell it because of its potential for this type of development by the Collins Street or Macquarie Street farmers. Then the new holders expect higher prices for their commodities.
These are the types of things that snowball as inflation gains momentum. It is in so many of these directions that nothing has been done over the last 23 years to try to come to grips with the problem. They are the advantages I put forward to the Senate for setting up this joint parliamentary committee to investigate prices. The committee would have to look into such matters relating to prices as may be referred to it. I believe that there are people throughout the community such as economists who have been doing research into this matter. If we look at the economic journals, we find that one of the dominant subjects is inflation. I am quite certain that there are people in this country who would come forward to a joint parliamentary committee which advertised its hearings and who would want to make a contribution towards the solution of this very serious problem, lt disgusts me to hear the remarks of members of the Opposition when someone comes forward with a constructive idea when they have such a long record of negativism and indolence. As far as inflation is concerned, they have gone backwards because they have been so negative. AH they can do at a time like this is criticise the Government that has been in power only for 3 months. We hear this carping criticism in a destructive vein to try to secure some cheap, miserable, political point out of it.
I think that it is an insult to the Parliament to say that the area of inquiry should be extended out into the public sector. Of course, the inquiry will go into the public sector. It will go over the whole field of our economy because, as I said, to come to grips with this problem we have to come to grips with pernicious and insidious influences. There is no argument against the Parliament’s taking on the responsibility and both Houses delegating their authority to this committee to do ‘the job and see what they can find out about this inflationary process and how prices are affecting it. I am quite certain that if the employees of this country knew that we were coming to grips with prices and that there was a possibility of stabilising the economy, there would be a tremendous desire on their part to co-operate with the employer to see whether we could not get Australia on a more sound economic footing.
I put this forward as one of the recommendations that the committee could make when it sees the imbalance between the employer and the employee and between wages and prices: It could recommend that the working man should be represented on the boards of all the monopolistic companies operating in Australia. It could recommend that there be close liaison between management and employees to get this co-operation. The only way in which a modern society can exist today is through participation - through people feeling that they are doing something and achieving something. That is why the people of Australia today are seeing through the fog of the past and can see some sense of national purpose. They can see that Australia is going places and can see the future - the vision splendid - being achieved under this Government. Yet when we start’ to lay the ground work for the preparation of this future, all we get from the Opposition is this carping type of criticism.
– Ask them whether they will oppose the establishment of the Committee. That is the question.
– They would not be game enough to oppose it. They know very well that their present flimsy little share of electoral support which is declining every week or every month - it is down to about 30 per cent now - would dwindle even further if they had the temerity to oppose the establishment of this committee. They would be just trying to add to the bandwagon of people right throughout the whole spectrum of Australian life - in the stock exchanges and people in business - who are trying to find some way to thwart and frustrate this Government. They are trying to spread a feeling of pessimism that the Government is not doing any good and that it cannot do any good. But if we look at the reports of many companies we find that they are turning in very substantial returns. Their profit margins may be stabilising compared to what they have been over the last 10 years when they have been going sky high and helping these inflationary processes to continue. Now they are having another look at things.
Of course, we have seen devaluation, revaluation and the other things brought about by inflation in other countries. These are the international problems that other countries are trying to tackle. We are trying to do the same thing by setting up this committee. I support its establishment because I believe it is in the best interests of Australia. I believe that if we do not come to grips with inflation, it will be the greatest enemy that we face. It is worse than a fifth column, worse than treachery or even worse that the Croats in our midst because we cannot come to grips with it. Inflation involves subtle and insidious influences. After a long period of neglect of this problem, the previous government was thrown out of office last December because the people knew that it was not fair dinkum in trying to come to grips with inflation.
There is a vested interest in inflation for many people. They want to see prices rise because they can cover up higher profits and find greater areas for exploitation.
– Does the honourable senator believe rn profits?
– I suppose that under our present system, right throughout the whole field of business, if you do not break all the rules in the good book, virtually steal from people by over-charging, do not bear false witness against them and do not try to beat them, you cannot succeed. This shows the complete hypocrisy of our system. It is catching up with those involved. We have to get down to a standard of morals in business. This is the great problem being faced in most parts of the world today. I was in the United States of America about 18 months ago. Honourable senators could not see a sicker society because people do not trust one another. Americans have become complete individuals. They are frightened to speak to one another. If someone is knocked down on the street, they will not go to the victim’s assistance because they are afraid they might get involved in a court case and it may cost them some money. Society in that country is tottering morally and socially and we do not want to follow them.
We followed the United States far enough into the mire. We heard the call ‘all the way with LBJ’. We became involved in the Vietnam conflict. What did we get out of it? Nothing. We want to carve our own way as our own nation. We want to fulfil the destiny of our own people. This is what we want in Australia. The Government wants to make a start early in its time in the Parliament to come to grips with the very controversial and very vexed problem of inflation and prices. Therefore, I want to give my fullest support to the motion. I hope that the Senate will see the advantages of setting up this joint parliamentary committee.
– The Senate is debating a motion to establish a joint parliamentary committee on prices. The aim is that the committee should consist of 10 members drawn from both Houses of the Parliament with a majority of Government members and that very considerable powers should be given to the committee to summon people, papers and records. In my view, the concept is a very silly one and one which fails to understand and misunderstands deliberately the true functions of Parliament and the true functions of parliamentarians. I hope to demonstrate that fact.
The aim is that 10 politicians - 10 political partisans - should come together on a committee. Since we are so concerned with Yugoslav jargon today, 10 Priceniks should come together to form a committee. There is great sympathy on the opposite side for Tito partisans and for people who glory in the role of Tito partisans. Whether the members of the committee are Tito partisans or Priceniks the aim is to have a committee which is essentially partisan politically, and which is divided so that the Government has a majority. Therefore the purpose of the committee would be political. The Government is setting out solemnly, or is it cynically, to give the committee a professional job to do in economics. The Government is asking the committee to give an objective economics answer, but the Government is setting up a partisan political committee. This is arrant nonsense. But the Government is doing more than that. Do not let us pretend. Mr Crean, who moved the motion in another place, did not pretend at all. He said nothing of any consequence in his introductory speech. He did not seek to justify the setting up of a committee. He was perfunctory. He was even less credible than Senator Murphy was in his attempt to justify the raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, which attempt I thought was impossible. There was no real attempt to spell out the actual functions of the committee, except by one who is a very keen aspirant for the Treasurership, Mr Hayden, and I will refer to him in a moment or two. He spelt it out with great intensity of purpose.
Having set up a completely partisan committee the Government then says to that committee: ‘We want you to do a job which, if it is to be done correctly, would take 100 per cent of a person’s time. It would take the whole of a person’s time. We want you to do this part time, picking it up on a stray Monday or Friday or on a stray day in the recess, dropping it, forgetting about it and coming back to it.’ The Government wants the committee to do this so that the Government can get an answer in a reasonable time so that it will not have missed the bus. The Government says: ‘We want you to do this and, by the way, at the same time pay attention to your duties to the Parliament, to your duties to the parliamentary committees and to your duties to your electorate. Forget the fact that every honourable senator has said that we are already over-committed in our membership of committees of this Parliament’. Here we are saying solemnly: ‘Let us have another committee and let us pretend to the public that we can serve the public on this committee as part time people who, for better or for worse, are unlikely to have the knowledge to carry out the probing’. The committee will meet infrequently and without any continuity at all. Therefore, at the end of 6 months, one year or some time like that it is likely to reach a conclusion , which, if it were valid at all, would have been valid one year previously and not when the conclusion was reached. That is a habit of prices justification tribunals.
Let us look at this tribunal. The Government has the power to decide selectively which industries the committee shall investigate. That is an interesting political power to have - to be able to say: ‘We will pick on you but not on someone else’. This is the same kind of political blackmail and the same kind of implied discrimination which lies behind the ideas of the tendering system - you scratch our back, we will scratch yours; you be good to us, we will be good to you. In other words, do not forget us when we send out our appeals for finance. Do not forget us at all in these situations because if you forget us the implication is that you might be next. The committee’s structure is such that it has an evil potential built into it. I use the word evil’ in its true sense. It has the power to blackmail, the power to corrupt and the power to pervert because it will allow politicians to decide selectively whom they will put through an inquisition and whom they will bypass. It will be utterly corrupt because it will pretend to the public that it is doing something in the public interest. It cannot, and it does not intend to do. so. No committee of politicians or of part time workers could possibly undertake this task and reach any kind of conclusion.
The Government has no intention of using the committee for the purpose that it represents to the public. It is a front. It is a device. Somebody suggested that it was a piece of cosmetic surgery. I think that it is a piece of cynical and corrupt window dressing for the public. It cannot succeed. Because it uses politicians in inquisitorial roles and because it gives the politicians the power to destroy people and industries, it is the very perversion of. the parliamentary system, and I would have none of it. I believe that it is wrong. It has all the bad elements.
– Are you in favour of it?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Brown) - Order!
– Surely I can ask him whether he is opposing it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Milliner, you have continually and constantly interjected tonight. I am asking you again not to interrupt.
– With respect, that is not correct. I have not continually interjected.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Senator Milliner, I repeat that you have been continually interjecting. I am sure that my ears are not failing me at my age. I call Senator Carrick.
– I think that such a committee would repeat in Australia the worst features of those congressional committees in the United States of America which have been inquisitorial, which have inflicted hardship on individuals and which have struck at essential civil liberties. If the Government really desired to inquire into, with a sense of objectivity, the true economic and accountancy structure of an industry, it would get people who are not partisan, people who are professionally qualified to do the job, people who can devote the whole of their time to doing it and people who are backed up by massive research staff. The Government would do it that way. It would use the kind of specialists that are found on Tariff Boards and on inquiries. The last kind of inquiry that the Government would set up would be an inquiry by a part time committee of politicians.
Therefore, I reject the motion on that basis. The committee, at its very best, if it were to do a superficially objective job, would merely record a rise in prices. It would do nothing to influence prices. Recently an inquiry was set up under a very able judge, Mr Justice Moore, of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It inquired into a projected price rise by the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. That inquiry simply recorded an upward rise. Its report will have no effect whatsoever. This is obviously a wrong-minded approach.
A great deal has been said tonight, particularly by Senator O’Byrne, about the so-called sins of omission and commission of the previous Government. He has given us a homily on the wickedness of inflation and how important, it is to control inflation. Mr Crean, the other day, said: ‘You know, inflation has not been really bad in this country. It has been running for many years at an average of 2i per cent a year. That is pretty good’. That is what the Treasurer of this Government had to say about the situation. In the course of this interview, somebody said to him: ‘But it is running at about 5 per cent now’. Mr Crean stated: ‘Well, 5 per cent is not bad. After all, it is only 2 years at 2i per cent’. At least, that is what Mr Crean is reported in the Press as having said. My goodness, I would cheerfully give back my economics degree if anyone could prove to me that 5 per cent inflation today is 2 years of inflation running at 2)- per cent a year. This is the kind of advice that is coming from the Government side today. But I merely remark on that point and call as my witness the Treasurer who said that inflation in Australia has been running at a very low rate.
I do better than that. I remind the Senate that for 14 years of the last 17 years, according to international statistics, Australia has bad the lowest rises in costs of any industrialised country in the world. In other words, for the great bulk of the life of the last Government inflation in Australia ran at the lowest rate of any industrialised country in the world. That is not a bad record, an average of 2i per cent per annum when inflation now is running at a rate in excess of 5 per cent per annum and will be H per cent very soon indeed. The record of the last Government is not a bad one at all, particularly as in that time Australia was one of the 4 countries enjoying the highest living standards in the world. According to the measurements of professional economists such as Professor Henderson, Australia had the greatest sharing of real incomes and real wages of any country in the world under the former Government. Australia, for the great preponderance of the term of office of that Government, had the longest and best period of industrial peace of any country. Those were the conditions that Senator O’Byrne described as the ideal. It so happens that for more than three-quarters of the life of the former Government those conditions functioned in Australia to a level that was at least as good as and in fact better than in other countries. Australia had rising productivity; we shared it.
Let me demonstrate where the present Government has gone wrong and why it is wrong-minded. I know precisely what will be said - wrongly so - immediately I sit down. Someone will say: ‘You know, he attacked the trade unions. He attacked rising wages’. In fact, I have not and I will not attack the trade unions for which I have massive respect when they do their industrial jobs. I, for one, stand for the highest real wages that the Australian worker can get. Let us have no doubt in our minds on what we are talking about. Let us have none of these nineteenth century catchcries which really have gone stale. I speak for a former Government that created in Australia the best living conditions in the world. What has happened now is that in the last 2 years to 3 years, the political Party that is behind the present Government - that is, the Government that sits opposite us now - has created within the industrial movement an outbreak of political insurgency and of political strikes and unrest which, to serve the purposes of power bosses and of those who wish to get to the top, have robbed the decent Australian worker of his real wages. That is the primary situation.
The wave of strikes which has come has been engendered not for the worker but primarily to get power. The struggles in the unions representing transport workers are power struggles and the struggles in the metal working unions have been struggles for massive amalgamation. They are struggles to get power. All this unrest is based upon the creation of political unionism instead of industrial unionism. Where that happens, rising inflation occurs because of the destruction of productivity. The Labor Party is hell bent to destroy productivity to rob real wages and to create inflation.
Let us look at this situation. Already the Government is advocating flat rate increases across the board in the arbitration system. It is already making an attack upon skill. Instead of a percentage increase for skill, it is advocating a flat rate. I have great respect for the fervour with which the Minister, Senator Cavanagh, holds his views. Already the Minister has said: ‘We will have day labour, not contracts, primarily because in the building industry at this moment sub-contracting destroys the ability of the industry to create enough apprenticeships’. I do not think I am misquoting the Minister. I think that is precisely what he said.
I have been very interested in this matter because I was once a master of apprentices so I know something about the need to achieve good apprenticeships and to have good apprentices and journeymen in industry. I turn to the report of the New South Wales Apprenticeship Council. I think Senator Cavanagh would respect that Council because its membership includes at least an equality or a majority of well respected union leaders, including Mr Barry Unsworth. Therefore, what this Council says no doubt will reflect the viewpoint of the moderate union thought. The report says:
In discussion on the industry within the Council the following points emerged. Fragmentation had become the accepted practice in the industry. The larger builders often took the role of co-ordinators employing few actual tradesmen and letting out work to the specialists in the various fields. Although such a practice was not conducive to the training of craftsmen it was quite likely that the method was the most efficient in terms of time and cost for the construction of large projects.
I invite the Senate to listen to the next quotation from this report. It says:
Preferably schemes to improve training for skill in the industry should not seek to change the organisation of work in the industry to accommodate the need for training. Rather the training methods adopted should be those which met the special requirements of the industry.
In other words, the New South Wales Apprenticeship Council says that the very methods that the Minister is advocating are wrong. The Council says that one does not go to day labour to overcome the defects of subcontracting; one goes, in fact, to a change in the methods of training. Indeed, I hope to take up this matter at another time. These are the kinds of wrong headed things which are adding enormously to costs.
The day labour scheme which is now being advocated was the destruction in the early days of the Snowy Mountains scheme. The day labour method in the Snowy Mountains scheme operated badly. A great Australian, Sir William Hudson, brought in the contracting system. The New South Wales Department of Public Works was forced to tender in open contract with other firms in regard to the Adaminaby dam project. The Department was beaten by a tender from the Kaiser organisation by about 30 per cent. The Kaiser organisation completed its contract one year ahead of time. There was a massive saving of costs. This Government which says that inflation is bad, is headed for hell and damnation in the kind of things that are the very fuel for inflation. It will destroy all incentive to acquire skills by its advocacy of flat rate wage increases. It will destroy - the value of skills by amalgamating all the healthy little skilled unions into great industrial unions, and will destroy the craft unions by amalgamating them into industrial unions all for the purposes of the power bosses. The Government is going to wipe out the contract system and bring in day labour. It is going to bring in a needs approach to the living wage, as I understand it, instead of a capacity-to-pay approach.
Indeed, the Government that sits opposite is going to strike at the very elements of productivity and growth because it has said that it is going to wipe out the whole system of assisted European migration. It has said that no more people will be brought in by Government selection. It has said that it is all right for immigrants to pick relatives to bring in, perhaps Great-aunt Agatha or Uncle Egbert. But the Government says it is not going round the world, as the previous Government did, choosing immigrants on the basis of skills and craft, and bringing them here so that Australia can benefit by their youth, their health and their skills. This Government is not going to do that. If I were asked to suggest one way of destroying Australia’s growth, destroying the real living standards of its people and destroying its productivity I would say: ‘Right, attack the idea of a selective immigration system and introduce in its place a non-selective system which would disregard skills.’ Already we in this country are facing inflation because of selective labour shortage. We have it already, even in South Australia, but of course this does not matter!
We saw Senator O’Byrne stand here and heard him attack profits. One would have thought that idea would have gone out with the nineteenth century. The Treasurer (Mr Crean) and the Government derive a very substantial part of their revenue, perhaps a quarter or a fifth, from company tax. Certainly a substantial amount of its revenue comes from personal income tax on dividends received. Of any Si profit made by a company in Australia, 47.5c must go in company tax to provide social services, pensions, hospitals, roads and bridges. The remainder of that $1 goes to one of 2 things. The first is the distribution of dividends. A very substantial proportion of the shareholders of the socalled big monopolies that the Government is attacking are pension funds and superannuation funds. If honourable senators look at the share register of Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd they will find that some 3 million or 4 million Australians are indirect shareholders. Every time this Government attacks its profits and its growth, every time it shrinks an exciting Australian industry, it attacks little people, not big fat profiteers. What is more, every time the Government attacks it and says that it cannot make a reasonable profit on capital, the Government also is destroying its ability to plough money back.
If the Government is opposed to profit why does it so heartily reap the share of company tax? In a few months time the Treasurer will rub his hands in glee in taking that money. Why will the Government do this? Why will the Government be encouraging or compelling the great life insurance offices to invest in organisations like BHP and others? Why does it object to profits? Does it object to policy holders in our life offices? I refer to the 10 million Australians covered by them. Does it object to those people getting premiums and bonuses, and getting decent, healthy returns upon their superannuations and pensions? When the Government attacks, legitimate profit in Australia today it is attacking the little, people more than the others. If Government supporters have any quarrel about that statement they should look at the tax scale of today because honourable senators themselves are now in a very exclusive upper strata.
It is useless to approach things in that way. If the Government wants to tackle inflation in this country the very first step is to restore the conditions that appertained for threequarters of the period of the last 17 to 18 years, the conditions which brought about the lowest rise of inflation in the world, the highest sharing of real income and the lowest industrial strife. But when do we see members of the Government standing on their feet and actively seeking to reduce industrial strife? The answer is never. Every one of them has a vested interest in industrial conflict. Every one of them has a vested interest in perpetuating the ugly and outmoded concept of class hatred and class conflict. This Government should give a lead and say to the Australian people: ‘If we want productivity we will not get it by class conflict or industrial conflict; we will get it by commercial and industrial teamwork, when it is understood that the employer and the employee are not different people standing in different corners but people whose goals are the same’. It is a foul idea and a very wrong idea economically to picture the boss as having a goal different from that of the worker.
– Who decides the size of the cake?
– If a government is to decide the size of the cake it should be done by way of incentive to put more ingredients into the cake. The great difference between the Government and us of the Opposition is that the Labor Party wants to hang on to a cake of the same size - even while shrinking it - and wants to make sure that it is cut up into equal little bits. Our aim is to increase the ingredients and thus enlarge the cake. We aim to give incentives to the workers and to give a healthy stimulus to people to succeed. I stand here firmly in support of the idea that the Australian worker should get higher and higher real wages, but to achieve that productivity must move higher and faster than prices. If wages and prices are caught in a spiral and out-pace productivity it is the worker who is destroyed along with the pensioner and other people on fixed incomes.
The Labor Party will hurt the very people that it purports to represent if it continues to set up devices as outlined in its policy. It will continue to create mammoth inflation. I want to see leadership given in industrial teamwork. I want to see rewards for greater skills. I want to see growth in this country by the reintroduction of a selective immigration system in order that we bring from abroad people with the best of skills. The Government will do the gravest possible disservice to this country if it carries out its promise to wipe out the assisted immigration programme. There is little doubt at all that the primary reason for this country having had high and full employment - the highest of any country - is directly related to the fact that we have been increasing our work force by bringing in young people of marriageable age who have had more value per capita than the average member of the community. By this growth factor we have created the kind of demand which has given the zest and incentive for Australia to grow. This Government is setting out to destroy those things.
All kinds of mechanisms such as price committees and joint parliamentary committees on prices will do nothing except pretend.
We have heard speakers say tonight: ‘Would it not have been better in post war years if the Australian people had given the government of the day constitutional power over prices?’ My Party said when in government that no government needed constitutional power over prices. Our government provided an average rate of inflation at the lower level of 2i per cent a year for something like three-quarters of the time that it was in office without that constitutional power. However my nostrils tell me that the present Government is building up an alibi. First we see it wanting to set up a committee of this kind, and it will fail. Then it wants to set up a prices justification committee, and it will fail. Then the Government will make a great appeal by way of referendum to the public and will say: ‘If you had only given us the powers we would have succeeded.’
I sought to ascertain the kind of jobs that this proposed committee should do and would do. I found that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) had set them out. This is a part time committee of politicians - part time Monday, part time Friday, sometimes in recess. The members pick up their notes and put them down. The members- do their job. They have to do it with great skill and with knowledge of economics and accountancy. The Minister for Social Security stated:
There is obvious merit in the establishment of a committee of Parliament to which the public can address its grievances about movements in the prices of particular goods, the pricing practices adopted by manufacturers or retailers, or even the pricing practices of a particular shop.
My goodness, what he says there is: ‘I invite 13 million Australians to send their individual complaints on every aspect of prices to this committee’. True, we are meeting only on Friday morning because someone has to get away to Perth - I ask honourable senators not to forget that - and we will not be meeting until Tuesday week. But, never mind, it is a great pretence. Mr Hayden says: ‘Do not worry about that. If it bogs down a bit perhaps the committee could have a system by which it sends some complaints to consumer protection bureaus and some to trade practice tribunals.’ Later in his speech Mr Hayden forgot that there was a Tariff Board because he said that one of the wicked things into which the committee has to inquire is, the excessive tariff protection given to a lot of the industries and therefore, by inference, _ Mr
Hayden says that the committee has to bring in recommendations for lowering the tariff protection for Australian industries.
I invite the Government to go into the factories and workshops of Australia and tell the working people that in the face of currency changes overseas and in place of the clever revaluations of this Government the committee will be told to lower the tariff walls. But this is what the Government is going to do. So the committee goes on. It gets richer and richer. Because that will take only Monday morning and because Friday afternoon will be left the committee can initiate inquiries itself. It can inquire into the movements of the consumer price index and the general movements of prices. Upon examination this is seen to be the greatest single hoax ever perpetrated on the Australian public. We have shown that prices can be controlled at a level which is better than that of any other country. It is up to the government of the day to show that it can do at least as good. At the moment the Government is running nearly 3 times as badly as the previous government. This device is not only a cynical pretence but also it is the very perversion of Parliament. It seeks to use politicians as inquisitors. It seeks to discriminate between individuals. It seeks to persecute individuals in industy by selecting one and bringing it forward and by seeking to bring out documents lt introduces the kind of McCarthyism tha*, has been so bad in the American committee system. By doing all those things the Government pretends to the Australian people that it can do something which, in its heart of hearts, it knows it cannot do. The Treasurer had no heart in this at all. Therefore I am thoroughly opposed to the idea of the committee.
– What concerns me most about the speech made by Senator Carrick is his denunciation of the committee system of this Parliament. I think he has been in this Parliament long enough to appreciate the work of the committees, to understand their nature and to understand the method under which they work. The committee system enables a forum to be established where people can make a submission. That submission can be placed under scrutiny not only by the committee but also by further witnesses. If the honourable senator were to look at the record of some of the committees of the Senate, some of the committees of the other place and some of the joint committees he would see tremendous value in their reports. 1 feel that he not only belittles the work of the committee system but also he belittles himself in not properly understanding its function. The committee on prices when it is set up, as it will be, will enable the Parliament to discover why prices appear to be too high and why certain profit margins appear to be large. In saying this I point out to the honourable senator that the Government is not against profits as such within the system as it exists but it is against excessive profits. I believe that the honourable senator would be against excessive profits.
– How does the honourable senator describe excessive profits?
– I describe an excessive profit as one where a manufacturer supplies non-perishable goods at $100 and the retailer sells those goods at $150. I say that in that situation that margin-
– That sounds like Myers* profit margin.
– No, that sounds like a furniture reseller’s profit margin. That is exactly the margin which he expects not for handling the goods but merely for selling from a catalogue. I consider that to be an excessive margin and an excessive profit. The purpose of the committee is to find out why this occurs. It does occur in a variety of industries. It occurs in the clothing industry, particularly the fashion clothing industry where the margin can be as high as 80 per cent. It occurs in the cosmetics industry where the profit can be as high as 140 per cent. This committee will endeavour to seek out the reason why such high margins exist. It will seek out information which may lay the blame at faulty distribution. In the chemical and pharmaceutical areas it may be able to and possibly will establish that there is faulty distribution and that too many outlets exist in too small an area with no rational distribution. This committee can discover a tremendous amount of information. I believe in a committee of politicians - not partisan politicians, because if Senator Carrick had more experience of committees he would find that party differences disappear on these committees.
One of the problems in the Senate is that we are somewhat overloaded with work. For this reason we ought not oppose the establish- ment of a joint committee which will enable a considerable number of backbenchers in the other place to participate on such a committee. Possibly we will find that more joint committees will be established for this very reason. They will enable a member of Parliament who, at the present time is not using his talents to the best advantage, to be occupied. The committee system enables not only people and organisations to come before the Committee to make submissions but also it provides a training ground for members of Parliament. Many of us here have benefited from serving upon committees and the Senate has become more enlightened because of the work of committees. Another area of prices at which this committee can look in addition to high prices is cut throat prices. There are many cut throat prices in this community which are leading to shoddy goods. Many cut throat prices in the petrol industry are leading to a distortion in the distribution of petrol products in this country.
– Is that not a matter for the restrictive practices organisation?
– No, this does not come within the restrictive practices area at all. Let me use petrol as an example. The consumer, the ordinary motorist, is paying far too much for his petrol. One of the reasons for this is that the industrial user is paying far too little. Even in this area this proposed committee could search out quite a deal of information.
– Is it Labor policy to adjust that?
– I would say that a fair price is the policy of this Government, a fair price which will enable the product to be distributed correctly and which will enable the quality of that product to be maintained. It is too often the case that a price Which is too low, a cut throat price, leads to shoddy merchandise and also leads to pressure upon the worker to accept smaller wages than he should. All I am saying is that it is an area which needs investigation. It is an area that ought to be searched out, and this committee could do it. It seems to me to be odd that Opposition senators should seek to hinder the establishment of this committee and to criticise its establishment in the terms used by Senator Carrick.
I turn now to the price of land. One would like to know why a block of land in a street can be sold for $4,000 and be purchased by the agent in whose hands it has been placed - I believe this to be unethical - because he knows that he will be able to sell that land 2 or 3 weeks later not for $1,000 more but at twice the price for which he purchased it. If any honourable senator wants evidence of that type of thing I can take him to the very street in which I live in which certain blocks of land on an estate were released, were purchased by the agent from the owner, and subsequently were sold at double the purchase price. It is most important that this area of land sales should be investigated, and this committee could search out why the price of land seems to escalate to 3 or 4 times its original subdivisional price.
Another matter that we ought to search out is how it is possible for a speculator, using Short term money borrowed at an interest rate of lc in the dollar per month, or 12 per cent, to erect a multi-storey building in Sydney - a commercial enterprise - and expect to have his capital returned to him not in 20 years - I hope the building is erected to last more than 20 years - but in 8 years on a 80 per cent tenancy, and in some cases on a 50 per cent tenancy. It is not reasonable that a committee of this Parliament should search out how this is possible? Is it not reasonable that a committee of this Parliament should ask how the cost to the tenant flows on to the consumer? This parliamentary committee will not do what Senator Carrick has suggested, namely, search out some industry and put it through the hoops.
That is not what will happen. The committee will look generally at the cause of high prices and at what stimulates those high prices. The committee will look at the ethical and economic principle that industries, commercial concerns, should charge what the market can bear. I believe it is this motive that leads to excessive prices and to excessive profit margins. I think the Parliament would be wise to support the establishment of this committee. I do not think that the committee will descend to partisanship. I do not think it will descend to petty politics. I think it will search out a fairly wide area and come up with some reasonable information. As we did with the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange, we will hold at bay for some time those who would use speculative measures to lift their prices because they will fear that they may come under the- scrutiny of the committee. I support fully the establishment of this committee, as I have supported the establishment of other committees. 1 regret that the Senate has reached a stage where the load of work upon honourable senators does not permit freely the establishment of committees to search not only this area but also other areas of concern to the community.
– We have heard much discussion tonight on the justification for the setting up of the Joint Committee on Prices. I can well understand why the Government wants to set up a committee of the Parliament at this stage. It knows darned well that inflation will run riot in this country within the next few months.
– lt is running riot now.
– It is running riot now and it will run in all directions very shortly. Of course, there is no doubt about the reasons it is doing so. The Government has had to look after its friends outside of this House who have, control of it. It has promised these people all sorts of things, including the 35 hour working week which will result in a 10 per cent to 12 per cent increase in prices. It does not matter how the Government goes about awarding a 35 hour week, unless productivity is increased accordingly by 10 per cent to 12 per cent, there will be an automatic 10 per cent to 12 per cent increase in prices. Yet the Government wants honourable, senators on this side of the House to be the bunnies who join-
– Will you refuse to accept the increase in wool prices?
– -The Government will make use of the increase in wool prices. It will make use of the $ 1,000m which will come into this country in overseas exchange as a result of the increase in wool prices. The honourable senator knows darn well that if it was not for the previous Government which supported the wool industry there would be no wool being produced today to bring in the $ 1,000m. But, of course, the present Government will make use of it. Honourable senators opposite opposed everything that the previous Government tried to do for the wool industry to keep it on its feet during the tough- times, but now that the wool industry has overcome its difficulties and now that it can bring in this money, of course the present Government will get the benefit. Not only will it get the benefit of the S 1, 000m that will come into this country in overseas export income but also it will get the great advantage of the increased taxation that will be levied on woolgrowers despite the fact that most of those people have got themselves into severe debt. It will take them years to get themselves out of this trouble, and while they are getting themselves out of this trouble this Government will have the benefit of the increased taxation received as a result of their increased income. Everyone will get on the bandwagon and everyone will try to get his share of the cake. Tonight we have been hearing about this cake and how it will be divided.
The interesting thing, of course, is that the Government brings into this chamber a suggestion to set up this joint select committee What does it do? It says that the committee will be comprised of 2 senators from the Government side and one senator from the Opposition side of the chamber. There are 3 Opposition parties in this place and 1 do not know how we are all to share the one position that has been allotted to us. What the Government is aiming at in proposing the setting up of this prices justification committee is obvious. When it gets down to tintacks it will not be the manufacturers who will suffer as a result of this investigation? It will be the primary producers of this country. Ever since this Government got into power on 2nd December it has been giving the country people of Australia the greatest hiding they have ever had in their lives. The setting up of this committee is just another example of what the Government will do to the primary producers of this nation. The Australian dollar has been revalued, and we know the problems that has caused our primary industries. They have had to face one thing after another, and now the Government wants to set up this Joint Committee on Prices. How long will the investigation take? As one honourable senator suggested, it probably will be sitting for months. The Government knows that honourable senators can afford only limited time to sit on committees. It knows the score about how long the investigation will take, and all the time it will be hiding behind this committee saying: ‘We know that there is inflation in this country. We know that it is increasing at the rate of about 8 per cent but we have set up a committee of the Parliament consisting of members of all parties to look into this matter*.
– Order! The time being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the resolution of the Senate this day, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY - The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Was the statement, made by the Prime Minister which made public details of the Australian intelligence base in Singapore, in accord with the Labor Government’s announced intention of more open government; if so, consistent with that decision, does the Government intend to inform the Australian public and the world in general of all other Australian intelligence units throughout the world.
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to my statement in Parliament on 1 March (Hansard, House of Representatives, pages 129-130).
Dr ROSS TERRILL (Question No. 122)
Senator CARRICK asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Senator WILLESEE- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
What are the names and locations of the 30 country, slaughter houses in New South Wales that lost their licences in November 1972 because they would not restructure their establishments to meet SMIA standards.
Senator WRIEDT- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
This matter does not come within my responsibilities but nevertheless my Department contacted both the New South Wales Department of Agriculture and the New South Wales Meat Industry Authority but was advised that this informationis not available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
Senator BISHOP - The Minister for Labour has supplied the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
He was largely responsible for the establishment of the Science Foundation for Physics within the University of Sydney which was established in 1954 under his directorship. The Foundation developed the Annual International Science Schools for high school students which include youth from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States and Japan, with the support of the leaders of these overseas countries.
Professor Messel has published more than 70 research papers on theoretic problems associated with high energy nuclear particles and, in addition, has been associated withthe publication of more than 20 major books of science. He has extensive knowledge in scientific fields beyond his specialty and has ready access to a large number of eminent scientists in Australia and elsewhere.
In a number of different fields his advice and services have already proved invaluable to the Government and me.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
Senator BISHOP- The Minister for Labour has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
In view of the fact that working women who receive pay and status equal to that of a male worker can retire at age 60 years and receive the old age pension, when equal pay becomes the rule inthis country will the Minister consider reducing the retiring age for the male to age 60 years instead of the present 65 years? This would seem particularly fair when we consider that women outlive men. Therefore, males should be allowed to retire first so that they can have an equal number or years of leisure before they totally retire?
Senator McCLELLAND- The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I suggest that while there definitely seems merit in suggestion the practice is long established whereby males retire at 65 and females at 60, and it would scarcely be acceptable to the community to reverse the situation as suggested by the senator. It would be preferable if there was to be any change in the retiring age to reduce the retiring age of males to 60 as a matter of voluntary retirement. However, this is a matter that requires a major policy decision and I can give no undertaking at this stage.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Will the Minister advise what action has been taken, or is intended to be taken, to implement the recommendations contained in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, on Physically and Mentally Handicapped Persons in Australia, which was presented to the Senate on 5th May 1971.
Senator McCLELLAND- The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Some recommendations contained in the report, for example the establishment of work assessment centres for handicapped school leavers, planning the geographical location of new sheltered workshops, and assisting sheltered workshops to obtain Government contracts are already in process of being implemented by my Department. Other recommendations are concerned with matters that are a responsibility of the State Governments and will be brought to the notice of the relevant State authorities. However, some of the major proposals relate to matters that are already listed for consideration by the proposed National Commission on Social Welfare. It will be a function of the Commission to assist not only in ensuring that future social welfare developments are based on a carefully balanced and integrated plan, but also that full regard is had to the needs of the various groups and the priorities that should be given to meeting those needs.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 1st March Senator Young asked the following question without notice:
The answer to Senator Young’s question is as follows:
– On 1st March Senator McManus asked the Minister for Primary Industry the following question without notice:
Were 18 merino rams shipped from Australia to Bombay after the recent election, with the full authority of the Labor Government, to the order of the leading Indian textile combine, the J.K. organisation? I presume that this would have been in the period of the two-man government but I am not sure. Is the statement of the J.K. organisation true that the rams were acquired at an Australian auction last year and that the Whitlam Government, when approached for permission to export the animals, agreed to the shipment - and these words are in italics - provided no fuss was made.
The answer to Senator McManus’ question is as follows:
On 29th September 1972 18 rams were purchased at auction in Perth, on behalf of the Raymond Woollen Mills in India and were declared as being purchased for export within the quota limit permitted for that year under the partial relaxation of the embargo on the export of merino rams. Permits to export the rams were issued by the Department of Primary Industry on 24th November 1972 for shipment on a vessel scheduled to depart on 7th December 1972. Due to shipping delays the vessel concerned actually sailed from Fremantle on 6th January 1973.
– On 28th February Senator Maunsell asked the following question without notice:
I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. It refers to an answer he gave in reply to a question from Senator Webster in which he said that the qualification for voting in the referendum on the merino ram export embargo was 1,400 kilos consigned to a registered broker. May I take it from that that wool sold to a private buyer will be excluded.
The answer to Senator Maunsell’s question is as follows:
Those eligible to vote in the referendum are those persons who delivered at least 1,400 kilograms of greasy shorn wool in 1971-72 to a commercial wool house registered with the Department of Primary Industry or who are registered members of the Australian Association of Stud Merino Breeders or who are otherwise determined by me as being affected.
Wool houses are registered with the Department lor the purposes of making wool deficiency payments and Include brokers, commission agents, export agents merchants, wool classing houses and sellers by tender. Therefore wool sold to a private buyer who is registered would be included.
– On 15th March 1973 (Senate Hansard pages 465-6) Senator Jessop asked Senator Willesee a question without notice about the Prime Minister’s reasons for not calling a Premiers Conference in February. Senator Jessop also asked when the Prime Minister intended holding such a meeting. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In deciding against a Premiers Conference in February, the Government had in mind that the hearing of the National Wage Case had been postponed until March 1973, and with the outcome of wage claims in that case and others not known a meeting would have been premature. There were also practical constraints arising from other commitments including the commencement of this Parliament on 27th February.
The Government’s views on the matter were conveyed to the States together with its view that it would be more appropriate to look at any genera] financial problems of the States at the usual Premiers Conference later in the financial year.
– On 7th March, Senator Sim asked me the following question without notice:
In view of the Prime Minister’s suggestion - that is putting it kindly- that the ownership of Taiwanese vessels visiting Australian ports could be subject to legal challenge by Peking, will the Government advise the Parliament as to the position of Taiwanese vessels visiting Japan, Canada and other nations wilh which Taiwan no longer had diplomatic relations? If Taiwanese vessels are able to enter the ports of these countries freely without the threat of legal challenge will the Government explain why the position in Australia is different
I said I had not seen the statement by the Prime Minister, but that I would find the answers for the honourable senator. I now wish to give the following answer:
The Department of Foreign Affairs on 20th December 1972 warned that, when Australia recognised the Government of the People’s Republic of China, persons then purchasing property in Australia from ‘the Government (or Embassy or Consulates) of the Republic of China’ risked having their title challenged on the ground that the property belonged to the Government of the People’s Republic of China which had not authorised sale.
It will be seen that the warning - the only warning Issued on the subject of possible legal challenges - addressed itself to a quite different situation from the one envisaged by Senator Sim, viz, a legal challenge by Peking on the ownership of Taiwanese vessels visiting Australian ports.
It is, no doubt, a theoretical possibility that the Chinese Government might attempt to challenge the ownership of Taiwanese vessels visiting Australian ports. But the Government knows of no instance or country in the last 20 years in which China has acted in this way. In the unlikely event that such a challenge were made in Australia, the Government would view the dispute as a legal matter which would be for the Australian Courts to decide.
The responses to enquiries made in a representative selection of countries no longer in diplomatic relations with Taiwan indicate that the position in those countries is essentially no different from the position, as just outlined, in Australia.
– On 7th March Senator Townley addressed the following question to me in the Senate:
The Minister may remember that last year I questioned the then Minister for Civil Aviation about the possibility of improving the facilities at Hobart Airport. I now ask whether the new Minister has given any thought to any alterations and additions to the Hobart airport buildings? Secondly, has he investigated the possibility of raising the landing and takeoff capabilities so that Hobart will be able to handle international flights?
I advised Senator Townley that I would let him know the present situation. The Minister for Civil Aviation has provided the following information:
The Department of Works and the Department of Civil Aviation are at the stage of making detailed plans to approximately double the size of the existing terminal at Hobart. This will not only improve the passenger handling facilities but it will also better provide for amenities to passengers and airport visitors.
It is possible to extend and improve the runways, taxiways and aircraft parking aprons at Hobart to accommodate international operations in the event that there is a firm requirement for such facilities. In addition it would be necessary to provide a separate international terminal and the total cost would add up to some millions of dollars.
– Last Thursday, I undertook to advise Senator Marriott when the legislation to amend the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act is likely to be introduced. I have made inquiries, and whilst I am not able to state a specific date, I do confirm that we are aiming to introduce this legislation during this session. The Bill is being drafted and has a very high priority, but it is a complex and lengthy piece of legislation which requires the most careful drafting to cover the numerous individual situations referred to by the Jess Committee. However, I repeat, we are still aiming at introducing the Bill during this session, and I am hopeful that we will be able to do so.
– In the Senate on 13th March, Senator Hannan asked me the following question without notice:
My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth Government has power to proclaim certain areas of land as being required for Commonwealth purposes at some future time - for example, in respect of a proposed airport? Is it not a fact that during this period the owners of that land are virtually unable to deal with it and that its value drops accordingly? Can the Minister advise whether any such proclamation has been made in respect of any proposed jet airport or other airport near the town of Cranbourne in Victoria? If this has been done, can the Minister state when the owners will be definitely advised of the acquisition, how much of their land will be required and the amount of their compensation?
I replied in the following terms:
As the representative of the Minister for Civil Aviation I would say that, as the honourable senator knows, the Commonwealth has power to acquire land compulsorily This is rarely done for airport purposes without consultation and planning with the States. The fair value of the land is paid as compensation. I do not know that land devalues as a result of possible acquisition by the Commonwealth. I know of no plans to acquire land at Cranbourne in Victoria. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Civil Aviation to see whether he can add anything further.
I now wish to provide Senator Hannan with the following additional information supplied by the Minister for Civil Aviation:
The Commonwealth can acquire land for airport purposes with Government approval which would be subject to the site being identified; requirement for the expenditure of public funds being justified; and agreement being reached with State and Local Government authorities as to permanent nearby land use zoning and. highway, railway, and engineering services planning in a manner mutually compatible.
The Commonwealth cannot zone land for future airport purposes except with agreement of, and through, appropriate State authority.
This type of long term airport planning is but pari of regional planning as a whole and it would not appear to adversely affect land values at least in the longer term.
No site has been selected for an airport near Cranbourne, Victoria, though possibly suitable sites in that very general vicinity are under study as part of the regional planning review being co-ordinated by State authorities to the south-east of Melbourne.
Identification and acceptance of an airport site as part of a regional plan for that area is at least 2 years away, partly because of completing of environment, conservation and regional planning aspects and partly because of a need to test in depth the air safety acceptability and airport engineering feasibility of the ultimately agreed short list of possible airport sites.
– I refer to 2 questions asked of me by Senator Rae in the Senate on 13 th and 15th March as follows:
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation ascertain from his colleague whether he will take immediate steps to inquire into the estimated cost of converting, and the time required to convert, the Hobart Airport into an international airport so that international flights may provide international travellers with the opportunity to enjoy the very great attractions of the Wrest Point casino, with its international standard accommodation and unsurpassed surrounding scenic attractions? and
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. When the Minister seeks from the Minister for Civil Aviation details of the cost of converting Hobart Airport for use by international flights as requested by me on Tuesday last, will he direct the Minister’s attention to the work already undertaken by that Minister’s Department upon the direction of Senator Cotton, the former Minister for Civil Aviation in the Liberal Country Party Government? Will he also ask the Minister for Civil Aviation to confirm that the Tasmanian Government supports the investigation sought by me? 1 now supply the following information provided by the Minister for Civil Aviation:
The Hobart airport would require some extensions of existing facilities to enable it to handle international flights. Extension and strengthening of the runway would be required together with terminal area development. Much more detailed investigation would be required for the scope of the work to be precisely defined and for cost estimates to be provided. Adopting the usual investigation, approval, design, documentation and construction procedures, it could take 3 years or so to complete the work following a Government decision to set this course of action in train. The Minister for Civil Aviation has advised that no investigation of the program of work has previously been undertaken which includes details of the specification of the work, its design and the preparation of cost estimates.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 April 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730403_senate_28_s55/>.