28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10. 55 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present 7 identically worded petitions from a total of 63 citizens of the Commonwealth in the following terms:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of certain citizens of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
That Australian citizens place great value on the sanctity of human life and the physical, mental and social welfare of mothers and children.
That we are deeply concerned to preserve throughout Australia the law’s protection of human life from the moment of conception.
That proposals to change the law to allow abortion on demand and the termination of pregnancy for non-medical reasons are unacceptable to the people of Australia.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable House will not extend the laws governing abortion and will uphold the right to life of the unborn child. And your ‘Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
– The Clerk Assistant will read only one petition as I am assured thai they are in identical terms and may be taken as cognate.
A petition in identical terms was presented by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson.
– On behalf of Senator Byrne 1 present the following petition from 274 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate. The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth -
That grave concern is felt at the imminent introduction into the Commonwealth Parliament of legislation to permit abortion on demand.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate should not admit into the laws of this land a principle which violates a fundamental right - the right to life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
11363/73- >S- ISO).
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether he was correctly reported from Paris as saying: The major emphasis in Australian agricultural policies will be an adjustment of production in such a way as to relate levels of output to what is seen on the best assessments available to be the long term market trends.’ Does this represent Government policy? If so, what are the best assessments available to the Government?
– The statement read out by the Leader of the Opposition is true. It is the intention of this Government to ensure that, as far as is practicable, we match our production with the long term market trends. It is not possible, of course, to do this with any great accuracy if we try to think in terms of 4 or 5 years ahead.
– Hear, hear!
– But 1 am quite sure that the primary producers of this country whom Senator Webster represents, or claims to represent - he is very vocal now in his support of what I am saying - would agree with the Government that we do not want to see a situation of overproduction in which the producers’ products cannot be marketed at reasonable prices. This is not something new in the world as if caused by the action of this Government. It is a very clear intention of both the United States and Canadian governments which was expressed at the meeting at which I delivered that speech. I imagine that if, by an intelligent approach to this matter, we can reach a stage of relative equilibrium in our production and our market prospects, then not only will the Australian primary producer be better off but Australia as a nation will be better off.
35-HOUR WORKING WEEK
– My question is addressed to the Special Minister of State as Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister seen a statement by the Executive Director of the Australian Council of Employers Federations that a general introduction of a 35-hour working week would add $3,000m to the national wages bill? Is this a reasonable estimation of the additional bill? In view of the present highly dangerous rate of inflation and the efforts being made to check price rises, will the Minister inform the Senate what steps the
Government has taken to have the trade unions defer their demands for a 35-hour working week and what response it has received from the unions? Does the Minister agree that a costly introduction of a 35-hour working week would cause a further spiral in the cost of consumer products?
– I have not seen the statement to which the Leader of the Country Party, Senator Drake-Brockman, refers. The question of introducing a 35-hour working week will be decided ultimately by the Arbitration Commission and I have no doubt that the Commission will be hearing evidence such as he has suggested. Whether it comes from that quarter or from some other quarter,I am sure it will be put before the Commission, as will the trade unions’ case. Whether or not we have spoken to the trade union movement about it would be a matter not for the Treasury but, I would think, for the Department of Labour. I am not aware that it has been discussed. As far as I know it has not been, but I am not sure.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. I preface it by saying that yesterday he said, in reply to a question about subscriber trunk dialling overcharging, that sometimes subscribers were confused as to whether their call was an STD one or not and that a warning device was being considered by the PostmasterGeneral. Will the Minister say whether the Postmaster-General has considered making all calls within the 02 area for Sydney, the 03 area for Melbourne, and so on - all calls from a telephone within an area to another telephone within that area - local calls which would immediately remove much subscriber confusion? Will he also say whether the PostmasterGeneral is considering a warning message just at the commencement of a call or a beep’ each time a local call unit is recorded? Finally, will he say what action is being taken by the Postmaster-General to provide the subscriber with information, such as the numbers called and the date and duration of STD calls, when his account is sent out?
– I am not in a position at this stage to expand upon the details that I gave to Senator Townley yesterday at question time. Therefore I shall refer thehonourable senator’s question to my colleague the Postmaster-General in another place and ask him to provide the honourable senator with an early reply.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Housing investigate what can be done to prevent the Mackay Permanent Building Society and the Maryborough Building Society from requiring as a condition of granting a home loan the home purchaser to pay a commission fee to Blacks Real Estate and Wassell-Hooker Real Estate respectively when the purchaser is not dealing with any real estate agent but directly with the builder?
– If the information contained in the question is correct, it points to an alarming situation. The Commonwealth Department of Housing has no control over the operations of State building societies. This is essentially a State matter and action must come from the State Government. The Commonwealth Department of Housing is inquiring into allegations made on a television programme recently against certain building societies, although I believe those allegations referred more to building societies in New South Wales than those in other States. The powers of the Commonwealth are very limited in this regard and there is nothing we can do if the facts are as stated.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Were the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Government aware of the reception attended in Parliament House last night by members of the Australian Labor Party for the members of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong delegations now visiting Australia? Did the Prime Minister attend the reception? Did the Leader of the Government in the Senate attend? Will the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Government explain to the people of this country and to the members of this Senate why the representatives of a nation currently waging aggressive war in Indo-China and of a revolutionary terrorist organisation in South Vietnam should be feted in this way in the dining room of the national Parliament by the governing Australian Labor Party?
– There was a function in Parliament House. It was not an official Government function. It was one which I attended. It was not attended by the Prime Minister. The Government of North Vietnam is recognised by Australia. The status of the Provisional Revolutionary Government is a matter which could perhaps better be addressed to Senator Willesee who represents the Minister for Foreign Affairs in this place. The honourable senator’s remark about aggression is his own opinion.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Army. In view of the plans of the New South Wales Government to construct another modern sports stadium in the Sydney Moore Park area, what plans has the Department of the Army to vacate the Moore Park Engineers Depot7
– The Department of the Army is always prepared to review its land requirements and it sympathetically considers all proposals submitted by the appropriate State authorities. It is prepared to consider fully any reasonable specific proposals put forward by State authorities. Negotiations between the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments concerning the release of Army land at Moore Park and elsewhere in the Sydney area have been proceeding for some time and are still in progress. Currently the initiative rests with the New South Wales Government. While I cannot give specific details of these arrangements to the honourable senator, I can assure him that as soon as the position is clarified an announcement will be made.
– -I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General: As Australia is a signatory to the Declaration of Human Rights, including that section of it which guarantees freedom for the passage of information, will the Postmaster-General make a statement to the Parliament, firstly, on his decision to deny postal and similar facilities to the Rhodesian Information Centre in Sydney and, secondly, on the decision of the
Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia to deny correspondence to members of the Senate?
– I will refer the matters embodied in Senator McManus’ question to my colleague in another place, the Postmaster-General. I am not aware of the matter referred to in the second portion of the honourable senator’s question. The action referred to in the first portion of his question is in conformity with Government policy and in conformity with a United Nations decision requesting all governments to outlaw the illegal Rhodesian regime.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that all coarse wool for carpet manufacture in Australia has to be imported? Is he also aware that there is an increasing requirement for coarse wool because the local market is expanding quite rapidly? Finally, what problems would be involved in the importation and establishment of coarse wool flocks in Australia and what is the prospect of overcoming present prohibitions?
– The question involves technical matters concerning the production of coarse wools. I understand that certain genetic qualities or characteristics are required of sheep for the production of carpet wools and that these are not present in Australian sheep. For that reason the type of wool necessary for the manufacture of carpets has to be imported. I understand that two or three years ago the Australian Wool Board did conduct a study of the possibility of introducing these types of genetic characteristics into the Australian flock. Of course, it would be necessary in the process to import the required breeding animals and quarantine problems would be involved. I also understand that the program would have to be conducted over a fairly long period - maybe 8 or 10 years. I believe that the economics of going into this field are doubtful as far as producers are concerned because the value of the type of wool used is not equal to that of the apparel wool which is obtained from the normal Australian flock. I do not know whether I can give the honourable senator any further information. I do believe that the introduction of this type of genetic strain into Australian sheep is a doubtful economic proposition. Nevertheless I assume that no producer would be inhibited from attempting to do so if he thought it was an economic proposition,
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. I ask: Is it a fact that the flights that arrive in Adelaide from Perth at about 6 a.m. normally make their approaches from the sea and that they cause little noise disturbance to the people of Adelaide but that other aircraft making their approaches to the airport usually do so over the suburbs and cause a higher noise disturbance? Will the Minister make every endeavour to have aircraft, particularly those on night flights, make their approaches to Adelaide Airport from the sea wherever possible and thereby cut down considerably on the noise factor over Adelaide?
– As one who frequently lands at and takes off from Adelaide Airport 1 have always been intrigued by the various approaches made by aircraft on landing. Even in the middle of the day there are occasions when the approach is from the sea around the Christies Beach area. Most takeoffs are made over the sea. A subject that is continually occupying the minds of those concerned with civil aviation is how to reduce noise. I am inclined to think that everything possible is being done to reduce the noise element at Adelaide Airport. I shall take up the matter with the Minister for Civil Aviation and ascertain whether anything further can be done as well as the reason for the use of different approaches and take-offs.
– My question which I direct to the Leader of the Government in the Senate follows on the question asked by Senator Greenwood. I ask: Is it not a fact that the Government of North Vietnam is recognised by most countries? Is it not a fact also that in the Agreement signed by the United States of America in Paris in March this year the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam has a status equal to that of the Saigon regime headed by President Thieu and is so regarded by the United States and the 11 other signatories to the Paris Agreement?
– I call Senator Murphy.
– I think that this is more appropriately a question for the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– Very well. 1 direct the question to Senator Willesee, the Special Minister of State, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
– The situation as set out by Senator Gietzelt is correct. With regard to the People’s Revolutionary Government, firstly, Australia does not recognise the PRG but it is quite useless to deny that the PRG does have a standing in the political situation that exists in Indo-China today. This fact was recognised at Paris where the United States and South Vietnam sat around the table and negotiated the Vietnam peace settlement. The position is that affairs in IndoChina cannot be ordered as one would like and one cannot draw the lines as one would probably like to have them drawn to make the situation neat and tidy. I do not think that foreign affairs with respect to any country in the world are ever neat and tidy. The position is that the PRG has political standing and was recognised in the Paris peace negotiations. Australia recognises the factual situation.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Treasurer had a Press conference yesterday at which he outlined details of a proposed prices justification tribunal? Further, is it a fact that no copy of any Press statement concerning this vital and serious matter can be obtained? Further, is it a fact that the Treasurer proposes to pay Parliament the very doubtful compliment of giving it the details concerning this serious matter in about a week’s time? Does the Treasurer realise the harm that this irresponsible act has done to the confidence of the business and manufacturing community upon which employment rests to quite an extent? Will the Minister ask his colleague to clarify the details of the proposed prices justification tribunal immediately by issuing today a full and detailed statement of the proposals and the intentions of his Government in this matter?
– I understand that this matter was discussed yesterday at a Press conference. I am not aware that Press statements on this subject are unobtainable. I should think they would not be difficult to obtain. 1 know it is hoped that this matter will be brought before the House of Representatives in about a week’s time and that later it will be transmitted to the Senate. The honourable senator referred to harm to the business community. That is an opinion and I am not required to answer to opinions. My opinion is that that is not the situation. The proposed prices justification tribunal has been widely advertised and it was part of the Australian Labor Party’s election platform which was put before the people. 1 believe it was one of the major factors that put my Party into office. It ought to be realised that the whole world is at present grappling with inflation. It is not easy to find a solution but we believe an attempt ought to be made. This is something the previous Government did not do. The prices justification tribunal will be one of the weapons that we will float into the arena and on which we will seek the blessing of Parliament in an attempt to grapple with inflation in Australia.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Transport seen the reported statement by Dr K. G. Jamieson. President of the Neuro-Surgeons Society of Australasia, in one of today’s Melbourne papers that more than two-thirds of the injuries received in motor car accidents throughout Australia are head injuiries? In view of this fact, will the Minister introduce necessary legislation to make it compulsory for drivers and all front-seat passengers to wear approved crash helmets?
– I have not seen the statement to which the honourable senator refers, but I do not doubt the figures. There is a committee inquiring into every possible aspect of road safety. I think that the idea of people wearing crash helmets in cars is a new one. I think it would be generally unacceptable but I am prepared to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Transport so that he can take it up with the appropriate committee for further consideration.
– My question is addressed to the Special Minister of Slate. Is it true that the Federal Labor Government is concerned to preserve the civil rights of Australian citizens? Is it a fact that several of the citizens mentioned by the Attorney-General in his statement to the Senate some weeks ago on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and Croatian terrorism by inference asserted that certain Australian citizens were terrorists? Have some of those citizens never been charged with any crime in this country? Does it concern the Labor Government that the character and reputation of those citizens were damaged irreparably by the AttorneyGeneral’s charge? Does the Labor Government intend to make any amends for the apparent irresponsibility of the Attorney-General in this matter?
– I can answer the first part of the question. The Australian Government does concern itself with civil liberties in Australia. Obviously the remainder of the question is a matter for the Attorney-General.
– I call the AttorneyGeneral.
– I shall add to what Senator Willesee said. The Australian Government is concerned with civil liberties. Wc have a program which will ensure that the civil liberties of Australian people will be preserved. Effect has been given to that program. Senator Webster referred to the statement which I made on Croatian terrorism. That statement was made to show the Parliament, and through it the public, the State of affairs in Australia in regard to Croatian terrorism. It was properly made. The honourable senator suggested that some people were named in it as terrorists and that no charges have been laid against them. From my recollection, that statement certainly is correct; no charge can be laid against a certain number of persons because they are now deceased. The honourable senator may be aware that certain proceedings are pending against a number of persons and that investigations are being made in respect of certain other persons.
– Mr President, may I ask a supplementary question on that point? Senator Murphy answered the question. I appreciate that greatly. I seek permission to ask a supplementary question.
– I grant permission to ask a supplementary question if it will enable the Senate to understand better what the matter is all about. If Senator Murphy is agreeable, I will allow you to do it. I hope that it will be a short one, not a lengthy one.
– How many of the 8 individuals mentioned by Senator Murphy in his statement have never had a charge laid against them in Australia?
– I do not know which 8 persons Senator Webster is referring to.
– You have no interest in the matter.
– That is not so. A considerable number of persons were referred to in the documentation which I presented tothe Senate - very many more than 8. I do not propose to answer the honourable senator’s question. If he wants to put something specific, I will see whether the question will be answered.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation. Has his attention been drawn to a recent Press report which emanated from the United States of America and which indicated that many deaths from poisoning have resulted from air crashes because of the types of internal furnishings used which, when burnt, emit fumes of the deadly poison cyanide? Are similar investigations being made in relation to the internal fittings of Australian commercial aircraft?
– I saw some report about this matter. I saw a report of investigations by the Department of Civil Aviation.
– A written answer on this matter was given to me yesterday by the Minister.
– I knew that I had seen it. I refer Senator Poyser to the answer which will now be in Hansard.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. He may remember that some indefinite time ago a royal commission was issued to Mr Justice Wallace to inquire into and report generally upon the tourist possibilities and organisations of the Great Barrier Reef. Can the Minister give me any information on whether that report has been submitted to the Government? If it has not been submitted, has he any information on when it can be expected?
– I have a vague recollection that during the term of the previous Government His Honour Mr Justice Wallace was commissioned by the Government to inquire into and report upon the tourist potential of the Great Barrier Reef. I am not aware whether Mr Justice Wallace has tendered his report to the Government. I will check with my colleague the Minister for Tourism and Recreation in another place and provide the honourable senator with an early reply.
Senator Mulvihill - Mr President-
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, it is my general practice to see that every honourable senator who rises has an opportunity to ask a question and then, if there is time and the Senate agrees, to provide honourable senators with an opportunity to ask a second question. I propose to pursue that principle.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate of the following, in respect of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation files which he confiscated during his visit to that body’s Melbourne headquarters and later tabled in this chamber: What persons were authorised to copy the contents of those files? Is it known how many copies were made and what persons were put in possession of them? Was any restriction placed on the use or distribution of information contained in those files? Does any privilege of Parliament still attach to those files, as they were tabled in this Parliament? Finally, have all - I emphasise the word ‘all’ - the complete files been returned to ASIO and have the seals been lifted on the filing cabinets that were sealed during the raid?
– It is easy to answer that question because no files were confiscated. As for the seals that were applied, I think I said some weeks ago that I understood that they were removed in the ordinary course. I do not know whether the same procedures were followed in this matter in the United States where I see that some similar sealing of files took place in .the last day or so.
– Mr President-
– Are you taking a point of order?
– Yes, regarding the right of senators to ask question. I know it has been ruled that Ministers can answer questions any way they like, but I believe it is a complete taking away of the privileges of senators when a Minister and the Leader of the Government in the Senate, by subterfuge, completely ignored the question because I used the word ‘confiscated’ when referring to files. He could delete the word ‘confiscated’ and answer the question as to how many copies were made, who made them, who was authorised to distribute them, are the names known and all the other facts. I believe that the Senate and the Australian people should have this information and I should not be wiped off by a Minister who treats this chamber with the slightest possible respect.
– Order! Yesterday this matter was raised by Senator Greenwood and I undertook to take the whole matter of questions asked in the Senate to the Standing Orders Committee. At the present moment I must go along with the rulings that have been the practice. It is not for me at this juncture to comment on whether they are sound practice or not: it is a matter for the Standing Orders Committee. I have undertaken to take this matter to the Standing Orders Committee when it meets.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that the principal conclusions of the Australian Academy of Science on the biological effects of nuclear fallout include the emphasis that there should be no unwarranted exposure to radiation?
– Yes, that is the thread which runs through the report. There is no doubt that the general international scientific opinion is that one should not undergo any form of radiation if it can be avoided. One may undergo it and sometimes one has to undergo it. There is natural radiation and someone may be subjected to other radiation because that is unavoidable or because one deliberately seeks it for some beneficial purpose. But the well understood rule is that one does not undergo any form of radiation except where there is some benefit or where it is unavoidable.
– I direct this question to the Minister for Primary Industry: Can it be inferred from his earlier reply to Senator Withers’ question concerning Government policy with respect to matching primary production to world demands that systems of production quotas and controls are envisaged?
– I do not think one should necessarily draw that conclusion from my comments. We are aware that the principal industry in which quotas operate in Australia at the present time is the wheat industry, and the initiative for those quotas came from the industry itself. It is true that some would argue about this, but in the main most would agree that the introduction of those quotas brought to the wheat industry stability that it had not known probably in the whole of its history. To extend that principle into other areas of rural production is a matter that would require a good deal of thought.
What I said in my answer to Senator Withers was an expression of principle which I think is sound common sense. I do not think anyone wants to see the Government or industries themselves allow the situation to develop where production is not matched as much as is practicable with the market demand. In my speech in Paris I made the point that we are thinking in terms of long term market trends. It is not possible from year to year to make a precise estimate of what that production should be, but I think it is only reasonable that we ought to keep in mind that there is an approximate figure of what the market will in fact demand in the immediate time ahead. I am not saying on behalf of the Government that there will be any introduction of quotas. Where it is necessary - as it has been considered to be at the present time in relation to the dairy industry - those matters certainly will be given serious consideration.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is there any truth in the reported statement that the South Australian Government is likely to transfer non-suburban railways to the Commonwealth and that a CommonwealthState committee has been set up to discuss the details? If so, will the Minister say whether similar discussions are being or will be held in the future with other State governments concerning this proposal? If this report is accurate, when is the Government likely to be in a position to make an announcement to Parliament? Finally, will the Minister inform the Senate of the cost to the Commonwealth of such a take-over?
– Any consideration of the taking over of State railways is undertaken on the application from a State. Prior to the election the Prime Minister announced that a Commonwealth Labor Government would be prepared to take over the State railways. This announcement was made at a time when the Victorian Government said that it would hand its railways to anyone. In South Australia the railways debt is so increasing that it can hardly be met. Since this Government has been in office there has been representation from the South Australian Government and a committee to inquire into taking over country lines in South Australia has been set up. The suburban lines, as part of the suburban transport, will remain under State control. What eventuates from that inquiry will be announced when the committee makes a report to the Government. As there has been no representation along these lines from other States there is no similar committee in the other States. One will not be established until such time as there is agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
(Senator Lawrie having addressed a question to the Minister for Primary Industry)
– Order! Honourable senators are always complaining about Ministers not answering questions effectively, but honourable senators ask questions which are in total defiance of the Standing Orders. Senator Lawrie, your question is full of hypothetical matter and I rule it out of order.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. What proportion of the world’s population and potential for agricultural production is under communist control? What figures are available from both Russia and the People’s Republic of China on current stock piles of feed and fibre and projections of current cropping results? Does the Minister think, in view of the military situation in Russia and China, that either Russia or China is likely to disclose any reliable figures on current agricultural stockpiles or production?
– From my understanding of the position in the case of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics a ready supply of information on agricultural production in that country is available. The officers of my Department have never intimated to me that they do not consider these figures to be reasonably reliable. We have what we feel to be an accurate understanding of the Russian wheat crop position at the present time as a result of information that is available to us from that country. I am not so sure of the position in the case of the People’s Republic of China. We have not had such a direct concern there as we have had with the other country. However, if I can obtain any more specific information for the honourable senator, I will do so.
– My question, which is also directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, rather follows on the question asked by Senator Sim. Has he any figures available from any source on the feed and fibre stocks in the Communist bloc countries as a whole, not only of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the People’s Republic of China? If so, what is the source of these figures and will he provide the Senate with them?
– 1 will seek some information from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It is normally the body that compiles these figures for me. I am sure that it has figures which will answer the query that is in the honourable senator’s mind.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General which relates to an answer given by him yesterday regarding a Commonwealth police raid on the house of a Mr Till in Canberra. By way of explanation, I refer to the Attorney-General’s statement that the police were searching for a particular man, Ivan Pavlovic - named by the Minister - who in his words ‘had threatened that he would kill the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia’. On what grounds does the Attorney-General use the privilege of Parliament to assert the guilt of the person concerned? Has the person concerned been charged and convicted of the offence stated? If the guilt has not been established, will he refrain from asserting or alleging the guilt of any person unless and until that person has been tried and convicted by a court of law?
– I gave the explanation and the report that was supplied to me. As I recall the position, I read out the answers which had been supplied to me in answer to the 10 or 12 point question asked on an earlier occasion by Senator Hannan.
– It was your answer.
– The words used were those in the explanation given to me. That is the reason why those precise words were used. The honourable senator went on to say that 1 should not say anything except when the person had been tried and convicted. There may be advantages in that. It is not the practice which was followed by my predecessor who is still in the Senate. Furthermore, it is not consistent with what I have been constantly asked to do in the Senate, for example, tabling-
– The Attorney-General-
– Order! Senator Wright, you have been a member of the Senate for a long time. You should know that all interjections are disorderly.
– I have been asked on a number of occasions in very recent times to act in a manner inconsistent with what Senator Carrick now suggests should be. done. The serious suggestion was made by Senator Hannan of unwarranted conduct and highly illegal behaviour by officers of the Police Force who went to certain premises without a warrant. An explanation was sought as to why the police officers had acted in the way they did. An answer is given to a question as to why police officers acted in a certain way, and then there is a suggestion about that explanation. If the circumstances are as they were set out - and that is the official report which was made to me and which I presented to the Senate - then that gives an adequate explanation of why the police officers in question did what they did. Either such an explanation is to be given when a serious allegation is made against police officers or it is not. If it is to be given, then if the facts in some way reflect upon persons that is an inherent part of the explanation of the course of behaviour of the 2 police officers.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to a judgment which was given yesterday in Sydney and which gave a municipal council the power to erect or construct barriers across streets in residential areas. Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that such a decision could have far reaching effects on local authorities throughout Australia, and in particular their relations with State authorities? Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that such power as is referred to in the Press report of this case seems to have in it elements which infringe the liberty of the individual? Will he examine the matter and make some announcement regarding his findings upon it and any steps which might be taken in connection with it?
– Order! Senator Murphy, you do not have to give a legal opinion. That is forbidden by the Standing Orders.
– -The Australian Government often is accused of wanting to interfere unduly in the affairs of the States. My recollection of the case from some time ago - I have not read the judgment carefully - is that this is purely a matter for State law. The powers of the local authorities are given to them by the Parliaments of the States. They can be altered or amended by the State Parliaments. This whole matter is completely within the competence of the State Parliaments. Only by stretching the imagination can one make it come within the competence of the Commonwealth, such as by contemplating the action of a local authority in preventing persons from, say, getting to a
Commonwealth office or in some way impeding the actions of those who are in the service of the Commonwealth. I do not think that it is really a proper matter for the Commonwealth Government or me to be interfering in or investigating. However, I will have a further look at the matter in deference to the honourable senator’s request.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that it is proposed to have the naval patrol boats based at Cairns refitted or reconditioned at southern ports rather than at Cairns where provision has been made for this work to be done? If so, will the Minister inform the Senate of the reasons for taking this action?
– I will have to obtain the information for the honourable senator, which 1 will do as quickly as I can.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the reference in the National Radiation Advisory Committee report which stresses that nuclear tests in either the northern or southern hemisphere could harm Australia, I ask: Has the Government been provided with any information from official sources in China with respect to the degree and measurement of fallout resulting from Chinese nuclear explosions? If not, beyond the consideration of rotational and atmospheric movement influences to which the AttorneyGeneral has already referred, on what grounds does he claim that the Chinese explosions are not as detrimental to the Australian environment as the French explosions are?
– I have answered a number of questions about this matter. On each occasion I think I have stressed that the tests which have been performed by the Chinese in the past - this would apply presumably to any further atmospheric tests - would be detrimental to the people of the world. All of these tests have a detrimental effect, whoever performs them. The question of whether the tests carried out by one country are as detrimental as those carried out by another involves a consideration of the very matters mentioned by the honourable senator, namely, all the circumstances under which a test is performed, the yield of the explosion, in which hemisphere the explosion takes place, and certain other atmospheric matters. I do not know the precise information which tho honourable senator seeks in relation to data supplied to the Australian Government in relation to Chinese tests. I will endeavour to see if that information can be procured for the honourable senator. But let us make no mistake about the fact that, depending on the nature of the explosion, all tests, including Chinese tests, are detrimental to the health and welfare of the people of the world and to future generations.
– Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to the two ridiculous but at the same time disturbing reports published in the Melbourne ‘Truth’ for 21st and 28th April concerning the discovery of an alleged Ukrainian terrorist training camp in the dark forests of the Acheron River district in Victoria? Is the Minister aware that these reports allege that the training camp is run by the secret Ukrainian insurgent army which is said to be dedicated to the violent overthrow of the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which I understand this Government regards as being very friendly with Australia and with which we have full diplomatic relations? Is the Minister aware that the so-called terrorist training camp is about as militarist as a boy scout jamboree and in fact is run by a Ukrainian boy scout movement? Is the Minister aware that these absurd newspaper stories which have been faithfully followed up by the television services of the Australian Broadcasting Commission have caused grave disquiet and unease among those excellent migrants, the Ukrainians? Is he aware also that the allegations follow the malicious pattern which has been used against the Croatians? Will the Minister check on the authenticity of these reports? Because of the consternation caused by recent raids on migrant homes, will the Minister give an assurance that there will be no similar raids on the homes of Ukrainians in Australia? Will the Minister issue a suitable statement to allay the fears of the migrant population in general and the Ukrainians in particular?
– I do not recall having seen the articles referred to and I have no personal knowledge of them having been referred to me. There may be some record of this matter somewhere in the files of the Department or in my office, but I do not recall anything of the particular matter to which the honourable senator refers.
– Will you kindly investigate it?
– If the honourable senator wishes to have the matter investigated, I will have that done. In the course of asking his question the honourable senator seemed to suggest that the reports about Croation terrorism were somehow malicious and he suggested that there is no substance in the allegations.
– Some of them have been.
– I am pleased to hear the honourable senator interject that some of them have been. Even allowing for the honourable senator’s concession that some of them have not been malicious, there is no doubt whatever - I understood this to be accepted even by some Ministers in the former conservative administration - that there has been terrorism in Australia from Croatian groups. The proposition has been accepted and stated internationally. Terrorists or extremist elements were referred to in the official documents of the former Government. They are referred to even in the last report of the Department of External Affairs which was prepared by that Government. There has been an enormous amount of documentation which has shown that, in substance, terrorist organisations have been operating in Australia. I . will have some inquiries made as to the investigation the honourable senator has suggested.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. In view of the statement made in Sydney recently by the moderate Croatian leaders Kosovich, Sillich and Dezelin that they repudiated the ill-fated Bosnian expedition, I ask: When, in the goodness of his heart, the Attorney-General received on a weekend a delegation that included representatives of the Marrickville Croatian Club, did they in turn concede to him that the Bosnian expedition was illegal, that it was lawlessness personified and that an Australian passport is not an IOU for illegal activities in countries with which we have diplomatic ties?
– I cannot say that they did say that in specific terms, but certainly that is what they said in spirit. They recognised that there was a small minority which was responsible for terrorism and violence and indicated that they would have no part of it. They also used some words - I think they were quoted here yesterday - to the general effect that they supported the actions of the Government and myself in endeavouring to stamp out terrorism and violence in Australia. I am aware of the honourable senator’s close connection with the Yugoslav community in Australia. I share with him the view that the substantial and overwhelming majority of that community also rejects the notion of the use of terrorism and violence and is pleased also that the Government is taking effective steps along the lines which have been requested, even by some Ministers in the former Government, to deal with a situation which had been allowed to go on for too long.
– Earlier todayI asked a question of the Minister representing the Postmaster-General concerning subscriber trunk dialling telephone call charges. I now ask: Has the Minister any further information concerning the making of all calls within a particular STD zone area local calls? Will the way of indicating that a call is an STD call be by a single message or a beep each time a local call unit is registered? Is a new billing system likely so that people will be able to see the date, time and number of any STD call?
After Senator Townley asked me a similar question earlier this morning I arranged for the matter to be immediately directed to the attention of my colleague in another place, the Postmaster-General, who has provided me with the following information: The PostmasterGeneral has not considered making all calls within a particular area code district local calls. That would mean a complete revision of the national charging system. However, I can inform the honourable senator that it has now been decided by the PostmasterGeneral that a warning tone will be given at the commencement of STD calls. The warning will come with a tone which will effectively give 10 fast pips in the first 2 seconds before the metering of the call begins - that is, immediately after the call has been connected. For what it is worth to the honourable senator I point out that the technical details are that the tone will be of 9 Hertz 0.1 of a second ‘on’ and 0.1 of a second ‘off’ for 2 seconds. Both parties to the call will hear the pips. Implememtation of this new warning procedure is now in the planning stages, but it could take up to 12 months for exchange equipment modifications to be made to make the warning available throughout the nation. I should also say in reply to the honourable senator’s question that the Post Office cannot supply details of STD calls because of the nature of the multi-metering system used in our telephone network, but the warning system I have outlined should work to alert people that they are being charged at STD rates and thereby, it is hoped, eliminate a lot of the misunderstandings that have occurred in the past.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Australian sheep population is approximately 178 million? Is he further aware that the New Zealand sheep population is 59 million, or about a third of the Australian sheep population? Does he know that New Zealand is a substantial producer of carpet wools and regards this as a useful and viable part of its primary production enterprise? Does the Minister know that New Zealand evolved for this purpose a breed of sheep known as Drysdale? Does the Minister realise that this was done by selecting sheep from the strains and genetic pool already available in New Zealand? Will he concede that Australia obviously could do the same? Will he give consideration to taking this matter further and seriously?
– I certainly will. If the subject matter of the honourable senator’s question is technically correct, I will certainly, out of respect to him, ensure that the Australian Wool Corporation looks at the matter again. I indicated in answer to Senator Devitt earlier that, on the best advice available to me and as a result of inquiries made by the Australian Wool Board 3 years ago, the conclusions which I mentioned were drawn by the Australian Wool Corporation. I think that probably that authority is best qualified in this country to make that assessment. However, I shall refer the matter to the authority once again and see if any further developments have occurred.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, I ask: Why should the Queensland poisons regulations regarding the sale of cough mixtures containing common antihistamines be so restricted as to prohibit chemists from selling these preparations over the counter, when such a restriction is limited to Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory? This restriction causes personal and financial embarrassment to chemists in these areas when tourists from all other States of the Commonwealth, accustomed to buying these preparations in their home States, attempt to buy these cough mixtures in the areas where this restriction applies?
– I am advised by my colleague the Minster for Health in another place that the control of poisons comes within the responsibility of the individual States, the Commonwealth being responsible only in the territories it administers, namely the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The National Health and Medical Research Council, which is an advisory body to the Commonwealth and States, has recommended that antihistamines be available only on prescription, except in preparations labelled and packed for the treatment of motion sickness in packs of 10 doses or less. This exception does not apply to meclozine, cyclizine and chlorcyclizine which should be available on Council’s recommendation on prescription only. The Minister for Health advises me further that the recommendations of Council have no legal standing until they are incorporated into appropriate State or territory legislation. Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory have adopted the Council’s recommendation. However, in the Northern Territory liquid cough preparations containing three-quarter per cent or less of antihistamine substance are available at chemists without prescription, except for meclozine, cyclizine and chlorcyclizine which are available on prescription only.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to my earlier question to him about his attendance at a reception to the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese last night and his response that my allegation that North Vietnam was waging aggressive war in Indo China was purely a personal view - implying to me that he held a contrary view.
Does he speak for the Government or does he speak in some unofficial way? Does he reject the facts which are set out by the United States Government in its note - from recollection of 23rd April this year - which detailed the aggressive acts, including the movement of troops, the movement of materials and the movement of munitions in breach of the cease fire agreement, committed by North Vietnam? If he does not reject those facts will he state why he does not regard North Vietnam as conducting an aggressive war? Does he not consider that his patronage of the North Vietnamese delegation and the Vietcong delegation is a calculated snub to the United States Government?
– The honourable senator referred to the United States note in which certain facts were referred to as the viewpoint of the United States Government. I regret that I have not read the note and that I am not able to assist the honourable senator usefully. I think he would realise that this matter comes within the province of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In all the circumstances, I would prefer to let the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs deal with any questions which the honourable senator wants to raise about foreign affairs.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. It relates to my previous question about Ivan Pavlovic. In replying to the question the Minister stated that he did not accept responsibility for the wording and intention of a written reply which, he said, was prepared by his advisers. Is not this an abdication of ministerial responsibility and an attempt to blame public servants unfairly for ministerial gaffes? Is the Senate to understand that what the Minister says in the Senate may be disowned by him at any time as being the responsibility of public servants? Is not this another attack by the Minister upon the Public Service? Will the Minister ensure that in future no words mouthed by him in the Senate., whether or not they are disowned by him subsequently and whether or not they are prepared by his advisers, contain any assertions of guilt of in individual which are not substantiated by fact?
– The honourable senator referred to a previous question and made a suggestion about the wording of the reply to it. I explained to him that that was the wording used in the report supplied to me. The suggestion in his question, as I recall it, seemed to be that in some way I had deliberately used a particular expression. The fact is that that was the expression used in the report to me. Common sense dictates what happens in matters of this kind. Obviously, when a question is asked about what happened when 2 police officers went to premises on a certain occasion, the Minister gives the explanation which is supplied from the official sources. It would be contrary to common sense to suggest that a Minister should or could do more than say that that is the reply of the Government which has been obtained from those responsible for investigating the matter and supplying the information.
Speaking of ministerial responsibility, the honourable senator would find, if he cared to look, that several years ago a number of papers were delivered - I think at a seminar - by certain predecessors in the office of AttorneyGeneral, as well as others. Those papers were on the nature of ministerial responsibility. If the honourable senator wants the position to be that a Minister standing here and answering a question has to give his own personal assurances about every fact relating to a matter, when obviously it depends upon the statements of other persons about events at which he was not personally present, that is against common sense. What the Minister does is to ask for a report on the matter. An investigation is undertaken and the result of it is supplied, as it should be, to the Senate. Consider the particular example. How in common sense can I say that not only has that report been supplied to me but I warrant the truth of it? Forget this particular occasion: Suppose that there was some other similar occasion and it was suggested that a police officer did something wrong. I would obtain a report from the police officer.
– Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Standing Order 100 states that in answering a question a senator ‘shall not debate the matter to which the same refers’. We have listened to long answers from Senator Murphy, but surely in this case he is debating the matter when he puts forward a set of hypothetical facts not raised by the questioner and then proceeds to give an answer. Surely that is debating the question and the Minister should be ruled out of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - I think that Senator Murphy, in answering the question, is being impeded by the interjections from the Opposition. I think that the answer is not in the form of debate and I ask Senator Murphy to continue with his answer.
– I put it to the Senate that this is a matter of common sense. To get away from this particular case and any suggestion of wrongdoing in it, let us suppose that an allegation of misconduct is made in some other case. Obviously, what is required of the Government is that an investigation be made of the facts. The officers responsible for the investigation make a report and that report is put before the Senate by the responsible Minister, lt would be absurd to suggest that a Minister has to personally warrant the occurrence of events at which he was not present, lt is his duty to have the matter investigated by the proper officers and to put the results of that investigation before the chamber. That is what I have done.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour indicate whether the Department of Labour is endeavouring to reduce still further the ranks of the unemployed in Australia so that workers may not be working under the threat of mass unemployment - an obnoxious industrial condition which obviously was encouraged by the McMahon-Anthony Government?
– 1 think the honourable senator knows that when this Government was elected to office the Prime Minster stated that the Government would not put up with unnecessary unemployment. The figures since the Government came to power have proved that unemployment has been reduced - we believe by the Government’s constructive actions.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the refusal of the Australian Wheat Board to permit cattle lotfeeders, chicken meat producers and pig breeders to procure wheat growing properties and grow their own stock feed wheat requirements? Is the Minster aware that this dog-in- the-manger attitude by the Board is a complete reversal of policy adopted last year and can only aggravate the current meat situation? As these stock feeders are asking neither for first advance payments of 120c per bushel nor the allocation of delivery quota at the expense of traditional wheat growers, will the Minister, in the interests of fostering the only effective long-term solution to the current meat crisis, endeavour to persuade the Australian Wheat Board to adopt a more realistic attitude and revert to its 1972 policy? Finally, will the Minister treat an examination of this situation as urgent as time is running out for these wheat and meat producers if they are to make an effective contribution to wheat and meat supplies this year?
– That was a very long question at, I hope, the tail end of question time. I would not attempt to answer it other than to say that I will look at it and if I think it should be referred to the Australian Wheat Board I will do so.
– Can the Special Minister of State inform the Senate of the Opposition senators who will visit China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as representatives of the Australian Parliament at a later date this year?
– No. I handled the arrangements for the visit but I was away when the parties selected their representatives. Therefore, I cannot give the honourable senator the names, but I can certainly get them for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy. If he is not now in possession of the facts, will the Minister take early action to inform the Senate in respect of the possibility of a naval supply vessel being sent to the French nuclear explosion test area? Will it be manned by a volunteer or conscripted crew? Will any danger ensue to all or any member of the crew? If the ship is contaminated, how and how completely and when will the ship be able to be classified as clean’? Will the absence from Australian waters of one of our supply vessels interfere with any active or training program of Her Majesty’s Royal Australian Navy?
– As the honourable senator knows, the Minister for Defence and the Prime Minister already have made some references to the possibility of a supply ship being used for this purpose. I think the general aspects of the question call for a studied reply because the information was rather tentative and the proposition is tentative. I will seek additional information for the honourable senator and give it to him.
– Has the attention of the Minister for the Media been drawn to a report that a Sydney advertising firm, George Patterson Pty Ltd, has produced a survey of the status of the television medium and in that survey has expressed criticism of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for its lack of interest in attending to poor quality reception as in some Sydney metropolitan areas insofar as the introduction of colour television is concerned? Will the Minister raise the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to see that the standard of reception in capital cities for colour television is improved?
– I understand that the advertising company referred to by my colleague Senator Mulvihill in fact does produce an annual survey of what it considers to be the state of the medium. While I understand that there is an embargo until tomorrow on the release of the publication which it has printed, nonetheless I did hear a report about the matter over a Canberra radio station this morning. It is not true to say that the Australian Broadcasting Control Board does not appear to be very concerned about the matter. I assure the honourable senator that shortly after my assuming office I discussed the matter with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I inform the honourable senator that within the last 2 or 3 months a survey has been taken in Sydney. The results of that survey are now being appraised. The Board will be reporting the results of the survey to me when it has conducted an analysis of the survey. So the mild criticism of the Board which, apparently, is to appear in the report when it is published is not an accurate criticism at all.
– I ask the Special Minister of State: Is it not a fact that this Government was informed by the Yugoslav Government that the execution of 3 Australians of Croatian origin took place on 17th March? I have here a statutory declaration translating a respectable American Croatian newspaper ‘Morning Star’ which, giving an eye witness account, states that such executions took place on 10th April which is Croatia’s national day. If this is true does not this date indicate that the Attorney-General knew of the executions before they took place? Although I believe it is unfair and unjust for the Prime Minister to unload all the blame on to his poor unfortunate Attorney-General -
- Senator Hannan, you are exceeding the bounds of propriety under the Standing Orders.
– I ask: Will the Minister ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to investigate and report on the truth or otherwise of this article?
– Everybody knows that 17th March was the date of the executions which was given to us. If the honourable senator seriously believes that he has a document which in any way could assist the Australian Government I would advise him to write to the Department of Foreign Affairs, to Mr Whitlam as Minister for Foreign Affairs, or to myself as Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. If the honourable senator feels seriously about the matter I think it is his duty to put it before the Australian Government; I certainly would.
– Has the attention of the Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to a radio news item attributed to the Australian Ambassador to China in which he was reported to have said that he did not think a continuance of nuclear tests by that country would interfere with the improved relations with China? Can this be considered as official Labor Government policy? If so, how does the Minister reconcile this with the Government’s attitude to the French nuclear tests?
– A note was given to me when I came in that the radio had reported that Dr Fitzgerald had said that this would not create a problem in relations with
China. That is all 1 know. That was the report. 1 cannot guarantee that the report was correct. 1 do not understand Senator Jessop’s comparison between France and China.
– I am talking about improved relations.
– Yes, we want to improve relations everywhere but that does not mean that we have to run away from problems. 1 do not think that improves them. Over the years, I think, that has been the problem with Australia. We have hitched ourselves on to one of the big powers and then become a suppliant to that power. I do not think that did our activities any good. I think it led us into a lot of errors. We have very good relations with France. We have good trading balances and good cultural exchanges. One point stands out. I am sure the French understand this clearly and so do we. in the talks that I have had here on this question with the French Ambassador, who is a very able and charming man, this point has been completely clear between us. It is that there is one problem. Therefore, we should be able to sit down and discuss it in a mature manner. That is the attitude we will take with the People’s Republic of China. If in our protest to China and, indeed, to any other country that is exploding nuclear devices in the atmosphere, we can get our point over and have some influence without harming relationships, that is precisely what we will be doing.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, is supplementary to questions that I have asked of him and which he has answered relating to the man Ivan Pavlovic. Do his answers indicate that he is willing at any time to assert the guilt of an individual citizen without first satisfying himself that he is not committing a serious libel and unwarranted attack on human liberty, his alibi apparently being that it is his advisers and not he who are uttering the libel? Is he aware that his answer yesterday was in unqualified terms as follows - I quote from the Hansard record: ‘The answer is as follows’. He did not say: ‘My advisers have advised me’ or ‘It is alleged as follows’. He said: ‘The answer is as follows’. He went on to say: ‘Mr Pavlovic had threatened that he would kil] the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia’.
– The honourable senator has the advantage of me- 1 do not have a copy of yesterday’s Hansard with me. I have made clear my recollection of what I said in reply to Senator Hannan’s question. It was that the explanation that had been supplied to me was as follows.
– That was not stated.
– I do not have the Hansard record with me. I think - in fact, I am sure - that I began the whole of the answer by stating that. 1 certainly will look at the Hansard. As to the other matters, I think that each specific matter needs to be looked at in its own circumstances.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State. Why did the present Government not seek information from the Yugoslav Government on the fate and/ or the whereabouts of the 10 Australian citizens allegedly still missing in Yugoslavia and referred to by the Prime Minister yesterday, until 19th April this year - that is about 5 days after the Prime Minister informed us that he was aware that 3 Australian citizens had been executed? I ask this in view of the fact that inquiries about all, or if not all, most of these persons - I speak from recollection - were made by the Australian Ambassador in Belgrade during the lifetime of the previous Government. Why was this matter not raised earlier by the present Government? Why specifically was it not discussed with the Yugoslav Prime Minister or the Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs, whom we were told yesterday is well versed in idiomatic English, when they were in Australia on 20th and 21st March?
– Senator Greenwood refers to the actions of the previous Government. He knows from the papers that were tabled in another place that he was pressing the then Foreign Minister to do something about this and related matters. The previous Foreign Minister did not yield to the honourable senator’s pressures. The Ambassador was not instructed in the way that the honourable senator wanted him to be instructed at that time. That is that position. The honourable senator’s specific question is: Why were the inquiries about these 10 people made on this date and not before? The situation is that after the question of the executions arose, after we sent our protest note and after our Ambassador saw the authorities in Yugoslavia, they told him that they were willing to start giving some information. When we found that there was a changed attitude on this, we instructed our Ambassador to proceed and to mention the names of these 10 people of whom 2 subsequently have been returned to Australia. I understand that the position was triggered by this terrible thing that has happened. We had a situation in which we thought we could proceed with the matter. The Yugoslav authorities had said that they were willing to give some information, not on these particular people, but on the whole general question. We grabbed that opportunity then to instruct our Ambassador to inquire about the men about whom we had received complaints.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, follows earlier questions that have been asked arising out of a statement which he made yesterday and in which he made an accusation of a very serious crime having been committed by a certain Mr Pavlovic. How does he distinguish between the statements he made to this chamber on 1st March 1972 - and I shall quote them - and the statements he has made today in trying to explain why and how he made this incredible statement? The AttorneyGeneral said:
The office of Attorney-General is an ancient and honourable one. The Attorney-General is a member of the Crown but bis position is different from that of other Ministers. His special position imposes duties and restraints peculiar to that office.
– What was that about ‘a member of the Crown’?
– I should have said ‘a Minister of the Crown’. Later, as reported at page 301 of Hansard, the Attorney-General said: lt is part of the rule of law that persons be presumed innocent and that they should not be made the subject of prejudicial statements before their case is tried.
The Attorney-General then went on to define prejudicial statements’.
– Order! Senator Rae, please ask your question.
– My question, as I have indicated already, is: How does the AttorneyGeneral distinguish between statements which he made on 1st March 1972 and the statements which he makes today to the effect that if his advice is that a person has committed a crime be is free to state that in this chamber irrespective of the damaging effect on the rights of the individual?
– The honourable senator seeks to take something I said - last year, was it? - and apply it to a situation in which what I did was to find the explanation which was asked for by Senator Hannan who suggested that there had been some highly improper, irregular and indeed illegal actions by 2 Commonwealth police officers. Senator Hannan asked for the explanation and I sought the explanation and gave it. The statement was a material part of the explanation because obviously people wanted to know why officers would be going to premises without a warrant. That is the explanation which was supplied to me. It was a material part of the answer to what, after all, was raised by the honourable senator in the Parliament in order that his suggestions of illegal behaviour, which he said were supported by a statutory declaration, should be answered. Most serious allegations were made against the police officers by the honourable senator in this place and it was proper that the explanation which could be obtained be obtained, and that is what I have done. I see that in the answer to the question which I gave yesterday I ended by saying:
That is the explanation that has been supplied to me.
The whole of what I gave was the explanation which had been supplied to me. My recollection is that I began in that way also, but I certainly ended in that way.
– Your recollection is quite wrong.
– If the honourable senator will look at the document of 2nd May. if he has it - I now have it - he will see the very last words that I said.
– I am talking about yesterday.
– Yes, I said, That is the explanation that has been supplied to me’, and that is the explanation I gave. I think honourable senators have to realise that if very serious allegations are made - and they have been made- in this chamber against police officers, any explanation which they may have will be properly put before the Senate.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. By way of preface I indicate that I heard on radio today that Dr Fitzgerald had commented that an approach had been made by the Labor Government to the Peoples Republic of China in relation to its testing of nuclear devices. If this information is correct, I congratulate the Government for taking this action. I now ask: Will the Government advise the Government of the Peoples Republic of China that this Government will support the unions in this country in their threat to halt all communications and trade relations with China unless she immediately stops nuclear testing in the atmosphere? Will the Government advise China, as a Minister of this Government advised France, that it will consider breaking diplomatic relations with China unless it halts nuclear testing?
– The Government is prepared to receive any congratulations that might be forthcoming from members of the Opposition, who are not often given to expressing such congratulations. As to the matter of the trade unions, I have noted the approbation which was given even by members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party for the participation of trade unions in endeavouring to prevent harm being done to the people of the world as a result of such tests. I am pleased to see that the honourable senator has now come to the view that it is within the province of trade unions to take action in relation to matters which might be regarded as national issues and matters concerned with foreign affairs. As to the other matter concerning diplomatic relations, whether such relations be with China or with any other country, this is a matter for consideration by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I would not like to make any statement on such an issue here and now.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, follows upon the other questions asked about his answer to Senator Hannan’s question yesterday. For the Attorney-General to give the fullest information, why was it not possible simply to say that the police were searching for an unidentified person who was alleged to have threatened to kill the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia and that the Attorney-General declined to give his name for fear of the prejudice that would be caused. Why could that not have been done, consistent with all the statements he made when in Opposition?
Sentor MURPHY - The honourable senator refers to an unidentified person but I take it that would not be true because the person was identified. If the honourable senator were to suggest that the name of the person ought not to have been disclosed, I would see his point. It may have been preferable for this course to be taken. On the other hand, the nature of the allegation made by Senator Hannan was most serious; the suggestion he made about these police officers was a very serious one. It was important to show that there was a real situation which required the police officers to do what they did.
- Mr President, I suggest that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report which the Health Insurance Planning Committee tendered to the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) and which was tabled in the House of Representatives on 2nd May.
FEDERAL PETROLEUM SEARCH I POLICY I
– On 12th April 1973 the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) made a statement in the House of Representatives on federal petroleum search policy. I seek leave to have the text of that statement incorporated in Hansard, Mr President.
– Are there any tables and so forth in the text of that statement that would make it difficult for the Hansard report to be printed within a reasonable period?
– No, Mr President. There is also another statement the text of which I shall be seeking leave to have incorporated in Hansard.
– 1 am responsible for the production of the Hansard report. Honourable senators usually require copies of the daily Hansard to be available for their use on the morning after a sitting day. It is difficult to get the Hansard report printed on time when complicated tables and so forth have to be incorporated. That is why I attempted to ensure last session that all material sought to be incorporated in Hansard was brought to my attention before the leave of the Senate Was given to incorporate it. I am asking for an assurance that such material as you have sought to have incorporated in Hansard can be easily printed.
– I must apologise to you, Mr President. I was under the impression that you were aware that I would be seeking to incorporate certain material in Hansard. I do not think the incorporation of the material would involve any complications.
– It is for the Senate to grant leave and for the President finally to determine whether material should be incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted?
– May I ask a question of you, Mr President?
– If leave is granted to incorporate the text of this and another statement in Hansard what will 1 have to do in order to ensure that an opportunity is given later to debate the statements?
– You can move a motion to the effect that the Senate take note of each statement, but it would be easier if Senator Wriedt were to do so. Is leave granted to incorporate the text of the statement in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows) -
In his policy speech last November, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that the Australian Labor Party was determined that the Australian people should be restored to their rightful place in their own country, as the owners and keepers of the national estate and the nation’s resources, and as fair and equal sharers in the national wealth. The Federal ALP policy adopted at the Launceston conference in 1971, which I have followed throughout in my administration, provides for a comprehensive development, under Government control, of Australia’s mineral resources, with emphasis on the need for discovery of new deposits and direct Commonwealth and State participation in oil and mineral search and exploitation throughout Australia’s land and off-shore territories. It specifies that there shall be at least a majority Australian control over both equity and policy in resources development, and that we will devise and implement an integrated and co-ordinated national fuel and energy policy. In particular, we will regulate exploration, development, transportation, marketing and use of oil, natural gas and all related hydrocarbons We will also prevent the pollution of the ecology and the environment by fuel extraction.
Petroleum, which is a finite mineral resource, is being consumed at an ever increasing rate in modern industrial society. Alternatives are available, but the implications of their extra cost will have serious repercussions on the economic and social pattern of our society. The world availability of petroleum and natural gas as prime sources of energy after a few decades is questionable. In Australia, fortunately, we are able to profit by the technology, the errors and the examples of other nations. There is a need in Australia for a fuel and energy budget, providing annually for the most efficient utilisation of our finite resources and for these to be subject to the same careful calculation as the annual financial budget. With our various resources, there is a need for an ‘energy-mix’ related to the highly variable needs of our respective States.
Obtaining adequate, dependable and low cost supplies of fuel and energy is becoming the basic objective of major industrial nations. Just as it has been stated that war is much too serious a matter for generals to control, so a Labor Government says that exclusive control of Australia’s fuel and energy resources is much too serious to be left to individual companies, whose present status flows from the absence of a true national fuel and energy policy.
In the Launceston policy there is provision for a national fuel and energy authority. Obviously in Australia there are various existing authorities, such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, the Joint Coal Board, and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, which would have representation on such an authority. The National Pipeline Authority, now in the process of establishment, would have similar representation.
In the field of petroleum search, production, transport and refining, there is an obvious need for a national petroleum and minerals authority which would also be a constituent part of a national body. In on-shore petroleum exploration, excepting in the Northern Territory, there is only limited Commonwealth influence, as the common code of each State governs internal exploration and exploitation. Here, therefore, the development of a co-ordinated national policy is heavily dependent on the closest CommonwealthState co-operation. In off-shore petroleum exploration, there is undoubted Commonwealth sovereignty, and I will be asking Government approval for appropriate legislation for the establishment of a national petroleum and minerals authority at an early date. Such an authority would explore, produce, transport and refine petroleum. It would act by. Employing its own personnel and equipment in search; letting out contracts for search; acting in partnership with companies; in appropriate cases, taking up shares in companies; accepting ‘farm-ins’ to attractive areas; and granting ‘farm-outs’ from areas it held in its own right. Such an authority could act with great flexibility to deal with specific situations. It would act in concert with the Bureau of Mineral Resources which, I would remind honourable senators, was first established by the former Chifley Government, having as one of its functions to explore for petroleum.
Tn the formulation of an annual energy budget, the authorities to which 1 have referred would all make their contributions with advice and statistics based on their individual experience and data obtained from private company sources. Variations in technology from year to year would alter the weighting of the various resource uses, and in this regard, the research work of a special division to be established to deal with the scientific aspects of energy production and sources would be of vital importance. I refer here, of course, to such matters as solar energy.
It is necessary also to correct current impressions and propaganda relative to the source of total expenditure on petroleum exploration in Australia. To the end of 1971, $843m had been so expended. Of this, $174m has come from oil search subsidy payments by the Federal Government and by other forms of State and Federal government expenditure. But the cost of revenue of taxa tion concessions to the petroleum industry has not hitherto been published. The estimated cost of the concessions to shareholders under Sections 77a, 77d, 77c and 78 of the Income Tax Assessment Act in respect of the contribution of share capital to petroleum exploration and petroleum mining companies, for the period 1958 to 1971, is $110m. The estimated cost of past and future tax exempt dividends, payable by companies which are currently producing petroleum, following expenditures already incurred, is an additional $43m. The estimated cost of the special deductions allowed in the period 1966 to 1971, and of the entitlement to future deductions for capital expenditure on exploration by companies which have discovered petroleum is $92m. Thus the total to date of taxation concessions granted or available is $245m. Moreover, these figures do not take into account the cost of potential deductions available to those companies which are not yet producing petroleum and natural gas, but will undoubtedly do so. In aggregate, the contribution of public revenue to oil and natural gas exploration to date will be $4 1 9m - approximately 50 per cent - with more yet to be claimed when companies such as Woodside.Burmah Oil NL enter into production.
This is a vastly different picture to that presented by the propagandists for the petroleum lobby. With such a huge public contribution, it is staggering to note that no equity has been sought by our predecessors in office in crude oil and natural gas production. It would be impossible to accurately evaluate the assistance given by way of free information from the Bureau of Mineral Resources, to the various exploration companies. Here again, this has been done without thought of granting Commonwealth equity participation equivalent to such aid.
There is a growing awareness of a world energy crisis, and major industrial nations such as Japan and the United States of America, having depleted seriously their available resources, and being already heavily dependent on imports, particularly of crude oil, are now turning to ‘resources diplomacy’ to provide for their future needs. They are proposing a pooling of free world energy resources, with a uniform pricing structure. In opposition to them are such organisations as the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, whose reasoning is that oil is the ultimate ‘hedge’ in a world trading system that is adrift for want of a standard of value. The countries hi this group say that it is better to hold ‘black gold’ in one’s own ground than green paper in someone else’s, and that, in these circumstances, it may no longer be in a nation’s interest to maximise production of an exhaustible resource, which may be its only counter at the diplomatic game table.
In Opposition, Labor strongly opposed the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) legislation. We said then, and have maintained continuously, that it was wrong in principle and form, and a sacrifice of the natural assets of Australia. If vindication were needed, it has been provided by the Senate Committee, appointed under the former Government to inquire into its own legislation. That Committee found that the constitutional concepts underlying the legislation were inconsistent with what should be the proper constitutional relationship between the Parliament and executive.
The position of off-shore petroleum exploration today fully vindicates our vehement criticism. The Australian continental shelf, of li million square miles, is the world’s largest. Exploration under current permits relates to excessively large areas, which are being explored on a non-intensive - and I stress the word ‘non-intensive’ - basis. With the alleged dichotomy of constitutional powers, there is a lack of effective supervision and co-operation. There also is inadequate definition and protection of the national economic interest. The reserved royalties are ludicrous, and the ultimate revenue yield is inadequate.
In its present form the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act can permit the complete depletion of our off-shore resources within a 21-year period. Some of the world’s major international oil companies - there is no need for me to name them - are scuffling with each other to participate in farm-out arrangements with such an objective. We have yet to discover adequate reserves of crude oil. We still import between 28 per cent and 30 per cent of our total petroleum needs. Worse still, natural gas condensate and liquid petroleum gas, capable of being reconstructed into super premium motor spirit, are being exported. There are serious anomalies in the refining and transport of petroleum.
The Bureau of Mineral Resources estimates that some 70 per cent of off-shore exploration interests are held by overseas companies. There are 3 oil rigs only in the north west shelf, with an area of 140,000 square miles, held under exploration permits by the WoodsideBurmah group. In the North Sea, with a comparable area, some 40 such rigs are operating. Australian seismic search is at its lowest ebb since 1965. There are defective development procedures in use, and the offshore field development pattern is completely inadequate.
In return for an exploration expenditure of about $843m, the greater part of which has been and will continue to be, borne by the Commonwealth Government, there has been already discovered by exploration in Australia, on-shore and off-shore, some 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, over 2 billion barrels of crude oil, which together with condensate and liquid petroleum gas have a gross value of over $14 billion. That is taking natural gas at the on-shore gate valve or well head notional value of 20c per thousand cubic feet - a conservative valuation. In the light of future discovery prospects, particularly on the north west shelf, there has already been a remarkably high rate of potential return on exploration outlay.
The owners and keepers of the national estate and the nation’s resources are the Australian people, and their Government. We are particularly concerned that hitherto no consideration has been given by a company, holding exploration areas beyond its testing potential, as to whether the Commonwealth itself would be interested in their development. It is of paramount importance that Australia should develop and maintain local petroleum expertise, and a research capacity in all aspects of exploration, drilling and recovery of land, and in shallow and deep water alike.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed: I
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– On 12th April 1973 the Minister for Overseas Trade and Minister for Secondary Industry (Dr J. F. Cairns) tabled in the House of Representatives the report of the Committee on Small Business and made a brief accompanying statement. I seek leave to have the text of that statement incorporated in Hansard.
– On the same conditions as I stipulated in relation to the previous statement, I ask: Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows) -
This Committee consisted of businessmen and a university professor with experience in the problems of small business management. I express my appreciation of the work done by the Committee in analysing the problems it investigated and in making recommendations.
Honourable senators, however, may draw their own conclusions about the concern, the interest of the previous Government towards the problems of small business in Australia. Its decision to establish a group of experts to assist the then Department of Trade and Industry in this matter was made early in 1968. The report was completed in and was dated June 1971, but was not published, issued, presented to Parliament or made available for discussion by the previous Government. What went on between June 1971 and the end of 1972 about small business? I have decided now that it should be published and made available to honourable members and the public. Indeed it can become the basis upon which a policy for the development of small business can be worked out.
The terms of reference of the Committee were restricted to exploring ways of providing guidance to small business management to help in improving efficiency, rather than in undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the role of small business in the economy and of the problems faced by small business. Accordingly, the emphasis of the report is upon management aspects of improving small business efficiency. It concluded that Government initiatives are necessary to develop a coordinated plan to assist small business to increase its efficiency. Specifically, the Committee recommended that a continuing body should be established to initiate, promote, and, where necessary, implement proposals for the guidance of small-business management. The report as I have said, has not been considered in detail by the Government, but the Government is concerned to undertake a comprehensive program within the concept of the small business administration which was approved by the 1971 Launceston Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party.
The economic planning section of the Labor Party’s policy commits this Government in its platform to:
Assist small primary producers, retailers and others to adjust to changing economic conditions by expanding Agricultural Extension Services, by using Rural Reconstruction Boards, by establishing a Small Business Administration -
That is the point I emphasise in this context
And by instituting programs to retain and resettle small producers and retailers.
The Government believes that small business has and ought to have a vital role in the economy. Those businesses employing fewer than 100 persons, those employing fewer than 25 and even fewer than 4 are an extraordinarily large number of units and they have remained throughout the growth of big business a fairly constant proportion of the total, and they service the largest economic organisations in the community in a very vital and significant way. There is considerable scope for active government initiative in strengthening not only the competitiveness but also the contribution that small business makes to the economy. This initiative is all the more important in view of the disturbingly high level of the concentration of ownership within the Australian economy and particularly the level of foreign ownership which has been encouraged to develop.
It will be noted that the Committee considered that some important factors affecting small business, such as business financing, were outside its terms of reference. I make no comment on that, but it is surprising that such a thing was left outside the terms of reference. However, it noted also the need for study in depth of the financial matters affecting small business, and I agree with this view. Indeed, it is perhaps the most important aspect of the subject. I agree also with the basic view put forward by the Committee that there is a need for a continuing body to give specific attention to the special problems and needs of relatively small enterprises. As a first step, I am proposing to establish within the Department of Secondary Industry a unit or section which would specifically consider the problems encountered by Australia’s small manufacturers and, where appropriate, prepare recommendations on measures that might be required to meet these problems. It is from this section of the Department of Secondary Industry that I anticipate getting the advice and recommendations upon which the
Government will act as soon as possible. I do not expect that it will take long to arrive at positive proposals to put before the Cabinet and the House. In the meantime, I would like to give notice to the Parliament and to the people that the Government will soon take action to assist small business.
The Government recognises the importance of small business in the Australian economy. As figures quoted by the Committee’s report show for the year 1967-68 factories of 100 persons or fewer accounted for 47 per cent of all employment in manufacturing, 40 per cent of the total value of output and 96.5 per cent of all the factories. They were a total of 60,761 factories. I have mentioned their significance in relation to the large industrial concerns, those with 300, 1,000 or more employees over. The way in which they integrate into the large firms and the large factories is of quite fundamental importance. The significance of small business is even greater outside the manufacturing area although it may not be of greater economic significance. Furthermore, whereas there is a very high level of foreign ownership of large manufacturing enterprises, there is a very large percentage of Australian ownership in the smaller manufacturing enterprises.
Some guidance on the initiatives that can be taken in Australia to assist small business can be seen in the examples set out in the Committee’s report of what is done in other countries. These include institutions which are specifically involved in assistance to small business, such as the German Management and Productivity Association (RKW) of the Federal Republic of Germany; the Small Business Administration of .the United States; the Smaller Enterprise Agency of Japan; and the industrial liaison scheme in the United Kingdom. The report outlines a wide and detailed range of measures taken overseas in matters such as management assistance, technology, consultancy, training, and financial measures, which have never been even considered in Australia let alone any move made for their application. It seems to me strange that, after 23 years of Liberal-Country Party Government, supposedly concerned with enterprise and small business, this is the case. I invite and welcome suggestions and proposals from members of Parliament and the public on this matter, and I look forward to receiving suggestions and proposals, especially from people involved in small business, consultants, academics, inventors and others who can help to provide the best advice to specialists in my Department so that the legislation which the Government anticipates introducing within a short term can be the most appropriate for its purposes.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed: That the Senate take note of the statement. Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
– Mr President, 1 have a long statement which was delivered by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) in the other place on 12 April, the last day on which the other place sat before the Easter adjournment. Having heard your strictures, I have studied the statement and no printing complications arise from it. It has been circulated to honourable senators. I ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted?
– Senator Willesee gave me a copy of this statement some 2 or 3 hours ago. I have looked at it. The Opposition has no objection to its incorporation.
– There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
I have recently returned from a brief visit to Washington where I participated in discussions on reform of the international monetary system. These were discussions between finance ministers and treasurers of a representative group of countries known as the Committee of Twenty. This Committee was established in July 1972 by a resolution of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund. The Committee is charged with the task of reporting to the Board of Governors on all aspects of reform of the international monetary system. Australia is one of the 20 countries which is a full member of the Committee. It has special significance for us as a group, limited in size in which we can hear the views of others and express our own views on these matters.
The decision to establish the Committee of Twenty had its origin in the currency crisis of the late 1960s and early 1970s. In recent years these crises have increased in terms of both frequency and severity. This has raised doubts about the international monetary arrangements under which countries have been operating over the past quarter of a century.
According to one view, the present Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund were drafted primarily to deal with the problems of the 1930s- world wide depressions and vast unemployment, widespread restrictions on trade and payments, declining levels of internation trade, competitive exchange depreciations and a complete breakdown of international co-operation. These are not the basic problems of the 1970s. What we now need, according to this view, is something which helps us deal with the problems of the 1970s - world wide inflation, disequilibrating capital flows, competitive nonrevaluations and the break-down of the balance of payments adjustments process, in a world in which national economies are much more closely inter-related and inter-dependent in terms of trade and capital flows.
However, according to another view, the break down in the balance of payments adjustment process is due as much to the failure of individual countries to observe the rules of the system, as to the system itself. In particular it is argued that the current instability is largely a by-product of the continuing United States balance of payments deficit - a deficit which reached the astronomical proportions of around $US30 billion in 1971. The United States, it is said, should have taken earlier action to correct the deficit by slowing down internal inflation for example, by curbing capital outflow, by devaluing the United States dollar, or by some combination of these policies. Likewise the surplus countries operating within the existing Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund should have taken earlier action to check the growth in their reserves by curbing capital inflow, by revaluing their currencies and so on.
Probably there was some truth in both these points of view. More recently, however, developments in the international monetary situation have put a new slant on the discussions. One important fact is, of course, that the United States now has taken significant steps to correct its balance of payments deficit. In the first place the United States Government did take firm action domestically and this reduced its rate of inflation below that of nearly all major developed countries.
Then there was a general re-alignment of currencies which occurred at the time of the Smithsonian Agreement at the end of 1971. At that time the United States agreed to devalue the dollar by approximately 8 per cent. At the same time some of the surplus countries including Germany, Japan, Belgium and the Netherlands revalued their currencies upwards. This re-alignment was a positive contribution by both deficit and surplus countries to the attainment of better international balance of payments equilibrium.
However progress towards better balance was slow. The large United States deficit on current account continued, as had been expected, into 1972. But in addition there was no net inflow of short-term funds to the United States during 1972 as a whole. The floating of sterling in June 1972 cast some doubts on the viability of the new exchange rate pattern and by early 1973, with reserves still rising in Europe and Japan, there was a growing belief that some further re-alignment of exchange rates might be necessary.
In January 1973 the Italians, who had been experiencing a capital outflow, introduced a 2-tier exchange rate system. Almost immediately the Swiss, who had been experiencing substantial capital inflows, decided to allow the Swiss franc to float. There then ensued what has come to be known in Europe as the ping-pong’ effect, with capital bouncing over the border from Switzerland, which had taken new additional measures, to Germany and other European currencies, which had not. In the first 9 days of February 1973 the central banks of Europe and Japan absorbed no less than $US9 billion. The German central bank alone took in some $US6 billion. The exchange rates of most of the European currencies rose strongly in the market. It was then, on 12th February 1973, that the United States took a further decisive step by unilaterally devaluing the dollar another 10 per cent. At this time the Japanese authorities decided to allow the Japanese yen to float upwards in the market.
There was a strong body of opinion to the effect that this February 1973 readjustment of exchange rates should have been sufficient, in the long term, to achieve the international balance of payments adjustment required, particularly if there was reasonable progress in reducing trade barriers as a result of the discussions due to begin in September under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. But the markets themselves did not reflect this optimism. Indeed, by the end Of February 1973 speculative capital flows to Europe had again reached overwhelming proportions. In one day alone the German central bank took in no less than SUS2.7 billion. The Europeans and the Japanese closed their foreign exchange markets for roughly 2 weeks in the first half of March 1973~. When the European markets did reopen on 19th March it was on the basis that they would no longer maintain the established margins against the US dollar. A number of the European countries agreed to maintain maximum exchange rate margins of 2.25 per cent against each other. Others, including the pound sterling and the Italian lira, continued to float independently. In other words the major European countries, collectively or individually, were floating in relation to the US dollar, as were the Canadian dollar and the Japanese yen. lt was in the shadow of these events that the Committee of Twenty gathered in Washington for its second meeting on 26th and 27th March, ft was no longer a question of considering in academic fashion what changes in the monetary system might be desirable. The fact was that the monetary system set out in the Articles of Agreement of the International Monetary Fund had, in some basic respects, been abandoned by the major countries. And yet it was important not to be unduly influenced by these measures, taken under pressure, in assessing the needs of the longer term future. On the whole I believe the Committee took a properly balanced view in this respect. A number of specific issues were touched upon by the Committee of Twenty at its March meeting and I briefly list some of them:
The Committee of Twenty has not fixed the date of its next meeting. This will be determined in the light of the progress made by its various sub-committees and technical groups.
There is still a long way to go, as I see it, before a general consensus will emerge as to the monetary system which should apply in the future. However, notwithstanding some divergent points of view on various aspects of this matter, I think there are 2 basic points on which most countries would now agree. The first is that any monetary system of the future will need to pay due attention to the sovereignty of national governments. The second is that no new system, however well designed, will work unless the countries participating in it are prepared to co-operate in making it work. To that end there is general agreement that the role of the International Monetary Fund, as a forum for international co-operation in this matter, should be strengthened. I believe it is important, from Australia’s point of view, that this should be so.
We have an independent and growing economy, and we are jealous of our national sovereignty. At the same time we are living in a world where commercial and financial links between countries are growing. It is a world where some countries in their own interests are merging into regional blocs. If we are to maintain our independence, and if we are to maintain our economic advancement, we need a sound international monetary system which essentially provides for a multilateral rather than a regional or bilateral approach to world financial arrangements. That was one of the prime considerations for our giving our support to the establishment of the International Monetary Fund after World War II. That consideration is equally valid today.
I have given this brief account of some of the background to, and main issues surrounding, the recent meeting of the Committee of Twenty in order to inform the House of progress on these matters. For the information of honourable members, I also present the communique issued by this meeting of the Committee of Twenty, together with a glossary of terms, which the Treasury has prepared for me, and which I have found of assistance in these financial discussions. The documents read as follows:
Communique of the Committee of Twenty Washington 28th March 1973
The Committee of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund on reform of the international monetary system and related issues (the Committee of Twenty) held their second meeting in Washington on 26th and 27th March 1973, under the chairmanship of Mr Ali Wardhana, Minister of Finance for Indonesia.
By the courtesy of the Organisation of American States the meeting was held in the Pan American Union Building.
Mr Pierre Paul Schweitzer, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, took part in the meeting which was also attended by Mr Wilhelm Haferkamp, Vice-President of the EEC, Mr Rene Larre, General Manager of the BIS, Mr Emile Van Lennep, Secretary-General of the OECD, Mr Oliver Long, Director-General of the GATT, Mr Manuel Perez-Guerrero, Secretary-General of the UNCTAD, and Sir Denis Rickett, Vice-President of the IBRD.
The Committee received a report in which the Chairman of their Deputies, Mr Jeremy Morse, summarised the Deputies’ discussions to date on the adjustment process and exchange rate mechanism, reserve assets and convertibility, and capital flows.
The members of the Committee reaffirmed the need for a world monetary order, based on cooperation and consultation within the framework of a strengthened International Monetary Fund, that will encourage growth of world trade and employment as well as economic development and will support the domestic efforts of monetary authorities throughout the world to counteract inflation.
The members of the Committee exchanged views on the substance of international monetary reform in the light of recent developments in exchange markets and of countries’ policy reactions to these developments, and instructed their Deputies to take account of these events and their implications in their continuing work.
The members of the Committee recognised tjat the various elements of reform are inter-linked.
Their discussion of a reformed system centred on the following points:
There should be a better working of the adjustment process, in which adequate methods to assure timely and effective balance of pay- [” ments adjustment by both surplus and deficit countries would be assisted by improved international consultation in the Fund including the use of objective indicators. It was noted that the Deputies are establishing a technical group on indicators.
The importance of effective domestic policies for balance of payments adjustment was underlined.
Members of the Committee recognised that exchange rates must be a matter for international concern and consultation and that in the reformed system the exchange rate regime should remain based on stable but adjustable par values.
It was also recognised that floating rates could provide a useful technique in particular situations.
There was also general agreement on the need for exchange market stability and on the importance of Fund surveillance of exchange rate policies.
There should be better international management of global liquidity.
The role of reserve currencies should be reduced and the SDR should become the principal reserve asset of the reformed system.
The Deputies were asked to study further the conditions for a resumption of general convertibility, including questions relating to consolidation of excess reserve currency balances and to methods of settlement.
An intensive study should be made of effective means to deal with the problem of disequilirating c capital flows, including those associated with Euro-currency markets.
There should be a strong presumption against the use of trade controls for balance of payments purposes.
Developing countries would, however, be exempt wherever possible from trade and capital controls imposed by other countries and their particular circumstances would be taken into account in assessing controls that they themselves felt it necessary to apply.
The members of the Committee recognised the concerns of developing countries under current conditions and their interests in a reformed system.
They affirmed the desirability on the occasion of the reform of promoting economic development and the flow of real resources from developed to developing countries.
The Committee approved their Deputies’ program of future work.
In directing the attention of the Deputies to those aspects of reform which have an important bearing on the current situation, they recognised that procedures are already established for co-ordinating the work of the Executive Directors of the Fund with that of the Deputies.
They noted that the Deputies plan to expand their meeting schedule and to intensify their work between meetings, and they instructed the Deputies to proceed urgently with the preparation of a draft outline of the reform, in which the major issues would be presented to the Committee for decision.
The Committee will meet again at a time to be proposed by the Chairman in the light of the progress of the Deputies’ work.
Exchange rate arrangements - Bretton Woods system - Wider margins - Floating exchange rates - Alternative exchange rate arrangements including crawling peg and objective indicators - Intervention systems
Convertibility Deficit financing Asset settlement
Reserve currencies - Dollar overhang including substitution and funding
Gold - Numeraire - Two-tier gold market Special drawing rights - including allocations, designation, obligation to accept - The ‘Link’
Motivation Leads and lags Covered interest differential Disequilibrating flows Treatment of capital flows - Forward intervention - Harmonization of monetary policies - Swaps
A Glossary of Terms Relevant to Reform of the International Monetary System (The following simple glossary is intended to be no more than a brief introduction to some of the issues involved in reform of the international monetary system, and has been prepared to assist honourable members who may be interested.)
Exchange Rate Arrangements - ‘Bretton Woods System’ (or “Par Value System’). The exchange rate system approved at the Bretton
Woods Conference in 1944 involved an obligation upon countries to contain their exchange rates within fixed margins or bands of 1 per cent around par values agreed with the International Monetary Fund. As a protection against competitive devaluation, the par value could be changed only when a country faced a ‘fundamental disequilibrium’ in its balance of payments. The term ‘fundamental disequilibrium’ has never been precisely defined, but it is intended to describe a situation in which a country is in an external disequilibrium which can only be overcome by the imposition of restrictions or by unacceptable domestic deflation or inflation or by a change in the exchange rate. Once that situation has been reached, exchange action should be initiated. - Wider Margins
On 18th December 1971, a decision was taken at the International Monetary Fund that preserved the Bretton Woods concept of stable but adjustable par values but widened to 2i per cent on either side of the par value, the margins within which the exchange rates could fluctuate. The main purpose of this was to allow countries to maintain differential interest rate policies without experiencing heavy inflows (or outflows) of interest-sensitive short-term capital. The widening has also been seen as a means of making marginal adjustments in the competitive position through a marginal movement in the market exchange rate as distinct from a change in the par value. These 2 functions are presumably mutually exclusive. - Floating Exchange Rates
Under a floating system, exchange rates are determined primarily by the day-to-day forces operating in foreign exchange markets. There are several examples of floating rates at present, including the Japanese yen, the Canadian dollar and the pound sterling. Within this general system a number of possibilities can be distinguished:
Dirty’ floating is a pejorative term (the alternative being ‘clean’ floating) in which national authorities ‘manage’ the float, intervening in the foreign exchange market to buy or sell foreign currencies wilh their own currency to prevent an unwanted degree of movement in the exchange rate. (Intervention merely to smooth out short-term fluctuations in the exchange rate is generally regarded as legitimate.)
Legalised temporary floating has been suggested as a possible safety valve for a system of stable but adjustable par values. The exchange rate would be allowed to float on a temporary basis, under IMF supervision, to help find the right level for a new fixed exchange rate, when the existing rate could not be sustained because of speculative pressure. (At present the Fund has no authority to approve floating under any circumstances.) - Alternative Exchange Rate Arrangements
Participants in the reform exercise are generally agreed that exchange rate adjustment should be undertaken more frequently than was the practice under the Bretton Woods scheme. Two possible arrangements that would increase the degree of flexibility of a par value system are discussed below:
The signifiance of objective indicators derives from the establishment of outer values of the indicator or ‘trigger points’ at which a signal of balance of payments disequilibrium is emitted and at which, as a minimum, international consultation on the country’s exchange rate should occur. A stronger view is that the signal from an indicator should create a presumption that the country whose indicator gives the signal should initiate some kind of corrective action possibly in the exchange rate field.
The statistical series most favoured as objective indicators at present are the basic balance of payments position, the gross reserves or net reserves of the country in question:
Positive guidance’, ‘graduated pressures’ and ‘sanctions’ are terms used to describe possible action by the international community against a country whose indicators remain outside the trigger points. Possible courses of action range from consultation and suggestion to measures adopted by individual countries (with international approval) to discriminate against the trade of the offending country and/or the composition of its reserves.
As part of a system of objective indicators and generalized convertibility’, the United States introduced the concept of ‘convertibility points’ i e., levels of holdings of primary reserves (gold, SDR and reserve position in the Fund) above which a country would no longer be able to convert reserve currency balances into primary reserves. This is presumably intended as an incentive for surplus countries to respond to the signals of objective indicators. - Intervention Systems
Multi-currency intervention’ (MCI) is an arrangement by which participant countries would maintain permitted margins by buying or selling the currencies of each other country on the foreign exchange market. This arrangement neutralises the special ‘intervention currency’ role of the United States dollar under the Bretton Woods system. The present European ‘joint float’ is an example of multi-currency intervention.
Single-ended MCI’ is a particular form of MCI in which, to avoid the possibility of mutually conflicting market behaviour, responsibility for intervention is allocated either to the country whose curency needs support (‘floor intervention’) or whose currency is, under sirring upward pressures (‘ceiling intervention”). The present joint European float employs a double-ended MCI system, where intervention is carried out by either the floor’ currency or ‘ceiling’ currency country or by both simultaneously.
Market’ or ‘Article VIII’ convertibility means that the currency is available for payments and transfers for current international transactions, including redemption of officially held balances acquired from or needed for current transactions. The Australian dollar has this quality. The United States dollar retains it. though there is doubt about the extent to which the United States is prepared to convert officially held balances of its currency.
Gold Convertibility’ refers to the undertaking by the United States to ‘freely buy and sell’ gold, officially withdrawn in August 1971. Any future assumption of a convertibility obligation by the US would take the form of convertibility into ‘primary reserve assets’ .(gold, SDR or reserve positions in the Fund). - Deficit Financing
Since World War II the United States in particular has been able to finance a large part of its balance of payments deficits by means of its own currency which was acquired and held without conversion (into reserve assets) by countries that ran overall payments surpluses. This is ‘deficit financing’. Almost all other countries are obliged to finance any payments deficit entirely by running down reserve asset holdings or by negotiating temporary credit. - Asset Settlement
This is a system under which the payments imbalances of all countries, including reserve centres, are settled by the transfer of reserve assets. It therefore places an obligation on the issuer of a reserve currency to convert into primary reserves any net increase in its liabilities to official holders. In return the issuer would be assured of acquisition of primary reserves to the extent of any surplus it had. The twin objectives of this system are (a) to place a discipline upon reserve centres and (b) to control the growth of international liquidity.
Reserve Currencies - Dollar overhang
Official holdings of US dollar liabilities can refer to the disparity between the size of these outstanding claims and the level of US official reserves nominally available to finance the claims. Alternatively, it can be thought of as the amount of dollars not willingly held and that would be converted if that were allowed by the US.
Various proposals have been put forward to dca] with the problem. Any operation by which the holders of reserve currency balances exchange these for an alternative asset which does nol constitute a direct or immediate claim on the reserve centre is termed consolidation. It may take two forms - ‘substitution’ or ‘funding’.
Substitution involves the replacement of liquid reserve currency balances by other liquid claims in the form of SDR in the portfolios of reserve asset holders, generally through a ‘substitution account’ with the IMF. As a counterpart to this replacement, the Fund acquires a claim on the reserve centre. Substitution may be either voluntary or mandatory.
Funding usually means the replacement of liquid reserve currency claims by illiquid reserve currency claims (possibly in the form of long-term loans), in a bilateral deal between the reserve holder and the reserve centre. (Funding could presumably also be arranged multilaterally.)
Numeraire’. Gold is the numeraire of the Bretton Woods System in that it has been the major reserve asset and the unit of account or standard in terms of which par values are expressed in the IMF. The value of the SDR is defined as 0.888671 gram of fine gold and the value of the IMF’s assets is maintained in terms of gold.
The ‘two-tier market’ was introduced in March 1968 when it became impossible to continue to depress the private market price of gold to the official price level. The arrangement provided for private transactions in gold to take place at the prevailing free market-determined price, while all official gold transactions were to take place at an officially-determined price, equal to the gold parity of the currency concerned.
Special Drawing Rights (SDR)
The Special Drawing Rights facility was established in 1969 to meet the need, as and when it arose, for a supplement to the volume of official international reserves. SDR are internationally-created reserve assets whose value is guaranteed in terms of gold. Allocations of SDR are made to participants in the scheme according to their IMF quotas ‘subscriptions) which broadly reflect relative economic size. The system of designation ensures that participants with a balance of payments need to use SDR may do so and obtain promptly full value in convertible currency (for this purpose United States dollars, pounds sterling or French francs). In accordance with established procedures, the Fund designates a participant with a strong balance of payments and reserve position to provide convertible currency in exchange for SDR. Net receipts of SDR attract interest at 11 per cent per annum. The obligation to accept SDR is limited for each participant to twice the net amount allocated to it.
The whole complex of rules regarding the SDR may be modified within the existing Articles of Agreement of the Fund or by amendment of the Articles which requires the support of 80 per cent of the voting power.
The ‘link’ encompasses a number of possible approaches to providing additional financial resources to some or all developing countries via a link with the process of creating international liquidity in the form of SDR. This might be done bilaterally, between developed and developing countries, or multilaterally perhaps through development financing institutions (e.g. the World Bank, regional banks).
– Motivation Three motives can be usefully distinguished, conceptually, for international capital flows: long term investment in another country; interest arbitrage designed to maximise interest earnings on liquid funds; speculation on exchange rates. In practice these motives may co-exist. - Leads and Lags Short-term capital transfers can often be effected, despite exchange controls, by the practice of accelerating or delaying payments (‘leads’ and ‘lags’ respectively) associated with international trade. This is effectively an extension of short term credit and shows up in the capital account of the balance of payments under the ‘balancing item’. - Covered Interest Differential Short term interestsensitive capital flows will often be ‘covered’ in the forward exchange market to protect currency holders against exchange risk. The covered interest differential is the difference between the interest rates in the 2 countries concerned, adjusted by the difference between the spot and forward exchange rates. It is an index of the incentive for funds to move between markets provided that strong speculative views are not held about future currency values. - Disequilibrating flows Capital movements may be equilibrating’ where they finance temporary fluctuations elsewherein the balance of payments. Capital flows are ‘disequilibrating’ where they aggravate fluctuations in the balance of payments. - Treatment of Capital Flows The volume of capital flows can be ‘influenced’ by the imposition of direct controls or interest rate or other measures. Alternatively, the effects of capital flows may be offset’, domestically by the use of monetary policy and externally by financing them either with international reserve holdings or with swaps and other international credit arrangements:
Motion (by Senator Willesee) proposed:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.46 to 2.15 p.m.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is notice of motion No. 9, General Business, formal or not formal?
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent me moving a motion relating to the order of the business on the notice paper.
The motion will relate to the order of General Business tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator WITHERS (Western Australia - Leader of the Opposition (2.16) - I move:
That at 8 p.m. this day intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of General Business orders of the day Nos 16 and 8.
Order of the day No. 16 is the motion moved by Senator Wright for the appointment of a Senate select committee to inquire into the King Island shipping services. We on this side hope to dispose of that matter fairly quickly. I understand that for the Opposition Senator Rae has to conclude his speech, Senator Maunsell from the Australian Country Party has a short speech to make and Senator Byrne has a contribution to make. We would like to dispose of the matter reasonably quickly. Order of the day No. 8 is the Estate Duty (Termination) Bill 1973 which was introduced by Senator Kane. Senator Gietzelt took the adjournment of the debate. No doubt the Government has a point of view to put. Several members on our side have a point of view to put. I would not expect that a vote would be taken on the Bill tonight because many honourable senators have very strong views for and against Senator Kane’s Bill which seeks to repeal the Estate Duty (Assessment) Act. I would not expect the debate to be concluded tonight. We think that the motion for the appointment of a select committee can be disposed of by 8.45 p.m.
– I think that some senators on our side wish to speak on that matter.
– It may well be that Government senators will wish to speak for some time, but as soon as the motion is disposed of we will deal with the Estate Duty (Termination) Bill on which a number of senators wish to speak.
– We agree to that course being adopted.
– Discussions have taken place between the Whips.
– So I was just informed. Senator O’Byrne said that there, had been some discussion between the Whips.
– Discussions about what?
– About the order of business. They were endeavouring to reach some conclusion.
– I was not a party to those discussions. I probably was not available.
– Whether conclusion was reached, we will not oppose the motion.
– 1 think it should be said on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party that although we do nol intend to oppose the motion we are concerned that on a number of occasions of late, when arrangements were announced to the Senate on the basis that all parties had been consulted, the Democratic Labor Party had not been consulted.
– I did not say that the DLP had been consulted today.
– It has been said on a number of occasions. I am informed by our Whip that he knows nothing of the arrangements which have been made. If he could not be found, I am sure that either Senator Gair or I could have been found. We do not wish to obstruct the business, but we may be compelled to do so if all kinds of arrangements are entered into and we are not informed of them.
– In fairness to Senator O’Byrne, the Government Whip, I must clarify the situation, following the remarks which were made by Senator McManus. The time factor this morning was such that the deadline had been nearly reached, that is the Senate sitting, before I had an opportunity to discuss the matter with Senator O’Byrne. There was not time to go any further. 1 did not have time to talk to either Senator Maunsell or Senator Byrne. There was no premeditated connivance between Senator O’Byrne and myself. The time factor was such that it was impossible for me to have any further discussions at that time.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate) - by leave - Senator McManus has raised an important matter. The working and business of the Senate need to be regularised if we are to get through the business with efficiency and expedition. When in Opposition I spoke with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson when he was Leader of the Government in the Senate and his predecessors virtually each morning. The business has to be arranged either between the leaders or between the Whips.- I ask the leaders of the Opposition parties to call upon me so that the business of the Senate can be arranged. The leaders ought to get in touch with me, or the Whips should have discussions so that arrangements can be made. The Government Whip and the Opposition Whip have endeavoured to make some arrangement. Their discussions probably did not conclude. They were doing the best that they could. It is not fair if complaints are made about the endeavours which are made if the long standing arrangements are not being pursued. I know that all honourable senators are under pressure of work. The work has expanded. That fact has to be recognised. Arrangements have to be made either outside the chamber or as has been done here.
The proposal put by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) seemed to be reasonable enough to us. I suggest that the Opposition Whips ought to get in touch with Senator O’Byrne on these matters so that the order of business can be sorted out. I think they have a duty to get in touch with Senator O’Byrne. If they fail to communicate with him in some way, there ought to be no complaints. The long standing practice has been to communicate with the Government Whip. I do not want to criticise anyone. We do not want any fuss. I suggest, with all respect to the Senate, that this is the way in which it ought to be done.
– I used to get in touch with you.
– Yes. I am not suggesting that sometimes it should not happen in the reverse way. The arrangements are based on common sense and they have worked well, f suggest that they ought to work that way in the future.
– I point out to the Senate that this discussion arises over the placing of General Business which takes precedence over Government Business after 8 p.m. on Thursdays. Whatever the Opposition sees fit to bring forward for debate during its time is its business. The Opposition suggests to me the way in which it wishes to have its business carried out and I can only agree with the suggestion. Not only does the Opposition have the numbers on its side, but this is its time for debate. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, I am just advised of it. I will look after Government Business, and the Opposition has to look after its own business.
– The arrangement between the Whips usually has worked quite satisfactorily. It is regrettable that in this case consultation did not take place in the circumstances pointed out by Senator Young. One of the matters to be translated tonight is a motion standing in the name of Senator Kane of the Democratic Labor Party. It is our motion. I did not expect that motion to be brought on for debate tonight. I do not think Senator Kane was aware of it; I certainly was not. Generally speaking, the co-operation between the Whips has been close and efficient. I hope that that situation will continue.
– in reply - I agree with everything said by the Leader of the Government (Senator Murphy). Frankly, I understand the problems of this place, but I am always available for consultation each morning between 8.15 and 9 o’clock although after 9 o’clock each morning my day is full. I am quite willing to see Senator Murphy at 8.15 each morning. In that way we ought to be able to solve these problems.
– Who is seeing whom?
– I will call upon Senator Murphy. I said that I would see him. I naturally took it that I would call upon him. Senator Georges is far too sensitive. There are problems associated with the placing of business. One can start to wonder what is the use of the notice paper if we have to discuss the placing of business each day. If one is old fashioned, one looks at the notice paper and believes that it indicates how matters will fall. I was Government Whip for long enough to understand the problems of the Leader of the Government. He has to keep rearranging the business on behalf of the Government. We of the Opposition will cooperate as far as possible. We are anxious to do so. Senator Murphy is not only Leader of the Government in this place but also the ministerial head of 2 very big departments. I can understand the very great burden he carries. That is why I personally would have no objection if he left some of these arrangements to the 2 Whips, to relieve him of some of the responsibility he has to carry in this place.
– The 4 Whips.
– Well, left them to the 4 Whips. I would not be offended if he passed some of this responsibility over to his Whip. Sensible arrangements can cope with these problems. There is one thing 1 would say to Senator O’Byrne. We of the Opposition do not claim that Thursday night should be devoted to Opposition business. It is for General Business. It may well be that a Government back bencher has business to bring forward, and he is just as entitled to priority as is an Opposition senator. In effect, Thursday night is for non-Government business. Therefore, I would not like it to be thought that the Opposition has the sole claim to business on Thursday night.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– There is another matter I would like to raise. I move:
That, notwithstanding anything contained in tha Standing Orders, notice of motion No. 1 Government
Business, relating to the site of the new and permanent parliament house, be placed on the notice paper as Business of the Senate.
This matter affects the Senate as a whole, but at the moment it is on the notice paper as Government Business. I recall that previously a free vote was held on this subject. The notice of motion is in my name.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended. Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to make funds available for the State housing authorities so that they may provide more homes as early as possible for letting to needy families and persons. These are people who have satisfied the authorities that they are in need of housing assistance. This is the first step to give effect to the intention of the Australian Labor Party to reduce the waiting period for housing authority homes. The Government decided, on taking office, that the State housing situation required immediate action. Waiting lists of the State authorities had risen to well over 90,000 but commencements of government dwellings had fallen in the September quarter of 1972 to an annual rate of only 12.000 - about 6,000 fewer than in each of the years 1969-70 and 1970-71 and 3,000 less than in 1971-72. On being advised that this sharp decline in commencements was caused by a shortage of finance, the Government decided to offer immediate financial assistance. We undertook to make advances at a concessional rate of interest to meet expenditure incurred by the States up to 30th June 1973 on dwellings that they would not otherwise have commenced before that date.
A condition of the Government’s offer is that the additional dwellings to be commenced in this financial year will not be sold. On completion they will be for rental only. Those who seek rental accommodation are usually the more needy. All States have accepted the offer and have agreed to this condition. This Bill will appropriate a total of $6.55m. The amount available to each State, based on estimates by each housing authority of its additional expenditure up to 30th June next, is set out in the Schedule to the Bill. In accordance with clause 7, interest is payable on these advances at the very low rate of 4 per cent per annum, and the repayments will be spread over 53 years.
After the Government’s offer was conveyed to the States, it was put to us that they be permitted to spend some of these advances on the purchase and renovation of existing substandard, but structurally sound, houses. In many cases satisfactory accommodation can be made available more quickly by this means than by the construction of new dwellings. For this reason, and because the renovation of houses in older neighbourhoods assists the up-grading of these areas, the Government agreed to this proposal. Clause 6 of the Bill provides for the expenditure of the advances on the purchase of existing dwellings, as well as on new construction. As honourable senators will know, my colleague the Minister for Housing (Mr Les Johnson) has been discussing with State Housing Ministers proposals for a new housing agreement to apply for a period of 5 years from 1st July 1973. One of the Government’s proposals is that it will make advances to the States at a fixed interest rate of 4 per cent per annum for the period of the agreement. It is our intention that the funds needed to complete the additional commencements and renovations begun before 30th June next will be made available to the States early in 1973-74 as part of the advances payable under the new agreement.
I would now like to draw the attention of the Senate to sub-clause 2 of clause 8 of the Bill. This permits the sale of dwellings with the consent of the Minister. I want to emphasise that the Minister has no intention of consenting to the sale of any of these dwellings to prospective home owners. The States have all agreed to the Government’s condition that they must be reserved for renting to deserving persons. The provision permitting sales with ministerial consent has been included solely to avoid legal complications that could arise in the long-term future if there were no such provision and the land on which they stand were to be required for other uses. Clause 9 of the Bill contains provisions regarding the furnishing of certificates and information that are normally associated with the payment of moneys to the States for specific purposes.
In conclusion, Mr Deputy President, let me draw the attention of the Senate to a significant feature of this first civilian housing measure introduced by this Government. Consistent with the principles we adhere to, we are directing assistance to the more needy - those who are least able to provide adequate shelter for themselves and their families; those who need decent and reasonably priced rental accommodation. I ask for the co-operation of honourable senators in facilitating early passage of the Bill so that the advances it authorises may be paid to the States to enable them to proceed as quickly as possible with the provision of more of this most urgently needed accommodation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The Opposition will do what it can to facilitate the early passage of the Bill. If there are any specific proposals, please let us know.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I have received the following message from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives, having considered message No. 32 of the Senate, acquaints the Senate that the House has disagreed to the Senate’s modification of the resolution transmitted to the Senate by the House for the appointment of a Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and has made the following modification in place thereof;
Paragraph (5), omit the paragraph, insert the following paragraph:
That the Committee elect as Chairman of the Committee one of the members nominated by the Prime Minister or by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The House of Representative! desires the reconsideration by the Senate of the resolution in respect of the modification made by the House in place of the Senate modification.
Motion- (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– I move:
The reason for this modification by the House of Representatives is to ensure that the Chairman of the Committee may come from either House. It would be an unfortunate result if this important Committee were deprived of the distinguished chairmanship of Senator Wheeldon. Inadvertently, the Opposition’s proposal the other- night would have had that disastrous result. The proposal means that the Chairman of the Committee can come from either House. It was inherent in the proposal that the Chairman should be elected by the Committee from one of the members nominated, in effect, by the Government, but by inadvertence it was restricted to one of the members nominated by the Prime Minister, and the only members nominated by the Prime Minister would come from the House of Representatives. A similar matter is to be cleared up in respect of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory where it would have worked in the other direction.
– The Opposition does not oppose the motion. I am the villain in the piece in this matter, if there is one. As you will recall, Mr Deputy President, these amendments were drafted on the run. I should like to assure Senator Wheeldon, whom I have known for an awfully long time, that I was not a party to a plot to have Mr Manfred Cross as Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, as the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) desired. I am only too happy to go along with the wishes of the Labor Caucus.
- Mr Deputy President, I wonder whether a copy of the message which you read out could be given to honourable senators. I have an idea that copies were circulated earlier in the day, but I would be pleased if I could have a copy now. I have a query as to whether the wording of this message is exactly as Senator Murphy has indicated. A point concerned me in my earlier reading of this matter, although I may be incorrect in this. The message reads:
Paragraph (5), omit the paragraph, insert the following paragraph:
*(5) That the committee elect as Chairman of the Committee one of the members nominated by the Prime Minister or by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.’
My early recollection was that the amendments moved by Senator Withers in respect of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and by Senator Marriott in respect of the Joint Committee on the Austraiian Capital Territory were an attempt by the Opposition, I thought, to take away from the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Government in the Senate the right to nominate the Chairman of each Committee and to provide that the Chairman should be elected by the members of the Committees. Whether the effect was that the Prime Minister should nominate the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, I thought that the previous amendment indicated that it was the Senate’s wish that the nomination of the Chairman should come from the Committee. If my recollection is correct, [ do not agree with the wording of this message because it states:
Thai the Committee elect as Chairman of the Committee one of the members nominated by the Prime Minister or by the Lender of the Government in the Senate.
It is beyond our control as to whom the majority of members on the Committee direct their preference. But I thought that the Senate wished to adhere to the proposition, to which it has always adhered in relation to committees, that the Committee should elect its Chairman.
– in reply - Let it be clear that the intention of this message is to carry out what was accepted in the Senate. The members of a committee are nominated, in the case of Government members, by the Prime Minister in the other House and, in this chamber, by me. There is provision for the nomination of members to a committee by the leaders of the respective parties. That is to avoid the situation of appointment. Members are nominated and then, as I understand it, they are elected by the 2 chambers. Each chamber elects its own members to the Committee from those members nominated by the leaders of the respective parties. From then on the Committee nominates, and handles its election in the prescribed manner. The purport of this provision is that the Committee elect a chairman who is one of those members who has been elected to the Committee as a result of a nomination either by the Prime Minister or by the Leader of the Government in the Senate; in other words, he is a Government member.
– That is how I interpret Mli*.
– Let there be no doubt about it. That is how the provision works. There is no suggestion that the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Government in the Senate will go into the Committee and somehow nominate who the chairman will be. Their functions cease when they nominate persons whom the respective chambers elect to the Committee if they so desire.
– I accept the interpretation given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - I have received the following message from the House of Representatives:
The House of Representatives, having considered Message No. 33 of the Senate, acquaints the Senate that the House has disagreed to the Senate’s modification of the resolution transmitted to tha Senate by the House for the appointment of a Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and has made the following modification in place thereof: Paragraph (5), omit the paragraph, insert the following paragraph:
That the committee elect as chairman of tha Committee one of the members nominated by tha Prime Minister or by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.’.
The House of Representatives desires tha reconsideration by the Senate of the resolution in respect of the modification made by the House in place of tha Senate modification.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the message be taken into consideration forthwith.
– 1 move:
That the Senate does not insist on the modification to which the House of Representatives has disagreed and agrees to the modification made by the House of Representatives in place of the Senate’s modification, and that the Senate’s resolution be communicated to the House of Representatives by message.
The principle behind this is exactly the same as it was in relation to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. In this case the application differs because anyone from the House of Representatives would have been excluded from possible election as Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
– On behalf of the Opposition I say that we are not going to oppose this motion. I think it could be termed a ruthless use of numbers against something which is obvious Government policy. But I place on record my disapproval of what I see as the intent in this rather cunningly devised amendment in this particular case. The Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory, as I said earlier, was conceived and formed as a Senate committee. The Senate finally gave in to the then Government’s request that members from another place be included. Because the honourable member for the Australian Capital Territory was in opposition, we always gave him the job of Deputy Chairman of the Committee. But the Senate had the numbers and an honourable senator from the Government side was chairman. A couple of days ago we agreed to a motion for re-constituting this Committee. The number of members from the other place is now more than the number from the Senate. But we were asked to approve that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) appoint the chairman from Government members. We deleted that paragraph and the Senate agreed that the resolution should provide that the chairman be appointed from senators nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In other words, the Senate took the view that we had given way to the other place on the numbers but we were not going to give way in relation to the chairmanship of the Committee. We agreed that that position should rest in the Senate for the benefit of the people of the Australian Capital Territory as well as for the stature of the Senate. I believe that this Committee is much better controlled and organised in the Senate for and on behalf of the people of the Australian Capital Territory.
Although I will be privileged to be a member of the Committee I honestly believe that if the Senate loses control of this Committee it will be to the detriment of the people of the Australian Capital Territory. The grapevine tells me that a very good senator in Senator Milliner is to be the chosen chairman of the Committee or that his name will be submitted to the Committee. So we start off, we hope, with a senator in control of the Committee. But the motion to which we are agreeing permits the Government to say: ‘We want a senator out. We want our man from the House of Representatives in.’ If honourable senators from the Government side give in, then another point will be lost to the Senate. I do not want to be provocative on this, but only last night we heard the Prime Minister - if I heard him properly in the noise during his speech - say to members of the New Zealand delegation who were our guests that they had an admirable form of democratic government in that they had only one House of Parliament.
That, coming from the Prime Minister in the precincts of this Parliament and in front of guests of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, means that the Prime Minister is out to get rid of the Senate. One of the first 2 moves he will make is to denigrate the Senate whenever and wherever he can. Secondly, he will take from the Senate the powers and stature which it has. If we are going to have 26 honourable senators on the Government side who act spinelessly and let the Prime Minister get away with his, why are they not upstanding in the Senate to say: ‘Let us vote ourselves out of office.’ I give honourable senators a warning that this is a cunningly devised message. I am protesting at least on my own behalf very sincerely, but I have the authority to say that we will agree to this motion at this time because, in this instance, the Government should be able to put its policy into operation. But if honourable senators have any desire for the Senate to be retained let them not say that they have not been warned. I hope that the Committee as it will be constituted will be as successful as it has been in the past. In conclusion I say that I am confident that when the LiberalCountry Party coalition is returned to Government in about 18 months or. at the latest in 2 years the Australian Capital Territory Committee will come back to its former greater glory.
– I desire to support Senator Marriott in the sentiments which he has expressed. It is a well known fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is a hater of the Senate. There is no question but that the purpose behind his actions is to degrade the Senate as much as possible.
– He indicated that last night.
– There is no question about it; 1 know. I have talked to him at times. I know what he feels about the Senate and about honourable senators. He is out at all times to degrade this Senate. I think the sentiments expressed by Senator Marriott are worthy of deep consideration by honourable senators. But I think the Opposition is weak and spineless to accept this motion. If the Opposition is going to be a real Opposition it should get a bit of a backbone into it and fight properly. It should be standing up for the rights of the Senate in this case.
The situation is that the Government does not have a majority in the Senate. On every occasion when we throw something back to the other place with which we do not agree, and when the other place sends it back here a second time in a different form, are we going to give way? If we are going to be spineless like this we do not deserve to be a government. 1 say that quite sincerely because, as an Opposition, we should be standing up and fighting. I have been in the Senate almost 23± years. 1 have seen the Senate grow considerably in stature and importance over the years. Today in the eyes of the people of this country the Senate stands very well. I have had a Government supporter in another place tell me that when he moved amongst the people talking about salary increases for parliamentarians, the people said: ‘What do you blokes want a rise for? We do not mind those Senate blokes getting a rise because they work. But we do not want to give you blokes in the other place a rise’. That is the simple jargon that some people use.
As we travel around the country today, it can be seen that the Senate has great credit in the eyes of the people. It was only within the last year or so that on 3 occasions in debates in another place, honourable members were asking: ‘Why cannot we do this or that? The Senate does it. The Senate is the House. We are only a bunch of so and sos’. Now when an issue is before us on which we should stand up to the test we should do so. If we fight against a proposal and send it back to the other place, when it is returned to the Senate we should still adopt the same attitude and take the consequences. If the people want a double dissolution of the Parliament, let us have a double dissolution. When we fight such an election, we would fight it on our grounds and not on the defensive. We should select our own grounds. I would be happy to fight such an election on the right issue. I am surprised at the Opposition giving way on a matter like this. I support very strongly the sentiments expressed by Senator Marriott. I say this to the Opposition: For Heavens sake get a bit of spine into you.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party, perhaps because it is a Party that is particularly and almost exclusively identified with the Senate at this stage, sees a trespass on the traditional rights of the Senate in this field. Therefore, we object to and resent the message received from the House of Representatives and the proposition of the Government that the chairmanship of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory should rest in the hands of a member of the House of Representatives. It has been in the hands of a member of the Senate. We see no reason to disturb the position. Personally, 1 have been quite disturbed in more recent days by references - I do not canvass the merits or demerits of them now - made in the other place to this chamber. The Senate has been described in completely uncomplimentary terms. The formal actions taken in this place have been lightly brushed aside as being of no consequence. That is a situation that the Senate cannot afford to accept and by which it should not be required to abide.
I understand that on this matter the Opposition, while not approving of the proposition, is not prepared in a formal sense to dissent from it. The Democratic Labor Party dissents from it. We may not do this in a formal sense if the Opposition is accepting the proposition, though with reluctance. No doubt the proposition will be accepted on the voices. Our voices will be registered in the negative, although we shall not pursue the matter to a division. But I think that the Senate in its new-found significance in the democratic parliamentary society of Australia and with the public interest and attention that has been focussed on it should not be prepared to surrender authorities and powers now resting within it.
– What is the proposition that the honourable senator is objecting to at the moment?
– I am objecting to the Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory being drawn from the House of Representatives. Senator Marriott was the Chairman of the Committee. Perhaps the Senate can look at the whole Canberra position in a slightly more impartial and disinterested way than can a Committee constituted by members of another place in which representation of the Australian Capital Territory rests. I know that a proposal has been advanced to give the Australian Capital Territory senatorial representation. Perhaps the position can be met then when that happens. However, I should imagine that any honourable senator or honourable senators who represented the Australian Capital Territory would stand with Senator Marriott in his disposition to this proposition. Without unduly prolonging the Senate, I indicate on behalf of the Democratic Labor Party its resistance to this proposition, which resistance we shall take to the point of voting against it on the voices.
– The proposition is a simple one. The House of Representatives, as in the case of the other proposed Committee, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, accepted the view that this Committee, the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory should be able to elect its own chairman from either of the Houses of Parliament. The viewpoint taken in respect of this Committee also is that this principle should apply and that chairmanship of a simp’e standing committee such as this should not be confined to the members of one House. If we were to take that view, looking at the matter from the viewpoint of the Senate, no doubt it could be taken in respect of other parliamentary committees and there might be important committees the chairman of which should be drawn from the House of Representatives. I would think that it is more consistent with the equality between the Houses of Parliament and their co-ordination that if a Joint Committee were reconstituted the chairman would come from either House.
– Would the honourable senator suggest that in the case of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in which case the chairman is drawn from the other place by statute?
– That is done under an Act of Parliament.
– I know that.
– It is a special category.
– I know that.
– I think that as a principle, as is being provided for here, with a committee virtually composed of nonministerial members, the chairman ought to be drawn from either House of Parliament. There may be some special considerations. No doubt the Joint Committee of Public Accounts is one because it is set up under a special Act of Parliament. But we have before us a proposition that this position should apply to either House of Parliament. The suggestion that in some way this was intended to injure the Senate is not really borne out. In fact, Senator Marriott conceded that what the Government intends to do - it had already done it before this proposal came forward - is to select its nominee for the chairmanship. An election was he!d and Senator Milliner was chosen. So there is no suggestion that in some way there is a great plot to undermine the Senate by the simple carrying through of the principle which arose only because of a previous error when the Parliament was dealing with the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence.
It is conceded that an error was made in the case of that Committee. When that matter went to the other place it was noted because there was a similar kind of motion to be moved in relation to this Committee, lt was thought that the position should be the same in respect of both Committees, namely, that the chairmen could come from either House of Parliament. The position is as simple as that. If there were great historical reasons or some special case behind the matter, this did not enter into any one’s consideration. I heard no suggestion that that was the reason for the opposition to this proposal. In fact, the selection of Senator Milliner as chairman of the Committee goes counter to that. Certain things have been said about committees. The first point to be faced is that the Senate does not have to join in a Joint Committee. It has been said there is a majority of nongovernment honourable senators here. Apparently, it has been seen to be in the public interest in some areas to join with the other place in a Joint Committee. We must have regard to that. It is a matter entirely within the prerogative of the Senate whether it chooses to do so or not.
Something was said about the Prime Minister and his remarks last night at the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association dinner. I do not think that these lighthearted remarks should be taken as great indications or as statements of public policy. I am not saying that the Prime Minister has not held and expressed views about the Senate in the past. But I think it is a matter of public record that a committee of which he was a member on the last occasion when the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party consid- cred the mattei presented the proposal which was narrowly defeated to delete the abolition of the Senate from the platform of the Australian Labor Party. That is my recollection of the position. In fact, I recall that on a number of occasions, I think during the last Senate election campaign, the Prime Minister stated that the then Opposition would support the establishment of further select committees in the Senate. He has expressed some admiration for the work that has been done by select and standing committees of the Senate. That may help to put the record right, to some extent, in respect of those matters.
To put the record right in respect of other matters, let me say that 1 am informed that both the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Works Committee elect their own chairman and from either House; that is the information that I have just been given. Therefore. I suggest to the Senate that it is certainly worth considering whether there should be some principle as to whether there should be a restriction to one House or the other of the chairmanship of committees or whether the general principle of the chairman coming from either House ought to be followed. By agreeing to this motion we are falling in with the principle that in general the chairman should be able to be elected by the committee from its members, whether they come from one House or the other, and we are also following the principle that the chairman should come from the Government members from either House.
– by leave - I feel impelled to register my apprehension and concern at what I see as a trend away from the authority of Senate committees. I believe that the trend towards joint committees represents a weakening of the system of committees that we have developed in this Senate. 1 think we should be mighty careful to protect what we have gained and what has been proven to be a good system. Our system should not be submerged into a joint system that takes from this Senate the authority and ability to do those things which, as I have said, in recent years have been shown to be so good both for this institution and for the Parliament as a whole.
I thank honourable senators for the freedom they have given me to say these few words since I know that Senator Murphy, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, has replied. I feel very strongly about this. I am impelled to make these remarks in an atmosphere or aura, as it were, of concern that in the long term interests of this very important part of our parliamentary system we should take heed of what is being done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 8 March 1973 (vide page 280), on motion by Senator Sim:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– This is the resumption of the debate upon the report on Japan prepared and tabled by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. It is the resumption, too, of remarks which I commenced some 2 months ago on this subject. 1 shall be very brief today. In my previous remarks I referred to the utter fascination and complexity of Japan and the Japanese people. I set out to show Japan’s unique situation, born of history, isolation, a geography that makes the Japanese islands off-shore islands in conjunction with Russia and China, and a post-war growth which puts Japan today third in the industrial world. Today I want to deal merely with a few aspects and then to conclude.
Firstly, 1 draw the attention of the Senate to the conclusions and recommendations of the Senate Committee, in particular the data relating to trade and specifically JapanAustralia trade. There is an apprehension in the minds of some Australians that we are getting into a state of dependence upon Japan - a dangerous state of dependence. It is true that today Japan stands in relation to Australia as a trading nation precisely as Great Britain did some 30 years ago; Japan today takes some 28 per cent of Australia’s trade. It is important, I think, to draw the attention of the Senate to the conclusions of this Committee that from the standpoint of trade the 2 nations are mutually interdependent and there is no gross or adverse dependence by Australia upon Japan. Japan, the Committee found, needs Australian trade equally as much as Australia needs Japanese trade. The importance to Japan not only of a country that has immense natural resources - because both Russia and China may well have similar resources - but also of a country that is politically stable and capable of honouring contracts and delivering resources of a specific grade and volume at a particular time transcends other things. Those who look to Japan turning to China, Russia, other parts of Asia or other parts of the world should keep in mind that Australia’s ability to provide high quality resources to Japan is of vital importance to Japan just as Japan’s business is to Australia. That, I think, is of great importance.
Of equal importance is the Committee’s conclusion that, just as Japan does not want to have all its trading eggs in one basket, so, although we are mutually inter-dependent, should Australia look all the time towards diversifying its trade throughout the world. The Committee specifically suggests that if we take a harder look at the European Economic Community we may well find within that Community more and more opportunities for trade, and we may find them also in Central Europe. The report also stresses that we ought to have an overall and effective natural resources policy. It does not confirm the fears of some people that over the years we have sold the quarry, that in fact we have exported from Australia’s scarce materials, lt reaches the conclusion, based on facts, that the outflow of minerals so far has been wise and has not endangered Australia, but that nevertheless we should have a philosophy for the future.
On investment it concludes that, whilst we should encourage foreign investment, including that from Japan, because of the particular nature of the relationship of Japan to Australia with regard to raw materials it is essential that Japanese investment, shareholding and equity in Australian firms, particularly those that take part in exporting to Japan, should be a minority. The Committee recognises the danger of Japan having an interest at the Australian level and also an interest at its national level. There could, of course, be a vested interest by the Japanese in keeping down the export prices of materials.
The Committee also looks towards the need for feasibility studies of our resources and particularly for studies, the need for which appears to be urgent - I stress that, as I have done for years - of whether we should take our processing of raw materials to further and further sophisticated stages, not only to the finished product of the metal but also to the use of the metal in processing, fabrication and ancillary industries. So, in the practical things the report is, 1 suggest, very valuable in terms of recommendations.
I want to finish where I started. I said that
Japan was unique and that it was uniquely situated in geography alongside Russia, close to China, with America across the Pacific and with Western Europe growing up to the west. Japan has experienced a uniquely fortunate postwar period. I think the Japanese people would acknowledge themselves that certainly by their own extraordinary energy, intelligence and initiative but equally by the enormous help of the United States of America as well as with the very great goodwill of other countries, including Australia, Japan has been able to reach a state of great prosperity, great affluence and great influence in this world, whether it be for good or otherwise.
If there is a basic message of this report - it is not spelt out but I shall do so from a personal viewpoint - it is that a country which is so situated, so charged with responsibilities, so possessed of abilities and with such resources available to it has a major responsibility towards the peace keeping of this world. In saying that I am not necessarily advocating the rearmament of Japan or the nuclear equipping of Japan. What 1 am saying is that a country which has been helped to postwar peace, which has been helped to postwar prosperity and which has been helped to grow by those countries which want to be its friends, including Australia, has a major responsibility to prove to the world that it wants p<?ace not only for itself or under the protection of the American umbrella or through interlocking trade but also by its own efforts. 1 say this without suggesting any power groupings of the world, just so long as Western Europe and America work together in keeping peace in the world and Japan looks towards a parallel philosophy developed by those two countries whilst recognising that she has as neighbours Russia and China. Just so long as Western Europe, Japan and the United States have a single interest in peace keeping in this world, the abilities, the resources and the knowhow of those three great nations and groups of nations will ensure peace, and Japan can be an interlocking linch pin in this regard. I commend the report of the Committee to honourable senators. I believe it is only a start but I believe it is one of the most valuable reports on foreign affairs to come before this Parliament.
– I wish to speak briefly in this debate on the report presented by the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and
Defence. Having been fortunate enough to be one of the members of the Committee which carried out this inquiry, I wish to give a few of my impressions. Senator Carrick has covered a great deal of the ground in dealing with various aspects of Japan. The Committee was concerned with a nation which is rapidly becoming one of the top industrial nations of the world. As Senator Carrick pointed out, it will be a key nation in the maintenance of peace in this part of the world, namely, the South East Asian and Pacific areas. This is so mainly because of its location but also because of the type of people and number of people in Japan, as well as its tremendous industrial and defence capability. Japan is vitally concerned with peace because it lacks the essential raw materials needed for its industries and must obtain them from other parts of the world. It is vital to Japan’s existence that the sealanes and airlanes remain open. Therefore it has a vested interest in keeping the peace in the area that surrounds it.
Of course. Australia is interested in Japan from the point of view of trade. Because of the great interest that is taken in trade with Japan the Committee was able to obtain the. views of some of the top industrialists in this country. I think it was most important that we obtained their views and from my point of view - I believe this is the view point of other members of the Committee - their evidence was very enlightening. This trade relationship that we have with Japan is vital to us and vital to the Japanese. It is a matter which requires a great deal of study. Both nations agree that there is a necessity to diversify our trade because we are becoming more and more dependent on one another. While this is being recognised by our industrial leaders, our exporters and also the Japanese importers, it seems to me that this trend is increasing year by year.
When we compare the percentage exported to Japan with our total exports of various products we realise how evident this trend is. For example, 87 per cent of all the iron ore exported from Australia at the lime of the Committee’s inquiry went to Japan. Ninetyfive per cent of our copper went to Japan, 83 per cent of our coal, 54 per cent of our bauxite, 41 per cent of our wool, 66 per cent of our prawns and 99 per cent of our sorghum. Of course, the export of sorghum is only a recent innovation because it is a product which we have not exported a great deal previously. If we look at Australian exports in the light of the part they play in total Japanese imports, we find that Japan buys 88 per cent of its beef from Australia, 52 per cent of its mutton and lamb, 98 per cent of its oats, 89 per cent of its wool, 39 per cent of its iron ore and 55 per cent of its bauxite.
There is little doubt that as we develop our mineral resources and as the demand increases throughout the consuming countries of the world for our primary products, we will see even a greater demand from Japan for our products, particularly since the Japanese Government appears to be lifting some of its restrictions as to what the Japanese can buy, thus allowing them a great deal more freedom to purchase overseas goods. Japan will turn to Australia more and more to supply these goods, not only because we have the capacity to supply most of them but also because of our proximity to that country. In this way we feel that a closer association with Japan will develop in all fields, not only in relation to trade but also in relation to foreign affairs. By means of our assistance to Asian countries in particular, we can play a great part in this area of the world. Japan has the capacity to play a very important role in assisting the underdeveloped nations of South East Asia, and we have the capacity to assist them by supplying primary products.
I have been pleased with the commendation that this report has received from business people and academics not only in Australia but throughout the world. I have pleasure in reminding the Senate that a great deal of the praise is due to our Chairman, Senator Sim, our Deputy Chairman at that time, Senator Drury, as well as the other members of the Committee and the Committee’s staff. They did a tremendous job in organising the appearances of the various witnesses before the Committee. There is no doubt that the wealth of information that we were able to obtain from these people is responsible for the production of this report. I commend the report to the Senate.
– First of all I wish to pay a tribute to the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence for their hard work and co-operation during what I think was a unique inquiry. I believe that this was the first time that any parliamentary committee in the world had studied one country. To that extent this is a unique report. I think everyone has been very delighted at the response the report has received. Senator Maunsell has just made reference to the fact that the report has received wide commendation not only in Australia but also overseas.
I would be very remiss in my duties if 1 were not to pay a very great tribute to the members of the Committee’s secretariat, Mr Arthur Higgins and Mr Livermore, who were responsible for so much of the preparation of the report and the organisation of the Committee’s functions. They did a first class job and are to be greatly commended for their dedication. I wish to refer also to the assistance given to the Committee by Mr David Sissons of the Australian National University, who is an expert on Japan. His services were made available to the Committee by the ViceChancellor of the Australian National University, Sir John Crawford. Mr Sissons did an outstanding job. As a Japanese linguist he was able to translate documents from Japanese journals and newspapers for the Committee. His advice and assistance at all times played a very large part in the Committee’s work. 1 think that the recommendations and conclusions contained in the Committee’s report have been well covered already by Senator Carrick. 1 do not wish to go over all of them again. 1 wish to make reference only to one important matter, that is, the proposal by the Japanese for a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation. That proposal has been put forward since about 1955. It was brought to the Committee’s attention very early in its inquiries. The Committee received a great deal of evidence on the pros and cons of the proposal. It finally came down with a quite firm decision that Australia should not agree to enter into such a treaty. The Committee did so for a large number of reasons. One was the rather complex constitutional position in Australia. Another was that the Committee was of the opinion that Australia must be careful not to give an indication to the less developed nations of South East Asia that it is treating Japan in a different manner from that in which it is treating them. That is most important because there still exists throughout South East Asia some concern about Japan. Some of that concern is a legacy of World War 11. There are also some suspicions about Japan’s future intentions. Our relations with other countries in South East Asia would not be improved if they thought that we were treating Japan in some very special manner and if we were to give the indication that there is in existence a rich man’s club. Those are 1 or 2 of the reasons why the Committee did not favour the proposed treaty. The Committee did receive some very good evidence concerning entering into a lesser type of treaty arrangement. The Committee found itself in favour of doing that. At page 68 of its report the Committee has made reference to this matter.
I think it would be a good idea if the debate on this report were to be concluded today. As the time allotted for its consideration today has almost expired. I am not in a position to deal with the report at as great a length as I had intended to do. I will conclude my remarks by once again thanking all the members of the Committee for their help, co-operation and understanding and the witnesses for their assistance, and by saying that the transcript of evidence of this inquiry is probably the most valuable document available on Japan. It contains a wealth of information that is being given very wide use in academic circles.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 10 April (vide page 953), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition does not oppose this Bill. Frankly the Opposition wonders why it was ever introduced. I suppose the most that could be said for it is that it will help to boost the statistics that will be cited at the end of the autumn session by the Leader of the House (Mr Daly) to prove that the present Government has been responsible for instituting the greatest legislative program ever. Apart from that, there is not much to be said about this Bill. In effect all it seeks to do is to put into legislative form what the previous government did by administrative action for some two or three years. I suppose one could raise the argument in that respect that it is very good parliamentary procedure and so on to put things into legislative form. Quite frankly this Bill is almost not worth noting. For that reason the Opposition does not intend to speak to it at any length.
I wish to mention one thing in respect of this and certain other Bills on the notice paper to which the Opposition is not opposed. Some allegations have been made from time to time that the Senate has been frustrating the Government. It may have been frustrating to the Government, but the Senate has not as yet been frustrating the Government’s legislative program. I think the record speaks for itself in that regard. Where the Opposition has not been opposed to legislation it has been putting up only one or, at the most, 2 speakers to speak on it for a very short time. Provided supporters of the Government do exactly the same thing there is no reason why, by the time we finish Government Business at 6 p.m. on Thursday night, most of the Government’s legislative program will not have been dealt with. I anticipate this afternoon, given the cooperative spirit of the Government, being able to conclude the debates on not only the Book Bounty Bill but also the Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1973, the Repatriation Bill (No. 2) 1973 and possibly the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill 1973.
– That one will not be coming on for debate.
– The Opposition is prepared to deal with it. Most likely we would have been able to dispose of it. I have made those comments in answer to the charge which has been levelled at the Opposition that it has been frustrating the Government’s legislative program. Quite frankly, we of the Opposition have yet to see the program.
– I thank the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) for the speedy passage the Opposition has given to this Bill and for his very kind comments about the attitude the Opposition will adopt in relation to certain other Bills.
Bill read a second time.
– -I rise in Committee to mention a matter that is of concern to me. I refer to the definition of the word ‘book’. As I recall, the criterion for entitlement to a bounty is - I do not think it is amended by this Bill - is that the book must be of a literary or educational character. I understand that the term ‘literary* has been interpreted to include such ragged pieces of paper as ‘The Little Red Schoolbook’. I rise to seek from the responsible Minister information as to whether the prevailing advice is that the term ‘literary’ includes such rubbish as that. If so, I wish to go on record as expressing my opinion that, in the context of this Bill, ‘literary’ means a book which has some literary quality in the sense that it is not rubbishy, indecent pornography and it is something other than a magazine article or periodical. ‘Literary’ means a book of literary quality, especially when it is taken in conjunction with the other aspect that engaged the attention of the legislature when it defined the criterion for entitlement to this bounty, that is, ‘education’.
I hope I am not causing any inconvenience by asking the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) whether the prevailing interpretation of ‘literary’ in the context of this bounty is as I have described. I would invite the Minister, if he would be so good, lo lay on the table for consideration a short opinion from the Solicitor-General or any other authority to whom he wishes to refer the matter, i invite the Minister to be prepared by the time the estimates committees meet to justify the expenditure that has been made under the terms of this Bill.
– Do I take it that the honourable senator is not requiring this information at the moment but is simply saying that perhaps some information could be given to the Committee of the Whole at a later stage? If the honourable senator requires the information in relation to the passage of this Bill, I will move that progress be reported.
– That would be convenient.
– It would be convenient. Therefore, I move:
That progress be reported. 1 do so in order that the information may be obtained.
– Why not leave the Bill on the notice paper?
– The interjection of the honourable senator is not warranted. If Senator Wright wishes to have information before the Bill is passed he is entitled to have it. I have indicated that if the honourable senator desires the information now and he is asking for some formal kind of notification, he is entitled to have it. The only way that can be done is for progress to be reported. It is unfortunate from the point of view of time and delay that this action must be taken, but the honourable senator is entitled to the information.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
SOCIAL SERVICES BILL (No. 2) 1973 Second Reading
Debate resumed from I May (vide page 117 5), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This Bill relates to the extension of a concept commenced by the previous Government relating to the opportunity for people entitled to and in receipt of Australian-earned pensions to receive those pensions in other parts of the world should they choose to live in some other part of the world. The previous Government introduced the concept by way of negotiating agreements with other countries whereby this situation would become possible. This Bill extends that concept and provides that it will no longer be necessary to negotiate such an agreement. Pension rights will be available to persons who have become entitled to them in Australia, irrespective of the existence of such a reciprocal agreement. The Opposition does not oppose that extension. It is an extension of a concept developed by the previous Government. We do not do other than go along with the proposal. It recognises some of the changes which have come about, both in the capacity of a country to provide for welfare payments to its citizens and in the recognition of the changes which have come to world society as a result of travel, communication and migration. We now have a far more mobile community than existed in years before. This type of provision is a recognition of the needs and of the entitlements of people in the present day type of community.
I shall refer later to the question of the community’s ability to be able to pay for these types of provisions. There is also another matter which led to the moving of an amendment in the House of Representatives. I indicate to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) that for reasons which I shall explain, it is not the Opposition’s intention to move that amendment today. I hope that the Minister will reaffirm the undertaking given by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) in the House of Representatives. I shall now make some comments on the Minister’s second reading speech. As some other previous second reading speeches relating to Bills have done, it raises some matters of party political importance, although not of great relevance to the Bill itself. The Minister said that this Bill is a recognition of the special rights and needs of migrants in this country and was justice too long denied them. The Bill is not limited to making provision for migrants in Australia. Its provisions extend to all citizens of Australia.
If the Government is to lake claim for doing things for migrants, such as recognising the special rights and needs of migrants in this country, which it suggests the previous Government denied them for too long, 1 ask the Minister who made this speech, his Cabinet colleagues and his Party to reconsider what they are doing to the migrant community of Australia in other ways. It is all very well to take credit for something which is being done but which, after all, is only a continuation of a concept developed by the previous Government, and then to suggest that the previous Government was unmindful of the rights and needs of migrants to this country at a time when the migrant community is more unsettled by the actions of the new Government than it was during the whole 23 years of the preceding Government. But I simply remind honourable senators that such claims can be used as 2-edged swords. If there is a genuine interest in looking after the migrant community and seeing that its rights and needs are met I hope that we will not have wide-sweeping unsettling accusations made about sections of that migrant community, accusations which do have a disturbing and unfortunate effect on the migrant community.
The Minister in his second reading speech also said:
This Bill marks another instalment in the implementation of the Whitlam Government’s progressive policy in the social welfare area and will be followed by many other measures designed to ensure that we resume our rightful place as a pioneer and leader in this field.
That statement comes from a representative of the only Party which has ever reduced pensions in the history of this country. While the Government is throwing bouquets to itself and brickbats at others perhaps it should remember that fact and be a little fair. Honourable senators should remember in considering this matter that the greatest development in social welfare policies took place in the period of office of the preceding Government. If the new Government is able to do as well as the preceding Government in the social welfare area I will be pleased to give it credit when it has completed the job. I think it is a little premature for supporters of the Government to be patting themselves on their backs at this stage. Let us wait to see what the Government’s performance really is. Amongst other things a country has to be able to afford social welfare legislation. If the administration of this country is to follow the incredible course which it has begun to follow, in which inflation has been allowed to run rampant, where Government action is taken regardless of its inflationary effect and regardless of the detriment to the country’s ability to be able to provide proper social welfare legislation, where steps are taken which are totally unrelated to the economic management of the country, we will find that rather than having a capacity to increase social welfare legislation the Government’s capacity to provide for it will be decreased. That is something which I am sure no member of the Opposition would wish to see happen.
What do we find? When we look around at the moment we find that the Government is prepared to adopt what might be very loosely termed a prices policy but it is not prepared to adopt an incomes policy. I accept that there is a need in economic management in Australia to be able to adopt at least on a stop-go basis a form of prices and incomes policy. In saying that, 1 do not speak formally on behalf of the Opposition; I am expressing a personal view. The Government is adopting the approach that it is all right to contain prices but it does not have to worry about incomes. The Government is providing tremendous benefits to certain sections of the community by introducing legislation such as the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill, without having regard to the effect that it will have. In one sense, I might be straying a little from the present Bill, but it is relevant to the claim which has been made that the Government is introducing this Bill as one step in its implementation of a progressive policy in the social welfare area.
I am most concerned because apparently the Government is prepared to introduce compensation legislation which will give to Commonwealth employees 100 per cent benefits at a time when the Government is also talking about a national superannuation scheme and doing away with fault liability so far as negligence actions are concerned. Has the Government related the effect of the provision of 100 per cent compensation benefits to Commonwealth employees to what it can provide and what the country can provide in relation to a national superannuation scheme or a no-fault insurance liability scheme? These are the sorts of things which concern me. At the moment I do not see any evidence of an inter-relationship into a program which should be forthcoming from a responsible government. We get the impression that it is rushing around doing things, many of which are wholly desirable in themselves but which have not been inter-related in the overall economic management of the country. I remind the Government that at the moment it is luxuriating in the benefits of the good administration of the previous 23 years which led the development of this nation to a stage at which it is possible for the sort of things that the Government is doing to be done. 1 do not think it should become so over-enthusiastic in doing some of the things that it is doing that it neglects the areas of management of the economy which will make these steps possible.
If, as a result of the steps being taken or as a result of the failure to take steps to control inflation in this country, pensions are eroded, then net harm rather than good has been done by the Government notwithstanding the fact that it may have extended some of the benefits to some of the pensioners at some of the times. If, as we are led to believe by some of the leaks which seem to be coming out of the office of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) or out of other offices, there are to be increases in taxation, will they - particularly the fields of taxation in which the indications are that the increases will be imposed - have a net effect on the productivity of the nation? In other words, will the increases have an effect on the capacity of the nation to pay for social welfare legislation? I raise these matters in passing because, although the Opposition does not oppose the passage of the Bill, it is concerned at the way in which the Government is running the country. I do not intend to debate this aspect much longer. There will be other occasions which are related more directly to the matters on which I would certainly wish to make f urther remarks.
I direct my attention now to one area of possible abuse which appears to arise under the Bill. I will give an example. Under the legislation, a young British woman who was a deserted wife or unwed mother could come to Australia for a year or 2 and become entitled to receive a pension paid by the Australian taxpayer for the remainder of her life back in England. That appears to be something which would not be intended by the Government. It would appear to be something which would constitute an abuse, and it would appear to be something which was undesirable if that were the effect. This point was raised in the House of Representatives. An amendment which was intended to overcome that possibility was moved. In speaking to it, the Minister, Mr Hayden, the honourable member for Oxley, as reported at page 1347 of the House of Representatives Hansard, said:
Steps have been taken or are about to be taken - if they have not been initiated they should have been - to renegotiate the agreements with the United Kingdom and New Zealand. I am certain that in the light of developments which have taken place, and the provisions of this Bill, both countries will want to re-assess their position vis-a-vis the agreements. The Government does not accept the honourable member’s amendment. In fact, as I analyse the wording of the amendment 1 can see no difference in import between what is proposed and the provisions of the Bill.
The Opposition believes that the Minister was saying that if full investigation shows that there are abuses available which would impose an extra and unwarranted load on the Australian taxpayer steps will be taken by the Government to ensure that those abuses are prevented. We accept that interpretation of the assurance given by the Minister in the other House. For that reason we are not moving an amendment in this chamber. But we say this: We have put the Government on notice. We have expressed a concern. It is up to the Government to ensure that this type of abuse cannot take place. If it does take place and if it comes to our notice we shall be quick to point out 2 things - first, the need for alteration and, secondly, the fact that we warned that it was possible that such abuses could take place. Other than that, we do not intend to delay the passage of the Bill, which will bring desirable benefits to quite a considerable number- of Australians.
– Hear, hear!
– I am pleased to hear that interjection. We see the Bill as a continuation and a development of a concept which is wholly desirable. We in no way oppose the concept. The Opposition, when in Government, had commenced the steps of which the Bill is a further development. We support the overall concept. We warn the Government about the economic management of the country and its capacity to continue to provide desirable social welfare alterations if the country is not managed in a way which enables it to afford those alterations, and we warn about what appear to us to be potential abuses available under the Bill.
– I am very happy to participate in the debate and to support the remarks of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) because on the last day of the previous Parliament the then Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Greenwood, and myself each had a 7-minute burst about the merits of what his Government was proposing and what the Opposition, if elected, would do. We have subsequently done that. That is the first reason why I am happy to participate in the debate. The second reason is that as early as 1956, on the first occasion that 1 went to Eastern Europe, I was very pleased to meet men in their 60s and 70s who had given the best years of their lives in the big steel mills in Pittsburgh in the United States, many of whom had gone there as young men and had remained unmarried, who had come back at the age of 66 or so. Thanks to the United States social service system, they were able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living in the last few years of their lives in their homes in Eastern European countries.
Australia is supposed to be a fat cat nation economically. I concede some of the difficulties about which Senator Rae spoke. I have- always thought that we could do better. Irrespective of recent happenings among a minute minority of one ethnic group, Senator Fitzgerald and Senator Georges, in particular, and I have agitated within a reasonable ambit among migrant groups to try to inject into the Australian political scene the hopes and aspirations of these migrant people as far as social service equity is concerned. After all, whatever may be ahead, whatever may be around the corner economically, I always have argued that if sacrifices have to be made or if reforms have to be introduced the man working on the open hearth at Port Kembla or in a similar job at Whyalla should have equal priority with the person with fringe benefits such as working in an air-conditioned office. Our values on these things often get blurred.
I recall the last day of the last Parliament and the crux of the difference between Senator Greenwood and myself. He reeled off a list of the nations with which Australia was negotiating and I questioned Australia’s ability to reach agreement with them. When 1 looked at the table presented in the other place by the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) I found that of the 27 countries with which the previous Minister, Mr Wentworth, negotiated, Australia was successful in getting gains from only 4. I am pleased to see the attitude taken by all the parties represented here, The Labor Party questioned what the previous Government was doing about the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill. We wanted to get it into orbit so that people could gain something. In the last 3 or 4 weeks I have represented the Minister for Immigration (Mr Grassby) at a number of functions and the cry of the people attending them has been: ‘When will the pensions legislation get into orbit?’
Senator Rae took up the point of what the Minister for the Media meant by ‘further instalments’. I pay full tribute to the Government on the introduction of this type of legislation because under it we are beholden to no nation. We are dealing with individuals. I think there is another group of individuals that will have to be considered. I refer to some of the poor individuals who have come to this country, have been lonely, have worked their guts out, if I may use the vernacular, for 4 or 5 years and then have suffered nervous breakdowns. It could be claimed that some of their problems were due to industrial fatigue. Some of those people have been rehabilitated and sent home, some of them to peasant communities. True it is that they have a roof over their heads and a bed. However, I believe that Australian industry, parts of which regarded those people as cheap cannon fodder, could have done more.
Traversing some of what Senator Rae said, let me say that I know that he was talking mainly in a constructive way, but he made a backslap about relations with ethnic groups. I want to get down to the realities and I am fortified by the editorials and commendations which have appeared in such major ethnic newspapers as ‘La Fiamma’, ‘Nova Dobra’, the ‘Hellenic Herald’ and Triglav’. Those newspapers encouraged their readers to get cracking during the last election campaign, to badger every parliamentarian and every aspirant wishing to become a representative in Canberra and to hammer them about what they wanted. Senator Kane would agree with that remark because he, together with a number of Labor representatives including my colleagues Senator Fitzgerald and Dr Klugman, attended a rally at the Paddington Town Hall. It was patently clear that all the ethnic groups represented there were demanding that Australia put its hand on the tiller, like the United States of America, and not wait for these direct agreements. No member of the then Government was present on that occasion. If we could go through the archives of the previous Government I am sure we would find that the previous Minister, Mr Wentworth, in his heart of hearts, probably would have liked to have followed the section 137 proclamation in the Social Services Act. When all of us returned to Canberra from that rally I felt that there was no doubt about the reform that the major ethnic groups wanted.
One of the groups which will gain from this legislation is that which is composed of people from the Baltic countries which are part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Let us face the facts of life. Some of the countries would have welcomed agreements, but the bulk did not. For various reasons the Soviet Union was not enthusiastic about it. I know that the general idea is to utilise a bank in Geneva, I think, and for the money to flow to banks in other countries. I do not doubt that from time to time we will have problems. I know that in earlier debates people argued about what the Yugoslav Government might do. I say this to them: I am not unaware of what happened at times in the past and what the Spanish Government or the Greek Government may want to do or attempt to do in the future; but this is not a time to indulge in trying to score points on an ethnic basis. It is a time to stand back.
We on this side of the chamber can go among the various ethnic groups and tell them that this is the first instalment. Senator Rae referred to a 23-year sequence of events. The plain fact is that the discriminatory provisions of the Crimes Act about deportation are still included in that legislation and they affect people who have acquired Australian citizenship. We on this side do not speak with our tongues in our cheeks. The effective way in which ethnic groups carried out their campaign during the last election campaign was a healthy political activity. I am far, far happier to see thousands of petitions, such as those that flowed in from the Sydney Italian community, and equally from the Slovene community, than to see somebody be so misguided as to believe that this Parliament can stop everything and try to redraw the boundaries of Europe. That cannot be done. 1 wind up my remarks by saying that I am happy that the Opposition is not raising any obstacles. This Bill will affect men who have given the best years of their lives to this country. Some of them have been maimed and undergone amputations as a result of accidents in heavy industry, perhaps at Mount lsa and other places such as that. I sincerely hope that in the latter part of their lives they will be able to relax while fishing on the shores of the Adriatic Sea or at some other place. They will have well and truly earned it. This legislation is small compensation for their efforts in the Australian work force.
– As Senator Rae indicated, we of the Opposition do not propose to oppose this Bill. After all, it provides a great number of benefits for many people, ft will extend financial assistance and provide a considerable number of opportunities for people, particularly those in the migrant community, to participate in the intercontinental movement of which, in this age of mobility, we are all very much aware. It will particularly facilitate the contentment of people and permit the reunion of families. It will assist in providing security for senior people who wish to live in certain places. Because the Bill does these things, we are not opposing it.
I draw attention to an extract from the second reading speech of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). Very early in his speech he said: pensioners receiving age and invalid pensions . . . will be able to receive those pensions wherever they choose to live. This right to unlimited transferability of pensions will not depend on the negotiation of reciprocal agreements with other countries . . . special residence qualifications will no longer be required for portability of pensions.
The Minister went on to say that this represented a radical departure from the present arrangements. The Minister, with some reluc tance, I fear, and with some sense of disappointment on my part, made but a brief concession to the fact that the previous Government had embarked on an objective involving the reciprocity of pensions. I am sorry to say that the Minister again was less than fair when he failed to acknowledge what had been done in this field. He failed to acknowledge the initiative taken by the previous Administration. He failed to acknowledge that the former Minister for Social Services had worked particularly assiduously on this matter and already had achieved a degree of success, and that plans were formulated for what undoubtedly would have been later successes. lt is a matter of some disappointment that, in making a total assessment of this matter and presenting it to the Senate, the Minister did not take those factors into account.
I want to underline what Senator Rae said a little earlier. The incoming Government found itself in possession of sufficient finance and a stable economy which enabled it to move forward into the sphere of extending services on the wide and sweeping scale that it has announced it proposes. I hope that the Minister will not run into any major problems in the international sphere as far as the reciprocity of pensions is concerned. Our style and nature of pensions are different from those of many other countries. Our system is different from those of many other countries. Our pension system does not have the gradual nature which is to be found in the pension systems of some other countries. Either we are eligible or we are not eligible for a pension. Our pensions are non-contributory, which is an unusual characteristic in pensions in some other countries. Of course, at the present time the rates of our pensions are comparatively high in comparison with those of pensions paid overseas.
A great proportion of our migrant people who already are living in Australia and have lived here for a number of years know the advantage of these reciprocal arrangements. There are reciprocal arrangements with the United Kingdom, Italy, Greece, Malta and Turkey. These countries were covered by reciprocal arrangements, and the migrants from them also were covered. These are 4 or 5 of the source countries which are contributing a great proportion of our migrant community. Plans were in hand to have agreements with the Netherlands and other countries.
It is important to add at this stage that while we support the Bill and recognise its value, 1 think it should be placed on record for the people to see that a great deal already has been done, a great deal of initiative already has been taken. Because of the philosophy and policy of the previous Government, provision was made for guarding against complications that might arise in relation to the movement of money as well as the movement of people. I hope for the sake of the people who will benefit from this measure that the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will not run into any international problems relating to the transferability of finance. As we all have said, and I say it again, the nature of this measure is related closely to the welfare of migrants, lt is true that they are not the only section of the community who will benefit from this measure, but because of the very nature of the case, it is a fact that the migrant community within Australia will stand to benefit considerably from the measure which is before the Senate this afternoon.
This matter will affect the mobility of migrants. It will have an influence as to whether they determine to live in Australia or in some other part of the world for a portion of their lives or in their latter years. But what needs to be said, and said again, is that these same migrants are able to put themselves in a position to do this simply because the social benefits for the migrant community were continually advanced during the years of the previous administration. There were not only social benefits and welfare benefits but also educational benefits and all manner of facilities for migrants in this country to enable them to move.
I draw the Senate’s attention to the 2 reports which related to the departure movements of migrants from Australia. It is true that these 2 reports indicated that a percentage of migrants - and naturally it was a higher percentage than any one of us wanted to see - were leaving Australia and returning to their source countries or going elsewhere. But if one examines these reports it will be seen that financial circumstances were not the main reason for this movement of migrants. Personal reasons, such as homesickness or family circumstances, compelled migrants to return to their source countries. There were personal and family reasons over which nobody had any control, rather than any financial or economic reasons existing in Australia. So we need to draw attention to the fact that of all the receiving countries of migrants, Australia is retaining a greater proportion of its migrant community. Migrants now will have a particular advantage and facility to enable them to engage in mobility which they might not have had in the past.
The Minister for the Media will not be surprised if I refer to the financing of this large and diverse measure. 1 think I understand the situation that probably it is not possible at this stage to present any figure of cost or possible cost. The measure before the Senate is one of wide flexibility. I draw the Senate’s attention to the Minister’s own words where he referred to unlimited transferability. This to me poses the possibility of uncontrolled and unlimited expenditure. I say to the Minister and to the Senate that even in a social measure for which we all have warm endorsement and which will benefit so many people, the question of the taxpayers’ rights should not be overlooked. After all, this money will come from the taxpayers in large amounts.
Lt is also not unimportant to observe that the responsibilities of the recipients should not be overlooked. After all, they are the beneficiaries of the measure which is before us, and it is wise that they should exercise responsibility with their benefits. It is also important that they should know what financial commitment the Government, the country and the taxpayers of the country are making in order to enable them to have this kind of facility and advantage. I hope that the Minister will respond to this persistent inquiry that is made - indeed, I expect him to respond. I expect the Government to respond to this area of inquiry and to indicate, if not today at least in the near future, any steps that it may have in mind in order to give a guide to the Parliament, to the Senate and to the country as to the possible cost of this measure over a given period; as to what the financial involvement of the Government and of the country will be. If this plan, as set out, is implemented straight away, then I say to the Minister that he should be in a position to give some information to the Senate as a preliminary guide in the near future and before too long because we all are concerned that these people should have this advantage. We all are concerned also that the money that the scheme will cost is well spent. .
Many references have been made in this place and in the other place to the fact that the Bill presents possibilities of abuse. Indeed, I am not satisfied that the Bill is sufficiently tidy. Because of its wide-ranging and farreaching nature, I am not satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in the Bill. I support the measure and hope that the people who benefit from it will get considerable satisfaction, contentment and pleasure from it. I hope also that all who are entrusted with administration will exercise their quite serious responsibilities with a sense of stewardship so that there will be maximum benefit for all of the people concerned from the measure which the Government has introduced.
– The Social Services Bill (No. 2) 1973 is an important legislative measure. It departs quite radically from previously accepted standards in the field of portability of pensions. The Bill is designed to enable pensioners receiving age and invalid pensions, including wives’ pensions or widows’ pensions in Australia, to receive those pensions wherever they choose to live. It is interesting to note that under the present arrangements, for portability to occur a pensioner has in general to have been resident in Australia for at least 20 years after achieving the age of 16 years and, additionally, can attract portability rights only in 4 countries - Italy, Greece, Turkey and Malta. In addition, there are long-standing reciprocal social security benefit rights for Australians in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. But these are comprehensive reciprocal rights as distinct from pension portability rights.
The Bill proposes that portability will now be provided without any requirement for reciprocal arrangements with other countries. An Australian pensioner will be able to take a pension right anywhere in the world after 10 years of Australian residence, in the case of an age pension, and after 5 years Australian residence, in the case of an invalid pension where the invalidity has occurred in Australia. No period of residency is required in the case of widowhood where the couple were permanently resident in Australia when the husband died. Portability of pensions is no innovation. It was envisaged and enabled by the Liberal-Country Party Government. But there are some sizeable departures from what has existed previously. 1 think that the comments which were made by the previous two Opposition speakers - Senator Rae and Senator Davidson are of particular importance to this debate. It would not be the wish of any honourable senator at any time, if it were within his power, to oppose the granting of benefits to any individual in the community. At this time we are faced with so much legislation which is so attractive that an honourable senator or honourable member of this Parliament could say: T agree entirely with the benefit which is going to be handed to some individual.’ Four weeks annual leave will impose an enormous burden on the Commonwealth. This will be immediately followed by an enormous financial burden on the various States. Ministers who come into this chamber are not able to say what the impact or impost of such legislation may be when it eventually flows into the community.
A Bill which will come before us relates to Commonwealth employees compensation. It has had such an impact on the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union that its members wish to deny postal deliveries to members of Parliament, so concerned are they that this benefit should not be disallowed them. As a senator I am anxious to grant this benefit to them. It is of no electoral advantage for any honourable senator to stand up and say: Wait a minute. Perhaps we should just consider what the impact of such measures of enormous expenditure will be when they flow throughout the community’. No member of the Opposition wants to stand at any stage and say that we would prefer something to be taken in slow measure. At this time we are considering the Social Services Bill (No. 2) which grants great benefits to the elderly citizens in the community. The Opposition is not opposing this Bill because, in this instance, it sees that the Government has a right to introduce the measure and expand the benefits of portability of pensions. This measure will not have as great an impact as some of the other measures which I have mentioned.
Perhaps the limitation on the portability of pensions previously was because of the attitude that there should be consideration of the public purse. Perhaps a requirement was that such benefits should be well won and well deserved in the Australian community. In relation to this matter it appears to me that 20 years of residence in this country is not an unreasonable time for a citizen to be paying a modicum of taxes - whatever his standard of life may be - in order to achieve freely, as a right, the granting of a pension. It may be necessary to invest $20,000 - this figure may increase within the next year or so to $25,000 - of liquid money into some fund earning perhaps 6 per cent to produce a return equal to the pension which will be payable and extended under this measure. Instead of immediately giving a benefit after 10 years residence in Australia or, in some instances, within a month of being in this country perhaps a more moderate approach would have been made if more thought had been given to those people who are paying taxes.
It is the easiest thing in the world to pay out money particularly when one has no responsibility for the paying of that money. But it is a much more difficult thing to hold a responsibility and perhaps a tight rein on the public purse. We all know that if we, as citizens, live beyond our means a period of accounting comes eventually. We have many friends in the community who seem to live that way. I once had an old Irish friend. I hope the Senate will forgive me for the reference but it was a great old Irish saying that after the banquet comes the night cart; that is an old saying which we have all heard. This Labor Government is going to see the eventual outcome of its actions in this field of expenditure from the Australian public purse. I believe that public money which we have seen expended in many areas in the past could be much better spent if in depth consideration were given to the problems which the measure may eventually bring to the community.
We see here a most wonderful concept. One can live in Australia for 10 years, gain the age limit or the health standard and receive the benefit of this money from the Australian purse. The Australian public will still have to find the money but it will be a great attraction, f do not doubt that it should be made known to people that it will be a great attraction to take that money and live in some other country where the standard of living is not as high as it is in this country. In 23 years of anti-socialist, Liberal-Country Party government, we have seen Australia rise to the position where it had the highest standard of living of any country. How long will that standard be maintained under this Labor Government? I ask the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) who is in charge of this Bill and who I know is a particularly thoughtful man what will be the outcome of this action which the Government has taken. Is it not evident at the moment that the expenditure of money is increasing the rate of inflation in this country to the highest that it has ever been in the past 20 years? What is the attitude of the Government to this matter? It is nothing but a deep yawn. It could not care less. But the fact is that those people in the community who have attempted to provide for themselves - perhaps those who have retired as bank managers or others who have attempted to take some responsibility for their retirement - see their funds and their savings eroded every day. Perhaps this is a socialist concept, but are we anxious to achieve this? Perhaps we are anxious to see the demise of small businessmen who will not be able to stand the rate of inflation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poke) - Order! Senator Webster, do you think this has any relevance to the BUI before the Senate? I am afraid I do not.
– I accept the comment which you make, Mr Acting Deputy President. Perhaps I should reiterate some of the points so that they will be impressed upon you. I am sure you will accept how important it is that when a Labor Government is paying out money from the social purse there must be a limit to the expenditure. I admit that it may take some time for the points I am making to sink in but I think this is most important. It is the national responsibility of any member of Parliament to try to get through to the most stubborn of people the great importance of this expenditure from tha public purse. Let me put the position: We have before us a measure whereby if a person lived in Australia as a child but has moved to some other country and sees what is being provided by this Labor Government and comes to Australia for a holiday for 12 months, he can receive for the rest of his life the maximum amount of this pension. Mr Acting Deputy President, do you say it is getting away from the facts of the case to attempt to point out-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Poke) - Senator Webster, are you trying to canvass my ruling? I think that you are casting some reflection on the Chair because I drew your remarks back to the Bill; Provided that you continue along the lines that you are now pursuing, you are speaking within the confines of the Bill. But previously, you were not.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, 1 fully accept your ruling. 1 would not be anxious to canvass it in regard to this matter. I had considered the whole time that the notes I had before me and the carefully thought out speech I was making on this Bill were directed to the fact that we have in Australia, as you will grant, Mr Acting Deputy President, a situation in which never has there been so much proposed legislation granting so many benefits to people in the community. I believe that people within the community will congratulate the Labor Party for doing this. I am attempting to point out that some limits should apply. The debate on this Bill provides an opportunity to perhaps make known to people who may care to read Hansard that there are grave dangers.
I envisage that similar comments will be made about a number of bills to be presented in the Senate within the next few weeks. I was attempting only to point out in regard to the allocating of this money that if we overspend in any area inflation is encouraged. It is only one by-product of this measure, but it is a by-product that is growing. I was anxious to impress upon the Minister - not necessarily yourself, Mr Acting Deputy President - that 1 would hope there would be some reconsideration in regard to the enormous growth of Commonwealth expenditure that has taken place within the past few months.
A situation of great importance is showing up within the Australian economy. We are floating into a situation of a very high rate of inflation. I hope that honourable senators will accept the position that that inflation will continue during this year. It will be no use saying: ‘We hope to overcome this by setting up some sort of commission to try to dampen down costs in this field or to try to get some other body to look at price rises’. The very generation of the problem commences with the over expenditure of public funds, whether it be in over-employment or by the granting of high wages which, in actual fact, are impossible to recoup by normal business methods.
I believe that the measure needs serious consideration. The opposition is not anxious that the bill should be held up. It is not opposing it. But the debate gives us an opportunity for the attention of members of the
Labor Party - those men who have consideration for the public purse whilst they are in Government - to be alerted. While we are granting a benefit to individuals which will be paid for by the hard work of Australian citizens, some honourable senators say: ‘Please use moderation in what you are doing’.
– I merely rise to say that the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the provisions contained in this Bill and we will be casting our votes accordingly.
– As the representative in the Senate of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) who sits in another place, I thank the honourable senators who have contributed to this debate. Honourable senators opposite who have spoken in the debate - I refer particularly to Senator Rae, Senator Davidson and Senator Webster - have said that they are not opposing the legislation. I am also pleased to receive that assurance from Senator Kane who has spoken briefly on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I thank the honourable senators opposite for the attitude that they have adopted, although obviously by their comments they are very dubious about giving the Bill their support.
– No, that is not so.
- Senator Rae says that it is not so. But the gravamen of his speech, as I understood it, was his concern about the inflationary effects that this legislation might have on the Australian economy.
– Not at all. I was talking about the-
– I am pleased to know that Senator Rae certainly is not concerned that this Bill will have any inflationary effect on the Australian economy. But certainly, if he did not adopt that attitude, I distinctly gathered the impression that Senator Davidson and Senator Webster did. Of course, this is the second piece of social service legislation that has been introduced by the Labor Government in a short period of 2 months. Indeed, this is one of the most significant and far-reaching pieces of legislation that has been introduced by what is obviously one of the most responsible governments Australia has ever had.
For far too (ong the previous Government appeared to adopt the attitude that people were of secondary consideration compared to the profit motive. One of the reasons why the previous Government was voted out of office was that at the time of the election there was high inflation and very high unemployment as a direct result of the budgetary policies it pursued. 1 think that it was Senator Rae. who led in the debate on behalf of the Opposition, who expressed some concern that the country might not be able to afford this type of social legislation. But I think that Senator Davidson gave the reply to Senator Rae. He said that this Bill extends financial assistance to a large number of people, particularly the migrant section of the Australian community, that it enables people to take part in the age of mobility and establish contentment by the reunion of people. That is why the legislation has been introduced at this stage.
I notice that those honourable senators who have spoken on behalf of the Opposition have said that this legislation is an extension of legislation that was introduced by the previous Government. To some extent, that is true in that the previous Government introduced legislation for the portability of pensions in April of last year. That legislation received the Royal Assent on 7th June last year. But prior to that legislation being introduced by the McMahon Government, the then Leader of (he Opposition, the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) introduced a private member’s Bill on 23rd March 1972 to give effect to legislation of this nature. So again, it was the Labor movement that led the way in regard to portability arrangements for pensions. Certainly, a reciprocal agreement - this was not done by legislation - was entered into between the governments of Australia and the United Kingdom in 1954. Reciprocal agreement between Australia and New Zealand came about in 1949. But between 1954 and 1972 little, if anything, was done by the previous administration. I appreciate the support, or the non-opposition, which members of the Opposition have given to this very farreaching piece of social services legislation.
asked me to comment on the cost involved. I give to him practically the same answer as the former Minister for Social Services, Mr Wentworth, gave to the then Opposition when the then Government introduced the portability legislation in April last year: It is not possible to determine the additional cost of paying Australian age, invalid and widows’ pensions and other benefits overseas under the arrangements proposed in this Bill. That, too, was the experience of the previous Government. Some additional costs will arise in respect pf pensioners who would have left Australia permanently even if there were no provision for payment overseas and in respect of pensioners temporarily absent from Australia for periods in excess of 30 weeks. Australian pensioners who go permanently to Britain or New Zealand in future will continue to receive Australian pensions. Whether they will also receive British or New Zealand pensions under our existing agreements with those countries remains to be negotiated. To the extent that Australian pensions are not now payable in those countries but will be in the future, additional costs will be involved. Apart from this aspect, however, the cost of the proposal is unlikely to exceed the cost that would have been involved if the pensioners who go abroad under the proposed arrangements had in fact remained in Australia. Some savings will result from the fact that Australian fringe and allied benefits - for example, the pensioner medical service and nursing home benefits - will not be available to pensioners overseas.
Senator Rae suggested that there is a possibility of abuse of this sort of legislation. I think he gave the example of a young English woman who is a deserted wife-
– lt was my intention to refer basically to the examples given in the House of Representatives as a shorthand method of raising the matter.
– In answer to the honourable senator, who referred to a young English woman who is a deserted wife - I accept his assurance that that example was given by way of illustration - and since the honourable senator wanted to know what action the Government would take in the event of considerable abuses of this legislation occurring, on behalf of the Government I assure him that if, in the renegotiation of an agreement with Britain, in the type of case mentioned by way of illustration by the honourable senator it was found that excesses were apparent, then the agreement would, from the Australian viewpoint, be amended accordingly. That, of course, is much the same undertaking as was given by the Minister for Social Security in another place when the matter was debated there. 1 say again that 1 am proud, on behalf of the Labor Government, to be representing in this chamber the Minister for Social Security, who is devoted to the task of uplifting the standards of living of all sections of the Australian people. I am proud to be introducing legislation on behalf of a Government which has the welfare of the Australian people at heart. I am delighted to know that the Opposition is sensible enough not to oppose this legislation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to clause 10 of the Bill. I have no query other than to seek clarification of the wording of proposed new section 83ab, which reads:
Except as provided by this Part, the right of a person to commence, or to continue, to be paid a pension granted to him is not affected by the fact that he leaves Australia after the commencement of this Part.
The side note to that proposed new section is:
Right to be paid pension outside Australia.
I ask the Minister whether he can explain to me how the Australian Government intends to pay pensions to people who intend to live in remote parts of the world where accessibility is limited and where the Australian Government has no embassy and no reciprocal arrangements. I am eager to know the answer to that question, because it appears to me that some considerable cost must be associated with this. My understanding is that the manner in which one is paid a pension in Australia is that one takes one’s pension book along and then the Commonwealth obtains an immediate receipt on the presentation of that pension book. I think I am correct in saying that on a number of occasions the Labor Party has argued against payment by cheque. I wonder how an Australian citizen who will now be entitled to receive a pension can receive it if, for instance, he wishes to take that glorious fishing trip which was mentioned by an honourable senator on the other side of the chamber. If a pensioner chooses to live for a few years on one of the Greek isles, how will he receive his pension money and by what method will he have that money made available to him each week or fortnight as the case may be? What is the estimated cost to the Department of taking this particular action?
– I understand that where there is an Australian mission - and I emphasise that there are 88 to 90 Australian missions abroad - the pension will be paid through the Australian mission; that is, the Australian Embassy or High Commission wherever it might be. The matter of what will be done when there is no Australian mission in an area in which pensions have to be paid is still under consideration-
– Oh, no.
– Let me finish. It is still under consideration by the Department of Social Security. However, I point out to the honourable senator that the Repatriation Department has been paying war pensions in various parts of the world for many years. The Department of Social Security will be pursuing the practice that has been adopted by the Repatriation Department in this respect. In the case to which the honourable senator referred in reply to Senator Mulvilhill - the case of a pensioner taking a fishing trip to one of the Greek islands-
– I think he said the Arabian Gulf.
– I am answering the honourable senator who is interjecting now. I am given to understand, by the officers advising me, that in such a situation the pension will be payable by cheque through the Australian financial representative in Geneva.
– I am appreciative to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) for his response to the various queries I raised. I conceded in my speech that it probably would be very difficult to give any idea of the cost involved, and I was aware of the statement made by the previous Minister. However, Senator Douglas McClelland made no reference to it in his second reading speech, although it is true that he brought it up to date in reply to my query. But I say to him, as he said to us, that the scheme which is now before the Senate is much bigger than the one that was in existence and therefore a much larger number of people will be receiving pensions in various parts of the world. I think some attempt should be made to give some statistical satisfaction in relation to this matter, even if it is only in a limited way so that we have some guide. Has the Minister any idea of the number of people likely to be involved? If he does not know now, when does he think he may have some idea of the number of people likely to be involved? Perhaps some general figure could be arrived at which would enable the Parliament to have some concept of the ultimate cost. I am not pursuing the matter at this stage, but it occurs to me that it will involve a considerable number of people and a considerable amount of money. I think some indication should be forthcoming at some time.
– In reply to Senator Davidson’s query, much as I would like to be more specific on the point than I have been, I am told that it is absolutely impossible at this stage to estimate the likely number of people involved in this scheme. It is probable that the number of persons involved will be made available to the Department every month, and by 30th June this year we might have some indication of the likely situation. I am given to understand that mention of the matter is likely to be made in the Director-General’s report to the Parliament when the annual report of the Department is presented. At this stage no precise estimate can be given on the aspect of cost and the number of people likely to be involved.
– I think the comment that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has just made must be accepted by the Senate as the best comment that he can make in relation to this matter. I just reiterate that in relation to this measure the Minister is willing to stand with the best advice that the officers from the Department can give him and indicate that the Government introduced a measure into this Parliament having absolutely no idea as to what it will cost the community and no idea as to how many individuals will be involved. One may only translate that situation into the situation of a business man setting up a business proposition which has open ended expenditure attached to it. Perhaps there is a limit to the millions of dollars that can be paid out eventually, but I should imagine that the Minister feels pretty uncomfortable having to come into the Senate and say, despite the fact that he has a Department behind him, that he is not able to give the
Senate even a rough estimate of what this scheme will cost or a rough estimate of the number of individuals involved. But that is the answer which the Minister has found it necessary to give Senator Davidson.
– Do not blame the Department. The Government is sponsoring the measure.
– I fully agree. I have sympathy for both of them. But it is regrettable that this type of measure which has no calculation attached to it is brought into the Senate. The point that I am making is that the Minister again has indicated that the Department is considering how it will make these payments to these invididuals. Let me refer to the Minister’s second reading speech in which he stated in a flurry of greatness what the Government intended to do. The second reading speech commenced in these terms:
Undoubtedly that accounts for those less fortunate people in the community who perhaps do not have the resources to be able to live for very many days without some of the assistance which the Commonwealth has provided for many years - including wives’ pensions, or widows’ pensions in Australia will be able to receive those pensions wherever they choose to live.
I ask the Minister whether he is telling the truth in relation to this matter. Will these people be able to receive these pensions wherever they live or is the Minister saying that even though the Department of Social Security has access to what the Repatriation Department has been doing for some years, he cannot tell the Senate how a pensioner of no great means who perhaps decides to live in some area where there is no Australian embassy or an area which has no reciprocal agreement with Australia could receive his pension? How are these people to take the Minister’s word that they will be able to receive their pension wherever they choose to live? 1 know that the Minister is looking a little annoyed and feeling uncomfortable about this, and I do not doubt that he must be uncomfortable. How will those individuals be able to receive their pension as the Government has promised?
– I take umbrage at the remarks of
Senator Webster in that he implies that I am not telling the truth. If he wants to say it let him say it instead of making a half-hearted attempt at it. I say to the honourable senator that since his party has been in opposition he has become the town joke so far as we on this side of the chamber are concerned. 1 greatly appreciate the constructive remarks made by Senator Rae, who led on behalf of the Opposition, compared with the destructive attitude being adopted now by Senator Webster.
– Do not miss the point before you sit down.
– Does the honourable senator want me to sit down so that he can have another go?
– You are accusing me; that is the point. Get on with it. You are the Minister.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, am 1 to have a go or is Senator Webster to have the floor?
– Senator Webster, I gave you a fair degree of latitude. I was of the opinion that you were making another speech on the second reading and I was doubtful whether 1 should allow you to continue with your remarks because 1 could not see where you were associating them with any clause in the Bill. You were asking a question of the Minister as to how these pensions were to be paid. I could not see that this question was involved but I let you go. I think you should allow the Minister to reply now in his own way without interjection.
– So far as the question of cost is concerned, I thought at the conclusion of the second reading debate I had given on behalf of this Government the answer that was given by the previous Government when it introduced its portability measures in relation to pensions. 1 reiterate for Senator Webster’s benefit that it is not possible to determine the additional cost of paying Australian age, invalid and widows pensions and other benefits overseas under the arrangements proposed in this Bill. That was the experience of the previous Government. Until we know the number of people involved it will be impossible for the Minister or his Department to know precisely or approximately the likely cost involved.
So far as the making of arrangements for the payment of pensions is concerned, I have indicated that the Department’s attitude is that it will use the overseas posts of Australia, and there are some 88 or 90 of those. Where it is not possible for such posts to be used the Department will be adopting the system that has been used by the Repatriation Department for some years. I understand that the Repatriation Department is paying war service pensions in most parts of the world. It is impossible to say at this stage what manner or means will be necessary to make payments to people who go abroad when we as a Government do not know to which parts of the world they will go. In order to see that proper financial arrangements are made - it is impossible at this stage to make better arrangements - if necessary the cheque will be made payable to the person concerned via the financial representative of the Australian Government in Geneva.
– A number of matters have been raised in relation to cost - the administrative cost of the making of the payments and the arrangements in relation to the payments. The Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has said that he believes that it is likely - he uses words to that effect - that this matter will be dealt with in the DirectorGeneral’s report. Will the Minister ensure that it is dealt with in the report of the Director-General and that the maximum amount of information which can be made available is made available at the earliest possible opportunity, so that it can be made the subject of an estimates committee examination if it does appear that there is some justification for the concern which has been expressed?
-I will draw the matter to which Senator Rae has referred to the attention of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). I have no doubt that he will draw it to the attention of the Director-General of Social Security. Being the type of officer that he is, I am sure that the Director-General will do everything possible to provide the Parliament with the required information at an early date.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a third time.
REPATRIATION BILL (No. 2) 1973 Second Reading
Debate resumed from 1 May (vide page 1 1 76), on motion by Senator Bishop:
Tba< the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise on behalf of members of 2 of the parties on this side of the chamber - the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party - to indicate that they do not wish to debate this Bill bacause they regard the matters relevant to this Bill as having been dealt with during the preceding debate on the Social Sevices Bill (No. 2) 1973. I do take the opportunity of drawing the attention of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), who was present during the previous debate, to the warnings which were given and the remarks which were made by Opposition speakers as to the responsibilities of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden). I ask the Minister to take it as said that we reiterate those warnings and comments in relation to his responsibilities. This Bill, which provides for the availability of a repatriation benefit to any person no matter where he may live, is an extension of the existing repatriation scheme. The Opposition supports the principle involved and does not oppose the Bill.
– in reply - I wish to thank Senator Rae for his comments and the Opposition for the speedy passage it has given to this legislation. I took note of what was said in relation to certain problems in the social services field, particularly in relation to costs. The information I obtained from the Repatriation Department, having explored the matter, is the same as that which was stated by Senator Douglas McClelland. We do not expect any great increase in expenditure as a result of the implementation i>!’ this legislation. It is very hard to work out how many people will be involved. While honourable senators were discussing the subject of costs earlier I also tried to get some information as to how many people overseas are at present receiving war pensions. I have not yet received that information although it is available.
War pensions are presently payable through various agents and missions overseas. The majority of pensions are payable through the Deputy Commissioner of Repatriation in London and the Commonwealth Sub-Treasury in Geneva. If no Australian facilities are available British facilities are used. Most payments are made by cheque or bank draft. No problems have been experienced in the payment of war pensions in any country overseas. I have just been supplied with information as to the number of pensions involved. A total of 4,000 pensions are paid. With those comments, I again thank the Opposition for the speedy passage it has given to this Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from I May (vide page 1 1 94), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Death Penalty Abolition Bill 1973 was introduced into the Senate by the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy. The purpose of this Bill is to abolish the death penalty from the laws under the jurisdiction of the Australian Parliament, except those of Papua New Guinea. I have spoken previously on this matter. I again reaffirm my conviction that the death penalty should remain on the statute book. Society as a whole should have the assurance that its basic interests are being maintained and protected. I appreciate that a very heavy burden is ultimately placed on the Executive in respect to the making of a final decision as to whether a death sentence should be commuted to life inprisonment
In those States where the death penalty exists it is customary, after a court has considered a crime in which a life has been taken and imposed a death sentence, for the condemned person to make an application for mercy and for the Executive to have the final decision as to whether mercy should be granted. Bearing in mind the very close attention that is given to every detail in a court case concerning such a serious charge as that of the taking of a life there is no possible chance of a person being wrongly convicted. If there is a shadow of doubt as to a person’s guilt that shadow of doubt should of itself ensure that no adverse penalty will be imposed on him. With those background comments, I say again that 1 believe that legislation providing for the death penalty should remain on the statute book.
Clause 4 of the Bill is really the potent clause. It expressly provides that a person is not liable to the punishment of death for any offence. Currently the only domestic crime on mainland territories to which the death penalty applies is that of murder. Under this Bill treason, offences committed on board aircraft which could endanger the lives of passengers and crew, the killing of a person protected by the Geneva Convention and certain crimes covered by defence legislation are all punishable by death and will be removed by clause 4 from the list of offences currently punishable by death. Clause 5 substitutes the penalty of life imprisonment in every case where a Federal Act now prescribes the death sentence.
This is indeed very sweeping legislation with which I cannot agree. I am deeply conscious that the aboliton or retention of the death sentence is one of the most disturbing and soul-searching questions that could confront anyone in our society, most particularly those persons responsible for the final determining of what legislative provisions should be made in this matter. My firm belief is that legislation which provides for the death sentence should remain for those persons who take the lives of others in civil life and for those persons who transgress against society in any of the categories now punishable by death under Federal law.
Far too often do we see excessive consideration and sympathy given to the offender in society, but scant consideration given to the offended and their relatives. 1 believe it is our bounden duty to give to the public at large, through appropriate laws, the sense of basic security to which it is entitled. No one wants unwarrantedly and unfairly to inflict hurt or harm on another person who has committed a very serious offence. There is no ghoulish pleasure in adopting this course. But there is a real need to maintain the social sense of security to which I have referred.
The Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) said in his second reading speech that there is a world trend against the death penalty. 1 doubt the veracity of that claim. One has only to note the attitudes now being strongly presented in Great Britain and in certain States of the United States of America, where the death sentence has been abolished, to see that there is a great clamour for its reinstatement. This shows up in the light of extremely unsocial behaviour and lack of respect for human life. The. obvious realisation in the countries and States to which I have referred is that there should remain at least in the background, with every protection of law accorded to a person charged, this very serious and ultimate penalty for those who transgress against society in a way which in itself would tend to undermine its very basis.
On the local scene I have noticed that a group of senior airline pilots in Australia of Whom the head is Captain Terrell claims that all governments should introduce the death penalty for aircraft hijackers. Captain Terrell is only expressing the deep concern which is being felt by many people who fear the liberties that are taken irrespective of the effect of their actions on others, the fear of hijackers or those who would board aircraft for possible monetary gain and in the process endanger the lives of many people. This is so unsocial in itself that it should carry the very heaviest penalty, and there is no heavier penalty than the loss of the offender’s life. 1 do not approach this matter with any degree of bias or lightness, but I firmly believe that it is our duty to ensure that in the background we have legislation which docs give a feeling of confidence that those who direct the affairs of society generally are cognisant of the great need to have background protection which indicate that concern exists for the welfare of the public generally. I oppose this Bill quite strongly.
– I have no intention of taking up a great deal of the Senate’s time this evening. I can assure the Senate that what I have to say I can say in a very few words. Amongst those few words, I say that I completely oppose the abolition of the death penalty. I cannot support this Bill because I believe that on many occasions a need exists for this penalty to be implemented. I can cite cases over many years and in recent years where people have sat down and deliberately planned and executed dastardly crimes against society. As the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) said in his second reading speech, we place a great importance on the sanctity of life. Surely, this sanctity is something that we want to preserve. I believe that the rest of society is entitled to be protected against those persons who have no thought whatsoever for the sanctity of life. 1 refer now to the case of the Mackay sisters of Townsville. Two dear little children left for school happily in the morning and a person or persons unknown took those innocent little children away and committed the most vile of crimes and buried their dear little bodies in the sand in a creek miles away from their own home. Surely that person or those persons should pay with their lives for such a crime. It is wrong to say that they should be sentenced to life imprisonment. Life imprisonment today means a penalty of 7, 8 or 9 years in a prison that is supported by the taxpayers - a prison which would be supported by the mother and the father of those 2 dear little children whom I have just mentioned. These criminals are supported by taxpayers’ money in gaols for 7, 8, 9 or perhaps even 10 years at the most. They then return to society and have the opportunity to commit again the same kind of crime. The lives of such people should be forfeited. Consequently, I believe that the death penalty should remain on our statute-books. 1 am sorry to see that some Australian States have abolished the death penalty. I feel that in my own State certain crimes should surely have attracted the death penalty as punishment. Only two or three weeks ago in my own home town, in the street in which I live, some person or persons unknown sneaked into a flat occupied by a husband and wife and 2 little children. After a tremendously hard day the family returned to their own home and went to their beds. During that night, in the darkness, while everybody was asleep, some person or persons unknown sneaked into that flat and took away an 18- months-old child - a dear sweet little child whom I had seen in my time toddling around its home. That child was taken from its bed, molested, sexually assaulted, murdered and thrown onto the roof of a building only 400 yards away from her parents’ home. That person or those persons should forfeit his life or their lives.
– Do you not think that the person was mentally retarded?
– That is what we will say: The poor man was sick. Such people should forfeit their lives. They should not be allowed to wander around our country and again have the opportunity to commit such crimes. A person convicted of such an offence will be put in an institution and kept there for a few years, and then some psychiatrist or some doctor will say: ‘He is well now. We can let him go back into society’. Who is to say that he will not do the same thing again?
– The doctor.
– The doctor will say that the man will not commit a crime?
– The doctor is the expert.
– The doctor cannot say that the man will not commit a crime. He could commit a crime again. Such people have committed crimes again and again. We say: ‘No. We should not take their lives. They can take as many lives as they like. They can sit down and plan it’. Take the case of the fire at the Whisky-Au-Go-Go. Some person or persons unknown sat down and planned it. They did not kill someone in the heat of the moment. They did not have a grudge aganst the persons whom they killed. They locked the doors. They put grease on the floor so that the people would slide and fall. They did not care whether there were 10, 100 or 1,000 people there. Fifteen innocent lives were taken by someone who deliberately planned the .fire. Was he sick? He deliberately sat down and planned to take the lives of certain people for some monetary gain or to put pressure on this kind of business enterprise so that he could cash in on it. Should that man be allowed to live in prison for 8, 10, 12 or 15 years while the parents, sisters, brothers and cousins of the people who died are supporting those prisoners by paying taxes? I say no, that their lives should be forfeited. I do not believe that they have a right to go back into society and commit the same kind of crimes again and again, as we have seen happen in our society.
The Attorney-General has stated that there seems to be a world wide trend against the death penalty. I cannot believe that. I can pick up a newspaper and read that in the United Kingdom people are thinking seriously about reintroducing the death penalty. Recently President Nixon said that he was considering seriously trying to introduce death penalty legislation in the United States again. The present Government thinks that the death penalty should be abolished. I think it is hypocritical of the present Government and the Attorney-General, particularly at this stage, to be introducing a Bill to abolish the death penalty when the Attorney-General is quite happy to deport people from this country to their homelands. Deportation can spell only death to these people. We know that as surely as we know that the sun will rise tomorrow. We know what will happen if we deport some of the Croatians who are against the communist regime in Yugoslavia. At the moment we have no proof that they wish to return there to try to overthrow the Government. We have not any positive proof that what has been said here by the Attorney-General is true. But he would deport them, knowing full well that they would be executed on return to their homeland. Is that not, in a sense, sentencing these people to death? We abolish the death penalty in our country, but we permit and condone it in Yugoslavia. We condone it in all the communist countries which kill millions of Christian people. That is what the Labor Party would have us do. lt is rather hypocritical of the AttorneyGeneral to introduce the Bill at this time when we know that in the other place members of the Labor Party will introduce a Bill which will legalise abortion on demand. That Bill will be introduced in the other place on, I believe. 10th May. On the one hand the Government says that we must not take the life of someone who is a criminal, someone who has murdered or someone who has planned to murder, in some cases not one person but several persons; we should not put them to death. Under another Bill in another place we would condemn the lives of innocent unborn babies. That is a different matter. 1 believe that it is hypocritical of the Labor Government to introduce this Bill in the Senate at this time. For that reason and for other reasons which I have mentioned, I oppose the Bill in its entirety.
– Members of the Liberal and Country parties will have a free vote on the Death Penalty Abolition Bill which seeks to abolish capital punishment in the Territories of the Commonwealth. I think it is important to state this fact at the outset because the matter of a free vote has several features of importance. A free vote is sometimes called a conscience vote. 1 do not know which term is the more correct term, but I think everybody in the Senate understands what we mean when we refer to a free vote or a conscience vote. It is appreciated that the Opposition has a free vote on the Bill. It has been pointed out that the Government is bound by a caucus vote and a policy vote, and it is important to record the difference. A free vote is something which is valued, particularly where matters of conscience are concerned, because it involves a personal decision. That means that very serious consideration must be given vo the whole matter.
The Bill has legal and social implications which are tremendously important. In reaching our decision we must not overlook the part played by emotions or personal circumstances, particularly any personal experiences which anyone may have had. All these things will influence anyone who has to express and record a deliberate vote and who may express a free or conscience vote. These things will also influence the decision of anyone who has to make this free vote within the environment of the Parliament. It is also not without relevance to acknowledge that the many changing factors of society influence this decision. In the last few years world events have projected a new outlook for anybody who is grappling with this matter in an endeavour to reach a decision on it. In the meantime, writers, scientists and educationists continue to advance their research into matters such as human motivation, community responses to punishment and other things of this nature. All these things influence the judgment of those who have a free vote. All these things influence the decision which we on this side, of the Senate are able to make. We will have a free and personal vote.
If I make the claim that we have the benefit of a conscience vote and if I make the claim that I am able to exercise my conscience vote in support of the Bill, which is what I propose to do, I think it is also very important to say that a conscience vote applies equally as strongly to the people who will oppose the Bill because they, too, examine the kind of things which I have mentioned. They examine their own consciences and their own experiences, and they reach a conclusion. So a conscience vote does not apply only to people who have an opposition to capital punishment or to people who recommend the abolition of capital punishment; it applies also to people who have a firm view the other way. Therefore, it has to be emphasised that we who have a free vote on this matter, note the details involved and take them into account; and it has to be inferred that, if there is a caucus vote by any party within this Parliament, the factors to which 1 have referred - 1 maintain that they are important factors - have been ignored by that party. The second reading speech of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) outlined the present position in Australia. He referred to the Federal laws which require punishment by death for certain crimes. He also pointed out in that speech that 3 States - New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania - have abolished the death penalty. In the other 3 states - South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia - it remains on thi statute book.
The case for the abolition of capital punishment has been long argued and it tends to reflect the prevailing attitudes and social judgments of the time. Humanitarianism, social awareness, and the understanding of human behaviour - all these things - influence opinions and assertions. On the one hand, there have been new approaches to life and to freedom as well as modern opinions on war and international conflicts. All of these things have created climates of opinion in growing generations. Oh the other hand, the role and phenomenal progress of communications systems have brought a new dimension to community thinking and international thinking. Crimes of great violence and brutality have been presented visually before the millions of people in the world in the last few years in a way that even a decade ago was not thought possible. In conjunction with this we have in the world today a situation in which great numbers of people are growing up in areas of combat and areas in which physical conflict involving life or death has been part of the normal social environment. All these things create an unusual and particular background. Humanitarianism is confronted with circumstances which some people have argued call for return to more severe judgments. It is cla.med that these are necessary for the preservation of law and order and public safety.
In responding to those assertions and arguments, one of the early considerations that I take into account is the role of punishment. The act of punishing involves the relationship between a society on the one hand and its appointed or elected authority on the other hand. When I talk about the ‘appointed or elected authority’ 1 am talking about the membership of that authority - in this case a Parliament. I think it is true to say that punishment implies guilt on the part of the offender. It also implies authority on the part of the punisher. If human punishment is to be just it must be effective. If it is to be just it must be proved to be a deterrent. If it is to be just it must be proved to be for the good of our society. If it is to be effective it must take into account whether or not it is able to do certain things.
It has been put to me as a point of view that harsh punishment tends to diminish the likelihood of conviction. Having said that. I realise that I may be in danger of casting reflections on people. However, it is a point of view. It is possible, therefore, that a harsh penalty such as the death penalty could influence the possibility of conviction.
– And also it could make juries much more cautious and careful.
– 1 speak from jury experience in regard to this very point. I was a member of a jury - indeed. 1 was the foreman - when a murder charge was before the court. 1 am not a man of the law, but I remember very well my experience in that court room. The distinguished judge, when addressing the jury in his summing-up, said to us: ‘If you find this man guilty I shall pronounce the sentence of death; but I want you, when you go away to consider this matter, to remove from your minds all thought of the penalty’.
If a person is skilled in court matters and in the organisation of his mind and thought processes, and if he lives with those things much more than I do, it is possible for him to do just what the judge asked us to do; but 1 submit that it is not possible for the average lay people who make up the membership of a jury to do that, and it certainly is not easy for such people to do it easily. I am in no position to tell anyone what went on in that room when the jury was considering the matter, but it became very real to me that the statement which the judge made to us before our retirement was very much in the minds of those people who were endeavouring to give their very best attention to a very serious matter. When I make a statement such as that I realise that it is open to question and to argument, but I can pui it forward as the result of a personal experience. 1 am concerned also that brutal punishments tend to accustom the population of any community to brutality. In my view, violence tends to breed violence and cruel punishments seem to have an infallible tendency to produce cruelty in people. In my view, therefore, the application of the capital punishment is not effective. Punishment also must be designed to promote the well-being of society. It must be seen to provide an opportunity for re-education, rehabilitation and special attention to any persons who are involved, not only the offenders. As I consider that area I can see no support for the claim that the death penalty should be sustained. I cannot see it promoting the well-being of society.
When referring to punishment we also must think of the role of the deterrent. I am not persuaded that the death penalty is a deterrent. I want to refer to an extract from a speech which I made in the Senate on 30th September 1971. It relates to this area of our discussion. I said: 1 have long held the view that capital punishment is not a deterrent. In my view its deterrent effect does not enter into the awful and indescribable moment when a crime which attracts punishment of this kind is about to be committed and all the force of anger or revenge or similar feelings have built up to a point of no return.
Another factor relating to punishment by the death penalty is that it provides a single punishment for a crime which varies widely in its culpability. There are people who prefer to retain the death penalty on the statute books but at the same time enforce it rarely, if ever. I do not agree with that point of view. In my view, it represents a lack of decision. It certainly is no deterrent and it certainly does not provide for retribution; nor does it have any capacity for reformation or rehabilitation. It makes for a condition of tremendous cruelly while decisions are being made.
More than that, it imposes an impossible situation on the authorities to which I drew special attention at the outset of my speech. 1 add that those authorities may be in office long after the legislation has been enacted. They are confronted with making a decision which may involve precedents or political relationships and such circumstances certainly will involve people being made available to carry out the capital punishment. Those people must be appointed by the State so to do. This in turn transmits an effect upon a person or persons so concerned. What effect does this have on their lives, their thinking and their human relationships? What effect does it have on the community at large? However, these questions remain unanswered. The question of the prevention of crime and the education of the community towards that prevention should receive our attention. The carrying out of the death penalty, in my view, does not contribute to that prevention or indeed to that education. Greater attention needs to be given to the range of social problems which breed delinquency and crime.
In these social problems the whole community shares a measure of responsibility to a greater or a lesser degree. Capital punishment tends to divert attention from the real problem that exists, whether this real problem is related to the collective community responsibility or the conditions which may have facilitated the crime situation. In all of this, society, as it develops, might well have to undertake greater disciplines. It might well have to be prepared to accept some sort of restriction which may lead to the good of that society.
Finally, I suppose that the most difficult area of this matter and one on which conscience is felt very deeply, is the taking of life and whether the State - and that means us- - should take a life for a life. Justice requires that each person get what he deserves. But I should like to think that we live in a society that can still be described as a society where Christianity prevails and, according to that doctrine, there is a greater dispensation than justice, and that is grace. All of us would like to think that grace would be our lot. In my argument, grace provides for the individual and the community. It enables the sciences and the humanities to advance, and it provides for mankind constantly and progressively to develop.
So it is with these observations and a full acknowledgment of all the complexities of the situation and the deeply held views of my colleagues that I indicate that I support the Bill.
(5.37>- I want to inform the Senate that as far as the Australian Democratic Labor Party is concerned a free vote will be exercised by the members of that Party on this issue. For myself, I have no desire to cast a silent vote on this always controversial question. No subject matter has been discussed for a greater length of time than the question of the abolition of capital punishment. Queensland, which is the State that I represent in the Senate, was the first State to abolish capital punishment back in 1922. As a young man at that time, doubtless I accepted that decision as being a justifiable one.
But I am required to confess that with the passing of the years and with the responsibility of being a member of a government and Premier and Chief Secretary of State, the many cases of planned, premeditated and cold blooded murder that came under my notice caused me to change my attitude on this question. 1 felt the need for the restoration of capital punishment, not with a desire for vengeance in my mind but with a desire to provide for proper retribution and to indicate to the public generally, to the citizens of our society, that they have a responsibility to observe the code by which they live. We are required to teach them their requirements to observe the law of the land and not to take into their own hands matters as serious as the taking of life.
Arguments have been used that the provision of capital punishment on the statute books of any State is not a deterrent to murder. To a great degree that is true but, nevertheless, there is evidence that it is a deterrent in some cases. From memory I know of 2 cases in Queensland where the perpetrators of a murder brought their victims over the border from New South Wales into Queensland at a time when New South Wales had not abolished capital punishment. They murdered their victims in Queensland and were arrested and dealt with in that State. They admitted that they brought their victims into Queensland because there was no capital punishment in that State. So there are exceptions to the statement that capital punishment is not a deterrent. 1 am conscious of the fact that there are some mentally sick people who perform some ghastly, horrifying crimes, such as sex crimes particularly on young females as young as 18 months old. I am prepared to concede that those people are sick. In those cases I would not exercise the right to use capital punishment, but I would see that those people were not given freedom to perpetrate a second offence of that type. I would see that they were confined to a hospital for the insane and kept there. I would use capital punishment sparingly and only in cases of treason, the murder of a policeman or a prison warder and cold blooded premeditated murder. In Queensland a few years ago there was a case where a prison warder, who had a reputation for being a kindly, generous and tolerant man, was sitting at a desk and a prisoner, with no trace of any insanity except criminality and with no regard for the life of others, smashed down the prison warder with an iron bar. He murdered him and robbed a woman of a husband and a large family of its father. I do not think that case calls for any great mercy.
Another case is very vivid in my mind. A man barbered one of the leading hotels in Cairns, north Queensland. All honourable senators know what the term ‘barbered’ means: He went through the hotel and robbed it during the day. Amongst the things that he stole from the hotel was an all lines railway pass, the property of one of the guests of the hotel, a commercial traveller. Having got this pass this man booked himself on the southern mail train equipped with an iron bar. When the train was proceeding during the early hours of the morning he went through it, when the occupants of the sleeping berths were dead to the world in sleep, and he struck with intent to rob and kill. He killed 3 men and left the conductor of the train, who heard the disturbance, in a deplorable state for many years. He was nothing more than a cabbage. He had no power of recognition of his dear ones or his friends or relatives. As I say, he lived in that state for many years. The man who committed the crime jumped the train and succeeded in evading the police for some time, until he was apprehended in New South Wales masquerading as a female.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 3 May (vide page 1359).
– As I understand it, the business of the Senate makes it desirable that this matter relating to a proposed select committee to consider a King Island shipping service be concluded reasonably speedily. For that reason only I shall make my remarks relatively brief. On the prior occasion when this matter was debated it was pointed out by Senator Wright, who moved the motion, that there is a history of a very considerable problem related to King Island and the provision of an adequate and reliable shipping service to .and from that island. It has a very substantial primary industry output. It has the needs of the population for consumer goods, lt has the general requirements of trade. Basically for satisfactory marketing of primary products, it requires a regularity of service which has not been provided. A new ship called M.V. ‘Straitsman’ was built for the service. This ship operated for a very short time before industrial problems, amongst other things, caused the company to reach a loss situation from which it could not continue at that time.
Since then - that is, the middle of last year - there has been a considerable problem in providing any sort of shipping service to the island. This problem has been made no less severe by reason of the fact that some increased net costs to producers on the island have resulted from the withdrawal of an air freight subsidy. 1 have asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) questions about this matter on some occasions. I am still looking forward to receiving a reply from him in relation to what is happening or likely to happen in relation to the air freight subsidy to and from King Island. The problem of what is a suitable shipping service has been investigated by a number of people. There are differences in viewpoint. It seems that there is a difference between the Australian National Line, which has investigated the matter and reported to the Government as has the Federal Department of Shipping and Transport. R. H. Houfe and Co. Pty Ltd, a company which operated the shipping service until the middle of last year and has the most experience of King Island shipping over many years with a variety of ships, has also carried out an investigation. It has taken out figures and projections as to how profitably or otherwise the ‘Straitsman’ or some other ship may be operated. William Holyman and Sons Pty Ltd is another company with a very long history of shipping experience. Certainly, its experience dates back for over 1^0 years and it is not to be taken lightly, I would think, lt has been involved in and has had some experience in the trade. It has made a summary of its investigation into the profitability or otherwise of the operation of the ‘Straitsman’ on that service.
Apparently the Tasmanian Transport Commission also made an investigation as a result of which it advised the Tasmanian Government. But it is alleged - and I do not know any more than the allegation - that the Commission was able to conduct its investigation without - I emphasise ‘without’ - even contact ing the people who had operated the ship. So any figures which it was able to present to the State Government in its report did not include figures which no doubt would have been available from the people who had recent experience in the operation of this ship. The information would have been available had it been sought, but it was not sought by that State Department. I do not know the reason. That is the allegation which 1 am assured is correct. But I have the projections provided by Holymans and by R. H. Houfe. These projections show clearly and firmly that it can be reasonably anticipated that the Straitsman’ can, after an adjustment period of getting the service going again, be operated on an admittedly low net profit basis. Although the figures which the Australian National Line may have produced for the Government indicate that the Line could not operate the service profitably it has taken into account the fact that the service operating from Tasmania to King Island to Melbourne may take away some of the freight which would otherwise be available to the Line. This could be - I say no more than that - part of the difference which appears between the figures produced by the 2 private enterprise companies which I mentioned and the ANL.
– The honourable senator is making innuendos without proving anything.
– 1 am saying that that could be the explanation; 1 do not know. But the point I make is that this is what we want to know. We have moved this motion because the Government will not table any of the advice which it has received. The honourable senator will not let us know the facts in relation to this matter. His Government will not and the Minister for Transports (Mr Charles Jones) whom he represents will not. Nor has the Tasmanian Parliament done so. The fact is that there are confiding reports and views amongst a variety of people. All the facts are not known. So much noise is made about open government but so little of it is observed by this Labor Government. Open government does not run to letting us know what are the facts. We get assertions but we do not get facts. One of the prime reasons why we would like to see a Senate committee ascertain the facts in relation to the operation of this service is so that people will know and may then make plans and policies as to what best can be done.
Last time this matter was debated, which was 1 2th April - in other words getting on towards a month ago - we were told: This is unnecessary because the whole thing is about to be fixed’. It has not been fixed and so the situation bas gone on from month to month, from the time just before the election when the Labor Party assured the people of King Island that if it were elected it would immediately reintroduce that ship and it would be operated by the ANL. The Government has not done so. We do not know why. We would like to know why.
– Because it is noi profitable.
– I am prepared to offer to Senator Cavanagh 2 expert assessments of the operation of that service. Both show that on a reasonable projection it would be profitable. I am not a shipping expert. I do not know whether these assessments are right or wrong. What I am saying is that I have projections available to me from private enterprise but the Government will not make projections available to us from the ANL or from the Department of Shipping and Transport, because open government does not run that far.
– One of your reports came from the company that went bankrupt on the service.
– Quite so. Another report is from a company which has managed to survive for over 100 years. Maybe one should take some notice of that. I do not pretend to know the answer. But we would like to know the facts.
– The interjector said that the Government was directing ANL to buy the ship.
– As I am reminded by Senator Wright’s interjection, Senator Cavanagh in answer to a question which I asked him made the positive statement to this chamber that the Government was directing the ANL to enter into negotiations to purchase the ‘Straitsman’ and to resume the operation on a basis of special accounting under the appropriate section of the Act. What has happened to change that situation? Was it the fact that, coincidentally, later in the day on which the Minister made that Statement the Premier of Tasmania and the Minister for Transport in Tasmania visited Canberra? If one can judge from what the
Minister for Transport in Tasmania said on television when I saw him, they were against the operation of this ship. No doubt, Senator Cavanagh will be able to explain. I wish to refute something that Senator Cavanagh said. He said that the previous Government had refused help. 1 have here a letter dated 3rd November 1972, less than a month before the Federal election. I wish to quote from it and if I am required to do so, I will table it. It is from the then Minister for Shipping and Transport, the Honourable Peter Nixon. It says among other things:
I have discussed the problems facing the Island with both State and company representatives and, without presuming to interfere in an area of State responsibility, have offered to consider any proposals that the State may make to the Commonwealth.
He goes on to refer to the present position and he makes some comments about the responsibility for the service and the attitude of various people. I shall table the letter if required to do so.
Because of the limited amount of time remaining to me. I now refer only to the positive statement there that the previous Federal Government has offered to consider any proposals that the State may make to the Commonwealth. Clearly, from that statement it may be inferred that at that time - 5 months after the ship had gone off the service - no proposals were being made to the Commonwealth by the State. It appears that the position is still the same. The State cannot work out what it wants to do in making proposals to the Commonwealth. In this instance, I would be inclined, if I were to enter into conjecture as to the responsibility for this incredible continuing mess-up, to say that perhaps the State Labor Government is more to blame than the Federal Labor Government. I think we can say that the Labor Party which made a promise before the last general election that they would reintroduce the ‘Straitsman’ service immediately probably meant it at the time. What stopped them from doing it? What stopped Senator Cavanagh’s statement from being correct?
– It was the cost - on information supplied.
– Senator Cavanagh will have time to reply in detail.
– I will not have the time to do that.
– There was a positive statement by Senator Cavanagh that this would happen. The statement was made by Senator Cavanagh as a Minister. It has been reversed. There must be some reason for this. I am impressed by the coincidence that the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Reece, and the Tasmanian Minister for Transport, Mr Batt, arrived in Canberra later in the day in which Senator Cavanagh made that statement.
– They were here before that, actually. I know personally.
– I accept what Senator Devitt says. To the best of my knowledge, according to what was in the Press, it was later. There was a change that day. I will put it that way. I do not know why and we cannot find out. We have asked a number of questions and a large number of questions have been asked in the State Parliament. People have said a lot about this and said nothing. What we would like to get are the facts. I support the motion that the Senate, through its committee system, assist in obtaining information on this matter for the people of King Island and of Tasmania and, because they are involved to quite an extent, the people of Australia - the taxpayers of Australia. The Senate committee system can be used to make a factual report on the situation in the absence of any co-operation from the new Government in providing information as to what its advice has been and what has happened in relation to this service. The members of that Government do not believe in practising, they believe only in preaching open government. I support the motion.
– I speak on this motion as a senator from Queensland and as one who, in a strange way, is involved in and particularly interested in the outcome of this debate. It is a great distance from Cairns to Tasmania. But there is a very strong link in this matter between that remote part of Australia from Canberra - Cairns - and the southern part of that island of Tasmania. That is because the ship which is now under discussion was constructed by North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd, a comparatively small engineering company in Cairns. I must make my position quite clear. I am not speaking, as it were, for an unsecured creditor. But I speak to indicate that this company, which is a small company, is still owed a very considerable sum in relation to the building of this ship. The loss of that money would prove a very great burden and setback to the operations of this small North Queensland company.
– So the honourable senator wants the Commonwealth to buy the ship.
– No. It is just a question of taking a broad national outlook on this matter and realising that this is not only, as naturally the Tasmanians conceive it primarily, a contract between the operator of this service, the Tasmanian Government which is interested in supplying the ship, the people of King Island who want the service and the people of the State of Tasmania generally, but also it is a matter that in the way I have described involves a part of Australia remote from Tasmania. It involves to some extent, if not the future at least the welfare of a comparatively small yet significant operating secondary industry in Cairns. As is known, in the main Cairns is the centre of a sugar-producing area with some back country, the Atherton Tableland and Mareeba where butter and corn are produced. In the main, it is a primary producing area. But we know that, from the point of view of distribution of population, mere reliance on primary industry is not necessarily the answer. In a process of decentralisation, the necessity to build up decentralised secondary industries is of vital national importance.
This comparatively small engineering company, with great courage, considerable efficiency and not inconsiderable success, has established itself in Cairns and has already constructed many vessels of small tonnage. It is making a significant contribution not only to the production of surface craft but also to the economic viability of Cairns and district. Honourable senators will remember well the rather recent establishment of the naval patrol out of Cairns. The presence of this company with a comparatively large and modern slipway, means that work on seagoing vessels can be done at this port. This is a matter in which the nation, in the broader sense, is involved.
What happens to the ‘Straitsman’ in Tasmania will have repercussions nationally in relation to our defence, geographically in relation to Cairns and district and economically in relation to both. Therefore, I put this forward with considerable concern as a Queensland senator who has been through these engineering works, who has spoken to the operatives, who knows the people employed in them, who knows how important it is that their volume of work should be maintained and who knows the dedication of the men who have built the industry and the very low labour turnover in the enterprise concerned. This is because Mr Fry, his family and the executives who now sit with him are excellent employers. I know how important it is to Cairns and district and to Australia that this small enterprise should be maintained.
If the denial of this money to this engineering works does not prove to be a disaster to it, at least it will be a considerable setback. Therefore, it is a matter in which the Commonwealth should try to take the broad outlook, quite apart from the questions of King Island, the ‘Straitsman’ or the other party to the contract and quite apart from the Tasmanian Government. As a Queensland senator, I am now asking the Minister and the Government to consider the wider implications of this matter in relation to defence, to the efficient operation of a Naval establishment that the Government put in the area and in relation to the maintenance of this small but vital, relevant and significant secondary industry in the northern part of Australia. It might be said that an enterprise of this kind in this part of the country is unique. Possibly there would be no other industry of this magnitude doing this type of work as remote from the populous urban areas of the central and southern coast of Australia as North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd.
For those reasons, I appeal to the Government to try to accept a point of view far beyond the mere situation as it exists - vital as it is to Tasmania, King Island and the parties to the contract - to try to take an even broader outlook on the matter and to come to the aid of this ship and consequently indirectly and vicariously to help the north Queensland industry. As a Queenslander, I am interested in maintaining these works and I have had occasion to wait on the former Minister for Shipping and Transport, Mr Nixon, with deputations and to discuss this matter with him. Therefore, I am not unfamiliar with the background and circumstances of this whole matter. I do not, however, pose as an expert on it. I could not go into the intricacies of the contract, the relevant undertakings given on either side, the viability of the enterprise or the suitability of the ship. I do not propose to dogmatise on any of those matters. But the views of those who have gone into the matter and the submissions of those who are involved in it seem to support the proposition that the ship is adequate and relevant for the purpose and suitable for the type of cargo that would be lifted and that its continued provision of services to King Island is of absolutely vital concern to that Island.
– What about the economics of it?
– The economics of it also are disputed. I know that there could be 2 schools of thought on this. Therefore, as there is dispute and as there are these other remote considerations that can be taken into account, it is only appropriate that before this, in a sense, death blow is given to this enterprise and the consequences flow from it there should be an inquiry into the whole situation. Surely that is not too much to ask. After all. the Minister would be relying on advice given to him in good faith and no doubt with considerable skill and dedication. But there are other points of view which could be properly presented and closely examined; and when view confronts view it may well be that another conclusion may be reached or at least another solution may be discovered.
– Do you say that the inquiry should extend to the Cairns shipbuilding industry?
– No, I do not say that. However, I do say this: I am putting this before the Minister in an attempt to persuade him that, when he comes to consider whether this matter should receive investigation, the consequences of it in that remote part should not be discounted or laid aside as of no concern at all. I agree that it would not be the absolute ratio of the inquiry and that what happens to the Cairns engineering works could not determine the outcome of this matter in isolation. But, when the Minister comes to consider the matter, the consequences there could well be borne in mind. As in most matters of governmental administration, the decisions are not clear cut.
For example, when a State government comes to consider the economic viability of railways, it is always confronted with very heavy railway losses, but on the other side it balances the economic contribution that the railways are making to its State. In other words, it takes the broad view. It does not look merely at the bookkeeping of the system; it looks at the bookkeeping of the national accounts and national welfare. That is why I am putting this consideration before the Minister as an additional one. If any way. out of this situation, apart from the complete negative to the proposition, can be discovered then let a consideration such as the one I am now presenting be the grain that goes into the scales and tips the Minister’s solicitude in this direction. That is at the least what I am asking for. Knowing the Minister and knowing the objective manner in which he so often approaches matters, I think he will agree that this is a relevant and important consideration.
– The matter is being investigated every day of the week.
– Mr President, this is the States House. The committee to which it is proposed to refer this matter is a committee of the States House. This is a matter that involves enterprises in 2 States and it is particularly appropriate’ that it should come before such a committee. That is another reason why the Minister, acting with prudence, caution and understanding, should be prepared to let this matter go to this committee.
I can see no reason why the Minister should discount such a suggestion. I can see less reason why he should totally and implacably oppose it. Therefore, I suggest that the sweet reasonableness of the suggestion, the sensitivity of the whole situation and the consequences that can flow if the matter is handled as it is now proposed to handle it are considerations that should persuade the Minister, even at this late hour, that the whole situation might be retrieved and a formula or solution might be found which will satisfy the people of King Island and the economics of the situation and also ensure a continuation of this contribution to the viability of a north Queensland industry. Therefore, I urge the Minister, not in any party political sense - nothing of that character at all - to take this as the final avenue to be explored. While it remains unexplored, the Minister cannot consider that every possible implication of this matter has been looked at, every consequence examined and every alternative solution exa mined and discarded. Until this- examination takes place, 1 do not think the Minister would be entitled. to reach such a conclusion.
Therefore, I commend to the Minister the proposition which has been put1 forward. Even if no solution is found by this’ committee, at least all of us will be satisfied that, to the best of the common ability of- the Government, the honourable senators who represent the States concerned, the parties, to . the contract and the people of King Island, -no avenue has been left unexplored, and that everything has been done to try to find ,a solution which would be acceptable and proper to all concerned. For those reasons, I appeal to the Minister to be prepared to accept the motion propounded from Tasmania.
– I, too, want to support this motion because, as a north Queenslander, I am interested in this matter, particularly on account of North Queensland Engineers and Agents Pty Ltd. Senator Byrne has explained to the Senate what this family company has done in that area. I want to go a little further and say that this company, which employs 360 men, not only is in shipbuilding but also covers heavy engineering and many other fields including chimney stacks for our sugar mills. It has been able to operate and tender for the building of a ship of the size of the ‘Straitsman’ without a Commonwealth subsidy - and to tender at a much lower price than others. In all its commitments it has been able to operate profitably and has really given a lead to the shipbuilding industry of this country.
The point that concerns me is that statements have been made that the ship is not seaworthy and that it is not suitable; yet it was designed by one of the world’s leading maritime architects and was approved by the Department of Shipping and Transport as being able to operate this service. Of course, R. H. Houfe and Co. Pty Ltd, which has been operating it, did go broke. We know that many people go broke, and for various reasons. That is not to say that the ship concerned was responsible for that company going broke. I believe that, had R. H. Houfe and Co. Pty Ltd - I think the management admits this - operated in a different way and given a little more personal consideration to the operation of the service, it would have been successful.
– It was a free enterprise venture.
– We have plenty of free enterprises that have been successful and plenty that can go down the drain. But we always end up with the successful ones. That is the important thing about free enterprise as against government enterprise, because with the latter we never get another choice.
The more I read about and interest myself in this matter, the more I feel that there are people who have other reasons for wanting the ‘Straitsman3. Either they want to buy it at a greatly reduced price or they want it for some other reason. I feel that the company that built the ‘Straitsman’ has built a very good ship.
From what Senator Rae said, there is little doubt that there are differing views as to the projected future of the trade. One of the arguments used was that the ship was too big for the trade. Yet I think there are two or three ships operating that trade at the present time and doing the work that this one roll-on roll-off ship could do. But it has been stated that it is too big for the trade. It has been said to me that it is only a matter of a short time and doing the work that this one roll-on such that it would be able to operate effectively and efficiently. I think it is necessary to inquire into all aspects of this matter. I am particularly interested because this firm in northern Queensland has been very competent and has operated efficiently. That a ship that is seaworthy and has been designed for the job should be rubbished by certain people - only certain people- - -
– That is absolute nonsense.
– It has been said by certain interests who do not want it to operate.
– No, it is not under question.
– All right. Everyone is giving me advice in this matter, but I believe that an inquiry is necessary to straighten out all these matters and to see whether in fact this ship is capable of doing the job efficiently. It was built by this firm to the specifications that were required for the job, and that is why I support the motion. I believe that we need an inquiry into this matter. I feel strongly about this because, as Senator Byrne has mentioned, this firm has done a tremendous job in northern Queensland. It employs 360 men.
– That is not under question
– Hang on. It is in question because the whole future of this company is at stake. This is a family company and not a company into which overseas interests have been pouring money. It is an ordinary family company which started from nothing 20 years ago. What family company of this nature could afford a gigantic loss of something like $180,000?
– Why should the Commonwealth come to the rescue?
– I am not saying that the Commonwealth should come to the rescue. I believe that this company should have a fair go. It has built a ship and its whole reputation in relation to the product it turns out is in question.
– No, it is not.
– It is in fact.
– It is not, you know.
– It is as far as I am concerned because maritime experts around the world have maintained that the ship is capable of doing the job.
– It filled the order.
– That is why I want the inquiry. I want to make sure that it is capable of doing the job. It is seaworthy, and I do not want to see outside influences preventing it from operating. I support the motion for that reason.
– Firstly, I make the comment that the matter before the Senate tonight is not one that should be seen in isolation. It is part of the problem which has bedevilled the island of Tasmania for many years, namely, the question of transporting from Tasmania to the Australian mainland all the goods which are produced there and on which Tasmania depends so much. 1 do not want to labour this point but, as a Tasmanian, I wish to impress upon the Senate that 95 per cent of whatever is produced in Tasmania has to be marketed outside Tasmania. This is the great problem which confronts any island people. Despite the fact that we operate under some strange laws, we are faced with this problem. For example, the mainlanders seem to think that because we use the Hare-Clark system in elections we are somewhere half way to the South Pole. But I assure them that we have this problem built into our geographical position. What we are talking about tonight is not simply the question of King Island alone but the problem that confronts the whole of the State of Tasmania and the people who live there.
During the course of his remarks Senator Rae referred to the fact that he had asked me to convey to him some information concerning the service to the island. I was under the impression that the information had been conveyed to him.
– Air freight.
– Yes, air freight. If it has not been conveyed to him, I regret it. I will make sure that the information is made available to him in the next day or two. Senator Rae did make the comment that the situation in respect of this service is, as he described it, an incredible mess up. I take the point that Senator Byrne made, namely, that this is a States House and we ought to try to look at the problem objectively. It is true that there is a mess up but we have to try to identify what that mess up is.
A survey was made of the facilities available to the island. This survey was carried out by a firm which, I understand, made certain recommendations to the Commonwealth. On the basis of the recommendations that were made it was agreed that it would not be an economic proposition to operate vessels in excess of 300 tons. To the best of my knowledge that report has never been made public. Do not let us talk about open government because I do not think the record of the previous Government is all that it might be in that respect. It could well be that had that report been made public we would not be debating this issue tonight because the Tasmanian people and the taxpayers of Australia would be aware that the Commonwealth investment should never have been proceeded with.
On the basis of his free enterprise initiative, which Senator Maunsell was so ready to defend, Captain Houfe made a commercial judgment. I am not questioning whether Captain Houfe was right or wrong. The fact is that the economics of the situation proved that Captain Houfe was wrong. It is my understanding that the Tasmanian Transport Commission - I do not know about the Commonwealth - was not informed about the results of any economic survey that Captain Houfe may have made. It seems that Captain Houfe made a commercial judgment and he was wrong. It is not as though the ship was not seaworthy; that is not exactly the point. The point is that he made an investment which simply was not an economic goer. It is a matter of grave doubt whether anybody should rescue anybody else from an economic misjudgment, and that is the unfortunate situation in which the people of the island find themselves. Bearing in mind that there has been a change of government since this occurred, I suppose the responsibility could rest just as squarely on members of the former Liberal Government as it can upon the members of the present Labor Government.
The motion before the Senate refers to a pledge of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party on 10th October 1972 that a Federal Labor Government would require the Australian National Line to assume responsibility for the King Island service. I was interested to note that no specific reference was made to substantiate this point.
– Have you seen the telegram that Mr Ron,Davies sent?.
– If Senator. Wright feels that any statement made by any individual in his Party holds his Party wholly responsible for that statement I would be. surprised and I would welcome his admission in that regard in this place. I do not think that Senator Wright would have considered himself when he was a Minister as being responsible for every statement that was made publicly by a member of his government. I am quite sure that he would not have done so. He would have been< quite at liberty not to do so.
I remind Senator Rae that he was a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Primary and Secondary Industry and Trade which inquired into the subject of freight rates on shipping services to and from Tasmania. One of the recommendations of that Committee was that any disability Tasmania suffered should be referred to the Bureau of Transport Economics. I should think that it would be more to the point if we were to await the outcome of its findings rather than to embark upon another inquiry by a Senate select committee. I do not know what the position is regarding a report on that subject by the BTE. It must be very close to being presented to the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). I am not sure of the position in that respect. But I think it makes sense to wait. We both sat through that inquiry and we know what a long and drawn out procedure it was. We also know just how complicated is the issue involved. It is for that reason that I come back to my original remark that we should not be trying to debate this issue or even appoint a select committee in isolation from the general question involved.
A debate on a matter of this nature is not simply a question of trying to score points off each other. We ought to be trying to look objectively at the issue. I can understand, for example, the points that Senator Byrne made concerning Queensland. I have been assured by the statement made by the Minister either today or yesterday that the Government will be looking at the question he raised. I should imagine that Senator Wright, who has not yet spoken in this debate but who was a Minister in the previous government-
– He has spoken. He moved the motion.
– That is correct. I am sorry. I should imagine that Senator Wright would be the first to agree with me when I say that no government should be expected to accept responsibility for a commercial decision made by a family company, as Senator Maunsell referred to it; but that is what the Government is expected to do.
– No; not unless it is in the public interest.
– Not if it is not in the public interest. Senator Wright has made a very good point. Therefore, whatever we do in the public interest ought to be well thought through. I would suggest that the previous Government’s record in respect of the public interest was not the best. I say that because there was a recommendation to the effect that the provision of these facilities on King Island would not in fact be an economic proposition if a ship of the size of the ‘Straitsman’ were to be built. That Ls where an error of judgment has been made. We have been left with the legacy of it.
I do not think that there is a great deal to be gained from the appointing of a select committee to inquire into this matter. There may be factors which come to light that are of benefit to this Parliament. But, as I think Senator Cavanagh, the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, has said, every effort is being made by the Tasmanian and Federal governments to resolve the situation.
I do not think that the people of Australia are expected to be involved in the purchase of a vessel which has proven to be uneconomic. That in fact is the truth of the ‘Straitsman*. So we have to look for a different remedy. It may be that, as a result of consultations between the 2 governments, we will be able to find that remedy. But .there would be little purpose served now in the formation of a select committee of this Parliament to inquire into the matter. For that reason, although my interests, as with any of the problems confronting Tasmania, are so much with Tasmania, I feel obliged to say that no useful purpose would be served by the formation of such a committee.
– I would like to make some observations which might help to clarify the minds of honourable senators on this issue. I will commence by saying that I think it is the common objective of us all, no matter on what side of the Parliament we sit, to reach an acceptable solution to the problems of King Island in the public interest.
– A businesslike solution in the public interest.
– That is right. I agree with that entirely. Before I commence to make the various points which I think I should make I believe I should say in relation to the observations which have been made by both Senator Byrne and Senator Maunsell that from my knowledge and according to my understanding of the situation there has been no questioning of the quality of the workmanship which went into the construction of the Straitsman’, of its seaworthiness or of any of the functions which it was designed to undertake, with one exception. I do not know the basis of the reasoning which went behind it, but a member of the Liberal Party who is now an Independent member of the Upper House in the Tasmanian Parliament has in fact questioned the seaworthiness of this ship. I am not in a position-
– He is not a member of the Liberal Party.
– I am referring to Mr Braid of Ulverstone.
– He is not a member of tha Liberal Party.
– He acknowledged to me that he was a member of the Liberal Party prior to entering the Upper House in Tasmania.
– The honourable senator said that he is a member of the Liberal Party.
– I said that he was a member of the Liberal Party. I do not think we should split straws about that. He set himself up as a judge of the quality and the capacity of this ship to perform its functions. I would not do so. The company owning that ship invited him to go to sea in it and to attempt to judge for himself as to its seaworthiness and the quality of its performance. That is the only occasion when the quality of the ship and its ability to do its job have been called into question. No member of the Australian Labor Party has indulged in that criticism. I believe I am expressing the views of my colleagues on this side of the House when I say that without exception we do not call into question its performance. I hope that the shipping company which undertook to construct, and in fact constructed, the ship will accept that we believe that it was constructed completely to its design specification and would be capable of fulfilling the function which those who commissioned it wanted it to fulfil.
The motion before the Senate is that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon whether there is justification for immediately employing the ‘M.V. Straitsman’
– For not immediately employing.
– The notice paper states for immediately employing’.
– It should state ‘for not immediately employing’. There has been a printer’s error.
– I accept the fact that there has been an omission but it is not an important one. The motion refers to the operating of shipping services between King Island, Stanley and Melbourne having regard to the need of the residents of King Island for an adequate shipping service. No-one questions the right of the people of those areas to have an adequate shipping service. We have expended millions of dollars in post war years on the. development of a soldier settlement on King Island and have committed people and families to the establishment of themselves on King Island in the pursuit of various enterprises. Surely we are under an obligation to ensure that the products of their labour reach the markets that are available, to them. Paragraph (b) of the motion refers to the construction at government expense of 3 terminals at King Island, Stanley and Melbourne, costing $2.2m. Once again I do not think anybody would question the desirability for this. One would certainly immediately concede the necessity for a terminal at King Island. As a resident of the. north-west coast of Tasmania and one who grew up in the area, I believe that it is most desirable that the service also take into its operations the area served by the Circular Head municipality through the port of Stanley and the giving of access to the markets of the mainland through Melbourne.
Paragraph (c) of the motion refers to the construction by Houfe and Co. Pty Ltd, as part of the general reorganisation of King Island shipping, of a new vessel, the ‘M.V. Straitsman’, which was built at Cairns at a cost of $1.2m. That raises a quite interesting story. I understand that Captain Houfe is a very capable and able seaman. Many years ago he commissioned a ship called the ‘King Islander’, which was built in my home town of Devonport. It was a ship of very modest dimensions but it carried on the trade to King Island for many years and serviced that area with great credit to all concerned. With the development of commerce and agriculture on King Island, Captain Houfe obviously estimated that that ship was run out of its time. There is a limited life for ships of this character. It became necessary for him to have a new ship built. In his judgment as a competent and capable seaman and a seagoing captain - I understand that he has a full master’s ticket - he commissioned the building of a ship which he adjudged would need a dead weight capacity of, I think, 1,000 tons. I understand that that is completely contrary to the recommendations of an inquiry which was commissioned by the former Government.
The former Government engaged a firm of consultants, MacDonald, Wagner and Priddle, in association with W. D. Scott, to consider the requirements of the island and in particular the shipping tonnage required for a vessel to service that island and to replace the ‘King
Islander*. The consultants’ report recommended to the then Government the development of the port of Currie to take a 350 dead weight. tons roll-on roll-off vessel for the King Island-Melbourne trade. The first fact that emerges is that the consultants to the Government considered that the service could be effected by a ship of one-third the capacity of that which was ultimately commissioned. As Senator Wriedt said earlier, this was a free enterprise judgment and was not made by somebody who went into the inquiry regarding the shipping service in that area completely cold and without any foreknowledge but by someone who had operated very creditably a shipping service to King Island for a number of years. Let there be no doubt about that.
The second matter to emerge - and this caused concern to Senator Maunsell and Senator Byrne - was the commissioning of this ship at $1.2m or thereabouts. Very shortly after the commissioning of this ship, Captain Houfe, or the company, made the judgment that the tariff then operating for the carriage of goods to and from King Island was not adequate to meet the capital costs of servicing the ship and to meet the costs of its construction. Captain Houfe then indicated to the people in that area and to all at large that it was necessary, as I recall, to increase the tariff costs considerably. There was an outcry from the people of King Island. I think all honourable senators are well aware of that. The people of King Island repudiated this new arrangement which had been made without their involvement. As far as I can judge the arrangements were made without the people of King Island being invited to make any observations at all on this new tariff scale. Honourable senators are well aware of the fact that in the daily Press at the time the Warden of King Island, speaking as the voice of the people in that area, indicated to the Premier of Tasmania that the people of King Island did not want the M.V. ‘Straitsman’ servicing that trade. In fact they sought from the Premier of Tasmania some means of effectuating their own desires. They proposed that they should acquire the ship which had been previously servicing the trade, the M.V. ‘King Islander’, so that they could run the service themselves. They were not prepared to pay the substantially increased scale of tariffs. This is a very sad affair. I sympathise with everybody con cerned. The situation is that the person who was virtually the sole operator servicing the King Island trade made the judgment that it was necessary to commission a 1,000 ton ship, 3 times the size of the vessel recommended for commission in a report to the Government in 1972.
– The increased size was necessary for the vessel to run from the north-west of Tasmania.
– Of course. I agree with Senator Rae. Naturally one would expect that in making a decision as to the appropriate size of a ship to serve the new trade consideration would be given the fact that it was not a direct King Island-Melbourne service. It would be a triangular service taking in on the run the servicing of the port of Stanley in the Circular Head municipality. Even then one would imagine that the consultants advising the Government in 1972 would have had the Stanley trade requirement in mind when passing judgment. It would be incredible to expect that the judgment as to the appropriate size of the vessel would be taken in isolation of the needs of the Circular Head municipality which must have been represented through the appropriate authorities at the time. One could accept that in recommending to the Government the construction of a ship of 350 dead weight tons the consultants would have had regard to the Stanley trade requirement. In fact Captain Houfe made the judgment that the ship should be 3 times the size of that which had operated the service.
I suppose that one of the greatest weaknesses of mankind which is manifest in all our dealings is that we seem to be very much unable to assess the needs of the future. If there is any great shortcoming in our society when any construction or any enterprise is undertaken, it is that we tend to underestimate rather than to over-estimate. This seems to be one of those occasions when the judgment as to the size of the ship, taking into account ultimate developments, seems to indicate that the decision was for a ship grossly in excess of the needs. One does not need to be an economic wizard to believe that when a vessel is commissioned for a particular service on far too grand a scale, somebody has to pay the piper. The people of King Island were not prepared to pay the piper. I think that is the long and the short of the situation.
The Government of Tasmania is obliged to work within the bounds of reasonable economics when making a judgment as to some venture which it agrees to underwrite. I have been informed directly by the Tasmanian Minister for Transport - and it was made public through the media - that if the recommendations of his expert advisers had been that it was appropriate to commission the Straitsman’, the ‘Straitsman’ would have been commissioned. But he, in common with all of us, has a responsibility to the electorate to ensure that there is no extravagance of a kind which would lead a government to make a decision which could ultimately make it culpable for doing something which it had no right to do.
I know that honourable senators on the Opposition side are very much concerned about this matter. I concede - I would be failing in my duty if I did not - that their main consideration is the servicing of King Island by shipping. After all, King Island is an essentia] part of the responsibility of Tasmania. We in this chamber are the representatives of that State. There is a common accord between all senators that there is a need to resolve this very great problem which concerns King Island. We are not arguing about that point. We are arguing about how the problem can be resolved. Proper regard must be paid in finding a solution to this problem to the economics of the situation.
For many years I worked in a position where I was subject to examination by the Auditor-General. When I went beyond the bounds of reasonableness in the expenditure of money or the discharge of a public office I was called into question - many times. I sweated about it a lot because I believed I was doing the right thing, but ultimately the question was raised as to whether the right thing was being done by me. Any government has an accepted responsibility from which it cannot run away, that it must have proper regard for the affairs of people and at the same time apply reasonable bounds of economics to the discharge of its obligations.
I do not intend to go into great detail on this matter. I think that the Government of Tasmania is desperately trying to solve this problem. What government would not attempt to solve this problem if it was given that responsibility. More than 3,000 people on King Island are dependent for their exis tence and their very livelihood on a capacity to market their goods so that the economies of their daily lives can be safeguarded.
– It is of not much use to grow products if you cannot transport them.
– That is right, and the Government knows that. Surely we must accept that no government which has a sense of responsibility would duck this issue. I know the desperate attempts which are being made and which have been made consistently over a long period. Do not let us have any doubts about this matter. Do not let us have any divided ideas about it. This problem did not commence on 2nd December. A committee of consultants was engaged to look into the matter long before the Labor Party took over the reins of government in the Federal sphere. No doubt a sense of responsibility and a judgment were brought to bear on those recommendations. I have told the Senate some of the recommendations that were made. The others are on record for anybody to see.
I recall the occasion when the Minister representing the Minister for Transport made the statement in this chamber about the decision to ask the Australian National Line to acquire the ‘King Islander’ and to put it into service. I later checked this matter. I found that there was some misunderstanding somewhere along the line. I believe that it was ultimately clarified. As far as I can recall, a couple of days after that the Press mentioned that this was not so. I shall be more specific because Senator Rae mentioned this matter by way of interjection. Later that very day I was talking to and conveyed that information to Mr Reece, the Premier of Tasmania, and to Mr Batt. They were somewhat bewildered because it was not their understanding that the situation was as had been indicated. Subsequently it was found that there had been a misunderstanding somewhere along the line when various steps were being taken in an endeavour to solve the problem. This was one of the ideas which was being examined at that time.
I can recall going with other honourable senators to see the then Minister for Shipping and Transport in the previous Government, Mr Nixon. He gave us a very cordial reception. He discussed with us aspects of the problems relating to this service. He indicated to us that he thought that Tasmania was in a position to do something more than it had done about the service. I can recall a figure of about $360,000 being mentioned. Apparently that was the figure by which the cost of the ship fell short of some other figure which was mentioned. In any case, a fairly substantial sum of money was to be guaranteed, underwritten or backed in some way by Tasmania. We subsequently found that Tasmania did not have the money involved. It was merely asked to back this amount. I believe that the Premier said: ‘What about the shipbuilding subsidy which the Commonwealth Government has agreed to make available for the construction of ships in Australia?
Captain Houfe had made a judgment about the capacity of the ship. He made a judgment that he would get the ship built in a certain shipyard at a certain figure. This was prior to June of the year in which the Government agreed to provide a quite substantial subsidy - I cannot recall the amount at the moment - for local shipbuilding. Attempts were made to secure that subsidy for Captain Houfe although the ship had been completed; it was commissioned prior to the date on which the subsidy was to operate. For reasons known to the previous Government and communicated to us, it was not appropriate in the circumstances that this money should be made available. Captain Houfe was up for $1.2m. If he had secured the subsidy the capital cost would have been reduced to about $800,000. Please do not hold me to these figures, but that is my understanding from memory. The cost to him may have been less. If the subsidy had been made available on that ship - the ‘Straitsman’ - as I understand it, there would have been no need for an increase in the tariffs for the transport of goods to and from King Island. The row which subsequently blew up over this and the repudiation by the people of King Island of the new tariff probably would not have occurred.
I think we should bear these questions in mind when we determine whether at this time, when negotiations are still proceeding, we should set up a committee of inquiry. Until a few days ago I had the belief that negotiations were nearing completion that would enable the ship to be leased by the Tasmanian Government and commissioned for a period of 3 months, when proper judgment as to the economics would be made. This would be flying in the face of the recommendations of experts in the field of tran sport and economics, but the Government of Tasmania was still prepared to commission the ship and to put it into service for 3 months. As a consequence of its operations a proper judgment of its performance in that period could be made. A judgment would be made as to whether the ship could be suitably engaged and economically employed in the interests of the people of King Island and those other areas which the ship would service. I understand that the negotiations are continuing, I have not heard that they have broken down. One can hope that the matter will proceed to a satisfactory finality for all concerned.
I believe that prior to this the Government was prepared to lease the vessel without any strings tied to it. The Government would then have attempted to secure overseas another ship to service the trade on a proper economic basis. It would have been a much smaller ship. All the proper requirements of economics would have been employed. Ultimately the Government would have commissioned the purchase of a ship which was completely suitable to the trade. It is a matter for very great regret that we have come to this point in the consideration of the matter. No doubt Captain Houfe’s judgment was made with all the approaches which he was able to make to the question of economics. I suppose if one undertakes any enterprise the first thing that one has to look at is the economics of the situation. Prior to this the economics of running the small ship ‘King Islander’ apparently worked out quite well. But there is a limited life on steel shies.
It was inevitable that before long a decision had to be made as to the sort of ship which would replace that vessel in the future. It seems to me that, regrettably, the size of the ship was substantially greater than it ought to have been. That is not my judgment but the judgment of the people who are most directly concerned with the matter - the people who have to meet the costs of operation of it. Their judgement was that it was not the ship for the trade. The people of a significant part of the territory of Tasmania were saying: ‘We do not want your ship’. They did not say that in isolation or in their off-shore territory, if I may use that term. They went as a delegation to the Government of the State and said: ‘Get rid of it. We do not want it. We will not support it. We are most unhappy that, having been promised transportation of our goods at a tariff level, this tariff level has now been changed. Without our concurrence it has been changed. We are not prepared to accept it’.
What will we achieve by an inquiry? I hope that the Senate will not agree to a precipitate inquiry when it has before it the recommendations of a firm of competent consultants. What are we to do? In the face of a recommendation for a 350-ton ship, are we to say that we ought to commission a 1,000-ton ship? I hope - I think all honourable senators hope this - that there will be a sufficient trade to and from King Island, Stanley and Melbourne, which is the other point of the triangle, to warrant the utilisation of that ship. Nobody would be happier than I or any other senator who represents Tasmania if the level of trade were such as to utilise fully the capacity of that ship. I would be happy about it, and I feel that all honourable senators would be happy about it. The plain facts of the matter and the realities of the situation are that it is apparent to us that that would not be the case. I would not argue for a moment against the economists over this matter. I know Mr Batt and Mr Reece very well and 1 know the other members of the Tasmanian Government. We all know the members of the Tasmanian Government. It would not be suggested for a moment by any one of us - if it is, let us say so - that the greatest consideration for the welfare of the people of King Island is not being exercised by the Government of Tasmania. Whatever that Government does, we can rest assured that it will be done in the interests of the people of that area and in the interests of the good government of the State of Tasmania.
– I would like to feel that I agree with you, but I would like some more facts.
– I invite the honourable senator to bear with the Government for the time being. One would have some difficulty - at least, I would as an ordinary layman - in trying to unravel the legal technicalities involved in the release of a ship to the Tasmanian Government from the legal entanglement - that is not a very well chosen phrase, I know - of the present situation. The ship is out of commission and is not earning anything. I believe that the question of receivership is involved. 1 believe that there are some legal entanglements. There must be.
With the great goodwill that has been apparent all the time in the actions of the
State Government of Tasmania, an attempt is being made to negotiate a method by which the ship can be employed. Surely it ought to be sufficient for us to say that for a period of 3 months we will give that ship an opportunity to prove itself, to prove that its capacity is adequate and appropriate and to prove that the tariffs to be charged can be met by the people who are to use the services of that ship. I see Senator Cant observing the debate.
– He has just come into the chamber.
– Whether he has just entered the chamber or not, it is obvious that he is showing an interest in what I am saying. That is pretty good. He knows the problems and the fantastic costs involved in operating a shipping service. Last year I had the opportunity of travelling on the Western Australian State Shipping Service. It employs, or it did employ, an excellent ship to carry cargo and passengers along the Western Australian coast. The captain of that ship told me in the course of conversation, because I was saying what a wonderful service it was-
– That State cannot afford it anyway.
– That is the very point I am coming to. That ship, despite the fact that it carried its capacity of cargo and its full complement of passengers, and served those passengers for up to 14 days, lost on that service no less than $996,000 for the year. That is the measure of the problems of operating a shipping service. It is all very well for us to stand here and say that we can make a judgment as to what ought to be or ought not to be. I am aware of that sort of situation and I realise the concern of the people in the Government of Tasmania who would be responsible for employing this ship and having proper regard to the economics of the situation. I can see some measure of the problem facing them. I think that they have done everything possible.
One can concede that the previous Government tried to solve this problem. It is not something which has just arisen; it has existed for years. The previous Government called in a firm of consultants and received its advice, but it did not make that advice known to the Senate, to the Parliament or to the people at large. It was a matter for its own concern. It belonged to the previous Government. I will not bring into question at the moment the reasons the previous Government had for doing this, because we are considering a much more important matter. The point is that the previous Government did not release the advice it received. I want to be as kind and as charitable as I possibly can. The terms of that report were not made available to this chamber. We were guessing, as was everybody else, about the reasons why certain steps were not taken to solve the problem of the shipping service to King Island. This Government ultimately inherited the responsibility and it has attempted to discharge that responsibility as a responsible government should discharge a responsibility. We have all conceded that it is not an easy problem to solve. 1 cannot see that any real point would be served in pursuing this matter when right at this moment, as I understand it, negotiations are in train, between the responsible officers and responsible Ministers of the Tasmanian Government and the other people concerned, with the object of putting the ‘Straitsman’ into service. The motion calls for a select committee to be appointed to ‘inquire into and report upon whether there is justification for immediately employing the M.V. ‘Straitsman’ . . .’. That is the very thing that those people are looking into - the justification for employing that vessel. What does the Opposition mean by ‘justification’? Does the Opposition merely mean that somebody wants a ship to run to King Island, or does it mean that there is justification for using a certain ship of a certain tonnage at a certain cost to the people engaging that ship? That is at the very heart of this matter.
Surely the Senate is fully committed to committee operations and committee work. I fear that the time is fast approaching when we will be pushed to the very limit in discharging our responsibilities in the committee area, if we have not already reached it. The motion calls for the appointment of a select committee of the Senate.
– I submitted your name and that of Senator O’Byrne, and I understood that you> agreed to serve.
– No, that is not so. Not at any stage have I indicated that I would serve on such a committee. I will say this: Senator Wright indicated to me that he had certain people in mind.
– I submitted the names to Senator O’Byrne 3 weeks ago.
– I know. I think you mentioned the names of 2 members of your own Party and 2 members on our side and that of Senator Townley. Senator Townley also was to be a member. But do not let us have any doubt about this, because Senator Townley also is a Liberal.
– I am a what?
– You are a member of the Liberal Party in Tasmania, are you not?
– I am not.
– I am sorry, Senator, but you were.
– I was, yes; but you are calling everyone a member of the Liberal Party.
– No, not everybody. There are very few Liberal Party members on this side of the chamber. Mr Bray acknowledged that he was, and that you were. The situation is that on the proposed committee there would be 3 senators from the Opposition side and 2 senators from this side.
– John Wheeldon was a member of the Liberal Party, too.
– Yes, but I think that he has been here on the Labor side for 8 years. When Senator Townley was elected to the Senate, the Tasmanian Press must have been wrong if it said that Senator Townley was a Liberal. I understood that he was a Liberal in Tasmania, but that he would sit as an Independent in the Federal Parliament. I apologise to him if that is not right. But that is what was said in the Press.
– I have not paid any money to the Liberal Party for years.
– I would not do so either. However, the situation is that the proposed committee would have 3 members from the Opposition side and 2 from the Labor side. I think it would be inappropriate to set up a select committee to inquire into this subject at this stage, when all the measures that can possibly be taken are being taken by the Tasmanian Government. We ought to be sensible. The Government which is responsible for discharging this service and which will cop the responsibility if it does not do the right thing should be allowed to try to resolve the matter, as it is desperately trying to do.
– in reply - I rise to close this debate, which I initiated, on the motion that the Senate should appoint a select committee of 5 Tasmanian senators to inquire into what is an essentially practical and immediate problem and to demonstrate, if we can, that a House of Parliament can offer assistance in solving a problem that hitherto has been incapable of being solved by the previous Federal Government, the present Federal Government or the present Tasmanian Government. It will be remembered that, on a previous occasion when the Premier of Tasmania and his Minister for Transport came here to discuss this matter, knowing the friendship that I am able to share with them despite differing political views and knowing that I could contribute something to any purposeful conference that was going on, in my innocence I asked Senator Cavanagh, the relevant Minister in this place, whether he would indicate my willingness to attend for 10 minutes and contribute to the discussion. Of course Senator Cavanagh adopted a characteristic attitude and referred to that as my cheek. That is not my spirit at all. I am completely unoffended and uninhibited in persisting in offering my assistance.
If I had come into this chamber to traduce this Government or to criticise the Tasmanian Government, I would have known the parliamentary means to employ. I would not have moved for the setting up of a select committee to inquire objectively into the facts and to submit a report for the consideration of the Senate; I would have initiated a debate that would have put forward all the facts as I know them and then I would have heavily emphasised the criticism if I thought it appropriate. But I abstain from making any other reference than that to that aspect of the matter. 1 do not join in any inferences that emanated from individual speakers on either side of the chamber. I want to assure Senator Wriedt and Senator Devitt that I listened most attentively to their references to this report which referred to a 300 ton ship. I want to assure them that I listened to this idea that increased tariff was the obstacle to which the King Islanders objected. I listened to the averment that the Australian National Line believed that the ship is incapable of profitable employment. I abstain from offering the information that is in my possession in relation to those matters. Why do I do that? It is because I am hoping that we will have the good sense, when the committee is appointed, to get together as the represen tatives of this chamber and hear evidence from the builder of the ship, the designer of the ship and these experts who recommended the construction of 3 ports at a cost of $2.2m.
I pause to reflect that we would have a new ship built in an Australian shipyard at a cost of $1.2m, and it could not be constructed in an orthodox approved shipyard today under $2. 5m. That ship would be rusting at the Melbourne wharves and $2.2 worth of ports would be idle and unsuitable-
– Where do you get the $2.5m?
– There would be $500,000 for Stanley, $1.2m for Grassy and $200,000 for Melbourne.
– I am talking about the ships, not the terminals. Where did you get that figure of $2.5m for the value of the ship?
– I have seen an estimate that it would cost $3m to build a replacement ship.
– Did you make that available to the Tasmanian Government?
– Senator Devitt mentioned that if Captain Houfe had received a subsidy for this ship he could have reduced the price for building it from $1.2m to $800,000, or something like that. The fact is that if this ship had to be built in one of the approved yards, the tender price for building it would be not $1.2m but nearer to $1.6m. After allowing for the subsidy, the actual cost would be more than $1.2m. If I were committed to those figures, with all a lawyer’s caution I would not be asking for a committee. I only indicate to Senator Devitt that there are 2 sides to every aspect that he has raised. 1 am hoping that the Australian Labor Party will not refuse for 5 minutes after this motion is passed to man this committee. If, in accordance with usual practice, the committee gives me, as the mover of the motion, the honour to chair the committee, I will be working weekends, from breakfast time to midnight, hearing evidence from people who have a responsibility in this matter in order to demonstrate to the people on King Island - 3,000 of them - that they are as much entitled as the people of Melbourne or
Sydney to have a proper shipping service provided by the Tasmanian and Federal Governments, with the assistance of this Senate.
I am thinking not only of the farmers but also of the scheelite mine which exports between 80,000 and 90,000 tons a year, and the absence of a ship on this service means an extra cost of from $10 to $25 a ton on that one item. I am just answering in a spirit that will indicate that I am not performing any perfunctory or pro forma exercise in this matter. But I am quite prepared to exercise restraint to show that I will reserve impartiality if Government senators will join me in an impartial inquiry into all of these aspects. The alternative to the proposition that is to be examined by the committee has been turned by the latest proposal of the Federal Government into a proposition that the Tasmanian Government should import a foreign vessel, with the aid of a loan of Sim from Canberra. Imagine a foreign ship coming into the trade, being reshaped and rebuilt, and then the wharves being re-adapted. Then will the King Islanders be confronted with a tariff operation comparable to one that you could get by building a new ship, designed for the specific needs of the trade by competent designers and admittedly built by competent builders, to trade into wharves already built?
– Will you guarantee that you will support the committee’s findings?
– Yes, indeed.
– You have a bad record in that regard. You did not support the findings of the Constitutional Review Committee.
– If Senator McAuliffe wants to debate my record on the basis of whether it is good or bad, let him put it up at the appropriate opportunity. If the Senate tells me that it has no confidence in my proposition, I will remain silent; I will not pervert myself as the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) of the present Government has done. Having lashed me into making a reference with a political sting, let me add one item for the edification of Senator Wriedt. To my great sorrow, I listened to him half heartedly - that is conceded - but I repudiate the authority of the person who sent this telegram. I have a photostat copy of the telegram. It is dated 10th October 1972, which was at a period when an election was in the air and people were seeking votes. The telegram is addressed to Captain H. R. H. Houfe and it states:
Federal Parliamentary Labor Party today approved following policy decision.
I hope honourable senators will fully appreciate what follows. The telegram continues:
A Federal Labor Government will require the Australian National Line to assume responsibility for the King Island shipping service and for this purpose to negotiate with the owners of the vessel ‘Straitsman’ which was specifically designed for this service. Ron Davies, MHR.
This honourable member has co-operated with the committee which inaugurated these 3 terminals. He was closely in contact with the whole program of construction of this ship. I have no doubt that he is the most disappointed man in this Parliament that the ship is not running and that the Federal Government is not supporting the proposition that it should run. I have not said one word indicating any conclusion of the viewpoint on the questions of economics, seaworthiness or the quantity of trade, an integral part of economics. But so far from accepting the allegations which come from the Government benches that all these things would fail to survive the test, I am assured that there is credible evidence to prove the contrary. The Senate would be completely ill advised to deny a committee of 5 honourable senators from Tasmania the authority to inquire into this matter. We do not wish to thwart the governments which are in negotiation with the receiver at this moment but we wish to stimulate that negotiation which has dawdled and which must be stimulated. This Senate must be ready to make any decision which is appropriate at the expiration of that all too short charter period of 3 months. I hope that the Senate will accept this motion.
– May I seek leave to make a statement on this matter indicating the attitude of the Government?
– No. The honourable senator may be assured that I will not give him leave.
– Order! Senator Cavanagh, you may seek leave of the Senate to make a statement. Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
– Could I move the suspension of Standing Orders?
– You may move the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I will do so for the purpose of granting myself leave to make a statement which is a statement from the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones). This is not a statement opposed to what Senator Wright has said. I know I offend him on many occasions, but I think this is reciprocal, lt is in accordance with the appeal of Senator Byrne and Senator Rae. As one honourable senator in the chamber will not give me leave to make a statement I move:
Question put. The Senate divided. The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to deal with the personnel of the Select Committee en the King Island Shipping Service.
– I raise a point of order. Is Senator Wright now introducing new subject matter? Originally he moved for the setting up of a select committee. That motion has been carried. Is he now entitled to speak and bring forward new business?
– I have taken the precaution of being advised on this, matter, Mr President. I offer you my opinion and that advice to the effect that I do not need leave for the motion which I atn about to submit, that it is authorised by the .resolution just passed.
– As a consequential motion?
– Mr President, the. position is not quite as clear as that. I am sorry to have to be offensive, to the honourable senator again, but the Senate has decided the order of business for tonight. We decided, firstly to discuss item 16 general business on the notice paper and, secondly, to discuss a notice of motion by Senator Kane. We have discussed item 16 and provided for a committee to consist of 5 senators to be appointed by a subsequent resolution. Having decided item 16, if we do not proceed to discuss Senator Kane’s notice of motion, we will have to rescind our previous decision as to the order of business. I suggest that we have no authority, in view of the order of business for tonight, to consider any subsequent motion in relation to item 16. We must pass on to the death duties legislation proposed by Senator Kane.
– I submit that the proper ruling in this case is that Senator Wright is in order. The motion which has been carried provides that the Committee shall consist of 5 Tasmanian senators to be appointed by a subsequent resolution. As I understand Senator Wright, the motion that he wishes to move is designed to appoint the members of the committee and therefore falls within the category of a subsequent resolution. If the point made by Senator Cavanagh is designed to be founded upon the Standing Orders, I draw your attention to clause 8 of the resolution which has just been carried which states:
That the foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
In those circumstances the terms of the resolution which has been carried contemplate the course that is now being pursued. If further justification is required, quite apart from the language of the resolution, may I submit that the practicality of the situation ought to commend itself to a Senate which has prided itself upon having a practice that will enable it to deal sensibly with matters that are raised. The Senate has decided that this committee should be established. It seems unnecessary and, I would have thought, fatuous to have stood over for 5 or 6 days the actual appointment of the committee because someone requires that notice of motion be given. But the practical consideration is that the terms of the resolution which has been carried by the Senate contemplate the course proposed by Senator Wright. In my submission. Mr President, obviously your ruling would be in accordance with the terms of the Senate’s resolution.
– I want to address myself to the point of order. I seek your clarification, Mr President, if you are in a position to give it to, me. I recall that during the debate Senator Wright mentioned me as a member of the proposed Committee. He indicated to the Senate that he had suggested to somebody, somewhere, that I would be a member of the Committee. Surely this is a departure from all the previous practice of the Senate when somebody can merely say at any old time that this honourable senator will be a member of a committee or that some other honourable senator will be. I have never at any time indicated my preparedness or unpreparedness to sit on a committee. This is a complete departure from any of our previous procedures. It has been customary and it is accepted as a long standing practice- - if it is not, somebody will please disabuse my mind on this point - that the political parties proceed to elect the appropriate persons to a committee of this kind. I might not be the most appropriate person to be elected to this Committee. But far be it for me to be told by a member of the Opposition that I will be on the Committee or that somebody else will be on the Committee. I made this point earlier.
I wonder whether we are not moving into some new and quite dangerous area of procedure. I am not speaking in any derogatory sense about Opposition senators. Government supporters had the experience of being in Opposition for a long time and bore it respectably. We conducted ourselves respectably and with proper restraint in matters of this kind. Here we have a proposition to appoint to the Committee 2 Government senators and 3 senators who are not supporters of the Government. This is a completely radical change from any previous procedure. Surely nobody will suggest that the business of this Government ought to be taken out of its hands. Is that the suggestion? Must we sit here and cop this? Do not let any honourable senator, particularly a backbencher like Senator Wright, whatever he may have been in the past, get carried away with the idea that he can merely hop up in his place in the Senate and tell me that I will be a member of the committee or tell any of my colleagues that they will be members of the committee. I would have something to say about that. I would want my Party to have some say about it because it may not feel - it is perfectly entitled to have these views and reservations if it wants to - that I am not the appropriate person to go on the Committee.
I may well be the most appropriate person for the Committee. I do not know. But I ask the Opposition please to give to the elected Government of the country at least the right to determine its own affairs in this matter. If supporters of the Government are to sit on this Committee - the Senate has decided that it will be set up - appropriately some consideration has to be given to this. Mr President, I ask for some guidance in this matter if you are able to give it to me. I see the motion before us and that Senator Wright has presented it, cut and dried. I repudiated his observation when he said that I was to be on the Committee because nobody has told me about it. Nobody on my side of the Parliament has invited me to be a member of that Committee. It is a figment of the wonderful imagination of Senator Wright that he is to determine who will be on it. I reckon that we ought to have some say in that.
– For once 1 want to try to pour some oil on disturbed waters. I suggest very sincerely to Senator Wright that he should not proceed with this motion this evening.
– Order! Senator Poyser, the point of order the Senate is debating is whether Senator Wright’s motion is in order
– I am not concerned about that aspect of the matter. We have certain procedures within our political party in relation to the election of members to committees. I understand that honourable senators opposite also have similar procedures. I suggest very sincerely that this matter be held over until such time as a decision can be made that will be acceptable to all the members of the parties that have members from Tasmania. I understand that Senator Wright is making 2 nominations. I understand that there are 4 or 5 Labor senators representing Tasmania sitting on this side of the Senate chamber. I was a member of the Senate committee that investigated the problem of the Australian National Line and other shipping services to Tasmania.
– I rise to order. Is the Senate debating a point of order, as I assumed that we were, or are we- discussing the motion? If the Senate is discussing the motion, I can see no point-
– Order! Senator Poyser appears to have resumed his seat. Does any other honourable senator wish to address himself to the point of order?
– I will rest at that because I am not prepared to enter into another brawl at the invitation of Senator Greenwood.
– I would like to add my remarks to those already made by Senator Devitt and other honourable senators in relation to the point of order. Honourable senators on this side of the Senate are obliged to submit their names to a ballot for any parliamentary office or committee to which they might be appointed. For that reason I feel that we are compelled in this situation to submit ourselves to this procedure. Senator Wright appears to have been playing one honourable senator off against the other. I was under the impression - Senator Wright informed me of this - that Senator Devitt had consented to become a member of this Committee. I had the feeling-
– Order! The point of order is whether Senator Wright can proceed with his motion.
– I do not think that he should proceed. He should allow us to observe the proper formality of submitting to our Party the names of senators to be members of the Committee.
– Order! I am satisfied, on the terms of the resolution and on the advice that has been given to me by the Clerks at the table, that Senator Wright is in order to move his motion and that he may proceed. 1 say that on the basis that when his motion is discovered by the Senate, the Senate may then proceed to debate it. I cannot anticipate the terms of the resolution.
– I move:
– I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘consist of; insert ‘five Tasmanian Senators, three to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and two to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition’.
As Senator Devitt and Senator O’Byrne have pointed out, the original motion which finally has been amended by Senator Wright, would have caused embarrassment to the Australian Labor Party because we have a timehonoured system of all appointments, no matter how humble or how high, being decided by our Caucus. This is a practice that goes back many years before I was elected to this place. I think Senator Wright would have known this. He may have overlooked it. I do not hold anything against him on that account. The Senate has already decided that there should be an inquiry into this subject of Tasmanian shipping, but again there is a timehonoured practice that the Government always has a majority on these committees.
– Not on a select committee.
– Yes, I think that on a select committee, too, the Government has a majority. After all, the burden of any decisions and any recommendations made by this Committee finally has to be carried by the Government. If expenditure is involved, then that must be a matter for the decision of the Government. The Government has been elected to carry out the wishes of the Australian people and to govern this country. I think that, if Senator Wright gives more mature consideration to this matter and thinks about the whole basis on which the Parliament and the Government must be run, he will agree with me.
We are accepting the Senate’s decision. The Senate is to set up a committee. All we are saying ls that it should be set up in accordance with the time-honoured custom and that this is a situation in which Senator Wright has to face up to the reality of what is happening. I have moved the amendment, I do not think I have to beat the drum about it. It sets out very clearly what we are asking of the Senate, now that we have accepted what Senator Wright has said - that there should be an inquiry into this subject and that there should be a committee of Tasmanian senators. We are agreeing with all that. However, what we are saying is that 3 senators should be nominated by the Leader of the Government - although not nominated tonight; rather that our Party should be given the chance to meet in its Party room and to make the decision, as we always do on appointments and nominations, as to who should be the senators on this Committee - and, further, that the majority of members on the Committee be given to the government of the day, as we in Opposition always agreed to.
I do not see that Senator Wright loses anything by this. I think that on mature consideration he will believe that this is right. My simple amendment is that we delete the names in Senator Wright’s motion and, after consideration, next week the Opposition shall nominate 2 members and that the Government shall nominate 3 members. I suggest that the Senate accept the amendment.
– Speaking to the amendment
– I second the amendment.
– You are seconding the amendment, Senator Bishop. Do you wish to reserve your right to speak?
– No, I wish to proceed now.
– I call Senator Bishop.
– I think it is a straightforward matter and I would like to proceed now, having seconded Senator Willesee^ amendment. What Senator Willesee has proposed is very reasonable. He is saying, in fact, that the proposal for a committee of 5, which has been advanced by Senator Wright, ought to be accepted. In saying that, he is also putting a proposition which 1 suggest to honourable senators opposite has been the accepted custom of the Senate, namely, that the government of the day ought to have a majority on a committee.
Let me tell Senator Wright, who did not see what was going on, what Senator Cavanagh wanted to say. When Senator Cavanagh intervened earlier in the debate he wanted to announce that the Government had decided, with the approval of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), to accept the proposition advanced by Senator Wright. Despite what the Government had done, it accepted the proposition that the Senate wanted to set up a committee to test what had been done. Senator Cavanagh was unable to say that. I am saying it now because he was unable to say it at the time. The Government accepts what the Senate has proposed; that is, to have an inquiry. We accept the usual test which has now been presented by Senator Wright. He is not now announcing what should be the final economic proposition. This is to be subject to test. So, all we have to resolve is who shall comprise the Committee.
– Excuse me, when you say that the Government accepts my proposition
– We accept the proposition for an inquiry. I have said what Senator Cavanagh was trying to say when Senator Wright had some cross words with him.
– The Senate has determined that for you.
– I know. What I am trying to relate is that at an earlier stage-
– The Senate determined it.
– I am only trying to put on the record that at an earlier stage we had agreed to accept Senator Wright’s proposition in relation to an inquiry. We are now saying that if it is proposed to have a committee of five it seems to us to be reasonable that that committee ought to consist of 3 Government senators and 2 Opposition senators because that has been the usual practice in the Senate.
Next, I refer to what Senator Willesee has stated, namely, that if the Committee decides to recommend a particular point of view which involves expenditure in the final analysis it will be Government expenditure. If it were resolved, for example, that the ‘Straitsman’ must be run on the service for 12 months at a cost of $400,000 a year, the Government would be up for that sum. lt is reasonable to say that iri that circumstance the Committee should consist of 3 Government senators and 2 Opposition senators.
– Who are Tasmanian senators?
– Yes, all 5 would be Tasmanian senators. It seems to me to be a reasonable proposition. Before the vote was taken Senator Cavanagh was not able to stand up and say that the Government accepted the proposition for an inquiry. So I suggest, with due deference to the issue, that we should test the proposition and that honourable senators be reasonable and accept what Senator Willesee has now proposed, having regard to the fact that the Government accepts Senator Wright’s proposition, which is simply to test the proposal.
– I rise to speak to the amendment. Since Senator Bishop was allowed while speaking to the amendment to advert to what Senator Cavanagh was precluded from saying on the main issue, let me reply? I have no respect for that face-saving that comes after defeat. I have no respect for the nose the skin on which remains intact only because one has been defeated. I never thought I would see such lack of genuineness on the part of a government. This is a practical matter. That ship is rusting in Melbourne. There are no proper services to King Island. This Government tried to thwart the appointment of this Committee 3 weeks ago. It has had 3 weeks to announce its acceptance of this Committee, and the Minister comes in here 10 minutes after the vote and puts the Whitlam Government so far down the drain as to think that he will impress the Senate with this claim that the Government now stoops to conquer, stoops to accept a resolution that has already been forced on it. Then its pretends that by that action it has earned the right to dominate the Committee. Having said that, the degree to which the Labor Party can renounce its duty to represent the King Island shipping service is now manifest.
On the very first night after I made my speech when moving this motion I proceeded to the table and obtained the assistance of the Clerks who have typed the subsidiary motion, believing that common sense would enable the main motion to come in that night so that I would be ready to put forward a formal motion the following day. The names of the Committee members were mentioned. They are Senator O’Byrne, Senator Devitt, Senator Townley, Senator Rae and myself. I took that piece of paper to Senator O’Byrne in his capacity as Labor Party Whip. He is the proper man with whom to have communications in relation to the representatives of the Labor Party on the Committee and I received his assent.
In view of Senator Devitt’s hesitating repudiation during his speech tonight, after he spoke and while Senator Cavanagh was making his futile attempt to get leave from me to make a statement, I spoke to Senator O’Byrne and asked him whether the arrangement still stood. He said: ‘Well, we have not considered it’. I said: ‘Are you going to refuse to serve on the Committee? Is it OK?’ He said: ‘Yes’.
– You said Senator Devitt.
– I never said that I had consulted Senator Devitt. I do not go around all members . of the honourable senator’s Party; I consult the Whip when I am authorised by my Whip to do so. Having said that, there are precedents to be followed in this Parliament. When the Labor Party had a majority for 18 months over the Government that came in on 10th December 1949, its members manned every seat on a committee and took the. majority on committees. We just baffle ourselves as bamboozling pettifogging politicans if we allow at this time this attempt by the Government to delay and to dominate the Committee. We have a repudiation by Mr Charles Jones of the decision that the Labor Party made on 10th October conveyed to us by Mr Davies. We have a repudiation of a solemn statement made in the Senate itself. It was not made in answer to a question but, having prompted Senator Rae to ask a question so that he could offer the information, Senator Cavanagh announced approximately 7 weeks ago that the Government that day had decided to instruct the Australian National Line to commission this ship. Mr President, the fatuity, the odious idea of having this Committee dominated by the Government to stimulate that Government into action I hope will prompt the Senate to reject the amendment.
– 1 support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee and seconded by Senator Bishop. It is a curious situation because not so very long ago - it would not be more than an hour ago - Senator Wright hade the plea to the Senate that we ought not to engage in politics in this place. He said that we should assess this matter on a judgment of the interests of the people concerned and the performance of the Government. I leave it to the judgment of the Senate as to whether we have descended from that situation. I am not proposing to do that. I merely remind the Senate that when it suits Senator Wright to attempt to postulate a deep and abiding interest in the people in that part of the country and when it suits him to descend into the area of political infighting he can do it with a great facility. We could join him in that exercise if he wants us to, but on this particular issue J do not intend to do so. I do not intend to be led into that area. I wonder why he fell for the 3 card trick as he did. I will leave it at that.
I want to put to the Senate that we have a most interesting situation. In the time that I have been in this Senate many initiatives have come from the Labor Party to set up select committees or committees of the Senate to deal with particular matters, and on no occasion, in my experience in this chamber, has an attempt been made to take out of the bands of the Government the running of the affairs of the Parliament. I can recall an occasion when we got to the point of proposing that a select committee of the Senate comprise 3 members from either side but conceding to the government all the while the right to have the deliberative vote and the casting vote still in the hands of the chairman of that committee, so that the running of the affairs of that committee would not have been taken out of the hands of the government. When talking about the Government’s failure to man a committee, one could relate the very curious situation which arose - Senator Milliner will have very clear recollections of this - on the occasion when we set up the Senate Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir. The Labor Party conceded to the Government - honourable senators can refresh their minds if they wish from the records of the Parliament - the right to control that Committee by having the majority vote. We conceded that right because we conceded - surely it ought to be conceded by a responsible party of the Parliament - that the Government of the day has the right to a majority say in the affairs of committees.
But it is a curious situation to relate that on that occasion, while the Labor Party - the Opposition of the day - elected members to the Committee, the Government of the day declined to do so. I thought it was a pretty dismal sort of a performance on the part of the Government which had a responsibility to the Parliament - not to the Party but to the Parliament - that made the decision in this Senate chamber. The Committee was set up to inquire into the Canberra abattoir, and what a revelation it was when we started inquiring into the facts of the matter. One could understand why the Government was not prepared to appoint members to the Committee sad why it tried to sabotage the Committee’s work. However, I remind honourable senators that that was the situation on that occasion, and not in any case in my experience in this place has the Opposition in the Senate tried to take out of the hands of the Government the right to have the majority say. That is the proper course to follow and do not let us depart from that.
During his remarks Senator Wright made a plea to keep politics out of this debate. What will the people, the electors at large, say when it is revealed to them that the Opposition which has a majority voice in the Senate wanted to load that Committee for a particular purpose. Does it not immediately diminish one’s credibility in that Committee? The honourable senator would not want that. If he is fair dinkum about it he would not want to diminish the Committee’s credibility. He would want to demonstrate to the people at large that the committee comprises a responsible body of senators from the Upper House of the Federal Parliament who are studying objectively a particular matter. But it is intended that this Committee be loaded in favour of the majority voice, contrary to any previous attitude in this Senate. Surely honourable senators would want to approach that sort of situation with some reservation. I think Senator Wright came very close to revealing some preconceived ideas as to his notions as to what the ultimate judgment of this Committee will be. I think we ought to wait and see what determination the Committee makes. Do not let us depart from any previous practice if such a departure would give an indication to the people that we are relinquishing the reputation that this Senate has been built on over a great number of years, and especially over the last 5 or 6 years when the fact is that we have undertaken with a great responsibility a thorough and determined examination and given a dispassionate and objective judgment on the issues that come before us.
If the Opposition wants to take out of the hands of the Government the running of the affairs of the Government it immediately suggests to me that it has some motive other than the fulfilment of the needs of a particular section of the people at large. Do not let that situation come about. If honourable senators opposite want to enlarge the membership of the Committee, by all means let them do so. They can do as they like. I am not particularly determined to have my way on this issue, although, as I have said, I support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. What I want to do is see that the problems are resolved away from the cut and thrust of politics which is characterising this debate. Let the Senate make its determination on the basis of the standards it has set and stuck to religiously over the years. By departing from them we will be making a farce of the whole thing. I am too concerned about the welfare and interests of the people of the King Island and Circular Head districts of Tasmania and those who are on the periphery of the trade and commerce in those areas to indulge in cheap, lowdown politics. As I have said, do not let us have that.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Willesee. As has been announced, there has been an apparent about-face on the part of the Government. I do not know whether this has been brought about through defeat or otherwise. Let me say that we have acceded to the passionate plea from Senator Byrne that the interests of Queensland and Tasmania are at stake in relation to this matter and that we should reconsider our attitude. He made a special plea to me, as a person whom he believed to be deep thinking, to consider the question. But I was never in the position of being able to agree to his proposition. I am only the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones).
Immediately this proposal was mooted I asked the Minister whether there was any possibility of supporting it. The Minister replied that the Government was not against the Committee. The Government has opposed the setting up of a select committee because it thought that to do so would only cause delay. We are still of that opinion. We think that the problem will be solved. I believe that there has been further discussion of the matter this week. We think that the problem will be solved before the Select Committee comes into operation. However, a select committee having now been formed, I was going to announce that the Government would agree to it on the condition that the leaders of the parties discuss the question and then come back with a recommendation as to the personnel of the committee. That to my mind was reasonable. If the leaders could work out something they should do so but if they could not the matter would have to come back to the Senate. But the Senate has decided to set up a committee and the membership of the Committee is the subject of a subsequent proposition. We are now discussing the subsequent proposition. Senator Devitt said that we should keep up the prestige of this chamber and not ruin the committee system. I submit that we must also uphold the system under which the Government has a majority on committees.
Senator Wright made the point that committee members bring down recommendations based on the facts placed before them and not according to party politics. Most of the committees of which I have been a member have reached decisions free of party politics. I think that inevitably there will be minority reports on occasions, because recommendations are based on the evidence of experts and sometimes that advice differs. If this inquiry is to be effective the Committee will have to hear evidence from representatives of the Commonwealth Department of Transport and of the State Government. I do not know how much the members of the Labor Government in Tasmania are going to welcome submitting themselves to the interrogation and hostility of Senator Wright and Senator Rae who, with their colleagues, will have a majority on the Committee. If I were a member of the State Government I would be very hesitant about making officers available to give evidence to the Committee.
– This is not an environment committee without power; this is a Senate Select Committee.
– That is right; it is a Senate committee. But there is the question of what power the Committee will have over Government departments. There is also the question of Ministerial responsibility and Ministerial prerogative. The Committee would not have much success unless it received full assistance. We have reached the stage today where everything has gone by the board. One would think that this was an election year for senators! When Tasmania will return only 2 Liberal Party senators and consideration is being give to who should be No. 4 on the ticket, one Can be excused for thinking that there is someone whom the parry wants to dump - someone who has to be got rid of. It could be that the political wastage will be not as a result of a vote of the people of Tasmania but a vote of the Liberal Party. Let us join together in rehabilitating the downtrodden, depressed political wastage that we have in our midst - the king of King Island who is going to restore the shipping service and restore his prestige. Senator Wright is not worried about King Island despite his crocodile tears tonight. All Senator Wright is worried about is Senator Wright. His own miserable head is more important to him than King Island.
Senator Wright has come into the picture and said that he wants a committee to come up with a finding that the ‘Straitsman’ is the right ship to provide a service to King Island. He is to be the dominant force in that Committee. What is the Department of Transport going to do? Is it going to submit its officers to the interrogation of somebody who has decided not only the membership of the Committee but also its finding. He reached an opinion on the subject before the Committee was even appointed. Senator Wright apparently insists on having his own way, otherwise he would accept the amendment moved by Senator Willesee.
A peculiar position exists in the Senate today because of what happened at the last Federal election. The success of the Australian Labor Party was so overwhelming that Opposition senators have to stick together and defeat everything Labor proposes. There cannot be any defection, as there was on previous occasions, because they are all frightened of losing their seats. Labor in Opposition was able te achieve certain things because it sometimes had the support of some honourable senators who are now sitting on the other side of the chamber. But the Opposition has closed its ranks. Each member of it knows his political existence is threatened by the success of the Labor Party at the last election. The people of King Island have been sacrificed by honourable senators opposite to save their miserable hides. They regard their salvation as being more important than the provision of a shipping service to King Island.
– 1 think it should be recognised that the substantive motion has been carried, there is to be a Senate select committee to inquire into shipping services to King Island. That is the decision which the Senate reached. May I say, because I think it is significant, that the decision was reached despite the fact that Government supporters opposed the setting up of such an inquiry. I listened with some interest to what Senator Wright described as the face-saving gesture that was made after that decision had been made by the Senate. The Government is now prepared to have an inquiry. Senator Wriedt spoke against the proposal put forward by Senator Wright and he is a Minister of the Government. If the Government was prepared to have an inquiry, why did Senator Wriedt in the course of his speech not give, this indication? He did not. The description which Senator Wright gave to the suggestion of an inquiry is in the circumstances a fair comment to make.
The amendment which has been moved is an amendment which, I submit to the Senate, it would be absurd to accept. The Government has been opposed to such an inquiry but if the amendment is carried it would then determine the activities which this committee would undertake. I believe that the work of the committee would be fruitless. The Government, if it had a majority on this committee, would determine what line the inquiry would take. It would determine what witnesses would be called. It would be able to use its numbers to prevent Opposition senators who have shown the initiative and who have demonstrated the concern about the King Island passenger services from doing what they can to get the facts of this matter before the people of King Island, before the people of Tasmania and ultimately before the people of Australia. In those circumstances, the purpose of the inquiry would be nullified if Government members were in the majority on the committee.
The motion which has been moved by Senator Wright is one which gives to the Labor Party the opportunity of determining who its members on the committee will be. Earlier we were told by members of the Labor Party that that was in accordance with their practice. The fact is - and we know it - that the Labor Party is governed by the rules of its Caucus and its practice is binding upon its members. If there is a decision of the Government that the shipping services to King Island are not be provided, those shipping services will not be provided and the members of the Caucus and members of the Government will be bound by that decision. That demonstrates how ridiculous it would be to give a Senate committee of this character into the control of a Party which is obviously not concerned to have the matter investigated. There have been 4 speakers to this amendment from the Government side. Most of what they have had to say was directed to the politics of the situation. Very little if anything was said about the. amendment. In those circumstances, I now move:
That the question be now put.
– Order! The question is: That the question be now put’. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. Is a division required? Ring the bells. I am not going to give a decision.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Willesee’s amendment) be left out
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! In accordance with sessional orders, the time being after 10.30 p.m., I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
Appointment of Select Committee
– I move:
That the debate be now adjourned.
As we have intimated, we are willing to serve on the Committee. We have put a proposition, which has been rejected by the Senate. Earlier tonight I explained that the practice of the
Australian Labor Party is to decide these matters in the party room. We do that on all sorts of levels. I have moved the motion so
Question so resolved in the affirmative. that we can take the proper procedures in the party room to appoint delegates to the Committee.
That the debate be now adjourned. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Ayes . . . . . . 24
Noes .. .. ..28
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Order! That is covered by the Senate Standing Orders. There is no problem. Some time has elapsed since Senator Wright moved his motion and honourable senators may have forgotten its exact terms. Therefore I will read it out. The motion moved by Senator Wright is:
That the Select Committee on Shipping Services between King Island, Stanley and Melbourne consist of Senators Rae, Townley and Wright and such 2 senators as are nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate and, in default of such nominations within 7 days, such 2 other senators as the Senate shall appoint.
The question is: ‘That the motion be agreed to’.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I want to raise a matter which affects the good name and courtesy of the attendants who attend us in this Parliament. I refer the Senate to an article which appeared in tonight’s issue of the Melbourne ‘Herald’ in the column ‘In Black and White*. It was written by one John Larkins. Any honourable senator who read the article would get some humour out of it but for the fact that serious reflections were made upon the people who are so courteous to members of the Press. Members of the Press enjoy certain privileges in this Parliament. This gentleman claimed that he was able to walk into this Parliament carrying a parcel with the word ‘bomb’ written on it and to place it before a glass door, apparently with the assistance of attendants within this Parliament. In the course of the article the author wrote:
Any dill, with a rough idea of the geography of the place, could walk in, grin at a few attendants, open 3 doors and spit in Cough’s ashtray.
That may be humorous, but I believe that the dill on this occasion is the person who walked in with that parcel. He may not be aware of it, but some of the security officers in this building in fact carry firearms. He made a further reference to security in Washington. He is indeed fortunate that security is not as strict here as it is there, because he could well have found a very gun-happy trigger man shooting him down for carrying such a stupid parcel and playing such a stupid practical trick.
– He may have had ‘Ban the Bomb’ written on it.
– Yes, he may have had those words written on it I do not mind him attacking members of this Parliament or making fun of us; we are fair game in that respect. However, he was referring to the fact that the attendants had what I believe, and I think many honourable senators believe, to be a very legitimate grouch about their working conditions and salaries. That matter is being negotiated at this time. There were discussions today about it, and on other days also. However, by implication, the author was saying in this article that the attendants are not worth their salaries and that the whole system of security is a joke. This is a serious matter. These men are highly incensed at this article and they have approached me about it.
The situation here at the moment is that, while technically members of the Press have to show a pass, they receive extreme courtesy because they are well known to the attendants. I understand that the author of the article is well known to the attendants. He was not forced to show the pass that he should carry. This Senate and the Parliament are more than kind to members of the Press because they have facilities that we can ill afford to let them have due to the space shortage here. Accommodation for the Press has been provided in the interests of democracy and to allow full and open reporting of the debates in both Houses of Parliament. We would never say that that is not the proper procedure to follow.
Another aspect or this matter is the openness of our Parliament House to the people. 1 want to see this openness remain. This is the people’s building. It is the place to which ‘hey elect members to carry out the functions of government and it belongs to the people. Any action aimed at tightening security to the extent that exists in most of the State parliaments would be a retrograde step. The public is entitled to come here and should be encouraged to do so. We have had a wonderful response in this regard. Many thousands of people visit this Parliament House annually, particularly school children from the length and breadth of the nation. We are very informal, as we should be, in regard to the people who come to this place and enter the galleries of the Parliament - far more informal than any State parliament I know of. A visitor cannot get past the front door of the Victorian Parliament unless he presents a ticket to the attendant. Then the attendant finds the person that the visitor wishes to see. The front door is as far as a person is able to get. If these kinds of facetious articles continue to appear, containing reflections against the staff of this Parliament, we may well find some people wishing to have heavier restrictions, such as those that exist in some of the other parliaments. I believe that that would be wrong. I think it is wrong for a man to reflect in such a manner, even facetiously, on persons who have always been courteous to members of the Press and to all persons who enter this House on business or as members of the general public.
– I wish to reply to the matter raised by Senator Poyser. I would like to inform honourable senators that my attention was drawn to this article this afternoon. So far as it contained any description of this Parliament House, I would describe it as just drivelling puerilities; but, as Senator Poyser said, that is fair enough for politicians, who have to learn to take the hard knocks. The fact is that, as one of the 2 Presiding Officers of this Parliament, I would like to take the opportunity of assuring honourable senators and reassuring the attendants in this place that, rather than there being any complaint about the security precautions they adopt, the generality of the comments on their behaviour here is that it is extraordinarily efficient and well mannered. Therefore, I take this opportunity to repudiate the remarks of the special reporter of the Melbourne ‘Herald’.
I want to inform honourable senators of some matters before the Senate rises. I have received letters from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr Snedden) and the Leader of the Country Party (Mr Anthony), notifying me that the following members of the House of Representatives have been nominated as members of the Joint Committee on Prices: Messrs Hurford, Riordan, Whan and Willis, the Right Honourable J. G. Gorton, the Honourable R. V. Garland and the Honourable P. Nixon.
In addition, there are 2 messages from the House of Representatives. Message No. 44 is as follows:
The House of Representatives acquaints die Senate of the following Resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on Prices: Imports in respect of which evidence is presented to the Committee that the Australian dollar price to consumers or users failed to respond to reductions in landed costs following the revaluation of the Australian dollar in December 1972 or following other relevant currency changes in 1973, with particular reference to those imports having a significant effect on domestic costs and prices.
Message No. 45 from the House of Representatives is as follows:
The House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following Resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on Prices: Stabilisation of meat prices, with particular reference to the report of the Australian Meat Board on this subject.
I have one final matter to which I must direct the attention of honourable senators. Honourable senators will recollect that during question time this morning there was some questioning by Senator Carrick of Senator Murphy, in which Senator Hannan also was involved. This evening I had a discussion with the Principal Parliamentary Reporter who has confessed to me a most unusual event, namely, that the Hansard staff made a mistake.
This morning Senator Carrick asked Senator Murphy a question about an answer he gave to Senator Hannan yesterday concerning a visit by the Commonwealth Police to the home of Franjo Till at 17 19th Street, Narrabundah.
I have been informed by the Principal Parliamentary Reporter that part of the Hansard report of Senator Murphy’s answer was incorrect. Senator Murphy quoted a report that had been given to him on the matter; the Hansard record does not make clear that he was quoting from a report. The correct version will appear in the weekly edition of Hansard. I have satisfied myself that that statement is correct.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
(Question No. 114) Senator WEBSTER asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice:
What are to be the criteria applied by the Department of Immigration to applications for immigration to Australia by people of Indian descent who now reside in Fiji?
(Question No. 188) Senator MAUNSELL asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice:
-BROCKMAN asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation, upon notice:
Senator CAVANAGH- The Minister for the Environment and Conservation has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On 1st March, Senator Jessop asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, without notice: ls the Minister aware that many cars were stranded recently as a result of flash floods on the
Stuart Highway between Port Augusta and Alice Springs?
Can the Minister inform the Senate of the progress in the sealing of this road in the Northern Territory and when it will be completed to the border?
Is the Minister aware that his State colleague has indicated that the sealing of the South Australian section is beyond the capacity of the State Government?
I can understand that because the State Government has run up a debt in excess of $15m. Is the Minister also aware that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government made money available to seal the Eyre Highway?
Will the Commonwealth Government negotiate with the South Australian Government in order to provide financial assistance to enable it to seal the South Australian- section of this national highway?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
It is true that following the recent heavy rain in the Northern Territory and the north of South Australia a number of motorists were stranded on the Highway. Much of the Highway ls unsealed and heavy seasonal rains invariably create problems for through traffic.
Between Alice Springs and the border considerable progress has been made in sealing the Highway and as indicated recently, arranged contracts will mean a further 117 miles should be sealed In the next 2 years or so. When completed only about 60 miles within the Territory will remain unsealed.
So far as the South Australian section is concerned the South Australian Government expects that sealing of the highway between Port Augusta and Pimba will be completed by 1974. It is not known whether South Australia has any plans to seal the road north from Pimba.
Financing this particular work is clearly a State responsibility. Grants under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act are intended to provide supporting finance for interstate as well as intrastate road systems. South Australia’s share of the total grant between 1969-74 is $120m which includes $13. 67m for rural arterial roads such as the Stuart Highway. In addition a supplementary grant of $9m is available for expenditure on any road category. Nevertheless the allocation of these grants is left entirely to the State Government.
Progress by South Australia in upgrading roads that are important from a national point of view has been relatively slow in recent years. For this reason a program of investigations aimed at improving the situation was initiated. Subsequently a special grant of $2. 5m over a period of 4 years has been made to complete the sealing of the Eyre Highway to the Western Australian border. This was done because of the need to upgrade the Highway and also because assurances had been given that planning was sufficiently advanced to enable construction to commence.
The Minister for Transport is still working on investigations into the needs of national highways in Australia which he proposes to deal with in conjunction with Commonwealth Aid Roads legislation beyond 1974. As a result of these investigations, the Minister for Transport will certainly be looking to see that improvements to important roads such as the Stuart Highway are undertaken.
– On 10th April (Hansard page 948) Senator Mulvihill asked me the following question, without notice:
Is he yet in a position to give the Senate any information on any moves contemplated by the Commonwealth Government to galvanise the States into action to introduce measures which will combat the rising incidence of disease associated with asbestos?
I undertook to obtain more information and the Minister for Labour has now provided me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Draft Model Asbestos Regulations have been prepared by the Occupational Health Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council, and are under consideration by State authorities as to their suitability for adoption in whole or in part in State industrial legislation.
– On 27th March 1973, Senator Townley addressed the following question without notice to the Minister representing the Treasurer:
Will the Minister representing the Treasurer say what new orders have been given to officers of the Taxation Office with a view to collecting any outstanding tax at an earlier time than has been the practice in the past? Is the Government in such an urgent need of money due to its recent spending that it must go to the extent of demanding such rapid tax payments as may send some people bankrupt? Finally, are repayments from the Taxation Office being held up because the Government does not have the money to repay what is owed to many taxpayer* throughout Australia?
The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Section 206 of the Income Tax Assessment Act authorises the Commissioner of Taxation to grant extensions of time for payment, or permit payment to be made by such instalments and within such time as he considers the circumstances warrant.
Where a taxpayer ls unable to meet his current year’s assessment by the due date, it is the practice of the Taxation Office to grant an extension of time for payment or to permit payment by instalments In those cases where the reasons submitted by the taxpayer warrant such action. Each case ls considered on its merits and the extended time for payment depends on the circumstances of each individual case.
There has been no change by the Commissioner of Taxation this year as compared with previous years.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, without notice:
My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. In view of the report in today’s Canberra Times that hundreds of householders in the Aranda, Cook and Macquarie suburbs of Canberra have been left with useless milk tokens since the vendor for these areas abandoned his runs last week,, will the Minister confer with the proper authorities with a view to instituting a fidelity bond for all milk vendors in the Australian Capital Territory who use the token system.
Senator WILLESEE- The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question :
The milk tokens held by some residents in Aranda, Cook and Macquarie did not become useless when the vendor for these areas abandoned his run. The A.C.T. Milk Distributors’ Co-operative Society Ltd agreed to honour the tokens and to reimburse temporary vendors serving these areas for all tokens collected from customers.
The A.C.T. Milk Authority will be examining the methods used by vendors to collect payments for milk deliveries during the distribution phase of its current Inquiry. I understand that the question of security for milk tokens will be raised at this time.
– The Minister for Labour has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As the Senator will be aware a statement was read in the Senate on my behalf on 3rd April 1973 concerning the guaranteed minimum wage levy for nonpermanent ports. This statement indicated the action I have already undertaken and will take to ensure that outer ports were not disadvantaged by the funding of the guaranteed minimum wage scheme. The statement above also referred to a Report which had been made on this matter with reference to Portland; should the Senator not already have a copy of that Report, a copy will be made available to him.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (l), (2) and (3) The Government has not sought an invitation to attend the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations to be held in Algiers in September 1973. However the Government has advised some members of the non-aligned group, including the host nation Algeria, that Australia would respond to an invitation to send an observer if invited by a significant number of countries to do so.
(Question No. 189) Senator WEBSTER asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
(Question No. 117) Senator PRIMMER asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour, upon notice:
Did the overseas controlled employers of waterside labour in Australia decide recently to alter the basis upon which the guaranteed wage levy would be made; If so, what action will be taken by the Government to maintain the viability of outer ports, such as
Portland, Cairns, Mackay, Coffs Harbour and Esperance, which could be the first affected by this decision.
(Question No. 194) Senator CARRICK asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730503_senate_28_s55/>.