28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that as foreshadowed in my statement of 9 October the special Minister of State, Senator Willesee, has been sworn as Minister for Foreign Affairs.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That unless otherwise ordered for the remainder of the present sittings the days and times of meeting of the Senate be, firstly, Tuesday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m; Wednesday, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.; Thursday, 1 1 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.; secondly, that general business take precedence over Government business after 8 p.m. on Thursday and thirdly, that the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at the terminating time each day.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That all annual reports of government departments and authorities, including statutory corporations, laid on the table of the Senate shall stand referred without any question being put for consideration and, if necessary, for report thereon to the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees. The President shall transmit a copy of each report so tabled to the Committee which he deems appropriate. The Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committees may at their discretion pursue or not pursue inquiries into reports so received, but any action necessary, arising from a report of a committee, shall be taken in the Senate on motion after notice.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to fisheries in certain Australian waters.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the living natural resources of the continental shelf.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to determine the site of the new and permanent parliament house, to provide for the grounds in the vicinity of Parliament to be controlled by Parliament and to set aside an area on Capital Hill to be known as the National Garden of Australia.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, representing the Prime Minister. I ask: Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the Government is aware of the fact that over the past 3 weeks there has been a power shortage in Victoria caused by the action of a few unionists who are seeking to secure their objective through industrial blackmail by holding the whole community to ransom? If the Government is so aware, does it also know that apart from general hardship unemployment has been caused to in excess of 40,000 workers, that a loss of wages in excess of $8m has occurred and that loss of production has been valued at in excess of $80m? Is the Government also aware that this shortage contributes to the growing scarcity of goods in so many areas thus feeding the inflationary situation? If the Government does know these things what action, if any, has it taken to bring the situation to an end and at least to try to give some effect and credibility to its pre-election promises that there would be less industrial disputation under a Labor Government?
-The Government has done this. It has brought legislation into the Parliament to provide for a rational Conciliation and Arbitration Act whereby industrial disputes may be solved in the place where they ought to be solved- that is in the atmosphere of conciliation and arbitration- and not made the subject of political footballing as has been attempted here. I regret to say that although the Government has said that it wants certain legislation and wants to arm the conciliation and arbitration bodies with various powers in order to bring about rational solutions to industrial disputes, the Opposition parties have seen fit to frustrate the Government in its intentions. They are not willing to give the Government the legislative powers which it said are necessary in order that we may be able to solve industrial disputes in the way in which every one would want them solved, in an atmosphere of rationality and conciliation so that there would not be these industrial disruptions which affect, most of all, the workers and their families who are involved as well as interfering with the general life of the community.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– Does the honourable senator claim that the Minister has not answered his question?
– I asked the AttorneyGeneral: What action could be taken by the Government under the existing legislation if it were made law which cannot now be taken?
– Order! The Conciliation and Arbitration Bill is before the Senate at the present moment and must not be debated during question time.
-While recognising the authority of the Minister for Primary Industry under the Wheat Industry Act, I ask him: Why does he expect the Australian Wheat Board on behalf of growers to accept 25 per cent of the risk when he is exercising a judgment on behalf of the Government which overrides the commercial judgment of the Board? Why should he not accept full responsibility for any default in these circumstances? Who owns the wheat- the growers or the Government?
– It would be incorrect to say that the Government is interfering with the commercial judgment of the Australian Wheat Board. It should be borne in mind that prior to the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East the Australian Government had indicated to the Wheat Board its desire to see credit terms extended to certain developing countries- those countries which were not in a position to pay cash. The Board accepted the request of the Government in respect of credit arrangementsthat is the period of 12 to 18 months- and also the Government’s suggestion on the proportion of down payment that should be sought from the
Egyptians. There was no suggestion on the part of the Government concerning prices. The Wheat Board acceded to those requests and the Egyptian authorities were duly notified. The outbreak of hostilities occurred, I think, about two or three days later. It was then that the Wheat Board advised the Government that it wanted all sales to Egypt to be on a cash basis. That communication, which I read, was expressed in the most definite terms. For that reason I then issued the directive which I am empowered to issue under the Wheat Industry Act. Of course, as the honourable senator knows, this power was written into the Act by his own Government.
The reason the Australian Government has taken this step is that not only should we honour agreements- even through this one may not have been formalised at that stage- but also we have to look at the long term effects on our market in these other countries. It would be quite irresponsible of Australia to press for cash payments from countries which traditionally have bought from us on a credit basis and of whose markets we may well be glad in two or three years time, again on credit terms. I do not think that it is unreasonable for the Wheat Board or the industry to feel that the carrying of 25 per cent of the risk is an imposition. The Wheat Board had agreed to these conditions prior to the outbreak of fighting. We now see the return of conditions which obtained at the time the agreement was entered into. I do not really think that there is much concern. If, for example, there were to be an outbreak of fighting again, it possibly would be a matter that could be looked at. The fact is that the Board entered into an agreement and indicated to the Egyptian authorities the broad terms of that agreement. I do not believe that the Government has anything to be concerned about as a result of the action that has been taken.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral: What action can be taken against employers who require their staff to be fingerprinted as a condition of employment? I instance the famous Kentucky fried chicken chain in New South Wales.
-Is the honourable senator asking for a legal opinion?
– I saw an article on this matter in ‘Nation Review’. It has raised some concern not only from the honourable senator but also from other people. It is no breach certainly of any Federal law to request such fingerprinting. It certainly would be a breach of the general law to force someone to supply a fingerprint. It goes counter to the general view of civil liberties in this country that employers should require such fingerprinting. The requirement for fingerprinting hitherto has been restricted to other purposes, principally relating to the criminal law. I would hope that legislation could be introduced to deal with such actions which, if carried out extensively, would seriously diminish the dignity of Australian citizens.
– I wish once more to point out to honourable senators that standing order 99 states that questions asking for a legal opinion shall not be asked. If honourable senators wish to have a legal opinion they can speak to the Attorney-General privately.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that the Minister for Overseas Trade signed an agreement with China for Australian wheat sales? Is it also a fact that the Australian Wheat Board went to China and signed a formal agreement with that country on wheat sales, and that the agreement included a 3-year contract and a specific price for the first 20-odd million bushels of this year’s sale? Is it correct that the prices for the remainder of this year’s sale and the following 2 years are yet to be determined? Was this contract between the Australian Wheat Board and the Chinese regarded as full and final? If so, why did the Prime Minister sign another agreement with China on wheat sales?
-I think that this detailed question should be referred to the Minister concerned in order to obtain an equally detailed answer.
– Can the Minister tell me the Minister to whom I should direct this question?
-I shall refer the question, as I indicated, to the Minister for Overseas Trade. If he feels that it should be passed on the Prime Minister, I have no doubt that he will do so.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. Of the 50 schools formerly excluded from participation in the Karmel Committee recommendations for Commonwealth education grants but now approved under reclassification, how many were reclassified upon appeal, the justification for which was the failure of the applicant in the first instance to fill in the application form correctly? Because of allegations that the inclusion of these schools represents a backdown by the Government, will the Minister seek to have the reasons for reclassification of these schools fully advised to the Senate?
Anticipating that a question of this nature would be asked, I sought some details from my colleague, the Minister for Education in another place, Mr Beazley. He has advised me that 55 schools that were formerly in category A have appealed successfully. Of these 55 schools, twenty-five appealed solely on the ground that the original information provided by the school was inaccurate in some respects. A further twenty-eight appealed on that ground and on other general grounds. The Minister, Mr Beazley, advised me that a school was reclassified if the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission found that 1972, which was the base year for the assessments, was for some reason atypical for the school or that the original information provided by the school, on which the assessment was made, was inaccurate in some respect.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the widespread concern currently held by the wheat industry at government intrusion into the traditional commercial provinces of the Australian Wheat Board, will the Minister define the rights of government in respect of overseas wheat sales and the authority and responsibilities of the Wheat Board?
– In the past there has been a traditional area of activity by the Australian Wheat Board. Part of the tradition of the wheat industry have been wildly fluctuating returns to wheat growers and an uncertainty in that industry which, I am sure the honourable senator would agree, is not good and healthy for the industry nor for individual wheat growers. This Government is certainly taking a much more positive role on the whole question of wheat. Our first concern is to establish maximum markets for Australian wheat, and to create the greatest long term stability and markets at economic prices for wheat growers. I would imagine that the Australian wheat growers would be greatly concerned for the success of this policy. In fact, I think they would be glad that at last an Australian government has taken the initiative to ensure that their prospects, not only over the long term but also over the short term, are secured. If it means certain changes in the manner in which Australia negotiates with other countries to ensure long term stability, I am quite sure that the industry will not be disappointed in any way.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it a fact that Opposition senators are feeling frustrated and incompetent because of the success of the present Government in obtaining substantial long term contracts for the sale of primary products? Is it a fact that many of the contracts negotiated by the present Government were considered by the previous Government to be virtually impossible to obtain?
– Order! I doubt whether the Minister can decide whether the Opposition is frustrated. However, I will allow the remainder of the question.
-I think, that the answer to the question would be yes.
– I am not aware of the circumstances to which Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has referred. I can only refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Secondary Industry and obtain an answer from him. I am surprised by the suggestion that such information has been leaked. I am quite sure that such information would not have come from any source within the Cabinet. Nevertheless I shall refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister for Secondary Industry.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. My question refers to a statement made by the Prime Minister at a welcoming banquet given to him by Mr Chou En-lai. The statement was:
In Peking today we give expression to our new international outlook. With no nation is our new aspiration symbolised more than it is with China.
I ask: Are we to take it that the Prime Minister has now identified Australia with the particular style of current Chinese foreign policy? Are reports from Peking correct that the Prime Minister has undertaken the task of persuading South East Asian countries which have not recognised communist China to recognise that country?
– In reply to the first question asked of me as Minister for Foreign Affairs I wish to point out, firstly, that when we recognise a country or become friendly with a country it does not mean that we agree with all of its foreign policy or internal policy. If we were to do that we would be friends with nobody. The problem with the previous Government was that there was a tremendous imbalance because it looked at the ideology of a particular country and then decided whether it would recognise or be friends with it. That was an imbalance which had to be corrected. It was corrected by the new Government. Senator McManus said that he saw something in a newspaper. I trust his word that he did. I read the newspapers as carefully as I could and I did not see that. The answer to the second part of the honourable senator’s question as to whether Mr Whitlam was going to explain Chinese policy to the rest of South East Asia is that Mr Whitlam was very clear that he was not going to be an advocate or an apologist for the People’s Republic of China but that if anybody was to discuss it with him he would make very clear what Australia’s attitude was towards recognition and how we are getting on with the People ‘s Republic of China.
– In other words, he is going to do it?
– There is no question of in other words ‘; those were the words.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for
Labour. Has the Minister noted the suggestion by Mr Uren, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, that the Government should sue construction companies which locked out workers employed on Government buildings? Should this not be a 2-way exercise, having special regard to the 120 tool sharpeners employed by General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd who are responsible for the laying off of 6,200 other employees? Should this not also come within the ambit of the law?
– I do not know what the Minister for Urban and Regional Development has said, nor do I know what the Minister for Labour should do as a result of any statement Mr Uren may have made. Both employers and employees are subject to the law. If there was a breach of the law in any lockout that involved building workers in New South Wales the law could be availed of by anyone who desired to avail himself of it. I do not know whether it is a breach of any Commonwealth industrial law for 120 tool sharpeners at GMH to stop work. It is a breach of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to stop work only if to do so is in breach of the award applicable to a particular industry. I do not know whether there is any prohibition upon tool sharpeners stopping work. There may not have been any redress and perhaps no-one could have taken action. The law is available to anyone who likes to utilise it in connection with any misdemeanour which may occur.
– My question, which I . direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Northern Development, refers to the reported sale of sugar to the People’s Republic of China. Were the Australian sugar marketing authorities informed of this sale beforehand, or was the first they knew of it when they read of it in the Press?
-I will have to refer the question to the Minister concerned.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that on 20 September this year the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs announced that the Federal Government was to send up to 5 Aboriginal nursing sisters to Palm Island aboriginal reserve in an attempt to help to cure the current outbreak of gastro-enteritis and scabies and the continuing problem of malnutrition? Were the sisters sent? Is it a fact that the one sister who did go was refused access to the hospital? Was she recalled by the Federal Government? If so, why? Does the Federal Government propose to take any further action regarding the present health problems on Palm Island?
– As I understand the position, the former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs announced on 20 September that the Government would do all it could to alleviate the outbreak of diseases or complaints on Palm Island. A statement was made that 5 Aboriginal nurses would be sent. I believe that 5 Aboriginal nurses were not available. One Aboriginal nurse was sent from Melbourne to the island. I received a report from Senator Keeffe that she was to be sent home from the island at the time when her services were most needed. I took the matter up with my Department, which reported that there was some opposition to the nurse proceeding to the island. The Queensland Government was opposed to an Aboriginal nurse going to the island. The nurse went to the island, but the authorities would not permit her access to the hospital. I was informed that the local indigenous people would not accept her as a nurse on the island and therefore she was simply doing nothing.
The nurse was paid for by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It was decided that if her services could be utilised, if the indigenous people were willing to receive treatment from her and if the need existed, my Department would continue to pay her to remain on the island. I have since learned that she has left the island. The big problem with Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands is that they are operating under the Queensland Act. There has been no co-operation between the Federal Government and the Queensland Government in an attempt to resolve the question whether there should be greater participation by the Commonwealth in the activities of the native people of such areas. We hope that greater progress can be made in the future. I am looking forward to meeting the authorities in Queensland, in order to see whether we can resolve this matter, as soon as this Parliament rises at the end of this session.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Will the White Paper which is said to be a blueprint of the Australian Labor Party health scheme- the contents of which have already been leaked to sections of the media, and then understandably discussed by Caucus- be made available to the Parliament and the people this week, or is it still subject to further prolonged discussion?
– It is true that yesterday there was a meeting of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party to discuss the proposed White Paper to be presented to the Parliament by the Minister for Social Security. That discussion has taken place in accordance with the normal practices of political parties- not only of the Labor Party but also, I understand, of the Liberal Party when it was in government. I assume it is now a matter of having the White Paper printed. It will be presented to Parliament as early as possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it is true that a decision has already been made to site the proposed Omega base in Tasmania and that it is to be built in the south-eastern part of that State? If this is not so, will the Government be prepared to present all the facts both for and against the Omega installation to the people of Tasmania and allow them to decide whether this foreign based installation should be built on their soil?
– Order! This is already the subject of a reference to a committee of the Parliament.
– I am sorry; I did not realise that.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether he has noticed that a circular from the Australian Mutual Provident Society has been publicised, advising an increase in rates of interest, up to 9.5 per cent, on advances on policies as from 1 February. Does the Minister realise that this sort of increase in interest rates is going on right through the money market? What purpose does the Treasurer hope to achieve by this insane degree of increase and when will interest rates be reduced to something like a normal level?
-I will have the relevant parts extracted from that great speech and ask the Treasurer to comment on them.
– I ask the Minister for the Media whether his attention was drawn to a statement by Senator James McClelland, the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts, that TCN
Channel 9 should lose its television licence because it failed to give the Australian Labor Party free time on television. Does the Minister for the Media agree with Senator James McClelland or is this attitude totally unacceptable as TCN 9 has not been guilty of any breach of the Broadcasting and Television Act? Also, is it a fact that one political party, the Liberal Party, required prime viewing time and obtained it between 8.30 and 9.30 p.m. and so was prepared to pay for it? Is it a fact that other television stations, which made no charge for political broadcasts, put those programs on at 11.15 p.m. when, as the Minister would agree, ratings would be particularly low? Will the Minister give us his view on these matters?
Firstly, I think that Senator Webster has quoted my colleague Senator James McClelland incorrectly when he, Senator Webster, suggests that Senator James McClelland said that the licence of Channel 9 should be suspended or revoked because Channel 9 did not give the Labor Party free time on television. If Senator Webster has a look at what was said by my colleague, who is the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which is inquiring into all aspects of radio and television, I think he will find that Senator James McClelland suggested that an inquiry should be held into whether or not the licence of Channel 9 should be suspended or revoked because it did not give reasonable opportunities to all political parties. That is my impression of what the honourable senator said- not what Senator Webster has suggested.
I understand that the other television stations gave free time to the major political parties and put the programs on at a time that was convenient to the stations. However surely it must be of concern to everyone that under section 116(5) of the Broadcasting and Television Act all broadcasting and television licencees can impose a charge for the broadcasting or televising of the policy speech of a leader of a major political party. If all commercial broadcasting and television licensees adopted that attitude, the cost to a political party in getting its message to the Australian people would be completely prohibitive. That, I suggest, would be the direct antithesis of Australian democracy and clearly would be outside the general public interest. This is a matter that concerns me in its generality and I am having discussions with my colleague the Attorney-General about it.
– I desire to ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question. Was the Prime Minister’s statement in China that With no nation is our aspiration symbolised more than it is with China’ the considered opinion of the Labor Government? As China is a communist country, did Mr Whitlam mean that Australia is in accord with the communist philosophy? If he believes in this silly statement, how does he reconcile the fact that China does not have any opposition party and does not have unions or allow strikes? As Mr Whitlam now believes that it is a case of all the way with Chou En-lai, does he not consider this dangerous because of the fact that he said ‘It was the most momentus mission ever to have left Australia ‘?
– I thank the honourable senator for having drawn the attention of the Senate to the extremely successful visit made by the Prime Minister to China as well as to other parts. I have no doubt that the Prime Minister’s visit was taken by the people of Australia as a great success in helping to overcome the lack of harmony and the fears which had been fomented over the years by the Opposition when it was in government. As to the precise attitudes which the Prime Minister has in regard to these matters I have no doubt that he will be making a statement to the Parliament on what happened during his visit. The honourable senator will have ample opportunity to pursue the futile line which his Party has pursued over the years. The Government wants friendly relations with other countries and we are seeking to promote them. The era when government was seeking to gain political advantage by fomenting troubles with other countries has gone, and the Australian people are thankful that it has gone.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Having regard to the wonderful record of the Australian Wheat Board, did the Minister’s answer to Senator Young today represent criticism of the Board’s past performance? Seeing that the Minister did not answer Senator Drake-Brockman’s question and state who owns the wheat- the grower or the Government- I now ask: When did the wheatgrowers vest their wheat in the Minister? Does he expect to be able to sell wheat at better than world prices? Is the Minister’s practice of directing the Wheat Board how it should operate an expression of no confidence in the competence of the Wheat Board?
– I indicated in my previous answers to questions relating to this matter that this Government has not interfered in the commercial judgment of the Wheat Board. If in fact the inclusion of the directive power of the Minister in the Act should be deleted, perhaps Senator Webster can tell me why his Party did not move for its deletion when the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Act was passed in 1968. The directive power was put there for a good purpose. Some comments which were made during the debate on the Wheat Industry Stabilisation Bill 1954 have only recently been brought to my attention. It is interesting to realise that when Sir Philip McBride introduced the Bill in Parliament in 1954 he spelt out quite clearly the Government’s responsibility to the wheat industry. In fact, he referred to the fact that the Government had a responsibility in the interests of the taxpayers generally. This decision by the present Government has been taken with a view to ensuring that the long established tradition of denying the Australian wheat grower markets to which he is entitled will not continue. We have not been in the least critical of the commercial judgment of the Wheat Board. If the Australian Government has any responsibility at all -
– What is this?
– Order! I wish the honourable senators from South Australia would allow the Minister to make his reply.
-If the Australian Government has one responsibility it is to do everything it can to ensure that those markets are available for Australian wheat. This is what the Government is endeavouring to do and I think it is doing it very successfully.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– Order! Senator Prowse, do you claim that you have not been fully answered?
-My question has not been answered at all. I asked whether the Minister’s reply to previous questions on this subject constituted a criticism of the Australian Wheat Board. That was not answered. I asked when the wheat growers vested their wheat in the Minister. That was not answered. I asked whether his practice of directing the Wheat Board was, in effect, a vote of no confidence in the competence of the Wheat Board. I do not think that was answered.
– I endeavoured to illustrate to the honourable senator the reason why the directive power is contained in the Act. It was subscribed to by his own Government for many years. When that Government had the opportunity to remove the power from the Act at no time did it ever attempt to do so. So one must assume that his Party is as much in favour of its retention as is the present Government. It was not a reflection on the commercial judgment of the Australian Wheat Board nor an interference in its judgment. I pointed out earlier that the Wheat Board indicated to the Government that it had agreed on the broad terms for the forthcoming negotiations with Egypt. All the Government did was to ask the Wheat Board and, in fact, eventually to direct the Wheat Board to maintain the agreement which it had entered into. This is not an interference with the Board’s commercial judgment. Prior to that the Board agreed that the conditions requested by the Government were acceptable to it. That is all the Government was asking of the Board.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to a Press report of a claim made by Professor Watson-Munro that today Australia has only a 10-year supply of oil left and a warning that research into the field of solar energy is urgent. I ask: Can the Minister say whether the information available to the Government supports this claim concerning oil? Has the Government any program of research into solar energy? If so, are any results available? If not, will the Government pursue this research and advise the Senate of the progress made?
-I ask the honourable senator to place that question on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It refers to a recently reported statement by Mr Hawke, President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and Federal President of the Australian Labor Party that taxation should be significantly increased in the immediate months ahead, an advocacy identical with that of the Federal Government’s economic adviser, Dr Coombs. I refer, too, to a statement by Mr Whitlam in his policy speech in which he said that taxation was already very high and to his clear promise that there would be no increase in taxation. Will the Minister give an unequivocal denial that the Government proposes to increase taxation between now and the next Federal Budget?
-Firstly, I state that I heard Mr Hawke speaking on the television program. I did not understand him to use the words significantly increase’. I think that he was dealing with a general proposition. Maybe the honourable senator is right. I do not think it matters very much whether or not he said ‘significantly’. He dealt with the whole question of whether in these circumstances there should be an increase in taxation. He said that in his view there should be. I hope that we never have a government in Australia that prevents people from expressing their views on television programs or anywhere else. I do not see that there is anything wrong with that. If that view disagrees with something that we said months ago, what is wrong with that? There is a new government that believes in a little bit of free speech. The honourable senator asks me what I will decide between now and the next 10 years. I do not have a crystal ball. Of course, I will not answer that question.
– Between now and the next election.
– I said the next Budget.
– One honourable senator is saying ‘the next Budget’ and another one is saying ‘the next election’. I do not think that there is anything magical about a Budget and I do not think that there is anything magical about an election.
– But if -
– Would the honourable senator be quiet for 2 seconds? He has asked a question; now he should listen to the answer. There is nothing very magical about 30 June, a Budget or an election date. This Australian Government, as a proper government, and its Cabinet will decide in its view what we should do about the economic situation or in other situations in which we have been given a mandate to take action. We will do that fearlessly and honestly. We will not answer questions like this. Because somebody down in Melbourne says something, the honourable senator wants a guarantee from me about doing this, that or the other thing.
– I ask for the indulgence of the Senate to announce the results of 2 sporting events in which I know honourable senators will be interested. Firstly, the parliamentary golf team defeated all the teams of the Public Service last week. Secondly, in a recent event for a cup that has taken place somewhere 3 horses named Gala Supreme, Glengowan and Daneson were placed in that order.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. When the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee is finally established with the election of 41 representatives, do the positions of Aboriginal State co-ordinators then become redundant? If not, will the State co-ordinators be responsible to the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee or vice versa? Have the persons holding positions of State co-ordinators become, in fact, regional directors of Aboriginal affairs? Were these positions gazetted or were ministerial appointments made?
-On the establishment of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee the Aboriginal State co-ordinators who have been conducting enrolments etc, will become redundant. They will no longer be employed as such. Approval was obtained from the Public Service Board for the creation of 12 positions to enlarge the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in trying to establish the new Department. It is hoped that the co-ordinators will make application for the vacant positions that have now been created. In accordance with the policy of the Department of preference being given to Aboriginal people, subject to their having the qualifications necessary for the particular positions, Aborigines will be employed if they make application and if they have the qualifications. The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee will operate as an Australian consultative committee. There will be no State organisers. The Committee will work in conjunction with the Department with meetings in Canberra to get a uniform policy on Aboriginal thinking throughout Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Minister noticed passing Press reference to the fact that the Prime Minister recently visited mainland China in a chartered Qantas Boeing 707 aircraft? I ask the Minister to advise the Senate of the number of people, other than crew members, who accompanied the Prime Minister on this visit. What are the names and official functions of all such persons? Is it a fact that 2 such persons who accompanied the Prime Minister are actually newspaper executives, not mere reporters, namely, John Menadue, General Manager of the Murdoch empire and News Ltd, and Mr Farrell, Editorial Manager of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’? Is it a fact that the editor of the Melbourne ‘Age’, Mr Perkin, declined an invitation on the ground that it probably would compromise his position as editor of an independent newspaper? If Mr Perkin ‘s objection is valid, can the Minister advise the Senate where a fair non-oleaginous report of this visit can be obtained?
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. Is the Minister aware that Australian fishermen are concerned about the danger to marine life that could be caused as a result of pollutants emanating from proposed petro-chemical works? Can the Minister say whether his Department has carried out any investigation with respect to effluent from such installations? Is he able to assure the Senate that no pollution of the sea will occur from these plants that could threaten a multi-million dollar Australian industry?
-The Australian Department of the Environment and Conservation has not done any work in the area of pollution caused by petro-chemical industries but is aware of this danger and is seeking a report from the Director of the South Australian Department of the Environment and Conservation who recently has been overseas studying this question, particularly the pollution control methods of such plants. Pollution control essentially is a matter falling within the responsibility of State governments and there is very little, other than to give advice, that the Australian Government can do.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. It relates to Croatian terrorism and follows a question asked by Senator Hannan on 23 October and the conviction, by a jury, of 4 men who were sentenced by Judge Hicks in Sydney Quarter Sessions last Friday. Is it a fact that the 4 men who were found guilty of a terrorist assault against a 61-year-old Croatian were referred to in documents tabled by the Attorney-General in March of this year as being associated with the terrorist group called the United Croats of West Germany? Is it also a fact that one of the men, Jakov Suljak, was named in the Attorney-General’s statement as the leader of this organisation and a man ‘with a particularly violent record ‘? Is it a fact that Judge Hicks, in sentencing Suljak, recommended that he be deponed? Is it a fact that on 1 1 November 1969 the Commissioner of Commonwealth Police, Mr J. Davis, also recommended his deportation and that that recommendation was not acted upon by the members of the previous Government, including the Attorney-General’s predecessor, Senator Greenwood, during whose term of office this vicious, politically motivated attack took place?
– I raise a point of order. Mr President, you have ruled out of order other questions which contained the sort of epithets and unsustainable accusations which are contained in the last part of Senator Gietzelt ‘s question. The Attorney-General never has had responsibility for the administration of the Migration Act, as is well known. Senator Gietzelt, even if he was not aware of that, is seeking to impute to me, by name, a dereliction which, if it was a dereliction, was not mine at all.
- Senator Murphy, in answering the question, will pay due and proper acknowledgment to the objections raised by Senator Greenwood.
– It is a fact that on Friday last 4 persons were convicted of a brutal assault which could be described only as an act of terrorism. They were Jakov Suljak, who was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months; Naate Lazic, who was sentenced to 3 years and 4 months; Tomo Juricic who was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months; and Slavco Baric, who was, I think, sentenced to 3 years and 4 months or thereabouts. Judge Hicks recommended that three, including Suljak, be deported. They are not Australian citizens. It is correct that I mentioned those 3 persons in my statement on Croatian terrorism earlier this year. It is correct that Suljak is the President of the Croatian terrorist organisation known as the United Croats of West Germany. It is correct that he has a record of particularly violent crimes. It is a fact that in November 1969 his deportation was recommended by the Commissioner of Police. The recommendation was not acted upon. I think that is a sufficient answer, except to say that the existence of this organisation was well known to the previous Government. Reports had been submitted to it not only by the Commissioner of Police but by the Department of Immigration prior to the statements that there was no credible evidence of any terrorist organisation in Australia.
– In view of Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s knowledge of these things I appreciate the question. I cannot answer it off the cuff, as he would appreciate, but I will certainly refer it to see what I can find out for him.
-It is difficult to imagine how the honourable senator has got all these things mixed together. The Government’s viewpoint on the operation of multi-nationals has been set out in many statements. The Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control made an interim report, which was unanimous for the most part with some dissent on certain aspects, setting out certain principles. Basically, I think the Government’s attitude follows the general drift of that report and the other statements which have been made from time to time by members of the present Government when in Opposition. They have been to the effect that the approach that is taken by other countries is to judge the effect of the presence of multinationals and whether their presence should be encouraged by the test of whether it is in the national interests. You look also at the matter of transfer of know-how by the various operations in this country, and that is the golden test. Of course, some rules are needed to work this out. This is a most important matter of detail which can hardly be disposed of in answer to a question during question time. The Government has set out ground rules; it is setting out further ground rules on the operations of multi-nationals. It is doing much the same as other countries are doing. I think the people of Australia generally, as well as those concerned in commerce, are better pleased that Australia has a government which is facing up to the problems and which is prepared to say what it thinks in regard to the conditions under which multi-nationals will be permitted, encouraged or tolerated in their operations in this country.
– What is the supplementary question?
– I want to know whether the Leader of the Government in the Senate will answer the point of my question, which was: What does the Government intend doing about the control of trade unions by international organisations?
– I would ask the honourable senator to put on notice the precise point which she wants answered so that it can be answered. The short answer to the honourable senator’s question is that the Australian Government wants laws in the industrial field, including those applying to trade unions, which conform with the international standards and which conform with what has been evolved and set out in our policy over the years. It would help a great deal if the honourable senator would try to encourage the members of her own Party to assist the
Government in getting the necessary legislation passed.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. Is it a fact that because of the number of persons thrown out of work as a result of the previous Government’s fiscal policies lost man hours far exceeded the man hours lost by industrial disputes which have occurred in recent months? Is it a fact that many of these persons were on the dole for many weeks and, indeed, in some cases for many months? Has this Government by its policies created a situation in which full employment has been virtually attained and in which the number of job vacancies at the moment exceeds the number of people registered as unemployed?
-Yes, I believe it is a fact that the number of man hours lost as a result of unemployment exceeded the number of man hours lost as a result of strikes in recent years. That was the situation prior to this Government taking office. The position has been rectified to the extent that at the present time the number of job vacancies is far in excess of the number of people seeking employment. So we can say that we have a state of almost full employment. Unfortunate incidents do occur which create dislocation and loss of man hours. This is usually the result of industrial disputes which are totally unnecessary. My Party believes that that situation could be rectified if we had the power to do so, but the Opposition will not let us have that power and therefore it must take the responsibility for the dislocation and the loss of man hours that is occurring at the present time.
-No doubt the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration has seen reports that following the Prime Minister’s visit to China a significant number of Chinese migrants may be coming to Australia. Will this number be in addition to the migrants coming from other countries or instead of such people? How many people is it anticipated will be permitted to enter each year?
– I am unaware of the details sought by the honourable senator. I did see a statement in which the Prime Minister said that he would encourage the Chinese Government to give permission for people in China to come to Australia to visit and to meet their relatives. As to the numbers that would be involved, I am at a loss to know. I suggest that the question be placed on notice so that the information can be obtained.
-I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Bill 1 973. Banking Bill 1973.
Commonwealth Banks Bill (No. 2) 1973. Reserve Bank Bill 1973.
Papua New Guinea (Transfer of Banking Business) Bill 1973.
Papua New Guinea Bill (No. 2) 1973.
Papua New Guinea (Application of Laws) Bill 1 973.
Wireless Telegraphy Bill 1973.
Meteorology Bill 1973.
Papua New Guinea Loans Guarantee Bill 1 973.
– Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Funds Act 1947-1950, I present the twenty-fifth annual report of the Trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund for the year ended 31 December 1972, together with the report of the Auditor-General on the books and accounts of the Fund as required by section 35 of the Act.
– For the information of honourable senators, I table the following Tariff Board reports:
ABS Copolymers, etc.;
Lightning Arrestors; and
Prepared Additives for Mineral Oils, etc.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Prices Justification Tribunal on the price increases proposed by Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd and its wholly owned subsidiary Cellulose Australia Ltd. I present also the letter to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) from Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd stating that the 2 companies will increase the domestic selling prices of their paper and paper board products by an overall weighted average of 6 per cent, in conformity with the findings of the Prices Justification Tribunal. Copies of the Tribunal’s report and particulars of the companies’ reply have already been circulated to honourable senators. A limited number of copies of the revised price lists have been received and these are available to honourable senators in the Parliamentary Library.
– Pursuant to section 147 of the Defence Act 1903-1970, I present the annual report on the Royal Military College of Australia for the period 1 February 1972 to 31 January 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Australian Wool Commission for the period July to December 1972. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim annual report on the activities of the Australian Wool Board for the period July to December 1972. When the final report is available it will be presented in accordance with statutory requirements.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table the annual report of the Cinematographic Films Board of Review for 1972-73.
Motion (by Senator Little) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the National Health Act 1953-1973.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with an amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (3.12)- As this is a money Bill, I crave the indulgence of the Senate to speak for about 2 minutes on a matter related to a question I asked earlier this afternoon and the response given by the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt. The question referred to an alleged leak of a Tariff Board report which appeared in the Sydney Press last week. In his response the Minister said in passing that he felt sure that there was no impropriety on the part of any Minister. I wish to make it abundantly clear that I never at any stage suggested that there was. During a period of eight or nine years I came to understand very well the procedures adopted in relation to Tariff Board reports. When the Board makes a recommendation, it is handed to the relevant Minister and is then examined by Cabinet. The Ministers very properly have to have access to that document before they make a decision which becomes a collective decision of the Government. The report is then tabled in the Parliament with the recommendations of the Government. I was not suggesting any impropriety in any way at all on the part of any Minister. What I was suggesting was that obviously there was a leak, and that some other person must have had access to the document and that is the way the leak occurred.
– Does the Minister wish to respond?
– in reply- Yes, very briefly. I do not want to give the impression, nor did I intend to give the impression, that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was so implying. Perhaps my statement was unprompted. I assure him that that was not my interpretation. The statement was made in the broad context and certainly without any imputation against him or his question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Wheat Tax Act 1957-1966 to provide for a maximum rate of tax of 15c per tonne to be paid upon wheat that is delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. Under the terms of associated legislationthe Wheat Research Act 1957- the proceeds of the levy derived under the provisions of the Wheat Tax Act are appropriated to the State wheat research committees in each mainland State in the proportions in which those proceeds are collected in the States for expenditure by the committees on wheat research. The Bill also makes provision for regulations to impose any lower rate of tax than 15c per tonne after consideration by the Governor-General of a report to the Minister by the Australian Wheatgrower’s Federation.
The measure implements the proposals of the Australian Wheatgrowers’ Federation. In line with the recommendation of the Federation it is envisaged that following the passage of the Act regulations would be prescribed to set the operative rate of levy at 1 lc per tonne on deliveries to the Board commencing with the 1 973-74 season. This would apply from 1 October 1973. The rate of 1 lc per tonne represents an increase of 20 per cent over the existing rate which has applied since 1965. On a delivery level of, say, 10.9 million tonnes or 400 million bushels, wheat tax collections would increase by around $200,000 to an overall figure of $ 1.2m.
The Government at present matches industry contributions towards the cost of wheat research. These moneys are made available by annual appropriation from the Budget to finance research programs recommended by the Wheat Industry Research Council, constituted under the provisions of the Wheat Research Act, and approved by the Minister for Primary Industry. The Government has decided that it will continue to provide funds to match industry contributions at the new rate of tax proposed, that is, 1 lcper tonne.
The research projects financed from the tax collections and Government contributions have provided results of considerable value to the wheat industry. This is evident by the willingness of the industry to increase its contributions to programs investigating a wide range of projects in the fields of soil fertility, plant nutrition, wheat breeding, wheat diseases, storage problems and economic studies.
Since the levy for research purposes was last increased, there have been considerable increases in costs, particularly the salaries of research scientists. To provide for a continuation of the research efforts in the face of this situation, the available funds must be supplemented to sustain the total campaign.
The maintenance of the wheat research program is of importance because, with the major portion of Australian wheat production grown for the export market, there is a need for continuing research into all aspects of production and storage and to improve quality standards of wheat to effectively compete with other exporting countries and to meet the requirements of new markets.
It is for these reasons that the Government has agreed to the proposed increased rate of tax and is prepared to meet the additional liability it will incur by continuing to match the funds contributed by the industry. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 25 October (vide page 1492).
Clauses 64 to 69
– When the debate on these clauses was adjourned on 25 October I was replying to some questions which had been raised by Senator Hannan. Senator Hannan expressed great opposition to the amalgamation of the metal trades unions in Australia. Of course, honourable senators know that although the previous Government made it extremely difficult for trade unions to amalgamate when it introduced the last amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act even that Government was not prepared to legislate so as to prevent the amalgamation of the metal trades unions. This amalgamation was made with the full approval of the then Government, and the present Opposition cannot condemn this Government if it thinks that anything bad has resulted from the amalgamation. I think that employers today approve of the fact that as a result of the amalgamation of the metal trade unions they have only one organisation with which to deal. Employer interests have found it more desirable to deal with one organisation than with a multiplicity of organisation.
It is true that all demarcation disputes are unfortunate insofar as they should never occur and, win, lose or draw, the workers do not get an extra 10c put into their pockets and from time to time extreme hardship is caused to industry. Demarcation disputes can mean the abolition or annihilation of the unions concerned. But this does not occur in the metal trades today in which all classifications in the industry are amalgamated into one body. Unfortunately we have not seen this happen in other industries. The previous amendments were put into the Act for the purpose of stopping the modern day trend towards amalgamation, a trend which must grow stronger as newer technology eliminates certain trades and increases activity in other trades. The amendments were made for the purpose of making it more difficult for amalgamation to take place and for effective trade unionism to operate.
What the Government seeks to do now is to allow amalgamation, if that is the desire of those working in the industry. If necessary, when requested by 250 members or a quarter of the membership, a court conducted ballot may be held to show a true expression of opinion of” the members concerned. All we want is noninterference in trade union affairs. If we can achieve this we will be able to bring about much more harmony in unionism. Amalgamation creates strength in bargaining negotiations but it leads to a quicker solution in negotiations because they are conducted with one organisation rather than a multiplicity of organisations, and it stops all demarcation disputes that may occur. The defeat of the proposed amendments put forward by the Government will make no difference to the amalgamation of the metal trades unions which is the union concerned in the only complaint that Senator Hannan has raised against the clauses we are now discussing. He made these complaints because he remembered something that happened in the metal trades. His source of grievance is over now. However, at no time did he tell us where an amalgamation of the building trades unions, for example, would be detrimental. I know that the master builders would appreciate such an amalgamation. Also, if these unions were amalgamated one small section of the industry would not be able to impose green bans. Negotiations would take place between a combined building trades union and other bodies and we would possibly see a reduction in the number of disputes.
However, I suppose the die is cast and a decision has been made that amalgamations will not take place. But let this Government not then be condemned for the disputes that occur because we have given the Parliament a completely new document which can be used for the purposes of settling disputes. However, we do not have the power in the Senate to implement our ideas. We are not to be given the opportunity to show that our plan will settle industrial disputes. We are prevented by the action of the Opposition today from implementing an effective means of settling industrial disputes. I ask the Committee to carry the proposed amendments.
– I want to take a few moments to rebut some of the matters raised by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) in relation to these clauses. It is simply not true that the Industrial Court found completely against Drinkwater and the other gentleman whose name for the moment escapes me. It was argued there that a ballot conducted in accordance with the rules of the union was an adequate ballot within the meaning of regulation 138 ( 1 ) (c); and in truth the mere fact that the union rules were somewhat rugged was not a matter which could be examined by the court at the time Drinkwater ‘s application was made. I have here a reference to the decision of the court in the matter of the application for the cancellation of registration of the Sheetmetal Working, Agricultural Implements and Stovemaking Industrial Union of Australia. The court comprised Spicer, C.J., Dunphy, J. and Smithers, J. In paragraph (B) of its finding, the court said this:
Regulation 1 38 ( 1 ) (c) or the Conciliation and Arbitration regulations on its true construction does require that the Sheetmetal Working, Agricultural Implement and Stovemakin Industrial Union of Australia conducting a ballot of its members as provided in that regulation conduct a ballot of all its members.
Having said that, by some indescribable act of mental acrobatics- and I have no hesitation whatever in criticising the validity and logic of the court’s decision- it then found -
– You say you are criticising the court’s decision?
– Yes, I certainly criticise the court’s decision. It is not sacrosanct. The honourable senator has done so more than once. I just do not agree with it and I cannot help but feel that perhaps an appropriate appeal might have yielded a different end result. One of the matters raised by the applicant in Drinkwater’s case was that he complained that the union had not conducted a ballot- that the rules did not provide adequate grounds for conducting a proper ballot to determine either cancellation or amalgamation. The court found- and I think that in this regard the court was correct- that the governing body of the union had implied authority to choose the means by which it conducted it as fully and effectively as if expressed provision were made to that effect. Having read the first reference to regulation 138, the court then said:
The amalgamation ballot paper shall be posted to each member of the union.
Each member of the union. It is not alleged that ballot papers were sent to each member of the union and I am simply not going to explore that matter any further. How the court arrived at the result it did in the uncontested statement of fact I just do not know. It is not likely that a union so full of integrity as Senator Cavanagh suggests would dare to mislead the Australian Council of Trade Unions when it says it has 32,000 members and then allege that it has notified all its members and sent them ballot papers when it sends out only 2 1 ,000 papers.
– What about unfinancial members?
– Yes, the court says that the union should send notices to unfinancial members. I will read that excerpt to the honourable senator in a moment. Is the honourable senator going to agree with that part of the court’s decision?
- Senator Mulvihill would not criticise the court’s decision.
– I am glad that the honourable senator accepts the court’s decision in regard to that. I am not going to explore this very much further because in this particular amalgamation the matter is a dead issue. But I want to direct Senator Cavanagh ‘s attention to this nonsense about demarcation disputes. The allegation that the amalgamation of unions will reduce demarcation disputes is sheer nonsense. Most of the disputes or at least as many disputes now occur inside unions as to who should be doing certain jobs as occur between competing unions. If Senator Cavanagh cares to examine the agreement between the Boilermakers Society, the Sheetmetal Workers Union and the Amalgamated Engineering Union he will find that clause 9, 1 think it is, provides for the procedure to be followed in demarcation disputes. So if the Government is going to eliminate demarcation disputes by permitting amalgamations, why on earth would the unions put such a clause into their agreement? It is absolute nonsense. I want to go back to one other matter. Senator Cavanagh said that I have not shown any interest in this legislation at any time. If he really wants to do a little bit of research he will find that on every occasion that I have been in this chamber when this legislation has come before the Senate I have made a statement with respect to amalgamations.
– On metal trades amalgamations.
– And on other aspects of it. It is quite unwise for Senator Cavanagh to take a point of view that he and members on his side are the only active trade unionists in this chamber. They are not. Some of my colleagues, who are not here with me at the moment, are financial members of unions.
– What unions?
– Do you mean to what union do I belong?
– To what unions do your friends belong?
-The Australian Workers Union. I know that. That is a shade to the right of where the honourable senator would like to go. But they are in the Australian Workers Union. If what Senator Cavanagh says about the solution of industrial disputes were a valid and genuine exercise of the Government’s activities he would be able to answer why the Government wants to repeal Part X of the Act. If ever a part of the Act was designed to stop people brawling it is Part X- and of course when this legislation came before us on the last occasion the Government wanted to repeal Part X. So a great deal of humbug and unnecessary nonsense is spoken about these matters and the sooner the Government accepts the sincerity and the value of the Opposition’s amendment to this section of the legislation the sooner the rest of the Act can come into law and do such good as the Government hopes it will do.
– I am afraid that Senator Hannan ‘s obsession- it cannot be called anything less than obsession- with the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union is not based on any principled or consistent objection to amalgamation as such but on his notion that the creation of this amalgamated body represents a vast strengthening of what he would regard as a communist dominated organisation.
– Is it?
– I would like to quote on that not my opinion but the opinion of the then Minister for Labour, Mr Lynch.
– Do you prefer his opinions to your own?
– I think it might weigh a little more with Senator Greenwood. It might seem to be a more objective and a more disinterested opinion than those voiced on this side of the House. On 2 March 1972 Mr Lynch, in a very instructive speech which I commend to all senators opposite in case they have not read it recently, had this to say on this very point:
On the third point, that the amalgamation will provide a large communist dominated organisation, I simply say that the information at my disposal from a wide variety of sources does not confirm this. My information is that communists of one type or another would be a decided minority on the Federal council of the amalgamated unions.
Senator Hannan or Senator Greenwood may have better sources of information than those that were available to the then Minister for Labour. If so I should think that we should have been told something about these sources of information.
– We were just interested to get your opinion. That was all.
-Senator, it is also interesting to look back at various other statements that were being made about the time when the amalgamation of those bodies that ultimately formed the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union was coming to fruition and in particular to a statement made on 24 February 1972 by the National President of the Metal Trades Industry Association, a Mr Morgan, speaking at the conclusion of a meeting of the Metal Trades Industry Association National Executive. He said that his association raised no objection to the amalgamation of metal trades unions and it was his intention to convey that information to Mr Lynch, the Minister for Labour. He went on to say:
Far from objecting to the amalgamation, the MTIA -
That is the employer organisation in the metal trades industry- sees many practical advantages for industrial relations in the metal trades industry. The reduction in the number of unions with which the MTIA and its members have to deal is a significant advantage. Another is that we can look forward to the elimination of costly demarcation disputes.
– That was a joke.
-These were the opinions of those on the employer and Liberal Government side as to the likely effects of amalgamation. They saw nothing to object to. In fact, Mr Lynch ‘s speech is so detailed and so instructive, and it deals so damningly with and refutes most of the points which have been made by Senator Hannan that I really think it would be a good idea if the speech were incorporated in
Hansard, especially the section from page 7 to the end where Mr Lynch sets out in elaborate detail the steps which had been taken over a great number of years by the various bodies which finally amalgamated. Mr Lynch showed quite clearly that far from being some little conspiracy foisted on the great mass of the members of these unions by a few authoritarian union leaders there was a long and carefully drawn out series of negotiations about which the members were fully informed. Senator Hannan has made much of the fact that he considers that a small percentage of the members of each of those unions actually voted on the amalgamation proceedings. This also is analysed by Mr Lynch who pointed out the percentage of members of the 3 unions who voted in the ballots. In the Amalgamated Engineering Union 86 per cent of the voters favoured amalgamation, as did 73 per cent of the Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society and 70 per cent of the Sheetmetal Working Union. The percentage of the members of the unions who voted were: AEU, 9 per cent; Boilermakers and Blacksmiths Society 40 per cent; and Sheetmetal Working Union 36 per cent.
I can see from the expression on Senator Greenwood’s face that he thinks that there is something very damning to our case in the fact the only 9 per cent of the members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union voted. However, I point out to him- this point was made by Mr Lynch- that there was no requirement under the law for the AEU to hold a ballot on the matter at all. Under the provisions of the Act as it then was the host union which was the AEU- that is, the union which was not seeking deregistration- was under no obligation to hold a ballot at all. Mr Lynch points out in great detail that the proposition that most people who do not vote in a ballot like that can be taken to be against the proposal has no validity whatsoever. On the contrary, the more likely conclusion to be reached about those not voting is that they are acquiescent or that they do not feel strongly about the matter.
– That is not a rule of law.
-That is not a rule of law, Senator Hannan, but it is as likely an inference as anything I have heard from you on this matter of the silence of the members. A more instructive commentary on the feelings of the rank and file of these unions is that it was always open to any member of these unions throughout the period when amalgamation was being discussed to take proceedings under section 141 of the Act to prevent the amalgamation from taking place. It was only at the very last moment that a couple of members of one of the unions- who were obviously inspired by an outside organisation- made the belated attempt to take these proceedings. When these two gentlemen sought financial assistance for their action under the then regulation 138, the Deputy Industrial Registrar refused to grant them financial assistance because he was not satisfied that the proceedings proposed to be taken were in good faith. Apparently the 2 members concerned did not even know why they were taking the action except that they had been told that communists were in the union. It is significant also that the refusal of the Deputy Registrar- an independent official unconnected with any party -to grant financial assistance to have their legal fees met aroused such anxiety in the organisation which had induced the 2 members to take the legal action that it induced the Government to change the provisions relating to financial assistance and to take them out of the hands of the independent official and put them in the hands of the Attorney-General.
Of course, as we have heard from an exAttorneyGeneral, Senator Greenwood, he thought that he would be Attorney-General forever. He assured us recently that he fervently believes that the aberration, as he sees it, which put the present Government into office will be corrected at any moment, that he will be back again as AttorneyGeneral and that he will be able to grant assistance to those odd sorts of unionists who really did not know what they were doing. I point out for Senator Hannan ‘s enlightenment that one of the 2 men who had taken the action had not worked at this trade for over 12 months. In fact, at the time he was working as an iron worker. I agree fully with Senator Hannan ‘s right to criticise the judgment of the court. I hope that when some criticisms of courts fall, as they occasionally do, from the lips of honourable senators on this side that Senator Hannan and those who did not dissent from his proposition will bear in mind our right also to criticise the decisions of courts. The honourable senator appears to be mystified as to why the court could make the comments about what had happened and about the facts of these ballots and yet reach the conclusion which it did. The conclusion was:
We are satisfied that in the case of each union the ballot was conducted in accordance with the union rules applicable to the taking of the ballot and were so found.
This is a court with which I have had some experience. It has a discretion as to whether to give relief in the light of all the facts which are proved. I have been involved in cases in which technical breaches were established beyond doubt but in which the court still declined to give relief under section 141. This is as it should be. This is a court which, if it is to have any credibility at all, must reach decisions on the substantial merits of the case brought before it and not on some pettifogging, minute detail. This court could not be considered, I suggest respectively to Senator Hannan, to consist of judges with any notorious pro-communist bias. After hearing all the evidence and looking at all the surrounding facts the court was satisfied that this was an amalgamation which should not be disturbed, just as that was the opinion of Mr Lynch and of Mr Morgan, the national president of the Metal Trades Industries Association.
In any event we cannot turn back the clock. This amalgamation is a reality. I appeal to Senator Hannan to look at the question of amalgamation of unions in a larger frame than that of his prejudice against the fait accompli of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. I think I could do no better than to commend to him and to all honourable senators on the other side a careful study of the thoughts which were expressed very temperately and sensibly by the then Minister for Labour, Mr Lynch. They will find in that statement a refutation of all their fears and very good reasons why they should support the propositions which the Government is advancing in these clauses.
– I want briefly to support the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) and Senator James McClelland in refuting some of the assertions made by Senator Hannan. Senator James McClelland has explained the history leading up to these amalgamations. The next logical step is to ask what has happened so far as trade union democracy is concerned. The Amalgamated Metal Workers Union has conducted a series of ballots throughout Australia. There has certainly been competition. There was a tremendous lot of healthy competition for positions. That knocked over the first assertion that if we had this amalgamation we would get a sort of Orwellian complexion, that we would have no ballots or that all competition would be stifled. That has not happened. Across the chamber by interjection Senator Hannan then asked: ‘You have had an amalgamation, what about demarcation disputes?’
Let us look at the areas where they exist. Senator Cavanagh pinpointed the building trades group. But let us take the matter a little further in relation to another unfortunate confrontation. I have friends in both the Transport Workers Union and the Sydney Branch of the Australian
Waterside Workers Federation. Obviously in this age there are technological changes to which Senator Cavanagh referred. There is always uncertainty and a harping away at job security. The moral of this story is that the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation had a conflict. Now, that did not occur in the metal trades sector. It was not an area in which amalgamation had been effected. I know that we talk about amalgamations in this area. It is a very wide area. It will require extreme crossfertilisation of ideas to achieve it. But if this happened we would not have the sort of problem that paralysed the Sydney waterfront not so long ago. Of course, if we want a corollary to the Transport Workers Union case we should consider our efforts to solve the problem in the Moore v. Doyle case. I say that because nobody knows whether some adverse ruling may dismantle what we are trying to do. But I repeat that there have been some unfortunate conflicts between the 2 transport workers ‘ unions in which working time has been lost. I know that the trade union movement has not benefited by it. But I know also that people get the idea: What I have I hold. The moral I am putting forward all the time is that the troubles cannot be explained by Senator Hannan ‘s bland statement that there was an amalgamation but we still have demarcation disputes. The major demarcation disputes have all occurred outside the metal trades.
I will take the position a little further: As late as last week in Sydney grave concern was expressed by the Federated Shipwrights and Ship Constructors Association of Australia about certain dock facilities and certain repairs to be effected to a vessel in the Captain Cook Dock. It could be argued- I think that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs would agree with me- that if the shipwrights ultimately became part of the present Amalgamated Metal Workers Union or even the Federal Moulders’ Union of Australia as well you would remove that fear because they would be under the one umbrella and they would know that their work would be protected. I cite the statement of no less a person than the new Lochinvar of honourable senators opposite in regard to industrial relations, Mr Malcolm Fraser, the honourable member for Wannan in another place. He questioned whether some employers are as fair to some of the smaller unions as they should be. I do not doubt that on occasions certain employers might feel that the Moulders’ Union or the Shipwrights’ Union may not be able to mount the same militant momentum that the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union can mount. Therefore, the employers might not be averse to getting a bit tough with these unions. In fact, Senator Hannan is virtually hoisted on his own petard. I have indicated the areas in which there have been demarcation disputes which could be solved by amalgamations. If Senator Hannan is concerned, as he claims he is, about some of the smaller unions he could well and truly see that if they became part of a big trade union they might have more protective devices.
Senator Hannan does not seem to understand and he gets rather narked about the number of people who participate in what the Amalgamated Engineering Union used to call a ‘star night’. In the terminology of other unions, such meetings are called sub-branch meetings. Often this is where the policy moulding is done. Frankly, at a Amalgamated Engineering Union star night, an Australian Railways Union sub-branch meeting or a meeting held under any other union concept it is difficult on some occasions to obtain a consensus. That is why on occasions- this is accepted by many employers- the unions would sooner hold a stoppage and everyone be there, even those people who say that if they do go along they might not be able to stop someone who goes a little too far in his agitation. At least at such meetings there is an across the board consensus. This is the whole point. We hear talk about union members receiving a ballot paper and making sober decisions in their kitchens. I have never seen a major trade union dispute yet, whether it be within one trade union or within a group of trade unions on a site in which the position was as plain as black and white. Invariably, someone has moved a second or third amendment before a successful solution is found.
I will never forget a situation of which I was a ringside observer. It was a big dispute in Broken Hill which took place some 5 years ago. The present honourable member for Darling in the other place, Mr Fitzpatrick, was the minute secretary of the combined unions in the Mining Industry. A motion was moved and there were 7 amendments. This was a dispute that had gone on for 3 weeks. There was an extremely high powered debate. I think that the fifth amendment became the motion and was adopted. I have deliberately painted this picture to assure Senator Hannan that it is not in every dispute that a trade union member can open his letter box, take out the ballot paper sent to him and mark it yes or no. We know the position in the Senate with the give and take of debate. An idea is refined before we get the final instrument that goes out. I make this appeal to Senator Hannan in regard to his fears about the merger of the metal trade unions killing trade union democracy. That is not true. I know the vigour connected with the ballots that were conducted in New South Wales. I am sure that my Victorian colleagues would agree with me that in their State there are plenty of people who aspire to be trade union officials. Until some of the evils are removed in the area of demarcation disputes and even potential demarcation disputes- the Moore v. Doyle case is a case in point- the disputes will continue. Senator Cavanagh is trying to pilot legislation through the Parliament to remove the evils as far as is humanely possible. We appeal to Senator Hannan and his colleagues to give us the green light to achieve this.
– If we lived in an ideal trade union community we might perhaps look at the propositions being put forward by the Government in regard to amalgamations with a favourable eye. But as anybody here who has had anything to do with trade unions knows, we do not live in an ideal trade union community. The- amalgamation drive is not a new one. We had one during 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949. Ernie Thornton had amalgamated a number of unions in the ironworkers field. On the basis of the success of that amalgamation which resulted in one of the most corrupt unions from the ballot point of view that we have ever had in this country and which resulted in a union where a communist boss dominated everybody, as Senator Mulvihill knows, Ernie Thornton dealt it out to Laurie Short. That was amalgamation. On the basis of this success the Communist Party began a big drive for the amalgamation of trade unions. Senator Mulvihill will remember it. In those days, although it was a policy on the books of the Australian Council of Trade Unions to have amalgamations, just as it is now, the leaders of the ACTU were as cold as ice in regard to amalgamations because they knew what they would lead to. In those days the position was that Ernie Thornton could be elected to represent the trade union movement of Australia at international conferences. For that reason the best elements in the trade union movement combined to see to it that the amalgamation move in those days did not succeed. Even in the Soviet Union they did the same thing.
– The honourable senator talks crap.
-Senator Milliner talks in a most insulting way and he uses language that he ought not to use. I am surprised that Senator Milliner should use that type of language. I hope that he will endeavour to restrain himself. I say to Senator Milliner that in those days the official trade union movement frowned upon amalgamations. In those days we even had the position that the trade unions, such as they are in the Soviet Union, announced that in their view amalgamation was bad for any system of trade unions. Having had big amalgamated unions, they determined to decentralise the whole of the trade union movement in that country.
What is wrong with amalgamations? Bigness is not necessarily always good. You do not necessarily improve a trade union by amalgamating it with another. One of the troubles with big amalgamations is that the unions become so big that the only way to run them is to have a very large measure of executive control. After all, the biggest amalgamated union in Australia before this proposal to amalgamate was the Australian Workers Union. Who was more eloquent in his allegations that that Union in some respects was being run without regard to the welfare of the rank and file than the Minister? I believe that the Minister put before this Parliament a very powerful case to indicate that in his view the Australian Workers Union, the prime example of amalgamation, was a union in which there was a denial of the rights of the rank and file to a degree that should not have occurred. The Minister was one of the chief attackers of the biggest amalgamated union in this country in certain respects. So it surprised me that he came forward and presented this Bill, although I realise that it is his Party’s Bill and his Cabinet’s Bill, and is not necessarily solely his responsibility.
We have had an amalgamation, and what an amalgamation! What percentage of the members voted in the famous amalgamation of the metal trades unions? Was there ever a bigger scandal in regard to democracy than to allege that the amalgamation was democratic when only about 1 7 per cent of the members voted? Do Government Senators call that democracy? If there is to be a takeover of a public company, 90 per cent of the shareholders have to vote. Why does not a trade unionist have the same protection of his interests as is demanded for the shareholder in a company? Surely he deserves the same protection. I believe that he is entitled to protection. People say to me that 50 per cent is too many; that 50 per cent cannot be expected to vote. If 50 per cent of members are not prepared to vote favourably, it means that a majority of the members are not in favour of amalgamation.
The only other point that needs to be made relates to the history of the big amalgamated unions in other countries.. Go to Great Britain and ask about the Transport and General Workers Union and about democracy in the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
– They are not left wing.
– It does not necessarily have to be a left wing union for ballots to be crook and for the rank and file to be dealt with in a way in which they should not be dealt with. It happens in right wing unions as well as in left wing unions.
– What about political parties?
-Well, I was the subject of that type of treatment. It happens in political parties. People are expelled because they stand up for their principles. The point I want to make is that once there is a huge amalgamated organ- .isation democracy flies out the door because it is too big for people to get to the rank and file. That has been the experience and that is why even the Russians turned round and said that they would decentralise the trade unions.
I thought that the way of dealing with demarcation disputes was determined by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It has a wonderful policy for dealing with demarcation disputes. The only thing wrong is that it never uses it. The heads of the ACTU do not have the intestinal fortitude to carry out the policy of the ACTU in regard to demarcation disputes. I invite honourable senators on the Government side to tell me where the ACTU has intervened in recent demarcation disputes and has stopped them.
– I can tell you one.
– There might be one or two. But, one of the main features of Bob Hawke ‘s presidency of the ACTU is that when there is a demarcation dispute he is usually attending a directors’ meeting. According to the literature of the Communist Party in this country over the last 30 years, what has been its objective? The communists are quite clear on it. They want to have one big union controlling iron and steel, one big union controlling transport, one big union controlling light, fuel and power, one big union controlling the building industries and one big union controlling all the rest. If they can get 5 big unions like that in a country like Australia, where the average of trade union membership is the highest in the world, and can arrange, as is normally done, for the secretary or man in charge of the amalgamated union to be a communist, they are well on the way to controlling the whole of the economic life of the country.
Lance Sharkey said repeatedly in his book on the blueprint for the Communist Party in this country that the communists must seek to amalgamate the trade unions and then must use the shop steward movement for the purpose of achieving their ends. It has been stated repeatedly by communist leaders that amalgamation is essential to the achievement of the shop steward organisation under which they will run the industrial life of this country. Whenever I hear men of experience in the trade union movement talking as though the trade union movement was an idealistic organisation in which everybody is as pure as the driven snow -
– We are brothers.
– Yes, you are brothers until the union fight starts and then you will cut one another’s throat without the least compunction. The trade union movement is a movement with great humanitarian ideals, but it is a movement which is under attack by people who have in view political ends which are not for the good of this country. You can see, Mr Chairman, that we all agree that the trade union movement is under attack at present by people who have political ends in view. If we let the people with political ends in view obtain control of the trade union movement, we are in for trouble.
Sometimes I hear people say that communist union secretaries can be good blokes, that they are very efficient and that it is no wonder that many of the workers vote for them. I have heard Labor Party senators say that so-and-so was a communist but he was a good union official. But a communist can never be a good union official because, when the welfare of the union comes up against the welfare of the Communist Party, what does he do? He has to do what the Communist Party wants; otherwise he will not remain a Party member. For that reason I say that when we have people such as Sharkey and others clearly setting out what they are going for, namely, amalgamation and then rank and file control of a sort- not true rank and file control, not true democratic control; but control through the shop steward organisations- we are in for trouble in this country. Therefore, I stand firmly for the present amalgamation provisions. If a union wants to amalgamate, let it get 50 per cent of its members to say yes. In my view that is democracy.
– I want to say one or two things in order to clear up what has been said and in order to defend the trade union movement from those who attack it- those who have in view political ends that are not in the interests of this country. We have experienced this sort of thing every time a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill has been brought into this Chamber. I think we can accept the words of Senator McManus and say that we should defend the trade union movement against those who seek to destroy it.
Coming back to the question before us. Senator Hannan has one obsession- the amalgamation of the metal trade unions. Senator McManus also has one obsession- the communists. Senator McManus would support amalgamation if we exterminated all communists. However, they are part of our society. We know that they are there. We have to work out regulations for trade unions which are for the benefit of the unionists, whoever they might be. There is a worse element. Even members of the Democratic Labor Party have been known to be members of trade unions. We have not protested about such people being members of the trade union movement.
– Liberal Party senators have been members of unions.
-I do not know that Liberal Party supporters ever worked so as to qualify. I deal now with the point which Senator Hannan raised. The court found that while it could point to some imperfections because possibly there was not strict adherence to the rules there was insufficient departure from the rules of the unions amalgamating in the metal trades area to justify any interference with the ballot. In its judgment the court said:
We are satisfied that in the case of each union the ballot was conducted in accordance with the union rules applicable to the taking of the ballot, and we so find.
That was the decision of the court. Now we are asked: ‘If you are interested in settling disputes, why do you seek to abolish Part 10 of the Act?’ It relates to procedural agreements. Only six have been registered in 10 years. We have been seeking workers ‘ participation in agreements. There is no logic in the statement that we are not sincerely trying to settle industrial disputes, when we seek to delete one section which has never operated. I do not know whether it would be desirable if the section operated in relation to agreements.
I refer to that period when Ernie Thornton was Secretary of the Federated Ironworkers Association and when, we are told, the unionists combined for the purpose of defeating the amalgamation. Of course, they did not. Ernie Thornton became Secretary of the Union after amalgamation of right wing unions- the ammunition workers union and the ironworkers union. Ernie Thornton was elected General Secretary of the Ironworkers Association. He was displaced as General Secretary because it was found that there were sufficient irregularities in the ballot for him to be displaced. He was not displaced because of the amalgamation of the unions; he was displaced by the court. Laurie Short was put in his place. That provision is still in the Act, and it could be even more powerful. Honourable senators opposite said that the present Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) had agitated against the Australian Workers Union and crookedness in the AWU. The AWU is not an amalgamated body.
– It was originally.
– It was originally a shearers union. I think there may have been some earlier amalgamation, but the AWU had a coverage which could take in all workers in Australia. It did not exploit its potential membership. It let other unions form. Rather than be the force which its constitution permitted it to be, it went only part of the way. The condemnation by the present Minister of this organisation and his court action against the organisation arose from rules which were against the common rights or the human rights of its members and took the control of the organisation out of the membership of the organisation and put it in the hands of some hierarchy. That was the reason for the Minister ‘s condemnation. One can see this thought running through the amendments which we are seeking to the Act, Everything must be in the hands of the membership of the organisation. Everything which the Minister claimed that he suffered as a member of the AWU-his inability to put his views as a rank and file member- is cleared up in this Bill. Senator McManus said that the Minister made out a wonderful case. Surprisingly, we are being denied the right to insert into the Act many of the amendments which will rectify the grievances which the Minister had. If the Minister made out a wonderful case and if Senator McManus thought so at the time, it is obvious that the honourable senator has changed his mind because when the Minister seeks to rectify the position and put everything in the hands of rank and file members Senator McManus does not support him.
I deal now with this suggestion of a union getting too big to get to its rank and file members. The union’s rules contain a provision that it have contact with its rank and file members. Under the amending legislation the union had to assure the court that it had a majority in favour of amalgamation. It had to assure the court that a majority of those who participated in the vote agreed that the amalgamation should be entered into. That was defeated by the Opposition. Therefore, the efforts to get rank and file agreement did not succeed. There was a hatred of the metal trades employees amalgamating. I do not know why the amalgamation in that area denies us the right, in Senator Hannan ‘s mind, to allow other unions to amalgamate. Because there might be a communist and at one time there was a communist Secretary of the Ironworkers Association, the DLP will not support the principle of amalgamation even of unions which do not have communists in control of them. So we do not seem to be deciding the question on the basis of justice, fairness or working for the benefit of settling disputes; we are deciding it on prejudice and on the party numbers system. The Committee will defeat the proposal and the progress which we could have made against such prejudices.
– I wish to correct one or two statements which were made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh). It is untrue to say that no one on this side is a member of a trade union. My recollection is that Senator Bonner is a member of the Australian Workers Union. I have been a member of Actors Equity for 1 7 years.
– Have you now?
-For the benefit of Senator McLaren, I produce my current membership card. I also produce my Australian Council of Trade Unions card which entitles me to shop at Mr Hawke ‘s store- Bourkes. If any further vindication of a man’s bona fides as a trade unionist is required, I would like to know it.
– Anyone can buy a ticket. It is how you act when you are a member. Are you a good member?
– I believe that I am. I scarcely miss a meeting, if that interests the honourable senator. I deal now with a couple of matters which were referred to by Senator Cavanagh. I know that he did not mean them seriously. He said that I have an obsession about the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. The reason why I direct such attention to that Union is that in my view- I still hold the view, regardless of what the court said- the amalgamation was such an extraordinary example. I advise my friend, Senator James McClelland, that I disagreed with Mr Lynch at the time that he made the speech to which the honourable senator referred, and I said so in this chamber. So there is nothing new in what the honourable senator has put to me. Mr Morgan, who was accepting the amalgamation with such facilityhe found it so easy to accept the amalgamationwas in the course of making a sweetheart arrangement with the metal trades unions. How dare he attack his masters and tell them that he was not happy with what they were doing! If Mr Morgan had read the statement made by the Assistant Secretary in Sydney a month or so after the amalgamation in which worker control of jobs and a number of other communist proposals were put forward by the Assistant Secretary I feel sure that he would have been less than happy with the end result of this amalgamation. Senator James McClelland referred to outside influences dictating the activities of Drinkwater and his colleague. I refer him to the genuine sinister outside influences which have been the real motivating factor behind the amalgamation of the heavy unions in Australia. When this debate began I said that there could well be reason why some of the 3 1 6 trade unions in Australia should amalgamate with one another. There could be benefits to the members and to industry.
– That is at variance with the view of Senator McManus.
– I said that there was some. Amalgamation in itself is neither good, bad nor indifferent. It is the way in which it takes place to which I take exception. Of course, Sharkey, who would be no stranger to honourable senators, said in his book: ‘We must destroy the craft unions. We want to move to a setup of industrial unionism’. The position has been reached where a union of the size, power and wealth- I emphasise the word ‘wealth’- of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union has been able to dictate to a potential Prime Minister. In other words, it has been able to say to him: ‘We will give you $25,000 for the election campaign but you have to promise that there will be no prosecutions under the penal clauses’. If that is not size dictating to what ultimately, through some perverse decision of the electorate, became the Leader of the present Government, I would like to know what it is.
– Did the Prime Minister not agree to that proposal?
– By implication, yes. He has been in office for nearly 12 months. He has had nearly 12 months in which to launch any prosecutions.
– What we want to know is whether he accepted the money.
– Of course he accepted the money. Most of the wealthy organisations of this country were beguiled into supporting the Australian Labor Party at the last election. Far from being the representatives of the downtrodden and oppressed the Labor Party became the representatives of wealthy industry. For every supporter who was horny handed it had two who wore horny spectacles. (Honourable senators interjecting)-
– I do not want to interrupt those honourable senators who are interjecting, Mr Temporary Chairman, but I would like to go on for just a few moments more. We had the extraordinary situation of Senator James McClelland saying that silence gives consent. He would know very well from his extensive law practice that when someone refuses to plead the court enters a plea of not guilty; in other words, it is a negation. He would also be familiar with the trial of St Thomas More, who remained silent.
– It is familiar.
– It is one of the most famous silences in history. That is why I thought Senator James McClelland would have knowledge of it. In refusing to say anything, silence was pleaded by him as a negation. There are a couple of other minor matters to which I wish to draw Senator Cavanagh ‘s attention. He would be as aware as anyone else in this chamber of the difficulty Drinkwater and his colleague had in bringing legal proceedings against a wealthy organisation. Let there be no mistake about the wealth of the organisation against which an ordinary rank and file member finds himself pitted. It seemed to me to be a travesty of justice that the Deputy Registrar refused to give assistance in the first instance. I think it is to the credit of this Government that that injustice was ultimately remedied.
– It was not an injustice; he never had a claim.
– We will go into that at some other time when we are dealing not with the whole of the Bill but only the actual decision. The rules of the boilermakers’ organisation at that time provided that 55 per cent of those voting could effect the cancellation of the registration and an amalgamation with the takeover union- the Amalgamated Engineering Union.
– The ‘host’ union. That is a better term.
– I prefer the term takeover’. It is more accurate.
– It is more Mafia-like.
– It is more descriptive and more accurate. If the Government’s position in respect to this Bill were to be sustained it would simply mean that a meeting of 3 members, two of whom voted in favour, could deregister a union and make arrangements for amalgamation. That is just too silly to be put forward seriously by men as experienced in the trade union movement as Senator Cavanagh.
– It is a 51 per cent vote now and it can be a 26 per cent membership.
-But at present 50 per cent have to vote. That means that at least 25 per cent of the membership- 25 per cent plus 1- have to be in favour of amalgamation. I regard that as being a substantial reflection of the views of a union. There are reasons why a unionist cannot vote on a particular occasion, such as absence on holidays and some fault in the delivery of mail.
– Because they do not get a ballot paper posted to them.
- Senator McManus said that some may not get a ballot paper posted to them. I realise that we are not dealing with that aspect now. Therefore I do not want to say a great deal about it. Senator Cavanagh, in response to my comments concerning Part X, said that it is never used. It is rarely used, but when it is used it is used with effect.
– Six times in 10 years.
– Let me see. About 6 or 7 months ago the professional scientists and engineers used it more successfully in obtaining what turned out in the long run to be a proper award. It was done by amicable negotiation under Part X. Part X may not do any good but it certainly does not do any harm. Why not leave the provision in the legislation, even if iris used only 6 times in 10 years.
– We are discussing another clause now.
– I know. I admit that it was wrong of me to digress too much on Part X but, as it had been mentioned, I thought I should point out the success of the professional engineers in recent months.
– I freely concede that Senator Hannan has always disapproved of the sentiments of Mr Lynch to which I have adverted today. We on this side of the chamber know, even though we do not attend the Caucus meetings of the Opposition, that the Opposition has its rabid wing and its moderate wing. What we would like some guidance on at the moment is which tendency is on the up and up at the moment and which is suffering some eclipse. For instance, if I might cite him again, Mr Lynch has made statements as to the general approach of his Party and the previous Government on this matter of industrial relations. He said:
Basically, the philosophy of the current and previous governments in relation to organisations registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is that they are voluntary organisations and the government should not interfere in their affairs unless it can be demonstrated that there are or are likely to be dishonest practices which would prejudice the rights of members or groups of members.
It could not have been said more eloquently if we had said it ourselves. That is a principle to which we also assent. As I had occasion to remark when discussing this Bill on a previous occasion, we have some grounds for hoping, on reading the speeches in the other place of Mr Malcolm Fraser, that this moderate approach is beginning to take root among the Opposition and that it is beginning io dawn on it that union bashing and vilification and wild frenzied talk about anything to do with unions may be unproductive. It certainly is not much of a contribution to industrial peace. It appeared that with a man who has not been notably libertarian, in the view of those on this side of the chamber- I refer to Mr Malcolm Fraser, who has never struck us as much of a left winger- we had reason to hope, on reading what he said in the other place, that this moderate view was beginning to be in the ascendancy in the Opposition ranks. Before we complete the debate on this matter I should like some guidance, preferably from an authoritative man such as Senator Greenwood, as to whether the principle enunciated by Mr Lynch is totally disowned by the Opposition today and whether we can hope that this enlightened view of industrial relations will be the view which will guide the Opposition in the future.
Senator MULVIHILL (New South Wales (4.26)- I wish to have information on one other question. It also relates to the wisdom of Mr Malcolm Fraser. During his tour of the coalfields he raised the question of union costs. He referred to the extent to which the democractisation of unions could go. He referred also to whether the unions would have to take on additional administrative staff. I am concerned about something along these lines. Senator Hannan pointed out that what he called the takeover union- I prefer to call it the host union- had to participate in a ballot and share the cost. The point I am putting in relation to the cost to the union, although it is a big union, was also advanced by Mr Laurie Short within the last 12 months in conversation with several of us. It related to a small element of an industry which was to be taken under the large union’s wing. There is nothing wrong with that. Better service would have been given. It has been said: Why should the Federated Ironworkers Association, with a big membership, have to have a complete ballot and pay the cost when the small union has the most to gain?
Mr Malcolm Fraser realised the point concerning union costs. I wonder what Senator Greenwood and Senator Hannan think about that point. Union costs are becoming astronomical. I feel that Senator James McClelland would be on the same wavelength as I am. The Waterside Workers Federation, within the last 2 years, absorbed 600 unionists from Carrington. When the Federal Council of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Newcastle branch officers of the union said that they would have those unionists, the Waterside Workers Federation certainly did not want to have the cost of a ballot of its entire membership when there was to be an increase of only 600. The other point I wish to make is that the small segments that the Federated Ironworkers Association and the Waterside Workers Federation wanted to absorb, were so insignificant that they would not disturb the balance of power within the large unions. I conclude by saying that I take up Senator Hannan’s offensive remark about the takeover union. In most cases that union is giving out more than it is getting by gaining a minute additional membership.
-I do not want to hear from Government senators much longer the suggestion that the Opposition is endeavouring to delay the legislation and to stall consideration of it. This debate is on a clause on which it has been clear right from the commencement a fortnight ago where the various sides of this chamber stood. What we have heard today is Government senator after Government senator standing up and talking about everything except that which is really conveyed by the Government proposals. The proposals contained in this clause are simply amendments to the existing amalgamation provisions. What are the grounds upon which persons can object to an amalgamation? Should or should not an amalgamation ballot be conducted by the Commonwealth Electoral Office? Should persons who are opposed to the amalgamation have the right to send out a case? What ought to be the appropriate voting procedures? Should a majority of the union have to vote? What should be the proportion of those voting who should be required to demonstrate their assent before the amalgamation comes off? These are the issues, and we have not heard from Government senators one word for them or against them. All that we have heard is the general twaddle to the effect that, in some way, if we have these amalgamation provisions we will avoid industrial disputes.
I was surprised to hear the Minister say at the outset that the Opposition’s attitude in opposing these amalgamation provisions would in some way make the Government’s case more difficult. I challenge the Minister absolutely to demonstrate how in any way there will be an easier resolving of industrial disputation whether or not these particular provisions are passed. I know that in Victoria at the moment we have an industrial dispute which, I suppose, some would call a demarcation dispute, but its resolution does not depend on whether there will be an amalgamation because there are competing selfish groups within the Electrical Trades Union. One group- I gather that its members are called special electricians- wants $4 a week extra because that increase has been given to base grade electricians. Will it concede an inch? Not at all. Obviously the work done by the special electricians could be done by the base grade electricians. That is what Mr Justice Aird is threatening he will decide in order to bring the matter to a head. But the point is well taken to demonstrate that this fallacious argument- that in some way the union position can be improved by permitting amalgamation which overnight, as it were, will solve industrial disputes- is so much arrant nonsense.
That clauses 64 to 69 stand as printed.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Section 1 58T of the Principal Act is repealed and the following section substituted: “158T. The expenses of a ballot conducted in accordance with sub-section (5) of section 158K shall be borne by the Australian Government.”.
– I move:
Clause 70 is a clause which is inserted, as it would appear to me, on the assumption that the clauses which the Committee has just resolved should not be part of the Bill were to remain part of the Bill. It deals, for example, with the expenses of a ballot conducted in accordance with sub-section (5) of section 158k. Whilst one can see that its purpose is to make the Commonwealth liable for all expenses where a ballot is conducted by the Registrar of the Commonwealth Electoral Office on request from an organisation, the clause cannot stand as it is. I think that the appropriate course is therefore to adopt the amendment. This is essentially a procedural amendment necessitated by the decision which we have just made.
– In view of what has happened the Government accepts this amendment as procedurally necessary.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 71. 71.(1) Section 1 5 9 of the Principal Act is amended-
by omitting sub-sections (4), (5) and (6).
– I move:
The clause deals with applications for inquiries regarding elections which are held under the Act. The amendment deletes certain provisions which were inserted into the legislation in 1972. The present section 159 provides for inquiries to be made in respect of both the so called court controlled ballots and also the non court controlled ballots. The amendment seeks to remove the power for inquiries to be made into court controlled ballots.
Last year when this measure was before the Senate it was felt desirable that some provision should be made for those who have a ground of objection or some cause for complaint in respect of a ballot which is conducted through the Registrar by the Chief Electoral Officer. We fail to see why this particular provision should now be deleted from the Bill. I might say that this amendment is designed to pick up what seems to be a technicality in the misplacing of words in the original Act. But the basic proposition to remove the right and power for a person to raise objection to seek inquiries into court controlled ballots is opposed. The objective is achieved by the amendment we have moved.
– The Government does not accept this amendment because it seeks to keep that part of the Act which was changed by an amendment that was introduced in 1972 in relation to court controlled ballots. We want an officially conducted ballot to be the final say in this matter. The purpose of officially conducted ballots is to prevent irregularities that occur in elections. If irregularities did not occur from time to time it would not be necessary to have officially conducted ballots. If it is possible to challenge the conduct of an election by an independent returning officer who is responsible for conducting all stages of an election, the whole purpose of officially conducted ballots is undermined and their conduct is subject to uncertainty. The irregularities that occur in an officially conducted ballot held by an independent returning officer would be few. If the results of officially conducted ballots could be challenged ad infinitum the issue would never be decided. We acknowledge that if the Opposition’s amendment succeeds it is necessary to remedy a defect in the 1972 provision. This has been done by a reference in the Opposition’s amendment to sub-section (4). But the Government opposes the amendment because an officially conducted ballot should be final.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 72 agreed to.
Clause 73- (Procedure at hearing).
– The Opposition opposes clause 73. It does so on grounds which have been earlier elaborated. The clause seeks to substitute for the word ‘Attorney-General’ the word ‘Minister’. We have indicated that in respect of those matters where application has to be made to a court we believe that the Attorney-General is the appropriate person. Section 164 of the Principal Act is a section under which a court determination is required and it is appropriate therefore that where intervention is permitted it should be by the Attorney-General and not by the Minister. We accordingly, consistently with the attitude already adopted and acceded to by the Committee, oppose the clause.
– The Government opposes the Opposition’s opposition to this clause because the clause was put in the Bill for the purpose of taking the responsibility for industrial affairs and industrial happenings out of the hands of the Attorney-General and putting it into the hands of the Minister concerned. While the Minister would have the right to refer anything to the industrial court we do acknowledge that as the Bill now stands the Attorney-General is the man responsible for the election of judges. We adhere to the principle that the whole question of industrial relations should be left to the Minister for Labour and we formally oppose the Opposition’s argument.
Section 168 of the Principal Act is amended-
– This is a clause also which seeks to substitute the word ‘Minister’ for the words ‘AttorneyGeneral’ and which also seeks to delete certain provisions existing in section 168 of the Act. Section 168 is used from time to time because it enables the Attorney-General, if irregularities have occurred and persons have incurred costs which it is felt appropriate should be borne by the Commonwealth and not by the person who actually incurred them, to exercise a discretion for payment to be made. I know from experience that this provision is availed of from time to time, and it is desirable that it should be there and capable of being availed of. But of” course the general scheme of the clause which does provide generally for legal aid takes away much of the impact which previously this section has had. The Opposition proposes that the clause should be omitted and that a new clause should be substituted which, in short form, is that ‘section 168 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting subsection (4)’. We believe that sub-section (4) can be omitted because the discretion which is there conferred on the Attorney-General to make orders alleviating problems of cost by authorising their payment by the Commonwealth will be covered by the amendment which is contained in clause 76. But in all the circumstances, having regard to the general policy which we followed and to which expression is given under clause 73, the amendment moved is that section 168 of the Principal Act be amended simply by the omission of sub-section (4). I move:
– The Government will not accept the amendment to section 168, the provisions of which provide that the Attorney-General may authorise payment by the Commonwealth of the expenses involved in an officially conducted election ordered by the Court after its inquiry into irregularities alleged in connection with the conduct of an election. The Opposition’s amendment retains sub-section (5) of section 168 which reiterates the power of the Court to award costs against parties in an inquiry. The Bill seeks to delete both sub-section (4) and sub-section (5). Sub-section (4) would be unnecessary because under the Bill the expenses of all officially conducted elections are to be borne by the Australian Government. The Bill would have prevented the award of costs because an amendment was accepted in the House to this costs provision. The Opposition seeks to retain sub-section (5) as a consequential amendment. We are of the opinion that these costs should not be awarded and we will not accept the amendment.
– Sub-section (5) has been inserted because we recognised that in the proposed clause 80 which does relate generally to costs there is one circumstance of a broad character in which a court may order costs. The Minister agreed to this when the matter was before the House and we felt that in the circumstances sub-section (5) should remain in the Act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 75 and 76 agreed to.
Clause 77 (Evidence of financial position of employer).
– The Opposition opposes this clause. It is a clause which permits an intrusion which is not to be found, I think, in any other part of the legislation and the Opposition does not regard the proposal as warranted.
– Such a defence has never existed in other legislation. One could not put up such a defence.
-No. What I am dealing with now- and I could- probably have that point elaborated when Senator Cavanagh rises to deal with clause 77- is that a new section 1 86A is to be inserted in the legislation. Section 1 86A indicates that if in any proceedings before the court or the commission objection is taken that any information relates to a trade secret or to the profits or the financial position of any witness or party the court or the commission has a discretion to prohibit its publication without the permission of the court or the commission. If a person who has got this evidence to give, and it is relevant to the proceedings, desires to give the evidence in private, the court may order that the proceedings be held in camera and the material will not be divulged. Likewise, if any material is contained in a document the court or the commission may direct that it shall not be published. What is proposed if that there should be a subsequent section, section 1 86A, which states: “186A. (1) If, in arbitration proceedings before the Commission other than proceedings before a Full Bench of the Commission in accordance with section 31, it is contended by an employer or by an organization of employers that an award or order binding on the employer or on an employer who is a member of the organization and providing for particular terms and conditions of employment should not be made, for reasons related to the capacity of the employer to meet the cost to the employer of providing those terms and conditions, the Commission shall disregard the contention unless evidence that establishes to the satisfaction of the Commission all matters concerning the financial position of the employer that are relevant to the contention is adduced by the employer or the organization.”
Firstly, why is this clause relevant? Obviously, if an employer is taking the stand and adducing the argument that there is incapacity to pay, that is a matter which will be tested before the court or the commission. It would be inconceivable that whoever was appearing on behalf of the employees’ organisation, if the organisation had some doubt about the bona fides of the proposition being put forward, would not challenge it vigorously. Undoubtedly the employer’s assertion would be tested by cross examination, and during the addresses and the comments which are always able to be made the point can also be taken that the claim has not been borne out by the material which is before the commission. I would have thought that in those cases in which the commission, or the court is not satisfied with what has been adduced that no relevance will be given to what has been argued: The point is just not well taken. That, I would have thought, is the ordinary course of events. It would inevitably follow that if one cannot make one ‘s point one cannot have any weight given to it. It is on that basis that we question the necessity for any such provision to be inserted. Obviously there must be some intention behind the proposal but we cannot see why it is desired that this clause should be inserted when, in effect, it just states what would be the - obvious position anyway. But the real nub of what is proposed comes in sub-clause (2) of proposed new section 186a. It states:
So we have an existing position under section 1 86 which states:
If, in any proceedings before the Court or the Commission, objection is taken that any information tendered as evidence relates to any trade secret or to the profits or financial position of any witness or party, that witness or party, or the person entitled to the trade secret, may object that the information so relates …
Thereupon the evidence shall not be given. There is a right to protect confidentiality. It is acknowledged in legislation at the present time. There is obviously sound reason because one finds it in other legislation. Indeed, the Government is prepared to have some provision of that character inserted in its envisaged trade practices legislation. This confidentiality ought to be able to be protected in the circumstances to which section 186 applies. So we see this clause as removing the guarantee of confidentiality of information provided by employers in support of their arguments. It removes that confidentiality in circumstances where it currently exists. Why therefore is the Government proposing this provision? We think that confidentiality of information ought to be protected as it is currently under section 186. Obviously when employers are faced with the provisions of section 186 they must be able to convince the court or the commission of their incapacity to pay or else on that point their case is not able to be sustained. We therefore regard this clause as one which ought to be opposed on 2 grounds: Firstly, it is unnecessary and, secondly, even if some argument of necessity could be made out it is still objectionable because of the removal of the confidential provisions.
– The Government rejects the Opposition’s proposal. I do not know in what branch of the law Senator Greenwood used to practice. I know he has a reputation as a legal man but it is obvious that he is unacquainted with what actually happens in industrial courts. I do not know whether he has ever had a case in an industrial court.
– He appeared for the Australian Labor Party once against the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
-Yes, but that was not an industrial question. The whole point is that an applicant must prove his case in court. He goes there to prove it. Generally on a question he makes a claim that the industry can afford an increase. In defence the respondent to the application says that among the reasons why the court should not grant the increase is the fact that it would impoverish the industry because the condition of the industry is such that it cannot afford an increase. There is no way in which the applicant can prove that that industry can afford to pay. The only proof available is in the hands of the respondent to the application. Therefore we are making this a valid defence without proof against an application because at present the onus of proof is on the applicant. The fact is that the employer or the advocate for the employer can say that the industry cannot afford to pay, without the necessity of any proof. What is proposed is that the tribunal must be satisfied on the employer’s application that he cannot afford to pay. Under the law the employee has no evidence to refute the claim and the court has to accept it. Under section 186 we protect an employer’s trade secrets or anything which may reveal profits or his financial position to any other witness. We see that these are secret and that there is not unfair competition. Of course we protect a person’s right to conceal his financial position if he so desires.
A case can be fought on the basis that an increase should not be paid because the skill and work value do not justify payment. But if a person is defeated on such questions as are normally argued and if he argues the question of ability to pay, immediately we have nothing left to say but: ‘Well, prove it’. He does not have to prove it. Senator Greenwood says that he has to satisfy the court because we are asking him to prove it to the court. But a person only has to disclose this if it is his defence against an application. The respondent to the application raises the question. He makes the decision. Many thousands of unionists could be deprived of a justifiable increase when they could prove their case on work value or on an increased margin for skill. But despite that honourable senators opposite will let the court decide the question of ability to pay without compelling the production of evidence to show that the industry has not the ability to pay. I say that this is very unfair to applicants in such cases. As one who has spent some time in industrial courts I say that this is a true record of what happens in almost every case. There are many other pleas beside inability to pay. If the employer, the respondent to the claim, is going to argue inability to pay, let him bring the proof which he has.
Clause 78 agreed to.
Clauses 79 to 81- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Postponed Clause 6.
Section 5 of the Principal Act is amended-
– When this clause was before the Senate some weeks ago discussion on it was postponed. The Opposition had circulated an amendment which is amendment No. 4 on the roneoed sheet which we have before us. That amendment proposes the omission of paragraph (c) of clause 6. The omission of paragraph (c) means that 3 proposed new sub-sections- that is sub-sections 2a, 2b and 3- would also have to be deleted. The question was raised whether it was intended that proposed new sub-section 3 should also be deleted. It seemed to the Opposition that the point taken was valid. We have looked at it and we agree with the point raised for our consideration by the Government. Therefore with leave of the Committee I withdraw the proposed amendment which seeks to omit paragraph (c) and I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Adoption of. Report
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh)- by leaveproposed:
That the report of the Committee be adopted.
– It will be recalled, of course, that we are proceeding with this Bill in its formal stages. The Opposition indicated when the Bill was introduced into the Senate the reason it felt it appropriate to take this course. We shall not grant leave for the motion for the third reading of the Bill if it is sought after this motion is carried. We are at the stage where the Committee proceedings have been adopted. But I wish -
– They have not been adopted yet.
-The motion before the Chair at the moment is that the report of the Committee be adopted. The Opposition will not oppose that motion. But I want to take this opportunity to speak. We have been through the Committee stages and the Opposition has, as we see it, applied itself constructively to making this Bill a Bill which reflects the wishes of the Opposition and the wishes of the Government so that it will serve the purposes which we all have in common- to improve the workings of our conciliation and arbitration system. We believe that the Bill as amended will be a better Bill because of the time which the Senate has been able to give in Committee to its provisions. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who has been in charge of the Bill has applied himself in such a way that we have been able to discuss these matters without rancour, heat and in a manner which I think reflects the intention which we all have to make this the best sort of legislation that we can have in an area in which we have an immense amount of current disputation.
Mr President, you will recall that this afternoon I asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) as to what the Government was doing with regard to the current industrial dispute in Victoria. I was not satisfied with the answer that I received. The answer was couched in terms that implied that when the Opposition agreed to legislation which was currently before the Senate the Government would be in a much better position to deal with the type of dispute which is now awaiting resolution in Victoria. When I asked a further question, with your leave Mr President, designed to ascertain which of the provisions in this legislation would enable the Government to take action which it is now unable to take, you, Sir, invited me to wait until the debate on the Bill when the matter could be properly debated and asked me not to raise the matter during question time. I raise the question now and I invite- indeed, I challenge- the Minister to show where in this Bill in any of the clauses which we have so painstakingly examined over the past few days there is a provision which would enable the Government to take some action in regard to the dispute involving the Electrical Trades Union of Victoria which is denying Victoria power and which has created an enormous amount of unemployment in other areas. How will this Bill enable that dispute to be resolved in a way in which it cannot be resolved at the present time? I would be grateful to the Minister if he could point to a provision to enable this to be done.
I have looked at the provisions and I fail to see one that bears in any way on this type of situation. In those circumstances I just wonder whether this Bill is not being used as a conventional backdrop against which the Government can shield itself from the very just accusation that it is incapable of maintaining adherence to its pre-election promises of less industrial disputes and providing a convenient means of blaming the Opposition for its own inadequacies and inactions. I raise this question specifically to enable the Minister to show where provision is made to deal with this situation in which there are a small number of members of the Electrical Trades Union who have gone on strike because they feel that they should receive $4 a week more because some other grade of electrician received an increase recently. I may say that that grade of electrician received that increase only because of an initial $9 a week granted to those who are currently on strike seeking $4. In order to get this increase they did not apply to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. They will not take their claim in the ordinary way before the Commission or before any of the conciliators. They just assert their right. They recognise their power and they have denied the people of Victoria the full power to which they ought to be entitled for the last 3 weeks. There is no sign of their backing down. I would be interested to know, particularly in the light of what Senator Murphy said this afternoon where in this legislation the Government claims there is a power which will enable it to bring this dispute to an end which otherwise it would not be able to use.
– I understand that Standing Orders were not suspended for the purpose of allowing this Bill to pass through all us remaining stages without delay. Therefore, we have the right to proceed to the third reading only with the leave of the Senate or on a subsequent day. I understand that Senator Greenwood now has no intention of agreeing to the granting leave for the purpose of getting rid of the third reading of the Bill today and tidying up the position. I cannot see the purpose in this. I hope that if I can satisfy him that there is an answer to this query he will reconsider this question and after he has had his say- his grizzle, I think, for political reasons- and achieved his purpose he will let us get this Bill off the notice paper.
– It might depend on the Minister’s answer.
-The answer will be convincing, I think, even to Senator Webster. What we have said at all times is that you cannot compel a man to sell his labour power. It is his right as a free citizen to give or withhold his labour in accordance with his wishes. The main cause of the dislocation of industry and the withholding of labour is a belief that there is not comparable wage justice. Everything in our arbitration system has been based on comparable wage justice. Men will leave their employment more quickly because they believe that they are underpaid compared with someone else than for any other reason that comes up in industrial undertakings. A man judges whether he is well done by or ill done by in comparison with someone doing something of a like nature or with what operated before. Apparently Senator Greenwood is complaining about a dispute involving some special electricians who had been receiving $4 more than ordinary electricians for some considerable time. The ordinary electricians always have been below the special electricians, but they now have received a $4 increase. That increase represents a reduction of $4 in the relative wage of the men who were receiving the extra amount. This is the very sort of question which creates industrial disputes.
The penal provisions are still in our industrial legislation. Senator Greenwood would like to be the Attorney-General today and to say to these men: ‘Go back to work or be prosecuted. Go back to work or we will apply the law of tort whereby you will be made to pay compensation for any losses caused by your action’. This sort of action never achieves industrial peace. The Opposition Parties tried this sort of thing for years. It has never succeeded; it has caused industrial unrest. We seek to adopt another plan which will not involve the imposition of penalties. The cause of this dispute must be overcome. I do not know whether Senator Greenwood was present for the entire debate, but I heard the reply given today by the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy. Obviously Senator Greenwood did not listen to my contribution during the debate on this Bill. The whole purpose of this Bill is to get workers participating in the fixation of wages and to enable them to be parties to agreements.
Members of the Opposition want to apply all power to stop disputes after they have occurred, but we are trying to provide an Act which will prevent disputes. The Opposition Parties tried penal clauses and they failed. A dispute ceases when one side gives in after fighting the matter to exhaustion. All the Opposition’s arbitration commissions, conciliation and everything else have not solved the problem in all Australia ‘s history. We want to have a situation in which workers become part of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in order to be party to fixing their wages and entering into agreements. We know that the majority of workers would agree with this course and that the workers have never been known to repudiate an undertaking given in relation to an arbitration matter. When an undertaking has been given by a majority of workers they have never repudiated it. That is the new approach that we are adopting in order to solve industrial trouble. We are not trying to get people back to work; we are trying to stop people from coming out of work.
The Liberal Party and the Country Party- as well as the Democratic Labor Party- have a vested interest in creating and maintaining industrial turmoil in Australia for the very reason that their re-election as a government could depend greatly upon there being chaos in industrial affairs. We see this happening in New South Wales today because a State election is to be held. Let us be honest about this matter. We want greater worker participation in wage fixing. When workers have been parties to voluntary agreements for a set term, how many times have those agreements been broken? That is the whole question. We have a plan to prevent disputes, but we cannot bring it into operation. The electricity strike in Victoria and the continual stoppages throughout Australia are the responsibility of the Opposition, which will not let us bring a workable industrial legislation into operation in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its remaining stages without delay.
– I understand that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) is taking advantage of an indication I gave that the Opposition would not grant leave for the third reading to proceed forthwith. The reasons for that were given when the Bill was introduced. The Opposition objected to the cavalier way in which this Bill was rushed through the House of Representitives without proper opportunity for debate. We know that that has happened from time to time in regard to a number of Bills. We indicated then that the Opposition, be it in the House of Representitives or on the Senate, ought to have the opportunity to give proper consideration to the measures placed before it. Proper consideration was not able to be given in the other place and we indicated as clearly as possible, when this Bill was brought into this place and a similar motion was defeated, that in the circumstances we would oppose the suspension of Standing Orders for the carriage of this Bill. We adhere to that attitude.
I sense that the Minister wants to put this matter to the vote- a situation which I know we have sought to avoid in this place for a long time. We indicated our attitude when the Bill came in we shall adhere to it. The Minister has the alternative of simply giving notice that he will make the motion for the third’ reading of the Bill an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That is his right. However, we will oppose a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders at this stage.
– In reply- I will not proceed with my motion. I will accept the advice of the former AttorneyGeneral.
Motion- by leave- withdrawn.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) agreed to:
That the third reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 29 August (vide page 272), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Bill under discussion is the Lands Acquisition (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1973. By it the Government intends to amend the present Lands Acquisition (Australian Capital Territory) Act. I ought to say at the outset that the Opposition is opposed to this Bill for 2 reasons. The first is that if the Bill before the Senate is passed it will apply to the acquisition of land from people in the Australian Capital Territory different criteria from those which apply within the States of the Commonwealth. I will come back to that matter in a moment. The second reason is that this Bill has in it an enormous segment of retrospectivity.
I deal now with the first part of our opposition. As I understand the Australian Constitution, where the Commonwealth Government compulsorily acquires land from any Australian citizen who lives in the States, the Commonwealth shall acquire that land on just terms. The meaning of just terms’ has been interpretated by the High Court from time to time. Section 25 of the Lands Acquisition Act spells out certain criteria which the court must take into consideration when dealing with the acquisition of land. I also understand that the criteria, as set out in section 25 of the principal Act, have been held by the High Court to provide ibr just terms. If the Bill is passed it will set out different criteria on which land which is compulsorily acquired is to be assessed by a court of compensation. It is alleged that the provisions of section 51 placitum 31, which requires land to be acquired on just terms, do not apply to Territories under the control of the Commonwealth and that in respect of Territories such as the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory the constitutional guarantees of section 51 do not apply. Because in those 2 Territories the Commonwealth has a plenary power, the normal constitutional guarantees do not run to protect the residents of the Territories.
The Bill attempts to impose completely different criteria from what are normally known as just terms. We in the Opposition believe that the people in the Territories of the Commonwealththe Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory- ought to be placed in the same position concerning compensation as the citizens in the 6 original States are placed. No argument has been advanced by the Government why different criteria ought to apply to residents of the Territories from the criteria which apply to residents of the 6 original States. While we cannot give residents of the Territories a constitutional guarantee, we believe that there is an obligation on the Parliament to ensure that a Bill applying to Territories does not set out criteria which are not just terms. Our argument is that if this provision were written into the Act to apply to the States as well as to the Territories it could well be that the High Court would say that the provisions now promoted in the present Bill do not provide for just terms and would rule them to be ultra vires. Therefore the court would fall back on its own assessment of what ought to be just terms. This Bill deals only with land, but section 5 1 placitum 3 1 deals with property. Why should there be different criteria applied? Why ought not ‘just terms’ be assessed by the court according to the criteria set down in section 25 of the principal Act? It is for that reason that we basically oppose the Bill.
I know that there will be arguments raised as to equity, as to unjust enrichment and all the rest of these things. I say to honourable senators that all those arguments are but red herrings because any person who has his property compulsorily acquired by the Commonwealth Government ought to be paid just terms. Surely we ought to allow the courts, as we have allowed them for many years now, to apply those criteria to the assessment of values which will give just terms to the dispossessed owner. Our opposition is in those simple terms. That is the basic reason why we in the Opposition parties are opposed to the Bill.
I know that there will be large figures bandied about, that perhaps persons will be named and that it will be alleged that they will be receiving some unjust enrichment if this Bill is not passed. But that ought to be a matter for the determination of the courts. As I understand the situation concerning property which has been acquired in the Australian Capital Territory, some of this property was acquired a long time ago in terms of acquisition; some of it was acquired last year, and I think some of it was acquired the year before. I also understand that one person who had his land acquired could not come to terms with the Government as to what ought to be a just price between them, and he issued a writ out of the High Court for the determination of what ought to be his compensation. I understand further that the reason why the claim has not been settled is not that the person whose land was compulsorily acquired has been dilatory but because the High Court, due to the work load and the list before it, has not heard the claim.
Now a writ has been issued under the old Act. The case is due to be heard by the court. Halfway through, in effect, the Government wishes to change the rules on which that land is to be acquired. This reeks of retrospectivity. Any citizen who has his land acquired ought to be paid for it on the terms and conditions set down in statutory form as at the date of acquisition. I do not think it is good enough for any government to seek to change the rules merely because it thinks it may have made a mistake or merely because it thinks that a court on what basically are just terms under section 25 of the principal Act may award the dispossessed owner a large sum of money, a sum which the Commonwealth may think to be unjust. It is not for the Commonwealth to interpose when it is a party as against a litigant. It should not attempt to usurp the functions of the court. I think it is disastrous that a government which is a party to an action wishes to change the ground rules halfway through the action. We in the Senate have heard a lot in recent years about retrospectivity. We have heard a lot about the rule of law and a lot about the rights of the individual. We heard a lot about this when we were in government. One of the first changes which the present Government desires to bring about is a change in the ground rules halfway through an action. That is what the Bill attempts to do.
Once the present outstanding claims have been finalised there will be virtually no more freehold land in the Australian Capital Territory to be compulsorily acquired. All the freehold land which could be compulsorily acquired or even voluntarily acquired has been acquired and was acquired long before this legislation was introduced. I think the last substantial parcels to be acquired were acquired as far back as about the middle of last year. Therefore, why should the present legislation be passed? The only reason which the Government can have for promoting this legislation is that under the legislation by which it acquired the land it thinks some owner might get too much money. If that is not promoting the Government’s interests at the expense of the taxpayer, I do not know what is. I do not think it reflects much credit on the Government, which is a party to litigation, to change the Act halfway through the litigation to benefit itself.
I do not think there is much more which can be said about this Bill. It is quite a simple Bill. I have stated all that it attempts to do. We in the Opposition believe that section 25 of the principal Act spells out sufficient criteria to guide the courts in arriving at just and adequate compensation. Some litigant claims an enormous sum. That is only what he claims. Whether he will get it may well be another matter. But why should he not be able to pursue his claim in accordance with the legislation which was in existence at the time his land was acquired? In any event, why should not the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory and, indeed, the citizens of the Northern Territory have the same protection as have the citizens of the 6 States, namely, that if the Commonwealth should compulsorily acquire the property of any citizen the Commonwealth is bound under the Constitution to pay just terms. It is for the courts to work out what are just terms.
I do not claim to have a great knowledge or even much knowledge at all as to how courts of compensation arrive at what is reasonable and adequate compensation, but the courts of this country have worked out over a long period various methods of assessing what is a reasonable amount of compensation to be paid for land which is compulsorily acquired. Section 25 of the Act, as I recall it, says that the courts shall not take into consideration the public purpose for which the land has been acquired. Again I understand that that section has been held by the High Court to provide for payment on just terms. So for the life of me I just cannot see the purpose of this legislation. All of the land which can be acquired has been acquired. It was acquired under the provisions of the previous legislation. It provided that the person from whom the land was acquired ought to be paid in accordance with the legislation in existence at the date of compulsory acquisition. We therefore oppose the Bill.
– The Australian Country Party strongly opposes this Bill, which sets out to introduce a new basis for the assessment of compensation for land acquired in the Australian Capital Territory by the Commonwealth Government. My Party voices its opposition because the Bill seeks to circumvent the
Australian Constitution by scoffing at a long accepted lands acquisition principle, and because it places land owners in the Territory at a disadvantage compared with those in the States. The principle I refer to is laid down in section 5 1 of the Constitution. Placitum (XXX 1) of this section clearly states that when the Commonwealth acquires land it should pay for that land on just terms. I submit that there is injustice rather than justice in the Government’s proposal regarding acquisition of land in the ACT. Furthermore the provisions of the Bill are made retrospective, so that any current claims over past acquisitions are rejected virtually by the stroke of a legislating pen.
The present position is that compensation for Australian Capital Territory land is determined in line with the terms of the Lands Acquisition Act 1955-66, which obliges the Commonwealth to take into consideration the ‘just term’ provision of the Constitution. It is obligatory on the States to heed this provision. Why should the Commonwealth be permitted to sidestep the provision through this piece of legislation?
The Government, we are told, has concluded that its rapid fall from popularity in the electorate is due to inadequate publicity for its actions and achievements. The truth is that a more widely and more deeply absorbed exposition of the vast majority of the Labor Government’s actions in the past 10 months could lead only to a more violent fall from popularity than the opinion polls show to have already occurred. In this Bill the Government is trying to get off the hook. It is trying to free itself of the obligation to make a fair and just settlement when it compulsorily acquires land. The effect is that the occupier will not be compensated on the basis of the land’s potential for subdivision into less than 40- acre lots and in addition will not be compensated for a business other than a rural business. Because of these provisions land owners are not entitled to be compensated for deposits of sand, gravel, blue metal, and so on or even minerals which are part of the potential value of the land.
The ‘just term’ provision of the Constitution has in the past been implemented and accepted in the Australian Capital Territory. Except in one case, where the lessee has sought determination by the courts, lease owners accepted compensation assessed on a basis of the price paid for 40-acre blocks in adjoining shires in New South Wales. The effects of proposed development of their leases was fully explained before acquisition and lease-back arrangements were negotiated where development requirements did not preclude it. Only in one case did the owner take his compensation and leave his land. In all other cases they remained as lessees.
The Senate should not be stampeded into changing a law which was designed to make it mandatory on the Government to acquire land on a give and take rather than a take-all principle. This is another classic example of Labor attempting to trample over people to get what it wants, and instances of that sort of socialistic government can be counted in dozens since last December. The Country Party sees this Bill as the thin edge of the wedge on land acquisition. The objectionable principles it contains can be expected to be repeated in legislation that will be introduced to facilitate land takeovers in the Commonwealth’s planned growth centres. The Bill spells out a warning for all land owners in those areas. The Bill also could forshadow a situation whereby the Whitlam Government could manoeuvre itself into a position to take over not only land, at a price suitable to the Government and the Government alone, but also to take over mineral resources in the Northern Territory. The Australian Country Party opposes this Bill.
-The Australian Democratic Labor Party has given this matter a great deal of attention and investigation, and certain facts have been presented to it on behalf of those who are affected by the provisions of the Bill. The question at issue, first of all, is the extent to which this matter in the Australian Capital Territory should be put into a different category from the position which would arise in relation to the resumption of land by the Commonwealth in the right of the Crown lying within the sovereignty of a State. The position in the States would be different because section 5 1 of the Constitution requires the acquisition to be made on just terms. It has been held in the High Court in the case of Teori Tau v Commonwealth that the power of resumption by the Commonwealth does not stem from section 51 and the appropriate placitum under that section but from section 122 of the Constitution.
– Can. you tie this in with Dibb v Cockle?
– I have grave doubt whether I should find that an authority on the subject. I think it could be said that the fact that there is such a discrimination is highly undesirable. As this discrimination is implicitly embodied in this legislation it is a matter of grave concern to the Senate that we should perpetuate such a system. We have had occasion many times in this place over the years since my re-election to this chamber to participate in what might be called the normalisation of the Australian Capital Territory; that is, in trying to provide a system of law and to provide an administrative system which would be in harmony with that which applies in other parts of the Commonwealth, whether in the Commonwealth Territories or in the States. We have seen many actions taken in this place and we have seen the imposition of particular types of duty so that this separation, this differentation, between the Australian Capital Territory and the States should be minimised. We have always considered that a highly desirable process in the progress towards what I call the normalisation of this particular section of Australia. Yet implicit in this legislation is an attempt to perpetuate what is a very gross discrimination. It is one which puts the Commonwealth, in right of the Crown, in a particularly favourable and advantageous position in relation to its administration of the Australian Capital Territory as against a citizen who lives and owns land in any other part of the Commonwealth.
I know that there is a natural concern, particularly in these days of rising land prices, the exploitation of land and a tremendous capital accretion in the value of land, by governments to make land available to the public at large at a reasonable price. It would appear that the Bill which is now before the Senate is in terms of this solicitude, concern and philosophy. But it is not sufficient that, in order to propound such a body of ideas, one should be prepared to discriminate against or perpetuate group or individual unjustices. If a situation which requires rectification is in existence the rectification should be done in general terms and not in circumstances which will operate in a discriminatory fashion against those who happen to be affected by it because there is a current problem in this area. That is a very bad system of legislation. It is one which, to my knowledge, has not been followed in any of the legislation which has come before this Parliament. I remember that there was an attempt years ago to amend the estate duty legislation to provide that there should be retrospectivity in its provisions to exclude certain people who had been affected adversely by the then law. That effort did not succeed. Therefore, to select a group of people in this community who can be adversely affected by the proposed law when their rights are already, in one case, in the process of litigation and, in other cases, where the Commonwealth itself has, as far as I have been able to ascertain, by its own laches been instrumental in delaying the acquisition of and payment of compensation for property is to discriminate against these people. To ask them to accept the harshness of the proposed law is, in my opinion, indefensible.
There are people in this community whose families have held land for many years. To give an illustration of the type of situation that has arisen and without mentioning names I will take a case at large in which land is proposed to be acquired by the Commonwealth. In this case Commonwealth officers visited the owner of the land towards the end of 1971 and advised him that resumption would take place. On 15 Septemberabout 5 days later- a letter was received from the Department of the Interior confirming the visit. On 24 September 1971 the owner replied to the letter stating that he was prepared to negotiate. On 9 March 1972 he submitted a valuation. On 26 September of the same year he received a notice to treat under the Act. On 30 November 1972 the property was gazetted for resumption. On 28 March of this year the owner submitted on the prescribed form a formal application for compensation under the Act. On 28 June this year the Department of Services and Property advised him officially that the claim had been accepted for determination.
Those negotiations went on for 2 years or more after the Commonwealth Government first put the shadow of resumption upon this property. In the midst of them this legislation was introduced which gravely imperils and even destroys the rights which people would have enjoyed under the existing law to compensation under the terms that then applied. If the Commonwealth has been, as its own instance, responsible for delays or if the processes were so cumbersome that it was impossible to have the proceedings finalised within that time, I think it must accept the responsibility and that it should not deny to the person whose land it intends to resume the rights he would have enjoyed under the existing law. Therefore, both for the reason which Senator Withers advanced that in one case there is litigation actually in being and rights are still in the process of determination and because of the series of other cases where the quantum of compensation is still a matter for negotiation and consideration and where certain formal steps have taken place over a number of years, it does not appear just or proper that the Commonwealth should intervene by way of this legislation and truncate, deny or circumscribe rights.
I believe, in any case, that compensation should be on just terms in terms of the Constitution as it would apply to property within the States. If, because of the terms of the Constitution, the Commonwealth is not bound by that in law, I think it is certainly bound by it in equity.
Again in the processes of normalisation, I do not think the Commonwealth is entitled to place resumptions in the Australian Capital Territory on a basis that is different from those applying in the States merely because constitutionally it has the power to do so. There is no obligation on the Commonwealth to compensate other than on just terms; in other words, it may compensate in the Federal Territories on the same terms as it is required to compensate in the States. I certainly think that is an option which it should exercise in the proper way. This is a most important principle. I think that on reflection the Government will see fit to reconsider its attitude to this matter. This is a matter of fundamental justice. It is a matter which, if the whole situation is not reviewed, could result in very grave inequities to the people concerned.
For those reasons and because we think it is highly undesirable that one area of Australia, because it happens to come under Commonwealth jurisdiction and finds itself exempt from some other constitutional requirement, should be able to have a discriminatory administrative policy in this respect, the Australian Democratic Labor Party will oppose the legislation and vote against it. If the legislation is rejected in this chamber, we hope that the Commonwealth will reconsider the matter and come to terms with those whose properties are already the subject of compensation discussions and those involved in the other matter and will negotiate on the proper terms in the light of what I would call the principles of equity that should prevail irrespective of the constitutional technicalities. In my opinion the Commonwealth is not entitled to rely on those technicalities. For those reasons the Democratic Labor Party will oppose the Bill and will support the attitude taken by the official Opposition.
-The speeches that have been made by Senator Withers and Senator Byrne indicate that they are prepared to sacrifice the interests of the Australian Capital Territory to preserve the interests of an organisation that has set itself up over the years as a land development organisation instead of the purely rural organisation it was when it originally obtained the freehold title to certain land. The real facts of the matter are that the organisation concerned is claiming urban values for an area of land that is part of the Australian Capital Territory. Because of the vast expenditure that has been made in the Australian Capital Territory on behalf of the people of Australia this land has now become important in the future planning of Canberra. Senator
Withers has failed to observe the principle that has been established since Federation, namely, that urban development of this national capital has been and will be carried out only by and on behalf of the Australian Government. The only basis on which the acquisition price for these outlying areas could be calculated would be the value of the land as a grazing or rural property.
Over a period of years the people involved have received advantages. Many services have been provided. The city itself has developed by the expenditure of taxpayers’ money. There seems to be an attitude on the part of Opposition senators that the taxpayers of the country can be fleeced at any time, provided that the Opposition has the numbers. This Bill is confirming that freehold land held in the Australian Capital Territory for rural purposes should not have an advanced value because of the urban development by the Australian Government. In the past freehold land has been, acquired whenever it has been needed for developmental purposes and compensation has been paid on the basis of the value of the land for rural usage and taking into account the increased value of stock, wool and so on. Establishing the principle that all the remaining freehold land in the Australian Capital Territory has to be acquired at urban values means that the Senate will impose on the people of Australia a charge in excess of that which precedent and principle have established to be just and proper. In the past the possibility of paying compensation for this type of urban land has never arisen. So, this is a test case, and we admit that.
Many departments have been transferred from other parts of the Commonwealth to Canberra and the city has been expanded dramatically and at very great cost to the taxpayers. Most of the provisions have related to Commonwealth activities. The original Act provided that the 9 1 1 square miles would be the property of the people of Australia. The arrangements that were made at the time of the proclamation of the Australian Capital Territory included a provision that the areas inside the Australian Capital Territory would be valued at rural rates. The intention of this Bill is that outstanding claims as well as claims arising from future acquisitions will be dealt with on the basis of the rural value of the land. It is my view that the claim which has been made- for about $35m- is exorbitant. I believe that the people of Australia should know of this exploitation and parasitism on the part of people who would like to burgeon on the taxpayers, aided and abetted by members of the Opposition. I believe that the people of Australia should know this attitude of members of the Opposition. Of course, it may be only a matter of pique, because the Liberal and Country Parties when in power laid down these guidelines for acquisition. It is not as though this Bill was conjured up out of the minds of members of the present Government.
Before 1955 all acquisitions in the Territory under the Lands Acquisition Act had regard to the provisions of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act which had pegged values at the previous 1908 level. In 1955, under a Liberal-Country Party coalition government, legislation was introduced under which acquisitions continued on a rural value basis. So, we have this change of attitude by members of the Opposition because we are dealing with a considerable amount of money- about $35m. I am quite certain that plenty of pressure groups are involved. It was quite all right when the Liberal and Country Parties were in government to legislate to acquire land at rural values. Now we find that for some miserable, puny political point honourable senators opposite will support what to me is an outrageous claim on the taxpayers of this country. It is obviously an attempt to thwart the important plans for the development of urban Canberra.
If this Bill is defeated because of the Opposition numbers in the Senate, I hope that the National Capital Development Commission will see its way clear to direct its development to other areas. The people concerned have had their full value from their holdings in this part of Australia under terms and conditions which in the past have suited them. If those people had taken a reasonable view, having regard to the other advantages that have flowed to Canberra through development and the provision of services and other facilities that have been provided here at the taxpayers’ expense, they would have been quite prepared to have made some compromise with the authorities. In this debate members of the Opposition have shown themselves in their true colours. They are prepared to add this burden to the already heavy load on the backs of the taxpayers of this country. They may be doing this for a political point, or perhaps to gain favour with some privileged person or company or the descendants of some people who happened to have this land at the time of the original acquisition of this area as the site for the national capital.
We believe that the assessment of compensation of properties- and there are other cases of course that will have to be dealt with at some time in the future- could be determined by an arbitrator. But this Bill is the machinery by which a just compensation and a reasonable payment can be made in accordance with the established basis on which the development of Canberra has proceeded down through the years, and on which compensation is paid on rural values. After all, this land is still rural land. It is in the future development of Canberra that this socalled added value will take place. It is necessary that planning be carried out so that the future development of the whole of this area can proceed. Therefore I support the Bill and hope that members of the Opposition will have second thoughts. I hope that they will consider the moral aspect of this matter and the outrageous claim against the taxpayer. We believe that any rights that the present freeholders have should be paid for on the basis that this is rural land. It has always been rural land and it will remain rural land until the development of Canberra spreads out into these areas. I support the Bill.
– It is really an insult for honourable senators to have to listen to such an intelligent spate of garbage as we have just heard from a person who could not even manage the notes that had been written for him and which he purported to read so incoherently. It is also an insult to have hurled across the chamber the suggestion the the Opposition is prepared to fleece the taxpayers of” the country. The Opposition, I should have thought by its record, uniformly has shown a greater concern for the taxpayers of this country than ever did the Government. The Government has brought in a Budget of inordinate extortion from the people after giving the impression that it would not raise taxes. The Government brought in indirect taxes and other taxes to the extent of increasing income taxes with the automatic application of its schedules by over $ 1,000m, and with other taxes bringing a total increment to something of the order of $ 1,500m. So the taunt that we have no regard for the interest of the taxpayer is an entirely prejudiced and pernicious one.
A party that did not oppose this Bill would be wanting in principle, and a party that would initiate a Bill of this sort should be thoroughly condemned, especially when that party has spokesmen who parade through the country the idea that people ‘s rights should be preserved by a Bill of Rights and a reform of administrative processes, and that individual rights that are arbitrarily invaded should be recompensed. We hear that sort of thing vaunted by Senator
Murphy day after day. Yet this Bill comes forward as a direct subversion firstly of the Constitution which as a general rule requires that property expropriated for public purposes be compensated for on just terms. That is the principle that the Opposition insists upon in opposing this Bill. It is simply a proposition that a person whose property is acquired by a State or the Commonwealth for public purposes should receive compensation in just terms. Just terms include the value of the land at the date of acquisition, the damage that has been done to the owner by any severance and the enhancement on one hand or depreciation on the other in value of the interest of the claimant at the date of acquisition in other land adjoining or severed from the land acquired, taking into account both the enhancement and deterioration of adjoining property. But the Constitution did not provide that in relation to land in the Australian Capital Territory acquisition should be upon just terms. Therefore we have this disreputable manoeuvre whereby we have a specific Bill designed to take advantage of that situation and to create special legislation for appropriation of some freehold property in this Territory. I emphasise the word some’ because we have the remarkable situation that this Bill is expressed to apply to land in the Australian Capital Territory- I omit other words -other than land in the Oaks Estate, the village of Hall or the village of Tharwa.
– There are some other interests there.
– It has been suggested to me that there are some other interests there. I do not know what they are. But we all know that there are Government interests both in and around this Territory that need to be strictly supervised. So the Government seeks to invade the principle of just terms in a special case in relation to the Territory except Oaks Estate, the village of Hall and the village of Tharwa.
We had garbled nonsense from Senator O ‘Byrne who referred to an original rule that rural land would be taken at its rural value. If that had been maintained as the rule upon which people should buy and sell since the establishment of this Territory, well and good. But the rule was altered and the lands acquisition legislation prescribed the rule at least since 1955 when the whole land acquisition was revised in view of invasions that had been made on the principle of just terms in the post-war period when this was an active issue and the Labor Government of New South Wales and the Chifley Government had endeavoured to expropriate land for soldier settlement and other purposes at unreal values and not on just terms.
So far from this being expounded from the point of view of land developers, I remember a case in Sydney in which Mr Justice Rich had occasion to comment where a man had a lease of a car park for 3 years and the Commonwealth of that day contended that he had no interest in land, he was making a profitable business from it and his lease was limited to 3 years. Mr Justice Rich said: ‘You take my house when you do take the prop that doth support my house’. This is a principle that provides just terms without discrimination for whatever interest you have in land or however large may be your value. That is the first principle which these disciples of the Bill of Rights invade. The second is that without blushing at all those people who sat spuriously in Opposition some 8 or 10 years ago when I raised the question of the inequity of invading litigants’ rights after they had been before the law courts in the IPEC case- I have not looked to the debates but I can bring them all to mind- held up their hands in horror and said: ‘What a monstrous thing it is that the litigant should be deprived of his right to appeal to the Privy Council ‘. Yet we have been told indirectly that there is a claim before the High Court for $35m on the part of somebody who is said to be a land development company. I know nothing of him. I have never heard of him. I have no knowledge of the claim and I do not know any other person interested in this land. But the principle of freehold land in the Australian Capital Territory is just as much sacrosanct as it was in the IPEC case.
Irrespective of which side of the chair I sit, when I find legislation as scurrilous as this coming in, having confiscated or notified the acquisition of people’s land rights, I say that they have their arbitral rights and their right to go to the court for compensation. Here we have a disgraceful, dishonest attempt to undermine the court’s determination and to apply a new artificial rule excluding certain considerations from the court’s consideration. That to me is retrospective legislation of the most abhorrent kind and the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances through which we supervise subordinate legislation- legislation made outside this Parliament on principles which would condemn this out of hand- ought to be thoroughly ashamed if it ever allowed this to come on the floor of the House and be passed when, if it comes up as subordinate legislation, we condemn it uniformly on a matter of principle for invasion of people’s right to have unviolated their access to the courts and to leave the courts to adjudicate.
The last thing I want to say- I make it the last thing because it is not a case on which too much time should be spent- is that having attempted to define the criterion that would be excluded from the court’s consideration I just want to say that that piece of draftsmanship- sub-section (3) of section 5- is the most horrible, unintelligible piece of language that has been incorporated into land acquisition law in the post-war period to my knowledge. It defies understanding and has been written by someone who has not got the foggiest idea of the criteria upon which the courts proceed to evaluate land.
– What are the criteria?
– I am not going to stay to enumerate the criteria. Before the honourable senator came into the debate I had read succinctly from section 23 of the Lands Acquisition Act, which is good enough. The last thing that I put in by way of a sweet postscript to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) is that if I were more ignorant and more gullible I would thank him for the grace and favour that he has tended in clause 6 of the Bill, where, having invaded these rights and applied an exceptional formula to specified people, discriminating against them, he is good enough to say:
– That is a guilty mind talking.
-Exactly, and for the litigant whose right of action is taken away by a special piece of legislation the conscience has screwed itself to give itself a discrimination: It may recompense costs that have been thrown away and, having been thrown away, have become abortive, having regard to the enactment of this Act, when the litigation or arbitration is halfway through its course. What a miserable indictment of people who pretend to be proponents of bills of rights to protect individuals from administrative discretions and to operate a committee. This, Senator Murphy has told us, is one of the greatest achievements of the Senate. Uniformly, not without regard to party, that committee, on the basis of principle, condemns all subordinate legislation that deprives one of just terms, discriminates as between individuals and denies to a citizen access to a court of law and brings in a Bill with all those scabs upon it.
– As usual in these debates a lot of exaggerations have been thrown in. I will deal with those that did not stray too far from the point. Senator Wright, as is his wont, of course, has gone on with a lot of histrionics most of which have nothing to do with the case. His memory is slipping as he gets older. He has told us it was he who raised the question of the IPEC case. Of course, it was Senator McKenna. But it does not matter very much. Senator DrakeBrockman in putting forward the case which has been agreed upon by the Opposition, I think, because he may have been genuinely mistaken about what claims for compensation can be, said we would be denying compensation to persons winning such things as sand, gravel and rock. That is not the case. They would have a just claim to compensation if they were operating at that time to extract those types of materials from their land.
Senator Drake-Brockman came to the crux of the difference between the Government and Opposition on this because he very obviously supported a proposition that a landholder can claim the increment that he gets from national investment. That is a part of the situation and it will become a little more clear from some of the things that I will say a little later. A lot has been made of section 51 of the Constitution- that land should be acquired on just and reasonable terms. However, I am informed that there is already a High Court decision on this in the Tau case in New Guinea in which it was held that in making laws for the acquisition of property in the Territory the Government is not limited to making laws which provide just terms.
– That is right.
-Senator Withers agrees. So it is not just as simple as the Constitution makes out. Senator Wright again seems to be disagreeing with the High Court but that is the decision that has been made.
-Not at all. I thought that the Minister would understand.
-The honourable senator claims great knowledge of the law and great fairness. I wish that when he is dealing with these things he would give us the benefit of his knowledge. If the Tau case was known to him I would have thought that he would have been generaous enough to refer to it. Senator Withers led for the
Opposition in a much more restrained manner than his colleague from Tasmania, Senator Wright. It must be remembered that until 1955 acquisition could be based on the 1908 value. That was altered then to fair and just terms. But even from then on there never has been this question of taking rural land and putting urban potential on it. The situation is not limited to that factor. Substantial areas are to be acquired. The acquisition of this particular area was started by the previous Government. It had not been completed when we came into government. The Department went on and then ran into the problem which we have at the moment.
I think that I should put a few things down for the record. The 3 Opposition parties have agreed on this matter. I wonder whether they thought it through fully before they made up their minds. I am inclined to think that they gave their judgment before they read the evidence. The history of this matter shows clearly that Parliament never intended that freeholders in the Territory should profit from the creation of the national capital. The way Canberra has developed it is obvious, as Senator O’Byrne pointed out, that the taxpayers’ money is being poured in because somebody, sitting on rural land, suddenly decides that because of the increment which comes from this land it ought to be the basis for a claim. Generally compensation for acquired freehold has been negotiated at current rural values in spite of the amendment to the 1955 Act. When the Lands Acquisition Act was revised in 1955 legislation was introduced to remove the 1908 value peg and to substitute compensation on fair and just terms. Since then compensation for acquired rural lands has been on a non-urban basis. In no case has compensation been paid for urban potential. The next note I have here deals with the position at Tuggeranong where a claim is now before us for $35.54m. This is for one section of acquisition which this Government or any other government will have to face if we are going to have reasonably priced land and if we are to go on with the development of the Australian Capital Territory.
– What did the Commonwealth offer?
-The Commonwealth offer was $ 1.875m for the 9,000-acre property. The owner can appeal to the court on that offer. That is what he has done. So far so good. A new concept is being imported into this situation which no Parliament or government- not the previous Government nor this Government- has ever contemplated should be brought in. If these claims were successful the cost of producing an average residential block in Canberra could increase very substantially. That is obvious. Outstanding and future claims from other freeholders could be adjusted upwards. The amount involved would bc enormous, possibly well over $100m. Wider national repercussions could be a questioning of the credibility of the Australian Government’s policy in relation to land price stabilisation in areas designed for new cities. So we have here the whole base of the Government’s policy. In many areas there is no disagreement with the Opposition. The question on which Senator Wright was waxing very eloquent was the difference between Hall and Tharwa. The situation is that with Hall and Tharwa there is developed urban land already and therefore the question of rural values does not come into the matter. There is no argument that if one is in a developed urban area that is the sort of compensation which one can expect to get. But the whole basis of this is that people acquire rural land for rural purposes and then start to say that the urban potential should be brought into the whole situation. I think that the difference between the Opposition and the Government is quite clear. The Opposition is saying that the freeholder is entitled to compensation for enhanced potential arising from the investment of public funds.
– We are not saying that at all.
– With great respect, the whole of the honourable senator’s argument and particularly the argument from Senator DrakeBrockman tends towards that end. Senator Withers has been sitting talking to Senator Wright and he is picking up the honourable senator’s bad habits. He is starting to interject.
- Senator Willesee is not putting the case correctly.
-Well, let me finish and then judge me when I have finished. I accept Senator Withers’ remonstrance. The main argument- and this is all we are trying to dorelates to taking rural land, applying to it an urban potential and making that the basis of a claim before the court. If that succeeds the whole basis of cheap land in Australia fails- if there is any cheap land left. We are trying to keep the price down to some sort of reasonable level as we have done in the Australian Capital Territory. We are seeking development on an orderly basis, but the whole of that basis will be smashed and the Opposition ought to realise that. We want to make this quite clear. All we are asking in this Bill is that the courts be left free in everything else, but what this Parliament has said ever since it first became a Federal Parliament should be made clear to them and should be underlined. I repeat that there has never been any suggestion by any government that this type of increment should be allowed to go to the question of acquisition, irrespective of the amendment to the Act of 1955. What we want to do is excise from the court’s consideration that and that alone. Obviously the Opposition has met in caucus on this. It has the numbers so it will be on its head if it is decided to go on with this action. It is as clear as that.
We say that with rural land in large holdings like this the urban portential rate of the land should not be made the basis of a claim. Evidently the Opposition is saying that that is what ought to be done. It is still open for the court to make decisions, as has been pointed out by Senator Withers. I do not suppose that anybody ever goes into court with a claim such as this and expects to get the full amount claimed. Nevertheless- the lawyers can tell us more about this- this will be the basis of future claims if we go on with our action today. If the court is allowed to take this type of thing into consideration then the whole of the work of all parliaments and governments in federal jurisdiction over all these years will be reversed. I suggest that this will make it well nigh impossible to go on with the development of the ACT as has been the practice. Obviously this will multiply the price of land and housing many times. That is the decision which the Opposition is going to take. It is quite clear what we are doing. This is not a complicated thing. As I have repeated several times, it is simply that we want to go on with the compensation which has been granted by all governments over the years. We want to take into consideration all those other things but this new matter has reared its head. We say that this was never intended in any legislation before and it should not be allowed now.
That the Bill be read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack )
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 24 October (vide page 1448), on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise once again to speak in the second reading debate on the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 (No. 2) and to make a protest on behalf of the Opposition about the cavalier way in which the Government has treated the Senate and this Bill. It was introduced into the Senate on 25 September 1973 while there were 2 existing Bills dealing with exactly the same matter on the notice paper. On Wednesday, 24 October the Government brought it on for debate at 10.40 p.m. We then proceeded with the debate for the remaining 20 minutes of that day knowing full well that the Government was not proposing to debate the Bill the next day. Of course, the Government chose to bring the matter on again on 6 November and we still have our rather accustomed 20 minutes in which one may address oneself to the Bill before the Senate rises. We are assured that we will not be dealing with this Bill tomorrow. So I proceed to the second instalment of the second reading debate on this measure.
I must say that if it is the important measure which the Government claims that it is- I for one certainly do not under-estimate its importance- I think that the management of the Senate might have permitted a better consideration of its contents than has been permitted. When, after tonight, we will return to the Bill I suppose only Senator Cavanagh and Senator Murphy know and I guess that they have not had time to get together and decide when that will be. I suggest that it is a matter upon which the Opposition is legitimately entitled to register its protest.
I had on the earlier occasion indicated the situation which had arisen in Australia with regard to the competing authorities asserted by the States and the Commonwealth over the off-shore waters, the seabed and the air space above the waters around the whole of the geographical land mass which we know as ‘Australia’. It is remarkable how in a relatively short space of time the economic potential of these areas, quite apart from the ecological considerations which we all recognise as attaching to them, has become a matter of enormous concern.
The real concern which is at the base of this Bill is who may exercise the legislative authority and the jurisdictional authority over events and matters which occur in this area. I stress that the position is far from clear. It was not a matter to which the Constitution adverted when it was formed in 1900 for the simple reason that it was not a matter of concern to anyone at that time. It is not an issue which has been canvassed in any definite way by the High Court which is charged with the responsibility of making a decision in this area. The one attempt at co- operation in the area of petroleum exploration and exploitation did result in a measure of agreement which has produced results. I have nevertheless indicated the view of the Senate Select Committee on Offshore Petroleum Resources which I am sure would have weight with the Senate if ever the matter were sought to be raised in the same form again. But we look ahead to the future and we recognise that there ought to be some clear indication as to where the limits of State authority reside and where the limits of Commonwealth authority reside.
I indicated on the last occasion that I spoke on this Bill that I proposed to refer to what the Senate Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources had to say on this. I refer specifically to the reasons which the Committee advanced in chapter 6, paragraph 338 on the problems which can be created by the lack of resolution of the question of where authority lies in the off-shore seabed and why the Committee ultimately recommended that the lack of resolution of that question was not in the national interest. The Committee states in its report that it believed that the features of the constitutional conception underlying the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) legislation to which it had taken objection arose directly because the issue of constitutional authority had not been resolved.
There is a lack of ministerial responsibility or accountabiliity in certain areas because the source of power for which the responsibility exists is not known.
Put into the practical terms of how it affects Australians, it is a matter of knowing whether, if one wants to register a protest, one protests to the relevant Commonwealth Minister with some responsibilities in the area or goes to the State Minister. In either case there is uncertainty as to the extent to which the Minister can give a responsible answer and render himself accountable in the manner in which our parliamentary system presupposes he should. We have seen this in various areas under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. We have seen it in the area of the Great Barrier Reef where the only way in which a vexing problem could be tackled some 3 to 4 years ago was for a joint royal commissioner, to put it technically in legal terms, 2 royal commissions each consisting of the same persons but appointed under different charters- to be appointed to examine the extent to which the Great Barrier Reef could be subjected to petroleum search and exploitation.
– It is surely the longest royal commission in our time, is it not?
– I concur in what Senator Wright said. I might add that from what I have heard it probably also is the most expensive. The second consideration raised by the Senate Committee was as follows:
The development of petroleum resources of the off-shore seabed is not the only matter in respect of which constitutional power is important. There are many other natural resources of potential for which exploration and exploitation will occur and for which administrative and regulatory provisions will be necessary. At the present time, the source of authority for these provisions is unknown and will continue to be so until the constitutional question is resolved. The first occasion on which the question of constitutional authority arose, namely, the immediate need to provide security of title in search for petroleum resources, was not taken as the opportunity to resolve the question. There can bc no certainty that the exigencies of a different occasion will produce a similar agreement and legislative scheme as was produced for petroleum resources nor should it be supposed that seven Parliaments would again concur in an identical or similar scheme.
I believe that this is the situation with which we are now faced. There is potential- I do not think there has been a great deal of research as to what the potential is, but it is accepted that there is some- in areas of minerals other than petroleum. I do not think there is the same urgency attaching to ascertaining what resources the seabed might offer as existed in regard to petroleum some 10 or more years ago; but the fact that the resources are believed to be there, and in some cases known to be there, raises the ultimate question as to who may give the authority to anybody who wants to explore in that area with a view to developing what resources may be there. We will never have the development which we would like to see in these areas if the persons who are to expend money with the ultimate gain ahead of them are not sure that the expenditure in which they are engaged will enable them to reap the fruits of that expenditure. That requires someone being able to give them security of title. This is a fundamental aspect of this whole question.
I turn now to the third point in this particular paragraph of the Senate Committee’s report. It should be recognised that this is a tremendously significant aspect. The Committee’s report states:
In respect of matters such as protection and conservation of natural features and resources of the off-shore waters and the off-shore sea-bed, the question of who has authority or responsibility to act is unknown. In areas of public and political controversyinto which questions of conservation and pollution have moved- the inability to identify political responsibility is as unsatisfactory as the inability, because of disputes and uncertain power, to initiate action or authoritatively to disclaim responsibility. This must remain the situation while the constitutional question is unresolved.
The Senate Committee went on to refer to other matters which arose from the international convention to which Australia was a party but which I do not think are as closely germane to the issues raised by the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill. This matter of having the question of authority resolved is one which, I believe, has to be faced, and the effort in facing it involves different approaches. With the change of government last year the approach being followed by the previous government was discarded and the approach which is implicit in this Bill is now being pursued. I always have believed that even when the question of where authority lies has been resolved there is an equal problem which requires resolution, and that is the question of how we can develop a regime under which the resources in this area can be exploited. This was a view which the Committee acknowledged and to which it gave expression. I refer to paragraph 6.332 of the report. The Committee had considered certain hypotheses because the extent of the Commonwealth’s powers and the States’ powers was unknown. The Committee report states:
On either hypothesis there is a clear warrant, in the Committee’s view, for co-operative arrangements to be made by the Commonwealth and the States, and on any view of what the Commonwealth and States’ powers in the off-shore areas are (other than complete State control) the need for a scheme under which off-shore operators deriving their authority from the Commonwealth may expect complementary facilities on shore from State authority is self-evident. Even if there were complete State control, some complementary Commonwealth action in certain areas, as the States have conceded, would appear to be desirable.
It is abundantly clear from the situation in the United States of America and Canada- both federations comparable with Australia- that a problem is not solved just by getting a decision from the courts as to where the legislative authority lies. As I recall the dates, the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada was given in November 1967, which was about the time the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Bill was passed through the Senate, and to this day- or rather, until earlier this year when I checked the positionthe question of exploitation of the off-shore waters of Canada has not been resolved. It was clear from the Supreme Court’s decision that authority from low water mark seaward rested with the Dominion Government and that the Provinces had no legislative authority in that area. Such have been the difficulties of cooperation and such have been the problems involved in working out a co-operative regime that the real situation of exploiting what may be there has not been attained.
There are, therefore, 2 fundamentals which have to be linked in any resolution of this problem: Firstly, to know what the limits of authority are- and that is tremendously important because we do not want to have a vacuum in which no one has the responsibility- and secondly, when we do know where the authority lies we must have a working-out, together or co-operatively, of whatever regime we have in the off-shore waters. For my part, I cannot see the Commonwealth on its own being able to administer a scheme against the opposition, active or passive, of State governments. Equally, I could not see the State governments, if they were to have authority over part of the seabed or part of the waters, being able to administer a scheme in conjuction with the Commonwealth unless there was a common basis upon which both the Commonwealth and the States gave their titles and permitted operations to occur.
In parts I and II of the Bill the Commonwealth makes its assertion of sovereignty, but the mere assertion of sovereignty does not by itself confer sovereignty upon the Commonwealth. The question of where sovereignty lies is to be determined in this country by the High Court of Australia. The Commonwealth’s claim is simply a claim and no more. If the States were to claim, they would have a claim and no more. I illustrate this point by a simple analogy. If a disputed area of land is claimed by 2 persons, each maintaining his ownership and his right to possession against the other, the question ultimately can be decided only by taking the matter before the courts of the land. It does not matter how emphatically or how persuasively one claimant asserts his rights; the mere assertion does not give him title. Of course, if a person takes possession and does things on or over the land, this amounts to something more than an assertion. It is an assertion coupled with an exercise of a right. Therefore, it would be tantamount to exercising the rights claimed. It would be giving effect to the assertion.
We believe that while the Commonwealth is seeking to resolve this matter by making the assertion it ought not, pending a decision as to where the sovereignty lies, be able to proceed further and to take those acts which are implicit in the type of regime- the mining code- which is embodied in Part HI of the Bill. As I understand the position, there is no urgency which requires this matter to be resolved overnight, as it were. The leisurely passage of this Bill through the Parliament, I think, bears out that statement to some extent. At present the effective rights which are exercised over the territorial seas and the continential shelf are those rights which are exercised by the States. State laws are the laws which are regarded as having operation over the waters adjacent to the State. I leave aside questions relating to fisheries because they have an expressed constitutional backing. The control of ports and harbours, the construction of piers, wharves and jetties, and the enforcement of laws on the coast relating to the conduct of boating, navigation and so on are the subject of State laws. The question of petroleum exploration, which raises the same doubts as are now current when the issue first arose 10 or more years ago, was resolved by the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Agreement to which I have referred and by the passage of the legislation.
Now the Commonwealth is seeking to have the matter resolved. If one accepts the statement of the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor), when he first introduced the Bill in the House of Representatives, he is inviting the States to challenge the matter. Apparently in the intervening months, according to the second reading speech in this place, the matter has been resolved in favour of the Commonwealth without the High Court having to make a decision. But this is possibly only a matter of terminology. A tremendous amount could be said on this issue because it is a wide ranging issue with many ramifications. I know that it has been said in certain places that the projected Law of the Sea Conference, now to be held in 1974, would be delayed as far as Australia’s claims before that convention are concerned unless we have the matter resolved in Australia. I do not think that is a relevant consideration in any sense.
As I understand the position, there has never been any challenge to the Commonwealth’s absolute authority to represent Australia at international conferences and to express a view on behalf of the nation at the Law of the Sea Conference. It is only when such decisions are arrived at in the international conventions and when an application of that convention within the Australian municipality arises that the basic question has to be decided as to how whatever authority is conferred by the convention is divided between the Commonwealth and the States. It may be that as a result of the forthcoming convention those questions will arise in a way in which they have not arisen in the past. If that is so, all the more reason why the question ought to be resolved. We know that this is an area in which the States have maintained a strong view over the years. The Opposition, when in government, sought to resolve this matter by co-operation. Considerable advances were made at the meeting which took place between Mines Ministers and States Premiers in August last year. The agreement which was reached there would have been continued but for the change of government. As I have indicated, a different approach has now taken place.
I conclude by saying that the Opposition, while supporting this Bill and indicating its intention to seek to amend Pan III, wishes that the cooperation which had commenced, albeit somewhat belatedly, had continued through and in agreement some resolution had been reached. Whatever the ultimate outcome is, we can never expect to utilise the full potential of our off shore waters and sea bed unless there is agreement and co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I raise a matter of concern, that is, the ability of honourable senators to utilise the procedures of the Parliament to obtain information. We have often expressed our concern in Opposition- I suppose if one looked back through the record members of the present Government would have expressed their concern when in Opposition, but I think with less justice- at the inability of honourable senators to obtain information from Ministers on matters of public interest. The difficulty has been adverted to in numerous questions without notice. The Opposition has taken the view that on occasions questions have not been answered, because of an unwillingness to answer, because of an evasion or because it was thought to be more appropriately a matter for debate. But I leave that matter aside. The basic means by which honourable senators can obtain information is by putting questions on notice. Some questions are appropriately for notice and should not be asked without notice.
In pan, what I am saying now has been preempted by comments which were made during question time today. I recall that Senator Geitzelt asked Senator Murphy a question about certain persons who were convicted quite recently of an offence which occurred in August 1972. 1 do not move into the comments which accompanied the question. Senator Murphy, in responding to the question, had available to him information which he was able to give in response to the question about names and details of the persons who had been convicted. I raise the matter because I feel that there is one aspect in a related area which has been left unanswered for far too long.
It is well remembered that on the night of 3 1 March- 1 April this year a number of raids took place on Sydney homes which were unprecedented in the history of this country. As a result of those many raids a number of prosecutions were launched. It is a matter of some concern to know whether or not those raids were well based to ascertain the results of those convictions. I asked the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) many questions without notice about the availability of the warrants under which the raids took place. In answers given to questions which I asked, I was denied any access to those warrants. On 5 June of this year I asked certain detailed questions on notice in respect of those raids. I refer to question No. 333 of 5 June this year. That question remains unanswered. At the same time I was concerned to know the results of the prosecutions which had been instituted. There were conflicting Press comments. On the same day I asked question No. 334 as to how many premises were raided, the purpose of the raids, how many persons were charged with offences, who were the persons charged, what were the offences with which they were charged, what has been the outcome of the hearing of each charge, and if the charge has not been completed at what stage are the proceedings. That question was asked on 5 June. It has not been answered.
I pursued the matter when the Senate resumed after the recess. I asked a similar question which was more specific in certain parts because it took account of the fact that some of the charges might have been made under State law. It was asked on 2 1 August this year. I asked how many houses or premises were raided, whether or not it was a fact that a total of 14 persons were charged with offences, if not how many people were charged with offences, and generally what was the result of each prosecution. These are questions which I think are of fundamental importance about which a person is entitled in this place to ask the relevant Minister. The relevant Minister is very interested in the area because of the controversy which occurred in this place earlier this year. It is an area in which it may be supposed, having regard to his express concern, that he would be keeping very much in touch with what was the outcome of each of those prosecutions.
One picks up from newspaper reports aspects of what has happened in some cases. Some publicity was given to the fact that a charge which had been sustained in the lower court was not upheld on appeal. In fact, the authority of the police was not shown to have been properly exercised. Of course, the person who had been convicted in the lower court was acquitted. There have been other comments which I am unable to verify, but there is a general understanding in the sources from which I have sought information that very few of these charges have been sustained. I should have thought that it would have been a highly significant event if, in the outcome, it was found that of all the raids that took place and of the relatively few prosecutions that followed only one or two convictions were forthcoming. If those convictions were for matters of assault or for the use of insulting words at the time the raids took place they would have even greater significance.
I have raised these matters in the adjournment debate because they represent the only way in which one can hope to bring some impact to bear in support of the view that far too long a period of time has elapsed during which these questions have not been answered. I know that in regard to the controversial events of earlier this year there is still in the notice paper a host of other unanswered questions that go back, in my case, to one asked early in March of this year. They are matters upon which honourable senators are entitled to have information. I do not go to the record, but I am sure that Senator Murphy and other Government senators will recall the type of plea which they made when they were in Opposition that these matters should not be left unanswered for long periods. I only add that for a Government which obtained office on the promise that it was going to provide a greater openness in government and that it was going to ensure that things were not withheld, it is making a pretty sorry effort at giving effect to that promise. In raising this matter I have directed myself essentially to the subject of when these questions will be answered. I think it is unsatisfactory that this matter is still unresolved at the present time.
– I rise to speak only because, although I had no notification of it, Senator Greenwood has directed attention to a matter that has been of continuing concern to me. I am particularly concerned about the manner in which questions without notice are answered. In most cases I think they are inadequately answered. Sometimes they are avoided completely. As to that, I hope that we will collectively take into consideration our obligation to frame questions in such a manner as to invite the answers to them to be specific, responsible and prompt. We have allowed the position with respect to questions on notice to drift into a difficult situation. But for this protest tonight and a few intermittent protests in years gone by the Senate has surrendered its right to require Ministers to answer questions properly and with accuracy in accordance with their ministerial responsibility. There is still on the notice paper a question that was placed there by a Government senator as far back as 27 February. Two questions placed there by Government supporters on 8 March also remain unanswered.
Due to the crazy hours that the Senate is sitting it is not appropriate to bring this subject to a full debate but I could not allow it to be mentioned by Senator Greenwood in the thoughtful way in which he has brought it forward without adding my support to his concern about the inadequacy of answers to questions without notice. The substantial disregard shown to questions on notice is a matter that is not at all up to the level of proper ministerial responsibility. The Senate does itself no credit by not insisting upon every question on notice being answered promptly and accurately. In the State Parliament in which I had the honour to serve as long ago as between 1 946 and 1949 a question that was placed on notice one week was invariably answered on the first day of the sitting the following week. Where it was impossible to answer the question the Minister concerned asked to be excused from answering it. It is a small Parliament which would not have anywhere near the same range of territory to cover as this Parliament, but it did not have the complex, confused Public Service that we have to penetrate here. Having regard to those differences, the procedure in this place with regard to our insistence upon the obtaining of information and the furnishing of it by Ministers is a disgrace.
-I wish to endorse the comments made by Senator Greenwood. There are a number of questions on the notice paper that are of particular interest to me because of my concern about the civil rights of migrant Australians. I think it is important from the point of view of the operations of the Senate Select Committee on the Civil Rights of Migrant Australians that authoritative replies should be given to those questions. 1 give the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) credit for having attempted to give reasonably prompt replies in a number of instances to questions that I have placed on notice, but I am very dissatisfied with the replies that have been given. I suggest that in many instances he has sought to by-pass answering the questions properly. It is in that regard that I ask the Attorney-General to give a true and proper answer to questions asked of him.
I shall give the Senate an example. I was greatly concerned by the reference the AttorneyGeneral made in his statement concerning the raid on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to the possibility of there being organised crime in the community. The AttorneyGeneral named a number of people in his statement. My concern was about the type of crime they had committed. On a number of occasions I asked the Attorney-General by way of questions on notice what convictions had been recorded against the individuals he named and whether all of those who were named by the Attorney-General were criminals. That certainly was an inference to be derived from the AttorneyGeneral’s reference to those people in a statement concerning criminal activities. In one reply to me the Attorney-General stated that all of the people he had named as criminals had convictions. It was a reply that I do not think did the Attorney-General justice. I refer to a question which he answered on 19 September. It was a question which he obviously would be able to answer within 5 minutes by referring to his records. I asked the Attorney-General what convictions were recorded against the Andric brothers, Jure Marie and Srecko Blaz Rover. He could have given that information immediately.
Indeed, in evidence given in public to the Senate Select Committee on the Civil Rights of Migrant Australians the head of the Commonwealth Police, I think it was, stated that, for instance, Srecko Rover had been convicted of having a fire alight when he should not have had a fire alight and of running a second hand shop without a licence. It is to that type of a question that we must get a proper answer. I would appreciate it if the Attorney-General were to reply accurately to my questions as soon as possible.
– There are some unanswered questions on the notice paper. I, too, think that in general it is regrettable that questions are outstanding for any length of time. I think the Senate ought to understand that the record of this Government is quite good in comparison with that of the previous Government. I recall questions being left for years without being answered when the previous Government was in office. In this case the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) suggests that there are questions which should have been answered by me. Let me say, perhaps in some defence, that I think the number of questions which have not been answered by me is a very small fraction of the number of questions which have been answered by me during this year. I have answered many hundreds of questions. I think that at one stage I estimated- and I do not think anyone has contended otherwise- that over a lengthy period I had answered more questions than all the other Ministers put together. I think that at the moment some 30-odd questions are left unanswered by me.
Some of these questions come into the sphere of the committee which has been set up by the Senate. I indicated earlier this year that I would consider whether it was appropriate for answers to be given to some of these questions. So far, I have taken the view that in the circumstances it is not appropriate to answer some of them, the course having been taken that has been taken. However, I will give consideration to the question that are on the notice paper. It is certainly no desire of mine to have unanswered questions on the notice paper. I think something should be done about some of the questions. Some questions seem to merit an answer. Some have been put from time to time -
– All questions surely merit an answer.
– Some merit an answer which would, I think, show -
– They should be treated on their merits in the answers.
– Some have very little merit. In general, questions should be answered. Senators are entitled to information. But do not let us be carried away by any suggestion that in some way there has been a deterioration in the answering of questions. In fact there has been a vast improvement in the answering of questions when one compares the record of this Government with the records of previous governments which were aiming to give as little information as possible and succeeded in doing so. We will have a look at the whole position and, if some answers can be given promptly to the questions, that will be done.
– Before I put the question I should like to remind honourable senators that at 8.30 this evening Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber and Estimates Committee C will meet in Committee Room No. 1.I now put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 7.18 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 November 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731106_senate_28_s58/>.